Peru: Cusco’s Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu & Rainbow Mountains – 10 days

Cusco, nestled in the southeastern part of Peru, is a captivating destination that beckons to lovers of history, culture, and the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Andes Mountains. Serving as the gateway to the southern Peruvian Andes, this city is steeped in a rich Inca heritage, with iconic sites like Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo, en-route to Aguas Calientes and the world-famous Machu Picchu ruins. If your passion lies in photographic tours amidst the Andes Mountains, Cusco stands as an ideal base camp for exploring this breathtaking region. It boasts an international airport, a plethora of high-quality hotels, a diverse culinary scene, and an abundance of Inca structures and Spanish colonial-era architecture that adorn every corner.

Join us on an immersive 11-day photography tour, guided by a skilled professional photographer, as we venture through the enchanting landscapes of the Cusco region. This journey promises to be a visual feast, capturing the very essence of this remarkable destination. From the iconic remnants of the Inca Empire and the enduring legacy of Spanish conquest to the vibrant hues of the Rainbow Mountains and the fascinating Maras salt mines, each day presents a harmonious blend of history, genuine cultural encounters, and breathtaking scenery.

Throughout our journey, we’ll indulge in portrait sessions in the heart of the cities and villages we visit, ensuring that you have the best of both worlds: captivating portraits amidst picturesque landscapes. Our commitment to authentic cultural exchanges with the Quechua people of Peru will lead us to spend nights in small villages, where our gracious hosts will provide simple yet comfortable accommodations and serve delectable traditional cuisine. There’s no better way to connect with a place than by being a guest in the homes of its people.

Our journey commences in Cusco and gradually expands to encompass other remarkable destinations, including alpine lakes, glaciers, and the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, such as the majestic Mt. Ausangate and its mesmerizing seven lagoons. Along the way, we’ll explore vibrant open-air markets in Calca, delve into the intricate dying and weaving processes in Chinchero, and savor the exquisite culinary delights for which Peru is renowned.

Immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of the Cusco region, capturing memories that will endure a lifetime under the expert guidance of our professional photographer and the warm hospitality of our local staff from Cusco. Rest assured, you’ll return home with an abundance of incredible photos to enrich your portfolio, showcasing the allure of this exotic and mesmerizing land you’ve had the privilege to explore. Please note that our tour accommodates a limited number of 10 guests, ensuring an intimate and enriching experience.

Tour Length
10 Days
10 Nights
Start / End City
Arrival: Cusco, Peru
Departure: Cusco, Peru
Best Season

April to November

Group Size Limit

10 Guests

Transportation

vans and AWD vehicles

Accommodations

Hotels & Hostels

Challenge Level

Level 3 - Moderate

Highlights

  • Arrival in Cusco with a warm welcome dinner.
  • Delve into the Sacred Valley: Maras Mines, Andean secrets, and traditional Chinchero textile market.
  • Marvel at the ancient wonder of Machu Picchu bathed in morning light.
  • Capture the essence of local life in Calca and a remote village, including an Alpaca Blessing Ceremony.
  • Witness the celestial drama with a night under the stars near Humantay Lake.
  • Wander the historic streets of Cuzco, with panoramic city views from Qenqo and Santa Ana.
  • Discover the lesser-known beauty of Pallay Punchu and the alternative Rainbow Mountain in Palccoyo.
  • Conclude with the mesmerizing 7 lagoons of Ausangate, encapsulating the magic of the Cusco region.

Prices

Our tour prices are based on a tiered pricing modelMore guests = lower price, per person.  That means the prices go down on a per-person basis as more people book onto a specific tour departure.  Prices are based on double occupancy / twin share basis.  All prices are in U$ Dollars.  

Contact us for guidance on a quote for your group or private trip.

