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Discover the very best of Peru on this 21-day adventure. Start in the fast-moving capital city of Lima, then go back in time with a visit to the mysterious Nazca Lines. Walk the volcanic lands of Arequipa and weave through the Andes to the archaeological wonders of the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Float across the waters of Lake Titicaca and complete your Peruvian experience with a stay in an Amazon Rainforest eco-lodge. With a local to reveal the secrets and history of each destination, this is an unforgettable journey through Peru.
Day 1: Lima
Welcome to Peru! On arrival into Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport you will be transferred to your hotel. Meet your leader and fellow travellers for a pre-trip briefing, usually held at 2 pm. Please check the noticeboard near the hotel reception for confirmation of the location of the meeting. After the meeting your leader will take you on a brief orientation tour of the Miraflores area – your in-depth city tour will take place tomorrow morning. Lima has some of the best cuisine in South America and is especially renowned for its seafood. Perhaps sample Peru's national dish of ceviche – raw fish cured in lime juice and often served with hot peppers.
Day 2: Paracas
This morning at approximately 8 am your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral of Lima, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro. You have an included visit to the nearby San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains. Continue on to the Central Market where you'll take a walking tour. The market has a huge variety of fresh produce on offer, including fruits, vegetables and even guinea pigs. You'll also have the opportunity to try some local Peruvian fruits and street food. Next, head away from the tourist trail and visit Alameda de Chabuca Granda, an area really only known to locals. It's a place where people go as a treat to enjoy a variety of local street food and authentic Peruvian desserts such as ‘mazamorra morada’, a sweet porridge made from purple corn, or ‘picarones’, Peruvian donuts made from local squash called macre and sweet potatoes served with a sweet syrup – both are a must to try while in Peru! Later in the afternoon, travel by minivan for approximately 4 hours to Paracas, arriving in the early evening.
Day 3: Nazca
This morning, rise early for an excursion to the Ballestas Islands. We will depart the hotel at approximately 7.30 am. Make your way to Paracas port to board a boat at approximately 8 am. The Ballestas Islands are home to an abundance of wildlife, including pelicans, red-footed boobies, flamingos, sea lions and even penguins. You'll have the opportunity to see wildlife up close on a boat tour of the islands (approximately 1.5–2 hours). Afterwards, drive to Nazca (approximately 3 hours) with a possible stop at Huacanchina – a small lakeside village – on the way, if your group chooses. On arrival in Nazca, visit the viewing platform to see the famous Nazca Lines. Etched into the landscape some 22 kilometres north of Nazca, these mysterious wonders are an assortment of perfectly straight lines, trapezoidal zones, and strange symbols of birds and beasts on a giant scale. For another perspective on the Nazca Lines, opt for an aerial tour this afternoon. The plane ride lasts for around 30 minutes and covers the 26 figures scattered throughout the desert. Although bumpy at times, the experience is unforgettable.
Day 4: Arequipa
Early this morning, make the 10–12 hour journey (depending on traffic and stops) to Arequipa by private van. The trip may be long, but it's well worth the effort. There will be toilet and lunch stops along the way. Arequipa is a beautiful Spanish colonial city. Known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City), the buildings have been built almost exclusively from a white volcanic material called sillar. The city lies in a valley at the foot of the El Misti volcano – a perfectly shaped cone.
Day 5: Arequipa
Enjoy a walking tour of Arequipa at around 9 am with a local guide. Explore the main square, the Santa Catalina Monastery, the San Ignacio Chapel with its colonial mural paintings and the suburb of Yanahuara. The tour will finish at approximately 1 pm, just in time to cosy up at one of the plaza's cafes. Another option is a visit to the museum that houses 'Mummy Juanita' – the well-preserved body of a young Inca girl who died sometime between 1450 and 1480.
Day 6: Arequipa
Take a free day to further explore the laidback city of Arequipa. Pick up an Alpaca jumper and meet the llamas and alpacas of Mundo Alpaca, stroll to the pretty, peaceful neighbourhood of Yanahuara or take part in any optional active adventures in the surrounding hills and rivers.
