Start: Lima Finish: Cusco
Physical rating: Moderate
Tour code: PTPS
Extra tourhub saving: $71
With private guides throughout the trip, discover Peru's cultural and natural highlights, from the Inca capital of Cusco to the magnificent shores of Lake Titicaca, the world's largest navigable lake. You'll taste a homecooked meal in the Andean community of Misminay, and discover a world of history by exploring the colonial convents of Arequipa and Lima. Of course, for many the magical UNESCO site of Machu Picchu is the draw, but you'll leave with a lasting impression of a warm, friendly people, delicious food and unparalleled mountain views.
Machu Picchu - Discover the ancient Inca marvel by train and bus
Cusco - Sip pisco sours after a day exploring the ancient capital city of the Incas
Colca Canyon - Watch condor wheeling over this gigantic, breathtaking canyon
Accommodation: Hotel la Hacienda
Arrive in Lima, Peru's capital, which was founded in 1535AD by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Today it is a modern, cosmopolitan city, but in the old centre there are obvious reminders both of its colonial and pre-hispanic past. Its location on the shores of the Pacific Ocean mean that you can easily escape the busy traffic of the city for a little calm on nearby coastal walking paths.
You will be met on arrival at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport (airport code LIM), by an airport representative, who will arrange the taxi transfer to your hotel, approximately a 45 minute drive away. There are no activities planned today, so feel free to arrive in Lima Airport at any time. For those booking their own flights, you will just need to let us know your flight details no later than three weeks prior to departure, in order to be met on arrival.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to take an independent stroll along the coastal path to Miraflores and through the bohemian district of Barranco. The city is also gaining a reputation as a culinary centre; try some ceviche (fish marinated in citrus juices) or sip on a Pisco sour.
Founded in 1535 and called the City of Kings, Lima's historic centre today sits beside the modern seafront district of Miraflores, where the city's excellent foodie reputation is really growing. Start your exploration at the bustling seafront near your hotel, exploring on foot before driving to the centre and walking through some of the most historically important streets in the city. Soak up the impressive colonial architecture that surrounds the Plaza de Armas, visit the enormous Convent of Santa Domingo, with its large, airy courtyards and array of Baroque painting, and then discover the Larco Museum with your guide. The latter houses the incomparable Treasures of Ancient Peru collection, an array of the finest pre-Columbian artefacts in South America, including beautiful pieces from the Nazca, Moche and Chimu civilisations as well as many, many more. The erotic collection is an unusual section of the gallery, but well worth it for an interesting perspective on sexuality in ancient Peru.
Accommodation: Hotel Hamptom
Drive to Lima Airport this morning, and fly to the beautiful city of Arequipa. Situated at 2,380m it's a good place to start your acclimatisation to Peru's high altitude. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, including the perfect conical peak of the El Misti volcano, Arequipa is a photogenic masterpiece. It is famed for its colonial architecture and the arcaded city square, dominated on one side by the twin-towered cathedral (dating back to 1612), which is among the finest to be found in South America.
On arrival, take a walking tour of this compact city, including the magnificent Santa Catalina Convent, a miniature walled town which once housed 450 nuns and serving ladies in total seclusion. You'll have the late afternoon free - the city is growing in renown for its magnificent sunset, casting red light over the foreground of the conical volcano and classic architecture. A pisco sour in one of the city's rooftop bars is highly recommended this evening!
Accommodation: Casa Andina Standard Colca - Chivay
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
This morning, head north into the world of the altiplano. Pass behind the volcanoes that ring Arequipa and onto Chivay, and spot herds of llama and alpaca grazing in these windswept mountain plains. If you're lucky, your guide will be able to point out the elusive vicuña. You'll cross the Patapampa pass to briefly reach the highest point of your trip at 4,910m, and you can stop for a photo before descending towards the Colca Canyon.
