Day 1 - Lima
On arrival at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport you will be transferred to your hotel. You'll meet your tour leader and the other members of your group for a pre-tour briefing, which is usually held at 2 pm. Please check the noticeboard near the hotel reception for confirmation of the location of the meeting. Afterwards, your leader will take you on a brief walking tour within the Miraflores area. Your in-depth city tour will be on Day 14 of the trip.
This evening, you may want to go out for a group dinner. There are a number of restaurants and cafes to choose from. Lima has some of the most superb cuisine in South America and is especially renowned for its exceptional seafood. During your time here, you may wish to try ceviche, Peru’s national dish, which is raw fish marinated in lime juice and often served with hot peppers. This culinary delight is a must for all seafood lovers!
Notes: Altitude sickness is a common occurrence in this part of the world. Anyone can suffer from the symptoms, so it's important to be prepared for it. Please see the 'Health' section of the trip notes for more information.
Day 2 - Paracas
This morning your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral of Lima, which houses the remains ofLima's founder, Francisco Pizarro. Visit the nearby San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains.Continue onto the Central market where you'll take a walking tour.The market has a huge variety of fresh produce on offer, including fruits, vegetables and even guinea pigs. You'll also have the opportunity to try some local Peruvian fruits and street food. Next head away from the tourist trail and visit ‘Alameda de Chabuca Granda’ an area really only known to locals, it is a place wherepeople go as a treat to enjoy a variety local street food and authentic Peruvian desserts such as ‘Mazamorra Morada’ a sweet porridge made from purple corn or ‘Picarones’ Peruvian donuts made from local squash called Macre and sweet potatoes served with a sweet syrup, these are a must try whilst in Peru!
Later, travel by minivan for around four hours to Paracas, arriving in the late afternoon/early evening.
Day 3 - Nazca
Awake early for an excursion to the Islas Ballestas and make your way to Paracas' port, where you'll board a boat bound for the islands. Often referred to as the Galapagos of Peru, Islas Ballestas are home to an abundance of wildlife, including pelicans, red-footed boobies, flamingos, sea lions and even penguins. You'll have the opportunity to see the wildlife up close on a boat tour of the islands (approximately 1.5-2 hours). Between June and September the port may be closed due to weather conditions, if this is the case, an alternative land tour of the Paracas National Reserve will be arranged.
You will be driven in a private van from Paracas to Nazca next. This is a three hour drive, but we may stop at the oasis town of Huacachina on the way. Nazca’s origins date back to the 2nd century BC and here, in the dry desert conditions, mummies, textiles, ceramics and other relics have been remarkably well preserved to give archaeologists clear snapshots of this highly developed civilisation. Visit the viewing platform here or to get a bird's eye view of the lines, you can choose to go on a flight tour of the area. The flight is 30 minutes long and covers the 26 figures scattered throughout the desert.
Notes: The flight can be bumpy and it is only recommended for those with a strong stomach. There have been safety issues with these flights in the past, so we have done our best to research the best operators in the area to recommend to you. Our tour leaders are prohibited from recommending or booking through any other operators. This optional tour (flight) costs about US$100 per person (price subject to change).
Day 4 - Arequipa
Today will be a long day of travel. You will journey to Arequipa by private van (approximately 12 hours including toilet and lunch stops) It is well worth it though, Arequipa is a beautiful Spanish colonial city, known as ‘La Ciudad Blanca’ (The White City) because the buildings have been built almost exclusively from a white volcanic material called 'sillar'. The city lies in a beautiful valley and at the foot of the 5822-metre-high El Misti volcano, a perfectly shaped cone.
Arequipa is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in Peru. Protected by mountains, its wild surrounding landscape consists of high altitude deserts, hot springs and abyssal canyons.
Day 5 - Arequipa
There will be a walking tour arranged with a local guide that will take you to visit the main square, the Santa Catalina Monastery, the San Ignacio Chapel with its colonial mural paintings and the suburb of Yanahuara. Otherwise, relaxing in a cafe in the main plaza is the perfect way to spend your time here.
You will have some free time today. Perhaps visit the Juanita Mueseum.
Day 6 - Puno/Lake Titicaca
Travel by minivan to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approx 6 hrs). On the way we stop at the Sillustani archaeological site.
Tucked away in between the many small villages around Puno are the ruins of Sillustani. These ruined towers are set on a beautiful peninsula near Lake Umayo, built by a pre-Inca civilisation hundreds of years ago. The Sillustani Indians built several 'chullpas', funeral towers. Each tower would have contained the remains of noble men, buried together with offerings to secure their comfortable passage into the next life.
Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture and traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented here. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. Many festivals are celebrated here, so if you're lucky your visit might coincide with one of the colourful evening parades, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Day 7 - Lake Titicaca / Puno
Tour the lake by slow motor boat stopping off to visit the floating islands. The Uros originally built the islands from many layers of totora reeds that grow in the lake's shallows to isolate themselves from the rival tribes. As the reeds closest to the water begin to rot, more layers are added on top. These reeds are used for making everything on the islands, including the boats which can last up to 12 months.
