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Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel to Peru to explore the handiwork of the Incas in depth. The legacies of this ancient empire remain a marvel, from astronomical observatories in the lost city of Machu Picchu to limestone carvings of indigenous animals at the ceremonial site of Kenko. And the timeless streets of Cuzco bustle even now with traders and artisans, as they have since the 16th century.  OAT brings you close to Peru's diverse offerings on this comprehensive South American adventure: rafting on the Urubamba River, meeting today's Peruvians in the Sacred Valley, and visiting the immense Sacsayhuaman ruins in Cuzco. In the heart of this Andean nation, our small group encounters a curandero medicine man as practices traditional healing arts. Join us to experience a country whose long history blends Inca and Spanish colonial influences.

Lima Cuzco Expand All
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    Depart the U.S. this evening on an overnight flight to Peru.

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    We arrive at the airport in Lima early in the morning and transfer to our hotel. Here, you’ll get acquainted with our Trip Leader and fellow travelers—including those joining us from our optional pre-trip extensions to Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train or The Amazon Rain Forest of Peru.

    After an included lunch, we take an orientation walk through the boulevards and plazas around our hotel—situated in the stylish Miraflores district, which is a cultural and artistic center full of small cafés, fine shops, and art galleries. After our walk, we’ll return to the hotel. The rest of your day is at leisure, with dinner on your own this evening.

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    After breakfast at our hotel, we embark on a tour of Lima's colonial sites. Founded by the conquistadors in 1535, Lima became Spain’s largest and wealthiest city in the New World. The city has a proud history, including the founding of one of the first universities in South America, the Universidad de San Marcos, in the middle of the 16th century. Today, Lima’s historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    We begin with a guided visit to Lima’s National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History at Bolivar Square, where we can view the eras of Peru’s history through art, from pre-Incan turquoise figurines to Incan textiles and Spanish paintings. The museum contains an impressive collection of ceramics, gold and silver items, and textiles from the ancient cultures of Chavin, Mochica, Chimu, Tiahuanaco, Pucara, Paracas, Nazca, and Inca. A local guide will then join us as we explore Lima’s colonial streets and architecture—evidence of the city’s Spanish heritage—concluding with a private tour of San Francisco Church, a distinctive yellow building constructed in the Baroque style, known for its beautiful painted ceilings and extensive catacombs.

    We return to our hotel and lunch is on your own. You'll be free to make your own discoveries in Lima this afternoon. We gather for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

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    After breakfast this morning, we continue our travel in Peru with a flight to the mountain-ringed city of Cuzco. Situated at an elevation of 10,909 feet, this city was the capital of the Incan world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arrival, we descend into the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River, the lower elevation of which eases our transition to high altitudes of the Andes before our visit to Machu Picchu and our return to Cuzco.

    Explore the Ollantaytambo ruins during a tour of Peru

    After a boxed lunch, we drive to the top of a switchback road leading to the ancient upper city of Pisac, the mythic ruins of which are situated in a spectacular location atop a buttress ridge, with agricultural terraces—constructed by the ancient Inca people—curling around the hill in graceful curves, and gorges on either side.

    We take a short trek into the ancient city, where we explore its well-built stone dwellings and temples, and enjoy sweeping vistas both up- and downstream in the Urubamba Valley. Pisac's highly defensible site guarded both the Valley and a high jungle pass to the northeast.

    From Pisac, we depart for our hotel in the Sacred Valley. We arrive there this evening, and enjoy dinner at our hotel tonight.

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    Explore scenic Peru by rafting the Urubamba River

    After breakfast, we head for the banks of the Urubamba River, where we embark on a float trip aboard inflatable rafts—an enjoyable way to experience the enchanting Andean landscape. It's little wonder that the Incas regarded the Urubamba Valley as sacred ground. Here their culture was born, and here they found a true life-source—the area's mild climate and fertile soil, which yielded an abundance of fruits and vegetables. As we float along the river, we’ll observe the networks of terraces on either side, constructed entirely by hand, which transformed steep mountainsides into acres of arable land that helped feed a civilization, and which remain in use today, centuries after their construction.

