Cusco and Machu Picchu
The word Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire, which reached its zenith at the same time as England was fighting the Wars of the Roses.
You have three days to explore the city - its baroque churches and museums constructed on the vestiges of magnificent Inca masonry - the Valley of the Incas which is studded with the ruins of Inca temples and fortresses, and the citadel of Machu Picchu, where an overnight stay gives you the opportunity fully to explore the site.
Day 1: Fly to Lima and connect by air to Cusco.
Day 2: Your city tour explores the Plaza de Armas, the 16th century cathedral and Santo Domingo church - built on the site of Qoricancha, Cusco's principal Inca temple. Visit also four Inca sites on the edge of the city including Sacsayhuamán, a fortress and ceremonial centre.
Day 3: Descend to explore the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the Inca Empire, it was highly populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain where well-preserved edifices bear witness to the Incas’ elaborate society. Pass through several of the colonial/indigenous villages and temple fortresses which pepper the valley. Visit Pisaq, famous for its market, and, Ollantaytambo, a giant fortress sitting strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin – spend the night in the village here.
Day 4: Travel ( 90mins) by train to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, was discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, when it was buried beneath jungle vegetation. You will have a guided tour of the ruins. Overnight at Machu Picchu village at the foot of the mountain.
Day 5: There’s the opportunity to return to the site of Machu Picchu in the early morning when the site is virtually empty and the early morning mists swirl around the surrounding mountain tops. Return to Cusco by rail and road (4 hours).
Day 6: Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.
Breakfast daily, lunch day 4.
6 days from £1,551pp