Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Inkas"

For May 2010, Rutahsa Adventures and Jan Taylor of the Appalachian Mountain Club have designed a spectacular Peruvian cultural - soft adventure trip across the heart of the Inka Empire, visiting the most important Inka sites, in addition to featuring the living cultures of the Uros and Quechua peoples. Our trip will start in Lima and move south to Arequipa, then climb up into the Andes. The itinerary includes a visit to Lake Titikaka, legendary birthplace of the first Inka, a one-night homestay with local families at Raqchi, and of course, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu.

In addition to these glimpses of Andean cultures ancient and modern, participants in this trip will enjoy a fantastic variety of scenery ranging from awesome Colca Canyon to dazzling Lake Titikaka and snow-capped Andean peaks and the high altiplano with its golden fields. Along with this ever-changing panorama we'll see llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, vizcachas and condors!

This trip will be co-led by Jan Taylor and José "Pepe" Manga. Jan is an experienced trip leader who has led over 60 trips for the Appalachian Mountain Club, and is fluent in Spanish. "Pepe" is Rutahsa's favorite Peruvian tour conductor and very able. In addition, there will be Peruvian local site guides.


DAY 1, Fri., May 14: Fly into Lima, capital city of Peru. After clearing customs and immigration you will be met and taken to the hotel Casa Andina Miraflores Centro in the Miraflores section of Lima.

DAY 2, Sat., May 15: Our program today begins with a Lima city tour, seeing the Plaza de Armas and principal historic buildings in the "City of Kings", including the impressive san Francisco convent with its eerie catacombs. Next, a visit to the Museo de la Nación for an overview of Peru's fabulous cultural heritage.

Second night at Casa Andina. Included meals: B (breakfast)

DAY 3, Sun., May 16: Transfer out to the Lima airport for an early morning flight south to Arequipa. Upon reaching Arequipa we will be met at the airport and taken to our hotel, La Casa de Mi Abuela, an interesting rabbit warren of a hotel, with a pleasant open air breakfast terrace.

After checking in and freshening up a bit, we will go on a tour of central Arequipa, including a visit to the famous Santa Catalina Convent.

Arequipa is renowned for both its beautiful setting in a valley overlooked by the perfect snow-capped cone of Volcán El Misti, and for its pleasant climate, always sunny but cool. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site for its Spanish colonial architecture, well exemplified by the cloister of the Compañía de Jesús.

Founded in 1540, Arequipa is known as La Ciudad Blanca ("the White City") as many of its colonial buildings are constructed of a light-colored volcanic tuff. This morning we'll visit of some of the more important colonial sites such as the beautiful Plaza de Armas with its palm trees, the cathedral, and the fascinating Santa Catalina Convent which is practically a miniature city within the city. Santa Catalina, formerly the home to as many as 450 nuns, was closed to outsiders for 400 years, but since 1970 the complex has been open to the public, with the remaining few nuns still living in seclusion in a small private area of the convent.

Included meal: B

DAY 4, Mon., May 17: After breakfast, we head out for Colca Canyon, high in the Andes. Leaving Arequipa behind we slowly ascend on a good paved road, with close-up views of Misti Volcano as we climb up to the puna, or high alpine desert terrain. On the puna we expect to see vicuña, the smallest of the Andean camelids, in small herds ruled by a dominant male, or the occasional lone male in search of a harem. These delicate and graceful animals were hunted nearly to extinction for their fine fleece; now they are protected and are making a good comeback.

In addition to the wild vicuñas, we expect to see the domesticated camelids, llamas and alpacas, sometimes in such numbers as to almost constitute a road hazard!

