Andean history comes alive in Cusco. Quechua speaking descendents of the Incas fill the streets and markets, colonial churches sit atop bases of smooth stonework laid centuries before the Conquistadors, and campesinos (Peru's rural farmers) in colorful dress move busily back and forth across the plazas. In the afternoon, you'll tour Cusco's largest open market and the adjacent witches' market. After tasting a few unique local foods, you will visit the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco, a local organization committed to preserving the region's weaving traditions. (If visiting the Sacred Valley on Sunday, you will visit their center in Chinchero instead). Watch weavers demonstrate their craft and learn about the history and processes of Peru's most well-known art form. Enjoy local exhibitions and dancing as people converge on Cusco for the weeklong celebration of the Inca sun god. The Inti Raymi Festival begins a week leading up to June 24th!
Today is free to relax and explore with your guide or on your own. Travelers can go on a city tour of the churches and surrounding ruins, such as the enormous Sacsayhuamán ruins that overlook Cusco (these ruins showcase building blocks the size of SUVs). You can also wander through the bustling Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco, shop for love potions in the local markets, or people watch from the cafes and restaurants that line these lovely streets. For those bursting with energy, horseback riding, mountain biking, or even whitewater rafting (Class III-IV) can be arranged. The evening is yours to take in some of Cusco's varied and exciting nightlife.
During the days leading up to the Inti Raymi Celebration, Cusco is full of life and activity. Every day has its events, from daytime expositions, street faire and people dancing in the streets. In the evenings, live music can be heart from the best Peruvian groups at Plaza de Armas, drawing crowds for the free concerts. In addition, actors participate in free outdoor plays, depicting historical events and important Incan figures.
The Sacred Valley is an area full of major Inca ruins and ancient villages. You'll wind your way past snow-capped mountains, Inca ruins and ancient villages. You'll test your bargaining skills with the locals while visiting one of the great textile markets in the area. You may hike to the inspiring ruins of Pisac, or take a short walk through the countryside to the seldom-visited town of Maras and its pre-Columbian salt mines (still in use today with salt being collected in traditional fashion) as well as the Inca agricultural terraces of Moray, thought to have been a nursery to experiment with and modify different varieties of crops. Eventually, you will make your way to the living Inca city of Ollantaytambo where you can relax for the night. Tonight, relax and sip wine in front of a fire beneath the ruins of Ollantaytambo as you prepare for your trek on the Inca Trail.
Walk in the footsteps of the great Inca civilization as you journey along their ancient trail to the sacred city of 'Machu Picchu'. Andean history comes to life along this ancient route as each day you pass ever larger ruins. Scenery changes from snowcapped mountains to lush green cloudforest. The trek is made with pilgrims from all over the world, and your friendly crew of guides and porters will take great care of you along the way.
Tthe group descends 3,000 feet from their campsite at Phuyapatamarca to reach spectacular Machu Picchu in the afternoon. Explore the ruins and continue to the village of Machu Picchu Pueblo (formerly called Aguas Calientes) below the ruins.
Today is your chance to watch the sunrise at Machu Picchu and to listen to the spirits of the city's past inhabitants before the hikers from the Inca Trail arrive. You can choose to book a permit to climb the sacred peak of Huayna Picchu, hike to the Sun Gate which overlooks the ruins or take a walk through the lush cloudforest to the Temple of the Moon. In the afternoon, you'll return by train to Cusco with your guide. (Let us know if you would like help arranging entrance fees or hiking permits for today – these are not included and sell out in advance!)
Today join the crowds for the main day topping off the week long Inti Raymi festival. The Festival of the Sun begins in front of Santo Domingo church, and then continues in a procession to the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán. The streets are covered in flowers and people preparing the way for the procession. Here crowds gather to watch the 5-6 hour performance during which time you will see many brightly dressed actors and dancers reenact this ancient Inca ceremony, including speeches and a sacrifical llama!
As a part of our tour, you will receive a VIP pass to sit front and center at the festival, enjoying the best views to be had. Your guide with accompany you to the festival, explaining all of the meanings behind the proceedings. Click here for amore detailed account of the festival.
$723 single supplement