For June of 1999 Rutahsa Adventures has organized a spectacular trip into the heart of the Inca Empire. Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and more, MUCH more will be included in this trip. This trip has been organized in such a way that you have two choices: you can hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, visiting five beautiful and important Inca ruins en route, or, spend more time in the Sacred Valley visiting more accessible and equally stunning Inca citadels, before taking the train to Machu Picchu. In addition, we will take our group to a little known and scarcely visited site: the last remaining keshwa chaca, or Inca straw suspension bridge in existence.
Lima, the "City of Kings". Peru's capital is the starting point of most visits to Peru, mainly because most flights into Peru land at the capital city. But even for visitors whose main interest is Incaic Peru, Lima has some not-to-be-missed attractions. Lima features monumental governmental buildings, and colonial churches such as San Francisco with its eerie catacombs recently rediscovered. There are wonderful examples of colonial architecture, including palatial homes featuring ornate carved wooden balconies with jalousies behind which aristocratic damsels looked down upon the hoi polloi passing through the streets below. One of these mansions, built in 1535, is still occupied by the same family today. Lima also boasts some world-class museums, and we will visit the Raphael Larco Herrera museum of ceramics and the dazzling Gold Museum before our excursion is over.
From Lima, we fly to Cusco, the "Navel of the Earth", center of the mighty Inca Empire, crushed by the iron fist of Pizarro and a handful of bold Spanish conquistadores in 1533. Today, Cusco is a unique blend of cultures: ornate Spanish colonial architecture set on foundations of austere and monumental Inca stonework. The city so oozes history that the cultural clash of nearly 500 years ago is palpable as one walks Inca streets, beside the fitted stones of the walls of an Inca palace, topped by the colonial-era palaces of Spanish warriors and high clergy. Here the former archbishop's mansion --today a museum-- stands atop the walls of the palace of Inca Roca. The world-famous twelve cornered stone, found in one of the walls of the Inca Roca palace, is only one example of the marvelous cyclopean stonework favored by some of the Inca emperors.
High above the Inca capital lie the ruins of the gigantic Sacsayhuaman fortress, whose zig-zag defenses are a marvel of military engineering. The mighty walls of cyclopean stonework include blocks weighing over 100 tons, yet put together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that seemingly must have required multiple trials to achieve the close fit. Today the parade ground of the fortress is the scene each June 24 of the colorful Indian festival of Inti Raymi. Nearby rock exposures feature carved seats, so-called Inca thrones, and the curious natural phenomenon known as El Rodadero, that is, "the roller-coaster", on which local kids and tourists take fun rides.
From Cusco we will make a long day-trip out into the highlands to the gorge of the Rio Apurimac, to see the last keshwa chaca, or suspension bridge, made of plaited ropes of ichu grass. This bridge was described in National Geographic by Loren McIntyre in the 1970s, and was featured in a 1995 NOVA program, but is seldom seen by tourists. It is still being rebuilt annually by the local indigenous community, just as in Inca Empire times. See McIntyre's fascinating article in the Dec. 1973 issue of National Geographic.
After Cusco, we will travel across the altiplano to the Sacred Valley, where the Urubamba River has carved a deep but flat-bottomed valley suitable for agriculture. Here the Inca Empire planted a series of fortress towns in the valley and perched high on the valley walls like Pisac. In addition to fine Inca stonework in its religious buildings, Pisac is notable for its tremendous andenes, or agricultural terraces still in use today by indigenous farmers. The andenes are ascended and descended by stepping stones set in the terrace walls.
Further down the Sacred Valley is the village of Ollantaytambo, which is said to be the best surviving example of Inca town planning. The village is laid out in canchas, that is, conjoined houses that seem to form solid blocks of construction with no access to the streets between the blocks, save a single portal that leads to an interior courtyard in the center of each block. Was this a defensive plan? In addition the living village, where traditional costume can still be seen, Ollantaytambo boasts a ruined citadel of finely fitted stonework, superb terraces, Inca aqueducts and fountains, and mysterious stone buildings clinging to cliffs high above the town.
One of the world's classic hikes is the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. This stone-paved trail winds down steep mountainsides, passes through tunnels, crosses alpine bogs, ascends and descends long flights of steps hewn from the living bedrock, and passes by spectacular archeological ruins-- such as Huiñay Huayna-- that anywhere except on a trail to Machu Picchu would be world famous sites. The 4-day hike is an unforgettable experience, and will be an option to participants who are hearty and truly adventurous.
Downriver from Ollantaytambo the canyon walls close in and the Urubamba becomes a foaming torrent, paralleled on one side by the narrow-gauge railroad to Machu Picchu. Participants who choose to maximize their time in the Sacred Valley and at Machu Picchu will reach that famous citadel city via the train, to be joined later by the trekkers who take the Inca Trail.
