Day 1-2 - Lima
On arrival at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport you are transferred to your hotel in the well-known coastal suburb of Miraflores. In the evening you meet your tour leader and the other members of your group for a pre-tour briefing. Please check the noticeboard near the hotel reception for confirmation of the exact time and place of the meeting (please note that if a significant number of group members are arriving late into Lima, this meeting may be held sometime on Day 2). This meeting is generally followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant. Lima has some of the most superb cuisine in South America and is especially renowned for its exceptional seafood. During your time here, you may wish to try ceviche, Peru's national dish, which is raw fish marinated in lime juice and often served with hot peppers. This culinary delight is a must for all seafood lovers!
On the morning of Day 2 we start our exploration of the Peruvian capital with a half-day city tour. Founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, it was from Lima that all Spanish territories in South America were governed. Few cities at that time could rival Lima's power, wealth and opulence. However its glory days ended in 1746 when the city was virtually destroyed by an earthquake. Many of the colonial buildings were rebuilt and we get a first-hand look at several of them on our tour. The striking Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas), flanked by some of the most important buildings in town such as the cathedral, the huge Government Palace and the Archbishop's Palace, constitutes the heart of the city. We visit the cathedral and the nearby San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains. We also visit the impressive National Museum of Anthropology, Archaeology and History of Peru, which is home to a wonderful collection of cultural exhibits tracing the history, arts and accomplishments of the people of Peru, ranging from the original inhabitants of the land through to the Inca Empire and the Spanish conquerors.
The afternoon is free to do your own exploration of Lima. You may wish to wander around Miraflores or perhaps catch a taxi to visit the Gold Museum or the Larco Museum, which is renowned for its ancient pottery collection. Please remember that you must agree on a fare with the driver before catching a taxi, as the taxis here do not have meters. (Miraflores-Downtown approximately 10-15 soles)
Day 3-4 - Lima - Nazca - overnight bus
Using the regular deluxe bus service, we travel 450
kilometres south to Nazca in the Peruvian desert. Nazca’s origins date back to
the 2nd century BC and here, in the dry desert conditions, mummies, textiles,
ceramics and other relics have been remarkably well preserved to give
archaeologists clear snapshots of this highly developed civilisation. We visit
the desert cemetery of Chauchilla, where millennia-old mummies, bones and
skulls litter the desert. We will also have the option to take a 3 hour tour to
visit the viewing platforms of the famous Nazca Lines. Etched into the
landscape some 22 kilometres north of Nazca are an assortment of perfectly
straight lines, trapezoidal zones, strange symbols, images of birds and beasts
on a giant scale. There are many theories about how and why these 'lines'
exist, let alone who created them. The forms are so difficult to see from the
ground that they were not discovered until the 1930s. This optional tour costs
about US$50 per person (price subject to change). Following our stay in Nazca
we take the regular overnight deluxe bus service, fitted with reclining seats,
Day 5 - Arequipa
Arequipa is known as 'La Ciudad Blanca' (The White City) because the buildings have been built almost exclusively from a white volcanic material called 'sillar'. The city lies in a beautiful valley and at the foot of the 5822-metre-high El Misti volcano, a perfectly shaped cone. Arequipa is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in Peru. Protected by mountains, its wild surrounding landscape consists of high altitude deserts, hot springs and abyssal canyons. We visit the cathedral and a walking tour of this charming city takes us down cobblestone streets to the beautifully refurbished Santa Catalina Convent. Originally built in 1580, it is a maze of high walls decked in flowers and buttressed houses painted in the traditional colours of white, brown, and blue. We also visit the Jesuit Church (La Compañia), with its intricate façade and incredible artwork, and have time to discover the cafés, shops and arcaded buildings that surround the impressive Plaza de Armas. Along the way, we pass by many of the existing historic colonial houses that have helped earned this city a UNESCO World Heritage listing.
Day 6-7 - Colca Canyon - Arequipa
Today we continue our journey by driving into the Colca Valley and Colca Canyon. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and with an average depth of 3400 metres, this canyon is one of the deepest in the world. During our journey through the 'Altiplano' (High Plains) we see grazing wild vicunas, domesticated llamas and alpacas, as well as stone cairns that were built by the indigenous people. We stop at the highest point (4910m) to enjoy views of the bleak landscape below and snowcaps on Nevado Ampato (6310m) in the distance. At this point we will feel a little shortness of breath, but after we take our photos, we are back in the vehicle descending to a lower altitude. We continue to Chivay the capital of the provence, and have time to take a short walk to ancient ruins, or visit the local hot springs. In the evening, you may wish to visit a local 'peñas' to see a show of traditional Peruvian dance and music. We stay overnight in Chivas.
Unlike most of the Grand Canyon, there are small, picturesque villages dotted around Colca Canyon, near the remarkable Inca and pre-Inca terraced fields, that still support agriculture and human life. It is possible to see many of the locals in their highly decorative traditional dress and hats. We drive through this stunning scenery, for the opportunity to spot one of the world's largest flying birds, the Andean condor. From Cruz Del Condor, a view point overlooking the valley, we hope to see the family of condors which nest in the Canyon walls, soar gracefully above and below us. It is truly a magnificent sight. In the afternoon, we return to Arequipa.
