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There is a corner of Peru where the high Andes gives way to misty cloudforest, before the vast expanse of unspoilt rainforest takes over. It is one of the most biodiverse, and culturally historic, places on earth. For two or three weeks, this is your adventure playground; hike and camp along lesser-trodden mountain trails, raft the foamy Urubamba River, mountain bike past ancient salt pans and delve deep into the jungle.
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Land in Cusco this morning where you meet your guide and transfer into the Sacred Valley, stopping en route to visit the Inca ruins at Pisac. Depending on timings, you will have lunch in the village and time to stroll in the famous and popular market.
Spend today with your guide experiencing life in the Sacred Valley, as lived by the people, away from the tourist trail. Women weave the most beautifully complex patterns using age old techniques. Shepherds herd llama, sheep and pigs across the high plains. You’ll lunch in a typical Spanish hacienda, surrounded by the most remarkable array of historical art and artefacts, and share dinner with a local family.
Today go to the upper Urubamba, the sacred river of the Incas, for some fun grade III-IV rafting. This equates to some big waves and adrenaline, certainly enough to get the heart pumping. Full instruction and safety talk are given so no previous experience is necessary. Enjoy a picnic lunch by the side of the river before heading back to your hotel in the Sacred Valley.
For the next three days, walk amongst the glacial lakes of the beautiful Lares mountains, one of the most remote corners of the Sacred Valley. Accessing the trail involves a fairly long drive, but it is well worth it to enjoy such amazing views and peace. While camping, you have porters and a cook who deliver delicious meals three times a day. With a dining and toilet tents set up for you, this is camping with a couple of frills!
The Urubamba mountains sit to the north of the Sacred Valley. They are home to a cluster of five peaks of over 6,000m as well as hundreds of glaciers, lagoons and remote communities. All of the routes take you up to the highlands, via traditional villages to see the 5,800m glaciated peak of Sahuasiray, known by the locals as Colque Cruz.
Enjoy your last day of hiking the Urubamba mountains as you descend towards the former Inca royal complex of Ollantaytambo. Take time to look around the site, dominated by its impressive terracing, then return to your hotel in the Sacred Valley.
This morning a short transfer brings you to the Chinchero plain for the start of probably the best one-day mountain bike adventure in Peru. Largely downhill, pass Lake Huaypo and enjoy great views of the Vilcanota mountain range. This fun dirt-road mountain-bike descent into the Sacred Valley is suitable for all the family. The final descent on mule trails is through the spectacular working salt-pans of Maras.
Catch the train towards Machu Picchu this morning, getting off near the end of the line to walk the one-day, ‘Royal’ Inca trail. The trail takes you up along the side of a valley to the ruins of Winaywayna, where you stop for a picnic lunch, and then follow the paved Inca road through the cloud forest, with orchids, hummingbirds and butterflies. After a final push up a steep stairway to the Sun Gate, you meet your first views of Machu Picchu in the quiet of the afternoon, when the light is at its best.
This morning is yours to relax and perhaps arrange a birdwatching tour in the grounds of the Inkaterra hotel. Your full guided tour of Machu Picchu takes place in the calm of the afternoon, when the light is often at its best. If you want to walk, you can head up the hill towards the Sun Gate, or even just from the path towards it, you get some lovely views down onto the terraces and central plaza as well as the peak of Huayna Picchu.
As the crowds head up to Machu Picchu this morning, you head the other way to catch a train back to the Sacred Valley. From here you will drive out with your guide through the wide open high-plains of the Quechua ecosystem to visit a fascinating weaver's cooperative, and see the new life breathed into this ancient skill. After lunch, continue the short distance to Cusco to settle in to your hotel. Your guide will help you get your bearings before leaving you to enjoy an evening stroll through this lively small city.
Cusco has been known historically as, ‘the navel of the Andes’, and was the unquestionable hub of the Inca Empire. Take some time to relax this morning before you meet your guide for a walking tour to orientate you to this picturesque city, visiting two of its most important historic sites, the Cathedral and the Temple of the Sun.
Take a spectacular road journey from the Andes into the cloud forest, travelling through traditional towns and dramatic scenery. At the edge of the Andes, the land drops away to the Amazon basin. If you are lucky and there are no clouds, you will find yourself looking out across hundreds of miles of rainforest below you. The road winds down into the cloud forest, where waterfalls cascade down the mountains and tall trees, clad with bromeliads and lichen, meet the road. Your final stop is at a Cock of the Rock lek, where you will see the quirky mating dance of Peru's brightly coloured national bird.
After breakfast, you set off again for a two hour journey deeper into the Amazon Basin. Visit a coca plantation to learn about the uses of the leaves and their medicinal properties. Where the road runs out you’ll switch to a boat to travel along the Alto Madre de Dios river. The lodge is primarily a wildlife research and education base, as a guest, you have a unique insight into the rainforest research and conservation.
Rise at dawn to see one of the Amazon's most colourful spectacles - the flood of macaws, parrots and parakeets, as they flock together on the walls of the clay lick. Later, paddle across a beautiful lagoon frequented by hoatzin, horned screamers, kingfishers and flycatchers. After dark, set off on a night walk to spot some of the nocturnal species in the area. The nearby wetlands are rich in species of amphibians, best identified by the sounds they make, or by a glimpse of their glowing eyes in the torchlight.
