Day 2: Cusco—City Tour / Sacsayhuaman
Fly to Cusco this morning with lunch on arrival, followed by an afternoon city tour with our Expedition Leader. Nestled in a high valley in the Andes, Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire until Spanish conquistadors destroyed the civilization during their 16th-century colonial quest. Stroll the narrow cobblestone streets, steeped in history and intrigue, stopping to admire the remnants of the Inca Wall, the Plaza de Armas and ornately gilded colonial churches. At Sacsayhuaman outside town, enormous granite stonework offers the most vivid example of Inca walls in the Cusco area. Walk among the centuries-old ruins and marvel at the massive granite stones so perfectly joined together that even a pocketknife blade cannot fit between them. Due to the exceptionally advanced building techniques of the Incas, the walls have survived earthquakes that devastated the city of Cusco in the valley just below.
Day 3: Cusco / Sacred Valley of the Incas—Chinchero
Before departing Cusco, we visit sprawling San Pedro Market, where the aroma of handmade tortillas and fragrant spices fills the air, and women in traditional Andean dress sell their wares along the streets. Leaving the city behind, we enter the Sacred Valley, following the Urubamba River as it courses through centuries-old agricultural lands still farmed today. With a focus on the Sacred Valley’s less-frequented sites, we explore
Day 4: Ollantaytambo / Maras & Moray
The Incas’ vast empire was connected by 10,000 miles of stone roads linking far-flung reaches of the Andes. This was no small feat, given the steep slopes and high-altitude terrain. Suspension bridges spanned rivers and aqueducts carried water from mountain streams to irrigate terraced fields of crops, vestiges of which we see on our journey. We stop to explore the ruins of Ollantaytambo, a small town surrounded by terraced mountainsides. Ollantaytambo rests on traditional Inca foundations and is one of the best surviving examples of Inca city planning. The spectacular Inca fortress at the top of the hill stands as a rare location where Spanish conquistadors were defeated. We also visit Moray, an Inca site more than 500 years old, where giant natural sinkholes have been converted into circular terraced farming areas. Some archaeologists believe these served as an agricultural experiment where Inca cultivators took advantage of microclimates provided by different elevations. After a picnic lunch, explore the salt mines of Maras, 3,000 small pools mined by the Incas centuries ago and still worked by locals to this day.
Day 5: Machu Picchu
After an early breakfast, return to Ollantaytambo to board the train to Machu Picchu. The 1.5-hour journey winds through steep mountains and an ever-narrowing gorge to finally reach the village of Aguas Calientes. Here, a bus awaits to take us the final stretch to the ancient "Lost City of the Incas." The storied ruins soon come into view, rising above the jungle-cloaked mountaintop like a vision in the sky. Although Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the best-known archaeological site on the continent, it manages to retain an air of mystery. Our Expedition Leader interprets it all as we explore the vast labyrinth of ruins, full of complex passageways, steep staircases
Tonight we retreat to the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, an Andean-style luxury lodge on the Urubamba River with 300 species of orchids on the grounds. Tucked into a forested hillside near the town of Aguas Calientes, this stunning property was named one of Travel + Leisure's top 100 hotels. Constructed from eucalyptus wood and stone, the private casitas are furnished with traditional handicrafts, tile floors
Day 6: Machu Picchu / Cusco
After breakfast, return to Machu Picchu for further discovery with our Expedition Leader. Or, you may prefer to spend time in Aguas Calientes, soaking in the hot springs for which the town is named, or taking a walk on one of the many well-maintained trails surrounding our hotel. For those who are inclined and in shape, hike to the top of Wayna Picchu, the imposing mountain that provides the famous backdrop for the ruins of Machu Picchu. The Incas established the original trail to the top, where they built temples and farming terraces. Local myth holds that the summit of Wayna Picchu was the residence for the high priest of the ancient city. This challenging hike takes 2–3 hours and climbs approximately 1,200 feet from the base at Machu Picchu, ascending a steep face using stairs and cables for support. The hike is not recommended for guests with physical limitations. Should entrances for Wayna Picchu be sold out, an equally challenging hike to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain will be available. This afternoon, we catch the return train to Ollantaytambo and drive back to Cusco, where we'll have dinner in the city after checking in to our hotel.
