Aspiring Adventures - cool, different cultural, food, and bike tours

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Peru

As adventure tour people, we can’t help but love Peru to extremes; it offers diversity of adventure travel experience like nowhere else.

Peru’s outdoors, with its spectacular hiking and world-renowned mountain biking, was what first drew us in. But the longer we stay here, the more excited we get about the human factor: an ancient culture that’s exotic and mysterious yet surprisingly accessible, and a cuisine that’s coming to be recognised as one of the world’s greatest.

Hiking the Inca trail and Machu Picchu will never go out of style, and each of our trips includes expert-guided tours of Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley. Most also include Lake Titicaca. What sets us apart is we take extra time and trouble to show you other aspects of Peru that excite and inspire us, things you won’t see on other tours.

Our Classic tour includes little-visited sites and two different homestays where we hang out with ordinary Peruvians as they go about their daily lives. Our Food tour immerses you in this country’s national passion. Our popular Family tour incorporates easy acclimatisation, and plenty of stuff of interest to kids, into any adult’s dream trip to Peru. Our Bike trip showcases the best biking in the Southern Hemisphere. And our favourite Cultural tours (Paucartambo, Quyllur Ri'ti, and the Raymi) take you into a world you never imagined and will never forget.

Do a trip with us and experience the real Peru.

US$3,275

(for 4 to 12 guests)

The Paucartambo trip

From Cusco to Cusco

  • Paucartambo – colourful cultural encounter
  • Explore Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley
  • Experience local life on the islands of Lake Titicaca

The most famous of all of Peru’s all-singing, all-dancing religious festivals, the Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen in Paucartambo is a trip into the heart of Peru's ancient culture and customs.

We start with a week of action and history in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, including either hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu or taking the our own adventurous, jungle route there. Then we head to Paucartambo for days of non-stop music, parades, games, dances, and fireworks, along with an unforgettable, hallucinogenic sunrise. Finally we head for Lake Titicaca for more cultural encounter and incredible scenery.

Day 1Cusco, Peru - the Inca capital

Welcome to Cusco! We’ll meet you at 1pm for a traditional Peruvian meal at a local favourite restaurant. In the afternoon your guide will lead a relaxed walking tour around Cusco’s stunning historic centre – it’s important to take it easy if you’ve arrived from sea level today, as you need to acclimatise to Cusco’s 3000m+ altitude.

  • Accommodation: Comfortable hotel in Cusco (L,D)

Choose Your Own Route To Machu Picchu

OPTION A: JUNGLE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU

Day 2Chinchero, Moray and Salineras

Today starts with Chinchero, a quiet little town best known for its outdoor weaving studios, terraced Inca ruin, and intricately-frescoed colonial church. Next is Moray – three massive Inca amphitheatres of incredible engineering precision and stern, magnificent beauty. After an al fresco lunch, an easy stroll (or ride in the bus if you prefer) through rolling farmland and views of the high Andes brings us to Salineras – a surreal and beautiful patchwork of pools and paths that still produces salt using Inca technology.

  • Accommodation: Family-run hotel in Ollantaytambo (B,L,D)

Day 3Backdoor bike ride to Machu Picchu

This morning we drive up to 4350 metre (14,000 feet) Abra Malaga (Malaga Pass). Here we cross from the eastern to the western side of the Andes – we’re now on the upper slopes of the mighty Amazon Basin, and will lose nearly 3000 metres (10,000 feet) of altitude over an incredibly scenic 71 kilometre descent into tropical cloud forest. We’ll provide a bike for you – use it as much or as little as you like. Many guests spend the whole day in the vehicle taking photos – of grazing llamas, waterfalls, sheer rock faces, tiny, isolated hamlets, misty jungle vistas, and constantly changing ecosystems – as we descend from the High Andes to the high jungle in one amazing day.

  • Accommodation: Rustic eco-lodge, Santa Teresa (B,L,D)

Day 4Outdoor adventures on the jungle trail to Machu Picchu

Today you have a choice. You can experience Cola de Mono, South America’s highest zipline (flying fox), and one of the most exciting and scenic activities we’ve ever encountered, then relax in the Baños Termales de Cocalmayo, natural mountain hot springs beside a raging river. Or if you’re feeling energetic, you can undertake the taxing but rewarding mountain hike to Llactapata, a recently discovered Inca ruin. Late in the day we’ll take a short train ride to Machu Picchu pueblo, or Aguas Calientes.

