Real Affordable Peru

Terms & Conditions

Trip Date
Number of Days
11
Highlights & Inclusions
  • International airfare, airport transfers, government taxes, fees, and airline fuel surcharges unless you choose to make your own air arrangements*
  • All land transportation and 2 internal flights
  • Accommodations for 10 nights
  • 24 meals—daily breakfast, 9 lunches, and 5 dinners (including 1 Home-Hosted Lunch)
  • 8 small group activities
  • Services of a local O.A.T. Trip Experience Leader
  • Explore in a small group of 8-16 travelers (with an average group size of 13)
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
  • 5% Frequent Traveler Credit toward your next adventure

*Airport transfers are only available for travelers arriving and departing to/from the same airport and on the same arrival/departure dates as the main trip

 

Please note:
Deposit requirement on land trips is $350
Past traveler savings of 5% if you traveled from 2018 onward
New travelers get $100 savings

Itinerary

Travel to Peru to explore the handiwork of the Incas in depth. The legacies of this ancient empire remain a marvel, from astronomical observatories in the lost city of Machu Picchu to limestone carvings of indigenous animals at the ceremonial site of Kenko. And the timeless streets of Cuzco bustle even now with traders and artisans, as they have since the 16th century. O.A.T. brings you close to Peru's diverse offerings on this comprehensive South American adventure: rafting on the Urubamba River, meeting today's Peruvians in the Sacred Valley, and visiting the immense Sacsayhuaman ruins in Cuzco.

Feel the pulse of daily life as you travel into the heart of this Andean nation in a small group of 8-16 travelers (with an average of 13). A local in Lima will share a piece of their culture with us as they lead us through their colonial city; we'll encounter a curandero medicine man who practices traditional healing arts; and we'll savor a Home-Hosted Lunchwith a local family in Urubamba. We'll also experience A Day in the Life of the Izcuchaca and Chinchero communities, where we'll get an authentic glimpse of daily life in rural Peru and visit a local school supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. And throughout our adventure, we'll discuss Controversial Topics with local people, including coca leaf farming and the Chinchero airport construction. From start to finish, enjoy the expertise of a local Trip Experience Leader who will not only connect you with the locals that call Peru home, but also offer their own insider views on this fascinating nation. Join us to experience a country whose long history blends Inca and Spanish colonial influences.

 

DAY 1

Depart U.S. • Arrive Lima, Peru
Destination: Lima
Accommodations: Best Western Plus Urban Larco or similar

Evening: You depart from the U.S. and fly to Lima, Peru, arriving late in the evening or early morning. An O.A.T. representative will greet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel, where you'll meet up with travelers who took The Peruvian Amazon: Treks, Cruises & Indigenous Communities pre-trip extension or the Coastal Culture & Ancient Mysteries of Peru: Lima, Paracas & the Nazca Lines pre-trip extension. Depending on where we stay, our hotel will likely be located in the heart of the vibrant Miraflores District and offer an on-site restaurant. Rooms typically feature air conditioning, cable TV, minibar, telephone, and private bath with shower.

DAY 2

Lima • Discover Miraflores district
Destination: Lima
Meals included: B L
Accommodations: Best Western Plus Urban Larco or similar

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Peruvian and American options, beginning at 6:30am.

Morning: Free for your own discoveries—you may choose to relax at the hotel after yesterday's travels and get acquainted with your Trip Experience Leader and fellow travelers—including those joining us from our optional pre-trip extension to Peru: Lima, Iquitos, the Amazon or New! Peru: Lima, Paracas, Nazca Lines.

Around 11am, we'll gather in the hotel lobby for a 1-hour Welcome Briefing during which we will introduce ourselves and review our itinerary in more detail (including any changes that may need to occur). Logistics, safety and emergency procedures, and any questions will also be discussed. This is a great chance to get to know fellow members of your small group. Then, it's time to begin our explorations: We'll set out from the hotel and walk about 15 minutes to a nearby restaurant.

Lunch: At a local restaurant around 12:30pm, featuring typical Peruvian cuisine.

Afternoon: Around 2pm, we'll take an orientation walk through the boulevards and plazas around our hotel—situated in the stylish Miraflores district, which is a cultural and artistic center full of small cafés, fine shops, and art galleries. After our walk, we'll return to the hotel around 3:30pm. The rest of your afternoon is free for you to explore the city on your own.

Dinner: On your own—ask your Trip Experience Leader for local restaurant recommendations. You might like to try ceviche—Peru's national dish consisting of raw fish "cooked" in citrus juices.

