Not as many travellers venture through Northern Peru, where you can see remarkably well kept pre-Inca ruins and superb vistas of Andean highlands.. Explore the impressive concentric structures of the ancient fortress city of Kuelep.. Wander past colourful murals in Bohemian Barranco.. Stay in a lodge with bedroom views of two-tiered Gotca Falls, which until 2005 were unknown to anyone but locals.
Up until recently, thick jungle and daunting heights kept many of the delights of Peru’s north hidden. In this tour, you’ll explore cultural sites and natural wonders that are little seen by non-Peruvian eyes, as well as the splendour of the country’s renowned spots. Stay within view of Gotca Falls, the world third-largest waterfall that remained a local secret until 2005, and wander the imposing circular walls of Kuelep. Spend a day on the Inca Trail, hiking past the terraces of Ollantayttambo and Chachabamba before arriving at Machu Picchu. This is an adventure through history to release your inner explorer.
Breakfast Included: 12 Lunches Included: 6 Dinner Included: 4
Welcome to Lima, where modern Peruvian life swirls around the remains of a grand ancient culture. This adventure begins with a 2 pm meeting at your hotel – please ask the hotel reception for more information regarding this meeting or keep an eye out for a note left on the noticeboard. Please have your next of kin and insurance details on hand to provide your leader. An orientation walk through the Miraflores and Barranco districts will give you your first taste of Peru. Take in splendid views of colourful streets, lush green landscapes, quaint bridges and unhindered ocean views. Keep a camera ready for snaps of the phenomenal buildings in a variety of architectural styles – from ornate gothic facades to harsh, uber-functional brutalist blocks.
Enjoy a full-city tour of Lima with an informative guide. Lima has been through a number of shifts, from ancient Inca city to Spanish-colony to capital of independent Peru, and remnants of each stage can be found in unexpected places. Your local guide will explain the significance of landmarks old and very old alike.
Use the morning as you wish. Perhaps visit the Larco Museum, where a large variety of pre-Columbian artefacts and treasures are on display for a small admission fee. If you decide to drop in keep an eye out for the Mochica Portrait Vessels, incredibly realistic sculpted pottery, which were made more than 1200 years ago. Then, board a plane bound for the high jungle city of Jaen. In less than 2 hours you’ll touch down and begin the winding 3-hour drive to a lodge in mountain-fortified Cocachimba. The lodge was designed around the perennial Gocta Falls. Every bedroom is fall-facing, also providing views of the lovely gardens, pools and surrounding terraces.
Today you can choose to hike 11 kilometres to the falls you have seen from afar. This natural marvel remained unmapped and “undiscovered” by outsiders until 2005, when a German economist stumbled across what it turns out is the third-largest waterfall in the world. Conditions on the hike can vary; some times of year see the mountains cloaked in mist and rain, resulting in a cascading force emanating from the falls, whereas other times of the year result in sunshine breaking over the canyon peaks and a more wispy flow. Regardless, the sheer green from the forest surrounds combined with the height of the falls results in a memorable hiking experience, full of great photo opportunities. If you choose to participate, you’ll leave the lodge at 8 am and return around midday. Enjoy a free afternoon. Maybe take some time to relax with a drink and enjoy the views around the lodge.
Today, continue exploring the relatively unknown large-scale wonders of Northern Peru with Kuelap. Spend the morning wandering through this vast stone fortress city, taking in the crumbling walls which once housed thousand of Chachapoya people. It’s been estimated that construction on Kuelap began around the 6th century, coinciding with the rising Chachapoyas culture before occupation of the site crumbled in the face of the Spanish in the 16th century. Its colossal concentric walls and complex interior architecture are evidence of a well-organized population, but very little is known today about the Chachapoya people. Canals that tap into mountain springs, artistic stone carvings and towering walls all point towards a culture who understood architecture, art and military/protective interests. At midday, return to Gotca and perhaps enjoy a swim in the pool.
