You will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel where you are free to rest in the hotel or just wander around Miraflores, the area of Lima where our hotel is located. Some of Lima's best galleries and shops and restaurants are found in this area. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Lima is the oldest capital in South America, with a superb combination of Spanish Colonial and 19th century European architecture. If you have time to visit a museum we would recommend the Museo de La Nacion or the Larco Herrera Museum.
Early morning wake-up call, breakfast and short drive to the airport for the spectacular 55-minute flight across the Andes via Cusco, and then on for the 30-minute flight due east to the jungle town of Puerto Maldonado. This provides an opportunity to experience a real jungle frontier town. A brief drive through the town takes us to the offices of the lodges we use where we leave our main bags to be stored for our return. We continue to the river wharf where we board a 30-40 foot open launch for a short river journey to one of our lodges. During this journey which can take between 45 minutes and 2 hours we can relax watching the river bank and jungle canopy for the particularly abundant bird life in this region. Among the birds we may expect to see (dependent on weather and river height) are horned screamers, raptors, plovers, terns, macaws, parrots, kingfishers and toucans. The lodges we use are beautifully set jungle lodges that, apart from being our jungle home, also serve as a base for naturalists to work from. The rainforest (both pristine primary and secondary growth forest) surrounding the lodges is a naturalist's paradise. (It is important to be aware that the lodge is comfortable but basic - only one of the lodges - Sandoval Lake Lodge - has electricity or hot water). During the remainder of the day we go for walks with our naturalist guide along forest trails. After dinner we get a chance to relax and discuss with resident naturalists the research projects taking place in the area. Serenaded by a chorus of jungle noises we go to sleep in the lodge's comfortable double rooms.
Note: While staying at the Amazon jungle lodge you may be with other people from other operators worldwide in a group.
Each of the following days is spent going on long jungle walks to find monkeys and capybaras and also to take cans out on to some of the jungle lagoons in the area. On the shores of these lagoons there are often lots of hoatzin to be seen - a really remarkable bird. Before the evening meal we head out for a short river trip using torches to look for cayman - this always proves to be exciting. *Please note it is important to be aware that the programs may vary according to flight schedules, weather, river height, group sizes, etc and participants should be aware there is no guarantee of seeing specific animals or birds and in general you may not see much wildlife since the rainforest provides such good camouflage for its inhabitants - but you will have a good chance to experience true rainforest first hand.
Early morning departure after breakfast for the downriver trip to Puerto Maldonado and the short flight back to Cusco 11,200' (3,400m), arriving there around midday. You'll be met by your guide and transferred from Cusco airport to our hotel for a short initial briefing and then a few hours of rest, essential to initiate successful acclimatisation. In the evening you'll have a longer briefing to discuss aspects of the itinerary and in particular the trek.
Every alleyway we enter or corner we turn brings another surprise or enigma in the form of the superbly constructed Inca walls or the more architecturally extravagant colonial churches and palaces. The city, once capital of the extensive Inca Empire, has seen many changes since Francisco Pizarro's men took the city with such apparent ease in November 1533. We also take a short drive to visit the monolithic walls of Sacsayhuaman, spectacularly set above the city. In the afternoon you may have time to explore some of the central parts of the city and a chance to look at some of the great varieties of local craft work on sale in open air stalls and shops.
We leave Cusco and head to the Chinchero Plateau to explore Chinchero, an important town in Inca times. The most striking remnant of this period is the massive stone wall in the main plaza which has ten trapezoidal niches. There are beautiful views overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with the Cordillera Vilcabamba and the snow-capped peak of Salkantay dominating the western horizon. Chinchero is believed to be the mythical birthplace of the rainbow. Visit the salt mines of Maras. This village is a salt-producing center that dates back all the way to pre-Inca times. There are over 3000 salt pools all carved into the mountain side. Discover Moray's mysterious concentric circular terraces which, according to some scholars, would be an agricultural research center. When the tour is over, we will end up in the Sacred Valley near a good restaurant where we can savour dishes made with locally grown produce. After a leisurely lunch we head for our hotel in the valley. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy beauty of this famous valley.
Another day in this beautiful place. The valley actually follows the course of the famous Urubamba River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River. During our time in the here we visit some of the enthralling citadels, fortresses and temple ruins that are found along the valley including the site at Ollantaytambo. The village itself is a fascinating mixture of Inca and Colonial architecture. If the weather is good and we have time we can enjoy some short walks in the valley - a good way to prepare for the trek ahead. The evening is spent preparing for the trek at our hotel.
An early morning departure for the drive to Chilca or Piscacucho where we start our first day of trekking. At this point we meet some our cooks, porters and camp staff before setting off on this famous 'Royal Highway of the Incas’, built more than 500 years ago. The first day involves approximately five to six hours of walking. During the first few hours of walking we follow the course of the famous Urubamba River before stopping to admire the archaeological site of Patallacta 2750m (9,020ft) - an ancient Inca city built on a series of terraces below the trail. From here we continue to follow the narrow valley of the Cusichaca River to camp at one of two sites near the village of Huayllabamba - this means we actually avoid the very crowded camp sites within the village used by most of the trekkers on the trail. Camp.