Evening: You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 3

Explore Colonial Lima
Destination: Lima
Meals included: B D
Accommodations: Best Western Plus Urban Larco or similar

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Peruvian and American options, beginning at 6am.

Morning: Today we embark on a tour of Lima's colonial sites. Founded by the conquistadors in 1535, Lima became Spain's largest and wealthiest city in the New World. The city has a proud history, including the founding of one of the first universities in South America, the Universidad de San Marcos, in the middle of the 16th century. Today, Lima's historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We begin our day around 8am by driving about 15 minutes to a fish market, where a local guide will join us. Here, we'll have the chance to mingle with the fishermen and vendors, and browse the day's catch. Around 8:45am, we'll board our small bus and drive about 45 minutes to reach Lima's Larco Museum. The museum contains an impressive collection of ceramics, gold and silver items, and textiles from Peru's pre-Columbian history, all housed in a former mansion with lush gardens. We'll spend a little more than an hour exploring the museum's art and artifacts, and then board our bus around 10:45am to set out on a 30-minute drive to Lima's colonial downtown. Once there, we explore Lima's colonial streets and architecture—evidence of the city's Spanish heritage.

We'll board our bus once more around 12pm and head in the direction of our hotel, stopping along the way in the bustling Barranco neighborhood in time for lunch around 1pm.

Lunch: On your own—ask your Trip Experience Leader for local restaurant recommendations. Perhaps you might like to try aji de gallina, a chicken dish served with a spicy pepper sauce.

Afternoon: Free for your own discoveries in the neighborhood—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

We'll reconvene at the bus just before 2:45pm and drive the remaining distance to our hotel, arriving around 3pm.

After taking a few hours to settle in, our small group will gather at the hotel lobby around 6:30pm. From there, a 15-minute bus ride will take us to our dinner destination.

Dinner: We gather for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant. Enjoy the opportunity to sample traditional Peruvian dishes as you mix and mingle with your fellow travelers.

Evening: You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 4

Fly to Cuzco • Controversial Topic: Coca’s role in local culture and cocaine production with Fortunata Palomino • Explore the Sacred Valley and Pisac Ruins
Destination: Urubamba
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: Villa Urubamba or similar

Exclusive O.A.T. Activity: Today’s activities include a conversation with a coca vendor about the Controversial Topic of the plant’s use in Peru. Coca leaves are an essential part of Andean culture; however, they are also used to produce cocaine, which has made the plant a prime target in the war on drugs. Today, we’ll discover how forced eradication has impacted local customs and livelihoods. Read more about this illuminating conversation below.

Activity Note: We rise early this morning for our flight to Cuzco. We will spend tonight and the next few nights at elevations above 9,000 feet. We recommend staying hydrated while at high altitude. Travelers may rest at the hotel if necessary.

Early Morning: We have an early wake-up call of 5:30am this morning.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Peruvian and American options, beginning at 6am.

Morning: Around 7am, we'll check out of our hotel and, with our luggage, board our bus and drive about one hour to the Lima airport. We continue our adventure with a flight to the mountain-ringed city of Cuzco around 9:45am. Situated at an elevation of 10,909 feet, this city was the capital of the Incan world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We touch down around 11:30am, and then drive by bus into the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River, where the lower elevation eases our transition to the high altitudes of the Andes.

Lunch: We'll enjoy a boxed lunch during our drive through the Sacred Valley.

Afternoon: We continue our drive along a switchback road leading to the ancient upper city of Pisac, arriving around 2:30pm. These mythic ruins are situated in a spectacular location atop a buttress ridge, with agricultural terraces—constructed by the ancient Inca people—curling around the hill in graceful curves, and gorges on either side. When we arrive, we'll take a short trek into the ancient city, where we explore its well-built stone dwellings and temples, and enjoy sweeping vistas both up- and downstream in the Urubamba Valley. Pisac's highly defensible site guarded both the Valley and a high jungle pass to the northeast.

We depart Pisac around 2:30pm and embark on our approximate 1-hour journey to our Sacred Valley hotel. On the way, we’ll stop at a market around 3pm, where we’ll meet Fortunata Palomino, a local vendor of fruits, coffee, and coca leaves. After perusing the wares for sale in her stall, we’ll head to a private room at the market to speak with Fortunata about the Controversial Topic of coca production in Peru, and the struggle to balance the plant’s traditional role in society with its high value on the black market as a key ingredient in cocaine.

