INCA EMPIRE ADVENTURE in 1999
For June of 1999 Rutahsa Adventures has organized a spectacular trip
into the heart of the Inca Empire. Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and
more, MUCH more will be included in this trip. This trip has been organized
in such a way that you have two choices: you can hike the Inca Trail to Machu
Picchu, visiting five beautiful and important Inca ruins en route, or, spend
more time in the Sacred Valley visiting more accessible and equally stunning
Inca citadels, before taking the train to Machu Picchu. In addition, we will
take our group to a little known and scarcely visited site: the last
remaining keshwa chaca, or Inca straw
suspension bridge in existence.
TRIP HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
Lima, the "City of Kings". Peru's capital is the starting point of most
visits to Peru, mainly because most flights into Peru land at the capital city.
But even for visitors whose main interest is Incaic Peru, Lima has some
not-to-be-missed attractions. Lima features monumental governmental buildings,
and colonial churches such as San Francisco with its eerie catacombs recently rediscovered. There are
wonderful examples of colonial architecture, including palatial homes featuring
ornate carved wooden balconies with jalousies
behind which aristocratic damsels looked down upon the hoi polloi passing
through the streets below. One of these mansions, built in 1535, is still
occupied by the same family today. Lima also boasts some world-class museums,
and we will visit the Raphael Larco Herrera museum of ceramics and the
dazzling Gold Museum before our excursion is over.
From Lima, we fly to Cusco, the "Navel of the
Earth", center of the mighty Inca Empire, crushed by the iron fist of Pizarro
and a handful of bold Spanish conquistadores in 1533. Today, Cusco is a unique blend of cultures: ornate
Spanish colonial architecture set on
foundations of austere and monumental Inca stonework. The city so oozes
history that the cultural clash of nearly 500 years ago is palpable as one
walks Inca streets, beside the fitted stones of the walls of an Inca palace,
topped by the colonial-era palaces of Spanish warriors and high clergy. Here
the former archbishop's mansion --today a museum-- stands atop the walls of
the palace of Inca Roca. The world-famous
twelve cornered stone, found in one of the
walls of the Inca Roca palace, is only one example of the marvelous cyclopean
stonework favored by some of the Inca emperors.
High above the Inca capital lie the ruins of the gigantic Sacsayhuaman
fortress, whose zig-zag defenses are a marvel
of military engineering. The mighty walls of cyclopean stonework include blocks weighing over 100 tons, yet
put together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that seemingly must have required
multiple trials to achieve the close fit. Today the parade ground of the
fortress is the scene each June 24 of the colorful Indian festival of Inti
Raymi. Nearby rock exposures feature carved seats, so-called Inca thrones,
and the curious natural phenomenon known as El Rodadero, that is, "the roller-coaster", on which local kids and
tourists take fun rides.
From Cusco we will make a long day-trip out into the highlands to the gorge of
the Rio Apurimac, to see the last keshwa
chaca, or suspension bridge, made of plaited ropes of ichu grass.
This bridge was described in National Geographic by Loren McIntyre in the
1970s, and was featured in a 1995 NOVA program, but is seldom seen by tourists.
It is still being rebuilt annually by the local indigenous community, just as
in Inca Empire times. See McIntyre's fascinating article in the Dec. 1973
issue of National Geographic.
After Cusco, we will travel across the altiplano to the Sacred Valley,
where the Urubamba River has carved a deep but flat-bottomed valley suitable
for agriculture. Here the Inca Empire planted a series of fortress towns in
the valley and perched high on the valley walls like Pisac. In addition to fine Inca stonework in its religious
buildings, Pisac is notable for its tremendous andenes, or agricultural terraces still in use today by
indigenous farmers. The andenes are ascended and descended by
stepping stones set in the terrace walls.
Further down the Sacred Valley is the village of Ollantaytambo, which is said
to be the best surviving example of Inca town planning. The village is laid
out in canchas, that is, conjoined houses that seem to form solid blocks of construction with no access to
the streets between the blocks, save a single portal that leads to an interior
courtyard in the center of each block. Was
this a defensive plan? In addition the living village, where traditional costume can still be seen,
Ollantaytambo boasts a ruined citadel of finely
fitted stonework, superb terraces, Inca aqueducts and fountains, and mysterious stone buildings clinging to cliffs high above the town.
One of the world's classic hikes is the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.
