Amazon Cruise and Best of the Andes
A wonderfully varied holiday in the Amazon and the Andes that encompasses rainforest, high altitudes, history, gourmet food and soft adventure.
Amazon Cruise and Best of the Andes
13 days from £9,395
This trip connects the very best of Peru’s natural and cultural riches: life on Amazonian rivers and by the waters of the highest navigable lake in the world, Titicaca; the archaeological wonders, colonial splendour and traditional lifestyles of the Inca heartland; and some important historical sites in Lima. What more could you ask for? How about the refinement and comfort of deluxe accommodation and the cuisine of Peru’s most celebrated chefs. It’s an unbeatable combination.
This trip features a purpose-built river cruiser, trains that evoke jazz-age style and hotels whose ages span the Spanish Empire, the late 19th century and the contemporary. But don’t think that it’s all style and no substance. Just consider the places where these journeys and places to stay are set. First you will be sailing on rivers in the wilds of the Amazon rainforest, on the margins of one of Peru’s largest national parks. The railways fan out from Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, one heading to the spell-binding “lost city” of Machu Picchu, the other crossing the high-altitude plateau to spectacular Lake Titicaca.
For your nights in Lima, you will stay in a Belle Époque mansion in the city’s most bohemian neighbourhood. In Cusco your hotel was once a Catholic monastery. While on the shores of the lake your home-from-home has terraces and boardwalks that bring the mystical waters almost to your room.
At every stage your meals will be inspired by traditional Peruvian traditions, married with the latest techniques by top-class chefs. You will have opportunities to buy local crafts and visit local communities, both in the rainforest and in the mountains. And there is plenty of scope to be active, from paddling your own canoe to walking in the jungle and hiking or cycling along Andean trails, if you so wish. There is ample wildlife to see and the stargazing is out of this world.
Amazon Cruise and Bes of Andes Highlights
Luxurious Amazon river cruise
Elegant train ride to Machu Picchu, with a visit to the Inca citadel
Highlights of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Day-long train ride across the Andes
Exploration hotel on Lake Titicaca’s water’s edge
Top sites of Lima
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DAY 1: ARRIVE IN PERU
Fly to Lima today, where you'll be met at the airport and transferred to the Hotel B, a restored Belle Époque mansion in the heart of Barranco, Lima’s most fashionable district. The attention to detail and the high level of comfort will ensure that you get a good night’s rest after your flight.
DAY 2: IN LIMA
After breakfast you will be taken to the historic centre of Lima to visit the main Plaza de Armas, on which stands the Cathedral, dating from the 18th century. A short walk away is the Casa Aliaga, a colonial residence that has been in the same family since the 16th century. The final destination on your Lima tour is the Larco Museum, in Pueblo Libre, which houses one of Peru’s most famous collections of pre-Inca ceramics, gold and silver. The realism and eroticism of the Moche pottery has to be seen to be believed. It has a good café too.
The rest of the day you are free to wander around Barranco; look out for the street art, visit the galleries which specialise in traditional handicrafts and modern art and find a café for a coffee and typical dessert. There are also plenty of bars for a drink and restaurants you can head out to for your evening meal. Overnight at Hotel B.
DAY 3: LIMA TO IQUITOS
This morning you will return to Lima airport for the two-hour flight to Iquitos, where Aqua Expeditions’ representative will meet you to take you to the river port at Nauta for lunch. Afterwards you will be taken on a motorized launch to the confluence of the rivers that become the Amazon and at dusk you will board the Aria, your floating hotel for the next four nights. You will be introduced to the vessel and its safety routines before dinner. All meals are inspired by the Amazon and are created by one of Peru’s leading chefs.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DAY 4: AMAZON RIVER CRUISE
Today you will make two excursions in the Aria’s launches, first on the Ucayali River to see how the people who live on the riverbanks fish and farm. With luck, as you cruise along, you’ll catch sight of pink river dolphins. In the afternoon launches will take you out on the black waters of the Pacaya River and, as night falls, you will look for the wildlife that comes out after dark. And don’t forget to look up at the constellations in the unpolluted sky.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DAY 5: AMAZON RIVER CRUISE
Another day on the water, today, exploring deeper into the forest to look for birds, monkeys and river creatures such as turtles and pink dolphins. An early start will ensure plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, while later in the day you will share the waterways with the traders who use the river as their highway. After lunch there will be a demonstration of fishing for paiche, the second largest river fish in the world.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DAY 6: AMAZON RIVER CRUISE
In the morning you get to choose what activity to do. You can take out a canoe or kayak, swim in the river or go for a walk in the jungle. In the afternoon, a short walk in the San José de Sarapanga forest leads to the ponds where giant water lilies grow. As this will be you last evening on board, you will have the chance to meet the crew of the Aria before dinner.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DAY 7: TO CUSCO
Your guides will wake you for an early-morning visit to a local fish market to see the day’s catch and all the exotic fruit on sale. After breakfast on the Aria, you will head for the Manatee Rescue Centre where these endangered species are rehabilitated before being released into the wild. On the way to the airport for your flight to Cusco your final Amazonian stop will be at a craft market for any last-minute reminders of this magical part of the world.
On arrival in Cusco you will be met and transferred to the Belmond Monasterio Hotel, one of the city’s iconic conversions of a colonial edifice (in this case a monastery) into a modern, luxury place to stay.
