Empire of the Incas

Day 1 - Arrive Lima: We meet you on your arrival in Lima airport and check you into the comfortable airport hotel for overnight. (Note: Daily breakfasts are included.   Other Meals included in land cost are designated as BL (Box Lunch), L (Lunch), D (Dinner)

Day 2 - Sunday Arequipa: We transfer to our hotel overlooking the Chili River, with the classic view of El Misti Volcano just to the west. You have the remainder of the morning free to acclimate. Arequipa’s major points of interest are within easy walking distance of our hotel.We spend the afternoon touring the most popular of these: the Santa Catalina Convent, and the Museo de Santuarios Andinos, better known as the Inca Mummy Museum.

Day 3 - Monday to Lake Titicaca: We travel by van up into the highlands on a highway which climbs clockwise around the western flank of Chachani Volcano. At Pampa Cañahuas, a high plain north of Chachani, we see troops of wild vicuñas, the graceful relative of the llama and alpaca. The country is relatively dry, and we pass few signs of habitation along our route until we cross a 4,528 metre /14,852 ft pass and descend into the basin of Lake Titicaca. The highest navigable lake in the world at 3,856 m/12,650 ft, Lake Titicaca is intensively settled around its whole margin. The deep waters of the lake buffer the cold nights at this elevation, making the basin less harsh for agriculture than many highland zones of lesser elevations. Looking across this huge inland sea, 110 miles in length and some 45 miles in width, we see the impressive snowpeaks of Bolivia’s Royal Range. We visit the famous burial towers at Sillustani, then continue to our hotel overlooking the lake, just east of the city. BL

Day 4 - Tuesday Taquile Island: We transfer to the port and board a launch for the 3½-hour cruise to Taquile Island. Taquile’s rocky, terraced slopes rise precipitously from the waters in the center of the lake. Formerly a private hacienda, the Quechua-speaking islanders regained ownership in the mid-twentieth century, and have been receiving tourists into their homes since the early 1980’s. Half a century ago, a trip to the island was an adventure, often an overnight trip in precarious sailboats. Now cooperatives of island families operate comfortable motor launches to make the trip a delightful immersion into another world. We spend a delightful afternoon hiking on the island. L

Day 5 - Wednesday Taquile Island/Puno: We have a second day to explore this entrancingly beau­tiful and peaceful island. Only four miles long and less than a mile wide, the island has hidden beaches, hill­top shrines, and a gentle and industrious population of Que­chua peasants who welcome us wherever we go. We depart by boat in the afternoon, and visit the astonishing floating reed island com­mun­ities of the Uros Indians. Return to the mainland, overnight in hotel.  L

Day 6 - Thursday La Raya Pass/Cuzco: We travel westward across the northern Peruvian Altiplano. The mountains gradually approach as we climb up to spectacular La Raya Pass (4,330 m/14,202 ft). After crossing this pass, we descend along the beautiful valley of the Vilcanota River. This important river flows northwest through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to Machu Picchu. Beyond the famous Lost City of the Incas, it becomes known as the Urubamba River and then the Ucayali River, as it flows northward into the Amazon. Our major afternoon visit is the magnificent Viracocha Temple at Raqchi. We continue down into the narrow valley of Cuzco (3,310 m/10,857'). We check into a comfortable hotel adjacent to the Korikancha, the Inca Sun temple, for two nights. BL

Day 7 - Friday Cuzco: We spend the morning touring the city's fascinating streets, pal­aces and temples on foot.  Many of the streets retain the stone Incan walls of the former palaces which made up the heart of the city. Highlights include the Santo Domingo church/Koricancha complex, Casa Kusi Cancha, and San Blas Plaza. Your afternoon is open to visit museums or to shop.  Cuzco’s night life is also full of variety, with strolling musicians contributing traditional Andean music in most of the restaurants.   B 

Day 8 - Saturday Trek: Briefing Prior to departing for the trek, we meet for an orientation briefing by our guide, who reviews in detail the packing list, the details of the route and many other issues of the upcoming trek. You have the remainder of the day to visit the museums and colonial sites that have tempted you during your city tour of the previous day. B

Day 9 - Sunday Commence Trek: We depart Cuzco by private van to our trailhead in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. With our Que­chua porters transporting the camp gear, we walk carrying only light packs. The first day’s route is mainly level as we hike along the tur­bulent Vilca­no­ta River, with mag­nificent views north to Nevado Vero­nica (5,900 m/ 19,000'). Explore the Inca city of Llac­ta­pata, and continue up the Cusichaca River to camp at 3,000 m (9,842'). LD

