TOUR OVERVIEW / HIGHLIGHT
Covering the superlative highlights of Southern Peru from the Colca Canyon to Lake Titicaca to the pièce de résistance - Machu Picchu, as well as incredible gastronomy in Lima, this whirlwind itinerary offers several exciting excursions including ascending on foot on the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and a day hike to the unreal rainbow mountains hidden deep in the Andes.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
DAY 01: ARRIVAL - LIMA
Welcome to Lima!
Peru’s capital is an energetic metropolis with a genuine laid back Latin atmosphere and a potent mix of colonial architecture, superb museums, Inca gold and antiquities, and excellent restaurants, bars and shops.
In order to best explore the city, you will be armed with our extensive recommendations for the best restaurants, shopping and sights. Lima's restaurants are regularly rated among the best in the world and a couple of days eating out in this city is a truly memorable gastronomic experience.
Your two-night stay will be based in Barranco, the bohemian district of Lima and home to some of Peru’s and Latin America’s finest artists.
A short walk from Barranco’s main plaza, you come to La Puente de Los Suspiros (the Bridge of Sighs), which at night looks like something straight out of Disneyland. There’s a reason that artists from all over Peru flock to Barranco and find inspiration in the bridge: it is probably the most romantic place in Lima.
DAY 02: LIMA
Today, you will be able to fully enjoy Lima. Begin with a visit to Morro Solar, which affords stunning views of the city, and continue on to the Larco Museum, dedicated to the cultural history of Peru. After lunch in the museum’s lovely café, you’ll stop into the Lima Colonial Center for a look into the city’s past as the capital of the Spanish colony in South America. Another important site is the Casa de Aliaga, built by a conquistador who acquired the land from Francisco Pizarro. Its period details and antiques are not to be missed. Afterwards, head back to the B for a pisco tasting - the perfect way to kick off happy hour. Dinner is at your leisure; consult our city guide for some of the top recommendations.
DAY 03: LIMA / AREQUIPA
Fly to Arequipa (2,335m a.s.l). Surrounded by three volcanoes, this magnificent White City awaits you with its extraordinary architecture and surreal landscapes.
Begin with a visit to the Monastery of St. Catherine. Founded in 1579 as a cloister, the convent was home to a small group of clergy who came from the local elite. Journey back in time through one of the largest holdings of colonial art in the Americas.
Continue with a visit to the Church of the Society of Jesus. With its imposing size and fascinating appearance, this magnificent church will take your breath away. Enjoy an impressive view of the Chili River Valley and majestic El Misti volcano from the Carmen Lookout, a short drive from the city centre.
Stroll the upscale neighbourhood of Yanahuara, along its wide cobblestone avenues with its old ashlar stone mansions, which still preserve their traditional gardens, and admire a beautiful church constructed in 1750 and a quaint plaza with a gorgeous ashlar stone lookout balcony.
DAY 04: AREQUIPA / COLCA CANYON
Early morning, begin your travel across a land of snow-covered volcanoes, inhospitable pampas, and incredibly beautiful quaint villages, arriving finally in the Colca Valley, with short stops along the way.
First stop will be in the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, whose rugged plains are home to vast herds of Guanaco, Alpaca, and Vicuña. Drive along the edge of the crater of the Chucura Volcano, until you reach the Andes Lookout (4,910m a.s.l). This lookout point offers spectacular views of the snow-capped peaks of the various volcanoes surrounding Arequipa.
Next, you will head to the town of Chivay (close to where the Colca Valley begins) for a closer inspection of the impressive system of platforms and terraces built by the ancient Collagua and Cabana inhabitants.
After lunch, proceed to hotel for check-in and have the rest of the day at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
DAY 05: COLCA CANYON / LAKE TITICACA
Another early morning start takes you to Condor Cross Lookout. With its incredibly vast and breath-taking expanses, it is considered to be the best spot in the world to spot the majestic Andean Condor in flight. From this vantage point, you will be able to look out across one of the world's deepest canyons.
After lunch, you will experience an awe-inspiring trip of about six hours through the unique landscapes of the high mountain plain.
Make your way towards the pastoral countryside of Pampa Cañahuas, covered with ichu grass and yareta cacti, that reveals a unique flora capable of surviving at extreme altitudes and temperatures. Arrive in Lagunillas, which sits at 4,171m a.s.l. and observe numerous species of migratory and Andean birds, among them Andean flamingos and crakes.
End your day in the legendary city of Puno, built on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
DAY 06: LAKE TITICACA
Explore the world's highest navigable lake – Lake Titicaca. Begin with Uros, a peculiar grouping of around 40 small islands made totally of totora, a natural reed that grows around the lake. Learn first-hand the remarkable heritage and the ancestral techniques used to keep their islands afloat.
Continue to Llachon, a lesser-visited Quechua community where you are rewarded by genuine scenes of countryside life in this pristine environment free from mass tourism. Enjoy authentic village walks, visits to family house, witness the farming and weaving activities of the locals and tasting local cuisine.
Enjoy a picnic lunch of local specialties before returning to your hotel.
Have the rest of the day at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
DAY 07: LAKE TITICACA / CUZCO / URUBAMBA
Drive to Juliaca airport for your flight to Cuzco.