    Following our rafting excursion, we continue to the splendid Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo. We’ll walk amid the remains of this ancient fortress of gray and rose-colored granite, discover its ancient baths, and climb up the huge terraces guarding its hilltop temples. Then, we'll enjoy a chance to meet some of the local people who dwell in the traditional town nearby.

    We depart from Ollantaytambo and then join a Peruvian family for a Home-Hosted Lunch. We'll try our hand at preparing a traditional appetizer and dine on Peruvian specialties—be sure to ask your hosts about cuy, a local delicacy! Later, we return to our hotel. Dinner tonight is at a local polleria restaurant, where we will have the opportunity to taste one of Peru's most popular dishes, pollo a la brasa (rotisserie-style chicken).

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    Today we wake up early for a train trip into the gorge of the Urubamba River and on to Machu Picchu, the legendary “Lost City of the Incas.” En route to the train station, we stop in Ollantaytambo for a short tour of the village and its charming central plaza. We'll enjoy lunch on board the train.

    After a scenic train ride through the Sacred Valley, we arrive in the village of Aguas Calientes, where we’ll return after our exploration of Machu Picchu this afternoon. Most travelers visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, which makes for a hectic pace and only limited time at this unique archaeological wonder, while our overnight stay in Aguas Calientes allows us to explore at a more relaxed pace and return to continue our discoveries of this famous city the next morning.

    We travel by bus to Machu Picchu, which—like Lima and the city of Cuzco—is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ancient city was a place little known not only to foreigners, but also to the Inca people—only a select few were ever allowed to visit this mysterious sanctuary. Even though it was “discovered” by Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu remained inaccessible until the 1940s, when the Inca Trail was found by an archaeological expedition.

    Explore Machu Picchu on a guided tour

    Ensuing explorations uncovered relics indicating that the "Lost City of the Incas" may have been the religious center of Inca life. The temples, astronomical observatory, and a remarkable solar clock named Intiwatana, or "hitching post to the sun" are all signs of the Incas' devotion to their sun god. (The fact that nearly all the unearthed human remains are female also points to Machu Picchu as a site of religious sacrifice.)

    As for the fate of Machu Picchu's people, the theories are even more far-reaching (and theory is all we have, for the Incas left no written record). It is known that smallpox decimated the population in the early 16th century, but the remainder may have succumbed to drought or disease, been conquered by the Spanish, or simply abandoned the site.

    We can consider this mystery as our own expedition alights on this mountaintop site this afternoon, as our expert Trip Leader and a local assistant give us a complete and compelling look at this fabled "Lost City," explaining the speculation surrounding Machu Picchu’s place in the Inca world. We’ll trek across its terraced landscape, stroll its ancient streets, and discover remnants of its Ritual Baths, Palace of the Princess, Main Fountain, and Sun and Condor temples. We'll have ample time to explore, reflect, and ponder the enigma of this man-made wonder, both with our Trip Leader and on our own.

    Late this afternoon, we return to Aguas Calientes and check in to our hotel, then enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

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    We rise early to drive back to Machu Picchu after breakfast, ascending toward the ruined city as the sun crests the peaks of the Andes. You can remain at the hotel if you wish, but most travelers appreciate this second chance to see the ruins in a different light, well before other visitors arrive on the train from Cuzco later this morning. Among the enigmatic remnants of this Inca sanctuary we find an observatory meant for solstice worship and a stone altar marking the holy center point between the nearby sacred peaks.

    Explore Machu Picchu during a tour of Peru

    You can wander the sprawling ruins on your own, or, depending on which trails are open, choose between two hikes. One brings you to the Inca Bridge, where a trail built with impressive Inca engineering crosses a cliff face. In one spot, the Incas left a deep gap, which they bridged with logs that could be removed to render the trail impassable to enemies. The second option is an ambitious hike to the Sun Gate at the Machu Picchu end of the Inca Trail, which offers a fine view over the ruins.

    We descend to the village below to have lunch at a local restaurant, and this afternoon, we travel back by train to Ollantaytambo, and then by bus to Cuzco through the spectacular Urubamba Gorge. This evening, we enjoy dinner together at our hotel.

