Music, Festivals, and Culture in the Heart of the Inca Empire

A Special Journey with Dr. Holly Wissler

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $4495  
Length: 10 days
Arrive: Cusco, Peru
Depart: Cusco, Peru
Lodging: 8 nights in fine hotels, including the Palacio del Inka and Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge
Meals: All meals included except 4 lunches and 3 dinners
Activity: Archaeology, Cultural Adventures, Special Interest, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level: Cultural exploration, moderate to steep day walks of 2 to 4 hours, altitudes up to 12,000 feet


  • Explore magnificent Machu Picchu, with an overnight at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, right at the ruins
  • Enjoy a rare cultural experience of Peru with ethnomusicologist Dr. Holly Wissler
  • Meet local Andean musicians and enjoy private traditional musical performances
  • Witness the exuberant Pentecost Festival in the beautiful village of Ollantaytambo

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Join us for an extraordinary hiking and cultural journey in the heartland of the Incas, weaving together the astounding legacy of the Inca Empire and a rare experience of the vibrant cultures of the Andes. We created this fascinating journey with our veteran—and beloved—Trip Leader Dr. Holly Wissler. As we explore Cusco, ancient capital of the Inca Empire, hike in the spectacular Sacred Valley of the Incas, and discover the famed lost city of Machu Picchu, we will also be welcomed inside the world of Andean culture, exjoying unforgettable musical performances, meeting craftsmen, and experiencing a traditional festival in the Incan town of Ollantaytambo. Our hikes are exhilarating, including one at the great stone fortress at Saqsayhuaman, at the enigmatic clifftop temple at Pisac, and at stunning Machu Picchu, where we enjoy an overnight at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, right next to the mystical ruins. Holly has a PhD in ethnomusicology and spent years with the people of the Andes during her research. Her friendships open doors for us throughout this journey. Our cultural encounters include private performances by accomplished Andean musicians, meetings with traditional Q’eros spiritual leaders, a performance at a music school in an Andean village, and lunch with a textile expert at the Cusco Center for Traditional Textiles. We also witness Ollantaytambo’s patron saint festival, when the whole town celebrates with exuberant fireworks and dazzling costumed events in the main square with dance troupes elaborately dressed as llama traders, female Amazon warriors, and more! We invite you to step beyond the surface to encounter this thriving Andean culture. Holly’s invaluable friendships with musicians, artists, and weavers all along the way ensure us a rich cultural immersion in the stunning world of the Incas.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-3
Cusco / Andean Music / Pisac

Explore the ancient capital of the Incas, one of the most fascinating cities in the world, and enjoy a private performance by traditional Andean musicians. Meet with members of the indigenous Quechua community of Q’eros at Holly’s home to  hear their unqiue music, then head out for a hike on the fine Inca terraces of Pisac, a classic Inca fortress.

Days 4-6
Chincheros Textiles / Ollantaytambo / Pentecost Festival

Meet the weavers at the Cusco Center for Traditional Textiles, founded by expert local weaver Nilda Callañaupa, and explore  the living Inca village of Ollantaytambo. Enjoy a hands-on cooking demonstration that begins a shopping trip to the local market accompanied by a local chef, and enjoy a special Andean meal. On Day 6, watch the fabulous comparsas (dance groups) at the Pentecost Festival in Ollantaytambo, with 16 different dance groups performing in their exquisite costumes accompanied by live music.

Days 7-10
Machu Picchu / Cusco / Santa Ana Colonial District

Hike and explore Machu Picchu, one of the most mystical settings in the world, with a memorable overnight at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel right at the entrance to the ruins. Return to Cusco in the afternoon of Day 8.  The next day, enjoy a walking tour of Cusco’s historic Santa Ana district, in use in both Inca and colonial times, and visit the home of musician Jorge Choqehuillcay, with its magnificent views of Cusco, for a final musical performance. Depart Day 10

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 2, Easy to Moderate. It features sightseeing with day walks of two to four hours. We enjoy hotel and lodge accommodations throughout the trip. Much of the trip takes place at considerable altitudes, ranging from around 9,500 feet in the Urubamba Valley to over 11,000 feet at Cusco. Appropriate time for rest and acclimatization is included in the itinerary, but for your own enjoyment of the trip, we recommend that you make a special effort to be in good physical condition.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Jun 3-12, 2014  Holly Wissler

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
$4495 (13-15 members)
$4695 (10-12 members)
$4995 (6-9 members)
Single supplement: $1385
Internal airfare: $475 (subject to change)
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Arequipa and Colca Canyon Extension
   from: $945
Amazon Rainforest Extension: Reserva Amazonica
   from: $725
Sipan and Chan Chan Extension
   from: $925
Lake Titicaca Extension
   from: $910

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations in hotels
  • All meals included except 4 lunches and 3 dinners
  • Airport transfers as noted, ground transportation
  • Sightseeing as noted

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, internal flights, meals specified as “on your own,” airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors, cost of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20%
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $250 per person
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Palacio del Inka

Palacio del Inka

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights),
Days 8 to 9 (2 nights), Cusco, Peru

Set in front of the Coricancha, just off Cusco’s central square, is the Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel. It is a favorite among ...
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Pisac Inn

