Don’t leave Peru without experiencing this Andean nation’s other fabled destination—Machu Picchu. We stay overnight and visit its ancient temples twice, once in the afternoon and again in the early morning before the crowds arrive. We delve deeper into Inca traditions when we observe a curandero healing ceremony. And we ride by train through the Sacred Valley—the unforgettable heart of Peru.
- It's Included:
- Roundtrip airfare between Lima and Cuzco
- Accommodations for 1 night in Lima, 3 nights in Cuzco, 1 night in Machu Picchu, and 1 day room in Lima
- 11 meals—5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 1 dinner (including 1 Home-Hosted Lunch)
- 7 small group activities
- All land transportation
- Services of our own resident OAT Trip Leader, who speaks English and the native language
- All transfers
At the conclusion of our Amazon River Cruise & Rain Forest adventure, we’ll spend one more day and night in Lima before we embark for Peru’s ancient Andean wonders. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Lima's Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), a repository of 40,000 pieces of jewelry, armaments, ceremonial relics, and even wallpaper crafted from gold. Dinner is on your own.
After breakfast at our hotel, we transfer to the Lima airport and board a flight for Cuzco. We arrive in time for lunch at a local restaurant. Cuzco is 10,909 feet above sea level and you can anticipate feeling the effects of high altitude.
Five hundred years ago, Cuzco thrived as the capital of the sprawling Inca Empire, a status it held for more than two centuries. At its peak, it was a sophisticated metropolis with paved streets, water systems, and no poverty. Its temples, filled with gold and silver, were pillaged when Pizarro and his conquistadors invaded the city in 1538. But many splendors still remain, as we will see during our exploration.
Over lunch, our Trip Leader will start to acquaint us with Cuzco’s dramatic and colorful history. Then we’ll take a walking tour to explore the Qoricancha Sun Temple, the city’s most important ceremonial structure during the Incan era. Historical records of the time note that its walls were once covered with sheets of gold studded with emeralds and turquoise; when the sunlight streamed through the windows, the reflection off the precious metals was blinding. We'll also visit the Plaza de Armas, the historic central square of the city.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
This morning after breakfast, we ride to two important Inca sites. At each site, we have plenty of time to walk around and take photographs. First we visit the massive Sacsayhuaman fortress. Set on a hilltop overlooking the city, it is constructed of enormous stones weighing up to 125 tons apiece. Its double-zigzag wall is said to symbolize lightning, and at one time the fortress included three immense towers and a labyrinth of rooms large enough to garrison 5,000 Inca soldiers. Today, the interior buildings are gone, having been dismantled by the Spaniards for their stone. But the imposing outer walls remain, as does the Inca Throne. Recent excavations have revealed this ancient stone complex to be much larger than previously thought.
After visiting Sacsayhuaman, we visit the nearby Kenko ruins, said to be an ancient ceremonial center for the Incas. A semicircular amphitheater surrounds a natural carved stone, and a staircase leads to a rocky outcrop. Here, we'll see the remnants of stone statues engraved with the figures of pumas, condors, and llamas—animals the Incas held sacred.
We’ll get a glimpse of contemporary culture as we witness a traditional curandero healing ceremony. Belief in folk medicine is prevalent here, even among urban dwellers. Often, the curandero will employ herbs in his healing, while for other conditions he may conduct a religious ritual. Thought to possess a gift from God to heal the sick, the curandero also sees himself as a front-line soldier in the battle between good and evil on Earth—particularly when patients believe their physical ailments have supernatural causes.
Next, we are the guests of a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch of regional dishes. Then you have the rest of the afternoon free for independent exploration in Cuzco.
Later, we have dinner at a local restaurant.
Today we wake up quite early and spend the morning on a spectacular bus and train trip into the gorge of the Urubamba River. We first ascend the valley slopes above Cuzco. Then we crest a pass and descend alongside a frothing river in the narrow gorge of the Urubamba. The station for Machu Picchu is at a bit over 6,500 feet, well below the altitude of Cuzco. We'll have a boxed lunch while we're riding the train.
Most travelers visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, which makes for a hectic pace and only limited time at this unique archaeological wonder. We can take a closer look, and have a more relaxed pace, during our overnight visit to Machu Picchu. The train brings us to the town of Aguas Calientes, from which we then drive to the ruins. This drive takes about a half an hour, as we must follow a zigzag route up a steep hill. (The return trip by bus takes the same amount of time; or if you prefer, you can walk downhill and along the valley floor for about an hour.) When the day-trippers leave the ruins to catch the last train of the day, we remain longer and enjoy an uncrowded experience.
Our Trip Leader gives us a complete and compelling look at the fabled “Lost City of the Incas,” which was discovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist (and later, U.S. Senator) Hiram Bingham. Subsequent discoveries (such as Bingham’s later unearthing of the Inca Trail and the 1941 discovery of nearby Huayna Picchu) suggest that Machu Picchu was not simply a “lost city” but part of a whole lost “region.” More than 172 tombs have been excavated, and in 2002 Peruvian archaeologists uncovered the first complete burial site, unearthing a woman’s skeleton, bronze pins, and a clay pot. Here we can explore sites like the Ritual Baths, the Palace of the Princess, the Main Fountain, and the Temple of the Sun as we contemplate the achievements of a most fascinating and mysterious civilization. We return to the valley, where dinner is on your own.
After breakfast, we rise early to return to the ruins of Machu Picchu, arriving before the day crowds. You can remain at the hotel if you wish, but most travelers appreciate this chance to see the ruins in a different light. 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 Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, to have lunch. In the afternoon, we return to Cuzco by train through the spectacular Urubamba Gorge. After arriving in Cuzco, we transfer to our hotel. You’re free to have dinner on your own this evening.
After breakfast, we transfer to the Cuzco airport, then fly to Lima. check in to our day room accommodations, and enjoy an included lunch. You have the rest of the afternoon at leisure, and dinner is on your own. You will be assisted to the airport this evening for your overnight flight back to the U.S.