Cusco – City tour
You will be taken to your hotel, where you will meet a guide who will take you out on a tour covering some local places of interest in Cusco.
We’ll start off with this impressive Cathedral. Millions of people from all over the world gather here to see this exquisite combination of Gothic and Renaissance architecture and dazzling examples of colonial gold work. The Cathedral, located in the Plaza de Armas, a beautiful example of ancient urban planning and design in itself. The primary attraction here is the exceptional painting of the Last Supper, in which Judas is portrayed as famous Conquistador Francisco Pizarro, the assassin of one of the Incan kings. You might also want to taste Inca corn beer, chicha, although it doesn’t taste like any beer you’ve had in your life.
The collection of art found in the Plaza de Armas is one of the greatest in Peru because it contains both color illustrations of 17th-century European artists and indigenous Andean artists. In short, you will have an excellent opportunity to linger over these relics of Peruvian culture.
However, this is just the beginning of this remarkable tour.
The wondrous Koricancha, Temple of the Sun, is just a short walk away. Dating back to the earliest of ancient Incan civilization, this Temple was the place of prominence until the very end of Spanish colonization. One of the most elegant buildings constructed during that period, it contains interior structures that were created using the finest gold of that era.
From the delights within Cusco, next up is a comfortable coach ride to the marvelous Sacsayhuaman. Constructed even before the Incans settled in the area, this fortress complex dates back to 1100. However, the Incans did expand the city significantly by building enormous walls, consisting of 350 tons of massive stones that were cut and stacked without mortar. Spanning over seven decades, it required the labor of about 20 thousand men to complete.
The next stop is just a few minutes away: the remarkably unique Qenqo Temple. The temple was sculpted out of a single monolith; it contains chambers that are connected by tunnels. It is incredible to contemplate at these complex settlements: they were created using the most rudimentary tools.
After Qenqo, a short bus ride will take you to Puka Pukara, which means Red Fortress. The terraces of Puka Pukara overlook the mountains of Cusco. Once inside, you will want to explore the fascinating passages, stairways, and towers.
That done, an enjoyable 5-minute walk from Puka Pukara will take us to Tambomachay, sometimes known as the Incan’s Bath. This archeological site features intricately carved stonework, erected above a natural spring, much like the complex that the Romans created over a natural hot spring they’d found in Bath after conquering England.
After this remarkable tour, you will be returned to your hotel in Cusco. Now is the time for you to prepare for the next day’s magical journey to a place known as the Sacred Valley.
Overnight: Cusco Hotel
Your journey through the Sacred Valley meanders through glorious unspoiled paths, colorful Peruvian villages and ancient Incan ruins. Partially following the flow of the wildly scenic Urubamba River, you will ultimately reach the famous Machu Picchu.
You will be picked up by your guide at 8 a.m. and comfortably driven to Corao, stopping along the way to visit villages with local markets. You will even get to visit weaving centers, and learn about the local tradition of back-strap loom weaving.
With the scenic Vilcabamba Mountain range watching us over, as we drive through the Sacred Valley we will reach Pisaq, a complex which served as a royal residence for the Incan King Pachacutec. According to local history, Pisaq was the ruler’s favorite place for recreation, and it is obvious why. Everywhere you turn, there are magnificent Incan buildings standing out tall, adorned with fountains, imposing lookout towers and beautifully designed terraces.
Here, too, you will find the Intihuatana. With “Inti” meaning sun, and “huata” meaning to tie up, it referred to in English as “The Hitching Post of the Sun.” It is a spiritual stone associated with the Inca’s astronomic clock or calendar. Even more impressively, you will not only see the astonishing water ducts and terraces that are cut into solid rock, but also a Sun Temple that is thought to be the rival of anything at Machu Picchu!
Pisaq has even more to offer!
