Peru Amazon Rainforest Tours

High Andes to Machu Picchu Photography Tour - 12 days / 11 nights (from US$6,000)

Accompanied by an experienced collaborative team of wildlife and travel photographers from the Untamed Photography outfit and conservation biologists from Fauna Forever, you will start this tour in the Peruvian Andes gateway city of Cusco and proceeds to snow-capped peaks, alpaca-dominated puna grasslands and highland lakes or cochas, down through orchid- and tanager-rich cloud forests, with a fantastic finale of two full days among the archaeological and landscape wonders of Machu Picchu. Price is all inclusive from Cusco. Limited dates. Not to be missed.

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Summary

Summary

Accompanied by our experienced photography and biology leaders, this landscape, wildlife and cultural photography tour starts and ends in the city of Cusco. Having visited several unique sites and panoramic lookout points in and around the city, the tour proceeds to snow-capped peaks, high altitude puna grasslands dotted with alpacas and small lakes, before plunging down through orchid- and tanager-rich cloud forests and coffee plantations to an adorable, welcoming and comfortable private homestay located a few miles from Machu picchu. Having explored the cloud forests, ravines canyons around the homestay we end with a fantastic finale of two full days among the archaeological and landscape wonders of Machu picchu, taking the Vistadome train back to Cusco where we started.

Itinerary

Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Cusco and transfer to a 3 Star hotel (4 Star optional). Afternoon excursion around the historic central plaza, with a unique opportunity to image the area from interesting vantage points - including near the bell tower of one of the cathedrals. We will call in and visit a local family within two blocks of the plaza, who will serve us a healthy cup of steaming coca tea to help us acclimatise to the thinner air at this altitude (11,000 feet), after which we will taste a variety of delicious Peruvian coffee and chocolate options, the raw materials of which we will see and pick straight from the tree later in the tour. After dinner, there will be a chance to view some of the images we have taken earlier, and to receive feedback from our workshop leaders to help us improve our technique. We recommend an early night, but for those interested there is the opportunity to attend a colourful, cultural dance show in a local theatre (US$30, not included). We recommend participants do not eat too much (or consume alcohol) on this first day, as part of a normal altitude acclimatisation process. Night in Cusco.

Day 2

After breakfast we will attend a formal presentation by our workshop leaders where we will be updated on the activities planned for each day, the route we will take, the recommended photographic themes to focus on during each leg of the journey, the vehicles at our disposal, the accommodation arrangements for each night, and the scheduled periods for the leaders to provide tips and recommendations that will help us take the best possible images during your time in Peru. After the presentation, and with camera gear ready, we will board our private minibus for a 45-minute trip to a spectacular vantage point on a mountainside from where we will have a bird’s eye view of the city and also of the Vilcanota River winding its way along the base of the Sacred Valley, a perfect place for our first “mountain landscapes” learning session. Having explored the photography opportunities here, eaten a high-altitude box lunch, we will return to Cusco via the Huacarpay Lake, with the aim of catching sight of waterbirds and imaging lake scenes. After a short rest at the hotel we will head out for a late afternoon excursion of the Sacsayhuaman fort above the plaza, a place of giant stones and friendly llamas. We will take the minibus back down to the hotel, in time for an early dinner, followed by the usual image appraisal and editing session. Night in Cusco.

Day 3

After an early breakfast, and with most of the city still asleep, we will take our mini-bus and wind our way out of the Cusco valley and head across the Chincheros plain to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. On route we will spend a couple of hours exploring two unique and picturesque places, Moray (circular agricultural stone terracing) and Maras (salt ponds). We will lunch in Urubamba, overlooking the upper Vilcanota River, before continuing on to our hotel near the small town of Ollantaytambo. To take advantage of the late afternoon light and clean air, we will head to the upper terraces of the nearby Inca-built fort and train our lenses on the spectacular rock terracing and the landscapes below us - dominated by distant fields of maize and quinoa, riparian trees lined along the riverbanks, and groups of stone houses and domestic animal enclosures that denote the hamlets and farms of the area. Night in Ollantaytambo.