  • Accommodation: Hostal in Aguas Calientes (B,L,D)

OPTION B: STANDARD INCA TRAIL HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU

Day 2Start hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu!

We’ll get up very early this morning to take the bus to Kilometre 82, the start of the Standard Inca Trail. The hike begins in the Sacred Valley as we follow the Urubamba River, climbing ever higher and eventually heading off up the Cusicacha Valley, through semi-arid forest and farming villages, to Wayllabamba, where we’ll camp for the night.

  • Accommodation: Luxury camping on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (B,L,D)
  • Walking – 12 kilometres or 7.5 miles
  • Minimum Altitude – 2,700 metres, 8,860 feet
  • Maximum Altitude – 3,100 metres, 10,171 feet
  • Altitude of camp – 3,100 metres, 10,171 feet

Day 3Over Dead Woman’s Pass

Most of our walking time today is taken up by a stiff 1200 metre climb up to Warmiwayñusca, or Dead Woman’s Pass, the high point of the Inca Trail. From here if it’s clear we’ll enjoy incredible views back the way we came, and onwards towards the distant, snowcapped Vilcabamba Range. Then we descend steeply into Pacaymayo, our campsite for the night with one of the best views in the Andes.

  • Accommodation: Luxury camping on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (B,L,D)
  • Walking – 11 kilometres or 6.8 miles
  • Minimum Altitude – 3,100 metres, 10,171 feet
  • Maximum Altitude – 4,200 metres, 13,780 feet
  • Altitude of camp – 3,600 metres, 11,810 feet

Day 4Runkurakay, Sayacmarca and Wiñaywayna

Today’s hike takes us through some of the most stunning scenery in Peru, with cloud forest, orchids, hummingbirds and mountains on all sides, and to three gorgeous little ruins– Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, and Wiñaywayna, next to the evening’s campsite. Along the way we cross the watershed of the Andes – this is one of the best days trekking in the world.

  • Accommodation: Luxury camping on the Inca Trail (B,L,D)
  • Walking – 12 kilometres or 7.5 miles
  • Minimum Altitude – 2,670 metres, 8,760 feet
  • Maximum Altitude – 3,900 metres, 12,800 feet
  • Altitude of camp – 2,670 metres, 8,760 feet

Day 5Machu Picchu!

An early start rewards us with sunrise at Machu Picchu - a peak moment for anyone. A spectacular stone city surrounded by incredibly steep, incredibly green mountains, Machu Picchu needs no introduction and is deservedly one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. A guided tour is a necessary start to orient you in this massive site, then you’ll have plenty of time to explore on your own before we catch the train back to Cusco for the night.

  • Accommodation: Comfortable hotel in Cusco (B,L,D)

Day 6Free day in Cusco

There are things to do in Cusco to suit every mood and personality: churches, museums, and art galleries; adventure activities like rafting and horse riding, and organized tours. This is also the perfect day to just wander around and enjoy the spectacular mountain views, traditionally dressed locals, excellent cafes and charming architecture that characterise the historic centre of Cusco.

  • Accommodation: Comfortable hotel in Cusco (B)

Day 7Peru's history in one day

The ride from Cusco to Puno is a trip through Peru’s incredibly long and varied human history, from pioneering prehistoric art, to Inca heartland, to colonial silver capital. The archaeological complex of Pukara gives us a sense of just how long ago human civilisation got started here, and the enormous adobe Templo de Wiracocha speaks to the scale and grandiosity of the Inca empire. The incredibly ornate colonial church at Andahuaylillas is living evidence of the wealth the conquistadores extracted from Peru. Today we’ll see all these sights on our way to Puno, the bustling port town on the shores of Lake Titicaca that’s our destination for the night.

