Inca Archaeological Sites, Andean Culture, Relict Woodlands, Andean Birds and Machu Picchu
This trip is designed for partners and friends who are a mix of birders and non-birders. We know this is often a conflict when one is an ardent birder and the other not because as owners of as we are just that! We also know that many people want to see birds but also not ignore the rich Andean culture and historic sights of Peru.
So with this in mind we have designed a very good birding itinerary and a dynamite cultural and historical tour. It is cleverly designed so that both bird’s history and culture are experienced in one tour. A great option for couples! We exclude most evening meals so that you have the freedom choose your restaurant.
Private Departures Anytime
Day 1: Arrival in Lima. On arrival in Lima we will greet you and make our transfer to a hotel nearby. The choice of hotel depends on arrival times and upgrades are available if wanted.
Day 2: After a good night’s sleep and a relatively late start we drive south of Lima towards Pucusana. A stop at San Pedro and Lurin will give us a chance at many shorebirds, possible Peruvian Tern, Chestnut-collared Swallow, Pacific Bran-colored Flycatcher. A boat trip around Pucusana Bay will produce nesting Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants and Peruvian Boobies – a stunning sight, not to mention the colonies of South-American Sea-lions. Our targets here are the lovely nesting Inca Tern, Blackish Oystercatcher, Peruvian Pelican, Gray Gull, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes and maybe Humboldt Penguin. A stop in roadside scrub should produce Oasis and Amazilia Hunmingbirds and Peruvian Sheartail. After a seafood lunch on the dock, we’ll visit the Oracle, Temples, Palaces, Myths and Legends of Pachacamac. A visit to the splendid and vast archaeological citadel of the deity of the same name. Pachacamac was believed to be the creator of the universe, and a divinity adored by old Andean civilizations. A sacred and ceremonial site dating back to the birth of Christ, where thousands of pilgrims converged to pay tribute and consult the Pachacamac oracle, who they believed could see the past, the future and people’s fate. The site comprises pyramidal temples and enclosures built by successive pre-Colombian civilizations and finally the Incas. Highlights include the Temple of Pachacamac, the Sun God shrine, and the Palace of the Chosen Women. At the site museum there is an idol of the deity which was reserved for the high priests who kept, revered and interpreted the divine oracle in ancient times. A sacred site, the temple was considered to be part of the planet’s mystical axis. Our last stop will be a small nature reserve on the outskirts of Lima, Villa Marshes. Here we will see Andean Coot, Puna Ibis, Great and White-tufted Grebes, Cinnamon Teal, White-cheeked Pintail, Franklin’s Gull, Gray-hooded Gull, Bay-winged and Red-backed Hawk. In the late afternoon we’ll return to our Lima hotel. Night in Lima B:L:
Day 3: Early morning flight to Cusco and we head out south of town to Huacarpay lakes. The lake is surrounded by Inca, and pre-Inca ruins. Here we will see a variety of high Andean waterfowl including Puna, Yellow-billed and Cinnamon Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck and other wetland associated birds. White-tufted Grebe and Andean Coot will be here too. Depending on the time of year migrant North American shorebirds (waders) may be present. We will be specifically on the lookout for Wren-like Rushbird, Many-colored Rush-tyrant, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Puna Ibis and Andean Negrito. Birds of Prey we may see include Aplomado Falcon, Cinereous Harrier, Red-backed Hawk and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. In the arid scrub around the lake we’ll look for the endemic Rufous-fronted Canastero and also Streak-fronted Thornbird. We should find the pretty, endemic Bearded Mountaineer feeding in the tree tobacco (Nicotania sp.) with Giant Hummingbird and Trainbearers. Peruvian, Ash-breasted and Mourning Sierra-Finches will be here with Greenish Yellow-finch and Blue and Yellow Tanager. After a visit to the pre-Inca archaeological complex of Pilkillacta and Rumicolca, we’ll drive back to Cusco and then take a 3 hour tour of the local Inca sites. This 3-4 hour tour takes you to all the important Inca sites in Cusco town and environs the most sacred of Inca sites – the Koricancha. Winding out of town we will take in the megalithic fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the strange temple of Kenko and the water fountains of Tambomachay. Night in Cusco. B:L
Day 4: We leave early in the morning for the 1.5 hour van ride through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to Ollantaytambo and then the 2 hour train journey to Machu-Picchu. From the train we will certainly see Torrent Ducks and White-capped Dipper on the Urubamba River and get closer looks as we leave the train. Arriving at the ruins, we are taken on a guided tour of this mystical archeological complex. White-tipped Swifts will be flying overhead. MACHU PICCHU – one of the most magical and mysterious places on Earth! Situated on the spine of a jungle cloaked granite peak towering some 2,000 ft. above an entrenched meander of the roaring river below, the site is frequently shrouded in misty clouds pierced by the powerful equatorial sun. Constructed from precisely sculptured granite blocks carefully joined with the projecting exposed stone of the surrounding mountain, the site may well be the finest architectural achievement of the new world, otherwise romantically known to the tourist world as “The lost city of the Incas”. After a sumptuous buffet lunch at the Machu Picchu sanctuary Lodge you may explore the ruins at leisure for the rest of the afternoon or bus back down towards Aguas Calientes to look for Inca Wren, which is quite common in the bamboo around the ruins and then descend into the Urubamba gorge for late afternoon birding Dinner follows at the local gourmet French bistro or perhaps simpler beer and pizza at one of the track side cafes. Night at our Hotel at Machu Picchu B:L:
