Landscapes & Cultures of Peru
A comprehensive tour of Southern Peru, from the Pacific Coast to the Andes mountains, with cities and wide-open country, boat trips, train rides and archaeological mysteries.
Landscapes & Cultures of Peru
19 days from £4,815 pp
This holiday takes in some of Peru’s most famous sites and is a wonderful blend of the height of manmade endeavour and the grandest of nature’s wonders. You will travel in comfort from ocean to high altitude, from teeming cities to peaceful retreats. And throughout, expert guides will ensure you miss nothing. But you will also have time to make your own discoveries.
Travel back in time to see some of the extraordinary civilisations which thrived on Peru’s coastal deserts and majestic mountains. Most famous of all are the Incas and you will visit sites which best demonstrate their expert stonework and awe-inspiring choice of location. Long before the Inca ascendency the Paracas and Nazca peoples drew fabulous patterns in the sandy Pacific coastal plains. Marvel at the representations of their world and ask yourself why they are best seen from the air. After the Incas, the Spaniards founded their empire on the roots of conquest and some of their glorious religious and civil buildings will be on your itinerary.
This is all part of the living landscape in a country of deserts, volcanoes and beautiful valleys. At every turn you’ll find echoes of the past, like the pre-Inca geoglyphs and ceramic designs which reappear in the images woven into today’s textiles and in the animals, birds and plants that you see. Celebrated Peruvian chefs take their inspiration from ingredients that are still cultivated in traditional ways. Your hotel may be a remodelled colonial mansion, or up-to-the-minute modern enlivened by indigenous motifs. You’ll shop in a market where centuries-old customs prevail, or a contemporary gallery will have just what you are looking for. Savour this merger of the old and new; it’s everywhere, from the busiest city street to the snow-capped home of the ancient gods.
Landscapes & Cultures of Peru Highlights
- Visit some of the most important sites in Lima
- Fly in a small plane over the Nazca Lines
- Boat trip to see abundant marine wildlife
- Look for condors at one of the deepest canyons in the world
- Travel up to the highest navigable lake on Earth – Titicaca and its islands
- Take two train rides in the Andes
- See highlights of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
- To top it all, a guided visit to Machu Picchu
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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 Casa Andina Miraflores Centro. It’s in one of Lima’s more affluent districts, a 45-60 minute drive from the airport, depending on the traffic.
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 is yours to explore. Miraflores is a favourite part of the city for visitors as it has a good selection of handicraft markets, the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site, the Malecón (the boulevard overlooking the Pacific Ocean) and the Parque de Amor (Lovers’ Park) and a wide range of restaurants. Taxis are plentiful if you wish to visit other parts of the city.
DAY 3: LIMA TO PARACAS
Today you will head south to Paracas, about 4 hours from Lima, driving along the Panamerican Highway parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Before settling into your hotel, you’ll stop at Pisco airport to board a small plane for an overflight of the enigmatic Nazca Lines. Etched into the desert between roughly BC700 and 650AD, the drawings of giant birds, animals and sea creatures, plus countless straight lines, are still baffling scientists. After lunch at your hotel, the Paracas Luxury Collection, you can make the most of the beautiful, ocean-front location, relaxing at the pool or in the spa, strolling around the town or on the beach. Your dinner is included at one the hotel’s three gourmet restaurants.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DAY 4: PARACAS
This morning a boat will take you to the Islas Ballestas, three islands whose rocks have been eroded into arches and caves and which are home to thousands of seabirds, including penguins, pelicans, boobies and cormorants. Sea lions, fur seals and, occasionally, dolphins can be seen in the waters. The trip takes a couple of hours and on the way look out for the 150-metre high geoglyph, The Candelabra, on the cliff of the Paracas Peninsula. After the boat trip you will be given a guided tour of the Paracas National Reserve, home to the Paracas Culture, one of the originators of the Nazca Lines. Here the empty sands of the desert end in spectacular cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. After lunch at the hotel, the rest of the day is yours for R&R or exploration, before dinner in one of the hotel’s first-class restaurants.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DAY 5: PARACAS TO LIMA
You will head back to Lima from Paracas by road today and spend the night in your Casa Andina Hotel in Miraflores. After the journey you will have more time to investigate the capital on your own.