Lowest Price7-10 travelers$ 4,790 / per person
Average Price4-6 travelers$ 5,695 / per person
Optimum Price2-3 travelers$ 7,315 / per person
Highest Price1 solo traveler$ 12, 255 / for 1 person
Single Supplement Feeper person / per tour$ 975.00 / per single room
  • Single Supplement Fees are quoted per tour.  Contact us for details.
  • Deposit: $ 700.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee, included in the final price).
  • International airfare is NOT included in price.
  • For airline tickets, contact Geo Travel at 210-225-7903

Daily Itinerary

CuscoDrone

Day 1: Depart Lima and arrive in Cusco, Peru. Free afternoon, welcome dinner

 

Your flight from Lima to Cusco takes 1.5 hours. Upon your arrival in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, you will land at Teniente Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, nestled at an elevation of 10,860 feet (3,310 meters) in southeastern Peru. After collecting your luggage, our team will efficiently load all guests into a private van for a brief shuttle to Cusco and your designated hotel.

Following your check-in, you’ll have some leisure time to unwind and commence your acclimatization process. We highly recommend taking it easy, staying well-hydrated, and enjoying some mate de coca, the classic Andean herbal tea, but only during the morning and early afternoon – it’s best to avoid it at night.

Around 7 p.m., our team will pick you up at your hotel, and together, we will head to our welcome dinner. This provides a fantastic opportunity to connect with your fellow travelers, and our knowledgeable guides, and discuss the exciting adventures that await you over the next 9 days.

Acclimatization tips:
The best way to acclimatize to altitude is to move slowly, drink plenty of water and rest when you are tired. Acclimatization time is a very personal affair, some do it quickly, and others take more time. It can take a few hours or a few days. Listen to your body. We design all high-altitude itineraries with acclimatization time built in. Keep drinking water, it’s very important for acclimatization. Avoid alcohol for the first few days.

Hotel: Hotel Quina San Blas (4*)

Meals included: ** Breakfast and Lunch are not included.  Welcome dinner is included.

The Salinas salt pans are located in the Sacred Valley near Cusc

Day 2: Maras Salt Mines – Chinchero market - train to Aguas Calientes

 

Following a delightful breakfast, your photography guide will rendezvous with you in the hotel lobby, marking the beginning of an exciting day. We’ll embark on a one-hour journey to Chinchero, a renowned artisan market where we’ll gain insights into the dyeing and weaving processes that the Peruvian women of Chinchero are celebrated for.

Our visit to the market will be more than just observation; it’ll be a hands-on experience. You’ll have the opportunity to engage in a portrait session with the local ladies donning their traditional Chinchero attire. Once we’ve captured the essence of this vibrant market, we’ll set our course for a secret location nestled in the Andes, a place where we can capture the majesty of snow-capped peaks overlooking the Sacred Valley.

For lunch, we’ll be surrounded by natural beauty next to an alpine lake. Here, we’ll indulge in a delicious picnic while savoring panoramic views of the Andes in every direction. Following our alpine feast, we’ll ascend further into the Andes to witness breathtaking vistas and continue our journey to the salt mines of Maras. The terraced patterns designed to collect salt from countless rivulets are nothing short of mesmerizing, especially in the afternoon light. After exploring the village of Maras, we’ll continue our adventure with a brief visit to the intriguing ruins of Moray.

Our next destination will be the train station in Ollantaytambo, where we’ll board a train bound for Aguas Calientes, a charming town nestled beneath the towering presence of Machu Picchu. The train journey will take us through a picturesque canyon along the Urubamba River, transitioning from the high-altitude Andean puna landscape to lush, semi-tropical valleys that are lush and humid.

Upon arriving in Aguas Calientes, your hotel staff will be awaiting your arrival at the train station. Since it’s a bustling place, it’s crucial to stay together and ensure you have all your belongings. In the hotel lobby, your cultural guide will provide a quick briefing about your upcoming visit to Machu Picchu, promising a private tour and early VIP access to the site – arriving before anyone else.

After a day filled with adventure and exploration, you’ll enjoy a delectable dinner in Aguas Calientes, followed by a comfortable overnight stay in anticipation of your early morning Machu Picchu excursion.

