Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires

Peru is a living legacy of powerful empires and mythical beliefs stretched across a jaw-dropping array of landscapes, from the chiselled peaks of the Andes to the Amazon – the world’s biggest rainforest. Starting in the cosmopolitan capital of Lima, comfortably nestled at sea level and colonial at its heart, we travel from here to the city of Huaraz. Situated at over 3000 metres above sea level, Huaraz is dominated by the snowy Cordillera Blanca and Peru’s highest mountain, Huascarán.

From Huaraz, we journey up to Chiclayo, where we visit the largest dry forest in the Americas and the Sicán pyramids of Batan Grande. The lush highlands of Chachapoyas beckon us further north, as we visit one of the tallest waterfalls in the world and explore the enchanting Chachapoyan fortress city of Kuélap.

The Ballestas Islands are our next stop. Here we’ll spot many marine mammals and witness the overwhelming abundance of birdlife that inhabit the islands. The journey to the islands will have us contemplating the creator of the famous candelabra – etched into a dune, unweathered and mysterious. Our next stop, the Nazca desert, will continue to intrigue and pose questions as we take a spine-tingling flight over the puzzling Nazca Lines.

Moving on, we travel to the picturesque city of Arequipa, crafted from volcanic stone and dotted with important religious buildings. We spend some time exploring the city before travelling into the surrounding Colca Valley. The valley will have us in awe as we look down into one of the deepest canyons in the world and up into the skies where giant Andean Condors soar above our heads. We spend some time trekking in the valley, appreciating the grandeur of the landscapes, visiting various local villages and even staying in a family home.

We round off our adventure in Cusco. Here we venture into the Sacred Valley and visit the vibrant Pisac market, the astounding Inca ruins at Pisac and Moray, and the pink-hued saltpans at Maras. We will also have the opportunity to get involved in a variety of community-based activities. We stay in another traditional home, this time with a family that are native to the Sacred Valley.

The optional extension to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve will take us into a pristine and protected area of the Amazon Rainforest, where the incredible biodiversity includes pink river dolphins and 450 species of birds. We will learn about the history and protection of the area, as well as meeting and supporting indigenous communities. It’s hard not to fall under their spell as myths and legends of the Amazon are told.

Dive into Peru’s treasure trove of ancient ruins and rich cultural history, live with the locals and explore its wildest landscapes with us on this cutting-edge tour that allows us to delve that little bit deeper.

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Peru itinerary - snop capped mountains in the AndesAndes

Highlights

  • The mountains and lakes of Huaraz
  • The pyramids of the Sican civilisation
  • Visit the Chachapoyan fortress of Kuelap
  • Flight over the Nazca Lines
  • Wildlife of the Ballestas Islands
  • Explore the sites of the Sacred Valley
  • Hike in the Colca Canyon

Day 1 - Lima

Arrive into Lima and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hotel Allpa or similar. (B)

Lima

The capital of Peru, ever-bubbling with energy and excitement, has something for everybody from museums and markets to archaeological sites and natural reserves, from the nightlife and exquisite cuisine to the beaches and surf breaks. Sitting on a flat and wide alluvial plain, and ranging from 3,861 metres above sea level, Lima fringes the coast and has a warm and dry climate, high humidity and there is lack of rain year-round.

The historic centre and colonial heart of Lima, Lima Centro, is the seat of government and religion and of both architectural and cultural interest. South of the Lima Centro and just inland from the ocean is the modern centre of Miraflores, that buzzes with shoppers in the day and partygoers at night. A few kilometres east and once a separate suburb, lies the artists’ quarter of Barranco, often described as bohemian and the city’s most romantic district.

Other areas include San Isidro – Lima’s busy commercial centre, the port and the shantytowns that line the highways. Even with the arrival of modernity in Lima, the historic centre has remained and is recognised as a World Heritage Site. If the ancient intrigues you, you may also want to head north of Lima to Caral, the oldest civilisation of South America.

