During this tour we shall visit and get to know two extraordinary places – one is very well known; whilst the other is a place few people have visited to date.
Machu Picchu is considered as a master piece of architecture and engineering. For many centuries following the Spanish Conquest the site was only known to the local residents. It was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham and its wonders were once again open to the world. It is recognised by UNESCO as a “Cultural Heritage to Humanity”, and recently it was chosen as one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World”.
The department of Apurimac has a stunning attraction, known as the stone forest and located in the district of Pampachiri. The stone formations are the result of volcanic activity around 4 million years ago from the Sotaya and Qarhuarasu mountains and the subsequent erosion of soft layers of rock. The impressive formations are spread over an area more than 40km in length.
Although the stones are inert elements of nature, they are nevertheless able to create unique landscapes, which are amazing to see.
Day 1 (Cusco)
When you reach Cusco, either by flight or by bus, we shall help with the arrangements at your hotel.
The rest of the morning is free for you to explore the wonderful historic city of Cusco. In the afternoon you will enjoy a guided tour of the Imperial City and its surrounding attractions (this tour is optional). The tour will begin with visits to the Cathedral and the Temple of the Sun (Coricancha). We shall then leave the city in order to visit Qenqo (a ritual and ceremonial centre where the Incas conducted human sacrifices), Puca Pucara (an ancient Inca Inn and vigilance point), Tambomachay (A Ceremonial Centre dedicated to water worship) and the fort of Sacsayhuaman (where the principal Inca festivities were and are held: Inti Raymi and Warachicuy). From here we return to the hotel.
Day 2 (Cusco – The Saywite Stone – Organic Farm – Curamba – Andahuaylas)
Breakfast will be taken at the hotel. We shall leave Cusco in private transport around 8 a.m. following the main road towards Abancay. During the journey there will be opportunities to take photos of the spectacular Apurimac River.
Continuing our journey we shall make a stop to see the famous Saywite stone, which is a model constructed by the Incas depicting agricultural terraces and irrigation systems.
Shortly after this we shall visit an attractive integrated family farm. The owner will demonstrate how he manages the fields. We shall have lunch here – sampling some of the local produce. The food will vary depending upon the time of year but typically will include maize, quinoa, tarwi, cheese, eggs, and a variety of fruit. Dishes can also be prepared based upon trout or guinea pig.
We shall pass through Abancay and head towards Andahuaylas. There will be more spectacular views to be enjoyed. We will make another stop at the archaeological site of Curamba. This was an Inca administrative post from where they were able to control the movements of the Chancas and other local populations. There is a ceremonial platform constructed in pyramid form and more than 50 structures around a central plaza. We plan to reach Andahuaylas around 7 p.m. You will be taken to your hotel to check in.
Day 3 ( Andahuaylas – Pampachiri – Thermal baths of Larcay)
We shall leave around 8.30 a.m. following breakfast to travel to Pampachiri. Pampachiri is one of 19 districts of the province of Andahuaylas. It was an important town during the time of the haciendas (major land owners) and today it continues to be the main village in the beautiful Chicha Soras valley – which is located on the border between Apurimac and Ayacucho.
The journey between Andahuaylas and Pampachiri will take about 4 hours. On the journey we will go over a pass at 4,800 metres and there will be many spectacular views, particularly one of the picturesque Chicha Soras valley from a look out shortly before arrival. Also on the journey we are likely to see a selection of Andean wildlife, such as vicunas, vizcachas and Andean flamingos. We shall also see many herds of llamas and alpacas.
We should reach Pampachiri around 12.30 p.m. Upon arrival we shall check in at the attractive Guest House Taitachapa Samanan. We shall have lunch at the hotel. You will then have some free time to explore the village of Pampachiri and the surrounding countryside if you wish. The principal attractions include the main square, where there is a church built in the XVI century and also a mountain stream, which runs close to the village. Alternatively you can make some purchases or have a drink in one of the cafes along the main road.
At around 3.30 p.m. we shall drive to the district of Larcay in the Ayacucho Region. Once there we shall visit some thermal springs, where we can have a relaxing bath close to the banks of the river Chicha Soras. After spending a lengthy break here we shall head back to Pampachiri for dinner and to rest.
Day 4 (Pampachiri – House of the Smurfs – Stone Forest – Cusco)
Following a breakfast prepared by the local “Mothers Club” about 7.30 a.m. we shall leave Pampachiri. After a journey along pretty rough roads we shall reach two very unusual and impressive attractions. Firstly we shall visit a house known as “the home of the smurfs”. A local family has constructed their home using gigantic conical stones for their rooves – their animal corral also has the same design.
After a stop to visit the house and to speak with the family (if home) we shall visit a huge area of amazing stone formations – known as a stone forest. We shall have a picnic lunch amongst the stones and everyone will have time to explore on foot this amazing area.
Once the visit is complete we shall continue our journey. We shall pass through the district of Sañayca before reaching the main road close to Chalhuanca. From there we shall drive back to Cusco. We anticipate arriving in Cusco between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Upon arrival you will be transferred back to your hotel.
Day 5 (Cusco – Sacred Valley – Aguas Calientes)
We shall leave Cusco at around 9 a.m today to take a tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
We shall begin the tour in the town of Pisac, where we shall visit a typical local market. You will have the opportunity to learn something of the local customs and to buy some of the artisan work if you wish. Following this stop we shall continue our journey beside the Vilcanota River until we reach Urubamba, where we shall have a buffet lunch.
During the afternoon we shall visit the Inca fort at Ollantaytambo, which was constructed by the Inca Pachacutec to control entry to this part of the valley. We will also have the chance to walk the streets of Ollantaytambo, which are interesting because they form part of the only habited town to retain its original Inca design and architecture.
After this we shall travel by train from the station of Ollantaytambo to the small town of Aguas Calientes. The journey is an interesting one. The train follows the Vilcanota River and the vegetation changes gradually from the small bushes and pasture typical of the Sierra to a verdant covering belonging to the highland jungle.
We shall spend the night in Aguas Calientes, which is a very interesting and unusual place in that it can only be reached on foot or by train – there are no access roads.
Day 6 (Machu Picchu – Cusco)
We shall take a bus up to Machu Picchu early in the morning. Once there you will be offered a guided tour, which will last about 2½ hours. After the tour you will have free time either to continue to explore Machu Picchu or to return to Aguas Calientes.
Machu Picchu is an Inca town which was constructed in the 15th Century, probably during the reign of Inca Pachacutec (1438 – 1470). It has been declared as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. It is generally believed to have been constructed for two main purposes – as a religious sanctuary and as a place of rest for the nobility. It was neither a fort nor a hiding place as some authorities suggest.
What makes Machu Picchu so special is a combination of the amazing structures and the wonderful setting. It is located in the highland jungle on a hill 450m above the Vilcanota River. There are impressive views from here and many opportunities for really good photos.
In Aguas Calientes it is worth spending some time relaxing in the thermal baths before taking the train in the afternoon.
There are a variety of trains to choose from but normally you can expect to be in Cusco between 8 and 9 p.m.