Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru. Those on the group flights will be met on arrival into Lima Airport and transferred to the start hotel. Those not on the group flights will make their own way to the start hotel (as detailed within your Final Joining Instructions) and join the group. The group flight usually arrives in the evening. Discovered in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, Lima was the principal city of Spanish South America for 300 years until the wave of independence swept the continent. You stay in the pleasant coastal suburb of Miraflores where shady parks, bustling cafes and the South Pacific coastline all lie within easy reach.
Day 2 - 3
This morning, you will get a chance to visit the city on a bus tour which will take you through the archaeological museum and the infamous Catacombs underneath San Francisco church. You'll then take a short flight from Lima to Cuzco today. The Cuzco region truly is the heart and soul of Peru. The city itself is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today Cuzco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Inca foundations. This is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend and is a perfect base for explorations into the Inca world or to enjoy a range of outdoor activities. Take the time to acclimatise to the city's 3,450 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city. In the morning on the following day we will have a half day city tour, showing you the sights and things to do in Cuzco. The rest of the afternoon is free.
Today is a free day for you to explore at your own pace (there are no excursions or activities planned). There are many adventure activities to do in the Sacred Valley around Cuzco which your leader will be able to help you organise. Alternatively, it is a great place to sit and people-watch, or there are numerous museums to explore.
In the morning you transfer to the Sacred Valley. With its warm climate and fertile soil, the Sacred Valley was considered the greenhouse of the Incas, who built many towns and agricultural terraces along its length. Small farming hamlets dot a landscape of patchwork fields; many are still ploughed by oxen and other beasts of burden. En route you reach the village of Pisac (2950m), where you can stop and explore the traditional market and the Inca ruins overlooking the town. This is your first taste of Inca architecture - the ruins stick out on a pinnacle overlooking the valley whilst steep terraces sweep around the hillside. Your hotel is located in the heart of the beautiful Sacred Valley (2800m), in a quiet farming village.
Today you will start to prepare for the Inca trail, with a walk up to the village of Chinchero. Leaving the fertile Sacred Valley behind, you follow a newly reopened section of Inca road up the Urquillos Valley, climbing 900m in about four hours to reach the high altitude plains of Chinchero (3760m). This route is rarely walked by tourists and offers great views of the Vilcanota range and hopefully a chance to spot some birdlife such as parrots and hummingbirds. At Chinchero the villagers are famous for their skills in weaving and they can be seen in traditional dress tending their fields. In the afternoon, you can explore the village, where the people of Chinchero offer their textiles in a colourful local market, visit the painted church and investigate the Inca ruins. Tonight you will sleep in a village house and stay with a local family.
Our destination today is the Inca town of Ollantaytambo (2760m), the gateway to the Inca Trail trek. The town of Ollantaytambo has been built over an ancient Inca town, which is a magnificent example of Inca urban planning. This is one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish.
Day 8 - 10
Today you visit the ruins of Ollantay, the only Inca stronghold ever to have resisted persistent Spanish attacks. The steep terraces cling to the mountainside, supposedly in the shape of a llama with a large rock outcrop forming the pack baggage. Right on the ridge with commanding views of the valley, the temple area appears to have never been completed and it is possible to gain a fantastic insight into how these incredible structures were built.
This is good preparation for the trail which you will start after your visit to the ruins. You set off to Chilca, where the Urubamba gorge narrows, forcing us to abandon motor transport. Here you meet your trail crew and begin the trek. Heading away from the river, a gentle climb soon brings you to a pleasant campsite at Llactapata (2850m), overlooked by ruins. This is camping made easy: as you walk, you carry only a daypack whilst an experienced team of porters carries all other equipment for you. You will be provided with a duffle bag in which to put items needed for the trek. Anything you don't need is left behind in Cuzco in your main bag. You camp in spacious tents; porters, with the assistance of a cook and helper, do all camp chores. A toilet tent is provided at camp and at each lunch stop.
On your second day, you are woken with a hot drink and a bowl of warm water at your tent to prepare for what will be the most demanding climb of the trek. You follow the course of the Cusichaca River, ascending a broad valley to the village of Wayllabamba (3,000m), the last human habitation on the trail. Your porters go ahead and prepare your lunch which will be waiting close to the summit.
The trail steepens through fertile cloud forest and eventually onto high altitude grassland.
Finally you reach the highest point of the entire trail, called Warmiwa?usca or Dead Woman's Pass, located at 4200m. We pause to rest and enjoy the views before starting a steep descent into the valley below and our camp at Pacaymayo (3700m).
The tough third day! An initial steep climb takes you across the highest point on the trail at Warmiwanusca (Dead Woman's Pass - 4200m), before you descend to the Pacamayo River. You are rewarded with a spectacular view from the top. A second ascent leads past a fine set of ruins to Runkuracay Pass (3998m); from here the trail is largely downhill! The vegetation changes as you walk through areas of cloud forest that mark the outer edges of the Amazon Jungle.
You cross the Aobamba River below the Sayacmarca ruins, which overlooks it from a rocky spur. A final easy ascent over a lower pass, with spectacular views over the Urubamba Valley far below, takes you to the campsite, perched above Phuyupatamarca ruins.
The last day on the trail but not the least; a special reward awaits. You awake to a spectacular vista and set off this morning on one of the most beautiful parts of the trail. Excitement mounts as you conquer a steep flight of steps and arrive at Inti Punku, the Gateway of the Sun where you aim to stop for a well deserved packed lunch. The toil of the day is forgotten at a stroke as you are treated to a spectacular view of Machu Picchu below. After lingering to admire the panorama, we will have a guided tour of the site. We then catch a bus down the narrow access road to the village of Aguas Calientes where we check in to our accommodation and enjoy a well-earned, long shower.
This morning there is time if you wish to make a second visit up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. We then return to Cuzco by train in the afternoon.
Today is a free day in the Cuzco to recover from the Inca Trail and immerse yourself in this vibrant place. You could practice your bargaining skills in the craft markets or visit colonial Spanish churches built by the Incas and search for the Indians print hidden in the church's icons or enjoy a well deserved massage.
There are no activities planned for this final day. For those not on the group flights, you tour ends in Cuzco after breakfast. Those on the group flights will be transferred to the airport for your overnight flight home.