Peru experiences two very distinct seasons, wet and dry - terms that are more relevant than "summer" and "winter." Peru's high season for travel coincides with the driest months: May through September, with the most visitors in July and August. May and September are particularly fine months to visit much of Peru.
Peru is in the same zone as U.S. EST (GMT -5 hours).
Nuevo Sol (S/), divided in 100 cents. Coins come in 5,10,20 and 50 cents. Banknotes are in denominations of 10 20 50 100 and 200. US dollars are welcome at most shops, restaurant and services stations at the current exchange rate.
Day 1: Lima, Peru
Welcome to Lima. Upon arrival, an English-speaking Big Five representative will greet you and escort you to your hotel and assist you with check-in at the delightful Hotel B. It is ideally located on the corner of the Boulevard Saenz Peña and San Martin, right in the heart of Barranco, Lima’s bohemian art district. The luxury boutique hotel is in one of Barranco’s main plazas surrounded by art galleries, historic houses, and fashion boutiques. It features 17 suites ranging in size plus a signature restaurant, library, outdoor patio and a rooftop lounge overlooking Barranco and the Pacific Ocean. Hotel B –Aposento
Day 2: Lima
After meeting with your Friend in the City, you explore Barranco and leisurely soak in the atmosphere and admire the unique architecture in this historic district. Originally a trendy seaside resort for wealthy Lima residents at the beginning of the 20th century, Barranco today boasts elegant mansions and stately homes of neo-colonial style with charming decorative features. As you meander through the area taking in the sites, you also spend some time exploring a few of the many innovative art galleries, traditional craft shops and trendy ateliers such as the innovative Lucia de la Puente Art Gallery, the Las Pallas and Dédalo craft shops. You may have the opportunity to visit the private Peruvian art collection of artist and collector Jaime Liébana, but this is by appointment only and is subject to availability. Before returning to your hotel, take advantage of the amazing dining options in one of Barranco’s many trendy restaurants. Hotel B –Aposento (B)
Day 3: Lima / Cusco / Urubamba (Sacred) Valley
This morning, you are transferred to the airport to board your flight to Cusco. After you have checked in your luggage, our representative will accompany you through to the departure area. Upon arrival in Cusco, you are welcomed by your expert guide at the airport and driven by private vehicle to Pisac, one of the most important Inca sites in the Urubamba Valley. Along the way to Pisac, stop for a short visit at Awanacancha, where you will see the camelids that live in the Andes – llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos. Alpacas have thick wool commonly used for textiles while the vicuñas are smaller and have delicate fur that is considered the finest in the world.
Following your visit to Awanacancha continue on to Pisac where you will experience the sights and sounds of the town’s famous market, with its variety of handcrafts and fresh produce. Then discover the Pisac ruins. Explore at your own pace this marvelous setting with its Inca masonry of superlative quality, the stunning terracing following the contours of the mountain and superior views of the valley. Sol y Luna Boutique Hotel – Villa (B)
Day 4: Urubamba Valley
In the morning, you are picked you up at your hotel to go paddle boarding. Stand-up paddle boarding is a soft adventure sport that has been growing in popularity across the globe. You will enjoy a scenic drive to a high-altitude lake outside of Cusco. The calm lakes around Cusco surrounded by impressive mountains make an ideal setting for this fun and relaxing adventure. Lake Huaypo boasts incredible views of snow-capped mountains and high altitude plains. Upon arrival, your guide will instruct you in the art of stand-up paddle boarding before you take to the water to practice your newly acquired skills. You’ll spend the morning mastering the different paddle strokes as you take in the awe-inspiring views and the fresh Andean air. Enjoy a picnic lunch along the shores of the lake.
This afternoon, you head to the town and ruins of the village of Chinchero (3,800m/12,500ft). Higher than Cusco and the Urubamba Valley, Chinchero was once home to the great conquering Inca emperor Topa Yupanqui, and features his magnificent palace that includes a parade ground and royal viewing pavilion. The town also features hillside terraces studded with rocky, out crop shrines, a charming village with a layout dating back to Inca times of the 15th and 16th centuries. Savor magnificent views of the snowcapped mountains of the Cordillera Vilcabamba Range. Next to the ruins is the fascinating Sunday market, where people come to sell and trade goods and produce, and to picnic with the family. This is an ideal setting to do a bit of people watching. Following your visit, enjoy lunch. Sol y Luna Boutique Hotel – Villa (B)
Day 5: Urubamba Valley / Machu PIcchu
Today, you being an extraordinary journey with a 20-minute drive to the train station in Ollantaytambo to board your train. The Vistadome sports spectacular panoramic windows offering incredible scenic views, connecting you with the magnificent landscapes. The train has a total of five cars that feature comfort and quality as well as onboard snacks and refreshments. The journey from Ollantaytambo to the village of Aguas Calientes takes about an hour and a half. Upon your arrival, you then board a bus for a short but winding uphill journey to your final destination.