Day 10 - Monday Warmiwañusqa: We climb steeply up into magi­cal forest of endemic Polylepis trees, with gnarled trunks and red­dish, papery bark. At last we emerge above the tree­line, where the views from Warmiwañusqa Pass (4,200 m/ 13,776') justify all the hard work. You gaze east to the Huay­nay peaks and west into the rugged Vilcabamba Range. We des­cend to our camp in the valley bottom at Paccaymayo. (3,720 m/ 12,200'). LD

Day 11 - Tuesday Sayaqmarka: Soon after leaving camp we encounter the Inca out­post of Runkurakay, a small fortification. The trail continues steeply upward until we reach the second pass at 3,860 m/12,661', and enjoy views north to the 18,000’ peaks of the Urubamba Range, and the even higher peaks of Pumasillo in the western Vilcabamba Range. We descend to the res­tored ridgetop townsite of Sayaq­marka (3,580 m/11,745 ft). From Sayaqmarka onward, most of the trail is finely paved granite blocks. We camp on a spectacular ridgetop above the ruins of Phuyo­pata­marka (3,495 m/ 11,460') with mag­ni­fi­cent views down to the Vilcanota River and the Vilcabamba Range. LD

Day 12 - Wednesday Machu Picchu: Climb to an ancient cer­e­mon­ial lookout on a granite knoll directly above our camp. From here, priests undoubtedly saluted the spirit of the sacred mountain Sal­cantay (6,275 m/20,580') directly south of us. We descend on a fine Inca road through exo­tic cloud forest habitat. Orchids and hummingbirds are com­mon along this spec­tac­ular section of the trail high above the river. After visiting the superb outpost of Winya Wayna, we traverse a steep forested mountainside along a well-engineered Inca road to emerge at the Gate of the Sun for our first view of Machu Picchu (2,430 m/ 7,970') from high above the city. Stroll down the royal road for a suitably regal entrance to the Lost City of the Incas. Tonight we are in camp by the river at the base of the ruins. We visit the colorful nearby town of Aguas Calientes. D

Day 13 - Thursday Machu Picchu: We enter the ruins early for a full day ex­plor­ing this unfor­gettable site. Those who wish to view sunrise can enter the citadel gates at 6 AM; the sun’s rays clear the mountain ridges to the east around 7.15AM. Those who prefer a later start enjoy a relaxed breakfast in camp, and join the guide for a detailed tour of the famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Return to Cuzco by train in late afternoon. Overnight in hotel.

Day 14 - Friday Lima: Fly to Lima on an early afternoon flight, and transfer to our delightful small hotel in the quiet Miraflores or San Isidro district. You have the remainder of the afternoon open for optional touring in Lima. Overnight in hotel.

Day 15 - Saturday Home: Airport transfer for passengers who depart today


Included in Land Cost:

All land transportation, in private bus or common carrier where trains are used; the Machu Picchu National Sanctuary trail fee $110 (subject to change.) Airport transfers on scheduled arrival and departure days; entrance fees to museums and sites mentioned in itinerary: Santa Catalina Convent, Museo de Santuarios Andinos, Uros Islands, Taquile island, Raqchi, Cuzco cathedral, Santo Domingo/Kori­­cancha; shared twin accommodation in comfortable hotels, one night in homes of islanders on Taquile (single hotel accommodation available at extra cost); meals as indicated; tips for group baggage handling.


Not included in Land Cost:

International and internal airfare; airport fees and border taxes; beverages with included meals; meals not specified as included in the itinerary; insurance, laundry, and other items of a personal nature; your guide's tip.

Weight Restriction: We include porterage for up to 10 kg (22 lb.) of personal gear. If your packed duffel exceeds 10 kg. In weight (including sleeping bag and pad) at the trailhead, you will have to transfer excess items from your duffel to your daypack.

Quick Facts

  • Custom Program
  • Sample itinerary 15 days:  4 nights camping, 9 nights hotel, 1 night native homestay
  • Tailor the itinerary to your preferences
  • Cruise Lake Titicaca and enjoy native homestay on Taquile Island
  • Explore magnificent Inca and colonial remains in Cuzco
  • Trek the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
  • 4-day optional Amazon Lodge Extension
  • Other add-ons available

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