peru machu picchu mountain sanctuary

Cusco and Machu Picchu Extension

Exploring the Realm of the Incas

Overview

Discover the best of Peru’s breathtaking mountain landscapes, mystical fortress-cities, and thriving cultural and artistic heritage on this extension that brings you to the heart of the Incan empire. You’ll explore the beautiful Urubamba Valley, sacred to the Incas and home to the stupendous ruins of Písac and majestic Ollantaytambo. Experience two days at glorious Machu Picchu, the iconic “Lost City of the Incas,” perched on a sheer precipice 1,500 feet above the Urubamba River, and enjoy an insider’s walking tour of Cusco, the ancient heart of the Inca Empire, and nearby Inca sites including awe-inspiring Saqsayhuaman, the majestic fortress overlooking Cusco.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Arrive / Lima, Peru

Welcome to the capital of Peru! Lima is renowned as one of the great gastronomic capitals of the world. It also offers exceptional museums, a wide spectrum of arts and crafts from all parts of the country, and many cultural delights. Upon arrival, you’ll make your way to the Wyndham Costa Del Sol Lima Airport Hotel, which is conveniently located within a two-minute walk across the street from the international terminal. If you have time, you may want to explore the Miraflores district, centrally located with lots of fantastic dining options. Meals are on your own today. Overnight at the hotel.

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Day 2
Cusco / Písac / Sacred Valley of the Incas

This morning, take a spectacular flight over the Andes to Cusco (11,200'). On arrival, you are met by your guide for a private morning tour of the important Inca ruins overlooking Cusco, including Q’enqo (Kenko), a great rock monolith artfully carved to take advantage of its natural shape, perhaps that of a sitting puma. Stairs lead to the top of the rock where there are more fascinating carvings. Continue to Tambo Machay, built to incorporate a natural spring that emerges from the hillside, and Puca Pucara, an ancient Inca road checkpoint.

You’ll then head out to the beautiful Urubamba Valley, home of the stupendous ruins of Písac, a fortress that is still an enigma to archaeologists. It was a classic Inca pucara, a huge defended area into which the entire population of a wide area could retreat during a military threat, but despite its natural defenses, the Incas made no stand here against the Spaniards. Písac is particularly well known for the Inca-built terracing that sweeps around the mountain spur on which the ruin is perched. The fine Inca terracing of the landscape around Písac reflects a level of engineering ingenuity unrivaled anywhere else in South America. On your tour, you hike past the largest known Inca burial site, explore the temple complex, and visit the village below, which has excellent artisan shops. Overnight in the Urubamba Valley...BL (Hotel Pakaritampu) BLD (Hotel Rio Sagrado)
Hiking Time: Approximately 4 hours

Classic Accommodation: Hotel Pakaritampu
Optional Upgrade: Hotel Rio Sagrado

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Day 3
Chinchero / Ollantaytambo / Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Urubamba Valley was sacred to the Incas for many reasons, a key one being that it has an agreeable climate and fertile plains, a rare combination in the high Andes. It is also the route to the jungle, from which the Incas liked to bring tropical fruits and plants including coca, which was used in rituals. This morning, visit Chinchero, an old colonial settlement built upon Inca foundations atop a mesa overlooking the valley. The small market here is wonderful, with its traditionally dressed Quechua people and an excellent selection of weavings and handicrafts. Later, explore the major temple-fortress of Ollantaytambo and the classic village below it. Majestic Ollantaytambo, set out on a river cliff at the lower edge of a canyon, is the fortress where rebel Manco Inca and his men held out against Pizarro’s forces in one of the only battles the Spaniards lost. At its top are huge granite blocks that mark an unfinished sun temple where the mummified remains of Inca nobles were buried. The charming traditional village below the ruins is a “living” Inca village, one of the few that retain the stonework, narrow streets, and family courtyards of its original Inca plan. Return to hotel for overnight...BL (Hotel Pakaritampu) BLD (Hotel Rio Sagrado)
Hiking Time: Approximately 3-4 hours

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Day 4
Machu Picchu

This morning, you’ll board the morning train with your guide for a short ride through the Urubamba Valley to Machu Picchu. At the Machu Picchu station, head up to the ruins by bus and explore the sanctuary on an afternoon tour, visiting the reconstructed ruins of staircases, altars, temples, and fountains and enjoying the incredible setting. Overnight at hotel...BLD

Classic Accommodation: The Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel at Aguas Calientes
Optional Upgrade: Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge

