Machu Picchu in Peru

Explore the Past on an Exclusive Holiday of a Lifetime to South America

Immerse yourself in South American history on Goway’s exclusive Holiday of a Lifetime.

South America has a long past worth exploring, but it’s often hard to get in touch with this history when you’re jostling alongside crowds of fellow travellers and overwhelmed by everything you’re experiencing, especially if you don’t know the context of what you’re seeing. This is why an escorted, exclusive tour to South America is something worth booking. Beyond the deluxe accommodations, private guides, and rare cultural excursions, you get a curated experience that uncovers the fascinating history behind Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Goway’s Signature South America Holiday of a Lifetime is the ideal way to venture into the past and experience the greatest landmarks of South America.

Where do you go on a Signature South America Holiday of a Lifetime?

Brazil, a Feast of Colour

The 17-day Signature South America Holiday of a Lifetime begins in Rio, because if you’re going to see the essential sights of South America, you’re going to see Rio. Rio de Janeiro is among the most naturally beautiful cities in the world. Located on a massive harbour, the city bursts with colour, whether it’s the blue of the surf coursing upon Copacabana Beach, the greenery crowning Sugarloaf Mountain, or the pastel colours of the city’s architecture. During your time in Rio (which is not the capital nor the nation’s largest city, to be clear – those are Brasilia and Sao Paulo, respectively), you’ll see landmarks like Corcovado Mountain with Christ the Redeemer on top, Sugarloaf Mountain, and the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. But you’ll also get in touch with the city’s street-level culture on a walking tour and learn all about the colourful celebration of Carnival with visits to the Sambadrome, where Carnival takes place each year, and Samba City, where the elaborate parade floats are constructed.

Sunset in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sunset in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Once you’ve gotten your taste of Rio’s bright swagger, you’ll dip southwest to Iguassu Falls, the gargantuan waterfall system that lies on the triangular border between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. If you’re a student of history, you may recall that former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt supposedly remarked “My poor Niagara…” upon first seeing Iguassu Falls, so know that this waterfall is big. Bid farewell to Brazil with some beautiful views on this side of the border before crossing into Argentina for a whole new look at this overwhelming water system.

Iguassu Falls, Brazil
Iguassu Falls

Argentina, the Land of Tango and BBQ

On your exclusive Holiday of a Lifetime, your time in Argentina starts right where your time in Brazil ends, at Iguassu Falls. Of course, the Argentine side of the falls offers a completely new vantage point on this massive waterfall system. Brazil may have the monopoly on panoramic views, but Argentina lets you get closer to the water and discover small falls that escape the usual routes.

While Iguassu Falls may be hard to top as an introduction to Argentina, Buenos Aires might just bowl you over. This beautiful capital city may also convince you you’ve wandered into Europe, but don’t be tricked by the cosmopolitan atmosphere, Art Deco architecture, and manicured streets – this is firmly South America. There’s no wasting time after first introductions, as you head to La Boca district to discover Argentina’s essential art form, Tango, and wander through the graveyard of Recoleta to pay respects to Argentina’s most famous historical figure, Eva Peron. That evening, get your first full-bellied tastes of Argentine cooking and red wines while marveling at the grace and passion of a Tango show.

Argentine tango in La Boca District, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentine tango in La Boca District, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

While you aren’t done with Buenos Aires just yet, you’ll take a break from the city and head to El Ombu Ranch, a traditional hacienda that’ll turn back the clock and let you experience the traditional songs, dances, and foods of Argentina. If you like barbeque, you’re in for a treat as you’ll feast on the savoury charred flavours of Argentine grilling. It’s then back to the city for a sightseeing tour and a final taste of Argentine cuisine before boarding a plane and crossing the continent to Peru.

Aerial view of Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Aerial view of Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Peru, Cradle of the Incas

If Buenos Aires tricked you into thinking you’re in Europe, Lima may have you thinking you wandered into Southern Florida: the high rises alongside cascading ocean surf has definite vibes of Miami. But despite first impressions, Lima is its own creature, a city that is continually making a name for itself on the international travel circuit as South America’s gastronomic capital. It’s also a varied city, with each district essentially a city unto itself, with different architectural styles and cultural highlights. A city tour will demonstrate this urban diversity as you pass from the modern high-rises and coastal mansions of Miraflores and San Isidro to the haciendas and colonial churches of Lima District.

Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas (main square) in Lima, Peru
Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas (main square) in Lima, Peru

Although Lima is a cultural meal in its own right, for you on this exclusive Holiday of a Lifetime, it’s a mere appetizer for the main course of Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once you land in Cusco, you’ll start a journey into South America’s pre-Columbian past and the world of the Incas. Cusco was the Inca capital prior to Spanish conquest and remains a beautiful city, although the high altitude takes a bit of getting used to. A walking tour will showcase the highlights, from the colonial churches of Plaza Mayor to the ruins of the fortress Sacsayhuaman, which crowns one of the hills overlooking the town. From Cusco, you’ll dip into the Sacred Valley of the Incas and visit two of the key cultural sites: Ollantaytambo, which is home to the train station that connects travellers to Machu Picchu as well as the massive Incan fortress that sits on the hillside, and Pisac, where ruins and textile markets keep ancient traditions alive.

Then, on your exclusive Holiday of a Lifetime, it’s time to explore Peru’s greatest treasure, and perhaps the best landmark on the entire continent: Machu Picchu. You’ll ride the Belmond Hiram Bingham through the valley to the foot of the mountain. After a short bus ride up the mountainside, you’ll reach this iconic Citadel of the Incas, constructed over 500 years ago but lost once the Spanish conquered Peru. Only in 1911, after Hiram Bingham ventured upon the site while searching for Vilcabamba, did the site enter the popular consciousness and become synonymous with the Inca Empire.

