We fly to Lima, and set the stage with a visit the National Museum of Anthropology, dine at a buffet where we can sample Peruvian cuisine from all over the country, tour Costa Verde area of Miraflores and Barranco districts, and visit Colonial Downtown with it's magnificent squares, monasteries, churches and colonial buildings, Colonial Lima was declared in 1991 a World Heritage by UNESCO.
We fly to Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire at 11,200 ft. above sea level. Cuzco is the heart of Tahuantinsuyo, Peru's pre-Colombian Empire and is today is the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America. We will visit the Temple of the Sun whose walls are the finest example of Inca stonework in existence, the Plaza de Armas, and the complex of Sacsayhuaman with immense walls connected by flights of stairs and doorways also in stone. The largest stone block found in Sacsayhuaman stands 27.88ft high and weighs 361 tons. Inca Pachacuti employed 20,000 men for the construction of the complex and it took approximately 50 years to complete.
We will travel by private bus to the town of Yucay crossing the picturesque Anta Valley where we will have plenty of chances to stop for photos of the fabulous mountain views. Then on to Ollantaytambo where the Quechuas still live very much the way they lived during the Inca times. The walls, homes, canals and streets have survived very much intact despite the Spanish conquest. To reach the fortress one must walk up some very steep steps (over 200), part of the fortified terracing used for the protection of the complex. The most magnificent aspect of this ruins are the six huge stones located in the Temple of the Sun at the top.
From there we take the train to Machu Picchu located in the highland jungle of the Urubamba River. The complex is so well hidden by the towering jungle covered ramparts of the Cordillera Vilcabamba that it was never discovered by the Spaniards. Machu Picchu preserves the most perfect picture of what the Inca world must have been like. Its origins and purpose are lost in time. Hiram Bingham rediscovered MP in 1911.
We will travel through the Andean village of Chinchero located in one of the most spectacular high plateaus with tremendous views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountain range as well as the majestic Salkantay Mountain (almost 20,000ft). Surrounded by stunning scenery we can visit two very special sites located off the beaten tourist path that are truly unique. The first is a Pre-Inca site used as open-air greenhouse in their agricultural experiments. Then on to Las Salinas or Salt Mines where families still harvest salt, a true paradise and a must for photographers.
The famed Sunday market at Pisac will fill your eye and your camera lens with indigenous culture and color. Not to be missed. The terraces at Pisac are still being farmed today.
Return to Cusco for flight to the lowland Amazonian forest. We fly to Puerto Maldonado and head upriver in big canoes on the Tambopata from the confluence of the great Madre de Dios River. During the voyage we may see bird species typical of the river or forest edge such as: Black Skimmer, Pied Lapwing, Capped Heron, Jabiru Stork, Roadside Hawk, and several species of kingfishers, swallows and flycatchers. We will stay at a lovely yet unobtrusive 24 room lodge owned jointly by Rainforest Expeditions and the Ese'eja Native Community of Tambopata. We can hike the trails around the lodge with an Ese'eja native, who will explain the everyday uses of forest medicine, construction, food and fiber and meet Don Jose, the shaman.
Up at dawn for a visit to the Tres Chimbadas oxbow lake where we will look for giant river otters, turtles, hoatzin, and wading birds. On our 4 hour boat ride to Tambopata Research Center will begin to sight macaws, herons, kingfishers and cormorants frequently and improve our chances of encounters with capybaras, caiman, storks, ducks and other wildlife. At TRC you will be amazed at the abundance of rare birds that live exclusively in this habitat and are endemic to southern Peru. It is also the home of the frequently found Howler and Dusky titi monkeys, and canopy birds like tanagers, jacamars, elaenias, guans, and oropendolas. At dawn we observe the world's largest macaw clay lick where hundreds of parrots and macaws of up to 15 species congregate daily in a spectacular display of sound and color. The January 1994 issue of National Geographic features an article on TRC and the Tambopata Macaw Project.
We'll hike a trail which exemplifies the quintessential Amazonian rainforest including truly huge Ceiba trees and Strangler figs. It is home to several mammals that are occasionally encountered: Saddleback tamarins, Squirrel and Brown Capuchin Monkeys and Collared peccary and sometimes tracks of ocelot, puma and jaguar. The palm swamp offers a nesting colony and preferred roost for Blue and Gold and Red-bellied Macaws, ibis, woodpeckers, chachalaca, parakeets, oropendolas and numerous flycatcher species.
We return to Lima for a culminating meeting with the lawyers of the Peruvian Environmental Law Society for a briefing on their efforts to legally protect this treasure store of Peru's natural ecosystems.
A possible extension could include the Ballestas Islands known as the little Galapagos, Paracas National Park and an over flight of the mysterious Nazca Lines in the desert.