Traverse the mountainous landscapes from La Paz to Cusco on this active trip that includes a two-day hike centred around Lake Titicaca, visiting ancient ruins on the Isla del Sol and enjoying spectacular sunsets across the lake. Culminating with the awe-inspiring views of Machu Picchu, this is an unforgettable Andean adventure. Inca Trail - Take an optional day hike along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu; perfect for those who want to experience part of the famous walk, without doing the full four-day trek La Paz - This quirky city is the perfect introduction to Bolivia's important indigenous cultures Lake Titicaca - Hike on part of the Inca Pilgrim Way, visiting Inca ruins and enjoying incredible views over the enormous lake Why not extend your stay? - This trip can be extended to spend some time in the Amazon, staying in an eco-lodge (trip code: AMZ)
Arrive in La Paz, Bolivia's eclectic capital. El Alto airport is at an altitude of 4060m, and new arrivals quickly descend into the bowl-shaped city, landing at around 3600m altitude. The city is a ramshackle assortment of beautiful colonial architecture, some modern buildings and a sprawling mass of hastily-erected houses that extend up the hillsides all around the city. It's quite a spectacular arrival, dropping down from the airport through the steep and winding roads to reach the vibrant heart of the capital city. For those arranging their own flights our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6 pm for the welcome meeting after which there will be the option to go out for dinner, for those who wish. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in La Paz at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Bolivia's El Alto International Airport (airport code LPB), which is approximately a 40 minute drive from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If you have booked your flights through our office then you will spend the first night of the trip on an overnight flight. Most flights from the UK land in the early hours of the morning, and as such you will have the full day tomorrow to acclimatise.
If you have booked flights through our office, you will arrive into La Paz in the early hours of the morning and today is a free day for everyone to acclimatise. We are at 3600m, and it is therefore worthwhile spending the day relaxing, or taking your time to explore the twists and turns of the city in a leisurely fashion. The Witches Market is an excellent place to start, or try visiting the Coca Museum - a small museum that tells the story of the coca leaf in Bolivia, from its use in mining, to the beginnings of Coca Cola, to the effects of the cocaine industry in Latin America.
Standing at 3636m above sea level, La Paz is cupped in the palm of two magnificent mountains. We enjoy a walking tour of the colourful street markets and the main sites of the city, including the old colonial town and the fascinating Witches Market. Afterwards we have the option to visit the Tiahuanaco, Bolivia's largest archaeological site. It is thought that this ceremonial complex stood at the heart of an empire extending over northern Bolivia, southern Peru, northern Chile and north-western Argentina, but we can only conjecture on how it came to an end. On one of our evenings here we have the opportunity to go and see the spectable of Cholitas wrestling - a popular local spectacular sport (optional).
Today we have the day free to explore more of the city. La Paz is a great city to wander around, revisiting the Witches Market for some souvenirs or heading down the charming cobbled streets of Calle Jaen, home to some of the city's bars, restaurants and museums. Alternatively, an interesting thing to do in the city is to take a walking tour with a difference. Our supplier in Bolivia is partnered with a collective of local shoe-shiners, who can take you through more local neighbourhoods and markets of La Paz, including the popular 'Belen dining room' where rows of food stalls sell lunches very cheaply to the working population in the area. It provides a fascinating look at this mad city, outside of the usual tourist routes, and will get you closer to one of La Paz's most thriving working communities, which is also one of the most misunderstood. Our Tour Leader will be on hand to translate from Spanish if you choose this option. You could also escape the city with a half-day hike in the atmospheric Valley of the Spirits. There is a three hour hike into Palca Canyon, starting with a roughly 5km downhill across farmland paths, descending into the gothic spires and rock formations of the canyon, before following the roughly 3km long rocky path through the canyon floor.
A morning drive brings us to the small town of Copacabana, standing on a peninsula jutting into Lake Titicaca. We gain our first sight of one of the great highlights of our trip, Lake Titicaca (3810m). The lake itself is immense, the second largest in South America. It was from this lake that the Sun God sent forth the man and woman who founded the Inca Empire, the legendary Children of the Sun. Local people here have larger lungs, hearts and spleens, and blood that is particularly rich in red corpuscles. This has enabled them to adapt to high altitude living. We will re-pack this evening, as tomorrow we take just what is needed for the next two nights.
This morning we begin our two-day trek centering on the Isla del Sol. Leaving our main baggage behind, we use our daysacks for personal gear needed during the day and our overnight bags are transported for us. Leaving Copacabana, we walk to Kusijata village then we begin to climb the old Inca road, before descending to Sicuani. From here we take a boat out to the Isla del Sol, landing near the Pilkokaina ruins and soaking up the mystical ambience of an island steeped in the legends of the ancient Inca. Walking up to our ecolodge (approx. 200m ascent +1-1.5 hrs of walking at high altitude), there are spectacular views across the lake, and if the weather holds we should have a glorious sunset this evening.
The Isla del Sol is the largest of the islands that lie dotted around this spectacular lake, lying just off the Copacabana Peninsula at the southern end of the lake. The island is covered with nearly 200 archaeological ruins that attest to the importance the ancient Incas attached to this site. This morning, we take a short hike in the morning to discover the vistas over the lake, before walking down to the port and taking a boat to the neighbouring Island of the Moon. Here, the ruins of Inak Uyu (Temple of the Moon) are a very well preserved nod back to the island's ancient history, and an excellent place to take a hike up for more stunning views over the islands. It's a short but steep hike that takes us above Inak Uyu to the island's peak. We return later this afternoon to the Island of the Sun, and walk back to our ecolodge.
