Arrive to Lima on the flight of your choice today. After picking up your luggage and clearing customs, walk across the street to the comfortable and conveniently located Ramada Costa del Sol Hotel. Settle into your room and rest up after your travels. You have an exciting trip ahead, filled with ancient ruins, local markets and the beautiful Andes Mountains!
Transfer from Puerto Maldonado airport to the river port on the Madre de Dios River. A 25 minute journey down the Madre de Dios River by motor canoe brings you to the end of the trail into Sandoval Lake Lodge. From here the trail takes you on a 2-mile walk or rickshaw ride through secondary forest, until we reach a small canal where we board canoes and are paddled 220 yards through a flooded forest of 100-foot tall Mauritia palms. As the canal opens onto the shimmering surface of the lake, we transfer to a catamaran and are leisurely paddled halfway across the lake to the lodge. After lunch and a brief rest to avoid the early afternoon heat, we once again board the catamaran and set off to explore the entire west end of the lake. Here, in the flooded palm forest we drift to the sounds of hundreds of Red-Bellied Macaws as they return to the palm forest for the night. We return to the lodge around nightfall for dinner. After dinner we will return to the canoes to look for the large and extremely rare Black Caimans. If it's a clear starlit night, we'll take advantage of the stupendous stargazing as we float in the middle of the lake.
A pre-dawn wake-up call will enable us to be on the lake for sunrise, when the resident wildlife is most active. With luck we'll encounter the family of Giant Otters which frequent the lake. Most of the fish-eating water birds around the lake actively fish in the early morning as well, and this outing should provide excellent views - and photographs - of the prehistoric-looking Hoatzins. After returning for a late breakfast, we set off into the cool understory of the tall virgin forest around the lake. We'll pass through towering wild Brazil Nut trees, and see a demonstration of how our hosts collect, open and commercialize this important natural product. Once we've eaten lunch and had an hour or so to relax, we once again board the catamaran to explore the eastern part of the lake. We hope to see one or more of the five species of monkeys, like the Brown Capuchin Monkey, which live in the forest near the lake. There is an opportunity again after dinner to try and spot some Black Caimans on the lake, or to go on a short night walk through the primary forest.
Rising once again at dawn, we have a quick snack before boarding the catamarans to explore the western end of the lake in the hope of an encounter with Giant Otters. After a late breakfast we explore some of the rainforest trails with our knowledgeable resident naturalist guide. As we walk, the forest will be brought to life as our guide explains the ecology of the rainforest and its diverse flora and fauna. We return for lunch, and then have an optional rest for those wanting to escape the early afternoon heat. For those still full of energy, there is an option to independently explore some of the forest trails. In the cooler late afternoon we will once again board the catamaran to explore the eastern end of the lake, and hopefully experience a spectacular sunset over the lake before returning to the lodge for dinner. After dinner, there is a final chance to look for Black Caiman on the lake, or to go on a short night hike through the forest.
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.
Journey into one of the most beautiful areas of Peru. The Sacred Valley often becomes one of the highlights of your trip and you will soon see why! You'll test your bargaining skills with the locals while visiting one of the great textile markets in the area. You may also hike to the inspiring ruins of Pisac or take a short walk through the countryside to the seldom-visited town of Maras, where pre-Columbian salt mines still operate today. Visit the Inca agricultural terraces of Moray, thought to have been a nursery to experiment with and modify different varieties of crops. Make your way to the living Inca city of Ollantaytambo and spend the night.
In the morning, visit the ruins and town of Ollantaytambo. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo served as a royal estate and later a refuge after the Spanish conquered Cuzco in 1537. The ruins feature expansive terraces and well-preserved architecture, and the town is still laid out as it was during the Incan empire, allowing its visitors to glimpse the history which still exists within its boundaries.
Board the train and follow the Urubamba River as it tumbles its way towards the Amazon and the sacred city of Machu Picchu. Ancient canals still bring water from the high mountains to the baths used by Inca priests. As visitors, you are welcomed to respectfully dip your hands in the cool water. After your tour of Machu Picchu, you'll return to the village of Aguas Calientes (located at the base of Machu Picchu). Enjoy one of many excellent local restaurants or end your day soaking in the hot springs after exploring one of the most magical archaeological sites in the world.
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. Later, you can 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 late afternoon you'll return by train to Cusco with your guide.
Today is free to relax and explore with your guide or on your own. You can visit the churches and surrounding ruins, such as the enormous Sacsayhuamán ruins that overlook Cusco (these ruins showcase building blocks the size of pickup trucks). 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. Live folk music and excellent food abounds in Cusco!
$730 single supplement