|Day 1 Arrive Lima|
You will be met on arrival at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport and transferred to your hotel in the well-known coastal suburb of Miraflores. A pre-tour briefing with your guide and the rest of your group awaits you in the hotel this evening; you'll want to confirm the exact time and place by checking the hotel's notice board or by asking the tour leader. Afterwards, you may enjoy an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant. Please note that the meeting may be postponed until Day 2 if a significant number of group members arrive late in Lima. Lima has some of the most superb cuisine in South America, and it is especially renowned for its seafood. You may want to try ceviche, Peru’s national dish, which is raw fish marinated in lime juice and served with hot peppers. This culinary delight is a must for all seafood lovers!
|Day 2 Lima Tour|
Set out on a half-day tour of Peru's capital this morning. Lima was founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. At that time all of Spanish territories in South America were governed from Lima – few other cities could rival Lima's wealth, power, and opulence. However, the city's glory days came to an end after it was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1746. Many of the colonial buildings here have been rebuilt since then, and you'll get a firsthand look at several of them today. The striking Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas) is flanked by some of the most important buildings in town, including the cathedral, the huge Government Palace and the Archbishop’s Palace, and these structures make up the heart of the city. Visit the cathedral and the nearby San Francisco Monastery, whose catacombs contain some 70,000 human remains. You'll also stop at the impressive National Museum of Anthropology, Archaeology and History of Peru. There are wonderful cultural exhibits here tracing the history, arts and accomplishments of the Peruvian people, from the original inhabitants of the land to the Inca Empire and Spanish conquerors. The afternoon is free to do your own exploration of Lima. You may wish to wander around Miraflores or catch a taxi to visit the Gold Museum or the Larco Museum, which is renowned for its ancient pottery collection. Please remember that you must agree on a fare with the driver before catching a taxi, as the taxis here do not have meters.
|Day 3 Cusco|
Today you'll fly to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, which you'll explore on a walking tour. Cusco is a favorite destination for many travelers visiting Peru. The city's main sites radiate outwards from the Plaza de Armas, which is dominated by the 17th century Baroque cathedral. It was in this very plaza that the Spanish conquistadors killed the last Inca king, Tupac Amaru I. As you wander the streets and side alleys you'll notice the perfectly tapered Inca stonework that provided the foundations for many of Cusco’s colonial and modern buildings. You'll visit the cathedral and Koricancha Temple, which was the most opulent temple in the Inca empire. Next, you'll take to the surrounding hills and visit the impressive ceremonial ruins of Sacsayhuaman, where the massive stone blocks that form the site's walls give you an awesome picture of the Inca's highly developed engineering.
|Day 4 The Sacred Valley|
Spend your second day in Cusco touring the Sacred Valley, which lies between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. The valley was greatly treasured by the Incas because of its climate, fertile land and the presence of the Urubamba (Sacred) River. Today you can still see evidence of the Inca's engineering skills in the ruins of ancient aqueducts, irrigation canals, dams on the Urubamba River, imposing sets of terraces, and centers of worship dedicated to Pachamama (Mother Earth). The tour takes you to the Awana Kancha Tourist Center, where you can see llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco all in the one place, as well as the ruins at Qenko, the colorful market town of Pisac, and the towering Inca citadel at Ollantaytambo. This grand citadel is built on a tall mountainside; it served as both a temple and fortress in the past. If you make the trek to the top you'll be rewarded with beautiful views overlooking the village and surrounding valley.
|Day 5 Pumumarca|
This morning is free for you to spend at your leisure. Later on, you'll visit Peru's Challenge Community Project at Pumumarca, located in a beautiful valley only six miles from the center of Cusco. The Peru's Challenge Program works to create educational opportunities for children living in the Andes region. Since October 2003, Peru’s Challenge has helped nearly 1,000 families and educated over 500 children in numerous communities. The visit offers a rare look at the challenges faced by many small farming communities around Peru – it is both educational and inspirational. Wander through the fields and watch the locals tend their crops, then visit the village school and watch the women working in the handicraft center. Afterwards, take a short stroll through the fields to the rarely-visited Pumamarca ruins. More than 500 years ago King Pachacutec ruled the Incas from the center of his massive Cusco empire. The Pumamarca Hacienda, a palace the king built for his wife, is surrounded by beautiful Inca terraces and produce fields. You'll see great examples of classic Inca architecture as you wander through the ruins – the perfectly proportioned stonework is not something to be missed. The palace gardens have water channels and fountains with aqueducts and communication tunnels, which connect the palace to the town of Cusco. Peruvian archaeologists believe that this is one of the oldest Inca palaces in existence, and the Institute of National Culture has plans to slowly restore the palace and gardens to their original glory.
