Our guide, Rob Williams, was exceptionally well qualified, good humoured in all circumstances and remarkably diligent in accommodating all levels of birding skills within our group. He went out of his way to make sure that each member of the group realised their expectations for the trip. We would welcome the opportunity to join him on additional trips; he is a quality individual with sound values and a superb representative of Rockjumper Birding Tours.
The 2018 tour price is provisional
We complete our thorough examination of Southern Peru with four days of archaeological and birding exploration of the Sacred Valley and other Incan heritage sites covering Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Pisac, Moray, Lago Huaypo and perhaps the most famous tourist site in the world, Machu Picchu. Here we shall marvel at undoubtedly one of the finest architectural achievements of the New World.
Inca Wren, Bearded Helmetcrest, Green-and-white Hummingbird, Creamy-crested Spinetail, Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch, Long-tailed Sylph, Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, White-eared Solitaire, Sclater’s and Bolivian Tyrannulets, Silver-backed Tanager, Pale-eyed Thrush, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Capped Conebill, Cinnamon and Puna Teals, White-tufted Grebe, Slate-colored Coot, Wren-like Rushbird, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Many-colored Rush Tyrant, Bare-faced Ground Dove, Andean Flicker, Peruvian Sierra Finch, Hooded Siskin and Band-tailed Seedeater.
Polylepis forests, mountains, lakes
Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, Cusco (the historical Incan capital city of Peru), Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Qenko, Sacsayhuaman.
Day 1: Cusco to Ollantaytambo via the Sacred Valley (Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Pisac)
After breakfast, we shall depart Cusco and head into the Urubamba Valley, though it is better known locally as Willkamayu (Quechua for Sacred River), the heartland of the Incan Empire.
As we head away from Cusco, our first stop will be at the delightfully named Sacsayhuaman. This massive fortified complex was initially constructed in 900CE, before the Incans added considerably to it in the 13th century. Following the Spanish Conquest of the Inca, the new government in Cusco started to dismantle the rock structures of Sacsayhuaman block by block in order to build new Spanish governmental and religious buildings.
While one can only imagine the scale of this site pre-destruction, what is left is incredible in its own right. The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper cannot fit between most (and some of these stone weigh up to or over 100 tonnes!). The exquisite precision of the blocks themselves, combined with the variety of their interlocking shapes and inward leaning walls, is thought to have helped the ruins survive devastating earthquakes. Next on our Peru birding tour, we shall pay a visit to Qenko or Q’inqu (Quechua for zig-zag). It is known to be one of the largest holy places (wak’as) in the Cusco Region and is believed to have been used for sacrifices and mummification.
Once we enter the depths of the Sacred Valley, we shall visit Pisac, best known for its Incan ruins that lie high above the town at the entrance to the valley. A number of groups of ruins exist here, some of which were considered particularly important to the empire, including the Temple of the Sun, baths, altars and a ceremonial platform. There is also a large volcanic outcrop carved into an Inti (Incan Sun God). The angles carved into the base of the rock suggest that this Inti served to define the changes of the seasons. Aside from the hilltop ruins, there are a number of agricultural terraces carved into the steep valley wall. While ancient, the terraces are still in use, further testament to the incredible Incan engineering. Pisca was not only an important religious site for the Incans though, it was also a bastion of defence, serving to protect the empire from the south, while also controlling the access route to the lowland Amazonian rainforests. On the birding front, we shall keep an eye open for the endemic Bearded Helmetcrest, Creamy-crested Spinetail, Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch and Long-tailed Sylph.
In the afternoon, we shall continue along the Urubamba Valley to our final destination of the day, Ollantaytambo. A former royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti and the stronghold of Incan resistance to Spanish colonisation. The town features a number of agricultural terraces similar to Pisca, but often provides far better photographic conditions with the setting sun turning the rock faces golden. This evening, we shall enjoy a welcome dinner, and the brave may try tucking into some traditional Incan Cuisine such as Cuy (Guinea Pig) or the far more palatable Ceviche (Raw fish marinated in citrus juice).
Day 2: Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu.
