Explore the former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley of the Incas as we visit the fortresses, temples, and terraces this great civilization left behind. From the fertile river valley you'll then ascend through the Andes to the high jungle which for centuries hid the famed Lost City of the Incas, the unforgettable Machu Picchu.
You´ll be picked up at the appropriate time from the airport or bus terminal and taken to your hostel to rest and accommodate your things. At 1:30 we´ll begin a tour of historical monuments within Cusco proper and along its outskirts. Transport between the sites will be provided by tourist bus.
In the Plaza we´ll see the Cathedral of Cusco, built on the site where the palace of Inca Wiracocha once stood, and its prized paintings by the Cusco School. Along with the modern religious center of Cusco, we´ll also tour ancient Qoricancha (Golden Temple), the Temple of the Sun, the city´s most important religious center during the time of the Incas. This was a sacred place where offerings were rendered to Inti (the Sun), the supreme Inca deity.
Other sites include Sacsayhuaman, the fortress of massive stones, Qenqo (Labyrinth/Zigzag), an astronomical calendar and temple dedicated to the earth, Tambomachay (Resting Place), also known as the Inca Baths, with its artificial waterfalls, canals, and aqueducts channeled through the terraced rocks, supplied by nearby waterfalls and thermal springs, and Puka Pucara, suspected to have been a military fort securing the entry to Tambomachay. You´ll be dropped off at your hotel around 6pm.
Today's trip begins at 8:40am. We'll pick you up at your hotel and depart for the Sacred Valley. Our first stop, at about an hour from Cusco, will be the colorful village of Pisaq. Depending on the day of the week, we might visit the bustling local market (operational in full force on Sundays and in a smaller manifestation on Thursdays.) We'll have a couple of hours to explore the Pisaq Archeological Site with our guide, learning about the Pisaqa agricultural terraces, the Intihuatana Sun Temple, and Q'allaqasa Fortress.
Afterwards we will continue our journey through the Sacred Valley, passing through several of the river valley's small traditional towns and stopping in Urubamba for a buffet lunch.
Our next stop is Ollantaytambo, where we´ll have a couple of hours to admire the Inca foundations on which the town is built, whose survival makes it one of the best examples of Incan urban planning today, and the impressive ruins of the Fortress of Ollantaytambo. The only Inca stronghold to have sucessfully withstood Spanish attack, it guarded the strategic entrance to the Urubamba River Valley.
Our last visit will be to the Andean village of Chinchero, where we'll arrive at approximately 4:00pm. From this altitude along the Anta plains, you'll be treated to some excellent views overlooking the Sacred Valley. In the Main Plaza we'll examine a large Inca wall with trapezoidal niches, thought to be the work of Inca Tupac Yupanqui, who may have used Chinchero as a country resort. The plaza also boasts an elaborately decorated 17th century adobe church raised during the colonial period atop the remnants of an Inca temple of palace.
Afterwards we will begin the return trip to Cusco, where you will be dropped off at your hotel at approximately 6:00 in the evening.*
*If you prefer to spend the night in Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes), please consult with us about the possibility of taking a train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu Pueblo on this day.
We'll will depart at a very early hour for the train station in Poroy or Ollantaytambo, with the specific hour and train station depending on the availability for that date. Boarding our train, we will depart for Machu Picchu Pueblo (colloquially known as Aguas Calientes).
Once we arrive at the quaint but bustling town of Aguas Calientes, we will board a bus which will take us to the mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu. There will be a two-hour guided visit during which the guide will teach us about the history and significance of some of the site's most stunning components, with the visit culminating at the Intihuatana sun temple. You'll have some time to explore on your own and take some photos before catching a bus back to Aguas Calientes to have lunch and board the return train to Cusco, where you will be dropped off at your hotel.
We'll pick you up at your hotel at around 8:30 in the morning and set off by bus to the small town of Moray, passing along the way the small family subsistence crops of products native to the area, such as corn and oca. We'll spend about an hour learning about this fascinating archeological site, an Inca Argricultural laboratory comprising several different microclimates replicated through the use of concentric circular terraces.
We'll enjoy a box lunch in Moray before continuing on to the Maras Salt Mines. As we approach, you´ll discover that what appears to be snow glistening along the mountainside is in fact thousands of shallow pools of salt arranged in staggered terraces. Ever since the Inca diverted a small subterranean saltwater stream through these terraces, the community members of Maras have collectively managed these salt pools, producing salt for the local and international market. The sunlight breaking along different levels of salt and water in these pools creates an astonishing gradient of texture and color that can only be appreciated in person.
We'll stay in Maras for about an hour before returning to Cusco by bus, arriving at approximately 2pm.
You'll have the rest of the day free to enjoy the Imperial city of Cusco.
At the indicated hour you will be transported to the airport to board your return flight to Lima or to the next stop on your journey.
Today, August 30th, Peru celebrates a national holiday honoring St Rose, the Americas' first saint. Even if you're not Catholic, you'll find plenty of entertainment- like most of the other religious festivals of Peru, the festivities include drinking, feasting, and dancing, with street vendors bustling about adding color and excitement to the proceedings...
Continuing with the photo theme from last post, here's a look at the activity-oriented parts of Pirwa Colonial Backpackers in Cusco, Peru, which is packed with things to do, ways to relax and to meet fellow travelers…
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