1 Arrive Lima
Hola! Welcome to Lima and the start of an awesome South American adventure. On arrival into the city, check-in with your Trip Manager, then spend the day exploring the city with your fellow travellers on our included city tour. Made up of 43 different districts, almost all with their own flare and vibe, Lima is a bustling metropolis. The opulence of the Spanish colonial era is visible everywhere in the city, from the detailed wood-work of the historic centre's balconies, doors and architecture to the lavishly decorated churches. We'll explore the Basillica Cathedral for a glimpse of the city's former glory or, for something different you could head to the Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of San Francisco) and take a look at its famous catacombs. As the city's first cemetery, these underground tunnels (catacombs) contain the bones of over 70,000 people, many of which are set in cool geometric patterns. Then we make tracks to the Barranco district- its bohemian energy will make you feel right at home. Wander past the beautiful colonial mansions of the neighborhood, many of them recently restored. Take a walk on the beachside boardwalk, cross the Bridge of Sighs or just sit in one of the cafés that overlooks the ocean and spend the afternoon relaxing with a Pisco Sour, Peru's national drink. Later we'll check out the city's more modern aspects. If shopping, gourmet restaurants, great cafes and bars are what you're after, this is the perfect spot. Tonight we head back to the hotel for a rest then we are off to our included dinner and show. Looking to check out Lima by night? There are loads of places to head to. From chilled-out lounges, to bars with live music, or dance clubs that run late into the night, just let your Trip Manager know what you feel like and they'll give you some tips on where to head.
2 Lima To Arequipa
This morning it's an early start as we fly to Peru's second largest city, the “White City” of Arequipa, or La Ciudad Blanca. Lying in the shadow of three volcanoes, including the perfectly-symmetrical El Misti, the city was built using white volcanic rock called Sillar which gives the city its name. Upon arrival, get your bearings on an orientation tour of the city. After we arrive at the hotel, there's time to freshen up before free time for lunch. With many great restaurants and cafés, there are loads of places to indulge in some great local food. Arequipa is one of Peru's main dairy regions and chocolate is a must-have whilst you're here. The La Iberica factory and shop produces and sells some of the country's finest chocolate, so keep your eyes peeled. This afternoon, we'll delve into the city's history for an-in depth look into its past with a walking tour. A city within the city - the nuns, often wealthy young Peruvians, once lived in silence and were not allowed to leave the premises. Today, it is still a working monastery, with most of the premises open to the public. From here we walk through our first UNESCO World Heritage site on the trip and one of the country's most beautiful plazas - the Plaza de Armas. The hub of urban city life here, it's filled with palm trees and flanked by a 17th century Cathedral. Tonight you'll really get to know your tour buddies over dinner at one of the city's great restaurants. You'll have the choice of some of Peru's famous cuisine like Recoto Relleno (stuffed hot peppers) or Chupe de Camerones (crayfish chowder). Later, take it up a notch - you can visit the bars on the Plaza de Armas and take in the beauty of the illuminated square and cathedral while savoring a Pisco Sour.
3 Arequipa To Colca Canyon
This morning, we travel to one of the world's deepest canyons - Colca Canyon. We'll drive through through Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve where the elusive Vicuña, the smallest of the South American camelid family roams wild. We'll stop for a break at “the crossroads” where the routes to Colca Canyon and Puno separate. We'll enjoy a steaming cup of coca tea at a local shop and awesome views of the windswept landscapes of the sandstone cliffs found here. We'll continue on to the highest point of our entire journey which at 4910 metres/16,108ft above sea level is the same height as Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak. Stop for some pics at the top, before our descent into Chivay, one of the largest towns in the Colca Valley and capital of the Caylloma province in the Arequipa region. Later on, spend your evening hanging with the group. Cards and board games or drinks and conversation by the hotel's enormous fireplace are a must.
4 Colca Canyon To Puno
We'll set out early this morning and head to Cruz del Condor, a platform 3800m above sea level for a chance to spot the King of the Andes, the Andean Condor. With a wingspan of up to 3 metres/10 feet, this regal bird uses the warm air currents to float effortlessly through the canyon searching for food. It's a pretty incredible sight, so keep your camera ready in case they buzz close overhead. We'll return to Chivay for lunch via the small, picturesque villages that dot the road along the way. We'll also stop for a visit the beautiful colonial church of Yanque which helps to illustrate the history of the area. In the afternoon, we travel through Peru's altiplano (high plain) to Puno on the edge of Lake Titicaca. Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is the gateway to the surrounding islands and unique cultures. On arrival, we'll check-in to our hotel where you can freshen up or chill out before heading out to find a local spot for dinner. Enjoy a night of drinking and dancing at one of the bars on the main pedestrian street but be careful, you might have to catch your breath as dancing at over 3657metres/12 000 ft above sea level is a challenge!
