XIT Peru


Lima: city tour; Follow the footsteps of the ancients; Most important Inca sites in the Cuzco area; Breathtaking Machu Picchu; Colourful, lively Pisac market

Full Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival in Lima
Today we arrive in Lima, Peru.

This city has had wonderful restorations in recent years to the plazas, ornate facades, and wooden balconies for which the city is famous. Lima, named the 'City of Kings' by the Spanish Conquistadors, is the capital of Peru. Founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, where the River Rimac meets the Pacific Ocean, this was the most important Spanish city during the colonial era, with a population of about 100,000 inhabitants. Today the city is home to more than 6.5 million people.

Overnight in Lima (Miraflores). Hotel Exclusive or similar.
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Lima: City Tour
This morning we start our tour with a visit to San Francisco's Church to visit the extensive catacombs that lie underneath. We then continue to the Plaza de Armas, the most important plaza in Lima. The oldest surviving part of the plaza is the impressive bronze fountain, which was erected in 1650. Surrounding the plaza is the exquisite Archbishop's Palace, the cathedral, and the Government Palace where handsomely uniformed presidential guards are on duty all day. We visit the cathedral where the great conquistador Francisco Pizarro's tomb lies.

After taking some free time for lunch in one of the many outdoor cafes, we head to the trendy area of Miraflores, where people love to stroll along the cliff tops overlooking beaches, and watch the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean. The best location is the new "Love Park" with its magnificent monument to lovers at its centre.

We then proceed to the Larco Museum, which showcases remarkable chronological galleries and an excellent overview on 3,000 years of development of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. Located in a unique vice-royal mansion of the 18th century built over a 7th century pre-Columbian pyramid, is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Features the finest gold and silver collection from ancient Peru and the famous erotic archaeological collection, one of the most visited Peruvian tourist attractions. For an unforgettable experience, Larco is one of the few museums in the world where visitors can also choose to enter the storage area with its 45,000 classified archaeological objects.

Overnight in Lima (Miraflores).
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Lima - Cuzco
Today we fly to Cuzco located in a fertile valley at 3354m (11,000 ft). This is the archaeological capital of the Americas and the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. At its height, this Andean empire stretched from Colombia in the north, through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, down to central Chile in the south. Although the empire already existed in the 12th century, it remained small until the mid-15th century. Over the next 100 years, it expanded massively but came crashing down due to the civil war and the conquest by the Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro in 1533.

We arrive in the morning and have a few hours to rest to help acclimatize. We recommend an easy afternoon, possibly visiting the convent of Santa Catalina or the Religious Art Museum whose entries are included on the "Cuzco Pass" entrance ticket, included in your tour. Alternatively, the colonial area of the city offers many shops full of woven textiles, jewelry and other artifacts.

Overnight in Cuzco.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Cuzco Area
This morning we visit some of the most important Inca sites in the Cuzco area. Sacsayhuaman is an enormous site which, like so many Inca buildings, had a religious as well as military purpose. The huge fortress known as the 'storehouse of the sun' incorporated some of the largest stones ever used in a building. The zig-zag walls represent the teeth of the sacred puma and provide an excellent defensive structure. The stones fit so perfectly together without any mortar that not even moss can grow in the cracks. Sacsayhuaman was the site of the uprising of the Incas in 1536 against Spanish rule which came very close to obliterating the Spanish forces in Cuzco. We also visit the ruins at Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara and Qenko. The latter is an Inca sacrificial site carved with inscriptions.

This afternoon we return to Cuzco and enjoy a tour of the town. The name Cuzco means 'Navel of the World'. Today, stone walls built by the Incas line most of Cuzco's central streets and form the foundations of colonial and modern buildings. The Inca buildings were so well built that the Spaniards simply knocked down the upper parts of the Inca temples and palaces and built their churches and mansions on top of the Inca walls. Shortly after the Spanish conquest the capital was moved away to Lima on the coast.

Cuzco has retained a wonderful, untouched colonial atmosphere. The culture is also very much alive here, and is evident everywhere in the music, clothing and handicrafts of the people. This evening we take our dinner at a local restaurant where we can try some typical Peruvian dishes. You may wish to try a Pisco Sour, a drink made with a Peruvian liquor distilled from white grapes.

Overnight in Cuzco.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Cuzco - Trailhead - Huchuyqosqo
We depart Cuzco bright and early, heading for the trailhead at the village of Tauca (3854m / 12,718 ft), less than an hour's drive from our hotel. With the camp gear loaded on horses, we carry only daypacks (with our fleece, rain gear, water bottle, other necessities) as we begin our hike north up a tranquil green valley. There is a guide at the lead, and at the rear to ensure that no one falls too far behind. We usually spread out on the trail, taking photos and striking our own pace. There is no stigma attached to arriving last in camp, as your purpose is to watch your step and enjoy!