Next morning we continue up this narrow valley on the left bank of the river - whose source is one of the great glaciers of Mt Salcantay. We then start a relatively steep climb up this classic trail towards the first pass - WarmihuaÃ±usca 4,200m (13,700ft). After a rest at the pass and time to take in the spectacular views we descend steeply into the Pacamayo Valley where we spend our second night on the trail. Camp.
After breakfast we take a 4 to 5 hours drive via the straits of Tiquina - the narrowest and also by coincidence the deepest part of Lake Titicaca - and on across the immense Bolivian altiplano to its biggest city, La Paz - at 12,800' (3,900m) the highest 'capital' city in the world.
Note: For smaller groups we use the first class public bus and non private tourist services.
Return by boat to Puno and drive around the lake and across the border into Bolivia to the town of Copacabana - beautifully situated on the shores of the lake. We have an opportunity to savour the delicious Lake Titicaca trout. We have the rest of the day at leisure to explore this small interesting lakeside town or to walk to the top of the great hill above the city that is the destination of many pilgrims from all over Bolivia. We spend the night in a hotel that has great views across the lake.
Note: For smaller groups we use the first class public bus and non private tourist services.
Puno is a typical high Andean town, set on the great altiplano that surrounds the lake and stretches all the way to La Paz. After breakfast we head down to the old lake port with its century old steamers still tied up at the wharf. From here we board small motor boat to cruise out to visit the famous Uros Islands. These islands often given the misnomer of 'floating islands' are in fact tortora reed mats that grow out of the shallower waters of the vast bay of Puno. The islands have for centuries been occupied by the small Uros community who continue their traditional methods of 'farming' and fishing the lake. From here we continue to the islands of either Taquile or Amantani where we spend a night in a local island home. These islands have been occupied by traditional farming communities and spending a night gives us a good chance to learn more about the Andean people and their traditional lifestyles.
We depart early in the morning for the 6 to 8 hour journey by private vehicle* to Puno set on the shores of Lake Titicaca at 12,630' (3,820m). The road takes us south along the great valley below Cusco and then as we head further south we start to climb towards the great continental divide at La Raya. To the east we see some of the strange peaks of the Carabaya Range. From the pass we descend quickly onto the vast dry altiplano with its isolated villages and herds of Andean camelid including the alpaca and vicuÃ±a. Our first glimpses of lake Titicaca remind us that this is hardly a lake - its more like a vast inland sea that also happens to be the highest navigable lake in the world! We spend our night at our hotel in Puno.
*Note: For smaller groups of 2 - 5 passengers we use the first class public bus to Puno.
After breakfast in our campsite in the verdant Pacamayo Valley we start ascending towards the small but impressively set ruins at Runkuraqay and on to Cochapata set just below the second pass at 3,900m (12,800ft). From here we walk the short distance to the pass and then descend past a mysterious small green lake to the large ruins of Sayacmarca and on to the last pass at 3,800m (12,450ft) which is more like a low ridge-line than a true pass. From here we get a great view down into the forested gorge of the Urubamba River set more than 1700 metres below us. A short hike from here takes us to our stunning final campsite set above the site of Phuyupatamarca 3,600m (11,900ft), so aptly named the 'City in the Clouds’. This wonderful campsite - perhaps the most beautiful on the entire trail - is used by very few groups since the vast majority continue for another 90 minutes to camp at the often extremely crowded site at WiÃ±ay Wayna. Below us are laid out the great forest-covered peaks and deep dark valleys - the setting of our goal, Machu Picchu.
Today we start early to give us the maximum time in this remarkable and truly enigmatic Inca site. Mid-afternoon we depart for the extremely pretty train ride back to Ollantaytambo where we transfer to our private vehicle for the drive back to our hotel in Cusco.
We walk down along an incredibly well preserved section of the trail with great white granite slab walls and staircases all impressively set in high jungle. Since we have the luxury of another full day to reach Machu Picchu we’ll take time out to explore the recently cleared extensive Inca site at WiÃ±ay Wayna, 2,700m (8,800ft) before covering the last few kilometres to finally reach Inti Punku (The Gateway to the Sun) awe-inspiringly set above the 'lost city’ of Machu Picchu 2,400m (7,900ft). Your first view of the ruins really ds take your breath away! After a brief 'first look’ at the ruins, we head down to our hotel in Aguas Calientes for a well deserved soak in the nearby hot springs (optional). *Important: It is very important to be aware that, because of all the new rules on the Inca Trail, there may be changes in the actual trek itinerary and the campsites we use.
We spend the morning in this fascinating city visiting its many local and tourist markets and one of its museums. The afternoon is free for you to explore the city. On the last evening after a farewell meal we can visit one of the superb 'peÃ±as', live music clubs to watch a variety of excellent bands and soloists playing the magical traditional Andean instruments. La Paz has a reputation as the centre of Andean traditional music.
A good day to relax, do your washing and re pack after the trek and perhaps a chance to do some 'tourist shopping', selecting from a great variety of expertly made craft work - including alpaca sweaters and hats, ceramics, weavings and traditional Andean instruments. In the evening we prepare for the next stage of our journey through the Andes.
After checking out of your hotel you will be transferred (if requested) to La Paz airport where your services end. If you are staying on in La Paz there is a chance to join an optional tour to the ruins of Tiahuanacu or the highest 'ski-resort' in the world at Chacaltaya.