This morning, it's time to check out the area from a different angle! First up, we'll make our way to the town's port by a classic means of transport, the triciclo or three-wheeled bike taxi. We'll then jump on board our boat for a two and a half hour trip across Lake Titicaca to Taquile Island. The boat trip is the perfect way to chill as you learn about the history, culture and ecology of the lake and its communities while taking in the views of the distant Cordillera Blanca (the White Mountain range) located on the Bolivian side of the lake. Although there are many travellers that come to this area every year, Taquile still remains one of the most culturally intact communities in Peru. From the quality of their famous weaving and the use of their woollen hats, to the terracing and traditional means of government, the people of Taquile Island continue to live in a manner not far off from that of their ancestors, the Incas. On arrival at the island, there's the opportunity to visit some weaving groups and to savor a tasty local meal before jumping back on the boat for our cruise to our next stop - the famous floating Uros Islands. Uros Islands are fascinating to visit and you'll love experiencing the entrepreneurial spirit of the locals here. You'll get a glimpse at the local lifestyle as you visit small fish farms, a natural history museum, a local's home and check out the variety of wares for sale by the women of the community, including local textiles and mini totora reed boats. You can opt to take a ride on one of the larger reed boats which were formally the only means of transportation that the islanders had.
6 Puno To Cusco
Our first stop outside of Puno is the village of Pukara, named after a pre-Inca civilization. We'll visit a small museum where you'll see the Pukara archeological site (500bc-200ad). The village is locally renowned for artistic ceramic bulls which are symbols of protection and prosperity and if you take a look above, you'll see them on the roofs of houses throughout the highlands. Take one home for yourself when we visit a local ceramics shop. Next up is La Raya, the highest point of our journey, marking the border between the regions of Puno and Cusco. Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Andes we'll stop to stretch our legs and take in the stunning beauty of the Peruvian altiplano (the widest point of the Andes). We will continue on to town of Sicuani for a lunch stop before reaching Raqchi. Raqchi was an important ceremonial site for the Inca's and is famous for being the home to the only remaining two-storey Inca walls. It also possesses one of the largest single structures of the ancient Incan empire, the Temple of Wiracocha. You will have the opportunity for an up-close visit to the site before completing the final stretch of today's journey to the hub of ancient Incan culture, Cusco. Tonight the evening is free to check out the sights, smells and sounds of Cusco. There are loads of places in town to try out some local cuisine, or maybe try some delicious street food and head out for a taste of how to party, Cusco-style.
Another day, another incredible Latin American destination to uncover; today it's sun up 'til sun down in Cusco. Shop for artisan jewellery and woodworks, roam the cobble-stone streets or just stroll the Plaza de Armas, eating cacao buds and sipping on coca leaf tea. Today you're in control of your adventures... except for dinner with the crew tonight, on us. Bolivia is on the horizon tomorrow".
8 Cusco To Sacred Valley
Say farewell to Cusco this morning as we make our way to the Sacred Valley of the ancient Incas. The Sacred Valley was the heart of the Inca's agricultural setting and an important ceremonial region, with the sacred sites of Cuzco at one end and Machu Picchu at the other and countless ceremonial sites in between. Our first stop is to one of these sites, Pisac. On our guided tour we will see two of the most important aspects of the Inca culture - terracing - a farming technique created by the Inca's and their religion. We'll take a walk before descending in the village below for a quick visit to the market. This will be great practice for those who have chosen the one-day hike to Machu Picchu tomorrow. Don't miss the town's huge wood-oven bakery! After a stop for lunch in Urubamba we'll make our way to one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns of South America - Ollantaytambo. On our way, we can see the 'salineras' or salt mines of the area from a distance. For hundreds of years these pools, constructed by the Inca's, have provided salt to the surrounding communities. We'll also make a quick stop to try the local brew “Chicha de Jora” (traditional beverage made from fermented maize) and play a traditional Peruvia game of “Sapo” (Frog) if you're up for it. We soon arrive to the town and archaeological site of the same name, Ollantaytambo, the last fully-functioning Inca town. We'll wander around the site or visit the still inhabited Inca buildings before checking into the hotel.
9 Trek The Inca Trail
In the footsteps of the Incas on the Trail to our highlight Machu Picchu! Take a train to Km 104 & trek amongst the cloud forest to the Sun Gate & Guardian House where your hard work is rewarded with incredible views of this magnificent ancient site before returning to Aguas Calientes.
10 Machu Picchu To Cusco
Wake up early and enter Machu Picchu for sunrise. Learn more about Machu Picchu on a tour, then explore before returning to base.
11 Depart Cusco
Don't forget to swap addresses with your mates and Tour Manager, as our South American adventure ends this morning after breakfast.