The ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu continues to inspire and provoke wonder in all who see it. Built nearly 8,000 feet above sea level sometime in the 15th century, this remarkable feat of engineering sits atop many a traveler’s bucket list.
You too can visit Machu Picchu (without the crowds) on a special nine-day trip through Peru.On this epic vacation, you’ll also experience outdoor adventures in the Sacred Valley and urban pleasure in Lima, Peru’s capital. This city is a burgeoning culinary destination for serious foodies — and home to two of the top ten restaurants in the world, Central, by Virgilio Martinez, and Maido, where chef Mitsuharu Tsumura blends Peruvian and Japanese cuisine.
Arrive into Lima, the bustling capital in Peru. Many international flights arrive later in the evening, but if you do arrive early enough and have time to enjoy the city, check out T+L’s comprehensive city guide for suggestions on what to do.
Stay: Housed in a Belle Epoque mansion, the Hotel B, a T+L It List Winner in 2014, is located in the hip Barranco area of Lima. Its 17 guest rooms feature warm wood floors and soaring windows. With its intimate vibe and standout artwork, the property feels like the home of a stylish friend.
Today, you will be able to fully enjoy Lima. Begin with a visit to Morro Solar, which affords stunning views of the city, and continue on to the Larco Museum, dedicated to the cultural history of Peru. After lunch in the museum’s lovely café, you’ll stop into the Lima Colonial Center for a look into the city’s past as the capital of the Spanish colony in South America. Another important site is the Casa de Aliaga, built by a conquistador who acquired the land from Francisco Pizarro. Its period details and antiques are not to be missed. Afterwards, head back to the B for a pisco tasting — the perfect way to kick off happy hour. Dinner is at your leisure; consult our city guide for some of the top recommendations.
This morning, you will leave your hotel for the flight to Cusco, and then drive on with your guide a further 90 minutes to the Sacred Valley, home to Machu Picchuand other significant sites. You will eat a lunch of traditional cuisine at El Huacatay before continuing on to Hacienda Orihuela, which has a remarkable collection of Peruvian folk art. Some pieces even date back to pre-Incan times. Take in the sights and sounds of the house, as a local musician comes in to treat you to a traditional performance.
Stay: Your base for the next two nights is the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a T+L It List Winner in 2016. Set on 100 acres, with majestic green mountains for a backdrop, it is a relaxing oasis in the heart of the Sacred Valley.
You’ll visit Ollantaytambo, an Inca village set below ancient ruins with impressive stonework, narrow cobblestoned streets, and family courtyards dating from pre-Columbian times. The only battle where the Incas defeated the Spanish conquerors took place here. After visiting the old town, your guide will offer you the chance to walk up some Inca ruins — this is a steep ascent, offering amazing views of the valley as a final reward. Lunch today is a pachamanca, a typical ancient Peruvian cooking technique in an earth oven. Native ingredients of tubers, vegetables and meats are wrapped in local herbs and cooked using wood-heated stones. Be sure to give the local Andean whiskey a try.
Leave Inkaterra and board the Vistadome train for Machu Picchu, as it follows the path of the Urubamba River. The train will stop in the jungle, so you can venture onto the Inca Trail with your B&R guide. After crossing the Vilcanota River, you will visit preserved Inca site, “Chachabamba,” and then follow the trail to another impressive archaeological site known as “Wiñay Wayna.” The complex features a series of Inca baths that helped pressurize water for agricultural irrigation. Before continuing towards Inti Punku, you’ll stop for lunch and let the first views of Machu Picchu astound you. A quick descent along the wide royal Inca road takes you to Machu Picchu’s gate. The afternoon, when most people have left the area, is a nice time to relax and observe the citadel. When ready, you are free to take the bus back to Aguas Calientes. Dinner this evening is at your hotel.
Stay: The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, where you’ll be for the next two nights, is located on the outskirts of Aguas Calientas. Its spectacular jungle setting allows for birdwatching and nature hikes. We suggest asking the hotel staff about the excursions that are organized within the boundaries of its 12-acre property — you may want to join one of them early the next morning.
Enjoy an excursion at the hotel led by an in-house naturalist. Our favourites include the Andean bear excursion and orchid observation. After lunch, when most travelers are heading back to Aguas Calientes, your guide will lead you back to Machu Picchu for an extensive visit that not only includes the main circuit, but also more secluded areas such as the Inca Bridge. If you so choose, you can remain in the area until closure at 5:30 pm. Enjoy dinner at the hotel restaurant tonight.
Board the early train back to Ollantaytambo, where your private car will be waiting to take you to Maras in the upper section of the Sacred Valley. The Maras Salt Works (also called the “salt mines”) are constructed on a slope of Qaqawinay Mountain and made up of about 3,000 small salt pools. Farmers fill up or “irrigate” the pools every three days during the dry season with salty water emanating from a natural spring located on the top of the complex. When the water evaporates, the salt contained in it slowly solidifies and the process continues for approximately one month until a considerable volume of solid salt is obtained. Following your intro to Peru’s salt industry, you’ll sit down for lunch at a charming country house in the outskirts of Maras Village. Afterward, drive to Cusco. The remainder of the afternoon is yours to enjoy.