On Assignment Projects
Meet Your Expert
Welcome to the land of the Inca—a complex civilization that has fascinated explorers for centuries. In the heart of the ancient Inca Empire, discover the archaeological mysteries and indigenous culture of the Peruvian highlands. Venture into a network of incredibly sophisticated temples and fortresses, including magnificent Machu Picchu. Explore the ancient past and vibrant contemporary culture of Peru through an On Assignment project of your choice—Photography or Archaeology & Ancient Culture.
Days 1-2Our expedition kicks off in the vibrant city of Lima. Explore the beautiful coast, parks, and colonial buildings. Visit the world-famous archaeological museum, Museo Larco, home to a vast collection of pre-Colombian artifacts. Enjoy a meal of ceviche and other local specialties, and then dive into your On Assignment project.
The Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo
Travel to the Sacred Valley of the Inca and settle in at Ollantaytambo, a lively village that has been occupied continuously for more than 500 years. With its cobblestoned lanes and sophisticated system of working aqueducts, Ollantaytambo is the best existing example of Inca city planning.
Follow old Inca trails to forgotten ruins and isolated stone villages where families live as they have for centuries. Hike through a beautiful mountain pass for breathtaking views of the valley. Go white-water rafting on the Urubamba River, and explore important archaeological sites such as the Ollantaytambo fortress. Spend an afternoon at Moray, the site of Incan agricultural terraces, and nearby Maras, home to the famed salt-evaporation ponds created by the Inca. In vibrant street markets, discover indigenous foods and colorful textiles.
Enjoy a scenic drive to Aguas Calientes— our jumping-off point for exploring Machu Picchu—stopping for short hikes along the way. Abandoned by the Inca for centuries, Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by explorer Hiram Bingham and was excavated by a team of archaeologists funded by National Geographic. Venture through the ancient temples and dwellings to unlock their mysteries. Take an early morning hike up a nearby peak and photograph the sunrise over the ruins. Then travel back to Ollantaytambo by train and enjoy a final evening of good food and stories with our village friends.
While in Peru, I became more grateful and independent, gained perspective on my own life, and even realized what I want to study in college!
Settle into the town of Urubamba, perched at the foot of snowcapped Ch’iqun Mountain in the Sacred Valley. Spend a day working on community service projects at a local orphanage and school. Paint a mural, teach English to students, or organize after-school activities for the schoolchildren. Then travel to a nearby village and experience rural Andean life while working alongside local farmers. Tend to their alpaca, help milk cows, and harvest produce. In the afternoons and evenings, spend time developing your On Assignment project, sample the regional cuisine, or play a game of futbol.
Cusco and Chinchero
End your expedition with a stay in the ancient imperial city of Cusco, known to the Inca as the “navel of the Earth.” Discover the city’s rich history as we visit Coricancha, the once-golden temple at the heart of the Inca Empire. Step into a colonial cathedral built with stones from the original Inca walls. Stroll through the city’s winding streets and discover relics of an empire long gone but not forgotten. Then explore the colossal fortress of Sacsayhuaman, site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Spanish colonial conquest.
From your base in Cusco, take a day trip to nearby Pisac, known for its archaeological ruins and colorful market. Spend a day in the village of Chinchero, located an hour from Cusco. Visit National Geographic grantee Nilda Callañaupa’s textile center, and try your hand at the age-old art of Andean weaving, a tradition that continues today thanks to Nilda’s efforts. Put the finishing touches on your On Assignment project, then share your work with the group during a final celebratory dinner before returning home.
AltitudeWe will be traveling at high elevations while in Cusco and Machu Picchu. Cusco is at an altitude of 11,200 feet, and Machu Picchu, 8,000 feet. Participants should be physically fit.
We will stay in small, family-run inns and hostels throughout the expedition.