The fabled cities of the Inka are ingrained in our consciousness with images of towering stonewalls and glittering golden armor. But the Inka were only the last in a long line of rich and fascinating cultures – Chavin, Moche, Wari, and the Chimú – that peopled the coastal areas and the high Andes of what is now Perú.
Our journey begins along the north coast where most of the recent exciting discoveries are being made – Pachacamac, perhaps the most important pilgrimage site in Peru, and Sipán, where archaeologists have uncovered one of the richest tombs ever found. By special arrangement, we will be hosted by the project director to view the sunset at Chanquillo, a 2,300-year-old solar observatory that has made headline news. Enjoy a private tour of the Casa Concha Museum in Peru’s highlands, housing the finds from Hiram Bingham’s excavations at Machu Picchu.
This very special journey includes seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Lima’s Historic Center; Caral, created 5,000 years ago and perhaps the oldest city in the New World; magnificent ChanChan, one of the largest pre-Columbian cities of the New World; Qhapaq Nan, the extensive road system that was created by the Inka Empire and flows through six South American countries; the fabled Inka citadel of Machu Picchu; Historic Cusco; and the Nasca Lines where pre-Columbian geoglyphs were etched into desert sands.
The descendants of these ancient cultures still live in much the same way as their ancestors. Their colorful weavings echo the fabrics of earlier times, and their faces mirror those of their predecessors. We will visit their picturesque towns and colorful markets and hear the Quechua language still spoken here, along with the strains of traditional flute music.
(If you have any questions about this tour itinerary, get in touch.)
Depart on a flight bound for Lima. Upon arrival, transfer to Casa Andina Select, our home for the next two nights.
Our drive south along the Panamerican Highway takes us to Pachacamac, once the home to a famed oracle. For almost 2,000 years, this was a pilgrimage site for all pre-Inka societies. The ceremonial center was named for the deity, Pachacamac also known as ‘Earth-maker’, a powerful and feared god that was the creator of the world and of earthquakes. During excavations in 1939, the still-intact, wooden idol was found and can be seen within the site museum. Within the monumental ceremonial center are found great pyramidal temples, some with the remains of frescoes decorating the adobe walls. Here we will also see a piece of the Inka highway, Qhapaq Ñan. Upon return to Lima, in the afternoon, go to the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum to view its fabulous assembly of artifacts, including a fascinating and amusing collection of erotic pottery, and the historic center of Lima. Time permitting, drive through Lima’s historic area, a UNESCO Heritage Site. Gather this evening for our welcome dinner at one of Lima’s fine restaurants. (B/L/D)
Depart Lima to drive north to monumental Caral, one of several pre-ceramic period sites located in the Supe Valley and a recently declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. Studies show that a complex, highly structured society existed here that flourished at the same time that the pyramids were being built in Egypt. Radio-carbon dates show that this enormous city dates back to 2700 BC, nearly a millennium earlier than previously believed, and is the oldest urban site in the New World. Caral thrived for five centuries, with public architecture, ceremonial plazas and irrigation — all signs of a society with strong, centralized leadership. After a picnic lunch, continue to the Empedrada Lodge and overnight for one night. (B/L/D)
Our explorations of the north coast continue with a stop at the massive adobe Fortaleza de Paramonga built during the Chimú Empire. However, the formidable defensive walls were not enough to stop the Inka army from conquering the city. It is still possible to see remnants of murals admired by Hernando Pizarro when he passed by in 1533, along with remnants of the Qhapaq Ñan or Inka highway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the afternoon, we travel by 4-wheel drive vehicles to Chanquillo a ceremonial center and solar observatory located in the Casma-Sechin river valley of the arid coastal plain. Two thousand years ago, towers were built on the top of a low ridge to observe the movement of the sun through the solar year, solstice to solstice. This suggests the sun may have played an important role in religious and political life two millennia before the appearance of the famous Inka sun cult. The Chanquillo ridge top towers are now regarded as the oldest observatory in the new world, and the astronomical observations appear to be linked at the site with seasonal ritual activity. By special arrangement, we will meet with the Chanquillo Project Director, Dr. Ivan Ghezzi, and board our four-wheel drive vehicles for a tour of the site and for sunset. In the evening, transfer to Casma and overnight at Las Aldas Hotel. This rustic seaside hotel provides simple but atmospheric accommodation. (B/L/D)
Our day begins with the nearby site of Las Aldas. Next, we continue on to the 4,000-year-old Sechin Alto, the largest architectural complex in the New World. The site is remarkable for its enormous mound that anchored a U-shaped complex of circular sunken plazas and flanking platform mounds. Inhabited for much of the second millennium BC. Cerro Sechin is best known for the wall enclosing the administrative center, where tall stone monoliths are decorated with carvings of warriors and gruesomely mutilated human victims. After lunch, we make our way to Trujillo, a beautiful colonial city in the Moche Valley of northern Peru. Founded in 1535 and named after Francisco Pizarro’s birthplace in Spain, Trujillo was the resting spot along the Spaniards’ route between Lima and Quito and became known as the viceroyalty’s “lordliest city.” We will admire its well-preserved 16th century homes with intricate wooden balconies and window screens as we tour the city. Overnight for two nights at the Costa del Sol Centro in Trujillo. (B/L/D)
