PERU INCLUDED TOURS
LIMA: City tour of the "City of the Kings" including the Main square where the Government palace, City Hall and the cathedral (with the tomb of Francisco Pizarro) are located. We will have time to walk around and visitors have the option of taking a walking tour of the church of San Francisco. Then, we will visit of the Gold Museum, a private collection that has more than five thousand pieces of Pre Inca and Inca periods (gold masks, ceramics and textiles).Also included: sightseeing through the residential and commercial districts of San Isidro and Miraflores (Kennedy Park, Love Park, Larcomar Center.)
CUSCO CITY TOURS: Some of the most important sites we visit while in Cusco include:
The Cathedral of Cusco was originally built inside the Inca structure of the Suntur Wasi (currently the Church of El Triunfo ). Years later, the Cathedral was ordered to be rebuilt by the Spanish. The cathedral is the center of activity in the middle of the main square.
The Church and Convent of Santo Domingo is one of the most beautiful examples of Spanish architecture superimposed on Inca
constructions to be found in Cusco . This complex was built over the Qoricancha or Korikancha, meaning the Temple of the Sun, which is a fabulous Temple in the heart of Cusco that we will also visit.
La Compañía de Jesus, or Jesuit Cathedral is a charming church that houses a collection of unique paintings. It was built over what was formerly the Amaru Cancha, or "Fence of the Serpent", close to Cusco's main square.
Sacsayhuaman: Considered to be the first of the modern Seven Wonders of the World , Sacsayhuaman is a fortress covering a huge area about 1 miles north of Cusco . The site is considered unique in the world due to its singular architectural characteristics. It is also the location of the Festival of the Sun in June.
In building Sacsayhuaman, the Incas used stone blocks of up to 30 feet high and 15 feet wide. They each fit perfectly with the other. It also has doors, galleries and watchtowers located at important, strategic points.
Apart from the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, we will also visit other sites in the area. One of these is Q'Enqo or Kenko , a center for ceremonies worshipping the Pachamama, or mother earth. This well-known Inca worship site is a temple that dominates the whole area. Kenko, because of its semi-circular construction, was classified as an amphitheater by the Spanish. Actually, no one is truly sure of the purpose of this vast construction, which could be an altar, a court or an Inca's tomb. However, it is presumed that it was one of the most important sanctuaries in the empire.
Another site to be visited is Puca-Pucara or "Red Fort." It is another Inca archaeological complex and takes its name from the color of the earth in the area. Puca-Pucara was a Tambo or housing complex and food storeroom. It is thought that it was a residential quarter because it was strategically located and dominated the territory. It present building is made of stone, between small and medium in size, with interior plazas, bathrooms and aqueducts, and an old road that is easily recognizable. All the constructions show a typical Inca style.
Puca-Pucara was a Tambo or housing complex and food storeroom. It is thought that it was a residential quarter because it was strategically located and dominated the territory. It is possible that they communicated with Tambomachay, at a distance of 1 km.
It present building is made of stone, between small and medium in size, with interior plazas, bathrooms and aqueducts, and an old road that is easily recognizable. All the constructions show typical Inca style.
Finally, we will visit Tambomachay or the Inca Bath, built to worship water. It occupies a vast area of 437 square meters, located over 10,000 feet above sea level. As its name indicates, one can see caverns (machay) nearby. These are places where, according to indigenous tradition, magic was practiced.
The construction of this site was completely made from sculpted stone and was formed by four walls or terraces on the hill, made by irregular many-angled bases very well assembled. In front of the building there was a circular watchtower that had defense and communication purposes.
PISAC AND THE SACRED VALLEY: Located about 20 miles from Cusco , Pisac and the Sacred Valley are some of the true delights of the Cusco region.
Pisac: Today, there is also a colonial town named Pisac (or P'isaq) in the lower part of the Sacred Valley , established as consequence of the famous "Indians Reductions" by which the Quechuas were joined in small towns. The Incan City is on the upper side of the mountain, over the well preserved terracing. It was classical among the Inkas that the most fertile zones must have been reserved for agriculture without being wasted for building towns or cities.
The lively, colorful Sunday market in Pisac is a shopper and photographers dream. Vendors line the streets with stalls selling everything from hand-woven sweaters to beaded necklaces to cloth dolls.
Another part of the Sacred Valley tour is a visit to Ollantaytambo . This site is one of the most impressive architectural complexes in the Inca Empire, can only be called "Fortress" due to its magnificent walls. It was actually a Tambo or shelter located in a strategic place in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. "Tambo" or "Tampu", is a city with the capacity to shelter thousands of people. During Inca times, there were many tambos in different areas with no special name, the people simply called the town in their area a ?tambo.?
Ollantaytambo is the only Inca city which is still inhabited. Descendants of Incan nobles now live in its dull palaces. The patios are now barnyards but still maintain their architecture. The current houses were renovated and the pre-Hispanic walls were used. The only buildings not used are the Fortress, the forts, and the buildings on the Pinkuylluna hill. The streets now form 15 blocks of houses north of the main plaza, which are a historic legacy.
Another stop on the tour visits Chinchero . Chinchero, the most typical town in the sacred Valley of the Incas, is an Inca city which the conquerors wanted to "civilize" and establish their culture, but were never able to do completely.
The current population of Chinchero lives in an old pre-Hispanic settlement and is one of the most representative signs of Andean cultural resistance. Its settlers, dressed in multicolored clothes, maintain their Indian race, only speak Quechua and still keep their age-old customs which they refuse to abandon. Its inhabitants live in the almost untouched Inca constructions where their ancestors lived and formed the greatest and most prosperous civilization in America . The current population of Chinchero lives in an old pre-Hispanic settlement and is one of the most representative signs of Andean cultural resistance. Dressed in multicolored clothes, they maintain their Indian race, speak only Quechua and still keep their age-old customs which they refuse to abandon.