|Day 6-7 Machu Picchu/Aguas Calientes/Cusco|
Board a train and head to the small town of Aguas Calientes, where you'll take a bus up the steep, winding road to the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu. (Baggage limit on PeruRail is 11 lbs) Built around 1450, the city was deserted less than a century later and "lost" for hundreds of years before it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The architecture of Machu Picchu is quite extraordinary, with earthquake resistant, mortar-free designs and stones cut so precisely that not even a knife will fit between them. After a guided tour of the site you'll have some free time to explore on your own before taking the bus back to Aguas Calientes. Check out the town's small shops and restaurants, or head to the edge of town and relax in the hot thermal baths. Take the train back to Cusco in the late afternoon.
Meals: 2 Breakfasts
|Day 8 Puno|
A scheduled tourist service will drive you to the town of Puno, stopping at places of interest along the way. You'll have lunch in Sicuani, a small town known for the llama skins and alpaca wool sold in their Indian markets, before experiencing the highest point of your journey at La Raya Pass (14,223 feet). Your last stop is the sprawling town of Juliaca, renowned for its lively atmosphere and traditional street dancing. Puno is the capital and largest city of the Puno Province, as well as an important agricultural and livestock center. The pedestrian street of Calle Lima is a great place to go shopping or check out the restaurants and bars lining the street. Puno is the starting point for excursions to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world (12,500 feet).
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
|Day 9 Lake Titicaca/Sillustani/Puno|
Take a ride on a trishaw (a three-wheeled, human powered cab) out to Lake Titicaca, where you’ll spend two days exploring the lake. Once you arrive you’ll go aboard a boat and sail to the floating reed islands of the pre-Incan Uros people, who still live today as they have for centuries. The islanders use totoro reeds for everything – from building houses and boats to producing hand-woven mats. When you’re done visiting, sail back to Puno and drive on to the archaeological site of Sillustani. The ruins here were constructed in Pre-Incan times by the Colla people, one of the tribes that dominated the Lake Titicaca area. They buried their dead in massive, perfectly cylindrical funeral towers that stand up to 40 feet tall. These remarkably well-preserved buildings have many lizards carved into their exterior – lizards were considered a symbol of life because of their ability to re-grow their tails. The towers’ complex engineering rivals that of the Incas, and it continues to amaze archaeologists to this day. When you’re done exploring Sillustani you will be driven back to Puno for your overnight.
|Day 10 Tiahuanaco|
Set out and follow the shores of Lake Titicaca to the Bolivian border at Desaguerdo, crossing into Bolivia after completing immigration and customs formalities. The road to La Paz takes you to the ancient ruins of the Tiahuanaco civilization, which was formed around 500 BC and mysteriously “disappeared” around 1200 AD. The sprawling ruins are comprised of temples, courtyards, terraced pyramids, monolithic statues and gateways. The most famous structure is the Puerto del Sol (Gateway of the Sun), one of the gates in the city walls that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century. It faces east to meet the sun as it rises each morning. After you've explored the ruins you will be driven two hours to La Paz. The views during your drive will be spectacular because of the city's unique location in the middle of a vast volcanic crater.
|Day 11 La Paz|
Spend today visiting the sights of La Paz – the highest capital city in the world at an altitude of 12,008 feet. Towering over the city is Mount Illimani, whose snow-covered peaks reach a height of 21,125 feet. Much of La Paz is modern, but there are still some remaining examples of late 19th century architecture in the city. Your tour stops at several of these buildings, including the Presidential Palace, La Paz Cathedral, and the National Congress. You'll also visit a few of the city's small but fascinating museums as well as the Witches' Market, which sells herbs and potions used in Aymara medicinal rituals. At the end of the day, you'll travel a short distance from the town's center to the Valley of the Moon – an eroded maze of canyons and pinnacles that forms one of the strangest landscapes you've ever seen.
|Day 12 La Paz/Onward|
Your Incan adventure ends today after breakfast. If you wish to extend your stay in La Paz or explore more of Bolivia, additional accommodations can be made for you at your request.