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.
This morning we will be taken on a guided tour of the city, founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. It has a superb combination of Spanish Colonial and 19th century European architecture. We'll also visit the famous Museo de la Nacion or the Larco Herrera Museum - which give us an excellent overview of the Andean cultures. This afternoon we drive down the coast of Peru from Lima in a private vehicle to the vibrant town of Chincha. On the way (if the site is open) we visit the famous centre of the oracle at Pachacamac, which is a superb example of a reconstructed Inca temple site. Many believe this was one of the most important sites in the pre Hispanic world of the Andean peoples. It was home to the great oracle. Overnight in Chincha.
This morning we will drive to the small coastal resort of Paracas. From here we continue towards the Paracas Peninsula where we take small sturdy launches for a 3 hour cruise out to the Ballestas Islands described as Peru's mini-Galapagos a haven for marine wildlife. The bird and seal life here in this protected reserve is impressive. On the way we get a chance to see the huge 'candelabra' - a massive figure of what looks like a giant cactus etched in the huge sand dune. This can only be seen from the sea. We then drive to the desert oasis of Ica before arriving in Nazca where we will spend the night.
The Nazca Lines are located in the coastal desert of Peru and are best described as remarkable and enigmatic. The huge designs etched into the desert by the people of the Paracas and Nazca cultures between perhaps 500BC and 900AD. There are several ways to see the lines and our leader will take us to a fantastic vantage point, a watch tower set high above the desert. Another option is to take an optional overflight. Previously, there were limited civil aviation controls at Nazca and no effective safety authority inspecting aircraft or pilots. The Peruvian airport authority has taken over the running of the small Nazca airport from where all aircraft take off for the overflights of the Nazca Lines which has resulted in much better control of the flight schedules and general flight safety at Nazca. World Expeditions cannot arrange these flights on your behalf and they are not included in the trip cost. We can assist you locally to arrange them however it is important you are aware that you take full personal responsibility for contracting and paying for your own over-flight. These flights take place in small single-engine high- winged aircraft, generally with 10 or 12 seats with their own window. The cost varies between US$50 and US$120 per person for a 30 minute flight (cost depends on demand on the day). Please discuss this with your leader locally should you like to arrange it. In the afternoon, following our exploration at Nazca, we will drive by first class public bus to Arequipa (please note the departure times of the bus may vary). The 9 hour (approx) drive across the vast Peruvian Desert follows the Pan American Highway, which is a good sealed road by Peruvian standards. The buses are a standard long distance bus that you might find in Europe, North America or Australia. They are quite comfortable with reclining seats. You will arrive late into Arequipa and upon arrival transfer directly to you hotel.
The city of over 1 million inhabitants is known as the white city because of the lovely pale volcanic rock that is used for many of its buildings. Arequipa is set at the foot of the Andes, with El Misti a perfectly formed snow capped volcano towering above the city at 5822m. In the afternoon we take a tour of the city and surrounds including the beautiful convent of Santa Catalina, which feels like a town within a city.
After an early breakfast we board our private vehicle for a spectacular drive past Mount Misti to an altitude in excess of 5000m to the dry semi-desert where we often see herds of wild vicu a. We spend the rest of the day visiting parts of this massive canyon the deepest in the world! We visit interesting villages and towns in this rarefied environment and enjoy the panoramic views over this spectacular canyon.
An early start for a drive along the top of the canyon to visit the famous 'Condor's Lookout' where we get a chance to look for these magnificent birds (the heaviest flying bird in the world) gliding below and above us. Since they are wild birds we cannot guarantee sightings but most groups do get to see them. Early in the morning, as the sun starts to heat the air, is the best time to view the condors as they set sail from the rocky valley sides into the thermals. This is without a doubt one of the most dramatic locations to view condors in South America. After a last look at the Colca area we depart via the north for the 7 hour drive by private vehicle to Puno set on the shores of Lake Titicaca at 3820m (12,600ft). This is a stunning road journey across high and remote pampas. We get a good chance of seeing vicu as - that most delicate and smallest of the Andean camelids. A picnic lunch will be taken during the journey. Our first glimpses of lake Titicaca remind us that this is hardly a lake - it's more like a vast inland sea that also happens to be the highest navigable lake in the world!
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 a small motor boat 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. Please be aware that this is basic accommodation.
After breakfast on the island and a farewell to our hosts we head back by boat to Puno. We continue with the spectacular 6 to 8 hour journey by bus to Cusco. The fact that we travel by private vehicle means we can stop where we wish during this fascinating journey (this is a tremendous advantage over the many companies who use public transport for this unique drive). The road takes us north ascending to the continental divide at La Raya. To the west are the strange peaks of the Carabaya Range as we descend along the great valley below Cusco.
This morning we get up early to savour the views and atmosphere of the mystical morning light over Machu Picchu. 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). 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.
*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.
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 Wi ay Wayna, 2,700m (8,800ft) before covering the last few kilomtres 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).
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 Wi ay Wayna. Below us are laid out the great forest-covered peaks and deep dark valleys - the setting of our goal, Machu Picchu.
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 Warmihua usca 4,200ms (13,700ft). After a rest at the pass and time to take in the spectacular view we descend steeply into the Pacamayo Valley where we spend our second night on the trail. Camp.
In the morning we take a tour of the city of Cusco. 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 huge ruins at Sacsayhuaman, spectacularly set above the city. After lunch we take an informal walking tour with our guide to other places of interest in the city. Perhaps to one of the large local markets near the city centre and a chance to look at some of the great varieties of local craft work on sale in open air stalls and shops.
Another day in this idyllic valley. The valley actually follows the course of the famous Urubamba River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River. During our time 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.
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.
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. Overnight: Casa Andina Cathedral Hotel or similar.
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.
*Important: Please be aware that, because of the Peruvian authorities' new rules on the Inca Trail, there may be changes in the actual trek itinerary and the campsites we use.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport where your trip concludes.