DAY 6: LIMA TO AREQUIPA
Our representative will meet you at the hotel for the transfer to Lima airport, where you will catch the plane for the 1½-hour flight to Arequipa, at 2,328m above sea level in Peru’s southern Andes. Look out for El Misti volcano, which can be clearly seen standing guard over the city. You will be met at the airport for the transfer to the Hotel Costa del Sol Wyndham, a recently remodelled hotel by the Selva Alegre park, a short distance from the city centre.
DAY 7: AREQUIPA
After breakfast the morning will be taken up with a guided tour of Arequipa, known as the White City because of the volcanic stone used in its construction. Included in the tour are the cobbled streets and flower-filled plazas of the Santa Catalina Convent, a colonial town in miniature, which was closed to the public until 1970. After the tour the day is yours: wander the streets and browse the city’s excellent selection of shops, choose from one of the city’s distinctive restaurants for a typical lunch, or relax in the gardens of the Costa del Sol Wyndham.
DAY 8: COLCA CANYON
It’s a fabulous drive from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon, over 3,000 metres deep and twice as deep as the US’s Grand Canyon. The road passes towering volcanoes and crosses a pass at 4,825m (it can be cold in the morning). You will arrive at Colca in time for lunch at El Balcón de Don Zacarías, which serves great regional food in the town of Chivay, the gateway to the canyon. Apart from its remarkable depth and natural beauty, the Colca Canyon is famous for its extensive agricultural terraces, lovely villages and hot springs. Your home for the next two nights will be the Colca Lodge, a romantic eco-lodge on the banks of the Colca River. It has a spa, thermal pools, gardens and two restaurants. It also has its own alpaca ranch and is well-placed for hikes, cycle and horse rides.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DAY 9: COLCA CANYON
A highlight of your visit to Colca is an early-morning excursion to the Cruz del Cóndor. As you stand on this lookout point at the canyon’s edge, before your eyes, on most days, condors rise on the thermals as they set out on their daily search of food. This is a truly privileged encounter with the wildlife of the Andes. In the afternoon, enjoy the activities that the Colca Lodge has to offer before dinner in one of its restaurants.
DAY 10: COLCA TO PUNO
Today you will spend the morning at Colca Lodge and, after lunch there, you will travel by road for 6 hours across the unforgettable Andean landscape to Puno, on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. Your hotel here is the Posada del Inca, 10 minutes outside town right at the water’s edge. It’s a bright, modern place with its own pier for journeys on the lake and it has wonderful views.
DAY 11: LAKE TITICACA
A boat will take you to the Uros Islands, about 30 minutes from Puno, which are man-made from floating bundles of reeds. The islands have a living museum where you can learn the secrets of island-building and your guide will explain the full significance of this way of life. A second boat journey (1½ hours) goes to Taquile Island for lunch. This island community has a completely different way of life and you will see how the local textiles are woven and knitted. There will, of course, be shopping opportunities. From Taquile the boat will take you back to the Posada del Inca for the evening.
DAY 12: TRAIN TO CUSCO
After breakfast you will leave the hotel and go to Puno’s railway station to board PerúRail’s Titicaca train. On this train you spend all day crossing the high plateau, at times over 4,000m above sea level, finally arriving in Cusco, once the capital of the Inca empire. 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 transfer to your hotel in the city, the Ramada by Wyndham Costa del Sol. Located in a 17th century mansion, with a modern wing, it’s close to Cusco’s two principal squares, perfect for a night-time stroll and to find a convenient restaurant.
DAY 13: CUSCO
This morning you have a half-day private guided tour of Cusco.
Coricancha, the Incas’ Temple of the Sun, will most likely be your first stop. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the temple walls were covered in gold sheets and its courtyards filled with golden images of plants and animals. Having plundered the gold the Conquistadores built the Convent of Santo Domingo on top of the Inca walls. From here you will visit the Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas. This fine colonial building has an extensive collection of art from the Cusco School and other exhibitions. From here you will be taken to the 15th century Inca ceremonial complex of Sacsayhuaman, just north of the city. Many of its stones were used to build the cathedral, but those that remain in situ are massive; how they were brought here is an unsolved mystery. You may also see some of the other nearby ruins such as the Inca religious centre of Qenqo and the ‘Red Fort’, Puka Pukara, 4 and 7 kilometres from Cusco respectively. After the tour you will be taken back to your hotel and you can take a late lunch here or in a nearby restaurant. There are plenty to choose from.