In fact, Pisaq has the uncommon contrast of a charming modern village with a famous traditional market. At the completion of this tour, you will be taken back to town
Relax! You now have plenty of time to sample the local foods and spices, as well as the crafts and jewelry on display. You will also find a choice of Alpaca products to choose from and the opportunity to mingle and socialize with locals in town, many of whom will be dressed in traditional garb.
Although this destination is undoubtedly one of the prime attractions of this tour, the rest of the day is equally captivating.
From Pisaq, we move north to arrive at Urubamba, where a delicious buffet lunch will be served at a typical local restaurant. From thereon, a relaxing thirty-minute drive later, we will arrive at Ollantaytambo, for more unforgettable exploration.
Ollantaytambo and its ceremonial center were built by Incan Emperor Pachacuti: this place was to be his royal estate. It consists of 4 groups of well-preserved buildings, which are notable for their watchtowers and chamber, among other impressive features. At the center of the complex is the Sun Temple. However, you may not want to miss the striking Bath of the Nusta, which is an annex of the Temple of the Sun.
What is most startling, though, about these perfectly constructed buildings and the megalithic wall is that it is believed the Incans invented the process of stacking the gigantic stones without mortar entirely by trial and error.
And, naturally, this process is every bit as phenomenal as the building of the pyramids. With the not-so-advanced technology available at the time, it is almost impossible to imagine how they were able to build such complexes at all, much less so precisely.
We will now continue toward Machu Picchu, stopping only once, to admire the beauty of the Vilcanota Gorge from a nearby train station. Beautiful and massive mountains flank the railway, and the exceptional Veronica Snow mountain will genuinely captivate your imaginations.
Onward over scenic bridges and small rainforest villages, we will soon reach Aguas Calientas— the town just below Machu Picchu and our destination for the night.
Overnight: Aguas Calientes Hotel
After breakfast, it will be time to begin the journey we have all been looking forward to— the legendary Machu Picchu. An easy 25-minute drive in a comfortable shuttle will see us traveling through breathtaking vistas, providing unhindered glimpses of snowcapped mountaintops. In the most fantastic display of engineering and construction imaginable, Machu Picchu is located on the edge of the walls—- high above the Urubamba River.
Machu Picchu was built by the Incas around 1450. Located almost 8,000 feet above sea level, it was visited by the greatest emperors of the period. Both a royal estate and religious retreat during the Incan era, It is also the resting place of Incan rulers.
It remains notable today for the excellence of its preservation, the quality of the original architecture still evident in spite of being abandoned about a century later during the Spanish Conquest.
Due to its elevated location, there are breathtaking views of both the majestic mountains and the Sacred Valley below. Many of the outlying buildings here have been restored so that visitors may get an idea of what the original construction looked like.
Because it is the most superior remnant of ancient Incan civilization, Machu Picchu is one of the most significant and most visited locations in all of the Americas. Your two-hour tour will begin at the entrance and take you to all of the most riveting historical monuments of this fascinating Pre-Columbian complex.
Not only will you see Temple of the Sun, dedicated to the Incan’s highest deity, the Sun God, you will also visit the simple houses where the lower classed people resided in the Popular, Residential District.
You will also visit the nobility sector, where royals made their homes, including the trapezoid-shaped rooms where the Princesses lived. You will be spellbound by the Monumental Mausoleum! This carved statue, with its vaulted interior and carved drawings, was used for rites and sacrifices.
The Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock may be glimpsed from an opening in one of the long sides of the three-sided Guardhouse building.
Your guides will tell you all about it, and so much more. You will find that they are every bit as impressive to learn about as to admire.
After the tour, a shuttle will return you to Aguas Calientes; then you will travel by train to Ollantaytambo. Up next, you shall be transferred to Cusco to arrive at your hotel between 6 and 8 in the evening.
Overnight: Cusco Hotel
Following a hearty breakfast, we will pick you up one last time to transfer you to the airport in Cusco, where we will say farewell. From there, you may fly to Lima or to where ever your journey takes you.
We trust that you will have many extraordinary memories from this unique time exploring all of the wondrous legacies of the Incan Civilization.