MYSTICAL SYMBOLS OF INCA EMPIRE, PRESERVED COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE AND ANDES MOUNTAINS; MACHU PICCHU, CUSCO AND LIMA, PERU
Day 1 – Arrive Lima
There are direct flights to/from Lima, Peru from USA cities, such as New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Huston and Los Angeles. At Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport, the Lima Hotel situated across the airport terminals, offers convenient one night stay before the next morning direct flight to Cusco. The departure flights to Cusco take place from morning to early afternoon due to Cusco’s elevation and weather conditions.
Day 2 – Arrive Cusco, Sacred Valley
Green farmlands, golden grasslands and colorfully dressed farmers paint the image of the Sacred Valley. We arrive to Cusco and begin our organized private tour to the Sacred Valley. En route to the valley, the visit to Alpaca and Lama Farm introduces their habitat, habits and traditional fiber weaving and coloring process. Traversing the scenic route we arrive to the village of Pisac and its artisan market displaying colorful textiles, ceramics and souvenirs. Along the river, a traditional Peruvian restaurant provides a perfect stopover to sample the regional cuisine. The drive to the town of Ollantaytambo leads to an archeological site of Inca fortress, Inca Temple, agricultural terraces and unique storehouses built high in the mountains. In the Sacred Valley, the riverside resort provides a wonderful lodging, peaceful setting and excellent cuisine.
Day 3 – Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu
A scenic train route to Aguas Calientes follows along the river banks, green valleys, and mountains. In the morning, we transfer to Ollantaytambo train station and begin a multi-hour Vistadome train journey to Aguas Calientes. In Aguas Calientes, we walk to our hotel, enjoy simple lunch and take a scheduled bus to Machu Picchu. At the Machu Picchu entrance, we are welcomed by our private guide and begin discovering the Machu Picchu. The cultural and architectural symbols of Inca Empire are well preserved at the Temple of the Sun, Intihuatana Rock, Temple of Three Windows and Royal Tomb. We spend our free time along the green terraces, steep mountains and the resident lamas.
Day 4 – Machu Picchu, Wayna Picchu
High in the mountains, Inca Empire’s ancient city reflects its innovative and challenging design. The multi-day visit enables thorough exploration and absorption of Machu Picchu’s impressive beauty. An early morning Wayna Picchu hike follows a designated steep pathway overlooking green valleys and snow covered mountain tops. After a strenuous hike we arrive to the top of Wayna Picchu and enjoy awe-inspiring Machu Picchu views. The descend pathway guides to Machu Picchu base where we enjoy Peruvian style lunch buffet at the Sanctuary Lodge. An afternoon passes lounging along the steep mountain terraces.
Day 5 – Machu Picchu, Cusco
The morning visit to Machu Picchu offer mystical feeling and quieter time. Each visit surprises with changing weather and different lighting. An early afternoon multi-hour direct train to Cusco guides along the scenic valley, snow covered mountain peaks, rocky terrain and flowing river. The relaxing journey presents beautiful scenery of farmlands, local life and horse riding farmers along the river banks. We arrive in Cusco in the late afternoon and settle in the colonial style hotel. A stroll along the Plaza de Arms guides to Cusco’s traditional restaurant to sample the regional cuisine.
Day 6 – Cusco
The colonial architecture, archeological sites, religious symbols and ancient Inca culture define Cusco’s appeal. The guided tour starts at the main square of the Plaza de Armas. Renaissance style Basilica Cathedral and the baroque style Jesuit Church symbolize the grand colonial architecture. A stroll along the cobblestone streets leads to the ancient astronomical observatory of Koricancha and its Temple of Sun, and the Convent of San Domingo. The drive to north of Cusco reveals to Saqsaywaman Inca ruins, often described as fortress due to its high location and terrace walls. An archeological site of Tambomachay represents a natural spring used by the Incas to channel the water to three waterfalls. In the early evening, we return to our hotel and enjoy dinner at the local restaurant.
Day 7 – Lima
Peru’s capital city of Lima reveals a historic town square, colonial architecture, ancient cultural sites and coastal scenery. Day begins with an early morning flight from Cusco to Lima. An afternoon Lima tour guides to the Plaza de Armas that exhibits the Cathedral of Lima and the Government Palace designed in the French baroque style. A visit to the Monastery of San Francisco presents an ancient books library and contains the Catacombs, the first cemetery of Lima. The drive along the coast guides to Miraflores, a vibrant neighborhood with flower gardens, scenic beaches and restaurants. In Miraflores, we explore a pre-Inca site of Huaca Pucllana, a clay pyramid and cultural museum. An evening passes at the Larcomar shopping center browsing for souvenirs and dining at the ocean view restaurant serving excellent seafood cuisine.
Day 8 – Lima Departure
We spend the half day along the coast of Miraflores district, walking along the beach and having lunch at the ocean view restaurant. In the afternoon, we transfer to Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport for our international flight.
