Welcome to Peru! Your trip begins with a complimentary airport transfer to your hotel and 2pm meeting. Get orientated with a short walking tour of the Miraflores area of Lima before dinner. Don’t miss the local seafood, particularly Peru’s national dish ceviche, which is raw fish marinated in lime juice.
Lima – Paracas
Start the day with a walking tour of downtown Lima, which is filled with palaces, churches and stone streets. Highlights include the San Francisco Monastery with its eerie catacombs and the central market where locals sell everything from fruit and vegetables to guinea pigs. As an optional activity, visit the 16th century Cathedral where the remains of Lima’s founder, Francisco Pizarro, lie.
In the afternoon, experience a slice of local life in the Alameda de Chabuca Granda area, where you can taste Peruvian street-food snacks. Try desserts such as donuts made from squash, sweet potatoes with syrup and Mazamorra Morada, a porridge made from purple corn. Afterwards, you’ll board a minibus for the four-hour journey to Paracas, arriving in the early evening.
Paracas – Nazca
Rise early for a two-hour boat trip to the Islas Ballestas, known as The Poor Man’s Galapagos for its diverse wildlife. The Islands are home to over 1,500 species of marine birds, including Peruvian Pelicans, Inca Terns, Red-legged Cormorants and Peruvian Boobies. You can also spot Humboldt Penguins, sea lions and dolphins. Note that between June and September, weather conditions may be too rough, so you’ll take a land tour of the Paracas National Reserve instead.
Travel three hours by private van to Nazca, with a possible stop at Huacachina, a natural oasis in the middle of the desert. Next, you’ll get to see the Nazca Lines from a viewing platform, a series of 26 large symbols carved into the desert centuries ago. For stunning aerial views, take an optional 30-minute helicopter flight, which costs around US$100 per person. Flights can be very bumpy and may be cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
Make the 12-hour journey to Arequipa by private mini-van, you’ll arrive in Peru’s second-largest city in the evening. Known as The White City for its buildings made of volcanic stone called sillar, the Spanish colonial hub is also one of Peru’s most picturesque cities and lies at the foot of three volcanoes. These include the 5,822-metre-high El Misti, which is still active.
Take a walking tour with a local guide to visit Arequipa’s main sites, including the 16th century Santa Catalina Monastery, which was once a cloister for Dominican nuns. The walled complex stretches over 20,000 square metres and features living quarters, a plaza and gallery. You’ll also get to see the San Ignacio Chapel and visit the cathedral in the pretty main square.
Spend the rest of the day as you please, relax with a coffee, visit Alpaca World or the Juanita Museum to learn about brutal Incan history. To appease their gods, the Incas sacrificed children on the mountains in special ceremonies. Today, you can see the frozen body of Juanita, a girl who was sacrificed on Mount Ampato. The museum costs PEN20 and includes a guided tour.
Puno and Lake Titicaca
Today you’ll head to Lake Titicaca, which sits at an elevation of 3,810 metres. The journey takes eight hours by minivan, with a stop at Sillustani archaeological site if time permits. These funeral towers were built by a pre-Incan civilisation, the Sillustani Indians, to hold the remains of noble men. You’ll arrive in Puno early evening, a city that lies on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Puno is the gateway to Peru’s floating Uros Islands and is full of Aymara, Andean and Quechuan Indian culture.
Puno – Lake Titicaca
Take a boat trip across Lake Titicaca to the floating Islands. These remarkable islets were built by the Uros people, who migrated to Bolivia from the Amazon. To avoid hostile locals, they built islands from tough totora reeds and anchored them in the lake. Stop to visit an island and learn about how the Uros people live.
Head onwards to Taquile Island, recognised by UNESCO for its traditional lifestyle and world-renowned handmade textiles. Take an hour-long hike for sweeping views over Lake Titicaca and enjoy an optional lunch made by locals. Dishes included quinoa soup and trout accompanied by Andean mint tea.
