Pachamama is a Quechua word meaning “Mother Earth,” and in Peruvian mythology, Pachamama was the goddess of agriculture; the sustainer of all life. This journey offers the opportunity to experience the sacred in your Self and the sacred in the Earth. You will be profoundly influenced by the land, the ancient structures, and the traditional culture. The magnificent ruins left behind by the Inca civilization remain a mystery to modern science.
Our journey includes a quest for understanding those mysteries—including the wonders of ourselves. Starting from Cusco, we travel deeper into the Andes; from our luxurious hotels and a retreat center, we will walk the fertile Urubamba Valley, the center of Inca civilization. In Pisac village, women’s skirts brim with white, yellow, orange, red, and blue potatoes on market day. We descend through ancient agricultural terracing and geometric edifices to the market, clustered around a whitewashed adobe church. Here craftspeople hawk wool rugs, alpaca sweaters, silver jewelry, colonial artifacts, and produce. For two days, we travel by foot within the Sacred Inca City of Machu Picchu, the renowned UNESCO World Heritage site and the most iconic example of the Inca legacy.
Pre-Night: Lima, Peru
After your afternoon or evening arrival in Lima, we suggest staying at the Lima Airport hotel so that morning flights to Cusco on Day 1 of the trip are more convenient.
DAY 1: Welcome to the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Highlights: Explore Sacsayhuamán archaeological site and the Sacred Valley
When you arrive mid-morning in Cusco from Lima, we’ll greet you at the Cusco Airport and begin our journey, descending into the Sacred Valley. En route, we may stop to stretch our legs and tour the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sacsayhuamán, an ancient Inca complex built with stone walls cut to fit together tightly without mortar.
We’ll continue our drive to Willka T’ika, our home for the next four nights. This charming retreat center, located in one of the most energetically charged places on earth, prides itself on serving the spiritual and cultural needs of guests seeking an authentic mind/body/spirit experience. Ancient Inca ruins, ceremonial sites, temples, and an abundance of cultural activities are nearby. Part of the Willka T’ika experience includes gourmet vegetarian cuisine, authentic Andean healing arts, elaborate gardens for deep relaxation, and access to sunlit yoga and meditation studios.
Overnight in the Sacred Valley , Hiking/Walking: Explore Sacsayhuamán on foot (1 hour)
DAY 2: Explore the Sacred Valley
Highlights: Hike through Pisac ruins and visit the town market
After breakfast, we drive to the mountaintop ruins of Pisac for our hike. We wind our way through this archaeological treasure (located at 11,000 feet), among the best in the Cusco region. The complex features fine examples of Inca architecture, including military, religious, and residential structures. We descend toward the Urubamba Valley floor to the village of Pisac (10,000 feet), where a traditional Andean market awaits us. Products from the surrounding communities are displayed in full color: weavings, fruits, vegetables, spices, livestock, jewelry, and clothing. It’s a cultural experience to wander through the market and watch the bartering going on as it has for hundreds of years. Depending on the group’s interests, we may stop to visit the ceramics workshop of Pablo Seminario before returning dinner at Willka T’ika.
Overnight in the Sacred Valley, Hiking: about 4 hours (5 miles)
DAY 3: Hike through the Pampas and Saltpans
Highlights: Explore the Moray ruins and Maras saltpans; ceremony to Mother Earth
This morning we cross the Chinchero pampa (flat land), then hike to the Moray archaeological site. We begin our tour by visiting the Incas’ agricultural “laboratory”: circular, concentric geological depressions reinforced by agricultural terracing. There are slight temperature differences and angles between each terraced level, and the Incas monitored how plant grew under various conditions. Our Quechuan guide will lead a simple ceremony around the Sacred Leaf of Mama Kuka (coca), which Inca men chewed for health and happiness.
Next, we’ll cross the extensive Maras pampa, where people farm and raise cattle and sheep. The snow-capped peaks of the Urubamba Mountains provide a spectacular background for our trek as we head to Maras, an important town during the 17th century because of the commercialization of the salineras (saltpans). We’ll see houses built from finely worked stone, indicative of Maras’ wealth. We continue through spectacular Quechua scenery until we arrive at the saltpans, whose bright white can be seen from a distance. They are still used to produce table and bath salts. Finally we move on to the town of Pichingoto, where our private transport awaits to drive us back to the hotel. We’ll cap off the day with a restorative dinner.
Overnight in the Sacred Valley, Hiking: about 5 hours (8 miles)
DAY 4: Rejuvenate at the Willka T’ika Retreat Center
Highlights: Yoga, meditation, Willka T’ika’s seven Chakra Gardens
We’ll have the full day to enjoy our retreat center. A morning yoga practice might be followed by meditation time in one of the sacred areas, some journaling, or a tour of the resort’s seven Chakra Gardens. (Each garden contains sculptures and medicinal plants that resonate with one of the body’s seven chakras, or energy centers, to bring about peace to body and spirit.) Throughout the day, fully-equipped yoga studios are available to you for dance and other movement arts, and various components such as yoga and meditation . You may also choose to indulge in a massage or Crystal Light Therapy (extra charge).
After dinner, experience an outdoor bath under a velvety night sky dotted by stars. The unique solar baths, carved from stone and set in secluded garden spots, are heated and energized by the sun during the day. At night the water is infused with flowers, medicinal herbs, and Maras salt.
