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Peru - 19 days
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Prices from £3,449
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Prices from £3,449
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 is our next stop, searching for marine mammals and the overwhelming amount of birdlife that inhabit the islands, then we take a thrilling flight over the puzzling Nazca Lines. Moving on, we travel to the picturesque city of Arequipa before travelling into the surrounding Colca Valley, with one of the deepest canyons in the world and giant Andean condors soaring in the surrounding sky. We spend some time trekking in the valley, visiting various local villages and staying in a family home. We round off our adventure in Cusco, venturing out into the Sacred Valley where we visit the the astounding Inca ruins at Pisac and Moray and the pink-hued salt pans at Maras. 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…
Day 1 – Lima
Arrive into Lima and transfer to your hotel.
Day 2 – Huaraz
Transfer from Lima to Huaraz, in the Cordillera Blanca range in Peru’s western region.
Day 3 – Huaraz
We travel through the Callejón of Huaylas, visiting typical Andean villages along the Santa River. Continuing on, we head to the striking blue Chinancocha lagoon and then we walk along the Maria Josefa Trail, spotting Andean flora and fauna in Huascarán National Park. We return to Huaraz in the afternoon.
Day 4 – Huaraz
Travelling south of the Callejón de Huaylas, we reach Pachacoto, making stops at Patococha lake and the Pumashimi Spring, visiting the cave paintings in the area also. We then drive to 4900m, where we start our walk to the Pastoruri Glacier and some ice caves.
Day 5 – Chiclayo
Leave the mountains behind and transfer to Chiclayo on the coast.
Day 6 – Chiclayo
Visit the ancient pyramids belonging to the Sican culture at Batan Grande, and the Sicán Museum with its large collection of exhibits, most of which are models depicting the daily life and burials of the Sicán people. Later, we return to Chiclayo.
Day 7 – Chachapoyas
Return to the Andes and drive to the town of Chachapoyas.
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. Return to Chachapoyas for the evening.
Day 9 – Kuélap Fortress
Today we visit the Chachapoyan fortress ruins at Kuélap, 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.
Day 10 – Jaen – Lima
Transfer to Jaen airport and fly to Lima.
Day 11 – Paracas – Nazca
Drive to Paracas in the morning and take a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands. The islands constitute a habitat for a wide variety of marine birds and mammals, including penguins and sea lions. We will also see the famous ‘Candelabro’ geoglyph, 120 metres in length and etched into a dune. In the afternoon, we transfer to Nazca.
Day 12 – Nazca – Arequipa
We fly over the famed Nazca lines today for stunning views of the 12 mysterious figures of Nazca. We also 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.
Day 13 – Arequipa – Colca Valley
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.
Day 14 – Colca Valley
After breakfast we start our trek, visiting different villages along the way. We walk via an impressive pre-Inca path, fruit groves and the Sangalle suspension bridge. There is the option to have a dip in an oasis before a campfire in the evening.
Day 15 – Colca Valley – Arequipa
We rise early for our trek up to Cabanaconde town. We continue to the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, where we may lucky to spot the Andean Condor. Our next stop is Chivay, stopping in towns such as Maca and Yanque en route. Transfer back to Arequipa city in the afternoon.
Day 16 – Cusco
Transfer to the airport and fly to Cusco.
Day 17 – Sacred Valley (Awanacancha – Pisac – La May – Chichubamba)
Drive to the Sacred Valley, visit the Inca ruins at Pisac and spending some time at the Indian market. We then make our way to La May, to see how the locals prepare ‘cuy’ or guinea pig, a traditional dish in Peru. Later, we visit the Inkariy museum and then we continue to Chichubamba, where we spend the night at a local guesthouse.
Day 18 – Moray – Maras – Cusco
Our first stop of the day is Moray and its astounding, ampitheatre-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.
Day 19 – Cusco
Transfer to the airport for your onward or homebound flight.