Spectacular views are a given on today's journey: the landscape is impressive, with Andean lakes and waterfowl, and snow-capped peaks in the background. While stopping for photos of scenic vistas we may also enjoy on a more intimate scale the unusual vegetation, such as yareta (a relative to parsley!), adapted to the alpine climate. There's a fair chance to spot a vizcacha sunning on a rock, looking like a rabbit with a squirrel's tail! Somewhere along the way- some place with a good view- we'll stop for a picnic with box lunches. Eventually our paved road gives way to gravel, but well maintained gravel. Then we descend into the upper Colca Valley, with its extensive pre-Inka terracing, to the town of Chivay and then on to nearby Yanque. In this small town we find a pleasant surprise: the Eco-Inn Colca, our delightful hotel consisting of artistically constructed cabañas perched on a cliff for a great morning view. For more information on our hotel, visit their website.

Included meals: B, BL (box lunch)

DAY 5, Tues., May 18: Today we will spend in the Colca Canyon area, doing some hiking, watching for condors, and gawking at the Brobdingnagian scale of our surroundings. We'll leave the lodge early to get to a viewpoint called Cruz del Condor, well-known as a spot to see condors up close as they leave their rocky sanctuary and slowly begin to ascend on warming morning thermals. You don't have to be a member of the Audubon Society to be thrilled when one of these great birds sails by so closely you can hear the hiss of the wind through its feathers and see the color of its eye (one way by which the sexes are distinguished!). May is a good month to see the condors, so let's keep our fingers crossed for condor-watching luck equal to that of 2003, when we saw a dozen to as many as 20 at a time! A box lunch will be provided for this excursion. Second night at Eco-Inn Colca.

Included meal: B, BL

DAY 6, Weds., May 19: Today we continue our ascent into the Andes, via a scenic road that climbs to the altiplano near Juliaca, where we turn south to the city of Puno on the north shore of Lake Titikaka. Expect to see Andean camelids en route, especially llamas and alpacas. We will pass by several Andean lakes where sightings of flamingos, Andean geese, giant coots, and other water birds are common.

About an hour before reaching Lake Titikaka, we'll take a side road to the haunting archeological site of Sillustani. Here the pre-Inkan Colla people and later the Inkas themselves built impressive stone funerary towers known as chullpas on a mesa overlooking an other-worldly landscape. Evidence can be seen at this site that the Inka adapted and co-opted the ways of the Colla when they expanded their empire into this region.

In Puno we'll make our home at the Hotel Qelqatani, right in the heart of this little Andean city, within easy walking distance of lots of restaurants and pizzerias, shops with alpaca sweaters and other artesanía, internet cafes, etc. Puno is a nice town to walk about in.

Included meals: B, BL

DAY 7, Thurs., May 20: Lake Titikaka is stunning under the clear Andean skies. At 3856 m (12,651 ft) it is famous as the world's highest regularly navigated lake. Today we will explore a small portion of the huge lake, starting with a visit to the historic ship Yavari, built in England in 1862 and launched on the lake in 1867, after being carried in pieces up and over the Andes from the Pacific coast...a herculean effort! With a bit of luck our tour will be given in person by the inimitable Capitán Carlos, whose enthusiasm and love for his ship is contagious.

Next we will boat out to the floating islands inhabited by the Uros people. This small group of indigenous people live on artificial islands made of floating mats of totora reeds. The community even has its own schools on one of the islands. As a part of our glimpse of this amazing living space and lifestyle, we will see --and perhaps take a ride on-- the traditional reed boats. Be sure to carry some fresh fruits with you to give the Uros children-- a real treat for them (you can buy fruit at the dockside market just before we head out onto the lake). [Note: Be sure to carry dark glasses glasses for this lake trip-- the Andean sun reflecting off the sparkling lake can be very bright indeed!]

PM: Free time to explore Puno's pedestrian mall and its many shops. Puno is a good place to buy alpaca sweaters. And the pizza shops here bake really good brick oven pizza.

Second night at Hotel Qelqatani.

