10 days with Natural Habitat Adventures Rating: Deluxe
River Cruise Itinerary
Day 1: Lima, Peru
Our adventure begins in Peru's capital of Lima, where you are met on arrival at the airport and transferred to our accommodations. Dinner this evening is on your own—ask our Expedition Leader about the best places to experience Lima's up-and-coming Peruvian fusion dining scene.
Day 2: Cusco
Fly to Cusco this morning with lunch on arrival followed by an afternoon city tour with our Expedition Leader. Nestled in a high valley in the Andes, Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire until Spanish conquistadors destroyed the civilization during their 16th-century colonial quest. We stroll the narrow cobbled streets, steeped in history and intrigue, stopping to admire the remnants of the Inca Wall, the Plaza de Armas and ornately gilded colonial churches. At Sacsayhuaman outside town, enormous granite stonework offers the most vivid example of Inca walls in the Cusco area. Walk among the centuries-old ruins and marvel at the massive granite stones so perfectly joined together that even a pocketknife blade cannot fit between them. Due to the exceptionally advanced building techniques of the Incas, the walls have survived earthquakes that devastated the city of Cusco in the valley just below.
Day 3: Cusco / Sacred Valley of the Incas—Chinchero
Before departing Cusco, we visit sprawling San Pedro Market, where the aroma of handmade tortillas and fragrant spices fills the air and women in traditional Andean dress sell their wares along the streets. Inside, the groceries on display range from dried alpaca to shaman herbs, to coca leaf candy. The Sacred Valley beckons, and we leave the city behind, following the Urubamba River as it courses through centuries-old agricultural lands still farmed today. With a focus on the Sacred Valley’s less-frequented sites, we explore the town of Maras and visit traditional textile weavers at Chinchero, a small indigenous village high on the windswept Anta plains. Lunch is served in Urubamba, and if time permits, we might explore Chinchero town, which enjoys beautiful views of the Sacred Valley and Cordillera Vilcabamba, with the snowcapped profile of Salcantay dominating the western horizon. In Inca legend, Chinchero is the mythical birthplace of the rainbow. We may also walk around the sleepy village of Yucay, with its impressive colonial downtown and legacy as an early capital of the Inca Empire.
Day 4: Ollantaytambo / Maras & Moray
The Incas’ vast empire was connected by 10,000 miles of stone roads linking far-flung reaches of the Andes. This was no small feat, given the steep slopes and high altitude terrain. Suspension bridges spanned rivers and aqueducts carried water from mountain streams to irrigate terraced fields of crops, vestiges of which we see on our journey. Today we visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo, a small town surrounded by terraced mountainsides. Ollantaytambo rests on traditional Inca foundations and is one of the best surviving examples of Inca city planning. The spectacular Inca fortress at the top of the hill stands as a rare location where Spanish conquistadors were defeated. We also visit Moray, an Inca site that's over 500 years old, where giant natural sinkholes have been converted into circular terraced farming areas. Some archaeologists believe these served as an agricultural experiment where Inca cultivators took advantage of microclimates provided by different elevations. After a picnic lunch, we explore the salt mines of Maras, 3,000 small pools mined by the Incas centuries ago and still worked by locals to this day.
Day 5: Machu Picchu
After an early breakfast, return to Ollantaytambo to embark on the famous train to Machu Picchu. The 1.5-hour journey winds through verdant mountains, snaking through an ever-narrowing gorge to finally reach the village of Aguas Calientes, where a bus awaits to take us the final stretch to the ancient "Lost City of the Incas." The storied ruins soon come into view as Machu Picchu rises above the jungle-cloaked mountaintop like a vision in the sky. Although Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the best-known archaeological site on the continent, it manages to retain an air of mystery. Our Expedition Leader interprets it all as we explore the vast labyrinth of ruins, full of complex passageways, steep staircases and hidden niches. We begin to picture life here in the 15th century, when 1,200 people lived within this maze of granite walls and temples.
Tonight we retreat to the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, an Andean-style luxury retreat on the Urubamba River with 300 species of orchids on the grounds. Tucked into a forested hillside in the town of Aguas Calientes, this stunning property was named one of Travel + Leisure's top 100 hotels. Constructed from eucalyptus wood and stone, the colonial-style private casitas are furnished with traditional handicrafts, tile floors and cedar furniture. Enjoy the many gardens and terraces, as well as the hotel's main house with its spacious lounge, cozy fireplace and books on the area and its history.
Day 6: Machu Picchu / Cusco
After breakfast, return to the ruins at Machu Picchu for further discovery with our Expedition Leader. Or, you may prefer to spend time in Aguas Calientes, soaking in the hot springs for which the town is named, or taking a walk on one of the many well-maintained trails surrounding our hotel. For those who are inclined and in shape, hike to the top of Wayna Picchu, the imposing mountain that provides the famous backdrop for the ruins of Machu Picchu. The Incas established the original trail to the top, where they built temples and farming terraces. Local myth holds that the summit of Wayna Picchu was the residence for the high priest of the ancient city. This challenging hike takes 2–3 hours and climbs approximately 1,200 feet from the base at Machu Picchu, ascending a steep face using stairs and cables for support. This hike is not recommended for guests with physical limitations. Should entrances for Wayna Picchu be sold out, an equally challenging hike to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain will be available. This afternoon, we catch the return train to Ollantaytambo and drive back to Cusco. Once we check in to our hotel, we'll head out for dinner in the city, possibly in the San Blas art district.