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    Explore the streets of Cuzco

    This morning, we explore Cuzco on a walking tour of the downtown area. Called "the navel of the world" by the Incas, Cuzco was laid out in the shape of a puma, a sacred beast in Inca lore. We'll visit the site where the Qoricancha Sun Temple once stood. In the Incan era, this was Cuzco's most important ceremonial structure. Historical records of the time note that its walls were once covered with 700 sheets of gold studded with emeralds and turquoise. When sunlight streamed through the windows, the reflection of light off the precious metals was blinding. Then we'll stroll through the heart of the city at the Plaza de Armas. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived here, they often built atop Inca structures, leaving behind a fascinating architectural blend. Here we'll visit the 17th-century cathedral, which was built on the foundation of an Inca palace. This massive structure is one of the significant colonial buildings in the city and contains many interior paintings and sculptures, as well as collections of colonial art and religious relics. See whether you agree with many that it is one of the most beautiful churches in Latin America.

    Lunch and dinner are on your own today, and you have the afternoon at leisure to make your own discoveries. Head for the San Blas neighborhood to see more of Cuzco's historic architecture and the shops of artisans along picturesque hilly, narrow lanes. Or take in the city's Inca Museum (Museo Inka), which is housed in a colonial mansion and known for its collection of Inca mummies.

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    This morning, we begin a day filled with Peruvian cultural discoveries as we journey to Izcuchaca, a small village in the Río Mantaro Valley, where we'll visit a local market and uncover the region's rich history. Although the village features a pottery center and several humble hot springs, it is best known for its historic stone bridge. According to legend, Incan ruler Huáscar defended the bridge against his brother (and opponent), Atahualpa, during the Inca Civil War. As the brothers fought for control of the Inca Empire, they were completely unaware that their greatest threat was yet to come: the Spanish conquistadores.

    Then, we travel to the mountain weaving village of Chinchero, which—at an elevation of 12,500 feet—is a literal high point of our exploration of the Sacred Valley, and provides excellent views of the surrounding mountains. Chinchero was also the site of a 16th-century Inca emperor’s estate, as well as a resting place on the Inca Royal Road. While there, we'll enjoy A Day in the Life of the Chinchero community, beginning with a spirited encounter with some of the children at a local elementary school (when in session) that is supported in part by donations from Grand Circle Foundation. The children welcome us warmly with a presentation on Peru’s culture—including traditional songs and dances—which is followed by a discussion with their teachers and families and some free time with the children one-on-one. Many travelers find this chance to meet the children of Peru to be the emotional high point of their adventure as well. Please note: Today's school visit may occur on an alternate day to accommodate weekends or holidays.

    From the schoolhouse, we travel to the center of Chinchero, where we'll enjoy a walking tour of the community and witness an Incan tradition in action during a visit to a weaving cooperative. Here we observe a demonstration on making traditional textiles, and learn how the modern descendants of Peru's Quechua Indians create complex patterns in colorful cloth, like their ancestors have for centuries. We have lunch with the community in Chinchero—our Trip Leader will help us converse with the local people, providing another excellent opportunity to learn about daily life in Peru—before we return to Cuzco. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    In the morning, we drive into the hills surrounding Cuzco to visit two important Inca sites. First we'll explore the massive Sacsayhuaman archaeological site on a hilltop overlooking the city. Sacsayhuaman is constructed of huge stones, some weighing nearly 300 tons, and recent excavations have revealed this ancient complex—thought to be a sacred sanctuary to the sun—to be much larger than previously thought. Then we visit the ancient Inca ceremonial center of Kenko, an ancient worship site that provides impressive evidence of the Inca’s unsurpassed talent for carving and piecing together immense limestone outcroppings.

    See a curandero ceremony performed by a medicine man

    We are in for a special treat later this morning when we get an up-close glimpse of a curandero ceremony, a healing ritual with Inca roots—performed by a mestizo medicine man—that draws on an assortment of ancient and modern substances and symbols, combined with coca leaves and the energy of the sacred mountains and Mother Earth. Watch, listen, and draw your own conclusions about this ancient practice, one that has endured for centuries in the face of modern medical advances.
    After the ceremony, we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Your afternoon is free for relaxing or making your own discoveries. This evening, gather with your traveling companions to celebrate your journey during our Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    • Meals included:

    Our morning flight brings us back to Lima, where we check into our hotel. After lunch at a local restaurant, we embark upon a panoramic tour of Lima’s Barranco district. Home to many of Lima’s artists, musicians, and designers, Barranco is considered to be both the most romantic and the most bohemian district in Lima. We’ll take in its charming Colonial architecture and flower-lined streets, and enjoy striking views of its unique topography, built around ravines and cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We’ll return to our hotel this afternoon to rest. Later, we transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to the U.S.

