Ker & Downey’s Inca Explorer melds the traces of ancient cultures with the traditions still thriving in a modern Peru over twelve days in the eclectic region. Explore all that Peru has to offer with this 12-day itinerary.
After spending your first night in Lima, your adventure into the history of the country begins in the Sacred Valley, aptly named for its concentration of the country’s oldest and most remarkable ruins. Rio Sagrado, next to the winding Urubamba River, is the gateway to these sites where you will capture a unique snapshot of everyday life in the fertile region. Venture into the Incan village of Chinchero, the “town of the rainbows,” where amidst the incredible views of the Andes, pre-Hispanic tradition still reigns. The bygone fingerprints are evident on the main plaza’s ancient stone wall and agricultural terraces, originally developed by Incan ancestors, that are still planted and tilled today. Interact with the colorful Andean villagers and vendors at the Chinchero market and at Wayra Ranch meet the Peruvian Paso horse, famous for the world’s smoothest gait. A flurry of color, handkerchiefs and nimble hooves provide entertainment over a gourmet lunch as human and horse alike perform to the rhythm of the traditional marinera courtship dance.
Peru’s most famous landmark is your next destination. Arrive by way of the luxurious Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu’s hidden valley and rest for the evening at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge on the actual site of the citadel. Explore the city upon arrival with a guide, and on your fifth day, rise early to watch the morning sun bathe the valley in light and melt away the secretive mist, opening the monument up for your exploration once again. Both tours are intimate and quiet, avoiding the peak times for larger groups and lessening the competition for photo opportunities.
Continue to Cusco, the seat of the ancient capital where Incan roots still weave between the architectural influences of the colonial Spanish. From the resplendent Hotel Monasterio, a monastery and seminary built in 1595, take a tour of Cusco’s architectural mix of Inca and colonial styles. Many of the buildings that now define the historic sections of the city surrounding the bustling Plaza de Armas sprung up from the foundations of Incan temples. Outside the city other ancient sites are on the agenda: the Sacsayhuaman walled complex overlooking Cusco, Kenko’s temple and amphitheater, the royal Inca baths of Tambomachay, and Puca Pucara’s red fortress.
Next, discover the “white city” of Arequipa, tucked between three impressive Andean volcanoes and distinguished by the milky volcanic rock used in its architectural achievements. Note the distinct Santa Catalina Convent and the mestizo Baroque style of the Jesuit Church on a tour of the city, ending with a view of the countryside from the elevated Yanahuara and Chilina residential districts. You will also look into a face of the past at the Catholic University’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries, where Mummy Juanita waits. Discovered frozen and almost perfectly preserved on nearby Mount Ampato in 1995, this young girl is thought to have lived during the Incan Empire and was likely killed as an offering to Incan gods. The journey through Peru’s Inca heritage ends in the Colca Valley where you will spend two full days in a private luxury casita at Las Casitas del Colca. Take in as many activities in the valley as you can: spot condors in Colca Canyon at Cruz del Condor, go fly fishing on the Colca River and tour by bike or on the back of a Peruvian Paso horse. At the lodge, experiment in a Peruvian cooking class, bottle-feed baby alpacas on the farm, pursue luxurious moments in the Spa Samay, or stargaze through the glass ceiling above the fabulous sunken tub in your casita, reflecting on your journey through Peru’s Incan past.