Discover Peru, the sacred land of the Incas, in comfort. Staying in a series of premium hotels, unwind in the tranquil sacred valley, watch condors flying over the Colca Canyon, and visit the awe-inspiring ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu.
Lake Titicaca – Visit the floating island communities living on this incredible high altitude lake
Cusco – Sip pisco sours after a day exploring the ancient capital city of the Incas
Machu Picchu – Travel by train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to this impressive ancient site, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Day 1 Join trip in Lima
Arrive in Lima, Peru’s capital, which was founded in 1535AD by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Today it is a modern, cosmopolitan city, but in the old centre there are obvious reminders both of its colonial and pre-hispanic past. Its location on the shores of the Pacific Ocean mean that you can easily escape the busy traffic of the city for a little calm on nearby coastal walking paths.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7.30pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Lima at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport (airport code LIM) which is approximately a one-hour drive from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to take an independent stroll along the coastal path to Miraflores and through the bohemian district of Barranco, or alternatively visit the excellent Larco Museum for an introduction to Peru’s ancient history. The city is also gaining a reputation as a culinary centre; try some ceviche (fish marinated in citrus juices) or sip on a Pisco sour.
Day 2 Tour Lima, fly to Arequipa
Founded in 1535 and called the City of Kings, Lima today is both ancient and modern. We will make an orientation tour on foot, passing through the colonial squares and under the intricate modern balconies of old Lima, seeing some of the city’s best surviving examples of colonial architecture (optional). Time permitting there might be the opportunity to stroll through Plaza San Martin and Bolivar and enter the fascinating Catacombs of the convent of San Francisco. In the afternoon, we transfer to the airport where we will take our flight to reach the beautiful city of Arequipa.
Day 3 In Arequipa; visit the Santa Catalina Convent
This morning we visit Santa Catalina Convent, a miniature walled town which once housed 450 nuns and serving ladies in total seclusion. The rest of the day is free to explore this charming city, situated at 2380m and surrounded by snow-capped mountains including the perfect conical peak of El Misti (5822m). Arequipa is famed for its colonial architecture and the arcaded city square, dominated on one side by the twin towered cathedral, is among the finest to be found in South America.
Day 4 Drive to Chivay
This morning we head north where we enter the world of the altiplano. We pass behind the volcanoes that ring Arequipa and onto Chivay. Passing herds of llama and alpaca – if lucky we may spot the elusive vicua. Today we cross the Patapampa pass to briefly reach the highest point of our trip at 4910m where we stop for a photo before descending towards the Colca Canyon.
Day 5 Visit the Colca Canyon, continue to Puno
We have an early start this morning to the Colca Canyon. A spectacular river gorge, the Colca Canyon measures twice the depth of the more famous Grand Canyon and at one time it was believed to be the deepest gorge on earth (until it was eclipsed by the deeper Cotahuasi Canyon). Largely unknown to the outside world until the latter years of the 20th century, today it affords us an opportunity to discover a world of Andean villages and Inca terraces that make up one of the most outstanding natural settings in the Americas. This is the world of the Altiplano, where the Rio Colca meanders through a landscape of towering volcanic peaks that offer a stunning backdrop to a land inhabited by Cabana and Collagua Indians. Home to the massive and majestic Andean Condor, these awe-inspiring vistas derive their name from the old Incan practise of storing harvested grain in natural vaults carved into the canyon walls, vaults that the Indians called colcas. This afternoon we drive east, via the Patapampa pass again at 4910 m, heading towards the beautiful landscapes that surround the unique waters of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the word (3856m). Our destination is the town of Puno, a centre of Incan folklore nestling in a bay at the northwestern tip of the lake and the perfect base from which to explore something of the cultural and historical significance of the lake itself.
Day 6 Boat trip on Lake Titicaca; visit Uros and Taquile Islands
From Puno we take a boat trip on Lake Titicaca to explore the floating reed islands, home to the Uros people who live on the lake itself. Their islands are made from totura, a reed-like papyrus that grows in the shallows and is used in most aspects of their life, including the construction of their boats and homes. We then continue to the less visited island of Taquile which has preserved much of its Inca and pre-Inca heritage and the islanders still speak the language of the Inca – Runa Simi or Quechua. We take our time walking across the island and we will have the chance to buy locally produced embroidery – the men’s handiwork for once! After lunch we then descend to the jetty to board our boat back to Puno.
Day 7 Journey to Cusco
Today we follow the legendary route taken by the first Inca ruler – Manco Capac – on his way to find Cusco.
Travelling aboard our private bus, we will watch the spectacular Andean scenery rolling past our window as shepherds graze their flocks of llamas and alpaca on the altiplano grasslands. En route, we make a valuable stop at the archaeological site of Raqchi and visit the ruins of this old Inca temple. We arrive in Cusco in the late afternoon and head to our hotel.