    If you’ve chosen our post-trip extension to Peru: Lake Titicaca's Sacred Landscape, you'll depart from Cuzco this morning, travel overland to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and enjoy the Barranco district tour in Lima at the end of your extension. Or, if you're taking the Before the Incas: Peru's Pyramids & the Lord of Sipan post-trip extension, you'll fly from Cuzco to Trujillo in northern Peru today, and also take the Barranco district tour in Lima at the end of your extension.

Extensions

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Overall Trip Excellence
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 4 locations in 10 days with one 1-night stay; early sightseeing on 1 day
  • International flights to Peru arrive late in the evening or very early in the morning, and internal flights are scheduled early

Physical Requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 6-8 hours of physical activities each day

Altitude

  • 5 full days at altitudes between 7,000-12,000 feet

Climate

  • Temperatures in the Andes vary due to high altitudes; prepare for temperatures in the mid-60s during the day and as low as 35°F at night

Terrain

  •  Travel over city streets, rugged paths, and unpaved roads; walk over rough, steep, and sometimes slippery trails without handrails; and climb many high and uneven stone steps at Inca ruins
  • Agility and balance are required for embarking and disembarking river rafts

Transportation

  • Travel by 24-passenger minibus, train, and river raft
  • 1.5-3 hour drives, two 1.5-hour rail journeys, and 2 internal flights of 1.5 hours each

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Hotel rooms are smaller than U.S. and offer simple amenities
  • All accommodations feature private baths

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then you may need a visa. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • José Antonio Lima Hotel

    Lima, Peru

    In Lima, we stay at the 84-room José Antonio Lima Hotel, located in the heart of the vibrant Miraflores District. Walk from your hotel to nearby shops, restaurants, and cultural sites, as well as the Pacific Ocean only three blocks away. Your air-conditioned room offers cable TV, minibar, telephone, and private bath with shower, and the hotel restaurant features Peruvian fare.

    Please Note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • San Agustin Urubamba Hotel

    Urubamba, Peru

    In the Sacred Valley, we stay at the 72-room San Agustin Urubamba Hotel, located on the landscaped grounds of a former colonial estate and just a short drive from the Inca sites of Ollantaytambo and Pisac. Hotel facilities include an on-site restaurant and bar. Each room features cable/satellite TV, telephone, wireless Internet access, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Imperio Machupicchu Hotel

    Aguas Calientes, Peru

    To explore Machu Picchu over two days, we stay overnight at this hotel in Aguas Calientes, a very small town near the site. This location facilitates our discoveries; however, all accommodations here are located near railroad tracks and a river that create significant noise day and night. The Imperio Machupicchu's 18 rooms are simply appointed and each has a private bath, TV, and telephone.

  • José Antonio Cuzco Hotel

    Cuzco, Peru

    The 126-room José Antonio Cuzco Hotel is situated in the historic center of Cuzco, just a short walk from the Plaza de Armas. Services available on-site include a restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine, a currency exchange, a souvenir shop, and a hairdresser. Each air-conditioned room features a minibar, cable TV with DVD player, direct-dial phone, safe and Internet access.

Extensions

  • Antigua Miraflores

    Lima, Peru

    Located in Lima's Miraflores district, the Antigua Miraflores is a charming colonial inn located within walking distance of the Parque Miraflores, the Larcomar shopping district, and the seaside. Each of its 35 comfortable rooms features air-conditioning, private bath, direct-dial telephone, minibar, and cable TV.

  • Explorama Lodge

    The Amazon, Peru

    Shrouded by lush rain forest vegetation, the Explorama Lodge complements its remote natural setting with 50 rooms in palm-thatched bungalows connected by torch-lit paths. Covered walkways connect the bar, dining room, sun porch, and hammock houses. All rooms have private baths, but there is no hot water or electricity; kerosene lamps provide lighting.