Day 4

After breakfast we will head a little down the valley, beyond the town center, before heading up one of the smaller side valleys. This is dominated by small, clear-water brooks fed by melt water from the snow-capped mountains up above. With a boxed lunch in hand we will have the freedom to walk as far or as short a distance up the valley as we like. Huge agave cacti, fields of multi-coloured quinoa, maize and barley, grazing livestock, and Andean birdlife will parade before us. The further up the valley we go, the more wild and steep the terrain, ending in rocky scree slopes that lead right up to the snowline of the mountains that make up the Veronica Maintain Range. We will see how far up we get! We will return to our hotel in Ollantaytambo for a well-earned rest, food to remember, and a leader-run image processing session. Night in Ollantaytambo.

Day 5

With a GoPro strapped to the front of the minibus, a destination in the valley way below us but with a high Andean pass to cross in order to get there, we will head up a side valley on a good road towards the Abra Malaga pass at a height of 4100 m (XX ft), stopping briefly at some Inca terracing and a search for the White-capped dipper and Torrent ducks in a nearby stream. From the pass, on a clear day, the view through our lenses will be dominated by snow, ice, rock, tufts of Puna grass, and isolated Alpaca enclosures made from stone. Some of the peaks rising in front of us reach heights of 5,800 m. A walk around the pass area will reveal ponds and small swamps where Andean waterfowl congregate. The twisty road now descends into the warm humid cloud-forest, and through fields of shade-coffee and tea – both of which we’ll be picking, smelling, and tasting by the end of the day. Where the road hits the Vilcanota River once again we will turn a sharp left onto a bumpy dirt road and head up through a gorge, just beyond which we will descend to the banks of the river where we will find the charming and homely Yellow River Lodge (aka Quellomayo in the local Quechua language), an adorable homestay run by a British-Peruvian couple and their family. Over plates, bowls, and mugs of real, organic home-cooked cuisine, including home-roasted coffee that comes from the garden beyond the window and home-pressed juice from the trees that shade your room we will quickly relax into our new surroundings. After our customary photo review at the end of the day, we will fall asleep to the gentle roar of the Vilcanota River as it rushes over an army of multi-coloured boulders. Night at Yellow River Lodge.

Day 6

With the proprietor of Yellow River as our guide, we will be shown around the family’s impressive landholdings, including coffee, banana, pineapple, avocado, mango, and cacao plantations, which are teeming with other plants and birdlife. After this we will head down to the river, walk among massive river-sculpted boulders, and then cross the river on a quaint, wooden suspension bridge with the objective of capturing images of the raging white water from above, the gorge we saw the day before, hummingbirds, flocking parrots, and flowering bromeliads. After lunch, we will be free to explore the area at our own leisure, promising to be back by dinner time to show everyone your day’s work. Night at Yellow River Lodge.

Day 7

After an early breakfast we will board our minibus for a 30-min drive to the headwaters of the nearby Quellomayo stream, an area of relatively untouched montane forest, replete with waterfalls, orchids, butterflies, mossy embankments and outpourings of ferns and hanging tree-lichens. Tropical montane forest landscape photography is the name of the game today, so wide-angles at the ready. But have the telephoto handy in case you spot a Mountain tanager or three! Our box lunch will be eaten beside the upper Quellomayo stream, after which we will head to the hot-springs of Cocalmayo for a well-earned soak in warm volcanic waters. On the return road to Quellomayo, we will stop off at a viewpoint to capture images of the Vilcanota River valley in the slanted, late afternoon light. Dinner will be served around a communal BBQ area lit by a warm outdoor fire. Night at Yellow River Lodge.

Day 8

This morning we will take our faithful mini-bus to the end of the railway line, 2hrs away and a little beyond the small town of Santa Teresa, for the subsequent short ride to the village of Aguas Calientes, the gateway to the Machu Picchu citadel, where we will find and settle in to our impressive hotel. The afternoon will be spent readying our gear for the two days to be spent up at one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, with time also set aside to tour the hotel’s remarkable orchid garden. A large buffet dinner will be served, after which we will check that everyone’s equipment is ready and all batteries well charged, before we turn in early for bed. Night in Aguas Calientes.

