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Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands
Picture of Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands

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Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands

Destination: Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru

While a visit to Machu Picchu, one of the most magical and mysterious places on Earth, is always a high point of the journey to this area, there is much more to see. This trip combines cultural exploration of the Urubamba Valley, the celebrated "Sacred Valley of the Incas" and hikes in the less visited and uncrowded Lares region north of Cusco. Lares is noted for its rural atmosphere, traditional weavers attired in colorful dress, and roving herds of alpacas and llamas - truly an authentic slice of Peruvian life. Comfortable mountain lodges provide the base for day hikes to remote passes with panorama views of waterfalls, snowy peaks, and turquoise glacial lakes; and to tiny Andean highland communities that retain much of their traditional culture where we can meet farmers and weavers. At the end we visit Machu Picchu, the crowning glory of the Incas. Maximum group size: 14;

Highlights

  • Exploring Machu Picchu, a destination whose magic and mystery lives up to the hype
  • Hiking on ancient Incan trails surrounded by soaring peaks
  • Being immersed in local Andean culture and history, both past and present
  • Relaxing in comfortable and environmentally sustainable lodges
  • Supporting local businesses that believe in sustainability

Departures and Prices

Inclusions

  • Experienced bilingual local guides (There will not be an Adventures in Good Company guide on this trip)
  • Eight nights lodging in hotels and lodges
  • Having a choice of a cultural or a hiking option on most days of the trip
  • All meals from dinner the first day through breakfast the last (and the food is amazing)
  • All transport once you arrive in Cusco, including airport transfers
  • Entrance fees to Machu Picchu

Not included: Airfare to Cusco Airport (CUZ), travel insurance (evacuation insurance is required), guide gratuities, alcoholic beverages, items of a personal nature.

Details

This trip is appropriate for active women who are interested in learning about Incan history and culture. Because of the options available each day, only limited physical conditioning is necessary for those who prefer to immerse themselves in the cultural offerings; very good physical condition is required for those who choose the hardest hikes. Footing is often difficult with lots of stones, rocks, or big steps. The range of ratings reflects the different options possible and the fact you can mix up your choices. Rating: 1 [2] [3] [4] 5

This trip combines learning about Incan culture and history with hiking in the Andean Highlands. Every day you will have a choice between two or three itineraries, which allows you to determine the most suitable balance for you. You may choose to focus on visiting ruins and towns in the Sacred Valley, to hike through the stunning countryside, or to have some days of each.

We stay one night in a 4-star hotel in Cuzco (El Mercado); and 2 nights at a 5-star hotel in Aguascalientes (InkaTerra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel). On the Lares Trail we stay in small, mountain eco-lodges that are known for exceptional comfort and hospitality and offer comfortable rooms and beds with glorious views, hot tubs, and excellent food. All rooms have private bathroom facilities.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
You'll be met at the airport upon arrival and taken to our hotel. Our first official meeting is at 1PM in the hotel lobby. After introductions and a trip orientation, we will spend the afternoon touring the main sights of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. This three to four hour tour will help us start to acclimatize to the altitude (Cusco's altitude is 11,000 feet). Walking along ancient streets, we'll visit the most important places such as the Main Square and the cathedral that was built over the Inca palace of Suntur Wasi; Qoricancha, the temple of the sun, the most important temple for Inca Culture; and the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. We'll have dinner at a local restaurant tonight and undoubtedly go to bed early. Overnight Cusco. D
DAY 2
We'll get an early morning start to our adventure in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, full of lush green fields and surrounded by striking mountain peaks. About an hour drive brings us to the archeological site of Chinchero, where colonial buildings rest atop Incan foundations, and the perfect place to start learning not only about Incan culture in the past but how it is integrated into today. After lunch we'll continue our learning in the afternoon with a visit to the natural Inca salt mines of Maras and the unique circular terraces of Moray, believed to be an Incan laboratory where they studied foreign plant species. We'll then continue to Lamay Lodge, our base for the next 2 nights, in time to settle in and relax. Today and every day, we'll have a late afternoon meeting with our guide for a daily briefing and then enjoy dinner together. B, L, D
DAY 3
You have two great options this morning. For those most interested in the culture, you can spend the morning visiting Pisaq town, visit an Andean camelid exhibition, and meet some local community members. You'll have a little time to visit both the town and market before continuing on to Viacha. Those who choose a morning hike will drive to the community of Amaru and then hike for about 2.5-3 hours, climbing up to Challwaccasa Pass at 14,200 ft where we can see the snow-capped giant peaks of Ausangate and Salcantay in the distance. We then descend to Viacha where the group will reconvene for a walk around town, learning about the agricultural activities of the community, particularly their artisanal potato growing practices.

