The group flights to Lima depart London this evening and arrive the following morning.
The group flights arrive this morning. The morning is free for you to explore the local area, change money or visit Lima's many museums until rooms become available, and in the early afternoon we depart on a short city tour of Lima, visiting the historic downtown area and the more modern coastal suburbs.
Early start for the flight via Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado, a small jungle town, then by river (3-4 hours, depending on the river) to the jungle lodge in the Tambopata Reserve. On the way we may see caimans (alligators), river turtles and a wide variety of birdlife.
Day 4 - 5
The next two days are spent exploring the forest, rivers and lakes surrounding the lodge, on foot and in both motorised and paddle canoes. Although a lot of the wildlife tends to hide in the dense foliage, we should expect to see a wide variety of birds, including herons and egrets, jacanas, macaws and the almost prehistoric-looking hoatzin, as well as several species of monkey, reptiles and insects, and with luck the giant otters which live in the rivers of the Amazon basin.
A dawn start is required for the boat trip back to Puerto Maldonado, giving memorable views of the sunrise over the river. Lookout for the early morning wildlife, which is particularly active at this time. Howler monkeys are frequently heard, as they stake out their territories. Fly to Cuzco. There is usually time for an afternoon tour of the city. At 3300m Cuzco is an extremely high city and you may find yourself short of breath on arrival.
We have a free day in Cuzco today. The Inca Capital is among the most attractive cities in South America, with many interesting buildings, museums and sites. To help acclimatise, take an optional walking tour of the Inca capital and the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman and Qenco, which overlook the city. Alternatively there is the opportunity for an optional full day tour of the Sacred Valley including the fortresses of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, or, for the more adventurous, there is an optional rafting trip in the Valley on Grade II-III rapids (river conditions depend on the season).
Today is the start of the Inca Trail trek. Transfer by bus to trailhead at Piscacucho, on the Vilcanota River. Hike along the Vilcanota River beneath the impressive snow-capped Nevado Veronica through cactus gardens and fields of corn to the enormous Inca ruins of Llactapata, then continue up a side valley to camp in the hamlet of Huayllabamba
This is the longest and most strenuous day. A long climb takes us first through an area of cloud forest to the meadows of Llulluchapampa, and then over the Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman) pass, at 4215m the highest point on the trek. After quite a long, steep descent we camp in the scenic valley of the Pacamayo river (3600m).
Another easier climb, past the ruins of Runquracay, takes us over the Runquracay Pass (3950m). From now on the Inca Trail becomes a clearly defined path made of flat boulders. We pass the ruins of Sayajmarca and suddenly enter rainforest; the Trail passes at one point through an Inca tunnel. We camp in a spectacular setting on the ridge above the Inca site of Phuyupatamarca (3650m) to benefit from the views of sunset and sunrise.
From the ridge we embark on the infamous Inca steps: a two kilometre stone staircase taking us rapidly downhill amid a panorama of overwhelming immensity, with the peaks of the Vilcabamba range above, and the river thousands of metres below. After visiting the attractive ruins of Wiñay Wayña, we have an undulating walk through cloud forest high above the river to Inti Punku, the Inca Gate of the Sun. From here we get our sudden first full sight of Machu Picchu itself, with Huayna Picchu rising behind. Passing around the ruins we descend to the river and Aguas Calientes for a well-earned rest, a comfortable hotel room and hot shower.
We return early for a tour of the ruins at their quietest and most evocative (before the day trippers arrive from Cuzco). After free time to explore individually, we then board the train in the afternoon (though its timings are somewhat erratic and the journey will probably be partly in the dark). To speed up the journey we take a private bus from Ollantaytambo back to the comfort of our hotel in Cuzco, and the chance to try one of the many restaurants in Cuzco and enjoy a Pisco sour!
Today we take a bus ride across the altiplano, the high plains separating the Andes from the jungles. Although it is quite a long drive (10 hours including stops), it is interesting and often spectacular. There are scheduled stops along the route to visit some of the most interesting sites which helps break up the day and we get a feeling for the immensity of the Andean landscapes. We arrive in the evening at Puno, a high, chilly town on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
We explore Lake Titicaca, visiting the descendants of the Uros Indians, who live on islands of floating reeds and produce some fine textiles. Though the altitude here (3850m) is tiring, the air is very clear and the lakeside views can be magnificent, with the snow-capped peaks of the Andes towering in the background. We visit Taquile Island before returning to Puno.
We should have some free time in Puno before our visit to the Sillustani ruins and then fly to Lima (from nearby Juliaca airport). Depending on the flight taken, we may have some time free for shopping and sightseeing, including an optional visit to the Gold Museum. Flights times do vary and some groups will not arrive into Lima until late afternoon or early evening.
The trip ends in Lima this morning and those on group flights will be transferred to the airport for the flight back to London.
The group flights arrive in London this afternoon.