Our trip begins today in Cusco, Peru. Upon arrival, we're transferred to our centrally located hotel where a brief orientation meeting will be held. There will be time to check into your hotel room and get ready before we depart on a walking tour of the city's most intriguing sites, including the bustling Plaza de Armas and the Santo Domingo Church. Kids and parents will enjoy a stop off at an artisanal chocolate museum where we can learn about the history of the cocoa plant, see how chocolates are made and taste a few as well! We will also explore the imposing hilltop ruins of the monolithic Sacsayhuaman fortress. Dinner tonight will be at a popular local restaurant, within walking distance of our hotel. Overnight in Cusco. Dinner included.
Walking: .5 mile; Sightseeing: 1 hour; Hiking: 2 miles, 1.5 hours
We set out this morning for the Sacred Valley of the Incas and famous market village of Pisac (approximately one hour's drive from Cusco). One of the most important and well-preserved ruins in the Sacred Valley, our guide helps us identify the various structures at the site including the fascinating Temple of the Sun, used by the Incas as an astronomical observatory. We climb to the top of the Pisac ruins to take in the spectacular views of the terraced countryside before heading down the market where fun shopping and photographic opportunities abound at one of the liveliest outdoor markets in South America. This region is well-known for its local crafts, including hand-knit wools, ceramics, leather goods and jewelry. At our next stop we have the chance to visit a high Andean community of llama farmers. After learning about the history of llamas in Peru and how they can benefit the local Quechua communities we'll have the chance to go on a short hike through the Sacred Valley with our new llama friends. We spend the next three nights at a lovely hotel near the village of Urubamba (8,850') where we are surrounded by superb views of the Andes. All meals included.
Hiking: 2 miles, 1.5 hours
Following an early breakfast, we drive to our put in point for rafting on the Urubamba River. We meet our rafting guides who will provide a safety briefing and paddling instructions. After donning our life jackets we paddle down river parallel to the Sacred Valley of the Incas where we encounter the class III rapids of Ollantaytambo. The section of the river we raft provides equal time for paddling and downtime for sightseeing along the bank of the river. The landscape surrounding the Ollanta Section is breathtaking. Pre-Inca cities such as Ollantaytambo, ancient farming terraces and pristine sandy beaches make for a remarkable backdrop. The river valley is also teeming with bird species. Many elusive and exotic birds can be seen in the river valley including the Blue-mantled Thornbill and Giant Conebill along with various types of brightly hued hummingbirds. After lunch in a local restaurant we head to the mountain village of Willoc, home to the original Inca Trail porters from the last 100 years to present. Most of the villagers still wear the traditional and colorful red Incan clothing and the women are outstanding weavers known for producing some of the highest quality textiles in the Sacred Valley. Here we have the unique opportunity for cultural immersion as our guide will facilitate an activity that we can enjoy with the locals. It's fun to try out the Quecha words we have learned from our guide. Tonight is make your own pizza night in the hotel's kitchen. All meals included.
Rafting: 2 hours
Note: The specific section of river we raft may vary based on the best conditions for the season.
Our adventure begins with a safety briefing and an introduction to kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Our high Andean lake has no currents or waves but is surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in Peru. There is also a nice trail around the lake that we can explore. After lunch, we drive to the nearby village of Maras and on to the Pinchincoto salt mines which were used by the Inca as a mineral source and still visited by local residents today. From the salt mines we have a one hour gradual downhill hike to the Sacred Valley. Tonight we meet for dinner in our hotel. All meals included.
Kayaking or Stand Up Paddle Boarding: 1.5 hours; Hiking: 3 miles, 2 hours
After an early breakfast we drive to Ollantaytambo and board the daily train to Machu Picchu. The route allows us to see the transition from Andean highlands and valleys to lush cloud forest, following along the Urubamba River where we rafted just a few days earlier. We arrive at the village of Machu Picchu at the base of the Lost City in mid-morning and take a shuttle up to this spectacularly perched archeological treasure. Our knowledgeable guide leads us through the center of the site and to the Inca Bridge, recapping Machu Picchu's rediscovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911. We have lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge by the entrance to the ruins. Later this afternoon, we'll return to the village of Machu Picchu and check into our private bungalows at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel. This hotel is ranked as one of the 10 finest hotels in South America and situated in 13 acres of cloud forest gardens along the Vilcanota River. Parents might like to indulge in an Andean massage which can be booked in your own room or at the spa. Family members can also relax in two of the large outdoor hot tubs or log into the free internet stations and email their friends and family back home. We meet our trip leader for dinner in the evening and enjoy a delicious meal at the hotel's restaurant overlooking the Urubamba River. All meals included.
Hiking: up to 2 miles, 1.5–2 hours
Today we have the opportunity to return to the ruins for a few hours, perhaps catching one of the first shuttles of the day to the complex before the crowds arrive. Our hotel is just a brief ride via shuttle to Machu Picchu. We can hike the "Gate of the Sun" trail for a bird's-eye view of Machu Picchu or just explore the ruins on our own. For those not returning to the ruins there will be the option to visit the Spectacled Bear Conservation Project. The goal is to rescue injured bears and reintroduce them into their natural habitat. We will get to see a few of these endangered bears up close and learn about the challenges they face to survive in today's changing world.
We have lunch in town before boarding the train to Ollantaytambo, connecting there with our private van to Cusco and arriving back in the city at approximately 5pm. There will be time for some last minute souvenir shopping before joining our guide for a final celebration dinner. Overnight in Cusco tonight. All meals included.
Hiking: up to 2 miles, 2.5 hours; Optional 2.5 mile hike on Machu Picchu Mountain. May be unguided and has sections of steep trail and exposure.
After breakfast, we transfer to the Cusco airport for our return flight to Lima. All airport transfers, regardless of flight time, are included today. Breakfast included.