Day 2 - Huaraz

Transfer from Lima to Huaraz, in the Cordillera Blanca range in Peru’s western region. Overnight Hotel Arawi Pastoruri or similar. (B)


Day 3 - Huaraz

We travel through the Callejón of Huaylas, between the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra, visiting the typical Andean villages along the Santa River. Continuing on, we head to the Chinancocha lagoon, one of the two striking blue lagoons that make up the ‘Lagunas de Llanganuco’ (3850m).  From Chinancocha, we walk along the Maria Josefa Trail, passing by the Andean flora and fauna of Huascarán National Park, before returning to Huaraz in the afternoon. Overnight Hotel Arawi Pastouri or similar. (BL)


Day 4 - Huaraz

Travelling south of the Callejón de Huaylas, we reach Pachacoto, where we make stops at Patococha lake and the Pumashimi Spring, visiting the cave paintings in the area also. We then drive to an altitude of 4900m, where we start our short walk to the Pastoruri Glacier to admire the glacier itself and some ice caves. Overnight Hotel Arawi Pastouri or similar. (B)

Huaraz

Situated in the Callejón de Huaylas valley, dominated by the world’s highest tropical mountain range, the Cordillera Blanca, and towered upon by Huascarán, Peru’s highest peak, is the city of Huaraz. Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash region of Peru and is the ideal starting point for travellers wanting to explore the surrounding mountains and deep-blue glacial lakes, namely Lagunas de Llanganuco. The city itself has a lively atmosphere, a thriving traditional market and is the perfect place to mingle among the locals and purchase fresh foodstuffs and crafts such as gourd bowls from colourfully dressed women in wide-brimmed hats.

Day 5 - Chiclayo

Leave the mountains behind and transfer to Chiclayo on the coast. Overnight Intiotel or similar. (BL)


Day 6 - Chiclayo

Visit Batan Grande, the grounds of an old sugar cane hacienda, which is now dotted with dozens of ancient pyramids belonging to the Sican culture. We continue on to the Sicán Museum with its large collection of exhibits, most of which are models depicting the daily life and burials of the Sicán people. We’ll also be able to see the tombs of the Sicán nobility and treasures such as ceremonial headdresses and masks. Later, we return to Chiclayo. Overnight Initiotel or similar. (B)

Chiclayo – Batan Grande, Bosque de Pomac and Ferreñafe

57km northeast of Chiclayo is the forest sanctuary of Batan Grande, formerly a sugar cane hacienda, which encompasses over 20 pre-Inca temple pyramids and extends to Bosque de Pomac, the largest dry forest in the Americas. The forest oasis sits in the middle of a desert landscape and is dominated by algarrobo trees. The pyramids belong to the Sicán culture, descendants of the Moche.

Ferreñafe is 18km northeast of Chiclayo and was founded in 1550 by Captain Alfonso de Osorio. The town was once known as the ‘land of two faiths’ because of the local tradition of believing first in the power of spirits and second in the Catholic Church. Ferreñafe is best known for its Museo Nacional de Sicán, which has a large collection of exhibits, most of which are models depicting the daily life and burials of the Sicán people. In addition, the Sicán Museum has an interesting display of the tombs of the Sicán nobility, as well as treasures such as ceremonial headdresses and masks. The museum really helps you to visualise what Sicán culture was like and is a great place to visit before or after visiting the pyramids.

Day 7 - Chachapoyas

Return to the Andes and drive to the town of Chachapoyas. Overnight Hotel Gocta Andes Lodge or similar. (B)


Day 8 - Gocta Waterfalls

Drive to the village of Cocachimba and from here start our walk to the base of the Gocta Falls, at 771 metres, the fifth tallest in the world. We have lunch in the village of Cocachimba, before returning to Chachapoyas for the evening. Overnight Hotel Gocta Andes Lodge or similar. (B)


Day 9 - Kuélap Fortress

Today we visit the Chachapoyan fortress ruins at Kuélap – one of Peru’s most impressive, but relatively little known, archaeological sites, stopping at the cliffside ruins of Macro on the way and passing small villages. Our guide will explain the history of Kuélap as we visit ceremonial sites, the main temple, circular houses and the upper and lower tier. Return to Chachapoyas for the night. Overnight Hotel Gocta Andes Lodge or similar. (B)

Chachapoyas, Kuélap and Gocta

Situated at 2234 metres above sea level, Chachapoyas is a thriving Andean market town and the springboard for visiting the wealth of ancient remains in the area. Just 40km south of Chachapoyas, is the most famous and one of the most overwhelming of all the pre-Inca sites in Peru, the citadel complex of Kuélap.