DAY 14: TO THE SACRED VALLEY
Today you leave Cusco and head down into the Sacred Valley of the Incas 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 then move on to 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. They include a ceremonial complex, baths and unbelievable stonework. On your journey through the valley you will stop for lunch at Ayasca, a buffet-style restaurant in the village of Yanahuara.
Overnight at the Sol y Luna, a beautiful hotel and spa outside the town of Urubamba.
DAY 15: MARAS, MORAY AND URUBAMBA
Not far from Urubamba and close to the village of Maras are dazzling white saltpans that tumble down a steep hillside, a giant staircase of ponds overlooking the valley. The salt-mining techniques have been in use since before Inca times. Nearby is Moray and what some believe to be an Inca agricultural research centre. A series of concentric terraces in a depression on the plateau create different climatic conditions, perhaps the testing ground for new strains of crop. After a morning excursion to these two sites you’ll return to the Sol y Luna where you can relax in its charming grounds, take advantage of its first-class facilities. Sol y Luna’s bungalows, cuisine and artworks are all inspired by the surrounding Andean culture.
DAY 16: OLLANTAYTAMBO AND MACHU PICCHU
After breakfast you will return to Ollantaytambo for the 1½-hour scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes, the modern town beneath the Inca sanctuary of Machu Picchu. From the station it's a short bus ride uphill to the ruins where you'll have a comprehensive guided tour. During your visit to the archaeological site you will have lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, just outside the entrance. After the tour you will head back down the hill to El MaPi, a modern hotel and spa, with a popular bar. You will spend the night here.
DAY 17: MACHU PICCHU TO CUSCO
This morning you can return to Machu Picchu for a leisurely, unguided visit to see parts of the site that you may not have seen previously. Afterwards you will take the train back to Ollantaytambo for the bus transfer to Cusco where you will be staying at the Costa del Sol again.
DAY 18: CUSCO
Your last full day in Peru and it is yours to enjoy at your leisure. There is so much to see in Cusco that you can easily fill the day visiting churches, museums and galleries, shopping, investigating cafés and bars and searching out special places for a meal. Alternatively, you can just chill, savouring the atmosphere this remarkable city in the high Andes.
DAY 19: CUSCO TO LIMA AND HOME
You will be taken to Cusco airport today for the flight back to Lima where you’ll connect with your flight home.
Trains to Machu Picchu either depart from and return to Poroy station near Cusco or Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. At certain times of year some trains only operate from Ollantaytambo. Your exact itinerary will be dependent on the train ticket we are able to purchase for you at the time of booking. This may mean that part of the journey between Ollantaytambo and Cusco is by road.
Machu Picchu entrance Tickets to Machu Pichu are currently restricted to a maximum of 4 hours within the site and with no re-entry. Your itinerary may vary according to your train arrival time to allow you to make the most of the 4 hours. That may mean an early lunch before the visit or a late lunch after it. You have to be accompanied by a guide on your first visit.
If you are revisiting on the next day you may enter without a guide and with a second new ticket. However, you have to produce the original ticket to show that you first entered with a guide.
Guide price from (pp sharing): 2019 prices from £4,055 based on travel throughout 2019.
Includes: 18 nights accommodation in the properties mentioned; private transfers; Nazca overflight; private sightseeing tours with an English-speaking guide in Lima, Paracas, Arequipa, Colca, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu. Semo-private guided tour on Lake Titicaca; entrance fees on included tours including second entrance fee to Machu Picchu; Train from Puno to Cusco; Return train ticket from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu; Meals as indicated in the itinerary.
Excludes: International and domestic flight (we would normally book these for you and add this to the package); Visas (not currently required by British passport holders); insurance; Huayna Picchu entrance; meals not mentioned as included; drinks; tips; personal expenses such as laundry.
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.
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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