Peru - Land of the Incas (July 2013)
Legend has it that the Sun God had his two children spring from the waters of Peru's Lake Titicaca to create Cuzco and from that the entire Inca Empire. At its peak the Inca Empire was broad in scope but its central core was the city of Cuzco, the Sacred Valley its source of sustenance, and Machu Picchu its lasting legacy. This program weaves together the Incan lore with the culture of modern day Peru. You will start in Lima with its cosmopolitan atmosphere and exciting nightlife then travel to the Sacred Valley for an introduction to the Incan culture; an overnight stay in Machu Picchu allows the once-in-a –lifetime experience of sunrise at Machu Picchu and a stay in Cuzco offers a Colonial city with an Incan past combined with an unexpectedly vibrant restaurant scene. Dinners at gay-owned restaurants in Lima and Cuzco and a very limited group size adds to the experience.
You board your flight for Peru, arriving in Lima late in the evening of the same day. After arrival formalities you are met by your guide and taken to your private vehicle that will take you to your hotel which is located in Miraflores, Lima's most prestigious area and located on the coast. Your room will be waiting but if you still have some energy, it is South America and it is Friday night so your guide will have many suggestions for places that you can visit whether that is a quiet bar or a lively nightclub.
Since you arrived late last night, and may have stayed out even later, we have allowed time for a late and leisurely breakfast and have delayed any activities until mid-morning. At that time your guide will be waiting to take you to the Larco Herrera Museum where you are privileged to have a private guided tour of the museum by a curator. Founded in 1926, the museum provides an excellent overview of 3,000 years of Peruvian history. Located in a unique 18th Century mansion built over a 7th Century pre-Columbian pyramid, it is one of the few museums in the world where selected visitors (such as you) can enter the storage areas where over 45,000 artifacts are stored. You have time for lunch and you will receive a list of recommended restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. In the afternoon you will be taken to a family home where a member of the family will, over a glass of wine, explain to you their collection of pre-Columbian art. One of the advantages of a group limited to 8 guests is that areas of interest and even restaurants are available to you but would not be available to groups of 30 or 40. This evening you will enjoy dinner at SAQRA restaurant (Breakfast and Dinner included).
Today you will fly to Cuzco and go from sea level to over 11,000 feet. To help you adjust we first take you to the Urubamba Sacred Valley not only because of its historical significance but because it is located at a lower level allowing you to adjust more rapidly to the altitude before visiting Machu Picchu and Cuzco. Upon arrival in the valley you will have the privilege of enjoying a picnic lunch with Nilda Canallaupa who founded The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco. As a young child, Nilda showed a knack for weaving and at the age of 14 she was giving demonstrations in the United States including the Smithsonian. It allowed her to be the first in her village to go to university but instead of settling for city like she returned to the valley with two objectives in mind. First, to preserve the old ways of weaving by teaching the young girls how to create the intricate patterns and thus be able to make a living without leaving the valley. Second, establish a cooperative where those products could be sold with the benefits accruing to the weavers not middle men. The cooperative also helps farmers in raising llamas and alpacas whose wool is used in the weaving. After your visit with Nilda you check-in to your hotel where the rest of the day is at leisure (Breakfast and Lunch Included).
The Sacred Valley enjoys a mild climate which is perfect for agriculture and the valley was the bread basket of the Inca Empire with large quantities of Maize being grown. To defend this land, fortresses were built at strategic point leading into the valley. While many were destroyed by the conquistadors, remnants of one of the largest can be found near the village of Ollantaytambo. The fortress is noted for its large granite monoliths that are fitted together without mortar but so closely aligned that it is hard to insert a knife between them. How this was achieved by man in still a mystery. After exploring the fortress you change pace as you head to Huaypo Lake where a gourmet picnic with tablecloths and wine has been set up just for you. After lunch you go to another area of the valley to the town of Maras where salt has been produced since the time of the Incas. Salt water bubbles up from a spring and is channeled into manmade wells. As the sun evaporates the water the salt remains and is gathered up for sale in the markets. The operation is still in existence today and you can join in the collection if you like. (Breakfast and Lunch included).
Today you will be driven to Cuzco where you board the Vistadome train which will afford you stunning views as you make your way to Machu Picchu. To many people's surprise you are actually traveling down to Machu Picchu since, while it is high in the Andes it is about 3,000 feet lower in altitude than Cuzco. Upon arrival you are met by your guide and taken on a tour of the citadel. The ruins of Machu Picchu were re-discovered in 1911 by a Yale archaeologist named Hiram Bingham and are one of the most beautiful and enigmatic ancient sites in the world. While the Inca people certainly used the Andean mountain top, erecting many hundreds of stone structures from the early 1400's, legends and myths indicate that Machu Picchu (meaning "old peak" in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place from a far earlier time. Whatever its origins, the Inca turned the site into a small (five square miles) but extraordinary city. Invisible from below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population and watered by natural springs it was never discovered by the Spanish. Two thousand feet above the Urubamba River, the cloud-shrouded ruins have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses. After your tour you check in to your eco-hotel near to the ruins where you are fee to enjoy the tranquility and a good dinner (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Included).