Day 9

We will awake before dawn, eat a hearty breakfast, don our backpacks full of camera gear, grab our maps of the trail network in and around the ruins, and head out to catch one of the many minibuses which will take us to the very door of the citadel (a 20-min journey along a very windy road that ascends the mountain). Once through the gates, we will head to our central meeting point before commencing our introductory tour of the ruins with our registered guide-for-the-morning. Those of us signed up for the climb up to the top of the Wayna Picchu rock will head off for this 3-hr adventure, while the rest of us will ascend the less inclined Inca trail towards the sun-gate to the south of the ruins. From both of these vantage points, spectacular panoramic views of the ruins will be our prize. Along route there will be innumerable focal subjects, including chinchillas, giant hummingbirds, begonias, llamas, caracaras, orchids, cloudscapes, and much more besides. Having met up once again for lunch in the Ruinas Hotel & Restaurant that borders the ruins, followed by an image-critique and problem solving session, we will head back to the ruins as a group to a half dozen pre-identified locations. Here the leaders will continue to teach composition, metering, Gigapan, and other techniques that will help us improve our digital photography skills. By sundown, we will be heading back to the minibus for the return journey to the hotel, and a well-earned meal, followed by a useful image editing session. Night in Aguas Calientes.

Day 10

Much like Day 9, but each of us can decide which parts of the ruins to concentrate on not forgetting the outlying areas and hidden corners that are full of photo, depending on our specific interests - just do not get lost, do not fall off a cliff, and do not get spat at by the resident llamas - it is difficult to clean llama spit from a lens! Back at our hotel, and after our last Machu Picchu dinner, the leaders will begin collecting participant’s donated images and videos for upload to the workshop’s Dropbox folder - an easy way for us all to share our images for your video of our experience. Night in Aguas Calientes.

Day 11

After breakfast we will catch the train back to Ollantaytambo, where our minibus will whisk us back to Cusco, with a sightseeing and optional handicraft purchase stop at Pisac en route. We have a special end-of-workshop event at our hotel, before we turn in for our final night at high altitude. Night in Cusco.

Day 12

After a leisurely breakfast, we will say our goodbyes, and board our transfer taxi to the Cusco airport. End of services.

Dates & Prices

Dates & Prices

 21 Jun - 2 Jul 2016 US$6,000 per person (max 8 people)
 8 Jul - 19 Jul 2016 US$6,000 per person (max 8 people) 
 13 Oct - 24 Oct 2016  US$6,000 per person (max 8 people)
 14 Apr - 25 Apr 2017  US$6,000 per person (max 8 people)
 10 May - 21 May 2017  US$6,000 per person (max 8 people)

Travel Tips

Travel Tips

Cusco

When in the city itself we will be walking around the old town within 4-5 blocks of the central plaza, the area in which the hotel is located too. Many of these areas are pedestrian only, making it easy to walk around. When leaving the city to visit specific photography locations we will use our mini-van to get there and back. On these day trips, please remember to bring at least 2 litres of water to drink (drinking water is supplied by the hotel but you'll need to bring your own water bottle) as well as sun-cream, sun-hat, and sunglasses. Pack for all weathers, based on a temperature range of 5-25C, with a chance of rain. We will supply umbrellas for those that need them, in case of a downpour. We have an office in Cusco, which can be used to store any bags or belongings that are not required during the trip. 

Cloud Forest and Yellow River Homestay 

We will be doing some hiking along narrow paths through sometimes thick cloud forest habitats, as well as along rocky and pebbly shores of streams and rivers, not to mention walking through parts of a canyon, so definitely bring stout walking shoes or hiking boots. If these are leather, don't forget to pack a waterproofing agent to keep your boots from getting destroyed. Insect repellent at times will also be required. Pack for temperatures ranging from 10-25C.

At Machu Picchu

Plan for all types of weather when at the ruins. That means it could be gloriously sunny one minute, foggy the next, and even raining half an hour after that. Fog and rain is more common during the rainy season (Nov to Apr). Bring some Soles change with you to pay for the toilet or rest room located near the entrance to Machu picchu itself. There is a nice, if expensive, restaurant near the entrance in case your box lunch is insufficient. Bring cash Soles to buy food and extra drinks here. Once your guide has given you her bespoke tour of the ruins, she will give you several hours to wander freely and explore around the site. We recommend you bring the following guide book to get the most from this free time: The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour, by Ruth Wright & Alfredo Valencia. Do bring insect repellent, or wear long trousers / pants to keep the sometimes irritating flies at bay. Although your guide will remind you in Cusco before setting out, don't forget to bring your passport, as you'll need to show it at the entrance to the ruins. 

Testimonials

Testimonials
photo: Jeroen Ten Haaf

“The lodging was superb! Great views over the lake and the photographers had great enthusiasm for teaching the camera techniques. I would recommend this macro workshop to anyone!” -Joe Eden

“I had a great time, the Untamed team were great photographic teachers and allowed me to do more than photography and allowed me to truly explore the cloud forest floor.” - Anna Bead

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