Hotel: Tierra Viva Machu Picchu (4*)

Meals included: B, L, *Dinner is  not included.

View of Machu Picchu - the Lost City of the Incas - located in t

Day 3: Sunrise and solitude in Machu Picchu!

 

Rise and shine at 5 AM, as your certified guide will be there to greet you and ensure you catch the first bus heading up to the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu. This early morning adventure promises an exclusive 3-hour private tour of this magnificent Inca citadel, basking in the gentle glow of the morning sun. We’ll have the privilege of exploring Machu Picchu before the crowds descend, offering a golden opportunity to capture breathtaking photos of this iconic site in its serene, uncrowded state.

Throughout our visit, your guide will be a wellspring of knowledge, sharing insights into the architectural marvel that is Machu Picchu. You’ll gain a deeper historical perspective on the Inca empire and its rulers as you explore this remarkable place.

After our enriching tour, we’ll make our way back to Aguas Calientes via bus for a well-deserved lunch. Following our meal, we’ll board the afternoon train that will take us back to Ollantaytambo. Waiting for us there will be our private transportation, ready to whisk us through the majestic Andes to our hotel nestled in the Sacred Valley, where we’ll spend the night.

It has indeed been a long and wondrous day filled with photography and exploration, and rest assured, there’s more excitement in store for tomorrow. We’ll reconvene for dinner, enjoying each other’s company, before settling in for the night in the heart of the Sacred Valley.

Hotel: Tierra Viva Sacred Valley (4*)

Meals included: B, **Lunch & Dinner are not included.

Comunity Visit 2

Day 4: The Faces of Peru – A Community Tour

 

Following a satisfying breakfast, we set out on our journey at 8:30 a.m., embarking on a day filled with cultural immersion and breathtaking landscapes. Along the way, we make a stop at the local market in Calca to gather food for a close-knit community of families we’ll be visiting in a remote village nestled deeper in the heart of the Andes.

The market itself is a vibrant opportunity to capture candid snapshots of daily life as people go about their bustling activities. Our scenic drive, spanning about 45 minutes, offers numerous chances to capture striking photos of the picturesque surroundings.

Upon reaching the village, we’re greeted with a warm welcome and served a refreshing tea. A village elder will guide us to the community school, where we’ll partake in a unique Alpaca Blessing Ceremony. During this time, we’ll share smiles and create lasting memories as we capture the essence of the locals and the event itself.

Following the ceremony, it’s time to enjoy a delightful lunch with one of the local families, deepening our connection with the community. Our journey continues as we drive further up the valley, reaching a location with awe-inspiring views of alpine lakes set against the backdrop of majestic mountains. Here, we’ll have the privilege of photographing our newfound friends, who will be dressed in their traditional attire and accompanied by their cherished animals.

As the day progresses, around 5 p.m., we bid farewell to our friends and commence our return journey toward the Sacred Valley, eventually making our way back to Cusco. There, we’ll have some time to refresh before coming together for a well-deserved dinner. You’ll spend the night at your hotel in Cusco, reflecting on the remarkable experiences and photographs from the day.

Hotel: Tierra Viva Sacred Valley (4*)

Meals included: B, L, *Dinner is not included.

ComunityVisit5

Day 5: Road to Humantay Lake and overnight in EcoCamp

 

Early in the morning, we’ll set out from the enchanting Sacred Valley towards Mollepata, situated near Humantay Lake and the magnificent Salkantay glacier. These locations are nothing short of a landscape photographer’s dream and offer us the chance to connect with the locals who call this breathtaking place their home. Along the route, we’ll make numerous stops for photo opportunities.

Nestled amidst the splendid mountains, Cusco is surrounded by pristine lagoons and the awe-inspiring scenery of the Andes Mountains. This remarkable destination, a part of the Salkantay route, exudes a profound sense of tranquility and serenity. For the night, you’ll be accommodated in the eco-camp’s comfortable domes, conveniently located just 45 minutes away from Lake Humantay.