Originally inhabited by the Chachapoyas people, this seemingly impenetrable stone citadel sits atop a limestone mountain above the tiny village of Tingo, in the lush and remote Utcubamba Valley. Kuélap, the strongest and most well-defended of all Peruvian fortress cities, was built sometime between 500AD and 1493 and was discovered in 1843 by Judge Juan Crisóstomo Nieto.

Some 700,000 tonnes of stone were used to build this Chachapoyan fortress and it is not known where the Chachapoyan people obtained this from. At its height, an estimated 4,000 people would have lived here in little stone houses, mainly working as artisans, farmers and builders.  There are around four hundred round stone houses at Kuélap of which typically include a stone grinder, a cellar-like hole used for things like food storage and funerary purposes and a narrow tunnel, used as a guinea pig hutch. Some are houses of the nobility and these are decorated with diamond and zig-zag patterns.

The upper part of the citadel was restricted to the most privileged ranks among Chachapoyas society and features a seven-metre high watchtower. Other features include a temple – believed to have had a ceremonial function and possibly a place of sacrifice – the dwellings of priests, and small stone circles that
served a funerary function. You may also see deer-eye symbols, condor designs, intricate serpent figures and carved animal heads, which are similar to those of the Kogi villages of northern Colombia. There are thought to be linguistic connections between the Kogi and Chachapoyas peoples and possibly even links to Caribbean and Maya influence.

The Cataratas de Gocta claim to be fifth tallest in the world, at a height of 771m. The waterfalls have two tiers – the lower 540m and the higher 231m above – and are surrounded by cloud forest and sugarcane farms and many species of birds inhabit the area, including Peru’s emblematic bird, the Andean ‘Gallito de la rocas’ or ‘Cock-of-the-rock’.

Day 10 - Jaen – Lima

Transfer to Jaen airport and fly to Lima. Overnight Hotel Allpa or similar. (B)


Day 11 - Paracas – Nazca

We drive to Paracas in the morning and leave the port for our boat trip to the Ballestas Islands. This group of islands constitute a habitat for a wide variety of marine birds and mammals, including penguins, pelicans and sea lions. En route to the islands, we will see the famous ‘Candelabro’ geoglyph, 120 metres in length and etched into a dune facing the sea. In the afternoon, we transfer to Nazca. Overnight Hotel Majoro or similar. (B)

Ballestas Islands

The Ballestas Islands lie off the coast, west of Pisco and are a hotspot for spotting marine wildlife. The rocky islands appear to be alive, as they are blanketed with masses of penguins, terns, pelicans, boobies and Guanay cormorants. The waters around the islands are also full of life, frequented with sea lions and even the occasional orca whale. As you venture out to the islands by boat, you will also pass the Paracas Trident or ‘El Candelabro’, a 128-metre-high and 74-metre-wide candelabra, carved into a hill and facing out towards the ocean. Nobody knows who created the candelabra or what its function was but there are many theories surrounding this peculiar etching that remains undefeated by weather and erosion.

Day 12 - Nazca – Arequipa

We fly over the famed Nazca lines today for stunning views of the 12 mysterious figures of Nazca which include: the compass, the astronaut, the tree monkey and the hummingbird.  We also have a great view of the aqueducts, the valleys of Ocucaje and Palpa, and see three of the figures in Palpa, that are several centuries older than the ones at Nazca. After our flight, we visit Chauchilla Cemetery, where we see mummies and bones left by the Huaqueros people. Later, we transfer to Arequipa. Overnight Hotel Maison du Soleil or similar. (B)

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are one of the world’s biggest archaeological mysteries. The lines comprise of a series of geometric shapes and animal figures, drawn across five hundred square kilometres of the Pampa de San José or ‘Nazca Plain’. Some are up to 200m in length and the best way to see them is from the air. The lines are a combination of straight lines, trapezoidal plazas and stylised drawings of birds and animals.

