Welcome to Cusco! Depending on the group’s arrival time, we’ll start with lunch in Cusco before driving to Pisac. If time allows we can stop along the way at the Awana Kancha Interpretive Centre of the South American Camelids for our first introduction to Alpaca, Llama, Vicuña and Guanaco – the animals which form the heart of Peru’s culture of rich traditional textiles.
Later in the afternoon we’ll arrive in Pisac, our Sacred Valley home base for the next three nights. Being at a lower altitude than Cusco, Pisac is a great place to acclimatise to the Andes. Take time to wander around the Pisac handicraft market before our first dinner together.
After breakfast we’ll drive to Parque de la Papa (Potato Farm) for an educational presentation about the main staple diet of the Andes – the potato. The park, located in an indigenous Biocultural Heritage Area (IBCHA), works hard to conserve the diversity of potatoes farmed in the region (there are over 3,800 varieties of potato in Peru!). First domesticated in Peru over 7,000 years ago the potato is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, and it’s fascinating to learn more about it here in the Andes, the birthplace of the potato.
Later we’ll drive back to Pisac and up to the Inca ruins which sit on a hill above the village. One of the four ruins includes a volcanic outcrop called inti watana which is thought to have been used to define the changes of the seasons. Around us, agricultural terraces constructed by the Inca stretch for miles. Many of these terraces are still in use today.
Today we’ll spend the day learning about Peruvian farming from the farmers themselves! This is an interactive experience and the program for today depends on what the farmers are up to in their annual cycle. We’ll head out into the fields and learn firsthand about their daily lives, and there’s the opportunity to get involved and get your hands dirty if you wish!
We’ll have lunch onsite with the farmers and their families. It’ll be a traditional lunch and now is as good a time as any to try cuy (guinea pig), a Peruvian delicacy! After lunch our attention shifts to the work of the women. They’ll share their knowledge about textile production – from the source of the flowers picked for certain colours, to the pressing and boiling of plants to extract the colour and the dying methods too. It’s a unique insight into everyday life in the Andes.
The sunny, incredibly scenic floodplain between Pisac and Ollantaytambo in the valley of the Urubamba River is known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We’ll need frequent photo stops as we pass still-working Inca terracing, irrigation canals, and awesome mountain vistas. Along the way we’ll stop to check out the salt evaporation ponds near the village of Maras, in use since Inca times. Highly salty water emerges from a spring and is evaporated in the hundreds of ancient terraced ponds, which are closely looked after by the community.
Later in the day we’ll visit a biofarm technical project – the team here manage corn diversity within the Andes. Farmers in Peru grow 55 varieties of corn, more than anywhere else on Earth.
Our final destination today is Ollantaytambo, perhaps the most perfectly preserved of all Inca towns, a maze of cobbled alleyways and sun-drenched plazas presided over by a spectacular, llama-shaped ruin.
Today we’ll catch the early morning train from Ollantaytambo to the village of Aguas Calientes. From there we’ll take a bus up a steep winding road to the gate of Machu Picchu. 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 the site and some of the surrounding peaks on your own before heading back down to Aguas Calientes for the night.
After breakfast we’ll take the train back to Ollantaytambo, and drive back to Cusco. Our first stop along the way is the Inca’s mysterious crop laboratory, Moray – three massive amphitheatres of incredible engineering precision and stern, magnificent beauty. Next is Ramada, an internationally-owned artichoke farm and processing plant that’s one of the biggest farms, and employers, in the region. Later we’ll arrive in Cusco, our base for the next two nights.
After breakfast we’ll head to the surrounding hills of Cusco for expansive views of the city and to explore Saqsaywaman, a huge walled complex of massive polished stones constructed by the Inca. After lunch back down in town, we’ll visit to the Qurikancha – the most important temple of the Inca, dedicated to Inti, the Sun God.
Today is a big day as we drive from Cusco to Puno. About half way between the two cities we have a technical farm visit at Tambo Queque Norte, a dairy farm located near La Raya at 4,100 metres. This farm is the main producer of cheese in the entire region, and we’ll learn about pasture management, animal husbandry and cheese manufacture from the owner himself. We’ll also have lunch on the farm. Later we’ll continue on our journey to Puno.
After breakfast we’ll head down the waters edge of Lake Titicaca to board our boat. We’ll visit the floating islands of Uros Ccapi where we’ll learn from locals about their techniques for mastering the use of reeds, which provide them with food, shelter, land and transport! Later we’ll continue our boat journey to the island of Taquile. We’ll walk across the island (about two hours total) and along the way we’ll learn about subsistence farming.
Today we’ll drive to Pacomarca, the sustainable Alpaca network. This large-scale operation supplies all the wool used by Kuna, a well-known Peruvian company producing high-end clothing. At an altitude of over 4,000 metres the farm consists of 1,500 hectares of land, all of which is dedicated to the breeding and genetic improvement of South American camelids. Here we’ll learn about the technical side to alpaca wool production. Alpaca provides a relatively high yield of fibre after processing (between 87% - 95% compared with 43% - 76% for sheep's wool). Furthermore, it is easy and economical to process owing to the lack of grease or lanolin in the fibre and, unlike cashmere, does not need to be de-haired. Later we’ll return to Puno.
After breakfast this morning, we’ll drive to Juliaca to meet your flight back to Lima. In Lima your bus awaits to take you to your accommodation in bustling Miraflores, Lima’s vibrant shopping and entertainment district.
This morning we’ll explore the churches and plazas of Lima’s beautiful centre – this was the capital of the Americas in colonial times, and the magnificent architecture and grand urban spaces will give you a feel for Lima’s historic glory.
In the afternoon your guide will show you the sights of Miraflores and point you at the best places for some last-minute souvenir shopping, before dropping you off at Lima airport around 6pm.