The eco-camp’s location is a perfect setting for attempting some mesmerizing astrophotography, capturing the Milky Way as seen from the southern hemisphere. After capturing the wonders of the night sky, you’ll find your warm and cozy bed just a few minutes away. Conclude the day with a delicious dinner and a restful overnight stay at the eco-camp, surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Hotel: Eco-Camp Luxury Domes (4*)

Meals included:  B, L, D

Humantay

Day 6: Mollepata - Humantay Lake - Cusco

 

In order to make the most of the ethereal early morning light, we’re kicking off our day bright and early. Today, we’ll have the option to either ride horses or hike to Laguna Humantay, a choice that allows us to avoid the crowds and savor the tranquility of the moment. Once we reach this pristine location, we’ll have several hours to capture the mesmerizing sunrise scene as the gentle morning light bathes the landscape in its warm embrace. Following this photography session, we’ll return to the eco-camp for a nourishing breakfast.

As the day progresses, at a designated time, we’ll pack up and embark on our journey back to Cusco. Along the way, we’ll be surrounded by the vastness of these rugged and magnificent mountains, gaining a deeper appreciation for the clarity the Inca people possessed in selecting this region as their homeland.

Upon arriving in Cusco, you’ll have the remainder of the day at your leisure to pursue your desires. Perhaps you’ll opt for a leisurely lunch in the main plaza or uncover a hidden gem of a restaurant to savor some of Peru’s culinary delights. Alternatively, you might seek out a bar where you can enjoy a refreshing cerveza along with some Andean snacks – Cusco offers a wealth of enticing options.

Certainly, the afternoon in Cusco offers fantastic opportunities for photography as you navigate the narrow alleys adorned with Inca architectural treasures. The play of light bouncing off the stone walls creates a captivating ambiance that’s perfect for capturing the essence of this historic city. Don’t miss the chance to explore these charming alleys and document the unique blend of history and culture that Cusco has to offer through your lens.

In the evening, you’re free to choose where you’d like to savor your dinner, and we have some recommendations that will provide you with a plethora of choices. Your night will be spent in the welcoming embrace of Cusco as you reflect on the day’s adventures and look forward to what lies ahead.

Hotel: Quinta San Blas (4*)

Meals included:  B, L, *Dinner is not included

Cusco

Day 7: The hidden gems of Cusco - full day

 

Today begins with a wonderfully relaxed start. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your own pace before our morning gathering, where we’ll engage in photography discussions and critiques of the images we’ve captured thus far. This is a valuable opportunity to share insights and enhance our photographic skills.

Following lunch, the afternoon will be dedicated to exploring the enchanting streets of the San Blas neighborhood, known for its charming beauty. From there, we’ll make our way to the Eucalyptus Forest of Qenqo and then ascend to the arch of Santa Ana, offering breathtaking vistas of the city of Cusco. Our Cusco photo day tour is unique in that it takes you to both the touristy and less-visited corners of the Incan Capital. You’ll have the chance to discover hidden Incan streets, traditional markets, and local gems that remain unexplored by the usual tourist crowds. Throughout this journey, your guide will share photography tips, allowing you to capture the true essence of Cusco from a fresh perspective.

As the day unfolds, we’ll continue to explore the city, seeking out hidden alcoves and visual treasures that make for fantastic subject matter, especially during the magical blue hour late in the day. We’ll wrap up the day with a delightful dinner at a local restaurant, savoring the flavors of the region. Your overnight stay will be in the heart of Cusco, where you can rest and reflect on the day’s photographic adventures.

Hotel: Quinta San Blas (4*)

Meals included:  B, **Lunch and Dinner are not included.

Pallay Punchu4

Day 8: Cusco - Pallay Punchu (Rainbow Mountain) - Sicuani

 

Embarking on an early morning adventure, our journey begins in the historic city of Cusco as we set our sights on the breathtaking Pallay Punchu Mountain, famously known as Rainbow Mountain. The drive itself promises a picturesque experience, with the landscape gradually unfolding before us.

