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With a wealth of history, ancient traditions and rich culture Peru is an insatiable country that richly rewards those who travel there. From the Pacific coast the mighty Andes rise steeply in massive groups of soaring mountains and deep canyons. This expedition starts in the fascinating city of Cusco (Qosqo), capital of the once great Inca empire. Heading into the Vilcabamba mountain range, following an ancient Inca roadway and a landscape scattered with mystical Inca ruins before finally following the meandering Rio Urubamba through the Sacred valley and through tropical jungle to the highlight; Machu Picchu before returning to Cusco.
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Upon arrival in Cusco we will check into our hotel. You will then have time to explore this stunning capital of the ancient Inca Empire. Conquered by the Spanish in the 15th century the streets of Cusco still house remains of Inca walls and archways which now serve as foundations for Spanish colonial buildings. As in Inca days the heart of the city is the Plaza de Armas, where local traders set up vibrant markets selling crafts, exotic fruits from the nearby jungle and delicious chocolate (cacao) too! This evenings meal could well include a testing of the local delicacies such as stuffed hot peppers, guinea pig and fish! (Hotel )
Today we will take a hike through the truly stunning countryside surrounding Cusco, while we acclimatize to the altitude. The options are boundless and include exploring Inca ruins such as Sacsaywaman and Tambomachay; together with a patchwork of farming country, where horses are still used to plough fields. Pass through picturesque villages with traditional mud houses, and colourful local markets where Quechua Indians sell their rainbow coloured handicrafts. Lunch will be eaten somewhere with a view with a chance to take photos and inspire us for our adventures the following day. We will return by private vehicle to Cusco for a slap up meal and a hotel bed. (Hotel. B/D)
As the sun gets up so will we. A private transfer will bring us to the mountain village of Mollepata ( 2,900 m) where we will have breakfast whilst our mules are loaded for the start of this five day adventure. For those who have yet to adapt to the ‘thin air’ today’s walk will ease us into the high passes of the Andes with some superb views along the way. This evenings campsite is at Soraypampa (3,850 m) with glorious views of Mount Salcantay standing at 6,271m and Mount Huamantay (5,910). This campsite is the highest and coldest of the week but with a good 3 course meal and maybe a taste of the traditional drink Pisco sour we should sleep well before continuing our trek in the morning. (Camp. B/L/D)
Early to bed, early to rise! After a hearty breakfast we set off up towards the impressive Mount
Salcantay climbing a steep series of switchbacks known locally as the 7 Culebras ( 7 snakes). Salcantay pass (4.700 m) is our highest point on this trek and awards us with magnificent views of both Mount Salcantay and Mount Huamantay. Descending into the often kinder climates of the cloud forest we will stop for some lunch (approx 3,750 m). The afternoon sees the scenery change from mountain terrain to more tropical climate and our nights camp will be at about 2,600 m or 2,900 m depending on how we have done so far. Being at a lower altitude these camps are far warmer than previous nights. (Camp. B/L/D)
After a little bit of a lie in, today we head into tropical vegetation and with it warmer weather! The walking today is easier, heading downhill and following the Rio Santa Teresa to the road-head just outside the village of La Playa. Along the way we will notice just how much terrain and climate have changed as we enter the coffee, coca leaf, banana and other fruit plantations. Keep a lookout for Gallito de las Rocas (Peru’s national bird). At La Playa a cold beer will be waiting before we set off to our evenings camp at Lucmabamba (2,050 m). (Camp B/L/D)
Today we will head uphill once again to climb through tropical jungle with our goal as the Inca site of Llactapata (2,700 m). Below us the mighty Rio Urubamba snakes through the sacred valley and on past Machu Picchu. Llactapata is perched on a most scenic ridge presenting a rarely admired view of Machu Picchu. Along the climb we will again see the local farms of coffee, coca leaf, bananas and other jungle crops as well as a change in the vegetation. The descent to the hidroelectrica train station takes us past the over flow of the Hydro-electric power station that provides much of the electricity for Cusco. From the station we either take the train (unreliable) or walk the beautiful two hours along the Urubamba river to Aguas Calientes, and our hotel for the evening. In the village there are hot springs for those who wish to soak their tired limbs. (Hotel. B/L)
Refreshed from a night in Aguas Calientes we awake early and take an early morning bus to Machu Picchu ‘’Lost city of the Incas’’. Discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu is without doubt an awe inspiring sight which will leave you spellbound with its mystical atmosphere. Together with the exquisitely perfected carved stonework and the striking location on which it stands, Machu Picchu will make you feel like you have entered a magical world preserved in time. We can explore not only the main site with our expert guide but also Huayna Picchu (the towering granite peak over looking Machu Picchu), on which there are remains of agricultural terraces. The peak rewards those who made the effort with stupendous views of Machu Picchu. Climbing Huayna Picchu however is not for the faint hearted, having an extremely steep and narrow pathway. Other sites include the Inca drawbridge, Machu Picchu Mountain, the Temple of the moon or even Putukusi Mountain ( a 2 to 3 hour hike up and back from Aguas Calientes). Following lunch an afternoon train will bring us back to Cusco in time for a good nights rest. (Hotel. B/L)
There is simply so much to see and do in and around Cusco that you will be spoilt for choice. Further trekking would get you to see yet more Inca sites. Cusco’s museums house everything from art to mummies and ceramics. A baroque cathedral, a range of churches and many old colonial buildings for those with architectural interest. Stalls of crafts and textiles abound Cusco and make great souvenirs. Maybe a trip to the picturesque village of Pisac renowned for its bakery and colourful markets. Or maybe a cameloid park where you will find alpacas, llamas, vicunas and guanacos, all part of the cameloid family, minus the humps! or even visit a salt factory where they mine salt by evaporating underground slat water in pools. .
From Cusco one can go white water rafting (grades 2 to 4 normally), biking (from mad down hill to gentle rides through local landscapes), rock climbing, horse riding, quad biking, motor biking. So be assured you will not be lost for activities to see and do. (Hotel.B)
After an exhausting, but unforgettable time you will take home with you lasting memories of this truly magical country. As you board your flight home you will surely leave part of your heart behind and one day want to return to this enchanting kingdom.
Transport within Peru
Accommodation and food
Personal travel insurance
All other items not mentioned in the programme.
PASSPORT, VISA & VACCINATIONS
Current 10 year passport is required.
90 day tourist visa granted on entry.
Tetanus, yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis, meningitis. Check with your GP or Foreign Office for the latest recommendations before departure.