Sacred Land of the Incas (IGGSQ)

  • Trip Type:
    Traveller Plus
  • Route:
    Lima to La Paz
  • Length:
    15 days
  • Transport:
    Boat, Bus, Plane
  • Accommodation:
    Camping (with basic facilities) (3 nts), Homestay (1 nt), Hotel (8 nts), Jungle Lodge (2 nts)

Daily Itinerary

Day 1:


Lima is a large, fascinating hotchpotch of architectural styles, coastal scenes, world cuisines, impressive museums, traditional culture and modern arts and nightlife.

You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre - so there's no need for you to visit the downtown area prior to the trip. Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro.

If you arrive early, we recommend you go to Parque del Amor (Love's Park) for a nice view of Lima's beaches. Other things to see and do include a tour to Pachacamac (approx 30 km from downtown Lima), the Museo de la Nacion and the Gold Museum. Limenos (Lima's residents) are friendly and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to sample ceviche, a local seafood speciality.

Explore the 16th-century monastery of San Francisco which boasts a fresco of the Last Supper that has a distinctly Peruvian flavour: the disciples pictured dine on guinea pig and drink from gold Inca cups. The monastery's catacombs are the real drawcard - they've been Lima's underground cemetery for hundreds of years.

There are many fine museums in and around the city including the Museo del Tribunal de la Santa Inquisicion, which gives a fascinating insight into the Spanish Inquisition.
Visit the Archaeological Museum, which offers a look at Peru's succession of ancient cultures.



Hotel (1 nt)



Day 2 to 3:
Puerto Maldonado

Located on the Tambopata River near Puerto Maldonado, our eco-friendly lodge is the perfect base for expeditions into the jungle and encounters with the magnificent fauna and flora.

Fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado (approx 2 hrs).

Upon arrival, the lodge staff will take us to their office in town where you'll leave most of your luggage in a safe storage and continue travelling with a small pack with just the necessary items for our next two nights in the jungle. Then take a motorized canoe up river to our jungle lodge in the Madre de Dios area.

Head into the jungle with our local, multilingual guides and encounter magnificent fauna and flora in their natural habitat. Spot everything from macaws and monkeys to peccary, jabirus, otters and thousands of butterflies. The guides can also teach us about the medicinal properties and practical uses of the plants. After exploring the wilds, it's time to jump back in the canoe and return to Puerto Maldonado. The lodge is eco-friendly and combines low-impact architecture with traditional native style. Rooms are simple, but comfortable with flush toilets (en suite), showers (cold water only), mosquito nets and kerosene lamps for light.


Jungle Lodge (2 nts)


Day 4:

Cuzco is the gateway to Machu Picchu and a city with majestic architecture, impressive ruins, a lively town centre and cultural significance around every cobblestone corner.

Fly from Puerto Maldonado to Cuzco (approx 35 mins).
Cuzco  is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today Cuzco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Inca foundations. This is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend and is a perfect base for explorations into the Inca world or to enjoy a range of outdoor activities.

Take the time to acclimatise to the city's 3,400 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city. Your leader will take you on a walking tour including a visit to the Coca Musuem - where you can learn more about this infamous plant which has been an essential part of life in the Andes for centuries - and the local San Pedro market.

The cathedral, built on top of an Inca palace, dominates the Plaza de Armas, Cuzco's picturesque heart. The cathedral is one of the city's greatest repositories of art and houses an elegantly carved choir stall and a silver-covered Neoclassic altar.
There are several impressive Inca ruins within the city. The most easily accessible is Coricancha, which was the Inca empire's richest temple. Once plated in thick gold, the Spanish built a Dominican church atop its sturdy walls. The Boleto Turistico (Tourism Ticket) is a good option if you to visit the many musems available in Cuzco as well as the archaeological sites of Saqsaywaman, Q'enqo, Pica Pakara, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Some museums in town, such as Contemporary Art Meseum, Regional History Museum and Qosqo Native Art Museum can only be accessed by purchasing the Boleto Turistico.
For lunch or mid-morning coffee and cake head to Yanapay restaurant at 415 Ruinas St. This restaurant uses all its profits to support children in Cuzco through Aldea Yanapay and its social projects. For more info on Aldea Yanapay visit:
Hotel (1 nt)


Day 5:

The Sacred Valley was once the heartland of the Inca Empire and now contains picturesque villages and impressive archeological sites.
Located in the Urubamba Valley, the city of Ollantaytambo is an incredible archeological site and the starting point of the classic Inca Trail trek.

