Travel to Peru and discover the ancient civilisation of the Incas

Travel to Peru and Bolivia as you head deep into the Andes to the mountain-top capital of Bolivia, La Paz. Hike the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, explore the depths of the Colca Canyon and experience the island cultures of Lake Titicaca on a homestay. Discover the diverse scenery of Peru and Bolivia on this exciting overland journey and get a glimpse of the homeland of the Incas.

This trip requires an Inca Trail Permit. To view permit availability click here.

Start
Lima, Peru
Finish
La Paz, Bolivia
Countries
Peru
Themes
Explorer
Code
GGSO
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
326kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Learn about Nazca's ancient mummies
  • Search out Andean condors
  • Hike the Colca Canyon
  • Visit the coca museum in Cuzco
  • Visit a local community in the Sacred Valley
  • Trek the Inca Trail to ancient Machu Picchu
  • Cruise around Lake Titicaca's floating islands
  • Experience traditional life at a homestay
  • Hit the many markets of La Paz

Itinerary

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 4pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
While Peru's capital officially began life in 1535, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city on the Day of the Three Kings, settlements had been scattered through the valley since before the Incas. The city was built on top of an existing palace and temples that belonged to the local chief who had little choice but to move on. Lima was in its prime during the Spanish colonial days and much of the city's attraction now lies in its well-preserved historical centre.
If you arrive early, we recommend you take a walk around Miraflores. Go from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to LarcoMar via Larco Avenue. Alternatively go to Parque del Amor (Love's Park) for a nice view of Lima's beaches. Other things to see and do include a tour to Pachacamac (approx 30 km from downtown Lima), the Museo de la Nacion and the Gold Museum. Limenos (Lima's residents) are friendly and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to sample ceviche, a local seafood speciality.
Explore the 16th-century monastery of San Francisco which boasts a fresco of the Last Supper that has a distinctly Peruvian flavour: the disciples pictured dine on guinea pig and drink from gold Inca cups. The monastery's catacombs are the real drawcard - they've been Lima's underground cemetery for hundreds of years.
There are many fine museums in and around the city including the Museo del Tribunal de la Santa Inquisicion, which gives a fascinating insight into the Spanish Inquisition.
Visit the Archaeological Museum, which offers a look at Peru's succession of ancient cultures.
ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!

Before your trip: Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.

During your trip: While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly. Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience:

http://d3oxn90f3yphmd.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/file_attach/52735_product_altitude-sickness.pdf
Your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre - so there's no need for you to visit the downtown area prior to the trip. Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro.
Travel by taxi or minivan to Lima's bus station and take a local bus to Pisco (approx 4 hrs). The bus will stop three or four times before reaching our destination.
This small fishing town is the gateway to the Ballestas Islands and the Paracas National Reserve but it's most famous as the birthplace of Peru's national drink, the pisco sour, made from a local brandy of the same name. For some local food specialities, head to the Plaza de Armas where the locals hang out and munch on tejas, small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits.
Travel on to Nazca (approx 3 hrs), stopping en route at the oasis of Huacachina.
The town of Huacachina is built around a small natural lake surrounded by dramatic sand dunes, which offer endless photography and sandboarding opportunities.
The entire desert in the Nazca area was once home to the ancient Nazca and Paracas cultures which preceded the Incas by over 500 years. Remains of their cultures are still visible - Nazca is home to the famous and enigmatic Nazca lines, enormous designs inscribed in the desert on the arid high plateau.

The enormous lines have been etched into the ground by scraping away the top darker layer of gravel which then contrasts with the paler one underneath. Animals, insects and birds are depicted, and some of the simpler line formations are up to 10 km (32 miles) in length. Who drew them, how and why, can only be guessed at, but theories range from alien invaders to complex Nazca calendars.
These mysterious shapes are better seen from the air. Small four/six seater planes offer 30 minute flights that allow viewing all 26 figures scattered through the desert floor.

Warning! Planes turn sharply from one side to another to facilitate viewing from both sides of the plane. Plastic bags are provided on board but needless to say, this flight is not recommended for those with a weak stomach.

