Upon arrival in Lima, you will be transferred to your hotel, where you will be welcomed by a River Explorers representative who will provide you a short briefing of the upcoming tour, as well as other activities you may want to consider.
Depending on the time of your arrival, you may want to visit one of the city’s museums or churches and sample some of the world renowned local cuisines. One place which you wouldn’t want to miss, though, is the 1,500-year-old Pucllana Temple in the Miraflores district. While the temple is only open until 5 p.m., it is a sight to behold only after sunset when the place is dramatically illuminated. There’s also a gourmet restaurant here to pamper your taste buds.
Overnight in Lima
After being transferred to your hotel from the airport, you will meet your tour guide with private transportation.
Now it’s time to explore all of the wonders that Cusco has to offer.
For starters, you will visit the impressive Cathedral, where millions come from all over the world to see the imposing mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture and stunning examples of colonial gold work.
The Cathedral is located in the impressive Plaza de Armas, which itself is an exquisite example of ancient urban planning and architecture. Among other things, on display here, the magnificent painting of the Last Supper deserves a special mention: this is the same painting in which Judas is portrayed as famous Conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who killed one of the Incan kings. The Incan corn beer, chicha, is also popular among the tourists.
Indeed, the square is renowned for housing one of Peru’s greatest collections of art, because of the combination of color illustrations of 17th-century European artists and indigenous Andean artists. However, there is much more to feast your eyes on in Cusco, including Koricancha.
Just a few blocks away from the square is the marvelous Koricancha, Temple of the Sun. Dating back the beginning of ancient Incan civilization, the temple stands testimony to time, all the way to the end of Spanish colonization. The building itself is one of the finest examples or construction from that period; the interior structures of the building was created using the finest gold available in the empire at that time.
From Cusco, you will be driven north to a place known as Sacsayhuaman. This fortress complex was built in 1100, even before the Incans settled in the area. The Incas did, however, greatly expand the city by building massive walls, containing 350 tons of huge stones cut by workers to be stacked without mortar. It took more than seven decades and approximately 20 thousand men to complete the structure.
Next up, is the Qenqo Temple, an unbelievably unique construction. It was fully sculpted out of a gigantic monolith and features chambers connected by tunnels. You will not want to miss this! These uncommon sights are the hallmark of our exclusive tours.
From Qenqo, the tour will take you to Puka Pukara, which is just a short bus ride away. The terraces of Puka Pukara, which means Red Fortress, overlooks the mountains of Cusco. The interiors of Qenqo are composed of passages, stairways, and towers that you will want to explore.
From Puka Pukara, a pleasant 5 minute walk will take you to Tambomachay, which is often referred to as the Incan’s Bath, due to the complex threefold carved stonework that was constructed on top of a natural spring, just as the Romans created a similarly complex structure upon finding a natural hot spring in Bath when they conquered England.
Your next stop is your hotel in Cusco. Now it’s time for you to prepare for the mystical journey of the Sacred Valley the next day.
Overnight: Cusco Hotel
After breakfast around 9:00 am, you will meet your tour guide who will take you on a journey through the mystical Sacred Valley. You will be comfortably driven through the Peruvian villages of Qorao, Huancelle, and Taray, passing through a viewpoint overlooking a valley surrounded by snowcapped mountains. You can take photos of this breathtaking vista, before we recommence our journey to Pisaq.
Pisaq is a complex which served as a royal residence for the Incan King Pachacutec. Legend has it that the location was the ruler’s premier choice for recreation, and it is easy to see why. At every turn here, you will find majestic Incan buildings with fountains, lookout towers, and finely designed terraces.
You will not only find the astonishing water ducts and terraces that are cut into solid rock, but also a Sun Temple that is thought to be one of the prime attraction at Machu Picchu!
Pisaq has even more to offer! Incredibly, Pisaq offers the delightful contrast of a charming modern village with a thriving market.
Once the guided tour is over, you will be driven back to the town where you can explore the local foods, spices, jewelry, and crafts.The locals can be spotted here dressed in traditional garb around town, at the port, the local church or simply relaxing around town.
This destination is surely one of the richest in unique experiences.
Around 11 or 12 PM, we will start for our next destination: Ollantaytambo. 40 minutes or so into the drive we will have a short recess for delicious buffet lunch at one of the most prestigious restaurants in the valley. Right after lunch, we will continue with a relaxing thirty minutes drive to reach Ollantaytambo.
History has it that Incan Emperor Pachacuti built Ollantaytambo and its ceremonial center to be his royal estate. The town has 4 groups of incredibly well-preserved buildings which contain chambers and watchtowers, among other fascinating constructions. Sun Temple is right at the center of the town, but what truly deserves a special mention is known as Bath of the Nusta, an annex to the Temple of the Sun.
What is so impressive about the buildings, enormous terraces and megalithic wall here is that it appears the Incans created the process of stacking the gigantic stones without mortar completely by trial and error. And, of course, the process was every bit as amazing as the building of the pyramids.