This morning we visit several captivating complexes. The largest mud brick structure ever erected in the New World and constructed of more than 7,000,000 bricks, the Huaca del Sol, or Pyramid of the Sun, was built about the time of Christ and dominated the ancient capital of Moche. At the nearby Huaca de la Luna or Pyramid of the Moon, archaeologists have recently uncovered friezes still exhibiting colors that cover the huge stepped platforms. Then it is on to Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overlooking the sea and covering over 20 square kilometers, this capital of the ancient Chimú Empire was constructed entirely of adobe mud-brick. One of the largest pre-Columbian cities in South America, it is made up of immense palace complexes built for the rulers (the smallest is the size of six football fields!). Each is covered with intricate friezes exquisitely decorated with fish, birds and the moon in elegant repetitive patterns. Enjoy dinner tonight on your own in one of Trujillo’s many fine restaurants. (B/L)
Extensive excavations have been undertaken at the Moche complex of El Brujo, in the Chicama Valley. Archaeologists have discovered beautifully painted murals depicting prisoners and spider ‘decapitators’ that once formed the exterior of the pyramid. Located adjacent to the site, a colonial church was recently excavated as well. However, the most sensational discovery at El Brujo was the intact tomb of La Señora de Cao, a mysterious tattooed female mummy that was displayed on the cover of National Geographic magazine soon after being found in 2006. The Tattooed Lady soon caught the attention of the world. Wrapped in exquisite textiles, and adorned with dazzling nose-rings, gold jewelry and other fine items, archaeologists believe that the young woman was important and may have been the first evidence of women rulers in pre-Hispanic Peru. Here, we will have a private meeting with the archaeologist who led the team who found this mysterious lady, and enter the new Cao Museum. As we drive towards Chiclayo, gateway to Peru’s northern archaeological zone, we will make a stop at a local pottery workshop at San Jose del Moro. Overnight for two nights in the Costa del Sol in Chiclayo. (B/L/D)
The area around Chiclayo has long been inhabited by succeeding cultures. Over two decades of scientific investigation at Batán Grande by the Sicán Archaeological Project has told us much about the Sicán people. They constructed monumental temples and palaces, along with highly refined irrigation systems that turned the desert into rich agricultural fields. The nobility were buried in deep shaft tombs, some 40 feet deep, along with rich collections of jewelry and religious paraphernalia created from multihued feathers, gold and silver. The Sicán Museum displays the stunning artifacts found during excavations along with models of the tombs that were discovered. The incredible discovery of the burials tombs of Sipán (not to be confused with Sicán) within Huaca Rajada electrified the archaeological world. When archaeologists opened the un-looted wooden sarcophagus of a Moche king, they found not only his remains but also a remarkable cache of gold and silver ornaments, semi-precious stones, pottery and a number of sacrificed servants who accompanied him to the next world. Far more significant than the monetary value of the artifacts is the new light that the discovery has cast upon this hitherto little known civilization. These dazzling finds are now housed in the breathtaking Tombas Reales Museum. (B/L)
Transfer to the airport for our flights to Lima and on to Cusco. Upon arrival, drive into the Valley of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. Built by the founder of Machu Picchu, Emperor Pachacuti (the earth shaker), as a royal estate in the mid-15th century, it was a stronghold against the Spaniards and the capital for resistance leader Manco Inca Yupanqui in the mid-16th century. Along the streets of the old section of town stand some of the oldest continually occupied buildings in the Americas with pristine Inca stonework. And the streets have a fully functional plumbing system created when the city was constructed. The town is shadowed by agricultural terraces still irrigated by mountain water. At the base of the mountain is a carefully designed water system of canals and fountains still in use today. Overnight for one night at the Hotel Pakaritampu. (B/L)
Early this morning, board the train for a ride through the Urubamba River Valley to Machu Picchu, fabled lost city of the Inka. This beautiful mountaintop city might have been constructed as a royal palace complex for the emperor Pachacuti and his family in the early 15th century, and appears to have been an important spiritual and ceremonial location. It was never found by the Spanish conquerors and was unknown to outsiders until 1911 when a local farmer showed the city to the explorer, Hiram Bingham. Spend the day exploring this magnificent site. Overnight at the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel in Aguas Calientes, set in the lush rainforest filled with blooming orchids and bromeliads and with delightful bungalows scattered along the Urubamba River. (B/L/D)
Sunrise through the jungle mist awaits those who wish to return to Machu Picchu. Hikers may choose to climb to the top of Huayna Picchu*, the towering granite peak that overlooks Machu Picchu for a spectacular view of the ruins. Near the top of the mountain, pass through ancient terraces so inaccessible and so narrow that they were probably not used for agricultural purposes, but instead were ornamental gardens to be admired from the city below. Or walk a portion of the Inka trail, Qhapaq Ñan, to the Sun Gate. After lunch on our own, board the train to Ollantaytambo and return to the Hotel Pakaritampu for one night. (B/D) *At least six months notice required to secure entrance for this hike.