The town of Ollantaytambo has been built over an ancient Inca town, which is a magnificent example of Inca urban planning. This is one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish.
Ollantaytambo's archaeological site is located to the east of the Plaza de Armas. The upper terraces of this site offer great photo opportunities of the squared grid town below.
Hotel (1 nt)

Day 6 to 9:
Inka Trail

Winding around mountains, through valleys and up steep slopes, the iconic Inca Trail is a series of beautiful vistas and challenging hikes all the way to Machu Picchu.
Built sometime in the 15th century and rediscovered in 1911, the staggering ruins of Machu Picchu were thought to be an estate for the Incan emperor, Pachacuti.

Depending on your pre-arranged travel arrangements, during the next four days you may: hike the Classic Inca Trail, hike the Inca Quarry Trail, or stay in Cuzco for another two days before heading by train to Aguas Calientes. While you are away from Cuzco the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel in Cuzco.  If you are hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cuzco, you'll receive a small duffle bag to pack clothes for the next four days (6 kg maximum). Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you are travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll have the option to leave most of your luggage at your hotel storage room and only travel with the necessary items for the next few days.

INCA TRAIL: The trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but do come prepared: the trail is 45 km (28 miles) long and often steep. Generally each day's journey consists of 7 hours walking on average (both uphill and downhill), plus stops for snacks and lunch. Normally trekking starts at 7am (except for the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 4-5pm.
Accommodation on the trek is camping (3 nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. Tents are set up by the porters. Meals are prepared by the trek cook.

Day 1: Catch a bus (approx 1.5 hours) to the 82 km marker and join our crew of local porters, cook and guide. The starting point of the trek is located at 2,850m. Our first day includes some uphill trekking to the campsite - at over 3,000 m above sea level. Today you will see the ruins of Llactapata, burnt to the ground by the last Inca emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail.

Day 2: This is the most challenging day of the trek as we ascend a long steep path (approx 4 hours) to reach the highest point of our trek, Warmiwanusca ('Dead Woman's Pass'), at a height of 4,200 m (13,779 ft), before descending to the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 m. Next is a climb up to the second pass known as Runkuracay at 3,980 m - approximately 90 minutes uphill from the Pacaymayo Valley. From here we can enjoy views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending to the ruins of Sayacmarca (2-3 hours). From here it's only a short walk to the Chaquicocha campsite at 3,620 m.

Day 3: Continue over the third pass and soon reach the beautiful ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the 'Town above the Clouds', at 3,850 m (approx 90 mins walk). From here we start our descent along Inca steps (2 hours) to reach our final night's camp by the Winay Wayna ('Forever Young') archaeological site at 2,750 m. Grab a drink and enjoy the panoramic views of the valley below.

Day 4: Take a short final hike (approx 2 hrs) to the Sun Gate where we can watch the ruins of Machu Picchu emerge from the mist below. The feeling you get as you see the ruins for the first time is indescribable.

INCA QUARRY TRAIL: The Inca Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. It's 23 km long in total. The trail's highest pass is at almost 4,500 m above sea level which is higher than the Classic Inca Trail's highest pass. Throughout the trek your gear (and camping gear) will be carried by horses (as opposed to porter). The first two nights of the trek are spent camping and the third one at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. Tents are set up by the porters. Meals are prepared by the trek cook.

Day 1 - We leave Ollantaytambo early in the morning and drive approximately 30 min. to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place were Incas used to venerate the moon. A further 30 min. drive takes us to the community of Socma, the starting point of our trek and where we meet the horsemen that will join us during the hike. After approximately one hour hike we reach the Perolniyoc cascade lookout. This is a perfect photo stop and a great excuse to stop and grab a snack. From here we continue walking to our campsite, located at 3700 metres, where we arrive right in time for lunch. After lunch we set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which used to serve as a check point during the times of the Incas.

Day 2 - This is the most challenging but most rewarding day of the hike. A 4 hour hike takes us to the top of the first pass known as Chancachuco (4400 metres). After a well deserved rest we descend about 100 metres for a light lunch. After lunch we continue walking up hill to Kuychiccasa, at 4500 metres, the second and last mountain pass of this trek. From this point we walk mostly downhill to the small archaeological site of Inti Punku or Sun Gate. This site offers spectacular view of the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo underneath and the always imposing "Veronica" mountain in the background. We finally reach our campsite, near the Inca quarry of Kachiqta, at 3750 metres.

