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 located 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 brilliant Larco Herrera Museum which also has an excellent onsite restaurant or the Museo de La Nacion or the Larco Herrera Museum. Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Miraflores Centro or similar.
Transfer to Lima airport and fly to Cusco. Try to get a seat on the left side of the aircraft for the best views of stunning snow peaks. After your transfer to our hotel located in the historic centre you will have some time to explore the city and also enjoy a few hours of rest, essential to initiate successful acclimatisation to the altitude. In the evening you will meet with your guide at 6pm at your hotel for an initial trip briefing. Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Cathedral or similar.
Following breakfast at the hotel we drive for one hour to the Sunday Market at the town of Chinchero 3750m (12,300ft). Once the agricultural centre of the empire and still renowned for its traditional weavings. We'll spend time wandering the markets set high in the Andes, before returning to Cusco. Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Cathedral or similar.
This morning we drive (2 hours) from Cusco down into the Sacred Valley of the Incas for lunch. We'll take time to explore some of the enthralling citadels, fortresses and temple ruins, including the site at Ollantaytambo. The valley follows the course of the famous Urubamba River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon. We'll also be able to visit some of the small markets in the valley so you'll have the opportunity to do some 'tourist shopping', selecting from a variety of expertly made craft work, including alpaca sweaters and hats, ceramics, weavings and traditional Andean instruments. The evening is spent at our hotel in the heart of the valley. Overnight: Tika Wasi Hotel or similar.
From our hotel, we drive to the railway station at Ollantaytambo where we take an early morning train to Machu Picchu. Our early start ensures we can thoroughly explore these remarkable and truly enigmatic ruins. We will enjoy a guided tour of the sanctuary which lasts 2 hours and at the end, you will have another 2 hours in the company of the guide to explore this fascinating site. We then take a late afternoon bus down to Aguas Calientes, where we spend the night. Overnight: El Mapi Hotel or similar.
This morning we get up early to savour the views and atmosphere of the mystical morning light over Machu Picchu. We are treated to a unique second visit to Machu Picchu including another guided tour visiting the sites that you may have missed yesterday in this colossal sanctuary. After the official tour ends, you will have more time in the company of the guide to continue exploring this incredible site. In the afternoon or early evening we depart from Machu Picchu for the train ride back to Ollantaytambo where we transfer to our vehicle for the drive back to Cusco. Overnight: Casa Andina Cathedral Hotel or similar. NB - depending on train schedules, we may arrive into Cusco very late at night.
OPTIONAL HUAYNA PICCHU CLIMB OR MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN CLIMB - For the more adventurous, you can purchase an additional Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain permit (ask us for costs), and forego the guided tour of Machu Picchu which is non-refundable and non-transferable. Please be aware that this is NOT a guided climb, and it takes minimum 2.5 hours (45 mins up & 45 mins down and some time at the top). Both climbs are very steep (including many small and narrow steps) and can be slippery and are quite very exposed with vertiginous drops. Before purchasing the permit on your behalf (non-refundable and non-transferable), we require any passengers to sign a waiver form. Note - there are limited Huayna Picchu permits and they sell out fast, if you are interested in this option, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
Today we have a guided tour of Cusco and its nearby ruins. 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 explore the city by foot to appreciate its superbly constructed Inca walls and architecturally extravagant colonial churches and palaces. This also includes a visit of Koricancha, the Golden Temple of the Sun, in ancient times. After this we take a short drive to visit the monolithic walls of Sacsayhuaman along with Tambomachay, better known as 'the bath of the Inca'. Both sites are 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 artisan markets and shops. Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Cathedral or similar.
Today is free to explore Cusco and its surrounds or relax and enjoy the city at your own leisure. Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Cathedral or similar.
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 vicu 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. Overnight: Hacienda Puno or similar.
*Note: For smaller groups of 2 - 5 passengers we use the first class public bus to Puno.
Puno is a typical high Andean town, set on the shores of the lake and located on the great altiplano that stretches all the way to La Paz. There will be an opportunity to cruise Lake Titicaca and visit some of the unique floating 'tortora' reed islands of the Uros Indians. We'll also visit the impressively built pre-Inca burial towers or 'chulpas' at Sillustani near Lake Umayo, an hour's drive from Puno. Overnight: Hacienda Puno or similar.
Morning drive to Juliaca airport and flight to Lima where your trip concludes.