This morning on our Peru birding tour, we climb aboard the narrow gauge train for the 2½ hour ride through the mountains to our much-anticipated destination, the Lost City of the Incas. This train journey is, in itself, an interesting experience, and we will find ourselves accompanied by the unique sights, sounds and smells of rural Peru while voyaging to the bustling town of Aguas Calientes. Even from the train we have a good chance of seeing Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper on the Urubamba River that parallels a portion of our route.
Day 3: Machu Picchu.
No trip to Peru would be complete without a visit to one of the most incredible architectural wonders of the world, the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu! Situated on a lofty forest-cloaked granite peak that towers some 700 metres (2,200 feet) above the roaring river below. The ruins are often shrouded in misty clouds, pierced by the powerful equatorial sun. Constructed from precisely sculptured granite blocks, carefully joined to the projecting exposed stone of the surrounding mountain, the site is undoubtedly one of the finest remaining architectural achievements of the New World. Arriving at these magnificent ruins, we will take a guided tour of the archaeological complex. A moderate hike along a finely constructed Incan trail takes us to the impressive ‘Gate of the Sun’ overlooking Machu Picchu at over 2,950m (9,000 feet) above sea level. Our local guide will relay the story of the rise and fall of this ancient Andean civilisation, concluding with the tragic end of the Inca, and the enigma that remains of this remarkable site. On the birding front, White-tipped Swifts wheel overhead and we shall search in the bamboo thickets surrounding the ruins for the endemic Inca Wren. Other highlights here on our Peru birding tour include Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Lyre-tailed Nightjar and White-eared Solitaire, while hummingbirds are ever present in the flowering trees, often containing the sought-after endemic Green-and-white Hummingbird.
Day 4: Machu Picchu to Cusco via Moray & Lago Huaypo.
We have some time this morning to bird along the railway track that follows the Urubamba River. The remnant cloud forest here hosts an abundance of birds and we will be looking specifically for Sclater’s and Bolivian Tyrannulets, Silver-backed Tanager, Pale-eyed Thrush, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Capped Conebill and the endemic Green-and-white Hummingbird. We shall then board a train to Ollantaytambo before continuing on our archaeological excursion towards Cusco via Moray and Lago Huaypo. Arriving in Moray, we shall observe these strange series of concentric, circular depressions. While their purpose is still a topic of debate, it is strongly speculated that the Incan’s used the area for agricultural experimentation. The large difference in temperature between the top and bottom of as much as 15°C (27°F) has lead scientists to think that the Inca were attempting to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops.
Thereafter, we shall head to the nearby Lago Huaypo, a high Andean lake. Our birding will concentrate on the numerous wildfowl that may include Blue-winged, Cinnamon and Puna Teals, White-tufted Grebe and Slate-colored Coot, whilst also searching out some of the reedbed skulkers such as Wren-like Rushbird, Yellow-winged Blackbird and Many-colored Rush Tyrant. The surrounding grasslands may turn up Bare-faced Ground Dove, Andean Flicker, Peruvian Sierra Finch, Hooded Siskin and Band-tailed Seedeater. Thereafter, we shall continue onwards to Cusco where we should arrive in the early afternoon. For the energetic, a stroll around Cusco is highly recommended, before we meet this evening for a final celebratory dinner together.
Day 5: Cusco to Lima and depart
After breakfast, we will head to the small Cusco airport for our flight back to Lima and our international departures.
What our clients say about tours to Peru
- JH & CH, Southern Peru
Rob Williams is right up there among the very best tour leaders. His vast experience from lots of research and conservation projects and intimate knowledge of the country add lots of value compared to a tour leader who is “just” a good organiser, birder and guide. He is also great company, with a sublime sense of humour.UA, Peru
Rob Williams was a brilliant guide in all respects. Throughout the three weeks, he gave the group his all. He is outstanding, and we would love to travel with him again.TE, Northern Peru 2015
Rob Williams is the best guide I have ever birded with – wonderful birding and people skills.PM, Peru
The tour met all of my expectations. Rob Williams is an excellent tour guide – knowledgeable, manages logistics well, interacts with participants in a fun and caring way, and strives to find the birds that are on participants’ “wish lists”.RH, Peru