Day 3 - After breakfast we visit the quarry, its tombs, storage rooms and the locally called 'tired rocks' which are rocks the Incas didn't finish carving and transporting due to the Spanish conquest.
Day three is all downhill hiking. The first stop is at the Kachiqata quarry, where we witness the work the Incas could not complete due to the Spanish conquest. From here we walk to Ollantaytambo train station where the expedition's cook will provide box lunches for our train journey to Aguas Calientes.  Once in Aguas Calientes we meet our fellow travellers who opted to take the "Train Option" of this trip. The natural hot springs in town are an unbeatable way to spend a late afternoon/early evening. Tonight we overnight at a simple but comfortable hotel.

Day 4 - Today we take a very early bus (5:30am depending on weather conditions) along the winding road to Machu Picchu (approx. 30 minutes). In Machu Picchu we join the travellers who opted to hike the Classic Inca Trail option of this trip before taking on a guided walk of Machu Picchu.

TRAIN OPTION: For those travellers not interested or unable to hike the trail it's possible to spend two extra two days in Cuzco then travel by train to Aguas Calientes. The following morning there will be a bus to Ollantaytambo (approx. 90 minutes), from here we catch a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes (1.5 hrs approx.) where we will spend the night.
Aguas Calientes is nestled in the cloud forest in the hills at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want a sneak peak, there is time to visit Machu Picchu independently before a guided tour the following day. Otherwise, you can while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs that give the town its name. This option must be arranged at the time of booking or local fees will apply. Although you won't be accompanied by a leader, Imaginative Traveller has an office in Cuzco, so if you need any help please feel free to drop in and ask for assistance. Should you require emergency assistance on these days please refer to the 'Emergency Contact' section of these Trip Notes.

MACHU PICCHU: While it's thought Machu Picchu was built around 1440 as a country retreat for Incan nobility, there is evidence this had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Another school of thought is that this was an astronomical observatory. There's plenty of time for you to decide for yourself as you wander around the many temples, palaces and living quarters. You will have a guided visit (approx 1.5-2 hrs) with plenty of free time afterwards. After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cuzco for a well deserved shower and a pisco sour.

WAYNA PICCHU: Due to Imaginative Traveller's internal safety policy our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking this activity.



Camping (with basic facilities) (3 nts), Hotel (1 nt)


Day 10:

A World Heritage site set amongst red-green hills with ruins scattered close by, Cuzco is impressive in every way - be it history, culture, nightlife or architecture.

For those who can't get enough active adventure, there are plenty of opportunities to go mountain biking, horse riding or whitewater rafting on the Urubamba River.


Hostel (1 nt)


Day 11 to 13:
Lake Titicaca

Puno is a colourful town on the Peruvian shores of Lake Titicaca, expect to see traditionally dressed locals, chaotic markets and, if lucky enough, even dancing in the streets.
Crossing the border of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and has some fascinating islands and hefty-sized frogs living within its waters.

Travel by local bus through the dramatic scenery of the high altiplano to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approx 6 hrs). There will be a couple of stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers. Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture and traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented here. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. Many festivals are celebrated here, so if you're lucky your visit might coincide with one of the colourful evening parades, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.

To get a closer look at daily life on the islands, we'll be welcomed into local homes for an overnight stay on a community island. Make the most of your visit by helping your host family with their daily activities or trying to chat in the local language, Quechua. A game of soccer is also a great way to make local friends. Our homestay is a mudbrick house. Rooms have beds and many blankets, there are shared drop toilets but no showers.

After breakfast the next day, board the boat again for a visit to Taquile Island (approx 1 hour), where knitting is strictly a male domain and women do the spinning. This is a great place to pick up some high quality, locally knitted goods. An uphill trek of about an hour brings us to the main area of the island and after the visit we descend about 500 steps back to our boat. Transfer back to Puno by boat (approx 3 hrs).



Hotel (2 nts), Homestay (1 nt)


Lake Titicaca


Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, home to ancient civilizations and birth place of the Incas.
Hopefully we will have time to explore both the Peruvian and Bolivian parts of the lake.
From the Peruvian town of Puno a visit can be made to the floating reed islands which are home to the Uros Indians. Known as the “willow people”, the Uros have lived since early times on these small man made islands consisting of compacted Totora reeds. There are many of these islands and in times past the population would have lived exclusively on the lake eking out a living from fishing and hunting. Nowadays the young people leave the islands to live in Puno and the remaining population uses tourism as a way of providing extra income. It is no longer the "real" experience it once was but the islands are still unique.
You may also have time to visit the Yavari steam ship moored nearby, this was built in England then shipped out to Peru, traveling by train and animal to Puno before being rebuilt and launched on the lake.