Day 1 – Lima
Arrive into Lima and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hotel Allpa or similar. (B)
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 party-goers 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 shanty towns 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)
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 fortressruins 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 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. 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)
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)
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)
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 which 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 1530’s, 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’ crated 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, 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 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.
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, ampitheatre-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 or similar. (B)
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 tell-tale 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 micro climates 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 salt pans 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 salt pans 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. (LD)
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 is criss-crossed 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, UNSECO 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. (BL)
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.
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 an English-speaking guide.
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 (www.travcour.com) can assist.
Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.
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
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.
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.
Arrival and departure taxes
There aren’t any separate arrival and departure taxes, as these are included in the cost of your airfare.
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.
When to go
You can visit Peru all year round and the country experiences two main seasons. The dry season is from May to October and sees sunny days but chilly nights. There is more rain between November and March, with January and February being the wettest months to visit. Trekking can become more dangerous during the wettest months but there are advantages of greener scenery and the flora and fauna will still be abundant in the Amazon.
Culture – language and religion
Peru has more than 10,000 years of history and boasts a great wealth of traditions and cultures. Undoubtedly one of the most varied countries in the world, Peru possesses varied folklore, diverse musical styles and dances, imposing archaeological complexes and 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The beliefs, customs and way of life in Peru have been inherited from native Incas, Spanish conquistadors and settlers, but whatever a person’s ethnic background, Peruvian people all agree on the importance of family and religion. The predominant religion in Peru is Catholicism and this exists peacefully in Peru alongside other belief systems such as other Christian faiths and traditional beliefs, which are often blended with Catholicism by indigenous peoples.
Spanish is the official language of Peru and is spoken by 84% of the population. Additionally, there are 47 native languages, including Quechua, spoken by 13% of the population and Aymara, spoken by only 1.7%. Since pre-Hispanic times, music and dance have played a very important role in Peruvian society. Peruvians once used reeds, sea shells and animal bones to produce sounds and it is said that the Peruvians of the Nazca culture were the most important pre-Hispanic musicians on the whole continent.
Eating and drinking
Peruvian food varies from region to region. Cuisine from the coast is based on seafood and the famous dish here is Ceviche. It consists of fish, shrimps, scallops or squid – or a mixture of all four – and is marinated in lime juice and chilli peppers and served raw with corn, sweet potato and onions.
Mountain food is fairly basic with a staple of potatoes and rice. ‘Lomo Saltado’ is diced beef sautéed with onions and peppers and is served everywhere, with rice or chips. A delicious snack from street vendors is ‘papa rellena’, a potato stuffed with vegetables and fried. Another specialty is pachamanca a roast prepared mainly in the mountains but also on the coast, by digging a large hole, filling it with meats and vegetables, placing down stones and lighting a fire over them, using the hot stones to cook the meat and vegetables.
Jungle food is different from the food in the rest of the country. Bananas and plantains are commonplace, alongside ‘yuca’ (a manioc like a yam), rice and fish. Meat is consumed as well – mainly chicken but supplemented with game such as deer or wild pig. It is better to avoid game for conservation reasons. Homemade beer called ‘masato’ or cassava beer is also made in the jungle.
All throughout Peru you’ll find a wide variety of fast food and snacks, such empañadas, meat- or cheese-filled pies, sold at all times of the day. ‘Cuy’ or guinea pig as we know it, is a delicacy in Peru and Quinoa is also a staple, particularly used in soups. The most popular desserts in Peru are made from ‘manjar blanco’ (sweet condensed milk) or fresh fruits. Chica, a corn beer drunk throughout the sierra region and on the coast in rural areas, has a tangy taste and is very cheap. Soft and hot drinks in Peru include the luminous-yellow ‘Inka Cola’ and herbal teas.
You should advise us when you book if you have any special dietary requirements. We will try to accommodate you as much as possible, but we cannot always guarantee this. Vegetarians are likely to experience a lack of variety during parts of the trip – we are travelling through remote areas, not all food can be taken with us from the start, and supplies need to be obtained en route, which can dictate what is available as ingredients.