There is also the possibility today to take the classic rail journey from Puno to Cusco (optional). One of the great railway journeys of the world, this full day trip covers some spectacular scenery over the high altiplano. It includes a meal aboard the train, with the chance to try some local delicacies and make use of the outside viewing platform before arriving into Cusco.
Please note that rail strikes are common in Peru and so there is the possibility that the train may not always be running. In the event that you have chosen the optional train ride and it is not operating, then we will make the journey from Puno to Cusco by bus, with the rest of the group. Refunds for trains cancelled due to strike action is at the rail companies discretion.
Day 8 In Cusco; visit Sacsayhuaman Fortress
The old capital of the Inca empire survives only in its ruins, imbued with an atmosphere of mystery and grandeur. The Spanish colonial city, with its attractive pink tiled roofs, arcaded plazas and steep winding alleyways, stands upon tremendous Inca foundation stones. This morning we take a walking tour of this lovely city to see important Inca and Colonial monuments, such as the Plaza de Armas (main square) and the Inca wall of Hatunrumiyoc with its famous twelve-sided stone. The stone, measuring some 5 feet across, has the typical bevelled joints which create the patterns of light and shadow on Inca walls. We will continue on by bus to the outlying Inca site of Sacsayhuaman which broods high above the town, its huge, zigzagging stone walls broken into 66 sharply projecting angles to catch attackers in a withering crossfire. 20,000 conscripted workers toiled for 90 years to finish it. The afternoon is left free for some further exploration of Cusco.
Day 9 Free Day in Cusco
Today has been left free to further explore the winding streets and alleyways of Cusco. There are plenty of fascinating museums, lively plazas and bustling markets to explore here, and it’s a relaxing place to spend a day people watching while having a coffee – or a pisco sour!
Day 10 Train to Aguas Calientes; visit Machu Picchu
We take an early morning train along the side of the Rio Urubamba, flanked by high cliffs and peaks, then climb by bus to Machu Picchu – the famous ‘lost city’ at 2400m. The existence of this exquisite masterpiece of ancient civilisation remained unknown to the outside world until it was ‘discovered’ by an American archaeologist, Hiram Bingham in 1911. We explore this mountain-top stronghold – the most spectacular feat of engineering in ancient America. Returning to the valley floor, we stay in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, with the chance to soak in the nearby natural hot baths.
Day 11 More time to discover Machu Picchu (optional); train to Ollantaytambo
We have another chance this morning to explore the site. It is also possible to climb the steep peaks of either Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu Mountain to look down on the citadel. Machu Picchu Mountain is a 700m climb from the top of the citadel. There are cobbled stairs all the way up with a few eye-opening drops in some parts, and the round-trip takes about 2.5-3 hours. Huayna Picchu Mountain is only 350m, half the size of Machu Picchu Mountain, but much steeper. There are many more sheer drops, and it is definitely not suitable for someone with a fear of heights. For those who fancy doing the 1 hour climb, you’ll be rewarded with world-beating views of Machu Picchu, and the feeling that you’re standing on a precipice at the top of the world.
These must be pre-paid at time of booking. If you change your passport between your time of booking and prior to travel please take your original passport with you.
Later we take the train to Ollantaytambo and transfer to our hotel in the heart of the Sacred Valley where we can relax and enjoy the views as the sun sets.
Day 12 In the Sacred Valley; optional whitewater rafting; return to Cusco
Today is a free day in the beautiful Sacred Valley with a wide choice of things to do. For water-lovers there is a the opportunity to go white water rafting on the Urubamba River; grade 2-3 rapids (optional and seasonal), or take a more leisurely approach with a stand up paddle session on the Piuray Lagoon in the heart of the area’s spectacular scenery. No previous experience of rafting or stand up paddle is necessary – full instruction and safety equipment are provided. There is also the opportunity to visit Misminay, home to many of the porters who work along the Inca Trail and within the valley itself. We can learn a little more about the lives of these descendants of the ancient Inca during our visit.
Alternatively, take a trip to Maras and Moray, two of the Sacred Valley’s most impressive sights; first, visit the huge concentric Inca terraces of Moray, a sort of botanical laboratory that the Inca’s used to test their crops. Then, visit the weirdly beautiful Maras salt mines, all laid out across the mountainside like a chess board in the mountains – a final 45 minute descent to the small salt-producing town of Pichingoto ends this excursion.
For those who want a bit less exertion, there is the chance to visit a craft beer brewery, including a tasting of the various different beers on offer. Craft beer is still relatively new in Peru, but growing quickly. The range of local ingredients used in the brewing process is fascinating.
Day 13 Trip ends in Cusco
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Cusco.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Cusco at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ), which is around 15 minutes’ drive from our hotel.
Depending on the schedule of your flights, you may have some additional time to visit a museum or do some souvenir shopping in the winding streets and alleys of the city.