Included meals: B

Day 8, Fri., May 21: Today we turn back north, towards the Inka capital of Cusco...but with a lot to see and do for the next three days en route. Today the highway takes us along the northern shore of Lake Titikaka for a farewell vista, through Juliaca, and on across the altiplano, and finally up through a high Andean valley, to cross a divide and start down the Cusco side. We can expect to see herds of llamas and alpacas en route. At the town of Lampa we will visit a famous colonial church with catacombs.

Some miles beyond Lampa we arrive at Pucará, a colonial town built adjacent to a ceremonial site belonging to the Wari culture. The Wari predated the Inka and were closely allied culturally with the Tiwanaku culture. The remains of a semi-subterranean temple at this site will look familiar to anyone who has visited Tiwanaku at the south end of Lake Titikaka.

About halfway to Cusco we reach the small town of Raqchi, where we'll overnight in private homes in this Quechua community. Don't expect luxury. But do expect clean beds and wholesome food and an opportunity to get to know something about the lives of the Andean people. Our 2008 group got to participate in a local celebration and loved this homestay experience.

While at Raqchi we will visit the fascinating and imposing ruins of the Inka Temple to Viracocha, the creator of the world in Inka theology. The temple remains stand amid a complex of storehouses, barracks-like buildings, and other constructions along the margins of a lava flow. Descendants of the Inkas continue to farm the site and the barley and wheat fields glow golden in the late evening sun. This is one of our very favorite Inka sites.

Included meals: B, BL, D (dinner)

DAY 9, Sat., May 22: After breakfast we board our bus again and head for Cusco, the capital of the Inka Empire, enjoying fine Andean scenery as we roll along down the valley of the Vilcanota River; we pass picturesque towns en route, the great Inka wall and gateway of Rumicolca (once the south gate to the Inka capital); the gorgeous colonial church at Andahuaylillas, and, time permitting, we'll stop at the enigmatic archeological site of Pikillacta, a pre-Inka city belonging to the Wari culture.

Upon arrival in Cusco we'll settle into one of Cusco's best hotels, the four-star Hotel Picoaga, in the heart of the historic district, just a short walk from the Plaza de Armas.

Included meals: B

DAY 10, Sun., May 23: After breakfast we go for a short bus ride up into the hills above Cusco to see the nearby ruins of Tambomachay (the Bath of the Inka), Puka Pukara (the Red Fortress), Qenco (an extremely weird huaca or sacred place), and finally the mighty fortress of the Sacsahuaman. This amazing work is built of truly cyclopean stones fitted together with uncanny precision. Unquestionably, it is one of the wonders of the world! From atop the fortress we will enjoy a splendid view of the valley of Cusco and the city the fortress once protected.

After lunch back in Cusco, we will enjoy a guided walking tour of the most important points in Cusco, the "Navel of the World" and seat of the Inka Empire. Our visits will include the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral, and the Qoricancha (Sun Temple). As we marvel at the foundation walls of the palace of Inka Roca we'll see a famous icon, the "Twelve-Cornered Stone". Our guide will teach us how to distinguish between original Inka walls and Spanish colonial walls constructed by Inka stonemasons for the conquerors. The Inka stonework lives up to its is marvelous!

Second night at Hotel Picoaga. Included meal: B

DAY 11, Mon., May 24: We leave Cusco today headed for the Sacred Valley, by way of Chinchero, Moray and a stimulating hike (optional) down to the Río Urubamba!

The drive to Chinchero is across a beautiful patchwork agricultural panorama. At Chinchero, we will visit an important colonial church with wonderful frescoes, built atop the ruins of an Inka fort or palace.

Moray is an enigmatic Inka site where giant natural sinkholes have been converted by the Inkas into terraced agricultural areas. Some theorize that these sinkhole-farms served as an agricultural experimental station, where Inka cultivators took advantage of the microclimates at different levels within the shelter of the sinkholes; however this theory is not given much credence by recent investigators. Today the site is favored by seekers of the mystic who come here to meditate.

