Welcome to South America! Consisting of 13 countries, it is the fourth largest continent and home to some of the world's most recognisable UNESCO World Heritage sites.
This evening we arrive in Lima, the capital of Peru. The city was founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, and is now a mix of modern shopping malls, high rise buildings, large urban sprawl and beautiful colonial architecture. As Lima was the seat of Spanish rule for some 300 years, it features wonderful churches, cloisters and monasteries.
Today, the patchwork of Lima's vibrant city life and neighbourhoods combine with a plethora of museums and churches to offer visitors a fascinating and rich cultural heritage to discover. Meet your fellow travellers this evening over a welcome drink in the hotel.
Explore colonial Lima on a half day city tour. Our first stop is the Plaza de Armas, where we see the Government Palace, the House of El Oidor and the stunning City Hall buildings. We take a stroll through the Cathedral of Lima and hear about some of the religious history of Peru.
Next is a visit to the Larco Museum which houses one of the most impressive collections of Incan artefacts and gives a fascinating insight into ancient Peru. We'll learn about ancient culture as we visit the Textiles Gallery, the Spaniards' Arrival Gallery, the Sacrifice Ceremony Gallery and the Gold, Silver and Jewels Galleries. We then continue to explore the Barranco district, one of the city's most romantic and atmospheric areas. The afternoon is at leisure for you to rest and relax or explore further at your own pace.
Special Experience: Tour Lima's oldest colonial mansion, Casa Aliaga, before a decadent 3-course dinner in the dining room, courtyard or main salon. This elegant historic mansion was built on land granted to Captain Jeronimo de Aliaga y Ramirez by conquistador Francisco Pizzaro after Lima's founding in 1535. The house has been owned by the same family for over 17 generations and features a unique blend of Spanish and Peruvian architectural styles.
We depart Lima early this morning for our flight to Cusco, the Inca capital of ancient times. High up in the Andes Mountains, Cusco is also known as the gateway to both the Sacred Valley and the world-famous site of Machu Picchu. On arrival we are transferred to our hotel before heading out to lunch at Limo, one of the finest restaurants in the city that offers unbeatable views of the Plaza de Armas - the main square of Cusco. The plaza is adorned with colourful gardens and wide stone pathways and features iconic buildings such as the Cusco Cathedral and Church La Compañía de Jesús.
We'll visit the religious complex of Qoricancha, containing the Temple of the Sun, considered to be the most spectacular temple in the Inca Empire. As well as being the main astronomical observatory for the Incas, some 4,000 priests and their attendants once lived within its confines. Looted and then destroyed by the Spanish, they used the foundations for the Dominican Convent of Santo Domingo, creating perhaps, the most incongruous imperial-colonial architectural clash in Cusco. The evening is at leisure – why not visit the nearby Pisco Museum and taste the country's signature cocktail, the Pisco Sour.
Our first stop for the day is the San Pedro Market - a huge, open-air market with an eclectic variety of produce and interesting wares for sale. This is a great stop for freshly squeezed juices and beautiful pastries, or maybe you'd like to try the local delicacies of roasted guinea pig or soup with a jawbone garnish.
We'll explore the fascinating fortress of Sacsayhuaman, which is one of the most famous Inca ruins in the Cusco region. We will then head to a local retailer called La Vicuñita, that offers top-notch clothing made from materials such as alpaca wool and vicuña. Following this, we'll visit Urpi Joyeria, a jewellery store featuring exquisite traditional handmade jewellery.
Later we tour the 17th-century Cusco Cathedral – the façade of which is a fine example of colonial baroque architecture. We'll walk the historic San Blas neighbourhood, known for its narrow, cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. There are many sights to see including the Main Square of Cusco, Hatun Rumiyoc Street, the San Blas Temple and the Merida House.
Experience the magic of the Sacred Valley as we travel to Machu Picchu aboard the Hiram Bingham train. Savour a delectable brunch and indulge in a variety of Peruvian wines while enjoying the scenic journey.
Challenging Day: Today is a particularly challenging day, where there will be extended periods of walking time, often across uneven ground and in areas of high altitude or heat and humidity.
This morning is at leisure. You have the option to return to Machu Picchu for a second visit to thoroughly soak in the beauty of this ancient phenomenon before the crowds arrive. Next, we'll board the Vistadome train to Ollantaytambo, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Urubamba Valley, as it's also called, was the centre of the Inca Empire and features various archaeological sites and villages. This valley was significant to the Incas because of its unique geography and climate and was a vital source of natural resources for the empire.
We'll stop at a chicheria to sample chicha, Peru's beloved drink, and have an opportunity to try cuy, a local delicacy made from guinea pig. Don't forget to play sapo (toad), a traditional Andean game that's almost like a rite of passage when visiting a chicheria.
Optional Excursion: Machu Picchu 2nd visit & Huayna Picchu (Waynapicchu) - Your tour already includes one visit to Machu Picchu; however, you may wish to take a second visit to explore this phenomenon further. Alternatively, you may wish to also incorporate a climb up to Huayna Picchu (Waynapicchu) (considered to provide the best view over Machu Picchu). Please note both options include entry into Machu Picchu and transportation (guide not included). If you choose the Huayna Picchu (Waynapicchu) option, entry to the peak is also included. Half day Machu Picchu only - from $90pp US. Half day Machu Picchu incl. Huayna Picchu (Waynapicchu) – from $104pp US.
Please Note: You must purchase your entrance ticket in advance. This will be done by our local operator. Please advise your Travel Specialist if you would like to include a second visit.
