Llamas graze in the mist, and Machu Picchu unfolds before your eyes. Streets of cobblestone and charm evoke the 19th-century era in Arequipa while Cusco baffles with its endless sights and the Sacred Valley immerses you in Incan and Quechua cultures. Handcrafted for senior travelers, this 10-day trip to Peru maximizes altitude acclimatization, ensuring you can fully enjoy all the Andean highlights: Lima, Arequipa, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and Cusco.
Lima - A Leisurely Introduction to Peru
You will land in Lima, and then travel about 20 minutes into the city. Once you are here, the city will unfold, and you will see the UNESCO World Heritage site that leads to beautiful neighborhoods. This is a city with many sides, and with 24 hours you can get a good feel for the Peruvian capital. You will check in to your boutique hotel in Miraflores. The afternoon will be at your leisure and it is easy to walk along a promenade above the Pacific, or to check out the neighborhood’s colorful, tightly packed streets. Dinner reservations will be made at one of Latin America’s best restaurants, which will be your first chance to taste the splendor of the world-famous culinary scene.
Arequipa - The Tale of Two Cities
Centuries of history will become apparent in Lima. The conquistador Pizarro is in the crypt of Lima Cathedral, and was built in 1654. Fabulous palaces surround the Plaza de Armas, which was restored after an earthquake nearly destroyed it. Through Baroque and Gothic facades, you will head through the San Francisco Convent into its iconic catacombs. Back above ground you will find local life along the streets, from couples walking in the love park to traders selling mounds of cotton candy. The final suggested stop on your private Lima tour is Larco Museum, where sublime galleries will take you through eras of pre-Columbian art, most notably Huaco pottery.
A late lunch will be at a traditional ceviche restaurant, and you can refresh at the hotel before the 5pm flight to Arequipa. You will touch down to an entirely different urban landscape. There is no hustle and bustle, no stuttering exhausts, and hardly any vehicle noise. Cobblestone streets will be lined with whitewashed townhouses, and will lead to a grand cathedral and plaza. Church bells will ring throughout the day, and snippets of color will be provided by painted window frames and doors. This is Peru’s most enchanting and relaxing city, and it is an ode to the 19th. Check in to a boutique hotel, and from here, the rest of this evening will be at your leisure.
Arequipa - Relaxing and Exploring a Grand Colonial City
Today, you will heading out on a city tour that will move at your pace, finding statuesque figures and intimate details. With its adjusted pace of life, Arequipa still feels like a city from the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was a major power in Spanish South America
A local guide will tell you the the story, narrating how the city came to be and how it has stayed free from destruction. Traveling to Santa Catalina Monastery, you will follow the theme of Catholicism, and how icons and stunning structures were used to convert and cajole the local population. Arequipa is always highly recommended for senior travelers because it is so relaxed and easy to get around. Even when taking your time, you can cover the old city in only three to four hours, leaving a quiet afternoon to relax on a sheltered restaurant terrace or to try some of the shops around the Plaza de Armas.
Urubamba Valley - First Impressions of the Sacred Valley
Any mountain trekker will tell you the same advice about managing altitude sickness: walk high and sleep low. Your itinerary is a little different, but follows the same principles. You will fly to Cusco at 11,100 feet and then descend into Urubamba Valley with your guide. A one-hour journey will brings you to Písac, where Quechua women will bring vibrant colors to an old marketplace. Next, you will see the strange circular mounds of Moray, and finally, you will see a 19th-century hacienda, or villa, that is surrounded by the luscious nature of the Urubamba Valley. You can rest up, admire the views, take tea in the courtyard, and enjoy a mix of colonial grandeur and Quechua home-style cooking.
Urubamba Valley - Salt Pans and Majestic Ruins
Salinas de Maras will be quite the sight in the morning light. A patchwork of salt pans will glisten here, each a little brighter or duller than the next depending on the density of salt. From above you can see the black dots of figures working the pans. Afterward, you will travel to Ollantaytambo, where Incan fortress walls stand high above an old cobbled city. This site will prove a great introduction to Machu Picchu, and if the Lost City was not so close by, Ollantaytambo would probably be a world-famous attraction in its own right.
Terraced slopes and steep steps will lead you through the remains, showcasing quintessential Incan architecture. It is well worth having a little walk here, as this will help prepare you for Machu Picchu tomorrow. Moray, Písac, Salinas de Maras, and Ollantaytambo are the four unmissable attractions in Urubamba, and they are easily spread over two days. There are half a dozen others, so today’s tour can be much more active should you wish. Back at the hacienda, there will be more delicious food waiting for you.
Aguas Calientes - An Afternoon in the Lost City
An imperceptible gap cuts beyond Ollantaytambo and is hidden by an overhanging forest. Rumbling onwards the train will travel down the hill, and panoramic windows will show you an almost claustrophobically narrow valley. There is no road to Machu Picchu, just the single-track railway or hiking trails, and the scenery is stunning. You will disembark at Aguas Calientes, which will be the only town for many miles. It will still be morning, and most people will want to rush straight up to Machu Picchu. It is best to wait for the crowd to die down. Mornings are far more popular than afternoons, so can check into your hotel, have some lunch, and then set off up the mountain. A road transfer will takes you skywards, and it is quite a journey, twisting and turning towards an impossibly remote location. While the road is steep, remember that Machu Picchu is at less than 8,000 feet and your body will appreciate the increased oxygen after being in the Urubamba Valley.
There are two famous climbs on both side of Machu Picchu: Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain. These are not recommended for senior travelers; However, note that permits for these climbs require visitors to trek at a specific time in the morning. This is one reason the old citadel will be very busy around 7 to 11 a.m. The other reason is that people will want to see Machu Picchu emerging from its hazy morning mist, which is a surreal sight that nobody can ever have to themselves. Only a small fraction of daily visitors will use their Machu Picchu permit in the afternoon, and when the citadel is quieter, you can fully appreciate its magic. Plus, there will be no rushing or pushing along the steep steps.