Today is a more relaxing day as you travel downriver by boat for a couple of hours to the Shintuya community. It was home to one of the region's first missions and has a mixed population of local indigenous people and immigrants from the Andes. A little later, go for a walk to a lovely waterfall in the heart of the forest. Dedicate the late afternoon to relaxing on the riverside hammocks, or walk up to the viewpoint over the river around sunset.
Your Amazon adventure ends as you journey back up into the beautiful Andean highlands by road for a final evening in Cusco. You will normally get back to the city in the mid/late afternoon, giving you plenty of time to freshen up before heading out for dinner in one of Cusco's excellent restaurants.
Depending on your flight time today, you have the morning at leisure before you transfer to Cusco airport and fly home. Enjoy a final stroll through the market, relax in a cafe before departing. If this quick summary has whetted your appetite for a tailor-made trip to Peru, we'd love to talk to you about tailoring something that is just right for you. See below for various ways to get in touch or request a full PDF itinerary for more details of this trip.
Note: This is just an itinerary idea and we'll therefore tailor everything to you.
This trip is designed to allow you and your friends or family to discover some of the best areas of Peru, in the best way possible: actively, in the open air. From rafting the white waters of the Upper Urubamba, to hurtling downhill through the Sacred Valley’s best mountain bike track, to walking the Urubamba mountains and the Royal Inca Trail into Machu Picchu, you’ll see why Peru is considered as one of the best adventure playgrounds in South America. Whilst the tour is designed and priced based on a group of four, we can adapt it suit fewer travellers.
The white-water rafting is made up of good fun, grade III rapids. Crucially, we raft the upper section of the river which is far less crowded and much cleaner than the lower sections. The mountain biking is not technical, but it is thrilling. You obviously need to know how to ride a bike and the more confident you are on a bike, the more you will enjoy yourself. The journey into Manu is something of an adventure itself, across the Andean highlands, skirting the edge of the Andes down into the cloud forest, then by boat downriver to your lodge.
If you want something which retains the strong walking element of this trip, but dials down the activity levels, take a look at our Peru Uncovered itinerary.
Whilst we have taken great care to construct an action-packed and varied itinerary here, we understand that every traveller is different and so there are a multitude of ways that we can tailor this trip to you. This might be the length of the trip, changing one or two of the activities, or adding in some time in the Colca Canyon.
To be able to make the trip personal to you we’d also like to take the time to get to know you and what you like, or dislike, doing on your travels. You can let us know a bit about you by clicking on the link below, or if you’d like more details about the trip before we get to that stage, you can also request a full PDF itinerary to be sent to you.
Departs on a date to suit you from March through December, subject to Royal Inca Trail permit availability. In Peru, the driest time of year is winter so April through October/November. In general you can expect daytime temperatures of somewhere between 10°-20° in the Sacred Valley and at Machu Picchu though temperatures plunge at night. In the Urubamba mountains you can and should expect temperatures to be sub-zero at night. The Amazon is hot and humid throughout the year, with the wettest months being January to March.
The price is per person based on four people sharing two rooms and includes:
First-class accommodation with breakfast and some lunches and dinners
Private airport transfers
Dinner with local family on private basis
Shared river rafting experience
Private guided Lares walk with porters, cook and guide
Private mountain biking experience
Private guided Royal Inca Trail and Machu Picchu tour
Shared guided road transfers and excursions throughout in Manu
Peru Holiday Guide with personal recommendations
Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best routing is into and out of Cusco (CUZ).
The Lares hike involves two nights camping out at altitude. Tents are shared between two people and are always pitched for you by the team of porters. We also carry our own toilet tent, pitched at a discreet distance from camp. Each morning your porter will deliver warm water for you to take a ‘bird bath’ before breakfast. A table will be set up for meals, including lunches on the trail.
The Manu lodge is simple but comfortable, built in indigenous style that allows plenty of airflow into the buildings. Bathrooms are in a shared block next to the guest buildings and electricity is powered by generator in the communal areas for two hours each night. With only eight guest rooms, you are well looked after and the compromise in creature comforts is more than compensated for by the opportunity to stay in such a remote and wildlife-rich setting.
The Cusco hotel is tucked away down a side alley. From the restaurant and living room on the first floor you gaze out of huge windows at panoramas across the rooftops of the historic quarter to a backdrop of the Andes. Your Sacred Valley hotel is built around a central colonial mansion and courtyard, surrounded by mountains.
For more details, please get in touch to request a full itinerary.
Setting aside the stunning landscapes and fascinating historical sites, what visitors usually remember about Peru are its people. Too often, however, the locals are treated as picturesque relics of the past somehow transported into the present for us to photograph on the street corners of Cusco.
You’ll see that colourful woven fabrics really are worn by shepherds in the high mountains. It’s just that the colours are faded through age and hard work. You will meet landowners who lost all their land in the 1960s and had to start again. You will meet villagers who never had anything to lose.
As the name suggests, in Manu you stay in a private reserve dedicated to thoughtful eco-tourism and the research into the conservation of regenerating wildlife habitats. The lodge included here has several sustainability policies which aim to reduce single-use plastics and energy consumption. You are also actively encouraged to respect and engage with the local community.
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