Train Interior, Hiram Bingham Orient Express, Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Hiram Bingham train interior
Ancient Inca City of Machu Picchu, Peru_298363703
Ancient Inca City of Machu Picchu, Peru

You’ll have two separate visits to Machu Picchu. The first afternoon, wander around the site and drink in the views of these stone ruins perched on a mountaintop amidst a cloud forest. The next morning, return to Machu Picchu to admire the citadel bathed in the first light of morning. Then consider climbing nearby Huayna Picchu for an exhilarating challenge and to enjoy some breathtaking views from a unique vantage point.

Related Article:
The Exhilarating Thrill of Climbing Huayna Picchu on Peru Travel

Although Machu Picchu is the definite highlight of your trip, your exclusive Holiday of a Lifetime does not end once you return to Cusco. After another night in the Incan capital, you’ll return to Lima for one last journey, this time to the famed Larco Museum, where you’ll survey one of the world’s best collections of pre-Columbian artifacts and enjoy a final meal amidst the exhibitions. It’s then on to the airport to bid farewell to South America and return home.

The city of Cusco, Peru
The city of Cusco

Travel Back in Time in Peru

Rediscover the Incan Citadel of Machu Picchu

I mentioned off the top that South America has a lot of history to discover. From the Incas to the Spanish conquistadors in Peru to Eva Peron and the artistic legacy of Tango in Buenos Aires, Goway’s Signature South America Holiday of a Lifetime showcases much of what this continent has to offer. It also allows you to journey in the footsteps of individuals like Hiram Bingham. To put into context the historical significance of Machu Picchu and your journey up the mountain, let me break down the history of its rediscovery for you.

Statue of Pachacuti, Inca leader, in Aguas Calientes, Peru
Statue of Pachacuti, Inca leader, in Aguas Calientes, Peru

Machu Picchu was constructed at some point in the 15th century, likely as a royal residence for the emperor, Pachacutec Inca. However, for reasons that are still mostly unknown, once the Spanish invaded Peru, the Inca abandoned Machu Picchu and the jungle overgrew it, making it disappear from history. Remarkably, the Spanish never discovered the citadel and it remained unknown to the Europeans for almost five centuries.

Within modern history, the earliest reference to Machu Picchu appears on a map entitled Mapa de los Valles de Paucartambo, Lares, Ocobamba y la Quebrada del Vilconota Levantado 1874, made by German engineer, Hermann Goering, who was working for the Peruvian government. However, even if Goering visited the site himself, news of it never spread. It wasn’t until 1911, when American explorer Hiram Bingham III was searching the Sacred Valley for the lost city of the Incas, Vilcabamba, that the discovery of Machu Picchu was announced to the world at large.

Follow in the Footsteps of Hiram Bingham III

Hiram Bingham, Peru
Photo of Hiram Bingham III

We must be clear that Bingham was not the first person to discover the ruins, nor did he explicitly set out to find them. He was merely the first European to record his discovery. While journeying through the Urubamba Valley, Bingham stopped at Mandor Hacienda and met Melchor Arteaga, who mentioned the presence of ruins atop a mountain in the area. Bingham paid Arteaga a Peruvian sol to guide him to the ruins, and in the company of Bingham’s military escort, Sergeant Carrasco, they crossed the Rio Urubamba on a pole bridge and climbed up the muddy, densely-vegetated mountainside of Huayna Picchu. Once they got to the top, Bingham found a small family farming the Incan terraces and Arteaga convinced the farmers’ son, a boy of around 11, to guide Bingham through the ruins.

Bingham knew he had discovered something special, even if the vegetation masked the full scale of Machu Picchu. However, he also knew he was not the first person to visit aside from Arteaga and the indigenous farmers. While touring the ruins, he discovered a note carved into one of the ruin walls, bearing the name Lizarraga 1902. The following day, Bingham mentioned the note to Arteaga, and he told him that Agustin Lizarraga, who lived at the nearby San Miguel Bridge, had originally discovered Machu Picchu.

In a later letter he wrote to the Royal Geographical Society in London, Bingham noted he had “found the ruins of a wonderful old Inca city now called Machu Pichu i.e. old Pichu. It is so difficult to access that no one hereabouts has seen it. So far as I can discover only three Peruvians have seen it (except for a few Indians).” Once National Geographic dedicated an entire issue of their print magazine to Bingham and Machu Picchu in 1913, the ruins became known across the world and Bingham became synonymous with its discovery.

Today, when you ride the Belmond Hiram Bingham to Aguas Calientes and connect up the mountainside to Machu Picchu, you are taking part in an unbroken chain of discovery that Hiram Bingham and the earliest visitors of Machu Picchu set in motion. On a Signature South America Holiday of a Lifetime, history is not just something you learn about, it’s something you become a part of. Because for as long as Machu Picchu stands, it’ll hold evidence of your presence and bear witness to your own historical adventure.

The Belmond Hiram Bingham luxury train, Peru
The Belmond Hiram Bingham luxury train, Peru

Discover South America!

When you are a Goway Globetrotter you become part of a special fraternity of travellers about whom we care very much. Our company philosophy is simple – we want you to be more than satisfied with our services.

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Aren Bergstrom
Aren Bergstrom

Globetrotting Editor - You might say that Aren was destined to become a Globetrotter after his family took him to Germany two times before he was four. If that wasn’t enough, a term spent in Sweden as a young teenager and a trek across Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand confirmed that destiny. An independent writer, director, and film critic, Aren has travelled across Asia, Europe, and South America. His favourite travel experience was visiting the major cities of Japan’s largest island, Honshu, but his love for food, drink, and film will take him anywhere that boasts great art and culture.

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