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 the airport for your flight to Puerto Maldonado via Cusco. This provides an opportunity to experience a real jungle frontier town. You'll be met at Puerto Maldonado airport by your tour guide, you'll drive 15-minutes to local Puerto Maldonado office where you'll be given a smaller kit bag to place your clothes and etc. that you'll require over the coming days in the jungle. Your suitcase and larger luggage will be locked in the Puerto Maldonado storage room until you return to collect it. From there you'll drive 20 mins by private vehicle to the port to board a large dugout can. The 40 min trip up river is smooth, but each guest must wear a life jacket. We reach the access point to the trail that leads to Lake Sandoval and after a 1 hour walk through the jungle we jump on board a smaller dugout can where we boat along a narrow canal. Within 10 mins the canal opens up to the spectacular views of Sandoval Lake. We slowly travel in the can across the breadth of the lake to reach the Sandoval Lake Lodge. 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 for instance). 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.
Today is spent going on a long jungle walk to find monkeys and capybaras. We'll also 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. 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 and others joining the trip at 6pm at your hotel for a trip briefing. Here you will receive your kitbags and jackets for your trek.
Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Cathedral or similar.
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.
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 Salcantay dominating the western horizon. Chinchero is believed to be the mythical birthplace of the rainbow. Next we visit the mysterious concentric circular terraces of Moray which, according to some scholars, could have been an agricultural research centre. From here we head to the salt mines of Maras. This village is a salt-producing centre that dates back all the way to pre-Inca times. There are thousands of salt pools all carved into the mountain side. We walk down through the salt pans to the Sacred valley for a lunch break before heading to our hotel in Ollantaytambo. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy beauty of this famous valley. Overnight: Tika Wasi Hotel or similar.
Today we enjoy another day in the beautiful Sacred Valley with a tour of Ollantaytambo. During our time in Ollantaytambo we visit its remarkable temple/fortress set high on a ridge above the village. We also explore the quaint village itself with a fascinating mixture of Inca and Colonial architecture. This evening we have a pre-trek briefing with our trekking guide at our hotel and prepare for the trek.
Overnight: Tika Wasi Hotel or similar.
You will be picked up early from your hotel in the Sacred Valley for the drive to Chilca or Piscacucho where we start our first day of trekking. At this point we meet 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 3,100m (10137ft). This means we avoid the very crowded camp sites within the village used by most of the trekkers on the Inca Trail. Overnight: Campsite.
*Important: Please be aware that, because of the Peruvian authorities' rules on the Inca Trail, there may be changes in the actual trek itinerary and the campsites we use.
After breakfast, we begin the most difficult part of the trek. 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 the steep climb up our first pass, Warmihua usca, which is also the highest point of the journey at 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 3,500m (13,700ft) where we spend our second night on the Inca Trail. Overnight: Campsite.
Today is the longest day (eight to nine hours of walking) but also the most impressive and interesting because of the amount of archaeological complexes and cloud forest we will find as we walk. 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 over the Phuyupatamarca Pass at 3,700m (12,140ft), aptly named the 'City in the Clouds'. We walk down along an incredibly well preserved section of the Inca Trail with great white granite slab walls and staircases all impressively set in high jungle to our final campsite at Wi ay Wayna 2,679m (8,790ft). Overnight: Campsite.
After breakfast we walk 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! We will enjoy a guided tour of the sanctuary followed by time to explore this fascinating site at your own pace (with the accompaniment of the guide). We return by bus down to Aguas Calientes for lunch (at your own expense, there are many options to choose from) and check in to our hotel to recharge or this is a good time for a well deserved soak in the nearby hot springs (optional). We say farewell to our guide and some of the Inca Trail trekkers returning to Cusco this afternoon. Overnight: El Mapi Hotel or similar.
*Important: Peruvian authorities have implemented entry restrictions to protect Machu Picchu from the impact of its immense popularity. As of January 2018 there are two time slots (morning and afternoon) in which patrons can enter Machu Picchu for a limited number of hours and must follow one of three predetermined routes. Additionally, all visitors must be accompanied by a guide at all times. These changes have been made to improve the visitor experience and in an effort to deal with overcrowding. World Expeditions endeavour to ensure you get the most of your Machu Picchu experience regardless of these restrictions.
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.
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. Overnight: Casa Andina Cathedral Hotel 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.
*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 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. Overnight: Homestay
Return by boat to Puno and drive to Juliaca airport for flight to Lima airport where your services end.