After a picnic lunch we will hike a couple of miles --downhill-- through a side canyon to the Sacred Valley. The trail passes through the Salineras de Maras where a salt water spring has been used since pre-Conquest times for the extraction of salt by evaporation. From a distance the hundreds of small, family-operated evaporation ponds, encrusted with salt, give the salt works the appearance of a miniature gleaming white city.

After passing through the salineras the trail continues on to the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, where our bus will be awaiting us. This is a relatively easy hike, but hiking boots are recommended; anyone preferring not to hike can go with the bus to the Sacred Valley.

Our bus driver will pick up the hikers and carry them on to the town or Ollantaytambo, where the Hotel Pakaritampu will be our delightful home for the next two nights.

Included meals: B, Picnic Lunch

DAY 12, Tues., May 25: After an early breakfast we will board our bus and drive to the upstream end of the Sacred Valley to visit the Inka citadel of Pisac, with its stupendous andenes (agricultural terraces) still in use today, its fortified dwelling areas and the remains of its temple complex. The site sprawls along a steep narrow ridge with views from the trails that give you the sense of being in a helicopter; some visitors find this site more impressive than Machu Picchu. One thing for sure, hiking the interconnecting trails, steps and tunnels from one sector to another will certainly convince you that the Inka people did not sleepwalk!

After our Pisac visit, we will reboard our bus and eat a box lunch while enjoying the incomparable scenery of the beautiful Sacred Valley as we drive back to Ollantaytambo for our afternoon site visit.

Back in "Ollanta", we will explore the Inka fortress-temple of Ollantaytambo. This site was actually still under construction when the Conquistadors arrived, and today's ruins preserve evidence of the construction techniques.

In addition to the impressive ruins, the living town of Ollantaytambo is very special: it retains its original Inka civic planning layout of canchas, a grid of narrow cobbled streets separating walled blocks with interior courts. We will visit a home in one of the canchas to get a glimpse of Quechua homelife, replete with the household cuy, i.e. guinea pigs, underfoot. Ollantaytambo is also a good place to see traditional Andean costume still being worn, and hand-loomed ponchos and other textiles may be purchased here.

Second night at Hotel Pakaritampu.

Included meals: B, BL

DAY 13, Weds., May 26: Today we go to fabled Machu Picchu! We walk the short distance from our hotel to the station and board the narrow-gauge train that will trundle us down the Urubamba River gorge to Machu Picchu, the legendary "Lost City of the Inkas", one of the world's premier archeological sites, one of those exceedingly rare places where the works of nature and society combine to create a place of transcendental mystic beauty. Our train arrives in the town of Aguas Calientes by mid-morning, and after checking into the Machu Picchu Inn it's by bus up the zig-zag "Hiram Bingham Highway" to the sacred citadel for an introductory walking tour (guided) to the site.

After lunch at the ruins (included) you can continue to explore Machu Picchu on your own-- there is so much to see in the main ruins, and a short hike out to the Inka drawbridge is also recommended. But don't miss the last bus down the mountain to Aguas Calientes, where we overnight at the Machu Picchu Inn.

Included meals: B, L (lunch)

DAY 14, Thurs. May 27: Most of our group will want to take an early bus up to the ruins and beat the trainload of daytrippers that comes in around 10 AM. Here you'll have all morning and the early afternoon to get to know the intricacies of Machu Picchu proper-- its residential areas, its fountains, temples, amazing agricultural terraces, and a thousand intriguing nooks and crannies. Or, if you're a hiker wanting a thrill, climb up Huayna Picchu for a breath-taking (literally) view of Machu Picchu far below. Another good hike is along part of the famed Inka Trail to the Inti-Punku ("Sun Gate").

Second day Machu Picchu entry fee and bus tickets are included.