Day 7: Cusco / Lima / Iquitos / Nauta—Embark
Fly to Lima this morning and then on to Iquitos. Crossing the spine of the Andes, we arrive at this remote urban outpost that was once a booming rubber town. Today, Iquitos is isolated in a vast tract of jungle and can only be reached by air or water. We continue to Nauta, about 60 miles away, in a comfortable private vehicle over paved roads. Passing scenes of daily life in the rain forest, we reach this small riverside town on the banks of the Marañon River that is literally the "end of the road"—and our embarkation point for our river journey aboard the Delfin II.
Aboard, the ship soon glides into the broad expanse of the Ucayali, one of the Amazon's two largest tributaries, which runs turbid with silt the color of milk chocolate. On the observation deck, our guides conduct a brief orientation using videos and maps. They'll preview our river journey, including the places we will visit, the wildlife we're seeking and a brief history and geography of the Amazon Basin. As dusk falls, enjoy a gourmet dinner with the river in view outside picture windows. The chef is skilled in the creative preparation of Peruvian cuisine accented with an international touch, and each meal is a memorable new discovery.
Day 8: Pacaya Samiria National Reserve—Belluda Caño Creek / Dorado River
As day breaks, we awaken in the heart of the vast Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a flooded forest covering 5 million acres—nearly 10,000 square miles—at the headwaters of the Amazon. As the sun rises over the canopy near the origin of the world's greatest water artery, we head out in skiffs for Belluda Caño Creek. This small tributary is a prime spot to seek out pink and gray river dolphins. These freshwater-adapted dolphins are highly social cetaceans—and especially intelligent with a brain capacity 40% larger than humans. As we travel, look upward, too, for active birdlife in the skies.
This afternoon, explore the Dorado River by skiff. Cruising at a lazy pace, search for the Amazon's transitional forest species, such as snail kites, brilliant parrots, endangered scarlet macaws, olive-spotted hummingbirds, Amazonian parrotlets and wood creepers, among others. Later, as night falls, our environment is transformed. An orchestra evolves as nocturnal creatures awaken, with crickets and night birds providing a percussive song. In the darkness, our guides use spotlights to search for wildlife: frogs, opossums, nighthawks and caimans are frequently spotted along the narrow river's banks. Masked by the cloak of the night, the biodiversity is amazing. Back aboard the ship, enjoy a cocktail under the stars on the upper deck before dinner is served.
Day 9: Clavero Lagoon / Yarapa River / Puerto Miguel
On a morning excursion to Clavero Lagoon, look for several species of egrets, herons, hawks and long-legged neo-tropical cormorants fishing for breakfast. Traveling by skiff, we explore other linked blackwater lagoons that are part of this huge water system. Wattled jacanas compete for food with spiders, and grasshoppers and butterflies thrive along the grassy edges of freshwater swamps and marshes. In the lush rain forest, watch for large blue and yellow macaws flying overhead and two-toed sloths sleeping in the trees. At every turn, our guides reveal the secrets and surprises of the jungle.
This afternoon, the Delfin II continues upstream to reach the Yarapa River, a pristine tributary of the Amazon, where we have the option to paddle kayaks. Turning into the Yarapa's remote reaches, watch for troops of curious squirrel monkey and colorful birds such as the plum-throated cotinga. We'll also look for gray and pink dolphins swimming alongside. Local lore teaches that dolphins turn into humans during celebrations to steal handsome men or pretty women from their villages.
Later in the day, travel a short distance by skiff to Puerto Miguel, a riverside village where we meet residents whose indigenous culture has been a part of this region for centuries. We may visit the school where children are always very happy to greet visitors, then stop by the local women's arts and crafts market to admire and purchase handicrafts. These sales help support the community and empower women artisans, indirectly helping to preserve local wildlife, since income generated decreases the propensity for illegal hunting. This evening, under the dark cloak of an Amazonian night sky, the ship's multitalented staff enlivens the final night of our Amazon voyage with live music.
Day 10: Nauta—Disembark / Iquitos / Lima / Depart
As we return to the port of Nauta, it's time to disembark, and our ground crew awaits to drive us back to Iquitos. En route to the airport, we visit the Rescue & Rehabilitation Center for River Mammals. Here, biologists and volunteers care primarily for endangered Amazon manatees that conservation authorities have seized from fishermen and locals who have captured them illegally. Scientists discuss efforts to help these vulnerable mammals, including how they are prepared for reintroduction into their natural habitat. We'll have the chance to see baby manatees and interact with charming, docile adults, maybe even helping to feed them. Other animals are also cared for at the center, often rescued from capture with the intention of being held as pets.