    Please note: Accommodations in the Amazon are rustic. At Explorama Lodge, rooms have private baths, but no hot water or electricity (room lighting is provided by kerosene lamps). There is electricity in the dining area that can be used to charge batteries.

  • Hotel Reina Isabel

    Quito, Ecuador

    We stay overnight in Quito at the 56-room Hotel Reina Isabel. Located on the main avenue in the commercial heart of the city, the hotel features a restaurant, coffee shop, gym with sauna, spa, Jacuzzi, Turkish bath, and 24-hour room service. Each modern, comfortable room comes equipped with cable TV, radio, telephone, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Hotel Carvallo

    Cuenca, Ecuador

    The Hotel Carvallo is located in the historic center of Cuenca. This contemporary hotel, built in a restored colonial house, provides updated amenities and personalized service. Each of its 30 rooms includes a telephone, cable TV, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Taypikala Hotel

    Chucuito, Peru

    Located in the picturesque town of Chucuito, the 49-room Taypikala Hotel offers superb views of the sun reflecting off Lake Titicaca—an ancient source of sacred wisdom. The hotel features charming rooms with private baths and modern facilities. The hotel’s amenities include a restaurant, bar, and coffee shop, with a small art museum and handcrafts shop in the lobby.

  • Hotel Paraiso

    Trujillo, Peru

    Located in the historic center of Trujillo, this 30-room hotel is just two blocks from the Plaza de Armas. It has a restaurant, 24-hour cafe, and a currency exchange on-site. Each air-conditioned room features direct-dial telephone, cable TV, wireless Internet access, and private bath. 

    Please Note: Our accommodations in Peru are the best available in the region, offering basic amenities. Rooms provide simple comforts and clean accommodation for adventure travelers.

  • José Antonio Lima Hotel

    Lima, Peru

    In Lima, we stay at the 84-room José Antonio Lima Hotel, located in the heart of the vibrant Miraflores District. Walk from your hotel to nearby shops, restaurants, and cultural sites, as well as the Pacific Ocean only three blocks away. Your air-conditioned room offers cable TV, minibar, telephone, and private bath with shower, and the hotel restaurant features Peruvian fare.

    Please Note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Partner since: 2006
Total donated: $395,205

Making a difference in the Peruvian highlands

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel — which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Peru, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of a Peruvian highland community

Your Day in the Life experience is a very special part of most OAT itineraries. Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, a village and school in the Peruvian highlands. You'll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here.

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A Day in the Life of a Peruvian highland community

Your Day in the Life experience is a very special part of most OAT itineraries. Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, a village and school in the Peruvian highlands. You'll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here.

"Chinchero was great fun. Getting to visit the school and the weavers was wonderful ... I loved riding the local bus, moto taxis, and visiting the local markets and Dona Lucia’s corn beer bar."

Marcia Spinuzzi, 4-time traveler
Pueblo. Colorado

Meet the People of Chinchero Village

During our stay in Cuzco, we’ll experience the culture of the Sacred Valley as we visit the mountaintop weaving village of Chinchero to enjoy A Day in the Life of a Peruvian highland community. We begin with a spirited encounter with some of the children at a local elementary school (when in session) supported in part by donations from Grand Circle Foundation. Just a short drive from the center of Chinchero, the community of Raqchi subsists on farming and the creation of traditional pottery—but an investment in the future of the 94 children who attend elementary school here will help to open up a world of new opportunities.

A Foundation grant to the Raqchi School is funding English and math courses during school vacation months. Foundation funds will also help to renovate the school’s dining area and purchase tables, chairs, and silverware. From the schoolhouse, we continue to the center of Chinchero to visit a traditional weaving cooperative. Finally, we’ll have lunch with the community in Chinchero, enjoying both the flavorful cuisine of the Sacred Valley and an excellent opportunity to learn about daily life in Peru.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Peru

Raqchi School

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: its children. In the Sacred Valley of Peru, you'll visit the Raqchi School, where the Foundation has helped to renovate classrooms, build a greenhouse and a food storage room, provide kitchen supplies, and purchase costumes.

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Supporting a World Classroom: Peru

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: its children. In the Sacred Valley of Peru, you'll visit the Raqchi School, where the Foundation has helped to renovate classrooms, build a greenhouse and a food storage room, provide kitchen supplies, and purchase costumes.