Like the Candelabra, there are many theories as to their origin and purpose, from agro-astronomical and environmental to spiritual and ritual. The greatest expert on these designs was Maria Reiche, who believed that the lines were an astronomical calendar designed to help organise planting and harvesting around seasonal changes. When certain stars lined up with specific shapes or animals, it would signal a time for planting, the beginning or end of summer, the coming of rains, the growing seasons or the time for harvesting.

Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejía Xesspe discovered the lines in 1927 and believed they were made for walking or dancing along for ritual purposes. Archeoastronomer Dr Anthony Aveni agreed some of the lines were used for this but also related them to the acquisition of water. A significant number of lines point to a section of the horizon where the sun used to rise at the beginning of the rainy season, suggesting they were created to help worship or invoke gods, especially those related to rain.

Other theories include the concept of out-of-body experience or shamanic flight with the symbolic ‘flight path’ already mapped out across the region. Such an experience is induced by ‘teacher’ plants such as the mescaline cactus San Pedro, which is still used by traditional healers in Peru.

Day 13 - Arequipa – Colca Valley

We have a 6am start today, as we travel to Cabanaconde in the Colca Canyon and trek down to San Juan de Chuccho village. Upon arrival into the village, we settle into our accommodation – a local family home – set amid impressive scenery, where we enjoy a home-cooked meal. Overnight local family home. (BLD)


Day 14 - Colca Valley

After breakfast we start our trek, visiting different villages along the way, such as Cosñirhua and Malata. We walk via an impressive pre-Inca horseshoe path, fruit groves and the suspension bridge of Sangalle. There is the option to have a dip in an oasis and the rest of the afternoon is spent at leisure before a campfire in the evening. Overnight rustic cabins. (BLD)

Colca Canyon

Formed by a geological fault between the Coropuna (6425m) and Ampato (6318m) volcanoes, the Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world. From the cliff-edge to the bottom of the river, the distance is 1km and the sides of the canyon are so steep that in some places it is impossible to see the bottom.

The valley is home to the Andean Condor, a massive bird that is among the largest in the world that are able to fly. The birds prefer to glide on air currents as they are extremely heavy and even their enormous 10-foot wingspan needs some assistance to keep them aloft. The higher edges of Colca are punctuated with elaborate examples of pre-Inca terracing, attributed mainly to the Huari cultural era. The area is still home to traditional Indian villages, and traditionally dressed Andean peasants and huge herds of llamas are commonplace.

In the 1530s, Francisco Pizzaro’s brother Gonzalo was given the region as his own colonial Spanish landholding or ‘encomienda’ to exploit for economic tribute. In the 17th century, Viceroy Toledo split the area into ‘corregimientos’ that concentrated the previously dispersed local populations into villages. Subsequently, there was a decline in the use of the agricultural terracing in the valley, as the locals switched to farming the land near their new homes. The ‘corregimientos’ created the fourteen main settlements that still exist in the Colca Valley to this day. Most of the settlements boast grand Baroque-fronted churches, which underlines how important the silver mines in this region were, during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Colca’s importance dwindled during the republican era and interest in the valley was rekindled in 1931 when the astonishing natural and man-made landscape of the valley was revealed to the outside world by means of aerial photography.

Day 15 - Colca Valley – Arequipa

Today we rise early, leaving at 5am for our trek up to Cabanaconde town. We continue to the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, where we can admire the great depth of the canyon and may be lucky to spot the huge, majestic bird that is the Andean Condor. Our next stop is Chivay, stopping in towns such as Maca, Achoma and Yanque en route. We transfer back to Arequipa city in the afternoon. Overnight Hotel Maison du Soleil or similar. (B)

Arequipa

Arequipa, the second city of Peru, is set against a backdrop of impressive volcanic peaks. Located at 2235 metres above sea level, the city sits at the foot of ice-capped volcano El Misti (5821m) and is famous for its pleasant climate and beautiful setting. The architectural beauty of Arequipa comes from the colonial period and is stylistically quite stark in some areas, whilst in others, sixteenth-eighteenth century facades display fine Baroque and mestizo influences.