A safety note. A number of local operators offer flights over the Nazca lines. It should be noted that there have been numerous safety issues over Nazca in the past – as such Intrepid has used its best endeavors to assess the safety of the operation of some of these companies. While it is impossible to guarantee the safety of air operations, your leader can only assist you to book this activity through companies Intrepid assesses are safer to fly with. Your leader is specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting booking this activity through any other operators.
Early in the afternoon we travel from Nazca to Arequipa by local bus (approx 9hrs)
Standing at the foot of El Misti Volcano and oozing the best of Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cuzco for the title of Peru's most attractive city. Built out of a pale volcanic rock called sillar, the old buildings dazzle in the sun, giving the city its nickname - the 'White City'. The main plaza, with its cafes and nearby cathedral, is a lovely place to while away the day.
For a glimpse into a bygone way of life, visit the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. When the convent was built in the 16th century it was traditional for the second son or daughter of a family to enter the religious service. The Santa Catalina accepted only women from high-class Spanish families, with each family paying a hefty dowry for her acceptance. But life inside the convent was far from modest - each nun had between one and four servants, many brought rugs, fine china and silk curtains, and they often held parties.
We travel by minivan to Chivay (approx 5 hrs). Along the way you'll see llamas, alpacas and vicunas and discover the differences between these similar creatures. There will also be the opportunity to stop for pictures. At our second stop (after approx 2 hrs) you'll have the chance to try some coca tea. After a third stop at Patapampa (the highest place on our tour at 4800 m above sea level), we descend to Chivay town.

More than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon provides some breathtaking views. The Incan and pre-Incan terraces that are carved into the walls are still cultivated and traditional Indian villages are dotted throughout the canyon. In the afternoon, your local guide will organise a short trek, finishing at the local hot thermal baths. You may choose to spend your evening soaking in the baths, dining on llama steak or listening to live Andean music at a pena.

Accommodation in Chivay is in a very basic hostel. There are en suite toilets, however there's no heating (you can request extra blankets) and some rooms can be noisy.

The main star of the canyon is not the amazing scenery but the magnificent Andean condor, the world's largest flying bird. Wake up very early and drive to a viewpoint where condors can normally be seen in their morning routine. Following this stop there will be a short walk of about 45 minutes, before returning to Chivay. Travel back to Arequipa in the afternoon.
Travel by public bus to Juliaca (approx 5 hrs).
Change to private transport and continue on to Cuzco (approx 6 hrs).
The Cuzco region truly is the heart and soul of Peru. The city itself is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today Cuzco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Inca foundations. This is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend and is a perfect base for explorations into the Inca world or to enjoy a range of outdoor activities.

Take the time to acclimatise to the city's 3,450 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour including a visit to the Coca Museum - where you can learn more about this infamous plant which has been an essential part of life in the Andes for centuries - and the local San Pedro market.
The Boleto Turistico (Tourism Ticket) is a good option if you want to visit the many museums in Cuzco. This ticket also includes the archaeological around Cuzco such as Saqsaywaman, Q'enqo, Pica Pakara, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Some museums in town, like Contemporary Art Museum, Regional History Museum and Qosqo Native Art Museum can only be accessed by purchasing the Boleto Turistico.

There are several impressive Inca ruins within the city. The most easily accessible is Coricancha, which was the Inca empire's richest temple. Once plated in thick gold, the Spanish built a Dominican church atop its sturdy walls.
We'll head to a community along the valley to learn about local lifestyle and activities, and if our visit coincides with market day, we can spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos and maybe practising a little bit of the local language, Quechua. Your leader might also suggest an optional local meal or an Andean picnic with the locals.
The town of Ollantaytambo has been built over an ancient Inca town, which is a magnificent example of Inca urban planning. This is one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish.
Ollantaytambo's archaeological site is located to the east of the Plaza de Armas. The upper terraces of this site offer great photo opportunities of the squared grid town below.
While in town, why not have a meal at Hearts Cafe, part of a project supported by the Intrepid Foundation.
Depending on your pre-arranged travel arrangements, during the next four days you may: hike the Classic Inca Trail, hike the Inca Quarry Trail, or stay in Cuzco for another two days before heading by train to Aguas Calientes.

While you are away from Cuzco the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel in Cuzco.

If you are hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cuzco, you'll receive a small duffle bag to pack clothes for the next four days (6 kg maximum). Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group.

If you are travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll have the option to leave most of your luggage at your hotel storage room and only travel with the necessary items for the next few days.