Day 5: All morning birding the railway track along the Urubamba River with you guide or bus back up to the ruins for those who wish for further exploration on your own. On this early visit to MACHU PICCHU long before the tourist hoards arrive… A moderate hike back along a finely constructed Inca trail takes us to INTIPUNKU at 2950 meters/9000 ft., the impressive Gate of the Sun overlooking Machu Picchu, otherwise romantically known to the tourist world as “The lost city of the Incas”. In the remnant cloud forest we will be looking specifically for Sclater’s and Bolivian Tyrranulets, Silver-backed Tanager, Pale-eyed Thrush, Masked Fruiteater (endemic), Black-streaked Puffbird, Oleaginous Hemispingus and Capped Conebill. Mixed flocks contain many species of Tanager and the endemic Green and White Hummingbird is common here. After a late lunch, we return on the tourist train to the historic town of Ollantaytambo for the night at our country hotel. B:L:
Day 6: Full Day tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This day trip visits the stupendous archeological sites of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. OLLANTAYTAMBO Probably built by the great Inca ruler Pachacutec in the 1460s, it was the site of Hernando Pizzaro’s defeat by Manco Inca in 1536. Constructed of finely cut polygonal stones and royalties blocks, the fortress and nearby town represent the best of Inca architecture and construction. Large worked blocks, some weighing as much as 100 tons were quarried from a site more than a thousand vertical feet above the valley floor using a technique of pecking with hammer stones, then skidded down and across the Urubamba river several kilometers to the temple site. Inclined ramps were built to raise the blocks several hundred feet up hill to the construction area. We have ample time to examine the complex and ponder its many mysteries. PISAC We’ll also visit the impressive but little understood temple site of Pisac and its megalithic Inca terraces still used by local peasant farmers. If it’s a Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday we’ll also spend time at one of the traditional local markets.. We return you to our hotel in Ollantaytambo in the late afternoon. B:L
Day 7: Those who wish may decide to stay and relax at the hotel and explore Ollantaytambo on foot – a living Inca town. If birding, after a substantial field breakfast we’ll have all day to work the humid temperate forest. Starting at a large patch of Chusquea bamboo we should see Parodi’s Hemispingus (endemic) and Puna Thistletail (endemic). Other possibilities during the day include: Drab, Three-striped, Black-eared and Black-capped Hemispingus Golden-collared and other Tanagers, White-throated and White-banded Tyrannulets, Andean Ibis, Unstreaked Tit-tyrant (endemic), White-rumped Hawk, Sierran Elaenia, Marcapata Spinetail (endemic), Inca Wren (endemic), plus a lot more. Rufous and Undulated Antpitta’s are here too. In the afternoon we’ll look for Cuzco Brush Finch (endemic). We’ll return to the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the evening. B:L:
Day 8: We’ll head for the Polylepis woodland at Abra Malaga. We’ll devote the whole morning to explore this unique habitat. This relict Andean woodland is protected by an NGO working closely with the Quechua farmers of Tastayoc. Possibilities include Line-fronted Canastero, Ash-breasted Tit-tyrant (endemic), White-browed Tit-spinetail (endemic), Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Giant Conebill, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Andean Tapaculo, Tit-like Dacnis, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Andean Condor, Thick-billed Siskin, Junin Canastero ( endemic) and more. Our major target bird here will be the Royal Cinclodes, which we discovered here in the 80’s. On the valley floor we’ll check a variety of Ground-tyrants and Sierra-finches. After a picnic lunch we may visit the local community of Tastayoc whose inhabitants speak mostly only Quechua and live a traditional lifestyle, herding Llamas and Alpacas and growing potatoes. Returning we’ll stop at the interesting Inca ruins of Penas and look for some local endemic birds on the west side, including Creamy-crested Spinetail, (endemic), Rusty-fronted Canastero (endemic). White-tufted Sunbeam (endemic) and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-finch (endemic). Once again we’ll spend the night in the same hotel in the valley. B:L:
Day 9: We leave our Hotel in Ollantaytambo 8:00 am down the Sacred Valley of the Incas and on to the traditional village of Lamay near Pisac. Here we’ll meet our Horses and wranglers at our Lamay stables and head off up the pleasant Lamay Valley, as peasant farmers using traditional foot ploughs, till the fields. We own Special Mountain bred horses descended from noble Spanish Barbs brought from Spain in the 1500’s. Crossed with the comfortable but less sure-footed Paso breed our mountain horses give a strong, comfortable ride with greater endurance, stability and reliability needed for steep Inca trails. We raise and train horses at our ranch in the Sacred Valley. These well cared for horses are no-nonsense, experienced, sure-footed, non-gaited mountain trail horses affording a secure, comfortable ride on steep pathways. You do not need to be an expert rider. We give instruction and attention to the less experienced as we travel. Our skilled Quechua speaking wranglers give careful attention to each rider as needed. This will be a half day ride through the Andean countryside past the traditional village of Sahua and following the Carmen River up past Poques, carrying a gourmet picnic lunch with Chilean wine. We’ll be visiting isolated farming communities with stunning views of the Cordillera Vilcanota and visit deep blue high Andean Lake full of waterfowl such as Giant Coots and Andean Geese. As we drop back into the Lamay valley our horses will pick up speed as they know they are heading home and we’ll arrive at our stables in Lamay in the late afternoon. The scenery is unsurpassed, as are our string of horses which are well trained, well groomed and well looked after. Our van will be waiting to drive you to your hotel in Cusco. B:L.
Day 10: A free day in Cusco. This is the day to rest, shop and wander around Cusco. The city abounds with small shops and street side vendors selling their wares. Colorful weavings and handmade alpaca sweaters are popular gifts for friends at home. B
Day 11: Morning to explore Cusco and afternoon flights to Lima for connecting international departures. B