Day 7: Colca Canyon
This morning will begin at approximately 8 or 9 am, depending on what the group decides. Drive through the Altiplano – high plains – to the Colca Valley and Canyon. This drive takes approximately 5–6 hours including stops. On the way you'll see grazing vicunas, llamas and alpacas, as well as stone cairns built by local indigenous communities. More than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, the Colca Canyon provides some breathtaking views. The pre-Inca terraces carved into its walls are still cultivated today, and traditional Indian villages are dotted around, where it's possible to see locals in colourful traditional dress. Stop at the highest point (4910 metres) to enjoy views of the bleak landscape below and the snow-capped volcano of the Nevado Ampato in the distance. At this point you might notice the thinner air, but after taking some photos you'll quickly get back in the vehicle and descend to a lower altitude. Continue on to the town of Chivay, where you'll have some time to visit the local hot springs. In the evening, you may wish to visit a local 'pena' to enjoy a Peruvian dance and music show. Spend the night in Chivay.
Day 8: Puno
Around 6 am this morning, you'll visit the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, where Andean condors, one of the world's largest flying birds, can often be seen soaring in the air. This journey will take approximately 5 hours return. After lunch it's about a 6-hour (including stops) drive to Puno. On the way the group will stop at the Sillustani archaeological site. The ruined 'chullpas', or funeral towers, of Sillustani were built by a pre-Inca civilisation centuries ago to house the remains of noble men. Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is full of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is renowned for its traditional dances.
Day 9: Lake Titicaca/Suasi Island
Be enchanted by the striking scenery and unique cultures on a cruise around Lake Titicaca today. As Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, the sun can be extremely strong, so make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen, even on cloudy days. This morning at about 8 am you will depart from the port in Puno for the floating Uros Islands. The boat journey will take about 30 minutes before reaching the Islands. The Uros people constructed these islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes in ancient times. They are built completely from multiple layers of totora reeds, which grow in the shallows of the lake. Call into Taquile Island for some woollen handicrafts. On the island, knitting is strictly a male domain, while women do the spinning. You will spend approximately 1–1.5 hours here. Later the afternoon you will travel a further hour or so to the private island of Suasi where you'll spend the next two nights.
Day 10: Suasi Island
This morning you will visit the cultural museum on the island which houses maps, pictures of the lake and books about the history of the lake and its communities. There are handicrafts and fabrics from the different groups that developed around the lake, types of Andean grains like quinoa, and a chance to learn about the process of painting wool. An easy late-afternoon walk (approximately 1–2 hours) will take you to the highest point of the island – the perfect place to witness an unforgettable sunset over the waters of Lake Titicaca. Enjoy a private picnic with drinks; a unique moment to soak in the beautiful landscape, appreciate the serenity and – if the clouds behave – watch the sun go down.
Day 11: Puno
Around midday (12 pm) today, travel back across the lake to Puno. On the way you will be provided with a packed box lunch. Enjoy a free night in Puno to explore, eat dinner at a local restaurant or relax in the hotel. Puno is famous for its festivals. If you're lucky, your visit might coincide with an evening parade, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Day 12: Cusco
This morning, continue to Cusco by private van. This will be a long ride with opportunities to stop for breaks, but you may want to stock up on snacks for the journey. Cusco is South America's oldest continuously inhabited city, and was the home of the Inca for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today Cusco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. At 3450 metres (11,150 feet) above sea level, it’s important to take time to acclimatise to the city’s altitude. After settling in at the hotel, take a casual orientation walk around the hotel and Plaza de Armas with your leader. This tour will also include a visit to the Cusco Cathedral with specialist guide Professor Alfredo Hinojoza Galvez. Alfredo was born and raised in the city of Cusco. He studied at the National College of Sciences of Cusco and later studied Administration and Tourism then a Masters in Colonial Art at National University San Antonio Abad del Cusco (NUSAAC). Alfredo has served as Dean of the College of Tourism and has published eight books, including a guidebook for the Touristic Tour of the East Valley. He is considered an icon among colonial art and tourism students for his impressive career spanning 30 years. Alfredo will be uniquely placed to offer special insight into Cusco Cathedral, which is also a World Heritage site.