Second night at Machu Picchu Inn in Aguas Calientes. Included meal: B

DAY 15, Fri., May 28: AM: Free time. You may wish to return to Machu Picchu's entrancing ruins yet again (on your own: third day entry not included). However, a return visit to Machu Picchu sanctuary is not the only possibility. If you are a bird watcher, there is good birding along the railroad. Some may wish to visit the hot springs just upstream from Aguas Calientes town. A hiking enthusiast wanting a really unusual hike -- one that includes some fairly astonishing ladders-- should try the hike up to Putukusi. This hike leads to the top of the peak directly across the Urubamba gorge from Machu Picchu and provides a view of Machu Picchu that only a tiny fraction of visitors ever see. Whatever you choose for this morning's activity, be sure to inform your Tour Conductor, and be sure you are back in time to catch the train!

We will return on the 3 PM train to Cusco where we will spend our final Cusco night in our famliar digs at the Hotel Picoaga.

Included meal: B

DAY 16, Sat., May 29: A full day of free time in Cusco! This fascinating city offers many attractions to explore-- colonial churches and convents, museums, many attractive shops and street vendors with a variety of goods, and lots of restaurants to sample. Use your Cusco Area Visitors ticket for entry to certain visitors' sites.

Second night at Hotel Picoaga. Included meal: B

DAY 17, Sun., May 30: More free time this morning, for some final exploring and/or shopping, but this afternoon we we fly back to Lima. Make sure you are back at the hotel, packed and ready to go at the announced time for departure!

Our flight into Lima will be timed to allow an easy connection with our international flight out of Peru and back home. All good things must eventually conclude, and so our Peruvian adventure winds down as we board our return flights to the US, carrying a million memories of unforgettable wonders seen, new friends made, and the determination to return someday to incredible Peru.

Note: For anyone who chooses to overnight in Lima, we can arrange airport transfers and lodging (not included in the trip fee).

Included meal: B


To request an application blank, please e-mail Jan at Jan Taylor. Don't delay: trip participation will be limited to 16, and we expect this trip to sell out fast.

TRIP FEE INCLUDES: Transfers between Lima airport and Casa Andina Miraflores in Miraflores (Lima); all lodging (in double occupancy rooms); breakfast in most hotels, other meals as specified in the itinerary; transportation by private bus with professional driver; boat transportation on Lake Titikaka; train ride to Machu Picchu and return to Cusco; local guide services by bilingual guides; entries to all visitor's sites specified in the itinerary; services of Jan Taylor as overall tour coordinator, and José "Pepe" Manga as Peruvian tour conductor. Medical emergency and evacuation insurance is also included.

NOT INCLUDED: Round trip air fare from point of origin to Lima; internal flights in Peru (however, we will book these flights for you); meals not specified in the itinerary; souvenirs, tips, phone/fax/internet services and other personal expenses; Peru exit tax ($28 at the time of this writing).

Cost of international flights plus two domestic flights in Peru is approximately $1200.

SINGLES SUPPLEMENT: If you feel you need a single room, please enquire about availability and cost.

HOW TO GET ABOARD: If you are interested in this trip and would like for us to e-mail you an application, or if you have further questions about the trip, let Jan know by clicking here Peru trip requests.

FYI: The background color used in this website is the html color officially known as "Peru".

                        RECOMMENDED READINGS:

        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.,
             195 p.
        Frost, Peter, and Bartle, Jim, 1995, Machu Picchu Historical
             Sanctuary: Lima, Nuevas Imagenes S. A., 64 p.
	Hadingham, Evan, 1988, Lines to the Mountain Gods:  Nazca and the
		Mysteries of Peru: Oklahoma City, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 
		307 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.
	Kendall, Ann, 1973, Everyday Life of the Incas:  New York, Dorset 
		Press, 216 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
	Wright, Ruth M., and Valencia Zegarra, Alfredo, 2004, The Machu Picchu
             Guidebook - A Self-Guided Tour, Revised Edition: Boulder,
	     Colorado, Johnson Books, 188 p.  [By far the best guidebook 
             for Machu Picchu; be sure to have this one with you when you

Photos on this website by Janie and Ric Finch, @copyrighted.