INCA TRAIL: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but do come prepared: the trail is 45 km (28 miles) long and often steep. Generally each day's journey consists of 7 hours walking on average (both uphill and downhill), plus stops for snacks and lunch. Normally trekking starts at 7am (except for the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 4-5pm.

Accommodation on the trek is camping (3 nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. Tents are set up by the porters. Meals are prepared by the trek cook.

Day 1: Today we travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and join our crew of local porters, cook and guide. The starting point of the trek is located at 2,850m. Our first day includes some uphill trekking to the campsite - at over 3,100 m above sea level. Today you will see the ruins of Llactapata, burnt to the ground by the last Inca emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail.

Day 2: This is the most challenging day of the trek as we ascend a long steep path (approx 5 hours) to reach the highest point of our trek, Warmiwanusca ('Dead Woman's Pass'), at a height of 4,200 m (13,779 ft), before descending to our campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 m.

Day 3: Today we start with a climb up to the second pass known as Runkuracay at 3,980 m - approximately 90 minutes uphill from the Pacaymayo Valley. From here we can enjoy views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending to the ruins of Sayacmarca (2-3 hours). Continue over the third pass and soon reach the beautiful ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the 'Town above the Clouds', at 3,850 m (approx 90 mins walk). From here we start our descent along Inca steps (2 hours) to reach our final night's camp by the Winay Wayna ('Forever Young') archaeological site at 2,750 m. Grab a drink and enjoy the panoramic views of the valley below.

Day 4: The day starts before dawn with breakfast served nice and early at approximately 4.30am. The early start serves two purposes, one we farewell our porters as they descend to the train station to catch their 6.30am train home and two, we are ready to start hiking by 05.30am by when the gate that leads through to the Inti-Punku (sun gate) opens. The walk to the sun gate takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours.

Here you will enjoy your first views of the complex of Machu Picchu, often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas. On a clear morning the view from the Sun Gate can be quite stunning and creates a lasting impression that will stay with you long after you return home.
QUARRY TRAIL: The Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. This hike is 26km long in total and its highest pass is at 4,450 meters above sea level.

Throughout the trek your gear (and camping gear) will be carried by horses (as opposed to porter).

The first two nights of the trek are spent camping and the third one at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. Tents are set up by the porters. Meals are prepared by the trek cook.

Day 1 - Today is an early start as we drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas used to venerate the moon. A short drive from here takes us to Rafq'a, the starting point of our trek and where we meet the horsemen that will join us during the hike. After an approx. 1hr walk we reach the small community of Socma.

A further 60min walk takes to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout. This is a perfect opportunity to stop for photos and a snack.

From here we continue on to our campsite, at 3700 meters above sea level. All going well, we should reach our campsite by lunch time. After lunch we set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which used to serve as a check point during the times of the Incas.

Day 2 - This is the most challenging but most rewarding day of the hike. A 3hr walk takes us to the top of the first pass, known as Puccaqasa (approx 4370 meters). After enjoying the views of the valley below we walk down for 30min to our lunch spot.

Rested and full of energy again we take on a 2hr hike to the highest pass of the trek: Kuychicassa (4450 meters).

From here we head down for 2hr to a site the Incas called Inti Punku, (meaning Sun Gate) with imposing views over the valley bellow and the Veronica mountain raising over the horizon.

Our campsites is a stone throw away at Choquetacarpo (3600 metres)

Day 3 - Day three is all downhill hiking. The first stop is at the Kachiqata quarry, where we witness the work the Incas could not complete due to the Spanish conquest.

Approximately at midday we finally arrive to the town of Kachiqata - the end of this challenging and fascinating trek.

From here we visit Ollantaytambo. In the afternoon we travel by train to Aguas Calientes where we meet with our fellow travellers who didn't hike. The natural hot springs in town are an unbeatable way to spend a late afternoon/early evening. Tonight we overnight at a simple but comfortable hotel.

Day 4 - Today we take a very early bus (5:30am depending on weather conditions) along the winding road to Machu Picchu (approx. 30 minutes). In Machu Picchu we join the travellers who opted to hike the Classic Inca Trail option of this trip before taking on a guided walk of Machu Picchu.
TRAIN OPTION: For those travellers not interested or unable to hike the trail, it's possible to spend two extra nights Cuzco before travelling by bus to Ollantaytambo (approx. 90 minutes) and train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes (1.5 hrs approx.) where you spend a third night.

