ANDEAN HIGHLIGHTS EXPRESS 8D/7N

OVERVIEW

  • Day 1: Arrival in Lima
  • Day 2: Arrival in Cusco
  • Day 3: Cusco City Tour
  • Day 4: Sacred Valley Tour
  • Day 5: Machu Picchu Tour
  • Day 6: Arrival in Puno
  • Day 7: Lake Titicaca Tour
  • Day 8: Departure from Puno

DESCRIPTION

Each destination is better than the last on this 8-day tour package from Machu Picchu to Lake Titicaca, where you’ll explore the history and culture of Peru’s oldest continuously inhabited areas.

You’ll begin in Cusco, where the Inca Empire rose to power in the 1400s and expanded across the length and width of the Andes using a road system called the Qhapaq Nan. One of these roads led through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, which you’ll visit by train after touring the Inca heartland’s most important places.

Inca roads also connected Cusco to Lake Titicaca, although the temples and paths between these two places are more ancient than the Incas. You’ll visit the people of Uros, who famously built their floating reed islands in order to resist the conquest efforts of rival cultures. You’ll also sail to Taquile Island, where you’ll see more Inca ruins and get fantastic panoramic views of the lake considered by many pre-Columbian cultures as the center of the cosmos.

DETAILED ITINERARY

 Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Upon arrival at the Lima airport, meet our representative and walk or take a short car ride to your airport hotel.

Overnight in Lima.

Day 2: Arrival in Cusco

Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight to Cusco.

Upon arrival at the Cusco airport, meet our representative for the 20-minute drive to your hotel in the historic center. As you approach the oldest sections of the city, gorgeous examples of Spanish colonial architecture will draw your eye. Look closely and you might see the remains of Inca stonework – these are the former palaces and temples of the former Inca imperial capital.

After check-in at your Cusco hotel, you have the rest of the day to start exploring the city on your own. Remember to take it easy on this first afternoon since Cusco is located at 11,300 feet in elevation. Most travelers acclimate within 1-2 days and have no trouble with slow-paced activities. Wander about the main square, visit a museum, or stop by one of the many shops or cafes. Don’t miss out on the chance to sample Peruvian cuisine in one of Cusco’s many casual and/or fine dining restaurants.

 Day 3: Cusco City Tour

Spend the morning at your leisure. This is a good time to explore some of Cusco’s less-visited attractions including the famous San Pedro Market, the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas, or one of Cusco’s many fine museums. Get a glimpse of Peru’s long artistic heritage at the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, hone your knowledge of the Inca Empire at the Casa Concha (“Machu Picchu Museum”), or make your own chocolate from scratch at the Choco Museum.

In the afternoon, meet our expert Cusco guide to tour the city’s must-see attractions. Stops include the Cusco Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas, the fabulous Temple of the Sun or Qoricancha, the gargantuan ruins of the Sacsayhuaman fortress/temple overlooking the city, as well as the ruins of Q’enko, Puka Pukara, and Tambomachay nearby.

In the late afternoon, return to your Cusco hotel and spend the evening at your leisure. Enjoy the local cuisine and the splendor of Cusco at night, the surrounding hills twinkling with lights and the sky overhead littered with stars.

 Day 4: Sacred Valley Tour

Explore the beautiful Peruvian countryside with a full-day tour of the magical Sacred Valley, home to several royal estates of Incan emperors. First, visit the town of Pisac, famous for its bustling indigenous market and for the beautiful Inca ruins on the hillside overlooking the city. In the market, browse stalls brimming with beautiful handicrafts and handwoven garments. In the center of the market, village women in traditional dress gather to buy and sell local fruits, vegetables, and other natural products. While exploring the Pisac ruins above, wander narrow paths with walls of spectacularly cut stones and enjoy stunning views of the village and the Sacred Valley below.

After Pisac, stop for lunch (not included) at a buffet restaurant to sample a variety of Peruvian and international dishes near the town of Urubamba. The town is named after the sacred river (whose upper stretch is called the Vilcanota) that flows through the valley, on its way to Machu Picchu and eventually the Amazon jungle.

Next, visit the spectacular fortress of Ollantaytambo. These magnificent Inca ruins that cling to the hillside were part of the royal estate of the Incan emperor Pachacuti. Later, during the Incas’ heroic resistance against the Spaniards, a great battle was fought, during which the Spaniards were repelled by the guerrilla emperor Manco Inca. The small town of Ollantaytambo at its base still has Inca houses, making Ollantaytambo the only Inca city that is still inhabited today.

The tour ends at your comfortable hotel in the Sacred Valley. If you’ve selected a hotel in Ollantaytambo, you can explore the former Incan town at your leisure, which still boasts mountain water coursing through Inca-built gutters in the center of its streets and where many of the inhabitants still speak the Incan language, Quechua.