Day 7: Cusco / Lima / Iquitos / Nauta—Embark Ship
Fly to Lima this morning and then on to Iquitos. Crossing the spine of the Andes, we arrive at this remote urban outpost that was once a booming rubber town. Today, Iquitos is isolated in a vast tract of
The ship is soon gliding into the broad expanse of the Ucayali River, one of the Amazon's two largest tributaries, turbid with silt the color of milk chocolate. On the observation deck, our guides conduct a brief preview of our river journey, covering the places we will visit, the wildlife we'll hope to see, and a brief history and geography of the Amazon Basin. As dusk falls, enjoy a gourmet dinner with the river in view outside panoramic windows. The chef is skilled in the creative preparation of Peruvian cuisine accented with an international touch, and each meal is a memorable new discovery.
Day 8: Pacaya Samiria National Reserve—Belluda Caño Creek / Dorado River
At daybreak, awaken in the heart of the vast Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a flooded forest covering 5 million acres—nearly 10,000 square miles—at the headwaters of the Amazon. As the sun rises over the canopy near the origin of the world's greatest water artery, we head out in skiffs for Belluda Caño Creek. This small tributary is a prime spot to seek out pink and gray river dolphins, highly social and intelligent freshwater cetaceans. As we cruise slowly up the creek, look up, too, for active birdlife overhead.
This afternoon, explore the Dorado River by skiff. Moving at a lazy pace, search for the Amazon's transitional forest species such as snail kites, brilliant parrots, endangered scarlet macaws,
Day 9: Clavero Lagoon / Yarapa River / Puerto Miguel
On a morning excursion to Clavero Lagoon, look for several species of egrets, herons, hawks and long-legged neotropical cormorants fishing for breakfast. Traveling by skiff, we explore other linked blackwater lagoons that are part of this huge ecosystem. Wattled jacanas compete for food with spiders, and grasshoppers and butterflies thrive along the grassy edges of freshwater swamps and marshes. In the lush
This afternoon, Delfin II continues upstream to reach the Yarapa River, a pristine tributary of the Amazon where we have the option to go kayaking. Along the Yarapa's remote reaches, watch for troops of curious squirrel monkeys and colorful birds such as the plum-throated cotinga. We also look for gray and pink dolphins swimming alongside. Local lore teaches that dolphins turn into humans during celebrations to steal handsome men or pretty women from their villages.
Later in the day, board skiffs to meet residents of Puerto Miguel, a riverside village whose Indigenous culture has been a part of this region for centuries. We may visit the school, where children are always happy to greet visitors, then stop by the women's arts and crafts market for a chance to purchase handicrafts. These sales support the community and empower women artisans, indirectly helping to preserve local wildlife, since income generated decreases the pull toward illegal hunting. This evening, the ship's multitalented staff creates a memorable final night on board with live music.
Day 10: Nauta—Disembark / Iquitos / Lima / Depart
Disembark in Nauta this morning, then visit the Rescue & Rehabilitation Center for River Mammals en route to Iquitos. Here, biologists and volunteers care primarily for endangered Amazon manatees that conservation authorities have seized from fishermen and locals who have captured them illegally. Scientists discuss efforts to help these vulnerable mammals, including how they are prepared for reintroduction to their natural habitat. We'll get to see baby manatees and interact with charming, docile adults—maybe even helping to feed them. The center also cares for other animals that are often rescued after being captured as pets. Leaving the rain forest behind, we fly together to Lima. For your convenience, we have booked overnight hotel rooms at a comfortable airport hotel. Relax in your own private space until your overnight flight home, or take advantage of the opportunity for a full night's stay and depart the following morning.
Please Note: This itinerary is meant as a guideline and can change due to weather conditions, internal flight schedules