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Active Peru: Cycling, rafting and the Inca Trail

14 days from £3117pp

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Active Peru: Cycling, rafting and the Inca Trail:
Trip Dossier

This is an adventurous, active holiday which uses the flexibility of walking, biking and river rafting to give you a different perspective of the Cusco area of southern Peru. Hike the famous Classic Inca Trail to the ruined Inca city of Machu Picchu, cycle in the Sacred Valley and raft down the upper reaches of the River Apurimac, a tributary of the Amazon, in glorious, remote canyon landscapes. 

You will get under the skin of Peru at ground level: instead of whizzing around in a coach you’ll be exploring under your own steam. Discovering essential cities on foot, you can pop down narrow alleys and weave your way through produce-crammed markets. You will amble through the countryside along farm tracks and narrow broom-lined paths, cycle along quiet country lanes, and hike one of the Andes’ most staggeringly beautiful mountain trails. Add to this the experience of rafting the rocky gorges of the Andes as they clamber down to the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon, you’ll arrive home fit, and exhilarated.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima and transfer to hotel.

Day 2

Walking tour of Lima. Fly to Cusco and drive to the Sacred Valley.

Day 3

Walking tour around Huilloc and Pumamarca.

Day 4

Biking around Pisac and Ollantaytambo Inca ruins.

Day 5

By road to km82, start the Classic Inca Trail.

Day 6-7

Hiking the Inca Trail.

Day 8

Arrive at Machu Picchu, guided tour of the site.

Day 9

Return to Cusco by rail and road.

Day 10

Guided walking tour of the city, including nearby Inca sites.

Day 11

Drive down to the Apurimac Canyon for rafting expedition.

Day 12

Return to Cusco.

Day 13

Fly to Lima to connect with your international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima and transfer to hotel.
You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel in the cliff-side Pacific residential and commercial district of Miraflores.  The half-hour drive to the hotel through Lima’s outskirts is not the most enchanting introduction to this city of extreme contrasts, but it does encapsulate the invigorating buzz of a modern-day Latin American capital.

Day 2

Walking tour of Lima. Fly to Cusco and drive to the Sacred Valley.

Walking tour of Lima. This guided stroll visits dynamic Lima's contrasting residential, financial and colonial districts. Starting off from the cliff tops in Miraflores, admire the views over the Pacific Ocean. Continue to the pre-Inca temple Huaca Pucllana before arriving in San Isidro, an elegant suburb with an olive grove and golf course.

Pause for a snack at the Tanta Restaurant, owned by Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio and sample a traditional Peruvian dish. Afterwards, public transportation takes you to the outskirts of central Lima where you continue on foot through the colonial district to the Plaza de Armas. Lima's grandiose historic main square is home to the Cathedral, Archbishop's Palace and the City Hall.

Return to the airport for the one hour flight to Cusco. Upon arrival you continue by road to the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created. Overnight in Urubamba in the heart of the valley for 3 nights, beneath the dome of a vast, clear Andean sky.


Day 3

Walking tour around Huilloc and Pumamarca.
The day is spent walking in spectacular Andean scenery, gaining an insight into life in a traditional weaving community, and visiting the small but well preserved Inca ruins of Pumamarca. It’s an early drive to the Andean community of Huilloc, where you visit homes in which you can observe different traditional processes and techniques used in textile weaving. The culture and way of life here has changed little since Inca times.

Afterwards, hike along the Patacancha River towards the village of Pallata to arrive at Pumamarca.  Later, hike back to the village of Ollantaytambo along the top of the Inca terraces of Chichobamaba and Canchispujio. There is about 6hrs hiking in total today.


Day 4

Biking around Pisac and Ollantaytambo Inca ruins.
Explore the scenic Sacred Valley by bike.  There are three stages to the ride, with the possibility of ending your two-wheel experience at the end of each one; so you can do as much of it as you like.

