An off the beaten path itinerary that also hits the highlights
Included meals are indicated in parentheses: (B,L,D)
Arrive to Lima, former capital of the Spanish empire in the Americas, and transfer to your small boutique hotel, with great views off the bluffs on the coast of Lima. Barranco/Miraflores is the best area of town for strolling around and is home to many of Lima’s best restaurants. (If you are interested and time permits, private tours of Lima or visits to any of Lima’s museums can be arranged.)
Casa Inca Boutique Hotel
Fly to Cusco. You will transfer to Pisac, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, en route to the Manu Biosphere Reserve and at lower elevation from Cusco ((9,000 instead of 11,000 feet, about 75 minutes drive). An impressive set of Incan ruins sits on the hilltop above the town, and the town itself is a nice place to stroll around, with a large market along the side below the ruins.
Hotel La Casa del Conde (B,L)
Today you start a 5 day/4 night trip to the Manu Biosphere Reserve, one of the premier wildlife viewing reserves in South America and one of the most bio-diverse places on earth. Arriving to the Reserve is one of the highlights of the trip. You pass through small Peruvian towns, including Paucartambo (well known among locals for an annual festival), en route to the eastern edge of the Andes, where you start dropping down several thousand feet to get to your first lodge, located at 5000 feet of elevation in the cloudforest. This basic but comfortable lodge (private cabins and baths) is the top option in the area and is a great base for seeing the local wildlife, including the extremely rare Cock of the Rock bird and a wide variety of other wildlife.
Cock of the Rock Lodge(B,L,D)
In the morning you visit a blind where you have a very good chance of observing the Cock of the Rock in its native habitat, a spectacular sight. Afterwards you will look for other wildlife, and then depart for your destination for the next 3 nights, Manu Learning Center. You drive for approximately 2 hours, and then continue by boat for about 45 minutes to arrive to the Manu Learning Center, located in lowland rainforest right on the river at an elevation of approximately 1500 feet. The lodge has single or double rooms with shared baths. With a spectacular location, on a clear day you can see to the top of Mount Ausangate almost 20,000 feet above you.
Manu Learning Center(B)
You spend these days at the Manu Learning Center, doing guided explorations of the surrounding lowland rainforest and, if interested, assisting with research projects being carried out by longer term researchers and volunteers. There are also a variety of innovative projects that the lodge is involved with in expanding awareness of sustainable forestry and best practices among local settlers in this area.
Manu Learning Center (B)
In the morning you will transfer back to Cusco by boat and then by vehicle, making stops along the way to view wildlife and take in the spectacular views. Once in the Andes you will make some additional stops along the way. The transition from the high Andes to the rainforest is spectacular in both directions; you arrive back to Cusco around dinner time. A somewhat long but beautiful and fascinating drive. (We can also arrange to spend an easygoing night in Paucartambo en route.)
Hotel Rumi Punku (B)
Today you transfer 45 minutes to the town of Chinchero, above the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and home to several highly respected weaving cooperatives. After visiting the town and having a demonstration of the weaving techniques at a cooperative, you will head over to Lake Piuray, just a few minutes from town. Your camp will be awaiting you, and you can enjoy the balance of the day kayaking on the lake, walking around, spotting birds (many species can be found at the lake), or just relaxing. In the afternoon you will enjoy a traditional Pachamanca/organic culinary experience at the campsite (organic local ingredients baked in the ground on hot stones), organized by the owner of the most respected restaurant in the area.
Camping at Piuray (all equipment included, private tents, bathroom tent, dining tent) (B,L,D)
Today you hike to the much less visited Incan site of Huchuyqosqo. There are a variety of options, from the 6 to 7 hour direct hike from your campsite, to 3 or 4 hour options, to 2 to 3 hour mostly downhill options (vehicle will take you to different starting points depending on your interests). All the hikes offer spectacular views of the Andes on un-trafficked trails, finishing at your already prepared campsite next to the ruins.
Camping at Huchuyqosqo (B,L,D)
Today you will walk the last hour down to the floor of the Sacred Valley and the town of Lamay, and then continue to the town and ruins of Ollantaytambo, stopping for lunch en route at a great local restaurant.
Albergue Ollantaytambo (B)
Free day to explore this beautiful area on your own or just have some down time during your trip.
Albergue Ollantaytambo (B)
Today you will start your 2 day/1 night trip to Machu Picchu. In the morning you will catch the train towards Machu Picchu, but disembark at Kilometer 104, where you start your 5-6 hour hike to Machu Picchu along the last part of the Inca Trail (6-7 miles in total). You hike upward at a gentle grade for a couple hours, passing the large Incan site of Winay Wayna, and then hike along the last section of the classic Inca Trail for the last 2 hours to arrive at Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate (Inti Punku).
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (B,L,D)
Today you make an unguided return visit to Machu Picchu in the early morning to observe the ruins and have the chance to explore on your own. This is a great way to experience the site when there are far fewer people around. If you take the earliest shuttle up to the site, you can see the sun come up over the ruins. You’ll also have the chance to hike up to the top of Huayna Picchu, the mountain that towers above Machu Picchu (about 2 hours roundtrip). After visiting the ruins you will make your way down to the train station for your afternoon train back to Cusco, where you’ll be dropped off at your hotel, a comfortable base in one of the best areas of town for walking around (and close to many excellent restaurants).
Hotel Rumi Punku (B)
Today you have a half day privately guided city tour of Cusco, including the fortress of Sacsahuaman on the hill above the city. You have the afternoon free to explore some of this highlight city on your own and eat out at one of its excellent restaurants. (If interested, we can arrange culinary or photography tours for this afternoon.)
Hotel Rumi Punku (B)
In the morning you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Lima. Upon arrival to Lima you will have assistance at the airport in making your connecting flight home. If you have extra time in Lima on your last day prior to your international flight, we often arrange a driver for our travelers so you can go out to eat and see some of Lima prior to departure.