Aguas Calientes is nestled in the cloud forest in the hills at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want a sneak peak, there is time to visit Machu Picchu independently before a guided tour the following day. If you would like to do this please advise your group leader at the welcome meeting. Otherwise, you can while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs that give the town its name.

MACHU PICCHU: While it's thought Machu Picchu was built around 1440 as a country retreat for Incan nobility, there is evidence this had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Another school of thought is that this was an astronomical observatory. There's plenty of time for you to decide for yourself as you wander around the many temples, palaces and living quarters. You will have a guided visit (approx 1.5-2 hrs) with plenty of free time afterwards.

After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cuzco for a well deserved shower and a pisco sour.
WAYNA PICCHU: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking this activity.
Enjoy free time to relax, shop and explore more of Cuzco's sights. Rest weary legs at a cafe on Plaza de Armas. For those who can't get enough active adventure, why not try mountain biking in the hills that surround Cuzco.
Travel by local bus through the dramatic scenery of the high altiplano to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approx 6 hrs).
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, sitting at 3,820 m above sea level. From the shoreline, the water stretches out almost as far as the eye can see, its expanses just waiting to be explored.
Take a tour of the lake by slow motor boat, stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. The Uros originally built their islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes. The islands are built from many layers of totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. As the reeds closest to the water begin to rot, more layers are added on top. These reeds are used for making everything on the islands, including the boats which can last up to 12 months.

To get a closer look at daily life on the islands, we'll be welcomed into local homes for a two night stay on a community island. Built of rich, red soil these islands contrast strikingly with the deep azure of the lake and the greenery of the crops.

Make the most of your visit by helping your host family with their daily activities or trying to chat in the local language, Quechua. A game of soccer is also a great way to make local friends.

Our homestay is a mudbrick house. Rooms have beds and many blankets, there are shared drop toilets but no showers.

When our stay is completed, return to Puno by boat (approx 3 hrs).
Travel by comfortable local bus to Desaguadero, where we cross the border into Bolivia. The first stop is the Peruvian migration office where you'll be asked to leave the bus and proceed through Peruvian migration. Then walk via a bridge to the Bolivian side, submit your passport at the Bolivian migration office and reboard the bus, which will continue to La Paz. About 30 minutes after crossing the border there's another stop where the army will again check your documents.

The journey to La Paz takes about 5 hours - don't forget that Bolivia's timezone is 1-2 hours ahead of Peru.
At around 3,600 m, La Paz feels like the top of the world. It's not far from it and vies with Tibet for the title of highest capital in the world. Although Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, La Paz is the centre of commerce, finance and industry. Despite the abundance of colonial architecture, La Paz's indigenous roots run deep, and the atmosphere in the market-filled streets is both modern and traditional.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
19 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 4 dinners
Transport
Bus, Boat
Accommodation
Hotel (16 nights), Camping (with basic facilities) (3 nights), Homestay (1 night)
Included activities
  • Chauchilla Cemetery Tour
  • Colca Canyon
  • Colca Canyon Tour
  • La Calera hot springs
  • Orientation Walk - Cuzco
  • Coca Museum
  • Private bus to Sacred Valley and local community visit
  • 3 Night / 4 Day Inca Trail (or 2 Night / 3 Day Quarry Trail)
  • Lake Titicaca boat tour & homestay

Dates

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This trip requires an Inca Trail Permit. To view permit availability click here.

For information about altitude sickness click here


Important notes

A single supplement is available on this trip. This includes during the Inca Trail where a single tent will be provided.

Inca Trail permits are sold on request basis only. Once deposit is paid and passport details provided, Intrepid will endeavour to secure a permit for you.

If Inca Trail permits are unavailable by the time you book, you can opt to hike the Inca Quarry Trail (incatrail) instead.

The Inca Trail closes in February to allow cleaning and restoration works. If the trek portion of your trip starts in February you will be automatically booked to hike the Inca Quarry Trail. (incatrail)

Should you choose not to hike at all, please let us know in writing at the time of booking so alternative arrangements can be made. Without this prior warning, local fees may apply.

Important information regarding new regulations and booking procedures for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. (inca-advisory.php)

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Homeland of the Incas trips score an average of 4.88 out of 5 based on 32 reviews in the last year.

Homeland of the Incas , November 2015

Homeland of the Incas , September 2015