The first stage begins at the Inca archaeological site of Pisac. This ruined city is set high above and visible from the eponymous colonial village, and is built on terraces carved into the steep hillsides. The engineering and preservation are unrivalled. From the flat valley floor the intricate hillside terracing rises up like a green staircase to the heavens.  Ride along an asphalted road (13km), and then 11km to the villages of Taray and Coya via a dirt road.

The second stage continues along the broom-covered left bank of the attractive Vilcanota River to the village of Lamay (8km). The third stage follows the riverbank to the village of Calca (15km). At the end of the ride you’ll travel by support vehicle to the Inca village of Ollantaytambo where the snow-capped Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop.

Ollantaytambo, sitting strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin, was never captured by the Spanish conquistadors, but the inhabitants decided that the settlement was too vulnerable and would eventually fail, and so they abandoned it. You have time to explore the fortress, the colonial grid plan and the Inca foundations of which are still intact. There are wonderful views down over the sloping hillsides and into the fertile valley.

Cyclist in Sacred Valley

Day 5

By road to km82, start the Classic Inca Trail.
Today you will set off on the classic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is part of a wider network of trails built by the Incas which spanned over 6,000km along the spine of the Andes. The scenery along the way is breathtaking: verdant cloud forest and Alpine tundra, Inca ruins and sublime snow-capped mountain vistas. There are a few steep climbs to negotiate before the descent towards your destination, the Gate of the Sun...and the ultimate reward, Machu Picchu.

You set off from Urubamba by road, following the River Urubamba as it enters the ever-narrowing gorge which leads down from the highlands to the Amazon basin.  The road goes as far as km82, the start of the trail.

The first day follow the undulating path on the left bank of the Urubamba river for a couple of hours until you reach the first archaeological ruins at Llactapata (2,300m). From here you turn away from the vast Urubamba canyon and begin to climb gently up the narrow Cusichaca valley towards the small farming community of Huayllabamba (3,100m). Arrive at the first camp site.

Day 6-7

Hiking the Inca Trail.
After Huayllabamba comes the hardest part of the trek as the trail begins to climb steeply uphill through beautiful forests, before emerging onto open meadows at Llulluchapampa. From here it is a further 2-3hrs strenuous climb towards the Warmiwañusqa (Dead Woman’s) pass. This is the highest point of the trek at 4,200m, with spectacular views before the trail descends into the Pacamayo Valley. Camp.

The following day climbing up original Inca steps, you pass the ruins of Runkuracay and a couple of small lagoons on the way to the second pass at 3,850m where, clouds permitting, snow-capped mountains heave into sight. The trail then snakes down towards the ruins of Sayacmarca, from where there are sweeping vistas of distant valleys and hills. Continuing along the paved Inca road you pass through a tunnel before reaching the third pass and, soon after, the ruins of Phuyupatamarca. From a nearby hilltop there are often incredible views of the snow-capped Mount Salkantay, the most beautiful mountain in the region. This is followed by a steep, knee-crunching one kilometre descent to Wiñay Wayna. This exquisite Inca site, containing a series of fine ceremonial fountains and elegantly curved terracing, overlooks the Urubamba river. Camp.
Inca Trail

Day 8

Arrive at Machu Picchu, guided tour of the site.
From here, it's just a 2 hour, relatively flat walk through wonderful cloud forest to the Intipunku or Sun Gate, from where you have your first view of the celebrated Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. On arrival at Machu Picchu you will have a 2hr guided tour through the maze of fine stone temples and palaces, spectacularly perched on a high, narrow ridge, with time to explore on your own.

The majestic ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, was discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath jungle vegetation. The ruins are on a ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon.

You will have a guided tour of the ruins and, since you are overnighting nearby and not restricted by the small window of opportunity offered by a day trip, there is time later to take one of the many trails within the site itself, such as the hike to the vertiginous Inca Bridge, carved into a cliff edge or wander amongst the stone buildings and llama-dotted grassy ledges soaking up the atmosphere. Spend the night in the village of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu

Day 9

Return to Cusco by rail and road.
Train times permitting, there’s the opportunity to return to the site of Machu Picchu. Getting up early and taking the first buses up to the ruins is well worth it...  The site is virtually empty and the early morning mists swirl around the surrounding mountain tops. Optional hike to the summit of Huayna Picchu (must be booked in advance), or alternatively enjoy the thermal baths or walks in the village below.