Spend a day delving further into mysterious Chachapoya culture, plumbing through the depths of mausoleums and uncovering mummies of an age passed. Begin by exploring the Revash Mausoleums, a necropolis for Chachapoya’s dead. These ancient tombs – which somewhat resemble apartment blocks – are embedded in the walls of the limestone rock formation of Cerro Carbon. Later, take some time to explore the Leymebamba Museum, home to many mummies uncovered at the Laguna de los Condores site. Archaeologists recovered the mummies from cliff-face tombs in the late 1990s, though thousands more are believed to remain in unexplored caves that are swamped by jungle. In the afternoon, perhaps have a dip and then spend the evening relaxing.
After an included breakfast at the lodge, bid farewell to the two-tiered falls of Gotca and head to airport. A lunchtime flight kicks off a day of travel that will deliver you to Cusco at 7 or 8 pm. After a full day in transit, perhaps relax in your hotel in the evening and prepare yourself for a full day of sightseeing tomorrow.
Travel to the Sacred Valley and tour the remains of complex ancient Inca infrastructure. The site’s proximity to Urubamba River means the ruins of aqueducts, canals and dams are particularly impressive. Visit the stone fortress of Sacsayhuaman, whose massive blocks paint an evocative picture of the Incas' sophisticated engineering. You will also visit a local community and sit down to some lunch with the locals. If it happens to be market day, you will be able to wander the stalls and hunt down beautiful hand-painted beads and ponchos. Continue to the town of Ollantaytambo and its archaeological site, east of the Plaza de Armas. The upper terraces of the site offer great photo opportunities of the squared grid town below.
One day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Rise early, as depending on availability the train may depart between 6 and 8 am. Travel to KM104 and begin the trek by crossing the Urubamba River, entering the Inca Trail at around 9 am. Shortly after, it's on to the Inca ruins of Chachabamba. After an upwards climb, arrive at Winay Wayna (Forever Young), at an elevation of 2680 metres. Many visitors consider this impressive complex to be the best sight on the whole trail. Continue for about an hour further to Inti Punku (The Sun Gate, 2730 metres), the entry point into the ancient site where you will catch your first glimpse of Machu Picchu. Arriving late in the day, you may be lucky enough to enjoy the view by yourself. Depending on what time you arrive to Machu Picchu, you'll have some time to go on a guided tour and take a few pictures. Tomorrow morning you'll visit Machu Picchu for the second time accompanied with your guide. Afterwards, take a bus down to your hotel in Aguas Calientes and get an early night in preparation for an early start tomorrow.
At 5.30 am, take the bus back up the winding road to Machu Picchu. On this second visit to the ruins you'll have free time to explore and take any photos you may have missed yesterday. Spend time taking in the extraordinary architecture of the many temples, palaces and living quarters. The mortar-free design is particularly earthquake resistant and the stones are so precisely cut that to this day not even a knife fits between them. In the afternoon, you will return by bus and train to Cusco and spend the night there. Perhaps enjoy a relaxing evening to rest your body after an intense few days.
Enjoy a thorough walking tour of Cusco today, starting with an 8 or 9 am pickup. Stop in at the remains of Koricancha, a masterpiece of stonework which was once the richest temple in the Inca Empire and was covered heavily in gold. Head to the cathedral to see its silver-coloured neoclassical altar and impressive art collection. Stroll down the plaza to see the Stone of Twelve Angles, a marvel of Inca masonry. Lastly, wander through the San Pedro Market and browse its eclectic array of colourful vegetables, succulent meats, local cheeses and artisan chocolates – as well as local delicacies such as frog soup. Your city tour comes to an end just in time for lunch at around midday. There are plenty of food options in the square where the tour ends, but you might want to return to the market to sample some of the aforementioned frog soup. Lomo saltado (stir-fried beef) is another delicious local option for those who find frog too bony.
Today you are free to explore Cusco at your own pace. The San Blas quarter is a good option for those who wish to use their last day picking up handicrafts and souvenirs. It’s easy to spend the morning exploring the shops that line the steep, cobblestone streets of this quaint part of the city. In the afternoon, why not sip a Cusquena beer in the main square and enjoy a spot of people watching?