Day 13: Cusco
This morning your leader will take you on walking tour of Cusco. Visit the Coricancha Temple for a tour with a local guide. The temple was once covered in sheets of gold that were eventually removed to raise a ransom for the life of Atahualpa, and later the Spanish demolished the temple to build a Dominican church on its foundations. Soon after, head to the San Pedro market, where you can practice your bargaining skills and take some colourful pictures. The tour will finish at Cafe Manos Unidos for an included snack. This cafe's core purpose to improve the quality of life for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities though vocational training and education in the hospitality industry. The food is all natural and is prepared and served by the students on site – a great way for travellers to interact with locals. This afternoon, continue your own independent explorations with some free time in Cusco.
Day 14: Sacred Valley
This morning at around 9 am you'll board a private bus for the Sacred Valley. Just outside of Cusco, visit the fortress ruins of Sacsayhuaman. The massive stone blocks forming the settlement's walls give you an idea of the ingenuity of the Inca. Continue on to the Sacred Valley. Treasured for its climate, fertile land and the Urubamba (Sacred) River, the valley has long been the main source of food in the high Andes. Afterwards, stop for lunch at the Chichubamba community in Urubamba to take part in an ancient cooking ritual known as pachamanca. This cooking method, which dates back to the time of the Inca empire, sees meats marinaded in spices then placed in a huatia (earth oven) with a selection of root vegetables and cooked slowly over hot stones. You will also visit a couple of local workshops and a chicheria (corn beer) bar. If it happens to be a market day, you can wander the stalls in search of hand-crafted beads and ponchos. Later, continue on to the town of Ollantaytambo. Built over an ancient Inca settlement, this is one of the few places where the Inca defeated the Spanish. The ruins of the upper terraces offer great photo opportunities of the town below.
Day 15: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu
Your destination today is Aguas Calientas, nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. Early this morning at approximately 7.45 am you will travel by train for around 90 minutes through the meandering Urubamba Valley to reach the town. From here take a 30-minute bus up the winding road to Machu Picchu, where you will be joined by a guide who will take you through the ruins and tell you stories of its history and the ancestral people of the region. Looking at Machu Picchu for the first time, as it sits against a backdrop of forested mountains, is a truly breathtaking experience. The true purpose behind Machu Picchu may always be a mystery, since no historical records of the complex exist. In fact, none were made in the first place, since the Incas had no written language. Most archaeologists, however, believe it to be the 15th-century headquarters of ‘he who shook the earth’: Emperor Pachacuti. Today, enjoy a guided visit (approximately 1.5–2 hours) with plenty of photo opportunities. Later, take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes to spend the night before heading back up to Machu Picchu first thing in the morning for your second visit.
Day 16: Machu Picchu – Cusco
At around 5.30 am this morning, take the bus back up the winding road to Machu Picchu. On your second visit to the ruins, join a local Machu Picchu guide once again to explore more of the extraordinary architecture of the many temples, palaces and living quarters. Its mortar-free design is particularly earthquake resistant and the stones are so precisely cut that, to this day, not even a knife fits between them! You'll have time along the way to take any photos you may have missed yesterday. In the afternoon, return by bus and train to Cusco, where you'll spend the night. In the evening, perhaps head out for a celebratory dinner with your group in the city.
Day 17: Cusco
Bid farewell to any fellow travellers leaving the trip today. Enjoy a free day to relax, shop or explore more of Cusco's sights. Perhaps head to a cafe on the Plaza de Armas, or for those seeking an active adventure, try mountain biking in the hills surrounding Cusco. In the evening, you might like to unwind with a meal and drink in a local restaurant. You could even sample the Peruvian delicacy of cuy (guinea pig), if you are yet to try it.
