Cuzco Tour: Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and Urubamba

Overview

This program is a rewarding exploratory of a verdant mountain region in the highlands of Peru that will provide you with a chance to visit the most beautiful sites of the Inca Empire and Spanish colonization in the central Andes.  It includes a visit to Machu Picchu and to several other locations that are ranked among the world’s most aesthetic and historically important archeological sites.

 

A view of the Andes mountains from the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba

A view of the Andes mountains from the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba. Ryan Fox

In Cuzco, you will see the history of the region in layers.  The Incas flourished from the 12th through the early 16th Centuries, until Spanish explorer Francisco Pizzaro and his army arrived in Cuzco in November 1533.  As you explore the town, you will see many examples of 16th and 17th Century colonial buildings constructed on top of Inca foundations and walls.

In Cuzco, at Machu Picchu, and at sites that you will visit in the nearby highlands and the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba, you will be impressed by the Incas’ ability to form structures by fitting together multi-ton rocks chiseled so precisely that no mortar was needed or used.

The central highlands of area of Peru around Cuzco is among the most beautiful mountain areas of the world.  It is an area buttressed by two large mountain ranges with summits rising above 20,000 feet.  Between those ranges is a region of fertile and accommodating river valleys with thousands of acres of steep valley walls terraced by the Incas over a period of five centuries (500 to 1000 years ago) and still farmed by their Quechua / Spanish speaking descendents today.

You’ll spend your second night at a hotel on the Urubamba River, just below Machu Picchu so you can be within the archeological site at sunrise.

You’ll begin and end your explorations with nights in Cuzco, where you will be impressed by the weavings, silver work, wonderful highland coffee, diversity and quality of the food, and the vibrancy of the day and night life in the heart of the old Inca capital.

 

Cuzco Tour: Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and Urubamba

Itinerary

Cuzco Tour - Map

DAY 1: LIMA TO CUZCO

After an early morning flight from Lima brings you to the beautiful Inca and colonial city of to Cuzco (locally spelled Cusco).  You will be met at the airport and transfer to your hotel in town (either Hotel Casa Andina Private Collection or Hotel Emperador Plaza or similar).  Cuzco stands at 11,500 feet so it is important to start at an easy pace.  You’ll have the rest of the morning free for some easy walking around the beautiful city to see some of the detailed colonial architecture as well as examine some of the finest examples of the Inca's precise stonework.

After lunch, we will drive up through eucalyptus groves into the hills overlooking Cuzco to the magnificent fortress of Sacsayhuaman, one of the most impressive megalithic structures in the world.  With three partial zigzag ramparts, one above the other and each incorporating 21 bastions, the structure runs for nearly 1200 feet and exhibits some of the best large-scale stone work in the world.  We’ll then move on to three other important ruins in the area: Kenqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay.

Lodging: Casa Andina Private Collection or Hotel Emperador Plaza or similar

DAY 2: CUZCO – SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS

CHINCHEROS  •  OLLANTAYTAMBO  •  TRAVEL TO MACHUPICCHU AREA

After an 8 am breakfast at our hotel, we will travel to the Sacred Valley.  We will enjoy views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba as we drive to a small altiplano and to the settlement of Chincheros, a culturally and economically important market town and one in which we can see distinctly dressed Quechua groups from surrounding villages.

We visit the market and then descend into the Urubama Valley to have lunch, and later to descend the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, an Inca city where we will explore the ruins just above the town and river.  Ollantaytambo is a Quechua town of small cobbled streets, traditional homes, and extensive Inca ruins. It was originally built as a fortification to guard access to the Urubamba Valley which abruptly narrows at this location. In the ruins we hike up Inca stone stairways and explore old rooms and passageways built into the mountainside.

Late in the afternoon we will head to the train station and board a “Vista Dome” rail car from which we can enjoy views of the river and steepening valley walls as we travel downstream an hour-and-a-half to a spot on the river not far from Machu Picchu.

Lodging: Hotel Hatun Inti Classic (breakfast and lunch included).

DAY 3:  MACHU PICCHU TO CUSCO

Cuzco Tour - The Urubamba River runs through the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba.

The Urubamba River runs through the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba. Dunham Gooding

We’ll have an early breakfast in the hotel and at 6:00 a.m., transfer to a bus for the drive up to the citadel of Machu Picchu, and be there early enough to enjoy sunrise.

Machu Picchu is the most remarkable of Inca ruins, and it is considered by many to be the most awe-inspiring accomplishment of all ancient civilizations.  Sunrise will gradually and dramatically reveal its complexity.  After sunrise, we will enjoy a complete guided tour of the site, lasting approximately 3 hours.

Once the tour has concluded we will have free time to walk around, to explore, and – for some – to climb to the summit of the peak of Huayna Picchu (seen in the background of the classic vista of Machu Picchu).  If you make it either part way or all the way up this peak, you’ll enjoy seeing Machu Picchu from a different angle and getting an impressive panorama of the surrounding mountain peaks and the great gorge of the Urubamba Canyon. 

In the afternoon, we will take a bus down to the town of Aguas Calientes on the river and have lunch there at Restaurant Indio Feliz.   After lunch we’ll have time explore Aguas Calientes and its market. 

In the early evening, we’ll take the train back to Ollantaytambo and then bus to Cuzco, where we arrive after nightfall. 

Lodging: Casa Andina Private Collection or Hotel Emperador Plaza or similar (Breakfast and lunch are included)

DAY 4:  CUZCO – LIMA

Breakfast in the hotel, and transfer to the airport for leave Cuzco for the flight to Lima.

 

Cuzco Tour: Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and Urubamba

Cost and Details

$940 with a minimum of 4 participants.  Please call for prices for smaller groups and private trips. Special pricing is available for university groups.  Please call for details.

Dates

This historical tour is available before and after all of the Institute’s programs in Peru and Bolivia.

Western Washington University Research Expeditions custom dates:

  • August 14-17, 2016
  • August 13-16, 2017.

 

Prerequisites

Though this trip is not strenous, good physical condition is helpful

 

Flight Information

Flight arrangements should be scheduled so that you arrive in Cuzco the day of the first scheduled day of the trip. Please schedule your departure so that you leave the day after the last scheduled day of the trip. Please contact our Travel Coordinator if you need assistance with travel arrangements.

 

Program Cost Inclusions and Exclusions

Inclusions:  Land and lake transportation; hotel in La Paz and Cuzco and tents while trekking or climbing- all on a shared basis (available on a private basis, subject to availability and at added cost); meals while trekking and climbing; admissions to archeological zones; group cooking equipment; group trekking or climbing equipment.

Exclusions:  Airfare; personal equipment; meals except while trekking and climbing; gratuities to guides; insurance; government and airport taxes; inoculations; excess baggage.

Cuzco Tour: Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and Urubamba

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