Overnight in the Sacred Valley
DAY 5: Entering Machu Picchu
Highlights: Tour of the ancient Inca citadel
We wake take an early train to Machu Picchu, the iconic Inca city. Upon arrival in Machu Picchu Pueblo (also known by its traditional name, Aguas Calientes), we transfer by bus to Machu Picchu where we begin a complete guided tour of the Inca citadel. here will be plenty of free time to mindfully wander the site, contemplate or journal, or hike to the Sun Gate (Intipunku) where the famous Inca Trail enters the reserve. From this overlook, you’ll get spectacular views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains and valleys.
After our experience, we’ll relax at the lovely Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, our home for the next two nights, with dinner.
Overnight in Machu Picchu Village, Hiking/Walking: Guided 3- to 4-hour tour of Machu Picchu ruins; optional hike to the Sun Gate
DAY 6: Nature Explorations around Machu Picchu
Highlights: Hiking in Machu Picchu or taking a hotel-property tour (bird/orchid/medicinal plants)
Today is filled with options. Choose to return to the sacred site of Machu Picchu for a mountain-summit hike or discover cloud-forest ecosystems and nature trails at our hotel.
Option 1: Hikers may choose to climb one of two peaks: Huayna Picchu Mountain or Machu Picchu Mountain. (Both treks must be scheduled in advance.) Mount Huayna Picchu is the green pinnacle that towers over the ruins in photos. This steep trail offers impressive views plus access to the mountaintop Temple of the Moon. The climb up Machu Picchu Mountain includes flights of ancient stone stairs to reach the quintessential view of the citadel, its mountain surroundings, and the winding Urubamba River below.
Option 2: Nature wanderers can enjoy bird watching or meander the hotel’s orchid garden spotting some of the 372 native orchid species in their natural habitat—a world record, according to the American Orchid Society. You may also visit the hotel’s Spectacled Bear Project, which rehabilitates Andean spectacled bears rescued from captivity and reintroduces them into the wild. For a look at the local culture, you may also explore the colorful local market.
Overnight in Machu Picchu Village
Hiking: Huayna Picchu summit takes about 3 hours round trip; Machu Picchu summit takes about 5 hours round trip
DAY 7: Machu Picchu to Cusco
Highlights: Bird watching, train ride to Cusco, visit Ollantaytambo
Early morning is the best time for cloud-forest bird watching. Begin at the hotel’s river observatory, with the possibility of sighting the sought-after torrent duck and the white-capped dipper. Then train your binoculars on a feeding area that attracts silver-beaked, blue-necked, fawn-breasted, and saffron-crowned tanagers.
After breakfast, we board the train back to the city of Cusco, where we arrive in the early afternoon and spend our last two nights. But first, along the way, we’ll visit Ollantaytambo, a still-thriving Inca village at the foot of an impressive megalithic fortress and temple. Ollantaytambo has stunning views of the valley, rivers, and mountains that surround it. Here we feel as if we’re stepping back in time to the 15th century.
Overnight in Cusco, Walking: Light walking for bird watching and in Ollantaytambo
DAY 8: Walking through Cusco
Highlights: Walking tour of Cusco’s main attractions
This morning we’ll enter into this vibrant and historic city. Then, we delve into the Inca and Spanish colonial city of Cusco. We start with the Santo Domingo Monastery, built by Spanish colonists on top of the legendary Qurikancha (Temple of Gold), the most important Inca temple for worshipping the Sun. Once, its walls were plated with sheets of gold. We continue to the Cathedral at the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de Regocijo, and the old town with its remarkable Inca walls. We’ll also walk through the San Blas quarter, a quaint district with one of the finest views of the city. San Blas is home to the workshops and stores of Cusco’s most renowned craftsmen and a colonial church with an impressive wood-carved pulpit.
In the afternoon, you may choose to visit the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (MAP), which showcases masterful ceramic works from all over ancient Peru, including the coastal cultures and the Incas. Most interestingly, it is the only museum in Peru that focuses on ancient works from an artistic, not an archaeological, point of view. The building itself stands out as an architectural jewel. It was once a ceremonial court during the 15th century, became a conquistador’s mansion a century later, and was restored in 2003.
You’ll enjoy a night on your own in Cusco, with its varied and delicious restaurants and special vibe around the city’s colonial center.
Overnight in Cusco, Walking: 3 to 4 hours of city walking.
DAY 9 : Cusco to Lima & Late-Night Departure
Highlights: Cusco’s San Pedro market, flight to Lima, Larco Museum visit
This morning we visit the San Pedro market in Cusco—a vibrant spot in a busy part of town that can keep you entertained for hours. Here you can have a first-hand look at the day-to-day lives of the locals. Hear the language as it is spoken, view the gestures and habits common to Andean people, smell the produce and flowers, absorb the styles and textures of the local fashion, and taste local delicacies.
Mid-day, we’ll transfer to the airport for flights to Lima. There, our driver takes us to the district of Pueblo Libre to visit the Larco Museum, which has the most extensive collection of pre-Columbian art in Peru and features fine textiles, one of which has a world record of 398 threads per inch. The Larco is housed in an exquisite 18th-century colonial mansion. After the visit, you may wish to have lunch at the lovely Museum café, set amidst a gorgeous garden, before your transfer to the Lima airport and your flight back home.
hotel day-room: for rest and changing before transferring to the airport for late-night flights
Walking: 1 to 2 hours of light walking