After breakfast you have the opportunity to return to Machu Picchu with your guide to enjoy the sight as the mist rises from the ruins to reveal the ruins. It is especially meaningful since the trains will not have arrived with the day trippers so you can enjoy the site in relative solitude. For the rest of the day you have the chance to discover the fascinating but fragile ecosystem of the Machu Picchu cloud forest and learn about its many endemic plants and animals. You will have the opportunity for some spectacular bird-watching including sixteen different varieties of hummingbirds. This area is also one of the orchid capitals of the world with over 372 different orchids in bloom. From the largest orchid in the world, the lady slipper (Phragmipedium caudatum), to species new to science actually discovered in the grounds of your hotel and tiny flowering specimens that can only be appreciated through a magnifying glass; there are orchids to amaze both the novice and the expert. After a full day of exploring, you are transferred to the station where you board the Vistadome train for the trip to Cuzco. Upon arrival you are met and transferred to your hotel. (Breakfast included).
By now you will have adjusted to the altitude which allows you to enjoy a private walking tour of the city of Cuzco. Originally an Inca city, many, but not all, of the Inca structures were built over in the Spanish colonial style. You will visit the Cuzco Cathedral and also the San Blas area where artisans dating back to Incan times have practiced their crafts. You will also visit San Blas Church with its magnificent Baroque pulpit. After your tour the afternoon is left open. In the evening enjoy dinner at The Fallen Angel Restaurant (Breakfast and Dinner Included).
We have left this day open for you to explore this charming city at your own pace. Your guide will give you the layout of key areas and you will have a list of recommended restaurants for both lunch and dinner. Cuzco has a lot to offer so take advantage of the opportunity.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport and assisted with check-in for the flight back to Lima. Upon arrival in Lima you are met and transferred to the hotel where rooms have been assigned for your use until you leave for the international airport in the evening. Take advantage of the rest of the day to enjoy Miraflores. Do some shopping or enjoy a leisurely lunch at the beach. In the evening you will be picked up and escorted to the airport and assisted with check-in for your flight back to the USA which leaves late in the evening or early in the morning.
You arrive back in the USA at your gateway city and connect to your hometown.
Lima – Casa Andina Select
Ideally located in Miraflores, Casa Andina Select is the perfect choice for sophisticated leisure travelers who expect efficiency, excellent service and comfortable contemporary styling. The new 11 story structure with 155 rooms is within walking distance of top restaurants, attractions and shopping. With a style that's urbane and warmly modern it provides an attractive environment for a stay in Lima. Rooms are equipped with LCD TVs, writing desks and soundproof windows. The restaurant serves a full buffet breakfast and a la carte lunches and dinners with both regional and international dishes. The Hotel offers a spa, gym and sun terrace with Jacuzzi.
Urubamba (Sacred Valley) – Hotel Sol Y Luna
Set within an exclusive 25 acre estate teeming with birdlife, indigenous and exotic flora, 43 stand-alone Casitas built from mostly locally sourced materials blend seamlessly into the Andean landscape. Facilities at the Hotel include two outstanding restaurants, an outdoor fresh water swimming pool, a boutique featuring pieces from renowned Peruvian artists, and a fabulous rejuvenating Spa, Yacu Wasi, offering treatments and massages, a gym, Jacuzzi and Yoga and Tai Chi classes.
Machu Picchu - Inkaterra
How does one best prepare for a visit to the enigmatic Lost City of the Incas? Nothing less than a natural paradise will do — a paradise where one connects completely with the sacred energy of the mountain. In Inkaterra's vacation paradise and luxury boutique hotel, a pueblo of luxurious whitewashed bungalow nestles into terraced hills. Spa services use sublime natural essences, and a first-class restaurant boasts stunning views of the rushing Vilcanota River. An intimate 85-cottage luxury hotel is surrounded by 12 secluded acres of exquisite beauty, where a reverence for nature reigns hand-in-hand with a commitment to indulging the whims of our guests.
Cuzco – Aranwa Boutique Hotel
Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel is the essence of luxury and comfort in the heart of the Inca city. Built in a colonial mansion of the XVI century, it displays several paintings of the Cuzco school, colonial sculptures and carvings that transport you to the greatness of the time. Its elegant rooms, equipped with intelligent oxygen system, its gardens and its sophisticated Spa, are complemented by friendly service. The rooms and suites are equipped with intelligent oxygen system, which ensures maximum comfort for guests. This additional 30% oxygen results in a reduction in the sense of altitude, which prevents ill effects from altitude sickness. Unwind in our Spa concept bathrooms, found in every room at the hotel. From the first step into the bathroom, you will notice the difference. Our special floor heating system warms the floor, so you can walk comfortably, without feeling cold. After a busy day, you will be able to rest in a hot bath tub, or perhaps try our Scottish shower, which will gently massage you. This guarantees a complete relaxing experience for each guest.