This stone-paved trail winds down steep
mountainsides, passes through tunnels, crosses alpine bogs, ascends and descends long flights of steps hewn from the living bedrock, and passes by
spectacular archeological ruins-- such as Huiñay Huayna-- that anywhere except on a trail to Machu
Picchu would be world famous sites. The 4-day hike is an unforgettable
experience, and will be an option to participants who are hearty and truly
Downriver from Ollantaytambo the canyon walls close in and the Urubamba becomes
a foaming torrent, paralleled on one side by
the narrow-gauge railroad to Machu Picchu. Participants who choose to maximize
their time in the Sacred Valley and at Machu Picchu will reach that famous
citadel city via the train, to be joined later by the trekkers who take the
However you reach Machu Picchu, its
indescribably dramatic physical setting, the pristine nature of the site
(never discovered by the Spaniards and therefore never vandalized), and, above
all the incomparable mystery of these beautiful, silent ruins, make this the
highlight of your Peru trip. After paying respects to one of Machu Picchu's
guardians you enter the city through a
trapezoidal doorway so characteristic of
Inca architecture, to wander along streets and stairways, through living quarters and temples, eventually drawn upwards past the Temple of Three Windows to the holy site of the Intihuatana, famed as the "hitching post of
Machu Picchu is a showcase of Inca engineering; the care lavished on its
construction implies that it must have been a very important site in its day.
Exquisitely coursed masonry of granite ashlars
characterizes the most important edifices. But stones more marvelously cut and
fitted than Cusco's famed stone of 12 corners can also be seen here, for
example, this block has 32 cut angles.
Observant visitors will see many fascinating architectural details, such as the
variety of stone anchors for the original roofs, which were of pole and thatch
construction. One of the most fascinating engineering features is the water
supply system. A small canal brought water to a series of 16 fountains, each
feeding the next lower pool through ingenious
channels cut in the stones.
In addition to prowling the main archeological site, there are side trails
leading out to amazing features such as the Inca
draw bridge that protected one road to Machu Picchu from would-be invaders.
And a climb up to the peak of Huayna Picchu for a view back down to Machu Picchu is breath-taking (literally!).
Inca Trail porters from the village of Huilloc, wear their traditional
bright red ponchos.
As of this writing (Feb. 16, 1999) we can give a cost estimate which we believe
will hold firm: $1930.00 per passenger for those who take the Inca Trail
option, and $2035.00 per person for those who take the Sacred Valley option.
These prices include all hotels (double occupancy rooms), ground
transportation, round trip air fare Lima-Cusco-Lima, park and monument entry
fees, bilingual guide service, and some meals (continental breakfast at some
hotels; picnic lunches on certain outings; all meals on the Inca Trail).
Not included: air fare U.S.-Lima-U.S., most meals and beverages,
souvenirs, and tips.
If eight passengers sign up for this trip, and barring a major increase in the
Lima-Cusco air fare, the prices quoted above should be firm. If the trip is
fully subscribed at 16 travellers, we may be able to reduce these prices. We
will bend every effort to offer the best deal possible!
HOW TO GET ON BOARD:
Adventurers interested in travelling with us should take note: You should make
your reservations with Rutahsa Adventures ASAP, inasmuch as hotel reservations
in the Cusco area are already in very short supply around the time of the Inti
Raymi Festival. We also urge you to confirm your U.S. to Lima reservations
ASAP, as tickets also could prove hard to get for this time of year.
To secure a reservation on this trip, please request a trip application form
from Rutahsa Adventures; an application should be filled out for each and
every traveller, so please request the proper number for your party if not
travelling alone. Deposit and schedule of payments information will accompany
your application form.
To request your trip application form(s) click here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Ric Finch
Rutahsa Adventures, Inc.
299 Allen Hollow Rd.
Cookeville, TN 38501
June 14: Fly into Lima from US or other points of embarkation.
Overnight at the Hotel Antigua, a former mansion recently converted into a
hotel in the Miraflores district. For a preview of the Hotel Antigua, click
here: Hotel Antigua.
June 15: Tour the City of Kings: Plaza de Armas, San Francisco church,
Torre Tagle colonial palace, and the world-famous Gold Museum. Second night
in the Hotel Antigua.
June 16: Fly to Cusco in morning;
afternoon visit to Plaza de Armas, Cathedral,
and other nearby sites, in an easy-paced walking tour while you become
accustomed to the altitude. Our hotel for the several days we'll be in Cusco
is the Hotel Picoaga, a 70-room hotel including portions of the 17th century
Marquis de Picoaga's mansion. For a glimpse of the Hotel Picoaga, click here:
June 17: Tour of the nearby Inca ruins: Tambomachay (the "Bath of the
Inca"), Puca Pucara (the "Red Fortress"), Quenko (a weirdly carved "huaca" or
sacred site), and the massive Sacsayhuaman
fortress overlooking Cusco. Free time in the afternoon for independent
exploring of Cusco's many attractions.
June 18: Up early today to bus up into the Andean highlands to the
keshwa chaca (straw suspension bridge) hanging over the Río Apurimac. This is an all-day trip
through dramatic scenery. We'll carry picnic lunches and eat by the wayside
amid splendid Andean scenery. Return to Cusco late in the day. Anyone
preferring a more relaxed schedule can spend the day visiting more of Cusco's
churches, Inca sites, museums, artisans' shops, and sampling some of the many
June 19: Inca Trail group leaves Cusco today to start the hike. Those
travellers not hiking the Inca Trail will board our private transportation and
ride to the Sacred Valley to visit the ruins of the Inca citadel above Pisac.