*The luggage allowance, which is enforced, for this service is one hand luggage (bag or backpack) with a maximum weight of 5kg/11pounds and a maximum size of 157cm/62 inches (length + height + width).
You will probably be awe struck when you gaze upon the mountain fortress of Machu Picchu for the first time. This Lost City of the Incas is a man-made marvel that has become a symbol for the ingenuity and prosperity of one of the most expansive empires in Latin American history. Just a century ago these incredible ruins were rediscovered by the outside world after a two-year-excavation project led by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham and the National Geographic Society. It’s located high on a mountain ridge at some 2,430 m/7,972 ft above sea level. Believed to be an Inca settlement built to control the economies of neighboring communities, it is associated with being the royal estate of Pachacuti, the great Inca leader who sparked the expansion of the empire. Enjoy a two-to-three hour guided visit of Machu Picchu before spending the remainder of the afternoon exploring the ruins after the majority of visitors have left the site. Then walk a short distance to stay overnight at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, right next to the ruins. The lodge is the only accommodation located adjacent to the Machu Picchu archaeological site. It offers guests a unique opportunity to access the ruins in the early morning when it first opens and later in the evening when it closes, avoiding some of the crowds of other visitors and viewing the magnificence of the area in a more intimate setting. The Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge – Mountain View (B)
Day 6: Machu Picchu / Cusco
This morning, enjoy an activity-filled day at the ruins. Depending on your interests, there are a variety of excursions available that range from easy to strenuous. The hike to the Inca Bridge, about a 40-minute round-trip walk. It starts from the site itself and takes you on a narrow Inca road amidst lush vegetation to a stone Inca bridge. Grade: Easy. For a bit more of a challenge, you can opt to hike to Inti Punku, the “Sun Gate.” This was the original gateway into Machu Picchu when approaching the site along the Inca Trail, and it is the first point on the trail where the ruins of Machu Picchu are visible. The views of the site and surrounding landscape are superb. The approximate total time for this hike is about 2 ½ hours (1 ¼ hours each way). Grade: Moderate. Or choose to climb up to Huayna Picchu,* the mountain behind Machu Picchu. This hike is strenuous and is only recommended for people who are fit and comfortable with heights. There is a fair amount of climbing required. There are fabulous views of Machu Picchu from the top. You may want to extend your visit and go to the Moon Temple as well, which is close to Huayna Picchu. This will add an extra hour to this excursion. The approximate total time for this excursion is 2 ½ hours, or 3 ½ hours if you visit the Moon Temple. Grade: Rigorous. Finally, you can choose to hike up to Machu Picchu Mountain.* The hike starts at Machu Picchu. It is strenuous and steep and takes you up to 3,050 meters/10,007 feet. The approximate total time for this excursion is 3-4 hours. Grade: Rigorous.
* Please note that the treks to Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain must be booked well in advance, as there is a limit to the number of people allowed to enter due to their popularity.
Following your visit to Machu Picchu, you return by bus to the town of Aguas Calientes. In the afternoon, you board the luxury Hiram Bingham Train, which travels to Poroy*. Operated by Belmond, the Hiram Bingham is a must for those seeking the utmost level of luxury. This train guarantees the highest quality of service and has a total of four cars with room for 84 passengers, including two dining cars, a bar and observation car and a kitchen. During the spectacular journey through the Sacred Valley, passing by lush landscapes and Andean villages, savor a gourmet dinner and enjoy views of the beautiful mountains and Urubamba River before arriving to the Poroy Train Station after about three hours. Upon arrival, you are transferred approximately 20 minutes to your hotel in Cusco. Belmond Palacio Nazarenas is a gorgeous hotel, once a colonial convent. Refurbished by Belmond, it is a refined and fashionable property featuring 55 suites lavished with the most luxurious décor and amenities. You relish the highest quality of personal attention, with private butlers, fresh flowers in the room and such personalized details as a pillow menu, an iPad preloaded with advice about Cusco and a selection of Oscar-winning movies at your disposal. Among the ample facilities in each suite are a minibar, tea and coffee makers, telephones, satellite TV with Bose sound system, daily newspapers, a DVD player, a safe deposit box, free Wi-Fi, oxygen-enriched air system, laundry service and housekeeping twice a day. Each private bathroom is fitted with a hairdryer, towel warmer, a spacious shower, bathrobes and slippers. There are also two restaurants and a gift shop on the property. Belmond Palacio Nazarenas – Junior Suite (B)
Day 7: Cusco
Cusco is without a doubt the most beautiful town in Peru and arguably in South America. At 3,400 m/11,155 ft, the Inca thought this to be the navel of the earth. It served as the capital of Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca Empire, which, at its peak, stretched northwards to the south of Colombia, southwards to northern Chile and Argentina, and eastwards across the Andes to the Amazon basin.