Accommodation: Casa Andina Standard Puno
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
You'll have an early start this morning to the Colca Canyon. A spectacular river gorge, the Colca Canyon measures twice the depth of the more famous Grand Canyon and at one time it was believed to be the deepest gorge on earth (until it was eclipsed by the deeper Cotahuasi Canyon). Largely unknown to the outside world until the latter years of the 20th century, today it affords an opportunity to discover a world of Andean villages and Inca terraces that make up one of the most outstanding natural settings in the Americas. This is the world of the altiplano, where the Rio Colca meanders through a landscape of towering volcanic peaks that offer a stunning backdrop to a land inhabited by Cabana and Collagua Indians. Home to the massive Andean Condor, these awe-inspiring vistas derive their name from the old Incan practise of storing harvested grain in natural vaults carved into the canyon walls, vaults that the Indians called colcas.
After spending some time at the canyon, drive east, again via the Patapampa pass at 4,910 m, heading towards the beautiful landscapes that surround the unique waters of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the word (3856m). This is roughly a six hour drive, and your destination is the town of Puno, a centre of Incan folklore nestling in a bay at the northwestern tip of the lake and the perfect base to explore something of the cultural and historical significance of the lake itself.
From Puno, sail out onto Lake Titicaca in the direction of Taquile, a large island which has preserved much of its Inca and pre-Inca heritage. The islanders still speak the language of the Inca - Runa Simi or Quechua. They are skilled artisans, and capture techniques in their work that have lasted throughout the centuries. From Taquile, continue to the renowned floating reed islands, home to the Uros people who live on the lake itself. Their islands are made from totura, a reed-like papyrus that grows in the shallows and is used in most aspects of their life, including the construction of their boats and homes.
After lunch, descend to the jetty with your guide, and board the boat back to Puno.
Accommodation: Hotel los Portales
Today you'll follow the legendary route taken by the first Inca ruler - Manco Capac - on his way towards Cusco.
Taking a tourist bus from Puno, you'll drive up to the northern limit of the Altiplano, crossing La Raya pass (4,335m) and descending via the Inca temple at Raqchi to the magnificent Jesuit church at Andahuaylillas. Entrance permits to Raqchi and Andahuaylillas are included, and the bus stops at both sites to visit and stretch your legs. The scenery is desolate but magnificent on this journey through the Andes, and you may spot flocks of llamas and alpacas grazing on the windswept pastures. The total journey from Puno to Cusco is approximately 12 hours including stops, arriving around 6.30pm into Cusco and just in time to explore this beautiful city at dusk. We recommend orienting yourself in the Plaza Mayor, a bustling square with plenty of bars and restaurants nearby.
The old capital of the Inca Empire survives only in its ruins, imbued with an atmosphere of mystery and grandeur. The Spanish colonial city, with its attractive pink tiled roofs, arcaded plazas and steep winding alleyways, stands upon tremendous Inca foundation stones. Have a leisurely morning to yourself, before taking an afternoon walking tour to see important Inca and colonial monuments, such as the Plaza de Armas, the Qoricancha (the most important temple of the Inca Empire, dedicated to the Sun God, Inti), and the Inca wall of Hatunrumiyoc with its famous twelve-sided stone. The stone, measuring some 5 feet across, has the typical bevelled joints which create the patterns of light and shadow on Inca walls. You'll also visit the San Pedro market, jammed with rows of stalls selling everything from head sized bread to colourful corn and handmade ponchos.
Later on, visit one of the outlying Inca sites - Cusco's temple-citadel, Sacsayhuaman, which broods high above the town. Its huge, zigzagging stone walls are broken into 66 sharply projecting angles to catch attackers in a withering crossfire. 20,000 conscripted workers toiled for 90 years to finish it.