DAY 8: TO THE SACRED VALLEY
Cusco is at over 3,300m above sea level so you need to take it easy to begin with. Fortunately, today’s excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas is at a lower altitude which should help you to acclimatise. After breakfast you will leave the hotel for a full-day guided tour which includes Awanakancha, a farm about 30 minutes from Cusco, which breeds llamas, alpacas and vicuñas. You can see the animals and learn about the traditional weaving and garment-making process, so central to indigenous culture. The farm’s store is open if you wish to buy something special. Another opportunity for shopping is the market in Pisac. The stalls fill a square surrounded by colonial buildings and sell colourful alpaca textiles, replicas of Inca artefacts, necklaces, paintings and other crafts. Above the town are the ruins of a remarkable Inca complex, with an impressive area of agricultural terraces. You will also visit Ollantaytambo to explore the old town, a living example of Inca urban planning, and the breath-taking ruins, also Inca, on a high promontory above the town and valley. They include a ceremonial complex, baths and unbelievable stonework. Lunch is served at the restaurant/museum of Hacienda Huayoccari, a historic estate with lovely gardens.
Overnight at the Belmond Monasterio Hotel.
DAY 9: HIRAM BINGHAM TRAIN TO MACU PICCHU
This morning you will be taken from the hotel to Poroy railway station, outside Cusco, to catch the Hiram Bingham luxury train to Machu Picchu. You board the train for an exclusive journey of 1920s style furnishings, attentive service, Peruvian music and panoramic views. On the way to Machu Picchu you will be served a gourmet brunch. On the way back to Cusco you will be treated to fine-dining, more music and dance as the evening light fades over the Andes. In between the train rides you will be given a guided tour of the Machu Picchu sanctuary, without doubt the high-point of any tour of this part of Peru. You will be met off the train at the station in Poroy, from where you will travel by road the short distance back to the Monasterio Hotel.
Breakfast, brunch, dinner
DAY 10: TRAIN TO PUNO
After breakfast you will leave the Monasterio and go to Cusco’s Wanchaq railway station to board PerúRail’s Titicaca train. It’s a full day journey to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, having crossed the high plateau, at times over 4,000m above sea level. The train’s carriages are in 1920s Pullman-style, a gourmet lunch is served in the dining car and there is an open-air observation car from which to take in some of the Andes most beautiful landscapes. On arrival, you will be met at the station for the 40-minute transfer by road to the Titilaka Hotel in time for dinner.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DAY 11 and 12: LAKE TITICACA
Titilaka is built on a private peninsula at Platería, on the southeastern shore of Lake Titicaca. It has two private beaches in its 1.6 hectares of grounds and all the rooms have lake views. Not surprisingly, the lake features highly in the activities on offer, which include canoeing, kayaking, SUP and sailing. On land you can go birdwatching, hiking and cycling. There are excursions to local communities and to the floating islands of the Uros and Taquile Island; to fascinating markets, beautiful colonial churches and seasonal fiestas. During your visit, you can choose each day what you would like to do – you can stay close to home or go out for the whole day, so the itinerary is yours to create. At all times you will be accompanied by expert guides and, as Titilaka offers full-board, all your meals will be taken care of. The hotel works closely with nearby communities and is committed to sustainability. While the building is modern, with all up-to-date facilities, the décor is strongly influenced by the work of local craftspeople.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner on both days
DAY 13: FLIGHT TO LIMA AND FLIGHT HOME
Today you say goodbye the lake, going by road to the airport at Juliaca, 90 minutes from Titilaka. Your flight will cross the Andes and descend to Lima’s airport, back at sea level. Here you will connect with your flight home.
Minimum age: The Aria follows a slightly different itinerary during periods of high water, typically November to May. All cruise itineraries are subject to change should local conditions make it prudent to do so.
Guide price from (pp sharing): 2019 prices from £9,395 based on travel throughout 2019.
Includes: Private transfers, 12 nights twin share accommodation (4 nights cabin on the Aria and 8 nights hotel); meals as shown; shared excursions as offered by the Aria; private guided tours in the Sacred Valley with English-speaking guide including entrance fees on tours; return train journey on Hiram Bingham train from Cusco to Machu Picchu; train ticket from Cusco to Puno; included activities and excursions as offered by Titilaka.
Excludes: International flights and taxes, domestic flights within Peru (we would normally book these for you along with the international flights and add this to the package), visas (not currently required by British passport holders), meals not shown as included, drinks, tips, items of a personal nature.
The climate in the Andes varies according to the altitude. In general though, the rainy season is from December to March, but it varies in intensity from area to area and from year to year. For most people the best time to come to the Andes is between June and September. Days are mostly dry and sunny, but it can be cold at night. October and November are also good months to visit the Andes, as are April and May, when leaves are still green and flowers in bloom after the rains. Being at high altitude you will need to pack for variable weather at any time of year.
Note that June is the busiest month for festivals in Cusco, including the Inca festival of Inti Raymi, so there will be high tourist occupancy then. In Puno the same applies at the main festivals of La Candelaria, first two weeks in February, and the celebration of the founding Incas on 4-5 November.
The Amazon rainforest is hot and humid all year round with little variation from midsummer (December) to midwinter (June). Rain is likely at any time of year, but during the ‘dry season’ (May to October) there is a lot less than in the ‘wet season’ (late November to April). Biting insects tend to be present but generally less bothersome than mosquitoes in North America or midges in Scotland.
On the Pacific coast of Peru, the climate is sub-tropical and dry. Temperatures are warmest in the summer from December to March, when they can reach up to 30°c. The winter lasts from June to September, when temperatures can drop to 15°c and days are usually misty (locally called garúa) and damp. You are more likely to experience some rain in these months.
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