Sacred Valley – The beautiful valley, colorful farmlands and Incas’ symbols describe the Sacred Valley. Urubamba River runs from the majestic Andes Mountains. The section of the Urubamba River between Pisac and Ollantaytambo is called Wilcamayu (Sacred River). The quaint village of Pisac is known for its Sunday Market where villagers from nearby and farther away villages sell artisan products. The fair-priced products include Alpaca products, colorful textiles, ceramics, and cultural souvenirs. The scenery of green valleys and fertile farmlands complements the colorful traditional costumes worn by farmers as they pass the streets and work in the fields. In the Sacred Valley, Lamas and Alpacas graze the fertile lands and provide the base resource for the high quality Peruvian fabrics. The visit to Alpaca and Lama farm offers a glimpse into the traditional weaving and coloring process of the luxurious fibers and an education about their habits and habitat. The exploration continues to the town of Ollantaytambo that includes an interesting archeological site of Inca fortress and Inca Temple. It was originally built as a royal estate for Inca Emperor. It displays constructed terraces used for agricultural purposes and unique storehouses built high in the mountains to store and protect crops from the invading forces.
Aguas Calientes – The scenic Urubamba River flows along the Aguas Calientes town, a central base for exploring Machu Picchu. The trains from Ollantaytambo (train station in the Sacred Valley) and Poroy (train station near Cusco) arrive to Aguas Calientes train station. Visitors to Aguas Calientes can find different types of accommodations, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. Many restaurants create a lively atmosphere with live Peruvian music where visitors happily engaged in dancing and singing. Every fifteen minutes, bus departs from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and follows a zigzag shaped pathway offering amazing scenery. The picturesque hiking route up the mountains offers an alternative walking route from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. After strenuous hikes and excursions, the sulfur containing thermal springs offer popular retreat for locals and tourists.
Machu Picchu – Words cannot fully explain the spiritual place of Machu Picchu. Sometimes referred to as “Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for Inca Emperor. During the Spanish Conquest, Incas abandoned Machu Picchu as an official Inca ruling site to protect it from being discovered. In 1911, an American historian Hiram Bingham introduced Inca city to the world prompting many tourists to visit Inca ruins since then. The visit to Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu hike require advanced ticket reservations. The early morning schedule allows us to avoid the crowds and observe the morning sun peeking through the mountains. A scheduled private guide meets us at the entrance to Machu Picchu and we begin our climb up the rocky stairs to a hill with spectacular view. The walk to the Temple of the Sun displays an important site used by Incas as a ceremonial place to worship the sun. The Incas history continues to be studied and Intihuatana Rock is believed to serve the purpose of astronomical and agricultural calendar. On the eastern side of the Sacred Plaza, the Temple of Three Windows is situated with carved stone and three large windows. The walk to the Royal Tomb explores a stone carved altar and niches that were used for offerings. We spend our free time along Machu Picchu’s steep terraces, beautiful mountains and the resident lamas living in the Inca ruins.
Cusco – Recognized as the ancient capital of Inca Empire, Cusco contains a wealth of Inca and colonial treasures. The main square of the Plaza de Armas displays a Renaissance style Basilica Cathedral, constructed on the site where Inca Wiracocha Palace once stood. The religious structure of Jesuit Church displays classic baroque style architecture. Navigating through the narrow cobbled streets we encounter small shops, restaurants, galleries and cafés. Cusco’s high elevation necessitates gradual altitude adjustment and local remedy of mate de coca tea relieves some altitude discomfort. The walk to Koricancha and Convent of San Domingo presents a spectacular cultural site reflecting both Andean and European cultures. Koricancha served as an astronomical observatory and exhibits the Temple of Sun. The short drive north of Cusco leads to Saqsaywaman Inca ruins, often described as fortress with its high location and terrace walls. The terrace architecture reflects the Incas’ precision and workmanship that shows a zigzag design when observed from the side. A hillside observation point offers beautiful Cusco views. The Incas worship of water can be observed at the archeological site of Tambomachay where Incas used the natural spring to channel the water to three waterfalls. In the center of Cusco, the evening stroll along its cobblestone streets reveals wonderful restaurants full of chatter and serving excellent cuisine.
Lima – Peru’s capital city of Lima is full of energy, culture and an amazing cuisine. The city layout is vastly spread out and offers interesting districts to explore. In the historic old town, the Plaza de Armas reflects a central square displaying colorful architecture and 17th century bronze fountain in the center. The Plaza de Armas exhibits the Cathedral of Lima and the Government Palace reflecting French baroque style. The short walk to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Monastery of San Francisco, presents a monastery that encompasses ancient books library and Catacombs. Situated under the monastery, the Catacombs were originally used as a first cemetery of Lima. The drive to Lima’s coastal district of Miraflores illustrates an upscale neighborhood with flower gardens, beautiful beaches, souvenir market, shopping center and amazing restaurants. The Miraflores district hosts historic pre-Incan ruins of Huaca Pucllana, a clay pyramid and cultural museum located a short distance from the coast. Along the coast, Larcomar shopping center encompasses interesting boutiques and restaurants serving excellent seafood cuisine.