This morning we return across the lake to Copacabana and then take a charter bus across the border into Peru, following the shores of the lake to its north western corner and the bustling town of Puno. This afternoon there may be an opportunity to visit Uros Islands (optional) - made entirely from reeds grown in the lake, these unusual man-made islands are home to small village communities.
Today we follow the legendary route taken by the first Inca ruler - Manco Capac - on his way to find Cusco. During our public bus journey we drive up to the northern limit of the Altiplano, crossing La Raya pass (4,335m) and descending via the Inca temple at Raqchi to Andahuaylillas. Here, an old colonial church appears as if out of nowhere - we'll be able to visit before continuing our journey. The scenery is desolate but magnificent and we may spot flocks of llamas and alpacas grazing on the windswept pastures. We arrive at the fascinating mountain city of Cusco in the late afternoon and check into our hotel. The total journey is approximately 10 hours including stops. There is also the possibility today to take the classic rail journey from Puno to Cusco (optional). One of the great railway journeys of the world, this full day trip covers some spectacular scenery over the high altiplano. It includes a meal aboard the train, with the chance to try some local delicacies and make use of the outside viewing platform before arriving into Cusco. Please note that rail strikes are common in Peru and so there is the possibility that the train may not always be running. In the event that you have chosen the optional train ride and it is not operating, then we will make the journey from Puno to Cusco by bus, with the rest of the group. Refunds due to trains cancelled due to strike action is at the rail companies discretion.
The old capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is the archaeological capital of the Americas and the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent. Imbued with an atmosphere of mystery and grandeur, the Spanish-style city of today, with its attractive pink tiled roofs, arcaded plazas and steep winding alleyways, stands upon tremendous Inca foundation stones - all put together with the precision of a jeweller creating an intricate masterpiece. During this morning's walking tour, we will see the rich majesty of the Plaza de Armas and the incredible remains of Qoricancha, once the heart of Inca society, as well as the Inca wall of Hatunrumiyoc with its famous twelve-sided stone. The city's vibrant social life is present throughout, from the bustling food market at San Pedro to the narrow cobbled streets around the main cathedral. The afternoon is free to explore the city further. We can recommend a visit to the fortress-citadel of Sacsayhuaman (optional), a huge fortress built high above the town, with the aim of defending the Inca empire.
This morning we drive to the Sacred Valley, namely towards Moray, a fascinating archaeological site in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We visit its huge concentric terraces, which the Incas used almost as a botanical laboratory, testing out which crops grew most successfully at various altitudes. Our second visit is to the enormous and oddly beautiful salt mines of Maras, where salt has been produced since the Spanish colonial era. After visiting the salt mines, we have a 30-40 minute descent walking to Pichingoto in the Sacred Valley, crossing the Urubamba River where our private bus waits to transfer us to Ollantaytambo town and our hotel.
We take an early morning train along the side of the Urubamba river, flanked by high cliffs and peaks up to Aguas Calientes. Those who wish to walk part of the famous Inca Trail will disembark at KM104 just short of Machu Picchu (on the Cusco/Machu Picchu railroad) (optional) - this section of the trail will take you up from the valley floor to the abandoned ruins of Winay Wayna and on to the Gate of the Sun for dramatic views down on Machu Picchu (about 5hrs walking). This option is dependent on Inca pass availability and needs to be paid at the time of booking. For those not wishing to walk we will continue on the train to Aguas Calientes. Once a tiny village of no more than a few houses, this town throngs with travellers and trekkers coming to-and-from the famous 'lost' city of Machu Picchu. For the non-walkers, we spend the afternoon visiting this magnificent city with a local guide. Temples, stairways, palaces and gabled stone dwellings are scattered everywhere, testifying to the energy and ingenuity of the builders. Not without reason this site is probably the most revered attraction in the Americas, its location alone is dramatic in the extreme, teetering on the saddle of a high mountain peak that towers above the valley below. The walkers will arrive in the site in the late afternoon, and take the bus immediately down to Aguas Calientes, where the group reunites again.
For those people who walked the Inca Trail yesterday, you will be catching the bus this morning to Machu Picchu for your guided visit of this magnificent city. For the others, your entrance today is not included as you did the site visit yesterday - however, you do have the opportunity to purchase a second entry permit and enjoy some free time within the site. Otherwise, a morning in Aguas Calientes is well spent at the colourful local market or walking along the river that flows through the town. Whether you hiked yesterday or not, it's possible to do another optional hike this morning within the site of Machu Picchu itself - climbing the steep peaks of either Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu Mountain to look down on the citadel. Machu Picchu Mountain is a 700m climb from the top of the citadel. There are cobbled stairs all the way up with a few eye-opening drops in some parts, and the round-trip takes about 2.5-3 hours. Huayna Picchu Mountain is only 350m, half the size of Machu Picchu Mountain, but much steeper. There are many more sheer drops, and it is definitely not suitable for someone with a fear of heights. For those who fancy doing the 1 hour climb, you'll be rewarded with world-beating views of Machu Picchu, and the feeling that you're standing on a precipice at the top of the world. These must be pre-paid at time of booking. If you change your passport between your time of booking and prior to travel please take your original passport with you. This afternoon we then travel by train to Ollantaytambo, where we catch our bus to Cusco.
Your trip ends this morning in Cusco after breakfast. Post-tour accommodation is highly recommended for those who have the time - Cusco is a wonderful city to explore at leisure. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Cusco at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ), which is around 15 minutes' drive from our hotel. Depending on the schedule of your flights, you may have some additional time to visit a museum or do some souvenir shopping in the winding streets and alleys of the city. If you are travelling on to the Amazon, you will be transferred to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport this morning for your flight to Puerto Maldonado.
13 Break Fast(s) 4 Lunch(es) 2 Dinner(s)
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