Lunch today is a very traditional meal called a Pachamanca. The name comes from the Quechan word "pacha", meaning earth, and "manka", which means pot, and involves baking meat and vegetables together under hot stones. Yum!! After lunch we'll have a guided tour of the archeological site of Pisaq, one of the larger ruins. It was believed to originally serve as a guard to the southern entrance of the Sacred Valley and is known for particularly impressive agricultural terraces and irrigation systems that date back to Inca times. We'll have the opportunity to thoroughly explore the complex free of crowds, with the sun setting behind the peaks, before returning to Lamay Lodge for the night. B, L, D
DAY 4
Now that we have gotten a glimpse into this rich Andean tapestry, today offers the opportunity to go even deeper with an exploration into the heart of the Lares Valley. A scenic drive into the mountains along the celebrated "Inca Weaver's Trail" allows us to visit the unique and uncrowded archaeological site of Ancasmarca near the hub-town of Lares. Ancasamarca is an old Inca site known for its variety of ancient food warehouses, dwellings, and farming areas. The site was strategically located to connect the higher part of the Sacred Valley and the cloud forest communities of the Lares.

We'll have lunch in the town of Lares, after which we'll again split into groups depending on what is calling us for the afternoon. After lunch you can choose between visiting the traditional and ancient weavers' village of Choquecancha, with its imposing Inca ruins and colonial church; or hiking to the remote village of Huacahuasi. The hike starts in Cuncani and is a challenging 3 - 4 hour hike that goes over a 13,838 ft pass, passing farmhouses and fields. The local inhabitants, descendants of the Incas, have maintained their traditional way of life, growing an amazing variety of potatoes nearly year-round and using their llamas as transportation and alpacas as food and clothing.

Regardless of how you get to Huacahuasi, this is where we all spend the next 2 nights. Our lodge, which is run in joint venture with the local community and aims to protect the cultural heritage and the environment, provides an interesting insight into the evolving role of the original Andean people in both the culture and commerce of modern-day Cusco. We'll all have some time to settle into our new lodge before gathering for our daily briefing and another delicious dinner. B, L, D
DAY 5
We again have options. Yes, the hardest part of this trip may be deciding what you want to do each day! The first option is to walk through the village of Huacahuasi and learn more about its heritage and daily activities, with a possible visit to a farmer's home. Huacahuasi is a famous weavers' village, where the men still wear traditional colorful ponchos and women's attire includes wide handmade skirts and decorated hats. The expert weavers and farmers will share their stories, each depicted in artful textiles full of traditional Incan symbols and imagery. We'll then continue on a gentle 1 - 2 hour walk to the Huacahuasi waterfalls, before returning to the lodge in late morning for a Peruvian cooking class, where your skills will be tested when you share the dishes with other group members for lunch. For those who prefer to hike, your option will depend on which hike was chosen yesterday. One option is to hike starting in Quelquena and is a 2-3 hour steadily ascending hike that goes over a 12,595 ft pass. Regardless of which you choose, you'll have an unscheduled afternoon to relax, wander, or read. If you wander out from the lodge, you are immersed in scenes of community life, including women working on looms and children heading to school. B,L,D
DAY 6
We'll spend some time in the morning learning even more about the heritage and day-to-day activities of the Huacahuasi community. From there you can decide whether to spend more time exploring the Sacred Valley or hiking in the mountains. If you prefer to see more of the Sacred Valley, you will drive back for a visit to an ethnographic museum featuring the history of Peru's rich civilizations of the past. Afterwards, you'll have lunch in the Urubamba River countryside on your way to Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in South America and a fantastic place for meandering through charming maze-like streets.