After the guided tour of Ollantaytambo, we will take a train ride for an hour and 45 minutes to disembark at Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu.
Overnight: Aguas Calientes hotel
There are two options concerning your journey to Machu Picchu. While most active travelers may choose to leave early and hike their way to the citadel— a journey which might require about two hours— others may opt for a ride in a comfortable shuttle that will have us traveling along a winding road, with breathtaking views of mountain tops from afar.
Amazingly, in an astonishing display of engineering and construction, Machu Picchu is situated on the edge of the walls towering over the Urubamba River.
Located almost 8,000 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu was built by the Incas around 1450. It was a royal estate and religious retreat during the Incan era and was visited by the greatest emperors of the period. It is also the resting place of Incan rulers.
Although the citadel was abandoned about a century later during the Spanish Conquest, it remains notable today for the excellence of its preservation: the quality of the original architecture is awe-inspiring. The elevated location offers breathtaking views of both the surrounding mountains and the Sacred Valley below. Some of the outlying buildings here have been restored to give visitors an idea of what they looked like when they were first built.
At Machu Picchu, you will be guided through a two-hour tour of this Pre-Columbian complex. It is one of the most significant and most visited places in Peru; the premier icon of ancient Incan civilization.
Next up, you will visit the Temple of the Sun and the Room of Three Windows, which were dedicated to their greatest deity, the Sun God. You will also be taken to simple houses and storage areas of the Popular, or Residential, District; this is where the lower class people lived.
That done, the tour will take you to the trapezoid-shaped rooms where the Princesses lived followed by the tour of the rest of the royal area in the nobility sector. That’s not all!
Wait until you see the Monumental Mausoleum; The carved statue, which has a vaulted interior and carved drawings; this place was primarily used for rites and sacrifices.
At the completion of the tour, you’ll be driven back to Aguas Calientes, followed by a train to Ollantaytambo. The days ends with a transfer to Cusco which will have you at the hotel between 6 and 8 that evening.
Overnight: Cusco Hotel
Early this morning, a luxurious coach will take you out on a drive to Puno, offering panoramic views of the Andes and the flatlands during the six-hour drive. A buffet lunch and beverages will be served during this journey, as an English-speaking guide details out the excitement of the upcoming tour schedule.
Located on the edge of Titicaca, Puno is rich in history dating back to two thousand years. Tradition has it that the very first Inca first rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca on the orders of the Sun God, to start the Incan empire. You will have the time to relax after the journey, and then a guide will take you out on a tour of the city.
Overnight in Puno hotel
Departing early for a 30-minute ride in a motorboat, we will arrive at the floating Uros islands. Most unusually, these islands are rich in totora reeds, which is being used in both homes and transportation for its residents. The island is home to the Uros tribe, which pre-dates Incan civilization. It’s perhaps noteworthy that these islands can be moved, if necessary.
Two hours later, we will arrive at the Peninsula of Capachica.
After a lovely picnic by the lake, we will continue by motorboat to the Eco-village on Ticonata Island. Here you will find homes with thatched roofs which are copied from the pre-Incan era. You may also be interested in taking a short hike to an ancient ritual place at the top of a hill that is still used by locals for authentic ancestral ceremonies.
This community is exemplary in the fact that it shares work amongst all of its members. Later, we will have a typical dinner, bonfire followed shortly by native dances performed by the locals so that you may gain some knowledge of authentic folklore and culture. Then one of the wise men will explain about their magic world and traditions, followed by locals who will tell us all about their daily life. It will be one of the most memorable evenings of your life under the stars.
The second day, right after an early breakfast, we will be back on the boat to travel to Amantani Island. This will take 2 to 3 hours, depending on the weather and the season. At Amantani, you will learn the customs and traditions of the area.
The homes here are mostly made of earth, and the residents are known for their textiles and ceramics. There are no cars on the island—and no machines allowed. All farming here is done by hand. Although solar panels have been installed on some homes recently, most still only have access to battery or hand-cranked power.
Afterward, we will return to Puno, arriving around 4:30 pm.
Overnight: Puno hotel
We will depart from Puno around 9 am for a 5-hour drive through colorful Andean Valley. Our next destination is Colca Canyon. This is one of the deepest canyons in the world, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
You will also be taken to the lovely Calera Hot Springs. The location has large, clean pools, changing rooms, showers, a snack bar and even a small museum.
On the second day, we will have a short bus ride to Cruz del Condor, where you will see the Andean Condors that are native to the place. It’s amazing to watch them fly along the canyon walls.
From here we will return to Arequipa to spend the night.
Overnight: Arequipa hotel
After this unforgettable tour, you will be taken to Lima for your return flight home. If your flight does not leave until evening, we will be happy to suggest activities, shopping, and restaurants— to keep yourself busy. A lovely meal and some exquisite mementos for relatives back home will keep this vacation forever etched in your memory.