Arrive in Lima at any time. On arrival you will be picked up and transferred to your hotel. The day is free to spend at leisure.
*Please note: if you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Bundle your CEO will inform you upon arrival when you will see each show throughout your tour, these days are subject to change: Lima cooking class (Day 2) and Cusco cooking class (Day 11). For more information on the shows see the Optional Activities section.
Known as the City of Kings, Peru’s capital city Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany) in 1535. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of old Lima, and it is here you find the Cathedral, Government Palace and Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral dates back to the 1700s and houses the remains of the conquistador Pizarro. To get a feel for colonial Lima, take a cab to the Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the Palace Guard at noon. Walk the streets surrounding the Jirón de la Unión for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to get a taste for life in a large South American city.
There are many fine museums in and around the city, including the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which houses an equally impressive collection of pottery, mummies and textiles from the Paracas and Nazca cultures. The more affluent districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, which are on the coast, offer good nightlife and cafés. Limeños (Lima’s residents) are friendly, and the city is filled with excellent restaurants; seafood lovers in particular should be sure to try a ceviche, for which Lima is well known.
*Please note that hot water shortages and power outages can be fairly common in Peru (even in upgraded hotels and private homes). We appreciate your patience and understanding that these occurrences are outside of our control.
Today we will travel three hours to Paracas, a sleeping fishing village that serves as the starting point for all tours to the Ballestas Islands, often referred to as "the poor man's Galapagos". Home to hundreds of sea lions, many species of marine birds, including the Humboldt penguin you are guaranteed to see some incredible wildlife. There is little to do in town but for those that love seafood and are looking to try Peru's national drink, the Pisco Sour, you will be in heaven.
Approximate Distance: 285km
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
This morning we visit the Ballestas Islands by boat to view sea lion colonies, penguins and other bird life.
Continue south by land to Nazca with a stop to see the Huacachina sand dunes along the way. The pleasant colonial town of Ica enjoys a dry and sunny climate and is known for its huge sand dunes around the Huacachina oasis. Apart from the dunes, the town is well known for its wines, and there are several wineries and distilleries in the area.
Approximate Distance: 175km
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
Travel to Nazca, home of one of the world's greatest archaeological mysteries, the Nazca Lines. The lines consist of patterns and pictures etched in the ground, crisscrossing a wide area of flat desert. Some of the lines measure up to 10 km (32 miles) in length, and yet remain perfectly straight. The depictions of birds, insects and animals are only recognizable from the air. Who drew the lines, and why, is something modern archaeologists can only theorize about, but current beliefs suggest that they may be part of complex agricultural calendar. The best way to view the lines is from a light aircraft, which can easily be arranged as an optional activity.
The entire desert area was also once the home for the ancient Paracas and the Nazca cultures, which preceded the Incas by more than half a millennium. Remains of the Nazca culture are still visible during our included tour of an ancient Pre-Inca desert cemetery site, with 1500 year-old mummies, bones and pottery on the desert floor. The tour also includes a visit to an artisan’s workshop, where modern masters create Nazca style pottery.
In the evening we assist in the preparation of a thousand year-old tradition: a "Pachamanca", an ancient ceremony akin to the Polynesian meal of burying a variety of delicious treats wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooking them with pre-heated rocks buried in the ground.
A full day of travel awaits as we continue south to the town of Arequipa. Day 5 is a very long driving day and will include rest stops and lunch included at Oasis Camana.
Peru’s second most important city after Lima, Arequipa maintains a traditional colonial style and more laid back pace in comparison with the capital. Sitting at 2325 m (7626 ft) above sea level and surrounded by the Andes mountains, this delightful colonial town is well worth a visit. Arequipa was built from a very light coloured volcanic rock called sillar, so older buildings dazzle in the sun, giving the city its nickname, “the White City.” The main plaza with its cafés and nearby cathedral is a top draw for visitors.
Those with an interest in history, culture and architecture will enjoy our visit to the Convent of Santa Catalina during our city tour, offering a brief respite from the outside world and a unique view into a by-gone way of life. Spectacular mountains surround Arequipa, the most famous of which is El Misti Volcano, at 5822 m (19096 ft) and with a beautiful snow-capped peak.
Approximate Distance: 420km
Estimated Travel Time: 10-11 hours
Catch our flight to Cusco.
Cusco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts travellers who come not just to visit a unique destination but also to experience an age-old culture very different from their 20th century way of life; one could easily spend a week just in and around the area. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other major Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend.
Every year Cusco attracts thousands of travellers who come to delve into its noble but tragic past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations around the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. Relax and explore this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude.
Approximate Distance: 389km
Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours
Travel through the stunning Sacred Valley of the Incas, visit a Planeterra-supported women's weaving co-op, the impressive Pisac ruins, the colourful artisan market (market days only) and the large ruin site of Ollantaytambo that lies adjacent to the town of the same name. Starting in 2014 travellers will have the chance to visit Huchuy Qosco, an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry, now running the Planeterra-supported Sacred Valley Community Restaurant and tour in their own village.
Planeterra has been working with the Ccaccaccollo community since 2005 to develop a viable economic alternative for women by creating a weaving cooperative to sell traditional textiles to travellers. Donations by travelers have helped build a community centre supplied with looms and sewing machines for the women to use to expand their production. This project allows the women of the Ccaccaccollo community to maintain their cultural heritage and benefit from the tourism industry.