Accommodation: Amak Hotel Sacred Valley
You'll have a diverse day of natural beauty and cultural heritage today, as you drive into mountains of the Sacred Valley. First, visit the huge concentric Inca terraces of Moray, a sort of botanical laboratory that the Incas used to test their crops. Then, drive to the Andean community of Misminay, home to many of the porters who work along the Inca Trail and within the valley itself. Experience a little bit of the daily life here and share a homecooked meal made with native ingredients - Peru has over 4,000 species of potatoes so it's likely that these will be on the menu! After lunch, continue on to Ollantaytambo and visit the archaeological complex of the same name, one of the largest in Peru, strategically located at the top of a mountain.
You'll have time to explore the small town of Ollantaytambo in the late afternoon, perhaps visiting the market or exploring the narrow stone streets.
Accommodation: Casa Andina Standard Machu Picchu
Take an early morning train along the side of the Rio Urubamba, flanked by high cliffs and peaks, towards the mountain town of Aguas Calientes. Once a tiny village of no more than a few houses, this town throngs with travellers and trekkers coming to-and-from the famous 'lost' city of Machu Picchu. After dropping bags at the hotel, take the climb on switchback roads in a shuttle bus, to the ancient site at 2,400m. The existence of this exquisite masterpiece of ancient civilisation remained unknown to the outside world until it was 'discovered' by an American archaeologist, Hiram Bingham, in 1911. The engineering is simply spectacular. It seems almost unbelievable that the heavy stone materials could have been transported along the Inca Trail, and has the effect of being almost dropped onto its mountain perch.
After exploring the site in detail, return to your hotel in Aguas Calientes and head into the thriving town for dinner.
You'll have the morning at your leisure. You could stay and explore the small town of Aguas Calientes and its excellent market. Or take the opportunity this morning to explore Machu Picchu for a second time, by purchasing a second entrance permit. It is also possible to climb the steep peaks of either Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu Mountain to look down on the citadel. Machu Picchu Mountain is a 700m uphill hike from the top of the citadel. There are cobbled stairs all the way up with a few eye-opening drops in some parts, and the round-trip takes about 2.5-3 hours. Huayna Picchu Mountain is only 350m, half the size of Machu Picchu Mountain, but much steeper. There are many more sheer drops, and it is definitely not suitable for someone with a fear of heights. For those who fancy doing the one hour climb, you'll be rewarded with world-beating views of Machu Picchu, and the feeling that you're standing on a precipice at the top of the world.
These optional hikes or the permit for a second entrance should be pre-paid at time of booking. If you change your passport between your time of booking and prior to travel please take your original passport with you.
In the afternoon, take the train to Ollantaytambo and pick up your private vehicle to Cusco. Enjoy a final pisco sour in the Inca capital, while reflecting on your holiday.
Your trip ends today, and you will be taken to the airport to meet your international flight. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) at any time - it's approximately one hour from the hotel in Puno. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at the hotel.
We highly recommend combining this tour with a stay in the Amazon. If you're interested in doing that, Explore offers two different hotels, and you can see the full trip details by searching for the trip code AMZ.
Breakfasts:11 Lunches:6 Dinners:1
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It will depend on the grade and how fit you already are. Check the trip page for details of the walking or cycling grade and how far you’ll be walking/cycling each day. For moderate or challenging trips in particular we’d recommend doing some walks or cycles before you leave to build up your fitness and prepare you for the distances being covered.
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At Explore, we're the experts in adventure travel. Our small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981. Today, Explore is one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 500 trips to more than 120 countries.
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We choose comfortable accommodation in the best locations possible. We opt for small, local and family-run accommodation where we can, as opposed to large chain hotels. We typically use hotels that are the equivalent of European 3-star, and you’ll usually have an en suite room. Occasionally, where we want to get off the beaten trail we may stay in more basic accommodation.
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Most trips are based on customers sharing twin-bedded rooms. If you book a group trip as an individual, you will share a room with someone of the same sex. However, on many trips we offer the opportunity to pay a supplement to pre-book a single room, known as our single room option. On some trips a single room will be provided every night, on others it will be provided o
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