Here we'll walk along some vertiginous trails, up stairs and through a tunnel,
as we visit the various parts of this sprawling site. Here we see our first
intihuatana or "hitching post of the sun". After lunch we will visit the
unfinished fortress/temple at Ollantaytambo, and the living Inca town of
Return to Urubamba, to overnight at the Willka T'ika Garden Lodge, a really
special little retreat where communing with the spirits of the Sacred Valley is
encouraged, excellent vegetarian food is served, and an ambience of tranquility
is maintained. To learn more about this special lodge, click here Willka T'ika Garden Lodge.
June 20: Today we visit Chicheros, to see the
colonial church built atop Inca ruins here,
and to experience the colorful indigenous marketplace. The church has a
noteworthy frescoed ceiling, and the Inca stonework all about continues to
amaze. After Chincheros we visit Moray, a strange collection of agricultural
terraces set in deep, round, natural depressions in the land surface. Some
investigators think this was an Inca agricultural experimental station,
utilizing microclimates achieved on different terrace levels in the circular
depressions. No one really knows. From Moray we'll proceed to the colonial
town of Maras and visit the nearby saltworks. Salt has been produced from
salinas (salt evaporating ponds) here for untold centuries. Finally,
we'll hike down into the Sacred Valley, to be picked up and taken back to
the Willka T'ika Garden Lodge. During today's outing we'll have a picnic
lunch in the country.
Second night at the Willka T'ika Garden Lodge. Day 2 on the I.T. for the hikers.
June 21: Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas
Calientes), where we will check into our lodgings, and then bus up to Machu
Picchu ruins, spending the rest of the day exploring the mysterious silent
city. Day 3 on the I.T. for the hikers. Our lodgings in Aguas Calientes will
be at the well-known Gringo Bill's, an establishment of true character!
Those who want to have a one-day Inca Trail experience can get off at km. 107
and hike up (and up and up!) to the beautiful Wiñay Wayna ruins, and
then across to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, descending to Aguas Calientes by
bus to meet the rest of the group at Gringo BIll's. [N.B.: This is an extra
cost service, as the travelers who choose this option will be accompanied by a
guide, and the Inca Trail fees must be paid.]
June 22: Dedicated bird-watchers will want to get up early and walk along the
railroad tracks to watch for cocks-of-the-rock, golden quetzals, and other
exotic birds. Dedicated ruins enthusiasts will want to grab the 6 AM bus up
to Machu Picchu to beat the crowds from the mid-morning train. Our Inca Trail
hikers should rejoin our main group at Machu Picchu today. Overnight again in
June 23: A last morning visit to Machu Picchu ruins, then we take the
afternoon train back to Cusco from Aguas Calientes.
June 24: Inti Raymi Festival at the Sacsayhuaman fortress.
June 25: Fly back to Lima in the morning; afternoon visit to the
Rafael Herrera Larco Museum of pre-columbian ceramics (including the famous
room of amazingly graphic erotic ceramics).
June 26: Fly out of Lima, back to the US or other destination. End of
An elderly Quechua woman in full traditional costume, Plaza de Armas,
For those with more time and eager to maximize the unforgettable Peru
experience, we will offer a trip extension to Lake Titicaca. An all day train
ride takes you from Cusco to Puno on the north shore of Lake Titicaca. The
next day will include visits to the pre-Inca archeological site of Sillustani
with its strange funerary towers, and a visit to the man-made floating islands
where the Ouros Indians live. Depending on the requests of our travellers, we
may charter a boat to the Island of the Sun or other parts of the great
inland sea. This part of Rutahsa Adventures' Peru excursion will remain
flexible until we learn more about your wishes.
IF THIS TRIP LOOKS GOOD TO YOU, PLEASE COME BACK AGAIN LATER TO SEE OUR PLANS
FOR PERU IN 2000!
Beltran, Miriam, 1970, Cuzco, Window on Peru, Second Ed. Revised:
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 221 p.
Frost, Peter, 1989, Exploring Cusco: Lima, Nuevas Imagenes S. A.,
Frost, Peter, and Bartle, Jim, 1995, Machu Picchu Historical
Sanctuary: Lima, Nuevas Imagenes S. A., 64 p.
Hemming, John, 1981, Machu Picchu: New York, Newsweek Book
Division, 172 p.
Hemming, John, and Ranney, Edward, 1990, Monuments of the Incas,
Albuquerque, Univ. of New Mexico Press, 228 p.
Prescott, William H., 1882, History of the Conquest of Peru:
Philadelphia, J. B. Lippencott & Co., v. 1, 510 p.,
v. 2, 530 p. [Prescott's amazing work went through various
editions and printings, and should be available in major
Squier, E. George, 1877, PERU: Incidents of Travel and Exploration in
the Land of the Incas: New York, Henry Holt and Co., 599 p.
[A classic 19th-century travel work by an archeologist and
diplomat; originals scarce, but a modern reprint has been
Images on this webpage by Janie and Ric Finch, @copyrighted.