This graceful city incorporates white stone (volcanic sillar) from the local mountains into its architecture and this was a major factor in Arequipa gaining its UNESCO World Heritage status. Some of Peru’s finest colonial mansions and churches are in Arequipa and many of these were constructed from the white rock. The old colonial centre is home to a large number of religious buildings, including the most prestigious and important religious building in Peru, the convent complex that is ‘Monasterio de Santa Catalina’. Arequipa is also the starting point for expeditions into the surrounding Colca Valley and for trips to the isolated Valley of the Volcanoes.

Day 16 - Cusco

Transfer to the airport and fly to Cusco. Overnight Niños Hotel I or similar. (B)

Cusco and The Sacred Valley

Sitting in the belly of a highland valley fed by two rivers, is the city of Cusco – the archaeological capital of the Americas and the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent. The unique layout of the city was designed by the Incas in the shape of a puma and much of the architecture that they so masterfully created out of local stone still stands in all its glory. Stone walled alleys link to wide, open plazas alive with locals, travellers and vibrantly dressed traditional dancers.

As the gateway to the sacred valley and the renowned Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, people usually find themselves spending at least a few days here to explore the city itself and its surrounding treasures. From ornate cathedrals to Inca temples, there is plenty to explore and you can pick-up anything in Cusco, from alpaca knits to leather crafts.

The Sacred Valley, known as ‘Vilcamayo’ to the Incas, lies 30km northwest of Cusco and traces down towards Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and eventually Machu Picchu. The valley is home to ancient Inca sites and citadels – such as Moray and Pisac – temple-fortresses and ancient villages that retain their traditional Andean charm. It was once exploited agriculturally by the Incas and even within 30km or so of the valley, there are several microclimates that make way for specialisations in different maizes, fruits and local plants. The river starts in the high Andes south of Cusco and is called the Vilcanota but when it reaches the Sacred Valley is becomes the Río Urubamba, which flows right down to the jungle to merge with other major headwaters of the Amazon.

Day 17 - Sacred Valley (Awanacancha – Pisac – La May – Chichubamba)

We drive to the Sacred Valley, visiting the Inca ruins at Pisac and spending some time at the Indian market. We then make our way to La May, where we will see how the locals prepare ‘cuy’ or guinea pig, a traditional dish in Peru. Later, we visit the Inkariy museum, which will take us on a cultural journey spanning 10,000 years and then we continue to Chichubamba, where we spend the night at a local guesthouse, staying with the locals of the Sacred Valley.  Overnight homestay. (BLD)

The ancient Inca citadel of Pisac lies in the Sacred Valley, perched high above the Río Vilcanota-Urubamba. The ruined citadel once controlled a strategic route connecting the Inca Empire with Paucartambo, on the borders of the eastern jungle. It displays magnificent stonework, including terraces, water ducts and steps all cut from solid rock, and beautiful panoramas of the valley, from the wide, flat base to the towering, green and rocky pinnacles. In the upper sector of the ruins, sits the ‘Templo del Sol’, built around an outcrop of volcanic rock, with a hitching post that is thought to have been used for keeping track of important stars or for calculating the changing seasons with accuracy that was critical to the smooth running of the Inca Empire.

Pisac itself is a small and pretty town, home to weaving villages and one of Peru’s best artesanía markets where you can pick up baby alpaca jumpers, hand-painted ceramic beads and on a Sunday, fresh local produce.

Chichubamba

Surrounded by green countryside and located next to the city of Urubamba, is Chichubamba, a community of approximately 180 families. Agricultural activity is the main source of income here, which is complemented with the breeding of guinea pigs and bees and the creation of handicrafts such as tapestries and ceramics.

Visitors to Chichubamba can witness and get involved in many community-based activities such as the preparation of ‘cuy’ (guinea pig) for eating, preparation of the typical Peruvian drink ‘Chica de Jora’- made from fermented corn – extraction of honey (apiculture) and the processes involved in weaving and textile art. Visiting Chichubamba is an excellent way to explore the culture, food and traditions of everyday rural Peruvian life and by participating, we help families to preserve nature, improve their quality of life and foster self-esteem and respect for their cultural heritage.