Entrance tickets are limited and by shifts. These usually sell out well in advance. Current shifts for entry in the morning are hourly beginning at 6.00am. Your entry time is located in the top left corner of the ticket, and you have a maximum of 60 minutes after that time to arrive at the entrance for check in. If possible, we recommend booking an earlier time slot. Only the tickets that specify “llaqta de Machupicchu” allows you to choose one of the three established circuits around the site. The ticket that includes Huayna Picchu (Waynapicchu) mountain only allows you to visit circuit 4.
A fascinating day ahead, beginning with an exploration of the salt ponds of Maras and the impressive circles of Moray. At Maras you'll find the intriguing Inca salt ponds, which have been in use since pre-Incan times. The individual ponds have been owned by the same local families for generations and they still use the traditional techniques to farm the salt. At Moray, you'll see the special elliptical irrigation terraces which the Sacred Valley is famous for. These terraces are considered the agricultural experimental centre of the Incas, where they tested growing different crops on the different levels.
Special Experience: Bask in the rustic charm of a traditional Paso Horse show, while dining al fresco at Ranch Wayra in Urubamba. In Urubamba we'll visit the beautiful Wayra Ranch for an unforgettable afternoon that includes a Peruvian lunch and Paso Horse show. The display of coordination, discipline and passion from horse and rider will astound and the mountains of the Sacred Valley serve as a dramatic backdrop.
Our afternoon continues in the ancient Inca village of Ollantaytambo, one of the best surviving examples of Inca city planning. After ascending the steep stone staircase, we'll enter the intriguing Incan ruins that comprise an imposing fortress. We explore the town's narrow streets for an up-close look at the Inca's dry masonry skill. Their astounding craftsmanship ensures that even after centuries of earthquakes, a knife cannot be slipped into the seams between the limestone blocks.
The next stop is the Seminario pottery workshop which contextualises styles and techniques used in Peru's ancient cultures.
On our way back to Cusco this morning, we visit the impressive ruins and the lively market at Pisac - a great place to pick up some beautiful souvenirs and well known for its handicrafts. After lunch at the beautiful Sarapampa Farm, we'll also stop at Awanacancha where we'll meet native weavers and see the South American camelid species – llamas, alpacas, guanacos and vicuñas. We arrive into Cusco in the late afternoon.
Spend a leisurely day in vibrant Cusco, brimming with plazas, archaeological ruins, and artisan shops. Why not check out the Casa Concha Museum, containing artefacts from Machu Picchu that were found by Hiram Bingham and recently returned by Yale University?
All aboard the luxurious Andean Explorer train as we travel from Cusco to Puno. Unwind in your splendid cabin as the train winds its way through the majestic High Andes Mountains. Savour lunch in one of the elegant dining cars where the menu is based around refined Andean specialties, served with a contemporary flair.
Along the way, we'll stop at the Raqchi Ruins – an Inca archaeological site. The complex has many buildings and structures, with the most prominent being the Temple of Wiracocha. This large structure reaches 92 metres tall and is said to have been built to appease Wiracocha, the ‘creator god'.
This evening we'll enjoy a sunset over La Raya Mountains as we dine. Our inside tip is to retire to the bar as the train continues its way to Lake Titicaca.
Wake early to catch the breathtaking sunrise across Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, before returning to the dining car for a decadent breakfast.
We'll spend the day discovering the eclectic beauty and rich diversity of life on Lake Titicaca. First, we visit an Indian community located on the floating Uros Islands. What makes the Uros Islands so unique is the material used to create them - reeds that are found in the lake are used for the foundation. They are bound and connected by ropes, then anchored by logs which go deep into the bottom of the lakebed. The main activities of the people who live here are fishing, weaving and handicrafts, which are then sold to visitors.
Next, we discover Taquile Island - famous for its craft production and beautiful textiles. We'll enjoy a private lunch on Collata Beach, complete with demonstrations from traditional dancers and artisanal workers. We'll return in time for afternoon tea at the station before the train continues its journey on to Arequipa.
Explore the spellbinding scenery of the rugged Lake Lagunillas on an early morning excursion. We'll also visit Sumbay Caves, home to a series of 8,000-year-old cave paintings. Later we'll disembark the train in Cañahuas and transfer to the famous Colca Canyon. This canyon is the world's deepest at twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. We'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant along the way.
An early start this morning to reach the Cross of the Condor, the deepest point of the Colca Canyon. It is here the majestic Andean condor can be seen cruising over the morning thermals.
Special Experience: Spend time observing the majestic Andean condor in flight over the canyon – a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We'll then explore the villages of Yanque, Achoma, Maca and Pinohollo. On our way to Arequipa, we stop at Antahuilque to observe the importance of the balconies and mountain terraces.
We also visit Choquetico and view the remains of the hanging tombs.
A popular spot for tourists, Arequipa, the 'white city', has something for everyone. In fact, Arequipa is Peru's second largest city, and its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Today's city tour includes a visit to the Convent of Santa Catalina, the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral (outside only), Church of La Compañía, and the Carmen Alto viewpoint, offering a breathtaking view of the surrounding volcanic landscape.
The afternoon is free for you to relax or explore at your own pace. Why not visit the Museo Santuarios? This museum is famous for Juanita, the Inca frozen ‘mummy', preserved in a glass refrigerator. In the evening, we'll meet for a dinner at a local restaurant to bid farewell to captivating Peru.
Today marks the end of our luxurious Peruvian adventure. We hope you leave with fantastic memories!
Discover the wonders of Peru