This is one of the most exciting routes in the South America. Explore fascinating Machu Picchu, ancient cities, enjoy the mountain scenery and find about life of islanders of the Lake Titicaca.
Come to La Paz, the informal capital and the Bolivian centre of commerce, finance and industry, and take your time to explore it. Visit to the cathedrals and churches, the Sagarnaga Street, where you can buy excellent souvenirs, and, of course, the Witch Market, where fortune-telling and magic spells await, and the witchery and amulets are available. Rent a car and hit the road to Tiahuanaco ruins (72 km) deemed as a cradle of Inca civilization or visit to the world's highest ski resort, Chacaltaya, (5600 m) in 55 km. Another option is to take 10 km southwards to the Valley of the Moon with crater-like formations made of sand. There is much to see, therefore we advise you coming to La Paz a day or two in advance. Head to Puno on the next morning after breakfast. Sitting on the shores of the Lake Titicaca and located at 3830 m above the sea level, Puno's weather can be extreme with very cold nights and strong sun during the day. A popular optional activity in Puno is a visit to the spectacular chullpas (funerary towers) of Sillustani, a pre-Inca archaeological site. On the next morning head across the Lake Titicaca to reach the floating islands of the Uros peoples. The first they came here about 500 years ago in an effort to isolate themselves from the Colla and Inca tribes. Sadly, the Uros language has died out, and today the islanders speak Aymara due to intermarriage with Aymara-speaking clans. About 300 families live on the islands today, however, the number slowly declines. Continue exploration of the Lake Titicaca on a short boat ride to neighbouring Taquile Island. These people have unique culture, style of dress and lifestyle that makes visit even more memorable. The high quality, locally knitted goods are available for purchase at various cooperatives on the island. After visiting these islands head to the Lluquina Peninsula to enjoy the evening in a small, local community, mostly unaffected by tourism. Spend a night with a local family and get a true feel of life on the shores of the Lake Titicaca.
Then head from Puno to Cusco – the capital of the Inca Empire. It annually welcomes thousands of gests interested in ancient cultures and is an ideal base for further explorations. The next day is planned for excursions and leisure in the city and you can visit the Archaeological Museum or the Religious Art Museum, for instance. The options of whitewater rafting, horseback riding or mountain biking are available from here. Head to Ollantaytambo. At first travel through the stunning Sacred Valley of the Incas, visit an impressive Pisac ruins, the colorful artisan market (market days only) and finally reach the large ruin site of Ollantaytambo. Its history is still a mystery for the archaeologists as they believe it was built by some unknown civilization before Inca.
Then go for a planned hike following the Inka footsteps, including the visit to Machu Picchu. The hike is physically challenging but worthwhile, and is within the ability of most reasonably fit people. Depending on circumstances, two of trails are available:
Inca Trail – (4-days hiking rout; an average distance varies from 4 to 16 km per day)
Take a bus to the starting point from Ollantaytambo. The crew of local porters, cooks and guides will take care of all the details, and you will need to carry a small daypack with all necessary things. Enjoy the scenery, learn about the nature and visit the ruins of ancient cities en route, Llactapata, for instance. Start early to climb the long steep path to Warmiwañusca, better known as Dead Woman's Pass (4198 m) on the next morning. It probably got such a weird name as it looks like a dead woman lying there from below, and reach Paqaymayo by the evening. On the third day head to Wiñaywayna, climb another two passes and visit some more towns along the way. Reach the Phuyupatamarca, the Town above the Clouds by the evening. The final day of the hike starts pre-dawn to reach the Sun Gate before the sunrise. When the morning is clear, you soak in your first views of the breathtaking ruins of Machu Picchu as the mist rises off the mountains and the sun begins to illuminate the site. Hike down to Machu Picchu and have a guided tour of the site and free time to explore it. Take an option to visit the Inca Bridge, if time allows. Then head to Aguas Calientes, enjoy some free time and take a train back to Cusco.
Lares Trek – (3-days hiking rout; an average distance varies from 9 to 11 km per day)
At first take a van to Lares town. The crew of local porters and guides will take care of all the details, and you will need to carry a small daypack with all necessary things. Enjoy the scenery and watch the herds of lamas and alpaca. Then hit the road through the valley of Cuncani, stop for a lunch in Chancachaca and continue to the camp at Wacawasi. Start early on the next morning, head to Wacawasi-Ccassa and to Auroracocha to stop for a lunch, and reach Mantanay by the evening. On the third day head to Punta Carretera, have a lunch there and take a bus to come back to Ollantaytambo to catch the train for a relaxing, scenic ride to Aguas Calientes. In the next morning drive to Machu Picchu for a planned guided tour and a free time to explore it, and take a train back to Cusco.
Cusco stay details:
Anyone wishing to stay in Cusco has a group leader at service and two extra days to explore this ancient Inca capital. Enjoy the afternoon and the next day in Cusco with options to visit ruins round the city, or spend time shopping, exploring, and trying local food in the restaurants (only breakfast included). On the next day, travel by van to Ollantaytambo where you catch the scenic train to Aguas Calientes. From there take a bus to Machu Picchu on the next morning for the planned guided tour and free time. Then return to Cusco.
Further, travel as a group and head to the second largest city in Peru – the Arequipa. This is a traditional colonial style city, from where you can take an option of visiting Convent of Santa Catalina, soak in local hot springs or hike in the mountains. Then take a night bus to Colca Canyon that is one of the deepest in the world, look for the Andean Condor, spot alpacas and lamas. After that have an overnight bus to the town of Nazca. Travel north for one of the world's greatest archaeological mysteries – the Nazca Lines. The lines consist of giant patterns and pictures of animals etched in the ground, crisscrossing a wide area of flat desert, and can be seen from the air (optional activity). Stop at a winery en route at the Oasis of Huacachina and indulge in a traditional Pachamanca meal. It is a thousand year-old tradition meal preparation ceremony on the pre-heated stones. Arrive to the town of Paracas by the evening. Get to Lima in the final part of the tour - the City of Kings founded in 1535. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of the Old Lima and here you will find the Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace and the Government Palace - Palacio del Gobierno. There we recommend you to watch changing of the guard. Visit to the shops and markets, try some excellent seafood dishes in the restaurant and enjoy the night life, as you stay in the capital for a night.