Fortunata grew up in the extremely remote Yanatile Valley, an agricultural region famous for its coffee, citrus, and coca output. She moved to the larger town of Lamay so her children could attend school, but her husband remained in Yanatile to work as a day laborer on the plantations. Fortunata makes the 120-mile journey to Yanatile once a week to collect fruit and coffee for her produce stall. Every three months, she also brings coca leaves. While coca is legal for personal use in Peru, its production and distribution are strictly controlled. Fortunata must be extremely careful when transporting the crop—if the police were to discover it during a routine stop, Fortunata could be detained.

Coca has been a staple of Peruvian culture for millennia. Locals, especially in the Andean areas, use the leaves in religious rituals and also chew them to alleviate fatigue, postpone hunger, and prevent altitude sickness. Some research even backs up the traditional wisdom: When taken in small doses, coca has been found to be both psychologically beneficial and nutrient rich. However, the plant’s role in cocaine production has put it in the crosshairs of international lawmakers.

Cocaine was first developed in 1859 for medicinal use; its popularity as a recreational drug did not catch on until the early 20th century. But as cocaine use became more widespread, so too did the world’s efforts to combat it. In 1961, the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs listed the coca leaf as a Schedule 1 drug, placing it in the same category as cocaine and heroin. The convention mandated that coca chewing be abolished and that all illegally cultivated coca bushes be destroyed.

In the years that followed, U.N. monitoring bodies have continued to advocate for the eradication of illegal coca farms, and the Peruvian government has heeded the call. With significant funding from the United States, provided as part of the country’s “war on drugs,” Peru wipes out tens of thousands of acres of coca plants every year, with the goal of eradicating nearly 62,000 acres of illegal crops in 2021.

These eradication efforts are often met with considerable resistance. Coca is one of the most lucrative crops for Peru’s poorest farmers. Drug traffickers will pay up to $5 per kilo of coca leaf, whereas legal coca and alternative crops (like bananas and cocoa) fetch less than $2 per kilo. For impoverished Peruvians, many of whom make less than $2 per day, the choice is clear. As a result, farmers often clash violently with authorities over the destruction of their livelihoods.

The efficacy of these decades-long anti-coca campaigns is up for debate. In 2015, Peru lost the title of the world’s top coca cultivator to Colombia; however, since that victory, the amount of land used for illegal coca farming has been increasing (up 14% percent between 2016 and 2017). Of all the coca grown in Peru today, nearly 90% winds up in the illegal drug trade.

According to some experts, these statistics are evidence that coca eradication efforts have failed to stem demand for cocaine. The solution they propose is decriminalization, which could reduce drug related violence and remove negative stigmas associated with cocaine and coca use, which disproportionately impacts the poor. Indigenous rights advocates also take issue with the current hardline approach, calling the demonization of coca culturally insensitive and in direct violation of the U.N.’s 2007 Declaration on Indigenous Rights, which promises to protect indigenous traditions.

During our hour-long conversation, Fortunata will spend approximately 20 minutes detailing coca’s role in Peruvian life and explaining how the government’s crackdown on coca production has impacted her family and neighbors. Afterward, we’ll have approximately 40 minutes to ask any questions we may have. We’ll also have the opportunity to try some coca for ourselves to better understand why it is so central to life at high altitudes.

We’ll bid farewell to Fortunata around 4pm and continue making our way to our Sacred Valley hotel in Urubamba, arriving at approximately 4:30pm.

Perched beside the Urubamba River under Chicón Mountain, Urubamba is located among some of the Sacred Valley’s most iconic Incan ruins—including, of course, Machu Picchu. It’s also a historic hub of commerce in the region; vendors from all across the Sacred Valley come to the vibrant outdoor market here to sell coffee, cheese, produce, fruit, and even clothes and cookware. Depending on where you stay, you may have access to a hotel lounge and restaurant. Rooms may include cable TV, wireless internet, air conditioning, a private bathroom, and a personal safe. We’ll check in, followed by a couple of hours to relax. Depending on where you stay, you may have access to a hotel lounge and restaurant. Rooms may include cable TV, wireless internet, air conditioning, a private bathroom, and a personal safe. We’ll check in, followed by a couple of hours to relax. At 6:30pm, embark on an orientation walk so your Trip Experience Leader can show you where to find restaurants, bars, and other entertainment that you can get to on foot in your free time.

Dinner: At our hotel around 7pm, featuring typical dishes of the region.