Today you’ll travel six and a half hours to Cusco, the jumping off point for trips to Machu Picchu. Cusco is thought to be Peru’s oldest city and was home to the Incas for two centuries before being taken over by Spanish forces. As such, Cusco is a fascinating blend of Incan and Spanish architecture. As you wander the cobbled streets you’ll come across Inca walls, colonial buildings and Spanish cathedrals.
As we climb higher in altitude, it’s important to rest and acclimatise to Cusco’s 3,450-metre elevation. Stay hydrated and suck on some coca candies to alleviate any altitude sickness symptoms. Take a leisurely orientation walk with a guide, which takes in the main square, 12-angeld stone, San Pedro Market and San Blas Square. You’ll also get a chance to taste locally-made hot chocolate at the Chocolate Museum, the perfect place to buy souveniers.
Enjoy a free day to relax. Use your Full Boleto Turistico pass to gain access to 16 historical and archeological sites that lie in and around Cusco. There are plenty of optional activities to keep you busy, including day trips for mountain biking and zip lining, all at an extra cost. Pack a small bag for your visit to the Sacred Valley, the remainder of your luggage can be left in Cusco.
The Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo
Depart Cusco for the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, an impressive Incan site. The hilltop fortress is built from huge stone blocks and is a fine example of Incan engineering. Afterwards, continue to the Sacred Valley, a region in the Andean Highlands which was the centre of the Incan Empire. The 60-kilometres of fertile farmland and lies between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
You’ll visit a local community to learn about life in the Sacred Valley and if it’s market day, you can shop for handmade clothes and souveniers. Enjoy lunch at the local village before continuing on to Ollantaytambo. The village is surrounded by peaks and set on the Urubamba River, boasting the ruins of a huge Inca fortress and hillside terraces, as well as cobbled Inca grid streets.
Breakfast and lunch included.
If you choose to follow the regular itinerary, you’ll take Peru’s most scenic train journey, a 90-minute ride through the canyon-like Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes. This tiny town is the final stop before Machu Picchu and the ideal place to rest up with a meal before the next day’s adventure.
If you opt for the one-day Inca Trail option, your day will begin at 6.30am with a train ride to the start of the guided trek. Cross the Urubamba River to enter the famous Inca Trail around 9am and hike to the nearby Chachabamba ruins. At round 2,680 metres, you’ll reach the Winay Wayna Inca site, one of the most popular stops on the whole trail.
An hour later, you’ll arrive at the Sun Gate, Inti Punku, where you’ll catch your first views of majestic Machu Picchu. The Incan city was built around 1450 and invaded by the Spanish around half a century later. It was only hundreds of years later, in 1911, that it was rediscovered. Take a bus ride down to Aguas Calientes to spend the night.
Machu Picchu – Cusco
Rise at 5.30am for the short bus ride to Machu Picchu, where an expert guide will take you on a tour through the ruins. Marvel at the views of this city in the sky from the guard tower, set against a backdrop of jagged mountains. Machu Picchu was thought to have been built as a country retreat for Incan nobles or as an astronomical observatory.
Learn about the site’s architecture, which boasts a mortar-free design that’s earthquake resistant, and see the former temples, palaces and living quarters. After the two-hour tour, you’ll have time to take plenty of photos before you return to Cusco.
Spend a free day relaxing in Cusco, shopping in the markets and enjoying a meal overlooking the main square. If you want to make the most of your time, head out on a hike or visit some more of Cusco’s treasures, such as the Incan Museum.
Say goodbye to Cusco and take a one-hour flight back to Lima. After checking into your hotel, you’re free to explore the city independently. Possible activities include visiting the Gold Museum or the Museo de la Nacion. The free Museum of the Inquisition is also worth a look, or you can embark on a trip to Pachacamac, an Incan archeological site which lies about 30 kilometres away from downtown.
Your Peruvian adventure has come to an end and there are no activities planned for the day. You are free to leave your accommodation when you like, if you have some spare time take a final biking or cooking tour, do some shopping or head down to Lima Beach.