Copacabana in Bolivia, is a picturesque town situated on the shores of Lake Titicaca with an amazing Moorish style Cathedral.Copacabana is a great place to people watch especially if you are there over a weekend or on one of the many festivals. On Sundays the town fills with the faithful believers who walk up Cerro Calvario (the hill guarding the town) to make their dreams come true. At the top of the hill numerous stalls sell all manner of minature material goods from cars and buses through to houses and graduation certificates. The selected items are taken to a small alter where they are blessed, decorated with flowers and petals, incense is burnt and finally beer is sprayed over the whole ensemble. A fascinating insight into local beliefs, as is the blessing of the vehicles in front of the Cathedral.For sunset there is no better place than one of the local fish restaurants on the shoreline perhaps followed by a game of table foootball and then a visit to one of the many bars featuring live bands - many from Argentina.
From here we can take a boat trip to Isla del Sol where we spend a day exploring this historic island, known as the birthplace of the Inca civilisation. There is a host of ancient ruins, tiny traditional villages and beautiful walking routes. Visitors can wander through the ruins, explore its dry slopes covered with sweet smelling incense brush, or hike over the ancient pampas which are still cultivated by the island families. The island also has a wealth of religious history as the island has been identified as the birthplace of several revered entities, including the Sun itself. Modern day Aynmara and Quechua peoples of Bolivia and Peru accept the legend as their creation story.

Day 14 to 15:
La Paz

Built in a canyon, the unique and bewtiching city of La Paz is filled with steep, cobbled streets, fascinating markets, evident tradition and captivating sights.

At the Bolivian border the first stop will be at the Peruvian migration office where you'll be asked to leave the bus and proceed with your paperwork through the migration office. Then we'll need to walk one block to the Bolivian side, through the Bolivian migration office, and then back on to the bus for the journey to Copacabana (approx 4 hrs). After a short stop, transfer to another public bus to complete the second leg of this journey to La Paz (approx 4 hrs). This time the stop will be at Tiquina Strait where you'll cross by one ferry, and the bus will go across on another.

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart our accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.


Hotel (1 nt)


Important notes


Inca Trail permits are sold on a request basis only. Once your deposit is paid and passport details provided, Imaginative Traveller will endeavour to secure a permit for you.
In order to obtain an Inca Trail permit, it's vital that you provide the correct and most up-to-date passport information at the time of booking (date of birth, passport number, expiry date and name spelling exactly as it appears in the passport that you will travel with). Inconsistencies and/or changes between passport details provided at the time of booking and the passport you travel with will most likely result in you not being granted access to the Inca Trail.
If for reasons outside your control you must change your passport (ie. your passport gets lost or stolen) after your Inca Trail permit has been purchased, please contact your booking agent immediately to attempt arrange an alternative permit (fees may apply).
Amongst other restrictions, Inca Trail permits are dated. Should you request a change to your original trip or travel day, a new permit will need to be purchased (subject to availability) at an extra cost.
In the event that Inca Trail permits can't be secured, you'll be offered the following options:
1) Change to another trip or departure.
2) Hike the alternative Quarry Trail, which includes a visit to Machu Picchu.
3) Stay in Cuzco for 2 nights, travel to Aguas Calientes by train for a 3rd night and visit Machu Picchu before returning to Cuzco.
The Inca Trail closes in February to allow cleaning and restoration works. If the trek portion of your trip starts in February you'll automatically be booked to hike the Quarry Trail.
Should you choose not to hike at all, please let us know in writing at the time of booking so alternative arrangements can be made. Please note if you choose this option you'll be unaccompanied by your group leader. Without this prior warning, local fees may apply.


In order to maximise resources such as porters, cook, local guides and so on, the maximum group size while hiking (Inca Trail or Quarry Trail) may extend to 16 travellers.


Demonstrations and protests, often in response to local labour or social issues, occur regularly throughout Peru. National strikes can be called at short notice and can cause disruption to road networks leading to inevitable itinerary changes. Imaginative Traveller does everything possible for these changes to be at little or no extra cost; however in such circumstances we find that travellers need to access part of, or the entire, emergency fund. Please read below for more information on this trip's emergency fund.


The wet season in this region is from December to March when heavy rains can cause disruptions to ground transport. Imaginative Traveller will monitor any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to natural weather occurrences.

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