Pisac Inn

Day 3 (1 night), Pisac, Peru

The charming Pisac Inn is a small hotel set right on the historic central plaza of Pisac, with views of the famous Inca ruins that rise above the ...
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El Albergue Ollantaytambo

El Albergue Ollantaytambo

Days 4 to 6 (3 nights), Ollantaytambo, Peru

This small, quaint inn is right at the train station in the little Incan-style town of Ollantaytambo. The building dates to 1925 but has been well ...
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Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge

Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge

Day 7 (1 night), Machu Picchu Ruins, Peru

You can’t get closer to the Machu Picchu ruins than this! With only 31 rooms, this Orient Express property is famously set right at the gate ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Holly Wissler

Holly Wissler, an ethnomusicologist and one of our most experienced guides, has led treks for us in both Nepal and Peru, two countries that she has lived in for many years. She holds double Masters degrees from the University of Idaho in Flute Performance and Music History and her PhD in ethnomusicology from Florida State University. One of Holly’s areas of focus is Andean music and ritual, and she was the producer of Qoyllur Rit’i: A Woman’s Journey, a video documentary about Peru’s largest Andean pilgrimage festival. She recently produced a second documentary, “From Grief and Joy We Sing” on the musical traditions of the remote Quechua community of Q’eros, Peru, which is also her dissertation topic for her Ph.D. Holly speaks fluent Spanish, as well as Quechua and Nepali.

Upcoming Trips:

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, May 9-17, 2014
Music, Festivals, and Culture in the Heart of the Inca Empire, June 3-12, 2014
Trekking in the Cordillera Blanca, July 25-August 10, 2014

Recent Photo Blog Posts

Hike to the Incas' "Lost City" , Fred and Laura Jolly

Client Testimonials:

Holly was fabulous. She is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, cheerful, and has great rapport with the staff. She is fun an unflappable and I feel very lucky to have met her and had her for our Trip Leader! Deborah S., Buffalo NY The trip was everything I’d hoped it would be and much more. Can’t say enough about Holly. She was a wealth of cultural information and is a warm and caring person. JoAnn E., Paso Robles CA
Ultimate Everest
Your rating scale doesn’t go high enough to rate Holly! She made the trip outstanding. Robert F., Paso Robles CA
Ultimate Everest
Holly was absolutely wonderful! The best leader we have ever had, Holly is special and a real asset to Wilderness Travel. Bruce and Carolynn H., Jackson WY
Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu
Holly Wissler is a fantastic, capable, extremely knowledgeable woman with a storehouse of information and an unsurpassed passion for Peru. Robin and Art P., San Francisco, CA Holly proves easily to be among the top rung of WT leaders. Personable, organized, marvelously companionable, superbly informed. Michael W., Stamford CT, Chachapoyas Trek Holly is super and was such an enjoyable guide. She made the trip special, as she lives in Peru and is very involved in Peruvian culture, in particular her interest in ethnomusicology with the Q'eros. Marjorie L., New York, NY
Hiker's Journey to Machu Picchu
Holly is the best trip leader with whom I have traveled, ever, at any time, and any place. David H., Austin, TX
Citadels of Chachapoyas
Holly is exceptional in every way. She has a wealth of knowledge of the area and culture and made the trip so special for each of us. Bonnie A., San Diego, CA
Peru: Q'eros Cultural Trek
Holly was a wonderful guide—knowledgable, flexible, capable in a thousand ways. She made the trip an unforgettable experience. Alexandra K., Wilton, CT
Hiker's Journey to Machu Picchu
Holly was abounding with knowledge regarding the culture; I came away from this trip with such an appreciation and respect for the people, culture, and Andean region. Caroline H., Memphis, TN WOW! Holly was fantastic! Her music background made for entertaining camp nights and her knowledge of the Incas was so vast and valuable. Ellen C., Eugene, OR
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Holly's expertise with the local music, villages, villagers, and her language facility made the trip even more fabulous than it would have been otherwise! Audrey Y., Rockville, MD
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Holly is inspiring. She loves Peru and knows it intimately. She made us all love the Andes. I can't wait to return. Fae E., Salt Lake City, UT
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Holly is a treasure. We really appreciated the cultural aspect she brought to the trip. It made us feel more connected to the people of Peru, and the mountains we were traveling in. Janice C., Sao Paulo, Brazil
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Holly was phenomenal on so many levels. Her love of the culture, people, and environment was amazing. She made our trip beyond wonderful. Ann K., Sao Paulo, Brazil
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Holly took an already awesome experience and made it extraordinary. Lindsey K., Sao Paulo, Brazil
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
We can't say enough about Holly. She is a terrifically skilled guide and a wonderful person with whom to travel. We would follow her anywhere! Jane S., Newton, MA
Hiker's Journey to Machu Picchu

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:


Amazon Rainforest Extension: Reserva Amazonica

Exploring Waterways and Nature Trails

Cultural Adventures, Wildlife & Natural History
3 days  -  Level 1

Arequipa and Colca Canyon Extension

Colonial Splendor and Natural Wonders

Cultural Adventures, Wildlife & Natural History
4 days  -  Level 2

Lake Titicaca Extension

Mystical Birthplace of the Incas

Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
3 days  -  Level 2

Frieze at the Temple of the Moon, near Trujillo

Sipan and Chan Chan Extension

Ancient Wonders of Northern Peru

Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 1