Evening: You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 5

Raft the Urubamba River • Explore Ollantaytambo Inca Fortress • Home-Hosted Lunch
Destination: Urubamba
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: Pisonay Pueblo or similar

Exclusive O.A.T. Activity: This afternoon we'll join a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch featuring typical Andean cuisine and lively cultural exchange. This is a unique opportunity to connect with everyday citizens and enhance your understanding of local life. To facilitate a more intimate experience, we'll be divided into smaller groups of no more than 5 for our dinner. Read more about this activity below.

Activity Note: Today's activities take place at elevations above 9,000 feet. We recommend staying hydrated while at high altitude. Travelers may rest at the hotel if necessary.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Peruvian and American options, beginning at 6am.

Morning: We board our bus around 8:30am for an approximately 30-minute drive to the splendid Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo. We'll walk amid the remains of this ancient fortress of gray and rose-colored granite, discover its ancient baths, and climb up the huge terraces guarding its hilltop temples. Then, we'll enjoy a chance to meet some of the local people who dwell in the traditional town nearby.

We continue our discoveries with a bus ride of about 20 minutes to reach the banks of the Urubamba River, where we embark on a float trip aboard inflatable rafts—an enjoyable way to experience the enchanting Andean landscape. It's little wonder that the Incas regarded the Urubamba Valley as sacred ground. Here their culture was born, and here they found a true life-source—the area's mild climate and fertile soil, which yielded an abundance of fruits and vegetables. As we float along the river, we'll observe the networks of terraces on either side, constructed entirely by hand, which transformed steep mountainsides into acres of arable land that helped feed a civilization, and which remain in use today, centuries after their construction.

After our rafting excursion, it's time to whet our whistles: An approximately 15-minute bus ride takes us to a local bar where you can sip chicha, a beer brewed from corn. The bar, or chicheria, is a family-owned favorite of the local farmers, so you may have a chance to make some new friends during our time here. You'll also have the chance to learn how chicha is fermented and distilled. From there, we drive 15 minutes to the home of a local Peruvian family, where we'll enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch. Here, we'll be divided into even smaller groups of no larger than 5 for an intimate local experience.

We’ll arrive at the local family home, which will likely be a single-family tile-roofed home typical of the area. A member of the family will show us around the house and give us a glimpse into rural life in Peru, including the unique structure of the home.

We’ll likely see a small garden where the family grows fresh vegetables and aromatic plants featured in many Andean dishes. Homes also typically have a small guinea pig or poultry farm behind their houses. Kitchens are located adjacent to the home, not inside—as families prefer to use firewood over gas or electricity to prepare meals. We’ll head there to help the family prepare an appetizer.

Lunch: With the local family in their home. The appetizer we savor will depend on the season, ranging from traditional Andean quinoa soup or black potato soup, to stuffed peppers or corn tortillas. The main course will be a Peruvian staple: roasted guinea pig. We’ll chat with our hosts about how this ancient dish is prepared, as well as chat about what day-to-day life looks like in Urubamba.

Afternoon: We'll bid farewell to our hosts around 2:15pm and drive back to our hotel in Urubamba, arriving around 2:30pm. Once there, you will have a few hours of free time to rest after the day's activities, or make independent discoveries in the town. At 6:30pm, our small group will meet in the hotel lobby and drive about 15 minutes to a nearby restaurant.

Dinner: At a local polleria restaurant, where we will have the opportunity to taste one of Peru's most popular dishes, pollo a la brasa (rotisserie-style chicken).

Evening: We'll return to our hotel around 8pm. You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 6

Train ride through the Sacred Valley • First Visit to Machu Picchu
Destination: Aguas Calientes
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: Casa Andina Standard Machu Picchu or similar

Activity Note: Today's activities take place at elevations above 7,900 feet. We recommend staying hydrated while at high altitude. Travelers may rest at the hotel if necessary.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel beginning at 6:30am, featuring Peruvian and American dishes.

Morning: Today, we set out on a spectacular train trip into the gorge of the Urubamba River and on to Machu Picchu, the legendary “Lost City of the Incas."

But first, around 8:30am, we are in for a special treat when we get an up-close glimpse of a curandero ceremony, a healing ritual with Inca roots—performed by a mestizo medicine man—that draws on an assortment of ancient and modern substances and symbols, combined with coca leaves and the energy of the sacred mountains and Mother Earth.

Around 10am, we board our bus and drive to the Ollantaytambo train station, where we'll catch our train to the next leg of our journey.

Lunch: We'll enjoy a boxed lunch on board the train.