In the afternoon, return by the train as far as Ollantaytambo or Poroy, before continuing the journey to Cusco, and your hotel,  by road. The Expedition Train service offers you the chance to appreciate the scale of the ever-changing scenery, with portrait windows alongside your seat (seats are configured in pairs facing each other over a table). Perhaps more importantly, there are windows in the roof, so you can gaze up to the rim of the canyon. Your comfort is enhanced with air-conditioning and heating, and Andean music is played as a backdrop to the passing scenery.

The name 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 War of the Roses. It is said that the city was originally built in the shape of a puma and its position atop the precipitous foothills of the Andes is without doubt a commanding one. Capital of the Inca Empire and latterly a strong hold to the Spanish conquistadors, Cusco is not so much a blend of architectures as a defiant mix.

Today its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches. It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and cafés.

Day 10

Guided walking tour of the city, including nearby Inca sites.

Today you’ll have a guided walking tour of the city, the centre of which is compact and easy to get around on foot. Beyond the city, its squares, museums, churches and markets, you’ll visit some impressive ruins on the outskirts: Tambomachay, Puca-Pucara and the monumental Sacsayhuamán, with its foreboding cyclopean fortress. While the edges of Cusco are dominated by Inca dwellings, temples and fortresses, the historic heart (with the Plaza de Armas flanked by the cathedral and the church of La Compañia) reveal the indelible mark of the Spanish conquistadors.


Day 11

Drive down to the Apurimac Canyon for rafting expedition.
The Apurimac Canyon is one of the world's top 10 rafting rivers, combining a mix of exhilarating rapids and awesome scenery.  Transfer by bus to the canyon through which flows the Apurimac river, one of the Amazon’s headwaters. This is the first of a 3 day adventure of thrilling white water rafting, supervised by qualified pilots.

No experience is necessary, there will be full instructions given and safety procedures are strictly followed. You’ll be camping on spotless wilderness river beaches, eating in the open air, and maybe catching glimpses of wildlife: it’s the habitat of otters, puma and elusive Andean bears. You’ll be negotiating boulders and foaming rapids; with tranquil stretches during which you can appreciate bucolic landscapes.

Set off from Cusco on a spectacular drive by private vehicle to the 3,000m deep Apurimac Canyon, hopefully glimpsing on route the snow-capped Vilcanota mountain range before descending into the canyon to the banks of the river.

Inflate the specialised rafts, load up with provisions and, following a comprehensive safety talk and instruction in the sport of white water rafting, head off into the canyon. The foaming rapids (ranging from classes 2-5) are wild and energetic, and your enjoyment of the thrills and spills of the descent is enhanced by views of towering mountains. The topography of the rafting route varies: you may be negotiating boulders, with some portage necessary, elsewhere you float dreamily down a tranquil stretch of river.

Apurimac rafting

Day 12

Return to Cusco.

Finally reaching a break in the canyon walls we say good bye to the Apurimac. From here it is a short bus journey back to Cusco for your last night, passing en route the towering snow-jacketed Salkantay Mountain. 

Day 13

Fly to Lima to connect with your international flight.

Essential information


2 flights (approx 1hr); 2 scenic road journeys (2hrs); 1 rail journey (3.5-4hrs). 


On this tour we use good value budget hotels. They are generally small, friendly establishments, colonial or modern in style with well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and heating. You spend 5 nights under canvas.


Breakfast daily, lunch day 3, full board days 5-7, 11,12.


We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Guided walking tour of Lima.
• Walking around Huilloc and Pumamarca.
• Guided biking in the Sacred Valley.
• Inca Trail hike (shared departure; subject to availability of permits. If unavailable, an alternative trek will be offered of similar grade in the same region).
• Guided tour of Machu Picchu.
• Tour of the city of Cusco and nearby ruins.
• Apurimac river rafting (private departure).