Nestled amidst the Peruvian Andes, this multi-colored striated mountain stands majestically 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Cusco’s historic center. Our adventure commences with a scenic three-hour drive, culminating in our arrival at Pitumarca. From this point, we proceed to Qesoyuno, the starting point for our visit to the mountain. The ascent to Rainbow Mountain’s summit is a gradual three-hour hike, rewarded by a breathtaking panorama that unfolds before us. This is followed by a three-hour descent, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the mountain’s mesmerizing beauty.

Rainbow Mountain, or Pallay Punchu, reaches an impressive altitude of 4,790 meters (15,715 feet) above sea level. Its allure lies in the enchanting display of vibrant colors that grace its surface, a result of the rich mineral deposits comprising 14 distinct hues, including turquoise, lavender, gold, and an array of other captivating shades.

For generations, this geological marvel remained concealed beneath a blanket of snow and ice, revealing its true splendor only in 2013. It has held a sacred place in the hearts of local communities for countless generations, whose reverence for the mountain transcends time.

Rainbow Mountain has not only captivated the imagination of these communities but has also gained international recognition, earning a place on National Geographic’s prestigious “Top 100 Places To Visit Before You Die” list. What sets it apart is not only its unparalleled beauty but also the remarkable journey one embarks upon to reach its summit.

Throughout our trek, we encounter llamas, horses, and alpacas, gracefully grazing amidst the stunning vistas. The local communities, deeply intertwined with the land and its traditions, have embraced a role in guiding visitors to uncover the wonders of this colorful mountain.

The entire journey serves as a sensory delight, with landscapes that often surpass even the most captivating photographs. Layered upon this natural spectacle is the rich tapestry of geological history and the enduring legacy of local culture. It is this convergence of natural wonder and human connection that has ensnared the hearts of travelers from around the world, making Rainbow Mountain an iconic destination that beckons to be explored and admired.

As the clock approaches 11 AM, the sun’s gentle rays begin to grace Pallay Punchu Mountain, illuminating its remarkable features. This is the perfect time to capture the beauty of this natural wonder, with the play of light and shadow enhancing the mountain’s unique character.

After our visit to Pallay Punchu, we’ll make our way back to the charming Village of Sicuani. Here, we’ll find a place to rest and rejuvenate for the night, surrounded by the tranquility of the Andean landscape. It’s a day filled with awe-inspiring photography opportunities and a chance to connect with the natural wonders of Peru’s highlands. Dinner and overnight in Sicuani.

Hotel: Wilkamayu Sicuani (3*)

Meals included:  B, L, D

Pallay Punchu3

Day 9: Sicuani - Palccoyo - Vinicunca - Pacchanta

 

After an early and hearty breakfast, our journey commences with an early departure to the renowned Vinicunca Mountain, also known as the Mountain of Seven Colors. Among the three colored mountains in the region, this is the most renowned. Our unique advantage lies in the fact that we are closer to this natural wonder, allowing us to arrive earlier than other tour operators who depart from Cusco. Unlike the standard day tours that require a long and tiring day, we benefit from having spent the night nearby. This grants us the exceptional privilege of experiencing the site free from the bustling crowds, enabling us to fully capture the essence of these panoramic views in all their unspoiled beauty.

Our vantage point affords us magnificent vistas of Ausangate, the highest mountain in the vicinity of Cusco, standing tall at 6,375 m (20,915 ft), as well as its satellite mountains. Here, we’ll immerse ourselves in the breathtaking scenery, preserving the tranquility of this remarkable location.

Following our time at Vinicunca, we begin our descent to the quaint community of Palccoyo, where we’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch amidst the Andean landscapes. Afterward, we embark on a scenic drive to the village of Pacchanta, nestled in the shadow of Ausangate and its majestic glaciers. Upon arrival, we’ll check into our cozy, locally owned accommodation, where a warm evening meal awaits, thoughtfully prepared by our gracious host.

