Incas & Intrigue in Peru
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Moderate
Group Size Small Group
You don’t really get more ‘bucket list’ than Machu Picchu. But there’s much more crammed into this impressive nine-day itinerary besides discovering lost ancient cities. In fact, we’re pretty confident we’ve checked off everything you could want from a whistle-stop tour of Peru. A deep dive into Peruvian food and drink. The exquisite Rainbow Mountain and the ethereal Salineras de Maras salt flats. And an insight into rural community life. Seven days of annual leave well spent.
* All breakfasts, four lunches and one dinner
* Transport and listed activities
* Tour leader throughout
* Arrival and departure transfers
* One Day Inca Trail
Get to know Cuzco on a walking tour
You arrive smack-bang into the epicentre of archaeological America: Cuzco, the gateway to Machu Picchu. To get your bearings, there’s a walking tour to explore the cobblestone passages and see the collision of ancient-meets-modern life. Then you’ll return to the Xima Cuzco Hotel, opposite the handicraft market.Tonight, there’s a meeting, but definitely not your average workday kind. You’ll gather with your group for a briefing about the adventures ahead (and no, there’s no need for minute-taking).
Devour Peruvian cuisine at San Pedro market and take a cooking class
It’s all about Peruvian food today, starting with a visit to the San Pedro market. It’s lively, vibrant place with rows and rows of stalls. You’ll chat with the locals, try some fruits, /chuta/ bread, and perhaps even a serving of frog soup.In the afternoon you’ll learn about the different plants and herbs used in Peruvian cooking and more about traditional food and drink. Then feast on your self-prepared food.
Cycle the Sacred Valley
You’ll leave the city clamour behind today, venturing north to the Sacred Valley – a corner of the Andes known for its remote villages, markets and Inca citadels. You’ll be cycling through this scenic wonderland today, first stopping at Moray. This archaeological site is characterised with deep amphitheatre-style terraces. It was once thought to be an Incan agricultural research centre, where crop experiments were carried out at different heights.Your cycle ride continues 6km to Salineras de Maras, a dreamlike site of thousands of salt pans created from a hot spring at the top of the valley.Tonight, you’ll stay at the 17th century San Agustin Monasterio La Recoleta.
Visit a rural community, then discover the ruins at Pisac
There’s a visit to Agritourism association of Chichubamba today, a rural community. Here, you’ll work alongside the locals preparing /pachamanca/, a traditional dish that’s baked over hot stones and covered with stones and earth for an hour or two. While it’s cooking, you’ll visit some homes and see the local produce of pottery, chocolate and coffee. Then it’s back to uncover the /pachamanca/ for lunch.In the afternoon, you’ll visit the Pisac Ruins, a sweeping (and lesser-explored) Inca fortress for a guided tour. You’ll then hike downhill for 90 minutes to Pisac Market in the bustling village.
Join the inimitable Inca Trail
You’ll take the train to the village of Ollantaytambo today. You’ll descend a 2km Inca stone staircase, with mountains as a backdrop and the Urubamba River below. After a stop at the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, you’ll walk through cloud forest high above the river to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. From here you’ll get your first full sight of Machu Picchu, with Huayna Picchu rising behind.Then you’ll descend to Aguas Calientes, a town below the ruins, for a well-earned rest. You’ll stay at Hatun Inti Classic for the next two nights.
Epic Day Klaxon: tour Machu Picchu
To beat the day-trippers arriving from Cuzco, you’ll set off early for Machu Picchu.Hidden and forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1911, Machu Picchu is an archaeological masterpiece. Commanding a spectacular location, this ancient city is a sight that will be seared in your memory for life. New regulations mean that visitors have four hours on-site and follow a set route with a guide.The afternoon is yours. Later, you’ll take a Pisco Sour cocktail class in Aguas Calientes. Because frankly, you can’t return home from Peru without becoming an expert in this iconic drink.
A citadel and chocolate day
You’ll make your way back to Cuzco today, by taking the train to Ollantaytambo and then the bus on to the city. You’ll have time for a breather before joining your group for an uphill walk to Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park for a tour of this Inca fortress. Afterwards, you’ll walk to San Blas for a chocolate-making workshop. You’ll learn to make chocolate from the cacao bean and prepare chocolate-based drinks that the Mayas and Conquistadores enjoyed.
Climb the remarkable Rainbow Mountain
Set an early alarm – you’ll be collected at 5.30 am to board a bus bound for Phulawasipata. It’s a three-hour journey with the last hour on a bumpy, unpaved road, taking you (literally) off the beaten track. From here, you’ll trek up Vinicunca, or Rainbow Mountain as it’s more famously known. This mountain has become an undisputed Instagram star thanks to its multicoloured mineral stripes, and its popularity has surged. To get the best views of the rainbow effect, you’ll have to hope the weather is kind.You’ll hike for 90 minutes, starting at 4,600m and climbing to reach a lofty 5,000m. Don’t forget to stop to appreciate the views and the snow-capped peak of Ausangante in the distance, before returning downhill for another 90 minutes to the bus that’ll drive you back to Cuzco (with a well-earned lunch stop en route).It’s a long and physically demanding day at these heights, but you whould be well acclimatised at this stage in the trip. For anyone unsure, there’s an option to opt out and spend further time in Cuzco today instead.
Return to the airport
A final breakfast, before you part with your group and return home.