Upon arrival in Cuzco, descend into the Urubamba Valley, popularly known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, home to some of the country's most picturesque Andean scenery. Once the heart of the Inca empire it is also scattered with important archaeological sites and is for many the setting off point for a visit to the famous hidden citadel of Machu Picchu.
At an altitude of only 2800m, Urubamba has a pleasant year round climate and is at the perfect height for acclimatizing. As well as a fascinating cultural and historical destination this is also the perfect stop off for lovers of the great outdoors - hiking, horse riding, zip lining, paragliding, rafting and even stand up paddle boarding on high Andean lagoons are all on offer here.
En route to your hotel, visit an impressive Inca complex, the archaeological site of Pisac, with terraces built on its hills. To visit the site, you must walk along winding paths along a mountain cliff. Among the most important buildings are Pisac, which is a curved wall; the Intihuatana, a solar clock among a group of temples and the military zone called “Q'allaqasa”. Explore this quaint town, famous for its artisan markets where you may find fine jewellery and ceramic and textile craftwork.
DAY 08: CHINCHERO, MARAS & MORAY EXCURSION
You will start the day by visiting the high Andean village of Chinchero - famous for its traditional weaving workshops as well as some beautifully preserved Inca ruins.
From here you will carry on to the mysterious circular agricultural terraces of Moray, stopping for a picnic in a secluded spot nearby before continuing to the historic village of Maras and its famous salt pans that have been in constant use for over 500 years. If you are feeling energetic there is also an option for a scenic trek between the two sites.
That afternoon after a private gourmet picnic we have arranged for a visit to a remote village to take part in a private weaving workshop with some of the local women. A great way to both meet the locals and learn about the beautiful traditional textiles that come from this region.
Meals: Breakfast & Lunch
DAY 09: URUBAMBA / OLLANTAYTAMBO / INCA TRAIL / MACHU PICCHU
In the morning, visit Ollantaytambo, an Inca village set below ancient ruins with impressive stonework, narrow cobblestoned streets, and family courtyards dating from pre-Columbian times. The only battle where the Incas defeated the Spanish conquerors took place here. After visiting the old town, your guide will offer you the chance to walk up some Inca ruins - this is a steep ascent, offering amazing views of the valley as a final reward.
Thereafter, board the Vistadome train further up the valley from Ollantaytambo, deep into Inca country as you near the citadel of Machu Picchu. You will leave the train to begin your ascent on foot through lush tropical cloud forest, following an ancient Inca trail. The route passes the mysterious ruins at Chachabamba, climbing high above the roaring Urubamba river to reach Wiñayhuayna where it joins up with the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
After a picnic lunch ,you begin the hike along what is generally considered to be the most spectacular part of the Inca Trail, terminating in a short climb to Inti Punku and your first view of the magnificent Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
The 15th-Century Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the most famous relic of the Incan Empire, and certainly among the most famous ancient ruins in the world. You will stay in the only hotel right by the entrance to the park, with breathtaking views from your bedroom window.
Meals: Breakfast & Picnic Lunch
DAY 10: MACHU PICCHU / OLLANTAYTAMBO / CUZCO
You have entrance tickets for a full second day exploring the ruins, which also include a strenuous hike up the steep Huayna Picchu mountain - a great way to break off from the crowds and enjoy an unusual overhead view of the whole site. The tours are completely private and personalized.
You will board the world-famous Hiram Bingham luxury train for a truly memorable journey back to Cusco. Before departure, afternoon tea is served at Sanctuary Lodge from 4:00 pm and you will have dinner and cocktails onboard the train.
Cuzco is the exotic Incas‟ capital, which has been listed as a world heritage site. The city is adorned with excellently-preserved colonial architecture and its setting amidst the high Andes is indeed majestic.
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
DAY 11: CUZCO
Start your day with a visit to the colourful and vibrant San Pedro Market. Then, explore the highlights of this exotic Inca capital, which has been listed as a World Heritage Site. From the main square to the Cathedral and Santo Domingo Church. Continue to San Blas, a picturesque neighbourhood and the traditional old quarter.
After lunch, continue to Coricancha, the Temple of the Sun. Visit Sacsayhuaman Fortress, an amazing and huge stone construction above the city, and the site of many Incan festivals.
This evening, join an entertaining night walking tour around the ancient city map, learn some interesting details about the city's history, and her very real legends.
DAY 12: RAINBOW MOUNTAIN EXCURSION
Today, visit an alternative rainbow mountain that’s less-known and less-visited than the popular Vinicunca.
Set out before daybreak and drive past several colourful colonial towns before reaching Pitumarca where you will have breakfast.
Continue driving to the starting point of the hike, where you will hike approx. 45-min to 1-hour the viewpoint from where you will have a great view of Ausangate (highest snow-capped mountain of Cuzco region) and of the three rainbow mountains.
Have lunch in a nearby town before returning to Cuzco by evening.
Meals: Breakfast & Lunch
DAY 13: CUZCO / LIMA - DEPARTURE
There’s still time for a last taste of the Andes before heading to the airport for your flight home via Lima. Safe travels!
Option for a 4-day extension into the Amazon in style aboard a five-star luxury cruise
ACCOMMODATION WE LOVE:
13D12N - 2N Lima, 1N Arequipa, 1N Colca Canyon, 2N Lake Titicaca, 2N Urubamba, 1N Machu Picchu, 3N Cuzco