Within the mountains of Peru lies a wealth of ancient Inca temples, Spanish colonial towns, and breathtaking Andean vistas. Discover the magnificent capital of Cusco, hike to ruins in the Urubamba Valley, meet artisans and archaeologists, and examine pre-Colombian treasures at the renowned Larco Museum. Then spend the night among the enchanting ruins of Machu Picchu, excavated by Hiram Bingham with funding from National Geographic more than a century ago.
This trip is offered in partnership with Lindblad Expeditions.
Arrive in Lima, Peru's largest city, founded in the 1500s by conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Transfer to our hotel upon arrival and enjoy an evening to relax.
Fly from Lima to Cusco this morning and drive to the Inca site of Moray—believed to have been an agricultural laboratory where priests would test soils and crops. After a private lunch near the site, stop at the colorful local market in Urubamba.
Spend the day exploring the archaeological sites and Andean culture of the Sacred Valley in the company of National Geographic grantee Peter Frost, who has lived and worked in Peru for decades. He (or occasionally a colleague, if he is in the field) joins us for a talk at the hotel and continues with us to Ollantaytambo, where massive stone walls stand sentry over a thriving Inca community. Stop at a family-owned hacienda for lunch and witness a presentation of traditional horsemanship. Later, meet National Geographic grantee Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, founder of El Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco, who has helped preserve and revive traditional Inca textiles.
An exhilarating morning train ride takes us along the Urubamba River, passing between steep slopes on the way to magnificent Machu Picchu. Isolated among mountain peaks, Machu Picchu is one of the world's most awe-inspiring sites. The sacred citadel was abandoned by the Inca, reclaimed by the jungle, and lost to history until it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and excavated with support from the National Geographic Society. Discover the mysteries of the "lost city of the Inca" on a guided walk of the citadel and then check in to our incredible lodge overlooking the ruins—the only accommodation adjacent to Machu Picchu. This afternoon, return to the site to explore with a guide and see the Inca Bridge, built on a stone path that the Inca cut into a sheer cliff face. Watch twilight descend on Machu Picchu after the crowds have disappeared, and soak up the quiet enchantment of this legendary site.
At sunrise, hike up to the Sun Gate, the final checkpoint of the Inca Trail, and watch day break over the timeless ruins of Machu Picchu. Spend the rest of this morning wandering through the site on your own. After lunch, board the train back to the Sacred Valley. Continue to Cusco, a city of astonishing charm and beauty that was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Our home here is an exquisite 16th-century monastery just steps from the city square. Take a stroll in the elegant arcaded courtyard and admire the 16th-century antiques and paintings decorating the halls before a special dinner with opera singers in the vaulted dining room.
Delve into the legacy of the Inca and the Spanish during a full day of exploration in Cusco. Examine the massive stone boulders that make up the 15th-century Sacsayhuaman fortress, site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Spanish conquest. See the Coricancha, the “golden temple” of the Inca, built at the symbolic center of their empire. Then enjoy the rest of the day at leisure to stroll around this beautiful city or relax at our historic hotel.
After our flight back to Lima, visit the renowned Museo Larco to view the world's largest private collection of pre-Columbian art. Catch the changing of the guard at the Plaza Mayor before we gather for a farewell lunch at Casa Aliaga, a lovely colonial home. Later, check in to our hotel, perched on the waterfront in the elegant Miraflores district, and take the rest of the day to relax or explore on your own.
After breakfast, transfer to the Lima airport for the return flight home.