Welcome to Peru! Your adventure begins in Lima, where you will be collected from the airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Here you will meet your small group of fellow travellers and your local leader for a 2pm welcome meeting. Afterwards, head out to get to know the city on a walking tour of downtown Lima with your leader. Admire the colonial buildings of Plaza Mayor and visit the eerie catacombs of the Saint Francis Monastery, then head away from the tourist trail to Alameda de Chabuca Granda – an area popular with the locals. Stop off at the colourful street food stalls to sample some of Lima’s favourite sweet treats, like Peruvian donuts and mazamorra morada; porridge made from purple corn. But be sure to leave some room as tonight’s dinner is really something special. Lima has one of the world’s most revered culinary scenes, and this evening you’ll head to one of the city’s best restaurants, set in a historic house in the artistic Barranco neighbourhood. Inspired by the home-cooked food of his mother, the creative chef offers up traditional Peruvian dishes with the atmosphere of a welcoming family home.
Today you will catch a flight to Puerto Maldonado. On arrival in the afternoon, take a bus to the community port of Infierno, home to the Ese Eja peoples, an indigenous Amazonian community. Here you’ll learn about the important relationship between the Ese Eja peoples and the natural environment during visits to a Heritage House, including a museum and demonstrations of traditional handicrafts, and the local fish farm, where you’ll find out more about sustainable fishing practices and have the chance to catch your own lunch. Sit down to a meal of fresh fish and local vegetable and take the opportunity to ask your hosts any questions you may have about their culture or customs. Then, board motorised canoes and head upstream into the Amazon rainforest. Keep an eye out for macaws, herons, alligators and capybaras along the way. Nestled on the banks of the Tambopata river you’ll find the Posada Amazonas, a rustic jungle lodge owned by the Ese Eja community, and your Feature Stay accommodation for the next two nights. A paradise for nature lovers, the lodge is in perfect unity with its wild surroundings and is enveloped by a swath of lush rainforest. Gorgeous rooms are built from traditional woods, adobe bricks and clay, and feature private bathrooms and an open wall, allowing you to make the most of the spectacular location and be totally immersed in nature. Profits from the lodge go back into the local indigenous community in the form of education and training. As dusk falls, set out for a night walk to discover the fascinating nocturnal activity in the surrounding areas, then retire to the lodge for dinner.
Embrace a very early start this morning and set off into the jungle after breakfast. Take a short walk and a short boat ride to the other side of the river, then begin a walk to the Oxbow Lake – this walk should take around an hour and a half over flat, shady terrain with plenty of stops along the way. Board an open topped catamaran to explore the lake in search of birds, monkeys and maybe some otters if you’re lucky. Return to the lodge via the same route, take some time to freshen up, then take a short walk to the Chuncho Macaw Clay Lick. As the name suggests, this clay wall attracts parrots in their hundreds who come to snack on the mineral rich clay each morning, offering visitors a close up look at these vibrant creatures. Return to the lodge for lunch and take some time to enjoy the views from your room or catch up on sleep, then in the afternoon, travel by boat to a medicinal garden where a local shaman will explain the properties of the plants and trees and offer you some local alcohol to try. This evening, enjoy a boat trip in search of caimans – with the engine turned off, you’ll be treated to the wild sounds of the jungle at night.
This morning you will travel back to Puerto Maldonado, then take a short flight to Cusco, the former centre of the Incan Empire. Arrive in the early afternoon and settle in to your hotel, then head out with your leader for an orientation walk to familiarise yourself with one of South America’s oldest city and get used to the high altitude. Stop by the stunning Plaza de Armas, the heart of the city, flanked with colonial buildings and ornate churches. Visit the World Heritage-listed Cusco Cathedral, built on top of an Incan palace and one of the city’s greatest repositories of art. Here you will meet with a local historian guide who will provide expert insight on the colonial art, architecture and history of this magnificent building and the city surrounding it. The evening is free for your own discoveries – Cusco offers no shortage of excellent restaurants, and as night falls the city is swept up in a flurry of live music and late-night street food stalls.
Today you will discover more of Cusco’s charms on a walking tour with your leader. Visit the Coricancha Temple, once the most important temple in the Incan Empire. Formerly plated in thick gold, the Spanish built a Dominican church atop its walls. Meet with a local guide to uncover the secrets of the temple and the ancient civilization that first built it. Stop of at the Manos Unidas cafe – no ordinary eatery, this Intrepid Foundation supported project provides those with intellectual disabilities vocational training and practical work experience to help with future employment. Enjoy a snack and one of the best coffees in Cusco while learning about the important work of this enterprise. Afterwards, head to the San Pedro market, where you can practice your bargaining skills and take some colourful pictures, then swing by the Plaza de Armas for another look at the marvellous cathedral. The afternoon is free for further explorations – speak to your leader about the option to arrange a cooking class at a local restaurant using fair trade products, or the half-day Inkilltambo trek, exploring an archaeologic site on the city’s outskirts.
This morning, travel through the Sacred Valley towards Ollantaytambo, passing maize crops and fertile terraces carved high into the valley walls. Stop by the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, where the massive stone blocks that form the walls of this site provide an impressive picture of how greatly developed Inca engineering was. Visit the Chichubamba community to gain a greater insight into the local lifestyle with a traditional Andean lunch and a visit to some local workshops making pottery, chocolate and corn beer. Continue on to Ollantaytambo, a magnificent example of Incan urban planning and the perfect warm up for Machu Picchu. Explore Ollantaytambo’s archaeological site with an expert local guide who will discuss the evidence of the Incas’ engineering skills in the ruins of ancient aqueducts, irrigation canals, dams on the Urubamba River, imposing sets of terraces and centres of worship dedicated to Pachamama (Mother Earth). Late afternoon head to the hotel in Ollantaytambo and settle in for night.
Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu
Today, travel from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes in style, boarding the 360 Machu Picchu Train. High, domed windows offer up unbelievable views of the Andes, allowing you to sit back in comfort and take it all in. The train also features an open air observation carriage so you can completely immerse yourself in the remarkable landscape – have your camera ready as this scenic journey will be one worth remembering. Disembark the train in Aguas Calientes then take a short bus ride up the winding road to Machu Picchu, where you will be joined by a guide who will take you through the ruins and tell you stories of its history and the ancestral people of the region. The true purpose behind Machu Picchu may always be a mystery, since no historical records of the complex exist. Most archaeologists, however, believe it to be the 15th-century headquarters of Emperor Pachacuti. Due to visiting restrictions at Machu Picchu, we recommend exploring the Sun Gate and Inka Bridge before your guided tour starts. Your leader can advise how to get the most out of your visit. Later, take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes to spend the night before heading back up to Machu Picchu first thing in the morning for your second visit.
Rise before the sun and take the winding road back up to incredible Machu Picchu. On your second visit, explore more of the extraordinary architecture of the many temples, palaces and living quarters. Looking at Machu Picchu as it sits against a backdrop of forested mountains is a truly breathtaking experience. Its mortar-free design is particularly earthquake resistant and the stones are so precisely cut that, to this day, not even a knife fits between them. You’ll have time along the way to take any photos you may have missed yesterday. Take the bus back to Aguas Calientes, then catch a standard train back to Ollantaytambo. From here, you will make the drive back to Cusco for the evening.
Your Amazon and Inca adventure comes to an end after breakfast this morning. If you would like to extend your stay in Cusco, additional accommodation can be arranged in advance (subject to availability.)