However you reach Machu Picchu, its indescribably dramatic physical setting, the pristine nature of the site (never discovered by the Spaniards and therefore never vandalized), and, above all the incomparable mystery of these beautiful, silent ruins, make this the highlight of your Peru trip. After paying respects to one of Machu Picchu's guardians you enter the city through a trapezoidal doorway so characteristic of Inca architecture, to wander along streets and stairways, through living quarters and temples, eventually drawn upwards past the Temple of Three Windows to the holy site of the Intihuatana, famed as the "hitching post of the sun".
Machu Picchu is a showcase of Inca engineering; the care lavished on its construction implies that it must have been a very important site in its day. Exquisitely coursed masonry of granite ashlars characterizes the most important edifices. But stones more marvelously cut and fitted than Cusco's famed stone of 12 corners can also be seen here, for example, this block has 32 cut angles. Observant visitors will see many fascinating architectural details, such as the variety of stone anchors for the original roofs, which were of pole and thatch construction. One of the most fascinating engineering features is the water supply system. A small canal brought water to a series of 16 fountains, each feeding the next lower pool through ingenious channels cut in the stones.
In addition to prowling the main archeological site, there are side trails leading out to amazing features such as the Inca draw bridge that protected one road to Machu Picchu from would-be invaders. And a climb up to the peak of Huayna Picchu for a view back down to Machu Picchu is breath-taking (literally!).
As of this writing (Feb. 16, 1999) we can give a cost estimate which we believe will hold firm: $1930.00 per passenger for those who take the Inca Trail option, and $2035.00 per person for those who take the Sacred Valley option. These prices include all hotels (double occupancy rooms), ground transportation, round trip air fare Lima-Cusco-Lima, park and monument entry fees, bilingual guide service, and some meals (continental breakfast at some hotels; picnic lunches on certain outings; all meals on the Inca Trail). Not included: air fare U.S.-Lima-U.S., most meals and beverages, souvenirs, and tips.
If eight passengers sign up for this trip, and barring a major increase in the Lima-Cusco air fare, the prices quoted above should be firm. If the trip is fully subscribed at 16 travellers, we may be able to reduce these prices. We will bend every effort to offer the best deal possible!
Adventurers interested in travelling with us should take note: You should make your reservations with Rutahsa Adventures ASAP, inasmuch as hotel reservations in the Cusco area are already in very short supply around the time of the Inti Raymi Festival. We also urge you to confirm your U.S. to Lima reservations ASAP, as tickets also could prove hard to get for this time of year.
To secure a reservation on this trip, please request a trip application form from Rutahsa Adventures; an application should be filled out for each and every traveller, so please request the proper number for your party if not travelling alone. Deposit and schedule of payments information will accompany your application form.
To request your trip application form(s) click here: email@example.com.
Dr. Ric Finch
Rutahsa Adventures, Inc.
299 Allen Hollow Rd.
Cookeville, TN 38501
June 14: Fly into Lima from US or other points of embarkation. Overnight at the Hotel Antigua, a former mansion recently converted into a hotel in the Miraflores district. For a preview of the Hotel Antigua, click here: Hotel Antigua.
June 15: Tour the City of Kings: Plaza de Armas, San Francisco church, Torre Tagle colonial palace, and the world-famous Gold Museum. Second night in the Hotel Antigua.
June 16: Fly to Cusco in morning; afternoon visit to Plaza de Armas, Cathedral, and other nearby sites, in an easy-paced walking tour while you become accustomed to the altitude. Our hotel for the several days we'll be in Cusco is the Hotel Picoaga, a 70-room hotel including portions of the 17th century Marquis de Picoaga's mansion. For a glimpse of the Hotel Picoaga, click here: Hotel Picoaga.
June 17: Tour of the nearby Inca ruins: Tambomachay (the "Bath of the Inca"), Puca Pucara (the "Red Fortress"), Quenko (a weirdly carved "huaca" or sacred site), and the massive Sacsayhuaman fortress overlooking Cusco. Free time in the afternoon for independent exploring of Cusco's many attractions.
June 18: Up early today to bus up into the Andean highlands to the keshwa chaca (straw suspension bridge) hanging over the Río Apurimac. This is an all-day trip through dramatic scenery. We'll carry picnic lunches and eat by the wayside amid splendid Andean scenery. Return to Cusco late in the day. Anyone preferring a more relaxed schedule can spend the day visiting more of Cusco's churches, Inca sites, museums, artisans' shops, and sampling some of the many restaurants.
