Clever people, these Ancient Peruvians, or as we like to say, the Incas were thinkers.
They formalised education, practiced medical surgery and ran an empire of grand ambition.
Which is why they're worth visiting. This tour is created by Exodus, specialists in global travel who share your desire to find out more about the culture and traditions of a land beyond our borders.
It's an experience their team loves, as one of them explains:
"So many highlights! It wasn’t just the achievement of reaching the fabled Machu Picchu as the sun set over the iconic ruins that made this trip spectacular, it was the whole experience. In the Amazon we spotted the elusive sloth sleeping up a tree, ate live termites, fished for piranha and saw a tarantula (and I managed not to scream!). If you are thinking of doing this trip, go for it! And if you are not, you should be!"
The tour is in three parts, taking in beautiful mountains and cloud forest as it follows a historic route to Machu Picchu, the best-preserved and most dramatic Inca ruin. It also explores the harsh landscapes of the high altiplano and the islands of Lake Titicaca and, in complete contrast, the dense jungles of the Amazon Rainforest.
This is a small group guided holiday. The group is usually between 4 and 16 in size, with an average of 12 like-minded clients booking individually, in a couple or as friends together.
You are moderately fit and possess a spirit of adventure. Some previous experience is required for most activity based trips.
All breakfasts, 8 lunches, 6 dinners
All accommodation (see below)
All transport and listed activities
Tour leader throughout
Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
Arrival and departure transfers
You will spend 7 nights in locally run hotels with en suite rooms and breakfast facilities. 3 nights will be spent in a rainforest lodge where electricity is limited to central areas. 1 night will be spent in a homestay on Lake Titicaca with basic shared facilities. During the trek, spend 3 nights full-service camping, meaning that our camp staff will erect and dismantle the tents, cook, and do all chores - you need only carry your day pack.
Day 1 Depart London Overnight flights to Lima via Madrid depart this evening.
The flight arrives in Lima this morning, and the rest of the day has been left free to relax or explore.
Day 3 An early start today for the flight via Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado, a small jungle town, where you take a boat to a jungle lodge in the Tambopata Reserve (generally between 1½ and 3 hours depending on the lodge used). On the way, you may see caimans (alligators), river turtles and a variety of bird life.
Day 4 The next two days are spent exploring the forest, rivers and lakes surrounding the lodge, on foot and in both motorised and paddle canoes. Although a lot of the wildlife tends to hide in the dense foliage, expect to see a wide variety of birds, including herons and egrets, jacanas, macaws and the almost prehistoric-looking hoatzin, as well as several species of monkey, reptiles and insects, and with luck the giant otters which live in the rivers of the Amazon basin.
Day 5 A further day of jungle exploration.
Day 6 A dawn start is required for the boat trip back to Puerto Maldonado, giving memorable views of the sunrise over the river. After our flight to Cuzco, there is usually time for an afternoon tour of the city. At 3400m, you may find yourself short of breath on arrival.
Day 7 A free day in Cuzco. The Inca Capital is among the most attractive cities in South America, with many interesting buildings, museums and sites. To help acclimatise, take an optional walking tour of the Inca capital and the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Alternatively there is the opportunity for an optional full day tour of the Sacred Valley including the fortresses of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, or, for the more adventurous, there is a chance to try paddleboarding on a lake close to Cuzco, with magnificent views of the Andes.
Day 8 Today is the start of the Inca Trail trek. Transfer by bus to the trailhead. Hike along the Vilcanota River beneath the impressive snow-capped Nevado Veronica through cactus gardens and fields of corn to the enormous Inca ruins of Llactapata, then continue up a side valley to camp in the hamlet of Huayllabamba. On all departures, the classic Inca Trail can be substituted with the remote and beautiful Moonstone Trek.
Day 9 This is the longest and most strenuous day, with over a 1000m of ascent. A long climb takes you through an area of cloud forest to the meadows of Llulluchapampa, and then over the Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman) pass, at 4215m the highest point on the trek. After quite a long, steep descent, camp in the scenic valley of the Pacamayo river (3600m).
Day 10 Another easier climb, past the ruins of Runcuracay, over the Runcuracay Pass (3950m). From now on the Inca Trail becomes a clearly defined path made of flat boulders. Pass the ruins of Sayajmarca and suddenly enter rainforest; the Trail passes at one point through an Inca tunnel. Camp in a spectacular setting on the ridge above the Inca site of Phuyupatamarca (3650m) to enjoy the views of sunset and sunrise.
Day 11 Embark on the infamous Inca steps: a two kilometre stone staircase taking us rapidly downhill amid a panorama of overwhelming immensity, with the peaks of the Vilcabamba range above, and the river thousands of metres below. After visiting the attractive ruins of Wiñay Wayna, have an undulating walk through cloud forest high above the river to Inti Punku, the Inca Gate of the Sun. From here you get the first full sight of Machu Picchu itself, with Huayna Picchu rising behind. Passing around the ruins, descend to the river and Puente Ruinas for a well-earned rest, and possibility of a shower at the basic campsite. It is usually possible to stay in a hotel at the nearby village of Aguas Calientes for an extra fee (paid locally).
Day 12 Return early for a tour of the ruins at their quietest and most evocative (before the day trippers arrive from Cuzco). Board a train in the afternoon through the rapids of the Urubamba River and on to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, and from there by road to Cuzco.
Day 13 Take a bus ride across the altiplano, the high plains separating the Andes from the jungles. Although it is quite a long drive (10 hours including stops), the views are spectacular. There are scheduled stops along the route to visit some of the most interesting sites which helps break up the day and get a feel for the immensity of the Andean landscapes. Arrive at Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in the evening.
Day 14 Explore Lake Titicaca, visiting the descendants of the Uros Indians. The lakeside views can be magnificent, with the snow-capped peaks of the Andes towering in the background. Spend the night on Amantani Island and experience a homestay with the local villagers - seeing what life is like in an isolated island community.
Day 15 Boat to Chifron Bay, and spend some time exploring the peninsula before flying back to Lima (from nearby Juliaca airport). There may be time free for shopping and sightseeing, including an optional visit to the Gold Museum. Flight times do vary.
Day 16-17 Depart Lima to London via Madrid.
Prices Prices including flights start from £3,035 per person.
INCA TRAIL PERMITS ARE LIMITED There is a daily cap on the number of trekking permits available on the Inca Trail, and they sell out very quickly. For this reason, we recommend booking your trek at least 4 months in advance, or 6 months for the peak trekking months of May to September.
ALTERNATIVE MOONSTONE TREK When Inca Trail permits run out, we offer an alternative trek (not requiring a permit) in its place.