Day 8-9 - Cusco - The Sacred Valley
Today we fly to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, where we take an afternoon walking tour to explore this fascinating city. Please remember to walk slowly and take it reasonably easy upon arrival, as you will no doubt feel the effects of altitude as we have travelled from sea level up to 3350 metres. Cusco is a favourite destination of many visitors to Peru. Its main sites radiate outwards from the Plaza de Armas, which is dominated by the 17th century Baroque cathedral. It was in this very plaza that the Spanish conquistadors put to death the last Inca king, Tupac Amaru I. As we wander the streets and side alleys of the city we witness the perfect tapering Inca stonework that provided the foundations for many of Cusco's colonial and modern buildings. Our comprehensive sightseeing tour of the city's main sights includes the cathedral and Koricancha Temple. We then take to the surrounding hills and visit the impressive ceremonial ruins of Sacsayhuaman, where massive stone blocks that form the walls of this site give us an awesome picture of how highly developed Inca engineering was. In our free time, it is also possible to visit the Inca Museum, Religious Art Museum, Church of San Blas and Santa Catalina Museum.
The Sacred Valley, located between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, was greatly treasured because of its climate, fertile land and the presence of the Urubamba (Sacred) River. On our full day tour of the Sacred Valley, we will see evidence of the Incas' engineering skills in the ruins of ancient aqueducts, irrigation canals, dams on the Urubamba River, imposing sets of terraces and centres of worship dedicated to Pachamama (Mother Earth). At the Sacred Valley we visit the Awana Kancha tourist centre where we see llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco all in the one place, the ruins at Qenko, the colourful market town of Pisac and the towering Inca citadel at Ollantaytambo. Built on a steep mountainside this grand citadel served as both a temple and fortress. A walk up to the top is rewarded by fine views over the village and out further into the valley.
Day 10-13 - (Important Note)
We trek the ‘Classic’ and the ‘Quarry’ routes, both of which include a
visit to incredible Machu Picchu at the end of the trek. Although we
normally trek the 'Classic' route, it is restricted by the number of
trekkers permitted on the trail each day and unless you have booked
early, it maybe difficult or impossible for us to secure the necessary
group permits (especially during the peak season). It is also closed
during the month of February for cleaning and rejuvenation. If we are
unable to confirm your permit for the 'Classic' route we will use the
‘Quarry’ trail. This is an exceptional alternative. Venturing further
off the beaten path, this trek winds its way through remote rural
villages and provides stunning views across the Andes. Along the way you
can mingle with local families, llama herders and weavers, renowned for
their brightly coloured hats and ponchos. The trek is of similar
altitude and level of difficulty as the 'Classic' route and also
includes a visit to the town of Aguas Calientes and the magnificent
Machu Picchu, recently voted one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the
The following description refers to the 'Classic' route. Please refer
below to the 'Itinerary Variation' section of this trip note for details
of the 'Quarry' route.
Day 10 - Inca Trail: Km 82 - Wayllabamba (8km)
This morning we set off for the Inca Trail by travelling from Cusco into the Sacred Valley before heading to Kilometre 82, where our trek begins. Today we hike past the ancient hilltop fort of Huillca Raccay and the beautiful archaeological site of Llactapata. It is a fairly leisurely hike and along the way there are stunning views of snow-capped Veronica Peak (5860m). Following the river we pass a tiny village and continue on to our camp at Wayllabamba, located at 3000 metres. Porters are provided on this trek, so during the day you need only to carry a daypack with your personal items (water, camera, jacket etc).
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 11 - Inca Trail - Pacaymayo (16km)
Today is the most difficult part of the trek as we climb to Warminwanusca, or Dead Woman's Pass (4200m). Along the way we trek through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery to be seen anywhere in the Andes. This is the first and highest of three Andean passes on the Inca Trail, with breathtaking views over the snow capped Vilcanota and Vilcabama mountain ranges. Ahead of us we can see the ruins of Runkuracay and in the valley below, Rio Pacamayo (Sunrise River). Here the trail changes from dirt to steps and stone pathways, our route takes us through a landscape dotted with rural hamlets, grazing llamas and well-preserved remnants of the Incan culture. Although not too arduous we still need to make a steep descent to the valley below, and our camp beneath the cliff tops at Pacamayo (3600m), overlooking the cloud forest.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 12 - Inca Trail - Winaywayna (15km)
We climb up to the oval shaped ruin of Runkurakay, which is believed to have once been an Inca tambo or post house. Pushing on up the Inca staircase and beside two tiny and fast diminishing mountain lakes, we are rewarded at the summit of our second pass (3900m) with spectacular views of Pumasillo (6245m) and the entire snow-capped Vilcabamba range. From here it is a steep descent and then ascent to our third pass and the ruins of Phullupatamarca, where we embark on a long descent into a beautiful orchid-filled cloud forest. The scenery will blow you away! Butterflies flutter across the trail and the air is pure and clean as we head to breathtaking Winaywayna (2650m).