  • Accommodation: Cosy hotel in downtown Puno (B,L,D)

Day 8Begin Lake Titicaca tour

This morning we take to the waters of Lake Titicaca. Our first, brief stop is the very interesting but extremely touristic Uros Islands – the famous floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca. On Amantani Island we’ll head home with our homestay hosts for a lunch including sopa de quinua (quinua and vegetable soup – so tasty it seems to be more than the sum of its parts). In the afternoon we’ll take on the locals in a game of soccer (which we will inevitably lose), and hike to the top of the island for what may be the most beautiful sunset you’ll ever see.

  • Accommodation: Homestay on Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca (B,L,D)

Day 9Textiles and trout on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca

After breakfast a short cruise across Lake Titicaca brings us to scenic Taquile Island. Here we’ll explore winding island paths across rolling green hills and through idyllic villages, and enjoy stunning views across the lake to the snow-capped peaks of Bolivia to the east. Taquile is the most famous textile centre in the Andes and we’ll learn about colourful, storytelling weavings, before enjoying a lunch of fresh-caught trout in the island’s co-operative restaurant. In the afternoon we return to Puno for a memorable dinner – Puno is home to some of Peru’s finest novoandino (new Andean fusion) restaurants.

  • Accommodation: Cosy Puno hotel (B,L,D)

Day 10Creepy catacombs and high-altitude hot springs

In colonial times, Lampa was one of the richest towns in Peru, thanks to silver mining. These days, llamas graze in the Plaza de Armas and the wind whistles through the arches of the bullfighting stadium.

We’re here for a tour of Lampa’s cathedral – one of the most amazing things we’ve seen anywhere. Among many other marvels, it houses a collection of hundreds of artistically arranged skulls and skeletons – a jaw-dropping sight that inspired Katy to add Lampa to the Lonely Planet Guide to Peru.

In the afternoon we’ll stop for a dip at the Marangani Hot Springs, a surreal and improbable complex of five boiling-hot pools linked by steaming streams and populated by locals washing themselves and their children in the only hot water for miles around. We´ll stay the night in homestay with our friends in Raqchi.

  • Accommodation: Homestay in Raqchi (B,L,D)

Day 11To Paucartambo 2015

Tiny, timeless Paucartambo comes to life once a year for la Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen. In uniquely Andean fashion, devotion to the Catholic Virgin Mary has become intertwined with local folklore, so the Fiesta de Paucartambo is a religious, historical, colourfully-costumed, riotously festive, indescribable, week-long parade and party. This afternoon we’ll wander the streets and take in the sights, and enjoy our unique lodgings in a crumbling old hacienda in a rambling orchard – the perfect place to unwind away from the madness of the streets of Paucartambo 2015.

If you wish, we’ll take a late-night car ride to Tres Cruces, on the very edge of the Andes – from here you look straight down into the Amazon Basin. In June and July, thanks to very specific climactic conditions, sunrise here is often accompanied by optical illusions – this is a morning you’ll never forget.

  • Accommodation: El Manicomio Azul, Paucartambo (B,L,D)

Day 12Central day of Paucartambo 2015

Today each of the 12 comparsas (companies) of dancers perform their hearts out in honour of Mamacha Carmen - the entire day is a non-stop orgy of Andean dance and costume. Each comparsa represents a specific mythical or historical character – the Saqra (devils), and Quyacha (little queens), are some of the most famous. In the afternoon they all accompany the Virgin through the town in a joyous procession. We’ll watch from a strategic position and your guide will explain what the dances and costumes represent – everything from moments in Peruvian colonial history to the mythic battle between good and evil!

  • Accommodation: El Manicomio Azul, Paucartambo (B,L,D)

Day 13Closing ceremonies and return to Cusco

The last day of the fiesta is its most structured, with the playful guerilla (little war) in the Plaza de Armas, and a solemn procession to the cemetery to pay our respects to the departed. In the afternoon there’s time for a little more exploration in Cusco, before a memorable final dinner together.

  • Accommodation: Home-base hotel in Cusco (B,L,D)

Day 14Departure Day

You can book your flight out of Cusco for any time today. If you’re staying on in Peru, we’re delighted to help out with suggestions and assistance for the rest of your time here.

(B)

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