Day 18 - Moray – Maras – Cusco

Our first stop of the day is Moray and its astounding, amphitheatre-like ruins, which were supposedly used by the Incas for agricultural research. We continue on to the Maras salt mines, a captivating sight, especially for photographers. Later, we return to Cusco. Overnight Niños Hotel I or similar. (B)

Moray

Moray is a part agricultural and part ceremonial Inca site, situated 6km west of Maras village. The ruins consist of concentric circular stone terraces, creating bowl-like depressions in the earth and giving the effect of an amphitheatre. The full purpose behind the concentric terraces isn’t fully known but it is widely believed that the ruins were once an agricultural laboratory used by the Incas.

The depth, design and orientation of the ruins with regards to the sun and wind are telltale signs that they had a specific purpose. There are different conditions at each level of the terraces and therefore different temperatures. From top to bottom, the temperature difference is around 15 degrees celsius. It is thought that the Incas used the terraces and varying temperatures to experiment with crops. The different microclimates at the different levels will have allowed them to study wild vegetation and use hybridisation and modification to adapt crops and make them suitable for human consumption.

The Incas experimented with science and it is due to this that Peru is famous for its many variations of potato and now has more than 2,000 varieties. The temperature differences at Moray cleverly reflect the temperature at sea level farmland and in Andean farming terraces. Studies have shown that the soil has been brought here from different regions, providing more evidence that the Incas were using the area as an experimental zone.

Another fascinating point is that even in Peru’s rainy season, the Moray ruins never flood, thus indicating that there are underground channels that were built to allow water to drain. The expanse and cleverness of these constructions and the intelligence and forward thinking of the Incas that are evident here, make Moray a site that shouldn’t be missed.

Salinas de Maras

The Maras salt pans or ‘Salinas de Maras’ are situated 4km from the village of Maras and are also close to Moray. They are located along the slopes of Qaqawiñay Mountain, at an elevation of 3,380m in the Urubamba Valley. The salt mine complex has a network of nearly 3,000 salt pans, which are believed to have been developed in pre-Inca times (pre-1430 AD) and today they are hand-harvested by local families during the dry season.

The saltpans are shallow pools that are filled by a hypersaline underground spring and the naturally pink salt gets its hue from trace elements in the spring water, including magnesium, potassium, calcium and silicon. The source of the spring water is believed to be from a deep halite deposit – dating back 110 million years – within the Maras Formation on which the saltpans lie.

Geologists believe that millions of years ago, an ocean covered much of central Peru and that during the Andean orogeny, the ocean waters were trapped inland and were evaporated, forming halite deposits that are now the source of the hypersaline spring water and the salt that is extracted from the pans.

Day 19 - Cusco

Transfer to the airport for your onward or homebound flight. (B)


Optional Amazon extension: Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

Day 1 - Iquitos – Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

We fly from Cusco to Iquitos and transfer to Nauta, the gateway to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. We visit Sapi Sapi lagoon, home to endangered Taricaya turtles and Paiche, the largest fish in the Amazon, before continuing along the Marañon River.

Maintained by local residents, the tropical forest of Fundo Casual is our next stop, where we look out for different species of flora and fauna including medicinal herbs, sloths and monkeys. Overnight Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 2 - Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

Following ‘the route of the primates’, we trek through primary forest and navigate the area of Nauta Caño for likely sightings of pink and grey dolphins, primates and various species of birds. Overnight Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge or similar. (BLD)


Day 3 - Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

We visit the community of San Jorge, stopping at the school and the ‘Centre for Kukama Women’s Crafts’. The project was set up by the Pacaya Samiria Amazon lodge to boost the income of the locals and is run by women from the local community.

All of the profits go to fifteen families within this local community. We then carry out the sustainable tasks assigned to us on day one, including planting trees or plants and counting species of flora or fauna (most likely birds), before journeying down the Marañon river with a possible stop at Cocha Shiriyacu lake. We will also have the opportunity to try our hand at fishing with locals, using sustainable fishing practices.  Overnight Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 4 - Pacaya Samiria National Reserve – Iquitos

In the morning, we review the fishing traps left the previous day and have the opportunity to enjoy tasting our catch as part of an Amazonian breakfast. We spend some time birdwatching on the river banks and in the flooded forest, before enjoying some leisure time and relaxing before our trip back to Iquitos. (B)

Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria

One of the most remote and rewarding reserves in the Peruvian Amazon is Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria. This reserve is dotted with numerous oxbow lakes and crisscrossed by half a dozen rivers and innumerable creeks. It comprises around two million hectares of virgin rainforest, which equates to around 1.5 percent of the total landmass in Peru.

