This 13 day itinerary combines a taste of the real Peru - its history, culture and people - with some of most famous highlights in Latin America including Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and, of course, the incredible Machu Picchu.
Day 3: Arequipa has some of the finest colonial architecture in the country with many of its downtown buildings constructed from volcanic stone called sillar, whose particular white colour gives Arequipa the name of 'Ciudad Blanca' ('White City'). You will be transferred to the airport in Lima for a flight to Arequipa where you will have the afternoon free to explore at your own pace. (B)
Day 4: Today you will join your shared service and start the incredible journey towards the Colca Canyon. The trip begins with the road to Yura, on which you will pass the National Reserve de Vicuñas in Pampa Cañahuas, situated at 4000m above sea level. It’s from this point that you can appreciate the first views of the Patapampa valley, almost 4800m above sea level. The altitude makes Patapampa a natural outlook point where you can gaze over snow-capped mountains including Sabancaya, Ampato, and Mismi. Your resting place for the night is Yanque, a lovely laid back town from where you can spend the afternoon exploring the area. (B)
Day 5:After a hearty breakfast, you will be picked up again by your shared service and head to Cruz del Cóndor where you will spend a couple of hours taking in the sheer enormity of the canyon and observing the majestic flight of the condors close up. On the way back you will see pre-Inca agricultural structures and stop at a small town, where you can visit a magnificent cathedral and get a peek into local life and culture. After a stop at Chivay handicraft market and some lunch, continue your journey to Puno.
Day 6:Free day in Puno, a melting pot of the Aymara and Quechua cultures. The city’s biggest attraction is Lake Titicaca, the highest commercially-navigable body of water in the world at 3821m. Its inhabitants embody a unique mixture of Andean traditions and cultural diversity, strongly influenced by ancient cultures such as the Pucara, Tiahuanaco and Kolla people as well as the Incas.
Puno also features one of the largest festivals of culture, music and dancing in Peru - La Fiesta de la Candelaria - which is held in the first fortnight of February each year. If you are lucky enough to be there during the festival, you will experience many ancient traditions, with thousands of dancers invading the streets dressed in traditional colourful clothes. (B)
Day 7: Today you will travel across the mighty Andes on a very comfortable tourist bus to Cusco, which includes an English speaking guide to show you all of the wonderful places you will see along the way. You will first visit Pucará, hometown to the well-known Toritos de Pucará, located 106 Km. northeast of Puno. You will then pass by La Raya, the highest point between Cusco and Puno standing at 4,335 masl. After a buffet lunch at midday, you will continue your journey to Wiracocha temple, also known as Raqchi, which is a collosal construction where the Q’oyllur Riti festival is celebrated on June 16 each year. The whole site contains 30 buildings, canals and aquaducts, which are still being used by the local population. Our last stop, Andahuaylillas, an amazing location where it seems like time stood still: the houses, the trees, even the little picturesque streets radiate an old, special atmosphere. Furthermore, the old cathedral, founded in 1580, preserved its beautiful murals decorated with a layer of gold. This cathedral is also known as the 'Sistine Chapel of America'. Arrival to Cusco, where you will have the evening to yourselves.(B,L)
Day 8: Today is free for you to explore Cusco at your own pace. Cusco was the historical capital of the Inca empire and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983. Today it is a cosmopolitan city where people from all over the world come to learn about Peru’s ancient and fascinating cultures. (B)
Day 9: After breakfast, you will be driven to the land of the Yachaqs ('wise men' in Quechua), enjoying stunning mountain scenery and Inca ruins. Upon arriving Pisac, we'll explore its world-famous market where people come from all over the highlands to sell products including handicrafts, silver jewellery, alpaca goods, musical instruments and knick-knackery of all kinds. Afterwards, take a look around the town's archaeological site where you'll find agricultural terraces and several ruins.
After lunch you will continue to the Amaru community, where your visit will support their community tourism business. Here you can come face to face with the real Peru and learn about their beliefs, customs and lifestyle, which is ruled by their respect for Mother Earth. They will introduce you to the different medicinal plants they grow on their farms and then you can take part in a traditional weaving workshop, where you can learn the process of shearing, dyeing and tailoring so that you can make our own Andean garment! In the evening, continue to the beautiful Inca town of Ollantaytambo and check-in to your hotel. (B,L)
Day 10: Today is the big one! Often referred as 'The Lost City of the Incas', Machu Picchu is one of the most famous and spectacular sets of ruins in the world - a visit to Peru would not be complete without it. You will take the train to Aguas Calientes from where you can walk or take a bus to the citadel, strategically perched 1000ft above the Urubamba river between deep canyons and impressive mountains called Apus (Gods for the Incas). You will explore the Intihuatana - used by Inca astronomers to predict the best time to plant crops - The Temple of the Sun and The Room of the 3 windows. The afternoon is spent relaxing at your hotel in Aguas Calientes. We can also organise a shared or private tour of the citadel if you wish (B,L)
Day 11: This morning is free if you would like to head back to Machu Picchu for another look around (2nd entrance fee not included). In the afternoon you will take the train back down the mountain to Ollantaytambo. (B)
Day 12: Today you will be driven back to Cusco, stopping at the impressive agricultural terraces at Moray, which were part of an Inca experimentation station growing different varieties of tubers, corn and other species. The Incas perfected an advanced system of agriculture able to support many crops on a large scale. After that you will continue to see the 3000 salt evaporation ponds at Maras and on to Chinchero with its beautiful colonial architecture. The evening is yours in Cusco. (B)
Day13: It is time to say goodbye to Peru as you are transferred to the airport for your return flight to Lima and to connect to your international flight. (B)
Prices from: £1560 per person
Services included: hotels on shared room basis, meals, transfers and activities as mentioned, entry fees, English speaking guide, 24 hour assistance
Services not included: flights, drinks, tips and personal expenses.
This is a suggested itinerary. Dates, stops & activities are all flexible.