Afternoon: After a scenic train ride through the Sacred Valley, we arrive in the village of Aguas Calientes around 1pm, where we'll return after our exploration of Machu Picchu this afternoon. Most travelers visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, which makes for a hectic pace and only limited time at this unique archaeological wonder; our overnight stay in Aguas Calientes allows us to explore at a more relaxed pace and return to continue our discoveries of this famous city the next morning.

We'll board a bus around 1:30pm and travel about 30 minutes to Machu Picchu, which—like Lima and the city of Cuzco—is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ancient city was a place little known not only to foreigners, but also to the Inca people—only a select few were ever allowed to visit this mysterious sanctuary. Even though it was “discovered” by Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu remained inaccessible until the 1940s, when the Inca Trail was found by an archaeological expedition.

Inching up to the edges of cliffs high above the Urubamba River—and seemingly floating among the clouds—the mystical stone city stretches boldly across a high ridge in the Andes Mountains. Much of the mystery surrounding Macchu Picchu stems from the Inca's seemingly impossible engineering feats; without mortar, they somehow placed the stones so perfectly, and built underground foundations so strong, that when earthquakes hit, the stones simply “dance” and then fall right back into place. They are also so expertly arranged that the cracks between rocks can’t even be penetrated by a credit card.

Ensuing explorations uncovered relics indicating that the "Lost City of the Incas" may have been the religious center of Inca life. The temples, astronomical observatory, and a remarkable solar clock named Intiwatana, or "hitching post to the sun" are all signs of the Incas' devotion to their sun god. (The fact that nearly all the unearthed human remains are female also points to Machu Picchu as a site of religious sacrifice.)

As for the fate of Machu Picchu's people, the theories are even more far-reaching (and theory is all we have, for the Incas left no written record). It is known that smallpox decimated the population in the early 16th century, but the remainder may have succumbed to drought or disease, been conquered by the Spanish, or simply abandoned the site.

We can consider this mystery as our own expedition alights on this mountaintop site this afternoon, as our expert Trip Experience Leader and a local assistant give us a complete and compelling look at this fabled "Lost City," explaining the speculation surrounding Machu Picchu's place in the Inca world. Beginning around 2pm, we'll trek across its terraced landscape, stroll its ancient streets, and discover remnants of its Ritual Baths, Palace of the Princess, Main Fountain, and Sun and Condor temples. We'll have ample time to explore, reflect, and ponder the enigma of this man-made wonder, both with our Trip Experience Leader and on our own.

Around 5pm, we return to Aguas Calientes by bus and check in to our hotel, where amenities will likely include laundry service and an ATM. Each room typically features cable TV, a safe, wireless Internet access, and a private bathroom with a hairdryer. You'll have a little more than an hour to settle in and freshen up. Then, our small group will reconvene just before 7pm for a 5-minute walk to our dinner locale.

Dinner: At a local restaurant around 7pm, featuring dishes typical to the Andean region.

Evening: We'll return to our hotel shortly after 8pm. You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 7

Second visit to Machu Picchu
Destination: Aguas Caliente
Meals included: B L
Accommodations: Casa Andina Standard Machu Picchu or similar

Activity Note: We have an early wake-up call this morning to reach Machu Picchu before the crowds.

Early Morning: We rise early today—between 5am and 6am, depending on when you'll visit Machu Picchu—to make the most of our second day here.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel beginning at 5:30am, featuring Peruvian and American options.

Morning: You'll have two options for returning to Machu Picchu this morning. If you choose the earlier departure, we leave our hotel around 6:30am and return by bus to Machu Picchu, ascending toward the ruined city as the sun crests the peaks of the Andes. We'll arrive around 7:15am for an early-morning hike of your choosing. One brings you to the Inca Bridge, where a trail built with impressive Inca engineering crosses a cliff face. In one spot, the Incas left a deep gap, which they bridged with logs that could be removed to render the trail impassable to enemies. The second option is an ambitious hike to the Sun Gate at the Machu Picchu end of the Inca Trail, which offers a fine view over the ruins.

Or, if you'd like to catch some more sleep, join the second group departing for Machu Picchu at 8am, arriving at around 8:30am. You can remain at the hotel if you wish, but most travelers appreciate this second chance to see the ruins in a different light, well before other visitors arrive on the train from Cuzco later this morning. Among the enigmatic remnants of this Incan sanctuary we find an observatory meant for solstice worship and a stone altar marking the holy center point between the nearby sacred peaks. You can wander the sprawling ruins on your own or embark on a hike.