We will also visit the Taquile Island, where knitting is strictly a male domain and women do the spinning. This is a great place to pick up some high quality, locally knitted goods. To reach the main part of the island there is a an uphill trek (approx 1 hour) with great views of the lake. There will also be an optional lunch consisting of a basic set meal where you can taste the nutritious quinua soup and enjoy a muna tea (Andean mint tea).
A descent of approx 500 steps brings us back to the boat which will take us all the way back to Puno (approx 3 hours).
Puno is the hometown of Kusimayo, a terrific local organisation that works towards improving the living condition of children and adults affected by poverty and malnutrition in this part of the world you have now come to know so well. Take a look at this short video for more information on this wonderful project: https://vimeo.com/154422813
Kusimayo is supported by the Intrepid Foundation which means you can donate to this project and your donation will be match dollar for dollar by the Intrepid Group. Please donate through our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/kusimayo/
Day 8 - Cuzco
Travel by local bus across the spectacular Altiplano to Cuzco (approx 10 hours including stops)
The Cuzco region truly is the heart and soul of Peru. The city itself is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here.
Today Cuzco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Inca foundations. This is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend and is a perfect base for explorations into the Inca world or to enjoy a range of outdoor activities.
Take the time to acclimatise to the city's 3,450 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city. Your tour leader will take you out on an orientation walk. You’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, the local San Pedro market, the main square, past the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. Finally you’ll visit the Chocolate museum where there will be an opportunity to sample a hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. This might be a good opportunity to purchase some gifts or souvenirs. There’s a small store where you’ll find various handicrafts and a variety of artisanal chocolate products. Tonight is free, perhaps head out for dinner your fellow travellers. Your leader will be able to recommend some good place sot eat!
Day 9 - Cuzco
You have a free day to explore Cusco today.
For you to make the most of your free time in Cusco, your trip includes a “Full Boleto Turistico”, a tourist pass that gives you access to 16 archaeological sites in and around Cusco, including Qenqo, Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Saqsaywaman, amongst others.
For lunch or mid-morning coffee and cake head to Yanapay restaurant at 415 Ruinas St. This restaurant uses all its profits to support children in Cuzco through Aldea Yanapay and its social projects. For more info on Aldea Yanapay visit: http://yanapay.facipub.com/
Day 10 - Sacred Valley/Ollantaytambo
You will drive on to the Sacred Valley on a private bus today.
Just outside of Cuzco you will visit the fortress ruins of Sacsayhuaman where massive stone blocks that form the walls of this site give you an awesome picture of how highly developed Inca engineering was. Looking over the city from its hilltop position, the fortress is built out of massive stone blocks and is the ultimate example of the Inca's military strength. After this included visit we'll continue on to the Sacred Valley. Located between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo the Sacred Valley was greatly treasured because of its climate, fertile land and the presence of the Urubamba (Sacred) River.
You will visit a local community here, to gain a greater insight into the local lifestyle. If it happens to be market day, you will be able to wander the stalls and hunt down beautiful hand painted beads and ponchos. You will enjoy lunch with the local community.
Next you will head to the town of Ollantaytambo. Built over an ancient Inca town, which is a magnificent example of Inca urban planning, this is one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish. Ollantaytambo's archaeological site is located to the east of the Plaza de Armas and the upper terraces of this site offer great photo opportunities of the squared grid town below.
You will leave the majority of your luggage in Cusco while you spend time in Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, be sure to bring a small backpack that you can pack with necessary goods for the days ahead.
Day 11 - Aguas Calientes
Nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu, your destination today will be Aguas Calientas. You will travel by train for 90 minutes through the winding Urubamba Valley to reach town.
The remainder of the afternoon is free to relax.
Day 12 - Machu Picchu/Cuzco
Take a very early (5:30am) bus along the winding road to Machu Picchu (approximately 30 minutes) where you will be joined by a guide who will take you through the ruins. Looking at Machu Picchu for the first time, as it sits against a backdrop of forested mountains, is a truly breathtaking experience. No matter how many photos you've seen, it is hard to prepare for its awesome beauty.
MACHU PICCHU: While it's thought Machu Picchu was built around 1440 as a country retreat for Incan nobility, there is evidence this had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Another school of thought is that this was an astronomical observatory. There's plenty of time for you to decide for yourself as you wander around the many temples, palaces and living quarters.
You will have a guided visit (approximately 2 hours) with plenty of free time afterwards. After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cusco for a well deserved shower and a pisco sour.
Day 13 - Cuzco
Today you have a free day in Cuzco to further explore this wonderful city.
Day 14 - Lima
Fly from Cuzco back to Lima (approx 1 hr).
The remainder of the day is free to further explore Lima.
Day 15 - Lima
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money