The city of the Rainbow (in Chinchero) is located 15 miles Northeast of Cusco, over 10,000 feet above sea level and midway between the highlands and the warm valley. The town is picturesque, surrounded by the snow-clad mountains of Salkantay, Veronica and Soray. The view from here is impressive.
MACHU PICCHU: Since its discovery on July 24, 1911 , by Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu has been considered one of the world's greatest architectural and archaeological monuments, due to its extraordinary magnificence and harmonious structure.
At about 8000 feet, Machu Picchu includes various stones constructions used for housing and temples, agricultural terraces and even water canals. To this day researchers still have not uncovered the history and purpose of this city. It stands in a region that the Incas considered to be magical, due to the meeting of the Andes Mountains with the mighty Amazon River .
The surprising perfection and beauty of Machu Picchu's walls, built by joining stone to stone without using any cement or mortar, has led to many myths developing around how the city was built. Nonetheless, mysteries and myths aside, the real attractiveness of Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, lies in its squares, aqueducts and watchtowers, its observatories and in its sun clock, evidence of the wisdom and skill of the city's Andean builders.
The sheer location of this site, built on a mountain top and surrounded by clouds, made it very difficult to reach. This aided in protecting it from being ?discovered? by Spanish conquerors. Nowadays, a train runs from Cusco to the town of Aguas Calientes , at the foot of Machu Picchu . We will take a ½ hour bus ride up the mountain to enter the site and meet our guide for our fascinating tour.
PUNO AND LAKE TITICACA: the edge of Lake Titicaca , at an altitude of over 12,000 feet above sea level, Puno is a captivating city. Its most famous
attraction is the beautiful Lake Titicaca, which looks more like an ocean than a lake. Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake. Its people, descendants of the Aymara, were a strong people who once ruled the high plateaus.
Puno, according to legend, was also the cradle of Inca civilization, as Manco Capac, the first Inca, rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca, under the orders of the Sun God, to found the Inca Empire.
Taquile , the biggest island in Lake Titicaca is located about 20 miles of Puno . But you may feel as if it lies in another world. In
order to visit this island, you must ascend a stairway of more than 567 steps. But it is worth the journey-a gorgeous path with incredible views of the blue waters of Lake Titicaca below. Adorable children come out to meet those traveling along the path and to show them the way to the center of the island.
The people of this island still preserve their ancient traditions, customs and the laws of the Incans and the children of the Sun. Here the women are the spinners and the men are the weavers. The economy depends upon agriculture, animal husbandry and tourism. The men wear traditional dress of black pants, white shirts and embroidered waistbands; the women wear dark
mantels for protection from the Sun, and red blouses. It is colorful and quaint island that offers a glimpse of a culture that has been preserved for centuries by a few.
The Uros Islands are a set of marshy islands located six kilometers off the coast of Puno . These islands are inhabited by the Auroches, direct descendants of one of the oldest civilizations on the continent. The islands are not natural, but have been built by interweaving many layers of totora roots, also used for building their unique boats with dragon faces. We will take a short ride around the island on one of these very typical boats. Fishing and the sale of crafts to tourists are the main sources of subsistence for these ?people of the lake.?
PERU OPTIONAL TOURS :
INCA TRAIL: The Lost City of Machu Picchu is without doubt the most recognizable symbol of Inca Civilization. The Inca Trail was the Highway that led pilgrims and officials of the Empire to the Sacred City of the Incas at Machu Picchu.
Hiking the Inca Trail is an amazing opportunity and rewarding challenge. It offers unforgettable views and gives you the opportunity to visit overgrown Inca buildings that remained undiscovered. One of the attractions of the trail is that it winds past carved granite Inca settlements (Wiñay Wayna, Phuyupatamarca), and is surrounded by breath-taking natural scenery.
The Trail is extremely steep and sometimes paved with blocks of stone and reaches an altitude of about 10,000. Still, it is Peru 's most popular trekking route and possibly one of the most spectacular walks in the Americas . Each year, some 25,000 hikers from all over the world walk the 43 km stone-paved trail. We will walk the shortened version- a total of about 7 miles.
Follow in the footsteps of the Incas! Camp overnight in tents in the middle of the majestic Andes mountains. See the view of The Lost City of the Incas from above the clouds. Then enter Machu Picchu through Inti Punku, or the Sun Gate, the way the Incas did five hundred years ago. This is one of the greatest adventures you may ever have!
MOUNTAIN BIKING: Leaving from Cusco in a private vehicle, the mountain biking tour begins in the Andean community of Chincheros, about 30 minutes from downtown Cusco. Just outside the village, you will begin riding at an altitude of 9000 feet and descend past the beautiful Lake Huaypo . The next stop is the fascinating archeological site of Moray, circular terraces used by the Incas for agricultural experiments. Surrounded by stunning snow-capped peaks, we continue down to the amazing Salt flats of Maras . These natural salt producing terraces dating back hundreds of years. Next, we make our final descent into the Sacred Valley , where we will stop for lunch along the Urubamba River before returning back to Cusco .
Cost is approx. $40 per person. Riders need not be experienced but this tour is definitely not a ride in the park. Prepared to be challenged!
HORSEBACK RIDIING: Travel by horse through the scenic archaeological sites around Cusco . This guided tour will take to see the Temple of the Sun and Moon, as well as other important, picturesque sites. All by horseback! This tour lasts about 2 hours and costs approx. $20 per person.
Riders need not be experienced. However, keep in mind that horseback riding can be dangerous and prior group members have fallen off their horses.