The reserve leads up to the confluence between the Ríos Marañón and Huallaga, two of the largest Amazon headwaters, of which between them, possess the largest protected area of seasonally flooded jungle in the Peruvian Amazon. Pacaya-Samiria is famous for its abundance of wildlife including pink and grey river dolphins, manatees, caimans, river turtles, numerous species of monkey and an astounding 450 plus species of birds. There is also a good chance of spotting jaguars in areas away from human settlement. Around 50,000 people, most of which are indigenous communities, still live in the reserve’s forest.

Optional Machu Picchu extension:

Day 1 - Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes

This evening we board the Voyager train for our trip to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to the world-renowned, UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Machu Picchu. We can enjoy panoramic views of the Sacred Valley from the windows, and upon arrival into Aguas Calientes, we check into our hotel for a good night’s sleep before we explore one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in the morning. Overnight Hotel El Mapi or similar. (BD)


Day 2 - Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – Ollantaytambo – Cusco

We have three hours to explore Machu Picchu today, which is divided into two areas: the agricultural, consisting of farming terraces and food stores, and the urban section, which served administrative purposes and is noted for its sacred zone with temples and royal tombs.

The hidden location of the Inca Citadel – which meant it was never found by the conquering Spaniards – and the fact that the whole complex was built with huge stone blocks without the use of mortar, is truly awe-inspiring. Not to mention, the panoramic views are jaw-dropping. In the afternoon, we take the train from Aguas Calientes back to Ollantaytambo and then transfer by road back to Cusco. Overnight Niños Hotel I or similar. (BL)

Machu Picchu

Discovered in 1911 by the US explorer Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu means ‘Old Mountain’ and is one of the greatest attractions in all of South America. Sitting at 2492m, the citadel is actually more than 1000m lower than Cusco, but seems much higher due to the dizzying slopes it is built upon. It was built in the mid-fifteenth century by the Inca Emperor Pachacuti and its sacred geography and astronomy were deciding factors when deciding where to build. Pachacuti was the first to expand the Inca Empire beyond the Sacred Valley and towards the forest, as mountains and nature were sacred to the Incas.

With an abundant crop yield and fertile soil, an agricultural centre such as Machu Picchu would have easily merited the site’s temples and stonework. The rocks used are grey and white granite – with a high content of feldspar, silica and quartz – that are hundreds of millions of years old. The citadel was also a ritual centre, which is evident from the layout and the number of temples. And, if the history and craftsmanship isn’t already enough to impress – with more than a hundred flights of steps interconnecting its palaces, terraces, storehouses and temples – the citadel is set against a panoramic backdrop of forested mountains including the main two – Huchuy Picchu and Huayna Picchu – and deep valleys, with the Urubamba river in perfect view.

This magical place was long hidden from both the Spanish conquistadors and the outside world, and it is a blessing that we can visit such a place today, to learn of past civilisations and to absorb the mystical atmosphere.

Day 3 - Cusco

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)


Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by local English-speaking guides.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If, however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves, we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

UK nationals don’t need a visa to visit Peru and can stay for up to 183 days. Citizens of most American and Western European countries don’t need a visa either. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Peru and you should have two blank pages in your passport.

Other nationalities should check with their nearest embassy.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The official currency in Peru is the Peruvian Sol or ‘PEN’. Not all shops, hotels, restaurants and bars accept credit cards, or may not accept all credit card types. Check if they take cards before asking for anything and keep all debit and credit card receipts. When using an ATM, it is best to do so in business hours inside a bank, supermarket or large commercial building. Intis is a former Peruvian currency out of circulation, being provided by street money changers, so avoid these altogether.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to Peru.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated May 2019

Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
04 July 2020
Price (PP) -
£3,549
Single Supplement -
£350
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
03 July 2021
Price (PP) -
£3,649
Single Supplement -
£350
Trip Status -
Available