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 13 - Machu Picchu - Aguas Calientes (5km) - Cusco
On our final morning we make an early start to reach the Sun Gate for sunrise. Here we enjoy our first views of the complex of Machu Picchu, often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas. On a clear morning the view from the Sun Gate can be quite stunning and creates a lasting impression that will stay with you long after you return home. Built around 1450 the city was deserted less than a century later following the Spanish invasion and 'lost' for hundreds of years before it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The architecture of Machu Picchu is quite extraordinary, with the mortar-free design particularly earthquake resistant and the stones so precisely cut that to this day not even a knife fits between them. We tour the site with our guide and then have some free time to explore by ourselves, before taking the bus down to the small town of Aguas Calientes. There are some small shops and restaurants in the town where we can while the time away. Alternatively you may choose to wash away the dust and grime of the trail in the hot thermal baths located on the edge of town. In the late afternoon we take the train back to Cusco.
Day 14 - Cusco
Today is a free day to spend in Cusco. The oldest continuously inhabited city in the western hemisphere, Cusco is a wonderful place in which to stroll aimlessly or participate in an outdoor activity. If you are feeling energetic there are a myriad of adventures available in and around town, such as cycling and horse riding. There are plenty of opportunities to shop for handicrafts or wander around the cobblestone streets and visit museums, churches and colonial sites. You may just wish to relax with a 'cerveza' or a 'pisco sour' in one of the restaurants and 'penas' (traditional local bars) surrounding Plaza de Armas.
Day 15 - Puno
We travel by bus today to the town of Puno, situated on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3810 metres. This scheduled tourist service takes us on good roads initially through some spectacular mountain scenery and we stop at several sites along the way, including Inca adobe ruins. Lunch is included on a stop in the small town of Sicuani. Along the way we also make a short roadside stop at La Raya, which at 4335 metres is the highest point on our journey. We also drive through the large sprawling town of Juliaca on our way to Puno, which is a colourful and lively place renowned for its traditional street dancing, often performed in celebration of Catholic festive days in February each year. An important agricultural centre, Puno is reasonably compact and centred around the pedestrian part of Calle Lima, which is full of restaurants and bars. The town is a launching pad for excursions out on Lake Titicaca whilst on the surrounding plateaus, grazing alpacas and llamas are familiar sights.
Day 16 - Lake Titicaca - Sillustani – Puno
This morning we leave our hotel by local trishaw and head for the lake and board our boat. One of our first stops is on one of the floating reed islands of the Uros people, who still live as they have done so for centuries. The islanders use totora reeds for many things, from building their homes and boats to producing hand-woven mats. We then make our way across the lake back to Puno and continue by road to Sillustani, where located on a small peninsula are well-preserved burial towers called 'chullpas'. Constructed by the Colla people in pre-Incan times, these 'chullpas' often have lizards carved into their stone exterior; lizards are considered a symbol of life because of their ability to regrow their tails. The complex engineering feat involved in the construction of these conical towers, which stand up to a height of 12 metres, continues to amaze archaeologists even today. We return to our hotel in Puno in the late afternoon.
Day 17 - Tiahuanaco - La Paz
Peru and Bolivia both share the waters of Lake Titicaca, and today we follow the shores of the lake to the Bolivian border at Desaguadero. Here we complete our immigration and customs formalities. The journey by road to the Bolivian capital, La Paz, takes us via the ancient ruins of Tiahuanaco. This was the base of a great civilisation that began around 500 BC before mysteriously 'disappearing' around 1200 AD. It is believed that the ceremonial complex date back to the 8th century AD and was once at the centre of a powerful and self-sustaining empire based in the southern Central Andes. The sprawling ruins comprise of temples, courtyards, terraced pyramids, monolithic stone statues and gateways. The most famous structure is the Puerta del Sol (Gateway of the Sun). From the ruins it is less than a two-hour drive to La Paz, where we spend the night. We enjoy spectacular views of the city on our approach, due to its unique location in the middle of a vast volcanic crater that resembles a bowl.
Day 18-19 - La Paz
We spend a full day visiting the sights of La Paz - the highest capital in the world. Towering over the city is Mount Illimani, which reaches a height of 6439 metres with its snow-covered peaks. Much of La Paz is modern, however, there are still some examples of late 19th century architecture such as the Presidential Palace, La Paz Cathedral and National Congress. We view these and visit a few of the city's small, but fascinating museums as well as wander around the Witches Market, where they sell some unusual medicinal potions. A short distance from the town centre is the Valley of the Moon - an eroded maze of canyons and pinnacles that form a bizarre landscape.
Our adventure comes to an end after breakfast the following morning. If you wish to extend your stay in La Paz, additional accommodation can be arranged for you. Please ask your travel agent at the time of booking your holiday.