"The kids were so wonderful and gracious hosts. To know that we help support them made it all the more special."

Stanley Adams, 1-time traveler
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Raqchi School

Partner since: 2010 • Total donated: $102,729

Raqchi School

The community of Raqchi is just a short drive from the center of Chinchero. Many of its residents are focused on farming and the creation of traditional pottery—but an investment in the future of the 94 children who attend elementary school here can open up a world of new opportunities. Foundation support for the Raqchi School has helped to renovate classrooms, build a greenhouse with a drip irrigation system, construct a food storage room, and purchase kitchen supplies and costumes.

School in session:

March through July 25 and August 5 through January

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Pens or pencils
  • Small musical instruments
  • Toys
  • Spanish-language math, science, or geography books
  • Illustrated English dictionaries
  • World maps
  • T-shirts, jackets, or caps
  • Scarves, mittens. or shoes
  • Deflated soccer balls
  • Other athletic equipment
  • Toothbrushes
Grand Circle Foundation

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Weaving the Past and Present

The Quechua people of Peru 


Girls may begin to learn weaving at six—by adulthood, the craft can be almost as natural as breathing.

The cultural landscape of Peru has changed much since Spain first colonized the Inca Empire in 1528. Today, an eclectic blend of colonial traditions mingles with the deep, ancient Inca roots that held fast when the hooves of conquistadors’ horses shook the ground 500 years ago. Despite their strife during this era, the Quechua people—modern descendants of a 2,000-year-old tribe that has seen many empires come and go—are still committed to keeping their heritage alive through art, especially in the mountain village of Chinchero, just outside of Cuzco. Vibrant threads of indigenous tradition still trace a colorful path along the winding roads high into the Andes, where the Quechua keep their ancient heritage alive by—quite literally—weaving the past into the present.

On the famed Inca Royal Road to Chinchero, nested terraces of barley and potato fields rise up toward a windswept plateau in the shadow of the Andes’ Southern Sierra range. Alpacas and llamas abound, and the sky seems endless overlooking the Sacred Valley below. Stone walls give way to steps that curl toward a tall, stucco 17th-century church and open up into the town. In the 1480s, Inca ruler Túpac Yupanqui built a part-time residence here, along with bath houses and temples that lie partly in ruins beside pearly white arches and red clay rooftops constructed by Spanish missionaries.

The weavers of Chinchero

Bright splashes of color dazzle on street corners and courtyards as Chinchero women in red Incan bowler hats and Spanish colonial dresses set up their looms to weave intricate textiles, tapestries, belts, and baskets—just as their ancestors have for two thousand years. Chinchero is known worldwide for these beautiful handcrafts—ornate but delicate, layered and complicated but striking in simplicity, much like the culture that designed them and the women who still create them every day. When the first rays of sunrise light up the partial remains of Túpac’s former palace—now Chincero’s main square—hand-woven baskets of pink, blue, green, and yellow begin to stack up beside the grandmothers sitting cross-legged continue to weave away. Fingers flutter in a rhythm as smooth and complex as the geometric patterns that characterize their artwork. Children linger, in school uniforms and street clothes, to watch the women work. Girls begin learning this ancient tradition as early as six years old—so, by the time they reach adulthood, weaving feels almost as natural as breathing.

Unique blankets for each village

Perhaps the Quechua’s most cherished textile is the hand-woven manta, a thick blanket used for carrying firewood, crops, groceries, or babies on backs. The finest and most intricate mantas are passed down as family heirlooms. Every village has its own unique manta patterns and colors, like flags that symbolize pride in one’s homeland. Mantas from Chinchero can be distinguished by their blocks of solid color—called pampas, which are large swaths of untilled land—framed by elaborate linework, which represents civilization and agriculture. When looking at Quechua weavings, it’s easy to see how the world around them influenced their art—and dream of what life was like for them before the conquistadors arrived.

It’s here that the Peruvian spirit is most alive, vibrant as the most ornate basket or manta: Despite all the change and adversity of the imperialist era and beyond, the locals have held fast to their traditions. By weaving ancient Incan and colonial Spanish influences together with brilliant color, they’ve created a dazzling cultural tapestry all their own.