Key Places - Peru & Bolivia
Machu Picchu to La Paz
World Heritage Site and historic capital of the Inca Empire, the ancient town of Cusco is steeped in Incan history, yet strongly characterised by Spanish colonial influences. It retains the layout of the original Incan design in the form of a puma and is built within ancient granite walls. Cusco is the heartland of indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes. Walking around the city you will quickly absorb a sense of different eras of history and of the vibrant 'festive' culture of the town that draws so many tourists. It is easy to navigate your way around Cusco on foot although there is so much to see you may need a few days to fully enjoy all the city has to offer.
The central church of Santa Domingo was built on the walls of Koriacha Temple of the Sun and features examples of Incan stonework. The original sculptures in precious metals were pillaged by Spanish soldiers to swell the coffers of Charles V. Built over period of 150 years the church contains many famous paintings including 'The Last Supper' by Zapata in which guinea pigs and Chicha (maize beer) feature heavily on the menu! The city's other Baroque churches also combine Plateresco, Mudejar or Churrigueresco architecture with the Inca tradition.
Cusco is famous as the starting point for the Inca Trail and attracts almost 2 million visitors a year. The town has a vibrant nightlife and is well accustomed to tourism. Despite its popularity Cusco remains an essential part of the Peruvian experience. The unique combination of culture, ancient architecture and tourism make this a destination in which you'll be happy to linger.
Our 4 day trek takes us from the Orubamba River up through mountains, cloud forest and deep jungle to the famous Lost City Of Machu Picchu , it's a trek that is a rich and rewarding experience. Of moderate difficulty, bearing in mind that the highest of its 3 passes ("Dead woman's pass") is 4,200m so a modicum of fitness is required!
This ancient trail with such a combination of natural beauty, history and sheer mystery and with such an awe-inspiring destination? The various ruins along the way serve to heighten the hiker's sense of anticipation as he or she approaches what would surely find a place in any new list of archaeological wonders of the world - Machu Picchu which is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places on the Planet!
The city of La Paz was founded on October 20th, 1548 under the name of La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (The City of Our Lady of Peace) to commemorate the end of the civil wars in Peru. It was originally located a short distance away from where it stands now. At an elevation of 3,660 m it is the world's highest capital. The city sits in a "bowl" surrounded by the high mountains of the altiplano Overlooking the city is the towering triple-peaked Ilimani which is always snow-covered and can be seen from several parts of the city.
Lake Titacaca is located on the border between Peru and Bolivia, at over 3,500m above sea level, making it the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. It is also the largest lake in South America. The lake is sacred to the Inca civilization, as in mythology the first Inca king, Manco Capac, was born here. According to the Incan mythology, it is from here that the world was made, when the god Viracocha came out of the lake and created the sun the stars and human beings.
Machu Picchu the lost City of the Incas was rediscovered covered by thick forest in 1911. Unaccounted for by the Conquistadores and subsequent Spanish administrations its real significance and use can only be guessed at today.
Amongst the proud formality and sublime grandeur of these impressive ruins you can visualize the essence of these sturdy mountain peoples. The Temples of the Sun and Moon, their physical context bringing them to life, seem to represent more than any other Incan remains the essence of a culture now lost but still resonant today.
The most famous ruins in South America are also the most visited. Tourist hordes can be avoided by arriving early morning, preferably after hiking the Inca Trail as the Suns' first rays illuminate Machu Picchu and before the first trains arrive from Cusco and disgorge the throng!
Even with tourists its jewel-like setting and incredible beauty make it an unmistakeable highlight of any South American journey.
Sacred Valley of the Incas
Road of Death
The North Yungas Road ( Coroico Road, Camino de las Yungas, El Camino de la Muerte, Road of Death or Death Road) is a 61-kilometre stretch from La Paz to Coroico, northeast of La Paz in the Yungas region of Bolivia. It is legendary for its extreme danger and in 1995 was christened the world's most dangerous road.
One estimate is that 200 to 300 travellers were killed yearly along the road there are crosses along the way marking many of the spots where vehicles have fallen. The views are superb, and the downhill cycling for nearly 60KM (and 3.5KM in altitude) is a huge adrenaline rush.
"The Peru / Bolivia trip was even more exciting than I had expected. Amazing scenery, great cycling and a fascinating culture. The support from the team couldn't be bettered...."