With the hard part over, you can now go down through the citadel, former ceremonial sites, precise stone walls, intact temples, vernacular houses, llamas grazing on terraced fields, and the jigsaw pieces of a Lost City. By 4 p.m. there will be hardly anyone left in the citadel, so you will be able to bask in the privacy. This is more an intact city than a city in ruins, yet the stories can only be theories, for nobody truly knows why or how Machu Picchu came to be, which only adds to the mystique of this new world wonder.
Cusco - Optional Visit to the Lost City and Train to Cusco
The train back to Cusco will not leave until the late afternoon so you can return to Machu Picchu today if you desire. If you are feeling fit, then consider a walk up to the Sun Gate, which is part of the old Incan Trail. Maybe you will want to go at sunrise, when you can see the city emerging mist. Now that you know what to expect, visiting Machu Picchu should be easier today. On board the Harry Bingham train, you will saunter up to Cusco, where you will experience Peruvian dancing and singing. It’s 3 ½ hours to the Incan capital city and your hotel will be on a quiet street, just off the Plaza de Armas.
Day 8 - 9
Cusco - Exploring the Best of the Ancient Incan Capital
At over 11,000 feet, Cusco is in the altitude sickness danger zone. However, you should be well acclimated by now, and the guide will tailor a tour to minimize any uphill treks. For most senior travelers, the best approach is to travel out of the city by car to different sites on the hill. Then, you can descend staircases and pedestrianized lanes into central Cusco, or you can return by car. Over these two days, the guide will tailor an itinerary to your fitness levels and interests. This will be enough time to get around all the major highlights at a leisurely pace. The evenings will be experiential as well, particularly incorporating all of the life and energy of the Plaza de Armas, where Quechua dance troupes will rehearse, and first-floor terraces will provide a great spot for sundowners.
Over these two days you will discover how the ancient Incan capital has changed into a mature city of old and new culture. Llamas will graze at the vast Sacsayhuaman fortress. You will find mystique at the Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha) as well as energy at the daily market. Spanish and Inca styles will blur seamlessly together, mingling with Quechua lifestyles, wide-eyed tourists, and hints of contemporary Latin America.
Lima - Departure
During a relaxed morning in Cusco you could visit a spa or take a final visit to the Plaza de Armas. You will be transferred to the airport in plenty of time for your domestic flight to Lima, where you will transfer to an international departure.
- Luxuriate in the white city with a two-night stay in Arequipa, which is a superbly preserved insight into colonial times
- Bask in the wonder of Machu Picchu, spending a relaxed afternoon and morning in the Lost City
- Connect civilizations in Cusco, the ancient Incan capital that became an important Spanish city
- Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas, admiring vast fortress ruins and glistening salt pans
- Discover a Quechua style to life, including traditional markets and home-style cooking
- Take the Harry Bingham train from Machu Picchu to Cusco, with Peruvian dancing and cuisine on board
- Spend half a day seeing the highlights of Lima, which is the UNESCO World Heritage Site on your tour
Machu Picchu emerges from mountain mist far more beautiful than the photos could ever suggest. Cusco is a remarkable place where a cathedral is built upon an Incan temple and the streets are packed with colors. Then, there is all the history that surrounds Cusco, such as the fortress of Sacsayhuaman. You cannot forget about Lima. While the more famous Peruvian highlights are in the Andean mountains, the capital city still has plenty of highlights for you.
These destinations combine effortlessly on a 10-day trip to Peru. Direct flights will make light work of the long distances, so you can quickly hop from Lima to Arequipa and then from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Private tours will allow you explore at your pace, with flexibility over the amount of walking and the number of sites that you will visit each day. A handpicked selection of fine hotels will provide space to relax while continuing the cultural journey with Peruvian entertainment and foods. There is no rush, so you can relax, take it slow, and immerse yourself in the culture and discover what makes Peru such a unique country.
This tour has been handcrafted for senior travelers, and the route is carefully designed to maximize altitude acclimatization, which will assist you in overcoming the challenges of the thin mountain air. Many senior visitors are naturally worried about altitude in the Andean Mountains, especially Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is not a potential problem for altitude sickness, but Cusco is, so it is important for senior travelers to end, rather than to start, in Cusco. You may notice that this is the opposite direction to most tours as most start in Cusco and then wind their way towards the Lost City of the Incas.
Traveling the other way around will provide the best altitude acclimatization. At an altitude of 7,660 feet, Arequipa will be a beautiful place to start, which is below the danger zone for altitude sickness. Next, you will spend leisurely days in the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Urubamba Valley), with hardly any exertion, and an altitude of around 9,000 feet. Machu Picchu will follow. The Lost City is actually lower, at just under 8,000 feet above sea level. You will have to walk in order to see the site, but your lungs will already be accustomed to the higher altitude. You will finish in Cusco, where the altitude climbs to over 11,000 feet. By then, you will have had six days at higher elevations, which will helps negate the risk.
If you have limited mobility, most of the sites on this tour can still be visited. You can explore the Sacred Valley in a private vehicle, getting out at small ruins, markets, and salt pans. A tour in Cusco can be carefully designed to minimize walking as well, especially uphill walking. In Machu Picchu you will need to walk but it is really not as tough as stereotypes suggest. Yes, the steps can be steep, but even a marathon runner would not want to rush through this. On this tour for senior travelers, you will have plenty of time to walk at your own pace, which is recommended as it helps you fully absorb the intimate details of Machu Picchu and the other Andean highlights. Consider reading some of our travelers’ Peru tour reviews for more ideas to perfect your dream vacation.
$2,195 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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