Whichever option you choose, our group will reconvene around noon and descend by bus to Aguas Calientes below. Upon arrival, we'll walk about 15 minutes to a nearby restaurant.

Lunch: At a local restaurant around 1pm, featuring traditional Peruvian dishes.

Afternoon: Our small group will return to our hotel around mid-day. We'll spend our second night in Aguas Calientes—a recently added feature—giving you ample time to rest after today's hike, or explore more of the town.

Dinner: On your own—ask your Trip Experience Leader for local restaurant recommendations. Perhaps you'll sample causa, a mashed potato dish that is served a variety of ways with meat and vegetables.

Evening: You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 8

Train ride through the Sacred Valley • Explore colonial Cuzco
Destination: Cuzco
Meals included: B L
Accommodations: José Antonio Cuzco Hotel

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel beginning at 6am, featuring Peruvian and American options.

Morning: We'll check out of our hotel around 8am and walk about 10 minutes to the Aguas Calientes train station. From there, we'll return by train to Ollantaytambo, a ride of about 1.5 hours through the spectacular Urubamba Gorge. We then continue traveling by bus for about two hours to reach Cuzco, arriving around 12:30pm.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Cuzco around 12:30pm, featuring Peruvian staples.

Afternoon: We set out to explore Cuzco on a walking tour around 1:30pm. Called "the navel of the world" by the Incas, Cuzco was laid out in the shape of a puma, a sacred beast in Inca lore. We'll visit the site of the Qoricancha Sun Temple, Cuzco's most important ceremonial structure during the Inca era. Historical records of the time note that its walls were once covered with 700 sheets of gold studded with emeralds and turquoise. When sunlight streamed through the windows, the reflection of light off the precious metals was blinding. Then we'll stroll through the heart of the city at the Plaza de Armas. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived here, they often built atop Inca structures, leaving behind a blend of architectural styles. At the Plaza de Armas, you'll view the outside of the 17th-century cathedral that was built on the foundation of an Inca palace. This massive structure is one of the significant colonial buildings in the city. See whether you agree with many that it is also one of the most beautiful churches in Latin America.

After our walking tour, we'll check in to our hotel around 4pm. Depending on where we stay, our hotel will likely offer an on-site restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine, a currency exchange, a souvenir shop, and a hairdresser. Each room may feature a minibar, cable TV, safe, and wireless Internet access. You'll have the rest of the afternoon free to make your own discoveries. You could spend return to the cathedral and go inside to view its many interior paintings and sculptures, as well as its collections of colonial art and religious relics. Head for the San Blas neighborhood to see more of Cuzco's historic architecture and the shops of artisans along picturesque hilly, narrow lanes. Or take in the city's Inca Museum (Museo Inka), which is housed in a colonial mansion and known for its collection of Inca mummies.

Dinner: On your own—ask your Trip Experience Leader for local restaurant recommendations.

Evening: You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 9

A Day in the Life of Izcuchaca & Chinchero villages • Grand Circle Foundation visit: Cruzpata School • Controversial Topic: Building of the Chinchero airport with local community leaders
Destination: Cuzco
Meals included: B L
Accommodations: José Antonio Cuzco Hotel

Exclusive O.A.T. Activities: Prepare for a full day of immersive cultural discovery as we spend A Day in the Life of the Izcuchaca village and the Chinchero community. We’ll get a glimpse into Andean culture as we navigate a local market and visit a school supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Later, we’ll learn about a Controversial Topic as we meet locals who will discuss the impact of the building of the new nearby Chinchero airport. Read more about these activities below.

Please note: Alternate activities may be arranged if today's school visit falls on a weekend or holiday, as school will not be in session.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Peruvian and American options, beginning at 6:30am.

Morning: We begin a day filled with Peruvian cultural discoveries around 8am, when we journey by bus to Izcuchaca, a village in the Anta Province of Cuzco surrounded by farm fields. Our first stop in our A Day in the Life experience, around 8:45am, is a visit to a local market. Once we arrive, we’ll meet our community leader for the day, Julio Callañaupa.

Julio was born in Yanacona—a community within the Chinchero district—in 1969, as the youngest of five children. Like many children of the countryside, his fondest childhood memories involve helping his parents on the farm. Julio attended public school and loved to learn; though he left after high school to work several jobs and help his family, he continued to teach himself in subjects that interested him. In 1998, he married Liberata Sallo Huaman, and they’ve raised four children together.