Summary of nights

15 days, 14 nights: Lima 1; Sacred Valley 3; Inca Trail camping 3; Cusco 2, Apurimac camping 2; Cusco 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified
• International flights to Latin America
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions

Travelling alone

Please enquire if you are travelling alone and would like to join a group: shared departures are available on selected dates between May and September.


The unit of currency in Peru is the sol.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$35 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.


Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier


Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax and taxes on internal flights are usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able-bodied, fit visitors, including families with reasonably strong older children (minimum 16 years, however for younger children, the itinerary can be adjusted with an easier rafting tour). Experience of outdoor activities is an advantage.

The Inca Trail hiking is moderately challenging, especially on the second day which has a steep climb at high altitude, reaching over 4,200m. You should be able to walk over undulating rocky terrain for several hours.

The rafting involves negotiating some rapids which are considered challenging, up to class 4: you will need decent physical strength to operate the paddles.  No previous rafting experience is necessary as full operation and safety instructions are given so even novice crews will be sufficiently trained.


This tour does not operate during the wetter Andean months, November to April. The dry season is in June, July and August when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically (from freezing point to 10°C). May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells.

Lima is covered in a dull grey mist for much of the year. It almost never rains in Lima, and temperatures are moderate. 

In Cusco and the Apurimac region, whilst June to September can be very cold at night, days are usually extremely clear with sun. The Apurimac canyon (3,000m deep) region is arid. 


Your stay in Cusco and the Sacred Valley is at high altitude (2,800-3,500m). A small minority of visitors may suffer temporarily from altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. Most people are unaffected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will
minimise your chances of suffering any symptoms.

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants, although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate. 

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential. 

For the camping on the Inca Trail (and rafting expedition) you will need a minimum 3 season sleeping bag. Bring your own or hire one locally (we can order one in advance for you. You may wish to bring your own sleeping bag liner). 

For the Inca Trail you should bring a back pack to carry the personal effects you will need on the Inca Trail. Bring comfortable and adequate clothing to protect you from cold (and possibly wet) weather. We recommend you layer with synthetic clothing as synthetic fabrics are the most effective barriers against the cold.  We discourage the use of cotton garments in cold or wet mountain conditions.  The innermost layer should be long underwear. The middle layer can be a synthetic turtleneck or woollen shirt, and shorts or trousers.  The outermost layer should be a synthetic or down jacket, and/or a good quality Gore-Tex wind/rain parka and over-trousers. You will also need a bag in which to store the gear you aren’t taking on the trek. You should limit your luggage for the trek to 10kgs per person, with the remainder left in Cusco.
For further details about what to bring on the Trail see our Briefing Dossier. 

For the rafting expedition the following are provided:  state of the art self-bailing rafts, Hi-flotation life-jackets, helmets, spray jackets, dry bags for personal gear, wetsuits, wet-suit boots and special containers for cameras. Camping and cooking equipment including Therma-rest mats and 2 man tents. 
You should bring:

- Sleeping bag / Sheet (0ºC)                                               -  Small Towel
- Long-sleeve Thermal top for under wetsuit                     -  Old trainers / socks 
- Insect repellent (High DEET)                                            -  After-bite cream 
- Sunglasses with attaching string                                      -  Peaked cap
- Water bottle (with attaching string)                                -  Book, pen, paper
- Swim suit                                                                          -  Head torch 
- Suntan lotion factor 15+ / after sun                                 -  Lip balm
- Camera, spare battery and memory card                          -  Sleeping clothes 
- Personal toiletries                                                            -  Spare contact lenses /glasses

For cycling you may wish to bring padded shorts, and be sure to have a pair of trainers or other footwear appropriate for the pedals.  You’ll have a choice of TREK bikes in three different sizes, with front and seat suspension, and protective helmets are provided.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 


Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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