June 19: Inca Trail group leaves Cusco today to start the hike. Those travellers not hiking the Inca Trail will board our private transportation and ride to the Sacred Valley to visit the ruins of the Inca citadel above Pisac. Here we'll walk along some vertiginous trails, up stairs and through a tunnel, as we visit the various parts of this sprawling site. Here we see our first intihuatana or "hitching post of the sun". After lunch we will visit the unfinished fortress/temple at Ollantaytambo, and the living Inca town of Ollantaytambo.
Return to Urubamba, to overnight at the Willka T'ika Garden Lodge, a really special little retreat where communing with the spirits of the Sacred Valley is encouraged, excellent vegetarian food is served, and an ambience of tranquility is maintained. To learn more about this special lodge, click here Willka T'ika Garden Lodge.
June 20: Today we visit Chicheros, to see the colonial church built atop Inca ruins here, and to experience the colorful indigenous marketplace. The church has a noteworthy frescoed ceiling, and the Inca stonework all about continues to amaze. After Chincheros we visit Moray, a strange collection of agricultural terraces set in deep, round, natural depressions in the land surface. Some investigators think this was an Inca agricultural experimental station, utilizing microclimates achieved on different terrace levels in the circular depressions. No one really knows. From Moray we'll proceed to the colonial town of Maras and visit the nearby saltworks. Salt has been produced from salinas (salt evaporating ponds) here for untold centuries. Finally, we'll hike down into the Sacred Valley, to be picked up and taken back to the Willka T'ika Garden Lodge. During today's outing we'll have a picnic lunch in the country.
Second night at the Willka T'ika Garden Lodge. Day 2 on the I.T. for the hikers.
June 21: Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes), where we will check into our lodgings, and then bus up to Machu Picchu ruins, spending the rest of the day exploring the mysterious silent city. Day 3 on the I.T. for the hikers. Our lodgings in Aguas Calientes will be at the well-known Gringo Bill's, an establishment of true character!
Those who want to have a one-day Inca Trail experience can get off at km. 107 and hike up (and up and up!) to the beautiful Wiñay Wayna ruins, and then across to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, descending to Aguas Calientes by bus to meet the rest of the group at Gringo BIll's. [N.B.: This is an extra cost service, as the travelers who choose this option will be accompanied by a guide, and the Inca Trail fees must be paid.]
June 22: Dedicated bird-watchers will want to get up early and walk along the railroad tracks to watch for cocks-of-the-rock, golden quetzals, and other exotic birds. Dedicated ruins enthusiasts will want to grab the 6 AM bus up to Machu Picchu to beat the crowds from the mid-morning train. Our Inca Trail hikers should rejoin our main group at Machu Picchu today. Overnight again in Aguas Calientes.
June 23: A last morning visit to Machu Picchu ruins, then we take the afternoon train back to Cusco from Aguas Calientes.
June 24: Inti Raymi Festival at the Sacsayhuaman fortress.
June 25: Fly back to Lima in the morning; afternoon visit to the Rafael Herrera Larco Museum of pre-columbian ceramics (including the famous room of amazingly graphic erotic ceramics).
June 26: Fly out of Lima, back to the US or other destination. End of adventure.
For those with more time and eager to maximize the unforgettable Peru experience, we will offer a trip extension to Lake Titicaca. An all day train ride takes you from Cusco to Puno on the north shore of Lake Titicaca. The next day will include visits to the pre-Inca archeological site of Sillustani with its strange funerary towers, and a visit to the man-made floating islands where the Ouros Indians live. Depending on the requests of our travellers, we may charter a boat to the Island of the Sun or other parts of the great inland sea. This part of Rutahsa Adventures' Peru excursion will remain flexible until we learn more about your wishes.
IF THIS TRIP LOOKS GOOD TO YOU, PLEASE COME BACK AGAIN LATER TO SEE OUR PLANS FOR PERU IN 2000!
Beltran, Miriam, 1970, Cuzco, Window on Peru, Second Ed. Revised: New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 221 p. Frost, Peter, 1989, Exploring Cusco: Lima, Nuevas Imagenes S. A., 195 p. Frost, Peter, and Bartle, Jim, 1995, Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary: Lima, Nuevas Imagenes S. A., 64 p. Hemming, John, 1981, Machu Picchu: New York, Newsweek Book Division, 172 p. Hemming, John, and Ranney, Edward, 1990, Monuments of the Incas, Albuquerque, Univ. of New Mexico Press, 228 p. Prescott, William H., 1882, History of the Conquest of Peru: Philadelphia, J. B. Lippencott & Co., v. 1, 510 p., v. 2, 530 p. [Prescott's amazing work went through various editions and printings, and should be available in major libraries.] Squier, E. George, 1877, PERU: Incidents of Travel and Exploration in the Land of the Incas: New York, Henry Holt and Co., 599 p. [A classic 19th-century travel work by an archeologist and diplomat; originals scarce, but a modern reprint has been issued.]