 Day 5: Machu Picchu Tour

After breakfast at your Sacred Valley hotel, take a train to Machu Picchu, the hidden Inca citadel. This 2.5-hour train journey is one of the finest in the world. Much of the path winds along the rushing Vilcanota river and snakes through gorges cut into the bases of massive mountainsides, offering passengers dramatic views of the Andean landscape as the train descends from high altitude plains down through the cloud forest. The foliage dramatically changes as the train approaches the meeting point of the Andes and the Upper Amazon rainforest, providing visitors an intimate view of one of the most spectacular transitions in the world.

The train arrives in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, which is surrounded by tall granite cliffs and a cloud forest inhabited by orchids and hummingbirds. Meet our representative at the train station gates and walk to the bus station for a 20-minute ride up to the secluded Inca citadel high atop a mountain ridge.

Next, meet your expert, English-speaking guide for a 2-hour tour of the most important sites in Machu Picchu, including the Intihuatana (Sun Stone), the Sun Temple, and the Room of 3 Windows. Machu Picchu is ranked as one of the “must see” archaeological sites in the world. Royal palaces, temples and astronomical observatories cling to a granite spur some 2,000 feet above the valley floor, affording spectacular views of the cloud-wreathed Andes and the Urubamba River far below.

After your tour, you have the option to explore more of the ruins on your own and capture some final photos.

In the late afternoon, take a comfortable train back to Cusco and then meet our driver for a transfer to your Cusco hotel for the evening.

Want an extra day at Machu Picchu? Customize this package to include an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. The next morning, make a second visit to get your fill of the enigmatic citadel and then return to Cusco in the evening.

*Optional: Hike up Wayna Picchu, the peak overlooking the Machu Picchu ruins. This hike is steep and takes about 3 hours round trip to complete, but affords spectacular views of the surrounding Andes and views over the Machu Picchu citadel from above. Numerous Inca burials have been found in cavities on this mountain. Please let your Travel Advisor know if you’d like to add this to your itinerary.

Day 6: Arrival in Puno

After breakfast at your hotel, meet our representative for a transfer from the bus terminal for your journey to Puno.

Travel to Puno aboard a comfortable tourist bus. The ride lasts 9-10 hours and includes a stop for lunch, as well as guided visits to several ruins and tourist sites along the way.

Upon arrival in Puno, meet our representative at the bus station for a transfer to your hotel. Many of our recommended hotels are located along the lakeshore and away from the hustle and bustle of the city center, so you will be able to take in views of the lake as you rest and relax. Spend the remainder of the evening at your leisure, resting at your hotel or exploring Puno on your own.

Day 7: Lake Titicaca Tour

Be sure to fuel up at breakfast this morning, as this full-day experience lasts around 9 hours. Your Lake Titicaca tour takes you to two fascinating islands. First, the floating Uros islands are composed of about 32 islands constructed of many layers of totora reeds woven into thick mats. Hosts teach visitors about local customs and how they use reeds to make their homes and boats.

This exciting tour continues to Taquile Island, located about 30 miles by boat from Puno. Along the way, enjoy panoramic views of Lake Titicaca, perched at 12,500 feet in elevation, and of the surrounding peninsulas. Taquile Island is home to numerous pre-Inca and Inca ruins, and the island inhabitants still maintain many time-honored traditions which are reflected in their clothing and in their beautiful handicrafts.

On Taquile, visit the most important sites of the island, including the main plaza and the market. Take pictures of the island landscape and surrounding lake views. Be prepared for some effort, though, as due to the island’s geography, the tour of Taquile involves hiking up hills and climbing stone stairs. Taquile’s 500 stone stairs from pier to town re infamous, so be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes. Fortunately, the lake views are well worth the climb, and there are many places to stop and rest along the way.

After touring Taquile, enjoy a local lunch (not included) before your return by boat to Puno.

Arrive back in Puno in the early evening. Relax at your hotel or head to the city center to enjoy some traditional cuisine in one of the local restaurants.

 Day 8: Departure from Puno

After breakfast at your hotel, meet your transfer to the airport for your journey home.

INCLUSIONS

  • 1 night hotel in Lima
  • 3 night’s hotel in Cusco
  • 1 night hotel in the Sacred Valley
  • 2 nights hotel in Puno in hotels based on standards
  • Guided visits with English-speaking tour guides
  • All transfers and entrance fees
  • Machu Picchu entrance fees
  • Train service. Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes town Round/trip
  • Ground Transportation
  • Bus Cusco – Puno (ask your travel advisor about upgrades to flight or train options)

EXCLUSIONS

  • Airfare and Airport taxes
  • Lunches or dinners (unless otherwise specified)
  • Gratuities