Peru for Less – The selected Peru for Less travel agency has an extensive experience and specializes in Latin American expeditions. The Peru for Less representative diligently accommodated our schedule, interests and desired itinerary.
Climbing Wayna Picchu – The marvelous landscape of Inca city ruins, panoramic mountain views and majestic Wayna Picchu Mountain in background illustrate the beauty of Machu Picchu. As the morning light appears, we notice the steep hiking trail leading atop the Wayna Picchu. It deserves an admiration as it reflects the innovative planning and construction skills of the Inca. The Wayna Picchu trail follows the skillfully designed pathway with large stone steps. Along the way, there are amazing views of the green valley, snow covered mountain tops and Machu Picchu. The strenuous climb requires steady movement and periodic rest to properly acclimate with the rising altitude levels. Atop the Wayna Picchu, an astonishing image appears of the vast landscape surrounding Machu Picchu. After this exhilarating hike, we spend some time atop the Wayna Picchu reflecting and imagining the ancient Inca life.
Pulpo al Olivo (Octopus in Olive Sauce) – The wonderful texture, flavor and scent of the sea describe Pulpo al Olivo. This simple appetizer exemplifies unique Peruvian coastal cuisine by mixing fresh seafood with herbs, limes, olives and olive oil. The boiled octopus is thinly sliced, coated in the olive sauce and served on thinly sliced toasted bread. The texture of the light creamy sauce made with Botija olives, lime juice, olive oil and eggs perfectly balances the light-textured octopus. The purple color of the Botija olives beautifully colors the delicious sauce. Pulpo al Olivo offers an introduction to the subtle tastes of coastal Peru.
Chupe de Camarones – The southern Arequipa Region is known for the hearty traditional soups created with varied ingredients of meat, fish, white cheese, spices and vegetables. The traditional Chupe de Camarones utilizes crayfish as the main ingredient giving its distinct flavor. Different versions include shrimp or other seafood as the main ingredient. The Chupe de Camarones consists of the Peruvian large corn, yellow potatoes, green fava beans, white soft cheese, Aji Amarillo (yellow chili pepper) and crayfish. The thickness of the soup can be controlled by adding milk or cream at the end of the cooking process. The regional yellow chili peppers enhance the soup’s flavor and its beautiful yellow color. This hearty soup is a must to try when in Peru.
Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel and Wellness – The 17th century colonial land along scenic Vilcanota River serves as a peaceful setting for Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel. Situated one hour from Cusco and 30 minutes from Ollantaytambo train station, the hotel creates a tranquil setting with the soothing sounds of flowing river and mountain views. The recommended colonial rooms present the elegant interior décor, inspiring Peruvian art and Latin American mystique. The hotel’s restaurant serves an excellent cuisine, including creative dinner selections and refreshing breakfast. A stay at Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel delivers a peaceful harmony.
Sumaq Hotel – The riverside setting, Peruvian interior décor and excellent customer service differentiate Sumaq Hotel. The inviting lobby displays the regional accents of bright orange, yellow and brown colors, Peruvian style ornaments and furniture. The recommended higher floor junior suites with river and mountain views display Peruvian décor and art. Located in Aguas Calientes, Sumaq Hotel offers an exceptional service including the Machu Picchu bus pick-up at the front door. Sumaq Hotel’s accommodation packages include excellent breakfast buffet and artistic multi-course dinner. The charming decor, warm atmosphere, excellent cuisine and great customer service create a relaxing stay.
Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel – The quaint narrow cobblestone streets, art galleries, historic squares, restaurants and boutiques are within walking distance to Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel. This charming hotel represents a courtyard style colonial mansion and exhibits colonial and Peruvian décor. The colorful art, beautiful architecture and excellent cuisine create a cozy warmth of Latin American home. The provided in-room oxygen system provides acclimatization support to altitude. The heated bathroom floors and excellent buffet breakfast create welcoming morning start. Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel offers classic luxury, excellent location and warmth of a home.
JW Marriott Hotel Lima – The coastal cliffs, scenic beaches and colorful gardens of Miraflores district serve as picturesque setting for JW Marriott Hotel Lima. The modern luxury, spacious design and ocean scenery offer a peaceful relaxation. The recommended ocean view rooms offer wonderful scenery and serenity. JW Marriott Hotel Lima is located near the Larcomar shopping center with plentiful boutiques, souvenir shops and trendy restaurants. The convenient beach access, beautiful gardens, lively restaurants with ocean views create a welcoming destination and serves as a perfect base to discover Lima.