As the sun sets, we’ll have free time to explore the village, interact with the welcoming locals, and indulge in the natural hot springs, offering soothing relaxation with the awe-inspiring backdrop of Mt. Ausangate – don’t forget your bathing suit! The evening presents an exciting opportunity for astro-photography, with Mt. Ausangate featuring prominently in the composition. We’ll eagerly anticipate ideal atmospheric conditions for this unique and captivating experience.

Dinner and a restful overnight stay in the charming village of Pacchanta await, ensuring you fully immerse yourself in this extraordinary Andean landscape.

Hotel: Home stay – basic accommodations (2*)

Meals included:  B, L, D

 

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Day 10: Pacchanta - Ausangate Lakes - Cusco

 

Our adventure continues with another early start, allowing us to capture the mesmerizing sunrise just outside the village. Here, we’ll discover an excellent composition with a river leading the way to the majestic mountain, offering the perfect opportunity to practice long-exposure photography on the water. After soaking in the beauty of the sunrise, we’ll return to our accommodation for a hearty breakfast thoughtfully prepared by our host, providing the energy needed for the day’s exploration.

With breakfast concluded, we’ll embark on an exciting 1.5-hour horseback ride to reach the renowned Seven Lagoons. Upon our arrival, we’ll dismount and set out on foot to explore this captivating area, taking in the natural wonders and photo-worthy moments that await. As we navigate the circuit around the enchanting lagoons, you’ll have ample opportunities to capture the beauty of this pristine landscape.

Following our exploration and photography session, we’ll mount our trusty horses once more to begin our journey back to the village, where a satisfying lunch awaits. Once we’ve satisfied our appetites and shared our stories of the day’s adventures, it will be time to commence our return drive to the city of Cusco. We’ll ensure that you are dropped off at your hotel. In the evening, we’ll gather once more for a delightful farewell dinner, allowing us to reflect on the incredible experiences and photographs we’ve amassed throughout our journey.

For those with afternoon or evening flights departing from Cusco, we’ll make prior arrangements to coordinate your airport transfer. If you plan to stay overnight in Cusco, we’ll ensure you’re dropped off at your chosen hotel.

*Please note that this hotel night is not included in the tour, but we’ll be happy to assist you in making a booking.

Hotel: Quinta San Blas (4*)

Meals included:  B, L, *Dinner is not included.

SaltminesTour

Day 11: Cusco - airport transfer day

 

We will arrange for your timely transfer to the airport, ensuring that you arrive well in advance of your flight departure. The journey from your hotel to the airport typically takes approximately 30 minutes.

For domestic departures, it is recommended that we arrive at the airport 1.5 hours before your scheduled flight, while for international departures, we aim to arrive 2.5 hours before your flight to allow for necessary procedures.

Hotel: None

Meals Included: None

This concludes our services, and we wish you safe travels and fond memories of your remarkable journey in the Andes Mountains of Peru.

Included

  • airport Transfers IN and OUT of your arrival city (Cusco, Peru)
  • private vehicle and driver
  • bi-lingual photographer guide
  • all hotel / hostel /estancia accommodations for all nights (based on double occupancy)
  • all daily meals as denoted on the itinerary as ‘B, L, D’ (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • all entry fees and permits to protected areas, national parks and museums
  • bottled water per person per day
  • snacks during the whole trip
  • more than 25 years of tourism experience

Not Included

  • international airfare to destination country
  • domestic airfare from Lima to Cusco
  • visa requirement and fees
  • personal expenses of any kind (liquor, laundry, personal purchases, etc.)
  • telephone, email, mobile phone, Wi-Fi services
  • emergency evacuation expenses
  • personal travel or health insurance, doctor visits
  • personal equipment and clothing
  • gratuities to guides, drivers and other personel

 

We, of course, would do whatever is necessary in case of medical emergency and evacuate to the closest hospital or clinic to make sure you receive medical care.