Today we will see three of the most fascinating sites in Peru. Begin at Maras where a series of pools cascades down a bluff creating saltpans that have existed since pre-Inca times and are still actively used. Next is Moray where impressively deep terracing creates what may be a pre-historic experimental farming station. Different levels of concentric terraces were carved into a huge earthen bowl here, and each layer has its own microclimate. Located in a high valley, Chinchero is a graceful, traditional Andean village, arguably the loveliest in the Peruvian highlands, that dates from before the conquest and was once the country estate of the late 15th-century Inka Tupac Yupanqui. Encircled by lush farming terraces, houses are built on the foundations of Inka buildings, including the early 17th-century church. Constructed of adobe bricks, lovely frescoes and mural paintings decorate both the exterior and interior. Chinchero’s markets are held in the shadow of the church within the central plaza and are one of the best places in the entire valley for Andean textiles. Spend time bartering for crafts before enjoying a private weaving demonstration. Overnight for three nights at the Novotel Hotel in Cusco, around the corner from the cathedral and main square. (B/L/D)
Our drive into the highlands takes us to Sacsayhuaman, a huge fortress constructed on an artificially leveled mountaintop overlooking Cusco. It consists of three outer defenses of colossal walls, and according to early Spanish chroniclers, was said to be a Royal House of the Sun. If on site, Dr. Alexei Vranich will meet with the group to talk of his work here. Proceed back to Cusco and enjoy a walking tour of the city. (B/L)
Begin today at Pikillaqta, a pre-Inca urban center for the Wari culture in the 6th to 12th centuries. A hydraulic system of canals, reservoirs, aqueducts have been excavated here that provided water for irrigation for the cultivation of maize. Maize was important to the Wari and was painted on pottery along with deities and other supernaturals. Midday, return to Cusco, capital of the Inka Empire and first seat of power for the conquering Spaniards. Visit the Cathedral, which was built on the palace of Inka Viracocha and contains an altar of solid silver, and Santa Domingo Church, built on the walls of the Inka Temple of the Sun, Koricancha. This was the most magnificent complex in pre-conquest Cusco with walls covered in sheets of gold studded with emeralds and turquoise, and windows constructed so the sun would enter and cast a near blinding reflection of golden light off the precious interior. The Museum of Machu Picchu is housed within a Spanish colonial mansion, Casa Concha, and is built on top of the palace of Tupac Inca Yupanqui. It contains the collection of artifacts from Machu Picchu, including 360 pieces returned by Yale University that were taken during Hiram Bingham’s 1911 expedition. The museum director, Jean-Jacques Decoster, will give us a private tour. The rest of the afternoon is free before our farewell dinner party. (B/L/D)
Enjoy free time in Cusco before flying to Lima to catch our overnight flight home. (B) (or join Nasca extension).
Fly to Lima. After a light lunch, travel south paralleling the ocean along the Pacific Highway to Paracas and the Paracas Hacienda Hotel, our home for the next two nights. (L/D)
This morning, board a small plane to fly over the famous Nasca Lines. Visible best from the air, the huge images are of animals and enigmatic “lines”. Return to our beachside resort this afternoon with free time relax and dinner on our own. (B/L)
Driving back to Lima, we will make two stops. In Ica, visit the Regional Museum, housing an excellent collection of Paracas textiles and Nasca ceramics. Also displayed are quipus, knotted strings used by the Inkas as a writing system, along with a large-scale model of the Nasca Lines. Tambo Colorado was a lovely Inka complex that is reminiscent of the pueblos of the American Southwest. Rectangular buildings built of adobe enclose a large, trapezoidal plaza, and in the center sits the remains of an Ushnu, a wide throne platform common at Inka administrative centers. Within the mud walls, ornamented with painted bands of white, red and yellow, can be seen elaborate lattice work, niches, and corbeled arches. Continue to Lima at stay at the Costa del Sol Airport Hotel until it is time to transfer to the airport for late night flights back to the USA. (B/L)
Arrive back in the USA.
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.