Luggage and packing
The first rule of packing is not to bring too much. There will be plenty of occasions where you’ll need to carry your luggage yourself and so you should be able to do this without help. Most people are surprised at how little they actually need to bring, and it’s normally possible to get laundry done along the way. It doesn’t matter whether you bring a suitcase, rucksack or holdall, but please don’t bring more than 15kg of luggage as this may be difficult to accommodate in the vehicles we use.
You don’t have to a serious trekker to join our trips to Peru but there will be hills to climb, trails to walk and sites to explore, so you will enjoy the trip more if you have a reasonable level of fitness. You should also take altitude into consideration. We have included a few short treks (max 4-5 hours) but these are not especially strenuous.
Keeping money in local economies and supporting indigenous communities and family-run projects is extremely important. We include homestays in our tours, where we spend time with local communities, taking the time to learn about their culture, traditions and way of life. Staying with these communities in their homes not only helps to keep indigenous traditions alive but makes sure that small communities benefit from tourism income and that our money doesn’t just go to large hotel chains. If bringing gifts, one must be sure not to go over the top, as reciprocating is part of rural Peruvian culture, or ‘ayni’, meaning ‘today for me, tomorrow for you’. Excess gift giving hinders this ethos if people feel they can’t reciprocate. Speaking Spanish and also dabbling in Quechua, the language of the Incas, will surely bring a smile to local people’s faces and they will appreciate it if we are making an effort.
Using local guides also ensures money stays within local economies and enables valuable, in-depth and honest knowledge which you perhaps wouldn’t get from a western guide. It also means we are keeping carbon emissions down.
Shoe-shining is a popular way for children living in poverty to earn some money. If a child really looks like they are in need, then have your shoes shone but be careful as some children are sent out to work by their parents and are not street children. Travelling light is also a good idea as you can buy woolly winter clothing in Peru and this puts money into local coffers. Avoid synthetic fakes and opt for real alpaca wool jumpers. Real alpaca wool loses its shape a bit when stretched and is slightly greasy to touch.
Most people like to take photos on their travels, and it’s sometimes easy to forget that the photogenic person in front of you may not want their picture taken. We always ask if it’s okay, and respect their wishes if they say no. It is also best to refrain from taking photographs in churches, especially in the Andes.
We must always keep the environment at the forefront of our minds and take all litter with us, disposing of it responsibly in big cities and towns. Bringing a reusable water bottle is a great idea and if purchasing any snacks, avoid excess packaging. We offer an optional extension to visit the Amazon on our tour, to spot wildlife where it should be seen, in the wild. You have to be careful in Amazonian areas as although there are some fantastic conservation, rescue and rehabilitation efforts going on, there are also organisations posing as rescue centres, that definitely do not have welfare of the animals or conservation at heart. If you see any animals being kept in captivity, report this to relevant organisations and don’t have your photo taken with captive animals. If you are offered mahogany, or ‘red gold’ as it’s sometimes called, even if it’s a small item, just pass. Peru is one of the world’s biggest exporters of mahogany and the industry is very destructive and exploitative. The industry contributes to the deforestation of virgin rainforest and the stripping of indigenous communities’ homes and rights to survive.
Tipping is not compulsory, but if you’d like to tip our driver and guide, we’d recommend $2 per person daily for our driver and $4 per person daily for our guide.
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.
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.
We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Peru. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.
This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.
The Rough Guide to Peru – Rough Guides
Kiki Deere, Anna Kaminski, Phillip Tang and Greg de Villiers
Walking the Amazon
The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Orin Starn, Carlos Iván Degregori, Robin Kirk
Eight Feet in the Andes
Trail of Feathers
The Conquest of the Incas
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 30 November 2018
|06 July 2019||£3,449||£350||Available||
|04 July 2020||£3,549||£350||Available||