Our grand adventure comes to a close as we check in for our return flight to Lima, where we connect with late-night flights home. Day rooms are provided at the Wyndham Costa del Sol at the Lima airport.
River Cruise Highlights
Explore the rain forest at the headwaters of the Amazon from a small luxury ship designed for wildlife viewing on this legendary river of adventure.
See monkeys, parrots, pink dolphins and a rainbow of tropical birds during guided jungle excursions on foot and by boat in Peru's largest wildlife reserve.
Wander the maze of ruins at Machu Picchu, fabled “Lost City of the Incas,” as you learn in depth about the site's fascinating history from our Expedition Leader.
All This Included
Few trips offer as rich a combined experience of Peru’s diverse natural and cultural treasures. A luxury riverboat cruise into primeval rain forest takes us deep within the most biodiverse region of the Amazon Basin, at the very headwaters of the great river. Home to a staggering array of wildlife, including the elusive jaguar, the Peruvian Amazon boasts nearly a thousand species of birds alone. West into the high jungle-shrouded peaks of the Andes lies another marvel, this one of human origin: Machu Picchu, the mystical stone city built by the Incas in the 15th century, and below, the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River, replete with myth and ruins. Discover it all on a diverse adventure designed to reveal Peru's most astounding wonders.
Rund-trip train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
All meals from breakfast on Day 2 to lunch on Day 10, except dinner on Day 2; soft drinks (soda, coffee & tea) and juice with meals only; drinking water throughout the trip; beer with meals on the Delfin II
Services of NHA Expedition Leader and boat crew; gratuities for all drivers, baggage porterage and meals served as part of the tour (but not on additional beverages)
Use of boots in the Amazon for wet/muddy conditions
All permits, park fees and service charges (except applicable baggage fees)
Accommodations on this Tour
Lima: Wyndham Costa del Sol
Cusco: Casa Cartagena
Urubamba: Sol y Luna
Aguas Calientes: Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
Amazon River: Delfin II
Pre and Post Add-ons
Extra Day in Lima, 2 Days / From $495
Visit Lima's grand historic monuments, colonial churches and famed 16th-century plazas on a survey of the Peruvian capital's major highlights.
Lake Titicaca Extension, 4 Days / Custom, From $1695 (+internal air)
Explore nature, history and culture, including the famous floating reed islands, at high-altitude Lake Titicaca, the sacred source of creation in Inca legend.
Group Size Limit: Approximately 10 Travelers.
Internal airfare is an additional $700 per person. An upgrade to a Master Suite on the Delfin II is an additional $200 per person (subject to availability).
The tour fare does not include round-trip transportation from your home city to Lima, Peru; internal flights within Peru (these have been added to your invoice and will be handled by NHA); dinner on Day 2; alcoholic beverages (except those described above); items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, etc.); gratuities for NHA Expedition Leader, local guides and boat crew; passport and visa fees; optional activities; airline baggage fees, required medical evacuation insurance, optional travel insurance.
Internal airfare cost: $700 to $750 per person.
Physical requirements: Moderate. The Sacred Valley/Machu Picchu portion of this trip takes place at elevations mostly between 8,000 and 11,000 feet, and guests should be prepared for possible challenges in adjusting to high altitudes. The journey begins with a flight from sea level to Cusco at 11,200 feet, where we will have several hours of sightseeing over two days as we adjust to the elevation. The relative lack of oxygen at this elevation may manifest in altitude-sickness symptoms that can include headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea and vomiting during the first few hours or days of the trip. Hydration and rest usually help symptoms resolve, though participants may wish to talk with their doctor about taking along a prescription for a medication such as Diamox to better manage potential physical reactions to high altitude. Our visit to Machu Picchu, at an elevation of 8,000 feet, involves walking over uneven natural terrain and up and down irregular stone stairs within the ruins complex. While walking options of varying lengths are provided, guests should be able to comfortably walk one mile for one hour in such conditions. Guests must also be able to get in and out of vehicles with ease. We do not recommend this trip for travelers with heart or respiratory ailments or those with bad ankles, knees or hips. On the Amazon portion of this trip, much of our wildlife viewing is done from small motorized skiffs. Getting in and out of the skiffs can sometimes feel a bit unsteady, especially with the current of the river. Some excursions involve walking on nature trails through the rain forest. Guests should be able to walk one to two miles in high humidity over uneven ground with overgrown roots, in order to participate in all excursions. Walking on muddy trails or through standing water may be necessary at times. All activities on this trip are optional, though minimum mobility levels must be met in order to participate.
This trip combines visits to one of nature’s most legendary realms with one of history’s most astonishing discoveries. Natural Habitat has selected the best accommodations in the region, chosen for their comfort and authenticity. Guests should be prepared for humid, sticky conditions in the Amazon as well as high altitudes on the Machu Picchu portion of the trip.
Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines. Sorry, we are unable to offer air from countries other than the U.S. However, for those international customers who are able to arrange their own transportation to the trip origination city, we are able to offer the land/cruise portion of the package at the price quoted.
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