Julio will take us through the local market in Izcuchaca; and we'll check out the produce and other foodstuffs for sale, mingle with the stall owners, and watch as locals go about their daily shopping. The economy of Izcuchaca is largely based on agriculture and livestock, which we’ll see during our market explorations. We’ll also experience a traditional mode of transportation here, the tuk-tuk (moto-taxi), which will take us from the market to the main town square. We’ll get to know our drivers, perhaps chatting with them about what it’s like to be self-employed in the village.

Around 9:45am, we’ll hop back on our motorcoach to embark on the approximate hour and 15-minute drive to a local elementary school (when in session). On the way, we’ll stop to meet local Izcuchaca shepherds and farmers for a glimpse at their daily lives.

Around 11am, we’ll arrive at the local school in Cusco, which is supported in part by donations from Grand Circle Foundation.

The children will welcome us warmly with a presentation on Peru's culture—including traditional songs and dances— followed by a conversation with their teachers and families and some free time with the children one-on-one. Many travelers find this chance to meet the children of Peru to be the emotional high point of their adventure as well.

Cruzpata School is attended by around 150 students from ages 6 to 11 from neighboring villages and communities. Many of the children come from farming families and speak only Quechua, the language of Peru’s indigenous people. As such, teachers are multilingual, tutoring English to both Quechua-speaking and Spanish-speaking students and helping to preserve each student’s family history and culture to the best of their ability. Since first partnering with the school in 2014, Grand Circle Foundation has supported the purchase of new playground equipment, traditional dance costumes, new desks and chairs, and more.

We’ll spend about an hour and a half at Cruzpata, during which the children will walk us through the school; show us some of their books and learning materials; and perhaps even teach us a few Quechua phrases. We’ll even get the chance to help teach the students a short math or English lesson.

After our school visit wraps up just before 12:30pm, we ride about 20 minutes to the mountain weaving village of Chinchero, which—at an elevation of 12,500 feet—is a literal high point of our exploration of the Sacred Valley. Chinchero was also the site of a 16th-century Inca emperor's estate, as well as a resting place on the Inca Royal Road.

At around 12:45pm, we arrive in Chinchero village, where we'll enjoy a walking tour of the community and savor lunch together.

Lunch: Shared with the community in Chinchero around 1pm—our Trip Experience Leader will help us converse with the local people, providing another excellent opportunity to learn about daily life in Peru. We’ll also try our hand at helping the community members prepare lunch, which will consist of typical Andean cuisine.

Afternoon: After lunch around 2pm, we’ll head to the local weaving cooperative owned by Julio and his wife. About a decade after their marriage, Julio and Liberata saw an opportunity with the rising tourism industry in Chinchero to not only help their family and others in the village, but to preserve the culture of their ancestors. They opened the Wiñay Awaq Textile Centre in 2008, the goal of which is to preserve the ancestral techniques of weaving and wool-dying while providing employment opportunities for their fellow villagers.

Here we see how Peruvian weavers create complex patterns in colorful cloth as their ancestors have for centuries. The women who work there will show us how they clean and dye the wool, spin it into thread, and finally weave their many-hued threads on traditional looms. Feel free to ask any questions you have about the weaving process, and about the weavers' lives. After about a half hour, we’ll steer the conversation to today’s Controversial Topic: the new Chinchero airport.

As we’ve learned throughout our time in Chinchero village today, it is considered by many to be a sacred time capsule of Incan culture, where many of the original roads and layouts carved out by the Incas still remain. Plus, the economy here is rooted in its agriculture—and some locals are worried all that will change with the construction of the new airport.

Because the Cuzco airport bustles with so much activity, the Chinchero airport was launched to decrease traffic coming in and out of Cuzco. Already in the first phase of construction, the Peruvian government has committed to finishing the Chinchero airport by 2023—much of the land has already been bulldozed over. Many residents, archaeologists, and art historians have opposed the construction from the beginning, arguing that the airport is being built right atop some of the precious Incan remnants so many come to Peru to see.

We’ll first speak to Julio himself and his wife, Liberata, about this issue. As community leaders who pursue the preservation of Peruvian art and culture, they oppose the new airport being built over land they’ve fought tirelessly to protect. Plus, they’re concerned about the air pollution that will occur once the airport is up and running. Liberata and Julio fear that they’ll be forced to give up their culture and to withstand negative environmental impacts the airport will have on the village and community health.