The town and fortress of Ollantaytambo are strategically situated overlooking the beautiful Urubamba River Valley. This major ruin site is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and engineering. It is admired for its huge steep terraces guarding the Inca Fortress and for being one of the few places where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest.
Approximate Distance: 95km
Estimated Travel Time: 2.30 hours
Board a morning train that winds through the spectacular Sacred Valley to the end of the line: the village of Aguas Calientes, a frontier town nestled in the hills beneath Machu Picchu. This is the closest town to Machu Picchu, making Aguas Calientes an ideal night stop logistically.
Please bear in mind that the town has several amenities, but is also geographically remote meaning services are sometimes more basic than one would assume. As the only option for travellers visiting Machu Picchu, the development of infrastructure has happened quite quickly, much without proper planning, and the focus on providing quality service may not be up to the standards experienced in other parts of the country.
To best enjoy this area, we recommend you take advantage of the opportunity to visit the butterfly house, botanical gardens or hot springs. Opt for a day hike to Mandor Gardens to see orchids and a waterfall, enjoying the lush, green scenery en route. For serious archaeology buffs, there is time for an optional independent visit to Machu Picchu before the guided tour the following morning.
*Please note: those who have pre-booked and purchased the "1-day Inca Trail" hiking option (based on permit availability) will disembark the train at km 104 to begin the trek. The trail rises steeply up into the mountains and will take hikers past the archaeological sites of Wiñay Wayna and Inti Pata, where the local guide will provide insights into the fascinating culture of the Incas en route to the trek's culmination at the Sun Gate. Enjoy a packed lunch along the way and reach the Sun Gate in the late afternoon with a chance for a preliminary exploration of Machu Picchu before the guided tour on Day 10.
Transfer by bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes to rejoin the group and spend the night in a hotel. If time permits, take an optional visit to the nearby hot springs to soak the sore muscles.
Approximate Distance: 43km
Estimated Travel Time: 1.45 hours
Those taking the 1-day Inca Trail option:
Approximate Distance: 15km
Estimated hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Rise early to take advantage of viewing Machu Picchu in the early morning light. This is the best time to view the 'Lost City of the Incas'. Join our local guide for a detailed interpretation of the site and Inca history without the pressure of other tour groups that arrive at midday. Later in the afternoon of Day 10 we return by train to Ollantaytambo or Poroy and will then be transferred by van to Cusco, arriving in the evening.
Machu Picchu is both the best and the least known of the Inca ruins. It is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors and archaeologists today can do no more than speculate on its function. The local Quechua farmers in the area knew of Machu Picchu for centuries, but it was not until an 11-year-old boy led the American historian Hiram Bingham (who was in search of Vilcabamba) to the site on July 24, 1911, that the rest of the world became aware of its existence. At that time the site was covered in thick vegetation, and Bingham and his team returned in 1912 and 1915 to clear the growth. Over the years, much work has been done on excavating and studying the site. Despite these efforts, many unanswered questions remain.
Approximate Distance: 118km
Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hours
Enjoy the day at leisure with option to visit the many museums and ruins in and around Cusco.
Cusco’s numerous colonial churches are one of the city’s most common sights. The Cathedral was started in 1559 and took 100 years to build; it is also one of the city’s greatest repositories of colonial art. Immediately in front of the entrance is a vault containing the remains of the famous Inca historian, Garcilaso de la Vega. Also worth visiting are the churches of La Compañía, La Merced and San Francisco.
While most ruins are just outside of the city, the main ruin within is that of the Coricancha, once the Inca Empire's richest temple. Today the ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors this incredible wealth had all been melted down. It is left to the individual imagination to envision the magnificence of the original structure.
There are several good museums in Cusco, including the Archaeological Museum, which also houses a small art museum, the Regional History Museum and the Religious Art Museum. Our best advice for exploring Cusco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore!
The trip to Puno takes the better part of the day, with stark, beautiful scenery en route as you travel through the high Altiplano region. The remainder of the day is at leisure in the town. The next morning we board our comfortable 35 foot fully equipped speed boat to explore the Taquile and/or Amantaní Island, we will also visit the remarkable floating reed islands of Uros.
Located at 3830 m above sea level, Puno is the highest night stop on the tour. As a result the weather can be extreme with very cold nights and a strong sun during the day. Puno is also known for its wealth of traditional dances: there are up to 100 different varieties, usually performed in the street processions celebrating Catholic feast days. If you are fortunate enough to be visiting at the right time you may even catch one of these celebrations.
Titicaca is also the largest lake in the world above 2000m, and the views from the islands are stunning. We explore the unique floating islands of the Uros people, made of Totora reeds. The Uros began their unusual floating existence centuries ago in an effort to isolate themselves from the Colla and Inca tribes. Sadly, the Uros language has died out, and today the islanders speak Aymara due to intermarriage with Aymara-speaking clans. Today about 300 families live on the islands, however their numbers are slowly declining.
The Totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake are used for making everything from the islands themselves to the model boats that the islanders sell. The islands are made up of layers upon layers of reeds; as the layers closest to the water start to rot, they are replaced with fresh reeds on top. The reeds are also used to build their boats, which if constructed well will last up to 6 months.
Approximate Distance: 321km
Estimated Travel Time: 2.05 hours
Time for some last minute shopping in Puno before our flight back to Lima and the final stop on our journey. Enjoy one last night out on the town. Overnight Lima.
Approximate Distance: 572km
Estimated Travel Time: 2.20 hours
Departure day, depart at any time.