Alternatively you can choose to embark on a spectacular hike through varied terrain and over a high pass to the adjacent valley. The wide and easy trail takes you uphill for 3.5-4 hours to the top of Ipsaycocha Pass (14,646 ft) where you enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains. As you hike, you may meet locals traveling from village to village with their goods and herds. You descend gently for about 40 minutes to Lake Ipsaycocha (14,081 ft), stop to enjoy lunch and relax for a bit, and then continue your descent for 2.5 hours to the village of Patacancha (12,624 ft) where high quality weavings are also produced. You'll be met by our vehicles there and transported to Ollantaytambo in time to relax before we all meet for dinner.
DAY 7
Want a quiet morning? Then enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. A gentle walk? Then leave about 7:30am to hike to Pinkuylluna, an Inca site with a magnificent view of the town as well as of the main archeological site across the valley. Something a little more strenuous to start your morning? Then leave an hour earlier and hike to even higher ruins at Pinkuylluna for even better views. Regardless of which option you choose, we'll all meet for an hour tour of the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo. From its beginnings as the royal estate of Inca-Emperor Pachacutec to a stronghold against the Spanish conquistadors for Manco Inca Yupanqui, the temple at Ollantaytambo was regarded by the Incas as one of their most important ceremonial centers. As your guide leads you through a morning tour of the temple and explains its strategic architectural planning, you will also get a sense of its mystical history: a perfect introduction to the wonder of Machu Picchu. At noon we all embark on a scenic train ride along the famous Urubamba River to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, whose charm lies in a history that began as a small railway stop and evolved into a bustling town still bisected by the train tracks. Arriving in the afternoon, we'll have time to relax in the beautiful setting of our hotel (InkaTerra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel) or go out exploring this colorful town before meeting for dinner.
DAY 8
Today we have an entire day at Machu Picchu and the exact order in which we do things will depend on how early we start. Regardless of what time we start, we begin our day with a short uphill bus ride. We'll start with a guided tour of 2 to 3 hours. Our guide will explain how the city is divided into three sections- the Sacred District, the Popular District, and District of the Priests and Nobility and help us understand the significance of the various temples and parks. Prepare to be awed by the imposing and skillful architecture of the Watchtower, the Temple of the Sun, and the royal Inca residences, among many others. The stonework has been painstakingly restored and the temples in particular are as amazing as you've heard. We'll return to the Entrance for lunch (the only place you are allowed eat in the Sanctuary) and then have more time at the site to spend as you choose. You might take a moment to quietly sit and listen to the wind as you contemplate the history of Machu Picchu and its mysterious origins; walk to the Sun Gate; or hike up either to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. Both provide dramatic views that stretch from the Urubamba River valley to the edge of the Amazon Jungle. The Sanctuary closes at 5pm but you can leave earlier if you're ready. We'll be spending our final night back at InkaTerra Pueblo where we'll share our final farewell dinner. B, L, D
DAY 9
This morning after breakfast we'll return by train, enjoying one final ride through the beauty of the Sacred Valley, and then by private vehicle to Cusco. If you're returning today, we'll have you back to the Cusco airport by 1pm and you can plan for flights out after 3pm. Alternatively you can be dropped off at your hotel if you want some more time in Cuzco. If you're staying on for more time in Peru, we'll be glad to put you in touch with people who can help you plan the rest of your time. Peru is a fascinating place and a trip to Lake Titicaca, the Nasca Lines, or into the jungle would all be amazing additions. B

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "Did this trip meet your expectations?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

Excellent and knowledgeable guides who were flexible with their expectations of the group and willing to develop knew adventures on the fly.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


Nice group of women Excellent guide Cultural adventure

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


The country itself and the culture were the highlights, but more practically, the guides (both, see below) were amazing. And of course Machu Picchu really is a once in a lifetime place to see. The hikes were also beautiful and challenging especially because of the altitude. Hiking along the Inka terraces was particularly inspiring.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


I got to see a lot of historical sites and learned about Peru's and Inca's history that exceeded my expectations.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


Trip leaders' konwledge not only of hiking trails and the of the area but also of their knowledge of pre-Inca, Inca, and post-Inca culture and ways of living. Opportunities to interact with some local folks. All of these fed into and prepared us for what we would experience and appreciate Machu Picchu when we got there. Of course, Machu Picchu was the highlight but everything we learned leading up to it was really important.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


The exposure to the culture of Peru and to the Andes was amazing.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


Loved the itinerary and the guides. They ensured that our experience was excellent.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


Our guides from Mountain Lodges of Peru were beyond terrific -- extremely knowledgeable, warm, and responsible. I loved all the places we visited, and the accommodations and food were mostly fabulous -- only one night in a less than wonderful hotel. I felt very well taken care of the entire trip.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


I came on this trip primarily to see Machu Picchu, but I really enjoyed seeing the other Incan sites, and experiencing life in the village of Huacahuasi.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2019-7/28/2019


The hikes and cultural experiences prior to Machu Picchu..a combination of great scenery, high altitude success, mountain villages and NO tourists. Fabulous lodging...Felt pampered more than I ever treat myself to.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2018-7/28/2018


Machu Picchu was amazing! But learning about the culture and seeing the indigenous people living just as they have lived for hundreds of years was an added highlight for me. And the lodges were awesome.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2018-7/28/2018


Hiking in snow with donkeys and let cal lady in sandals ... the tranquility of the countryside Food - grilled chicken was definitely the best .. the accommodation was excellent

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2018-7/28/2018


Taking photos of Peruvian people, hiking (downhill), interacting with group, great guides, fabulous food. Scenery spectacular.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2018-7/28/2018


Hiking in the snow over Challwaccasa pass. Lix our Peruvian guide. Huacahuasi village with all the children. And of course Machu Picchu. Every day was great.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2018-7/28/2018


I had no expectations so in that way they were exceeded.

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2018-7/28/2018


Loved seeing remote areas Peru and how they live

Machu Picchu and the Andean Highlands 7/20/2018-7/28/2018


  1. Where do we eat?

    All the breakfasts and dinners will be served at the lodges where you're staying. Sometimes you may have lunch on the trail. In Cuzco you will have dinner at a restaurant where you can order off the menu.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.
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