Day 1: Lima, Peru or Quito, Ecuador
For travelers extending to Machu Picchu after one of our Galapagos trips, on the final
Day 2: Cusco
Fly this morning to Cusco, heart of the once-grand Inca empire, and meet our Expedition Leader on arrival. From the indigenous Quechua word
Day 3: Sacred Valley of the Incas
The treasures of the Sacred Valley unfold today as we travel along the Urubamba River past farms, villages and Incan architectural ruins. The original vast empire of the Incas was connected by a network of 10,000 miles of stone roads woven through the imposing terrain of the Andes. Suspension bridges spanned rivers and aqueducts carried water from mountain streams to irrigate terraced fields of crops, vestiges of which we see on our drive today, backdropped by knife-edged peaks. We stop to see the magnificent Inca ruins at Pisac, where we may have time to visit the colorful market where local Quechua Indians, dressed in vivid attire, sell their handicrafts. At Awana Kancha, a cultural exhibition center, we witness traditional textile weaving and meet llamas, alpacas and guanacos, the iconic animals of the Andes whose wool is used in a wide variety of garments and blankets. This afternoon, there's time to relax amid the inviting garden environs of our charming hotel before dinner.
Day 4: Machu Picchu
This morning we board the train at Ollantaytambo for a 1-1/2-hour journey along the Urubamba River, which narrows into furious whitewater as we travel deeper into the mountains. At the village of Aguas Calientes, we disembark and board a bus for the short drive that remains to Machu Picchu. Little prepares one for the spectacle that awaits. As we ascend into the ruins, there’s a sense of wandering through a mystical city in the sky, surrounded by green mountain ramparts that soar into the clouds. Our local Machu Picchu tour guide interprets all we see as we explore the labyrinth of granite houses, temples, walls and cisterns. Llamas wander among terraced steps that once grew maize and potatoes for some 1,200 inhabitants.
Day 5: Machu Picchu / Cusco
This morning we return to Machu Picchu for further exploration, our time unscripted for personal discovery. Among the
This afternoon we journey back to Cusco by train and bus, stopping en route to explore Ollantaytambo, a small town surrounded by steep terraced mountainsides. Ollantaytambo rests on traditional Inca foundations and is one of the best surviving examples of Inca city planning. Enjoy a farewell dinner together in Cusco this evening.
Day 6: Cusco / Lima / Depart
This morning we travel just outside Cusco to visit the ruins at Sacsayhuamán, where we see the most impressive example of Inca walls in the Sacred Valley. The site is still enveloped in mystery, as we ponder how the Incas moved these enormous stones to this site without the advantage of wheeled carts, and how they managed to fit such large, honed granite stones together so tightly that a pocketknife blade cannot be inserted between them. We'll have lunch in Cusco, then fly to Lima late this afternoon to meet departing flights this evening.