Machu Picchu: So well hidden in the jungle-covered ramparts of the Cordillera Vilcabamba that the Spaniards never knew of it, Machu Picchu allows us a glimpse into the Inca world. American historian Hiram Bingham, who had a fascination with Peruvian archaeology, found the site in 1911 while searching for the ruins of Vilcabamba, known to be the last place where the rebel Manco II took refuge. A villager told Bingham about some ruins on a high ridge above the Urubamba River and led him there; thus, Bingham found the ruins not of Vilcabamba, but of a mysterious Inca city now believed to be one of the royal estates of the 9th Inca king, Pachacuti—whose name translates as “Transformer of the World.” Pachacuti was a kind of New World Alexander the Great, whose son and grandson continued and consolidated the expansion of Inca power. Bingham returned in 1912 and 1915 to undertake the difficult task of clearing the thick forest that had engulfed the ruins. Peruvian archaeologist Luis Valcarcel undertook further studies and vegetation clearing in 1934, and in 1940 and 1941, a Peruvian-American expedition led by Paul Fejos did more study. Archaeologists know that Machu Picchu was built, occupied, and then abandoned in the course of 100 years. Discoveries in the 1980s of many other small ruin sites close to Machu Picchu have given weight to the theory that Machu Picchu also served as the administrative center of a huge and populous region. Whatever Machu Picchu’s purpose was, it is certainly one of the most stunning archaeological sites in the world.

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Day 5
Machu Picchu / Cusco

Explore the wonders of Machu Picchu on your own, with the option to climb Huayna Picchu if you wish. The Palace of Princesses, Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Condor, and the astronomical observatory are only a few of the remarkable restored ruins here. The many beautiful altars, terraces, fountains, and mysterious chambers all display intricate stonework. Transfer to the last afternoon train, which brings you back to Cusco around 6:00 pm. You will be met on arrival in Cusco for transfer to the hotel...BL

Classic Accommodation: Casa Andina Premium Cusco
Optional Upgrade: Hotel Monasterio

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Day 6
Cusco / City Tour

The morning is free at your leisure. In the afternoon, enjoy a private guided walking tour through central Cusco, once the elegant imperial city of the Incas. The streets of Cusco are lined with massive Inca-built stone walls and the foundations of many colonial and modern buildings are set on Inca stonework. Your walking tour typically includes a visit to the central square called the Plaza de Armas, Cusco’s ancient and modern center, and the baroque cathedral, a great repository of colonial art that sits on the foundations of the Inca Wiracocha’s palace. You will also visit awe-inspiring Saqsayhuaman, the majestic Inca fortress overlooking Cusco. With its three tiers of outer walls made of massive and perfectly fitted limestone blocks, it is the largest and one of the most impressive Inca sites in existence. The zig-zag configuration of its walls may indicate that it was a temple dedicated to the Inca’s important lightning god, although some scholars feel the zig-zags represent the teeth of a puma.
                        
Inhabited by proto-Incas as early as 1100 AD, Cusco was partly rebuilt in the early 15th century by Pachacuteq, the Inca warrior-king. He is credited with creating the Incas’ form of worship, system of government, and the distinctive masonry style we still marvel at today. Cusco was laid out in the shape of a puma. The megalithic fortress of Sacsayhuaman formed its head, while palaces, temples, squares, and streets formed the puma’s body and legs. Cusco’s paved avenues were flanked by temples and rock-hewn palaces with gold- and jewel-encrusted doors, and there were lavish villas for the Inca nobles and their retinues. Cusco’s opulent inner sanctum was the Coricancha, or House of the Sun, a glittering temple to the gods, full of golden statues. Today the stonework remnants of this temple form the foundation for the colonial church of Santo Domingo. Overnight at hotel...B

Classic Accommodation: Casa Andina Premium Cusco
Optional Upgrade: Hotel Monasterio

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Day 7
Cusco / Optional Excursion

Today is free for shopping and sightseeing on your own in Cusco. One can spend a delightful day here just exploring on foot to see the blend of Inca and colonial architecture. The city also boasts an abundance of artisan and craft boutiques and a wide variety of wonderful restaurants and street cafes, all with a welcoming atmosphere. Overnight at hotel...B

Optional Excursion to Tipon, Andahuaylillas, and Pikillacta: We also offer the option of exploring the seldom visited walled Inca ruins at Tipon, believed to have served as an estate for Inca nobles and beautifully engineered with water channels, Andahuaylillas, with its picturesque colonial church, the churches at Urcos and Huaro, and Pikillacta, home to an enormous set of pre-Inca ruins (0 to 800 AD) belonging to the Wari Empire. This option is at an additional cost of $200 per person...BL
1.5 hours hiking

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Day 8
Depart

Transfer to the airport for a morning flight to Lima and depart on homeward-bound flights...B

Details

Length: 8 days
Cost From: $3995  
Arrive: Lima, Peru
Depart: Cusco, Peru
Lodging: 7 nights hotels
Meals: Meals as indicated
Activity: Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Cultural exploration and walking tours

Visa Requirements

A visa is not required for U.S. citizens visting Peru. A tourist card will be issued to you on the flight to Lima.