But the addition of the airport is not without positives—many younger villagers are excited for the opportunity to get involved in tourism by way of the airport, as new tourist traffic there will create new jobs. One such young person is Ms. Rossi Amau Llihuac, who has been honing her craft at the weaving center since she was 11 years old. Rossi will chat with us about growing up in Chinchero, helping her family on their farm, and following her ancestors’ textile traditions. She’ll also speak to her hopes for making her mark in Chinchero's growing tourism industry.

Our presenters will share their experiences for about 20 minutes, after which we’ll be able to ask any questions we may have.

Around 3:45pm, we bid farewell to our friends at the cooperative and drive about 45 minutes back to our hotel, and you'll have the rest of the day free to do as you'd like.

Dinner: On your own. You might like to seek out quinoa, a fiber-rich grain that is native to Peru and used in everything from soups to salads.

Evening: You have the freedom to spend the rest of your evening as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 10

Southern Valley of Cuzco • Sacsayhuaman & Qenqo
Destination: Cuzco
Meals included: B L D
Accommodations: José Antonio Cuzco Hotel

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Peruvian and American dishes, beginning at 6am.

Morning: Today we explore the valley south of Cuzco. Beginning at 8am, we depart our hotel and drive about 30 minutes by bus to Oropesa. This small town is known for special bread called pan chuta, made in loaves as big as a wheel and traditionally offered as a gift to the host when visiting a home in the Cuzco area. We'll visit a small bakery around 8:30am, where we'll have the opportunity to sample this local specialty and ask the bakers questions about how it is made. Then, around 9:15am, we continue on to Tipon, the site of ancient Inca waterworks. The maze of irrigation channels and ritual baths here is a marvel of ancient engineering—water continues to flow in them, 500 years after their construction. We'll spend about an hour here exploring the site before driving to a nearby restaurant.

Lunch: At a local restaurant around 11:45am, featuring the traditional Peruvian dishes we have come to know.

Afternoon: Around 12:45am, we drive into the hills surrounding Cuzco to visit two important Inca sites. First, around 1pm, we'll explore the expansive Sacsayhuaman archaeological site on a hilltop overlooking the city and adjacent valley, which the Incas built from huge stones, some weighing nearly 300 tons. Massive stone terraces line the site, along with ruins of large structures whose origins are, like much of what the Incas left behind, shrouded in mystery. Then, we drive about 10 minutes to the Inca ceremonial center of Qenqo, an ancient worship site that also displays impressive stonework. Archaeologists believe this was a significant site where ritualistic sacrifices and mummification took place.

After exploring Qenqo, we'll drive about 30 minutes back to Cuzco, arriving at our hotel around 3pm. You'll have almost 4 hours of free time to continuing exploring the hilly streets of Cuzco on your own. Then, we'll reconvene around 6:45pm in the hotel lobby and drive about 10 minutes by bus to a nearby restaurant.

Dinner: We'll enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant—enjoy typical Peruvian cuisine and toast to the memories you've made with your fellow travelers.

Evening: A bus ride of about 10 minutes brings us back to our hotel, arriving around 8:30pm. You have the freedom to spend your final evening in Peru as you wish—ask your Trip Experience Leader for recommendations.

DAY 11

Cuzco • Fly to Lima • Return to U.S.
Meals included: B L
Accommodations: José Antonio Cuzco Hotel
Activity Note: You have a day room available until we leave Cuzco, but there is no overnight hotel stay tonight. Travelers taking the post-trip extension to Lake Titicaca will experience today's activities and included lunch on the final day of the post-trip.

Breakfast: Served buffet-style at the hotel featuring Peruvian and American dishes, beginning at 6am.

Morning: If you are taking the Southern Peru: Lake Titicaca's Sacred Landscape & Highland Culture post-trip extension, you will fly to Puno, Peru, after an early breakfast today. If you are taking the Colombia: Colonial Cartagena & Mountainous Medellín post-trip extension, you'll fly to Cartagena this morning.

Otherwise, enjoy a last morning to explore Cuzco at your own pace, with your hotel room remaining available until mid-afternoon. Perhaps you’ll discover the cultural treasures of the Inka Museum or visit the Artisan's Market where you may find handmade jewelry, musical instruments, artwork, and more. Your Trip Experience Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Our small group will reconvene at the hotel around 12pm, and set out on a walk of about 10 minutes to a nearby restaurant.

Lunch: At a local restaurant around 12:15pm, featuring typical Andean cuisine.

Afternoon: We'll return to our hotel around 1:30pm, and you'll have about 2 hours to relax or pack. Then, around 3:45pm, we'll check out and transfer by bus to the airport for your flight to Lima, where you'll connect to your overnight flight back to the U.S.

Latin America
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