We cross a 4330m / 14,299 ft pass and pause to take in the panoramas of the Urubamba Range stretched across the northern horizon. We continue north, descending a ravine to the unforgettable Huchuyqosqo ruins, occupying an enormous plateau at 3,688m (12,170 ft) overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Total walking: 4.7km / 2.9 miles. We explore the beautiful two-story palace of the finest red granite, the irrigation reservoir, and numerous terraces and residential buildings.

THE TRAIL: The term "Inca Trail", much like the Silk Road, actually describes a somewhat braided route used by the ancients. On some stretches, there is only one route, but in some places, there maybe several trails that go generally in the same direction. In order to avoid congestion in some places, and to allow us to spend some nights at hotels en route, we have chosen a somewhat unconventional route -- less travelled, but no less spectacular!

Overnight camp near in Huchuyqosqo.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 6 Lamay & Sontoccocha
We hike down to the valley floor and cross the Vilcanota River at the town of Lamay where our support van waits. We drive 10km (6.25 mi) west to the town of Calca, then up a side valley to the hamlet of Sonttoccocha where another crew awaits with horses.

From our second trailhead at 4270m (14,091 ft) we have an easy climb to a pass at 4360 m (14,388 ft), and enjoy the surroundings dominated by the twin snowpeaks Pitusiray and Sawasiray. Trekking eastward through a tranquil valley, we camp amid lush pastureland with many herds of alpacas and llamas. Total distance: 14km / 9 miles.

Overnight camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 7 Chahuaytire - Urubamba Valley
We continue east, meeting occasional herders as well as llama-trains hauling produce along this traditional trade route joining Quechua-speaking villages of the Urubamba Range. Along the route you traverse mainly level terrain, with very little climbing or descending. Far to the east, we see the massive form of Nevado Ausangate (6374m / 21,034 ft), the highest peak in southern Peru.

Our van meets us in late afternoon just above the village of Chahualtire, and we drive out via Pisac village to a hotel near Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Total Distance 13km / 8.6 miles.

Overnight in Yucay.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 8 Yucay - Mandor Waterfall - Aguas Calientes
We transfer to Ollantaytambo station and board the train for the dramatic 90-minute ride down the rugged Vilcanota River gorge toward Aguas Calientes. From town we'll walk out along the road, and then pick up the railroad tracks which follow the river when the road ends. From here we view the steep mountain cliffs all around, jutting straight into the sky far above. After about an hour along the river we'll turn away from the river and head up a side stream toward the Mandor Waterfalls. Although we are hiking in the Machu Picchu sanctuary, there are some homesteads scattered throughout, and as we get away from the river we pass through an orchard with fruit trees before transitioning into cloud forest. About 20 minutes later we reach the waterfall, with a small pool nearby that allows a quick swim before or after our picnic lunch.

We'll then retrace our steps back to town, with a total hiking time of about five hours.

Overnight in Aguas Calientes hotel (near Machu Picchu).
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 9 Machu Picchu Area - Cuzco
We have an early morning drive up to Machu Picchu followed by a walk up to Inti Punku (The Gate of the Sun). There are some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from here. After catching our breath we head down to the spectacular Inca ruins at Winaywayna, spread over a steep and densely forested mountain slope. Later we return to the site of Machu Pichhu itself and have a tour of this amazing World Heritage Site before taking the bus down to Aguas Calientes.

We will then take the late afternoon train back to Cuzco.

NOTE: Regulations governing the walk from Inti Punku down to Winaywayna are subject to change.

Overnight in Cuzco.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Cuzco - Pisac - Cuzco
This morning we visit the ruins at Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara and Qenko. The latter is an Inca sacrificial site carved with inscriptions.

We continue to Pisac with its lively market where you will encounter traditionally dressed locals with whom you can barter for colourful craft items. You will see many unique Andean musical instruments as well as dazzling textiles. Peruvian woolen items are justifiably famous for their imaginative designs, based on Inca art and the local flora and fauna. You can buy sweaters and caps made from the extremely warm wool of alpacas and llamas.

We return to Cuzco with balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Cuzco.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Cuzco - Lima - Departure
Today we fly from Cuzco to Lima; departure from Lima.

LAND ONLY CLIENTS: In order to provide adequate connection time, please ensure that your return flight home from Lima does NOT depart earlier than 9:00 p.m.

Meal plan: breakfast