Day 18: Puerto Maldonado – Jungle Lodge
This morning take an included 40-minute flight to Puerto Maldonado, where you will be met by a local guide who will accompany you during your time in the jungle. Make a quick trip to your jungle accommodation’s office in town, where you will be required to transfer any items you need for the next few days into a provided duffel bag. The remainder of your items will be stored securely in the office. Continue by private vehicle to port (45 minutes), then board a motorised canoe and travel down the Tambopata River to reach your jungle lodging. This journey will take between 45 minutes and 2.5 hours, depending on which lodge you are staying in. Arrive, unpack and unwind for about an hour before a short orientation and briefing. After dinner tonight, your local guide will take you into the jungle on a night walk.
Day 19: Jungle Lodge
Embrace a 4.30 am and shake off the sleep with a 40-minute hike to Oxbow Lake. Board a catamaran and take a leisurely cruise. Keep your eyes peeled for squirrel monkey troops that sometimes forage in bushes at the edge of the lake. Overhead, macaws and parrots are a regular sight. After the boat ride, walk back to the lodge, arriving at about 11 am depending on the groups pace. Take a quick break, then head back out on a 20-minute walk to a clay lick frequented by ten species of parrots and parakeets. While watching from a blind, you’ll be able to get very close to view the dusky-headed and cobalt-winged parakeets, chestnut-fronted macaws and mealy, yellow-crowned, blue-headed, and orange-cheeked parrots. Walk back to the lodge for lunch. Take free time until mid-afternoon, when you’ll take a 20-minute boat ride downriver to Centro Nape, a traditional community clinic that produces medicines from rainforest plants. An local from the Infierno community will take you on a unique tour of Centro Nape to explain the uses of various medicinal plants. Head back to the lodge at around 6 pm and enjoy some free time before dinner. After dinner, choose whether you’d like to take an optional night walk.
Day 20: Puerto Maldonado – Lima
At approximately 7 am, take a boat transfer back to the port, then continue to the lodge office to collect your belongings. Transfer to the airport for your flight back to Lima. On arrival thsi afternoon in Lima, transfer to your hotel and enjoy free time to explore or relax at your leisure for the rest of the day.
Day 21: Lima
Today your Peruvian adventure comes to an end after breakfast. Flights out of Lima can be booked for anytime, as there are no planned activities.
- Complimentary airport arrival transfer
- Lima - Leader led orientation walk of Miraflores
- Lima - Guided tour, including San Francisco Monastery, the Catacombs and Central Market
- Lima - Alameda de Chabuca Granda - Street food tasting
- Ballestas Island - Excursion
- Nazca Lines - Viewing tower
- Arequipa - Walking tour
- Arequipa - San Ignacio Chapel Visit
- Arequipa - Santa Catalina Monastery
- Arequipa - Cathedral Visit
- Colca Canyon - Guided visit
- Sillustani archaeological site (time permitting)
- Colca Canyon - Condor view point
- Lake Titicaca - Floating Uros islands & Taquile island visit
- Suasi Island - Cultural Museum Visit
- Suasi Island - Spectacular Sunset over Lake Titicaca, Picnic & Drinks
- Cusco - Orientation Walk
- Cusco - Cathedral Entrance Fee
- Cusco - Coricancha Temple entrance fee
- Cusco - Walking Tour: Main Square, San Blas Square, Coricancha Temple, San Pedro Market & 12 Angle Stone.
- Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
- Cusco - Full Boleto Turistico Pass (access to 16 archaeological sites, transport & guides not included)
- Cuzco - Guided visit of Sacsayhuaman
- Guided visit of Machu Picchu
- Second visit of Machu Picchu (unguided)
20 Breakfast(s) Included
6 Lunch(es) Included
4 Dinner(s) Included
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