Begin your discovery at the Plaza de Armas in the city center with your guide. Make your way around the city as your guide reveals the rich history and important moments that took place here. Visit the renaissance-style cathedral, certainly one of the most imposing structures in the city, and admire the exquisite stonework of Koricancha, the Inca “Sun Temple.” Explore the bustling, open-air San Pedro Market, where you will be mesmerized by the varieties of unique fruits and potatoes. Travel to the outskirts of the city to view the important Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman before returning to your Cusco accommodations. Belmond Palacio Nazarenas – Junior Suite (B)
Day 8: Cusco / Puno
This morning, you are greeted and transferred to the train station to board the Belmond Andean Explorer Train, which departs late morning from the Wanchaq Station in Cusco for your journey to Puno. You are served a delicious lunch on board followed by a guided, hour-long visit to the Inca ruins of Raqchi, an Inca archaeological site some 110 kilometers/68 miles from the city of Cuzco. Its most prominent structure is the Temple of Wiracocha. This once-enormous rectangular, two-story roofed structure measures 92 m/302 ft by 25.5 m/84 ft, and consists of a central adobe wall some 18 to 20 m/59 to 65 ft in height with an andesite base. Windows and doors allow passage. It is flanked on each side by a row of eleven columns of classic high Inca stonework with the remaining height built of adobe. Prior to its destruction by the Spaniards, the temple had what is believed to be the largest single roof in the Incan Empire. The huge proportions of the temple, and its prominence on the site explain why the whole complex is also sometimes referred to as the Temple of Wiracocha. The Temple is the only Inka building for which we have an account of how people should walk through it. It is highly significant that the design of the building means that, on entering its two known doorways, progress of visitors is immediately blocked by a series of tall pillars that they are forced to walk around. If devotees took this as a suggestion as to how to proceed through the building, they would have begun to trace a path similar to a zig-zag motion. This could have been deliberate design; a way to express aspects of Inka cosmology in particular their relationship with Wiracocha. In processing through the temple, the devotees would have wound their way towards the statue of Viracocha, the volcano and the spring.
Return to the train to relax and take in the scenery. Tea and snacks are provided in the afternoon in the dining car or in one of the lounges. Watch the sun set over La Raya, the highest point during the journey, where you will make a brief stop to take in the view and visit a small artisanal market. After dinner on board, you will arrive at Lake Titicaca for the night. Onboard Belmond Andean Explorer - Double bed cabin (B,L,D)
Day 9: Puno / Arequipa
Early this morning you rise to savor breakfast on board and watch the sunrise over Lake Titicaca. Then, set out on your first guided excursion on the lake to visit the famed Uros Islands. The islands are made of totora reeds and are still inhabited by a local community. Continue on to Taquile Island to visit the small town, where lunch will be waiting for you at a private location on Collata Beach. You’ll see local dancers perform as well as a presentation of artisanal works. In the afternoon, you return to the dock in Puno in time for tea before boarding the train to depart for Arequipa. This evening, you dine on board before you return to your cabin to rest for the night as the train arrives in Lagunillas. Onboard Belmond Andean Explorer – Double bed cabin (B,L,D)
Day 10: Arequipa
Today, you will have an early breakfast at Lagunillas followed by a visit to Sumbay Cave, at an altitude of 4,127 meters/13,540 feet, to see some of the cave paintings that date back to between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago in a remote canyon. Nearly 500 pictographs have been found here of primitive hunters and animals, making this an important rock art complex in the Andes. Afterwards, enjoy lunch on the train. In the afternoon, you will arrive in Arequipa where you will be met at the train station by our representative and taken to your hotel, housed in a colonial-style mansion built in the 1940s. Libertador Arequipa is the finest accommodation in Arequipa, and is surrounded by lush gardens and parks and offers views of the three volcanoes surrounding the city. The hotel is located five minutes by car from downtown Arequipa. Each of the 88 rooms have wireless Internet access, iPod docking station, LCD television, minibar, and provide guests with access to the newly remodeled gym and sauna, international restaurant, comfortable bar, and 24 hour room service. Libertador Arequipa Hotel –Superior Room Includes (B,L)
Day 11: Arequipa / Lima / Depart
Arequipa, 2,335 m/7,660 ft, Peru’s second largest city, is commonly referred to as “The White City” as it is constructed from sillar, chalk-white volcanic stone that was excavated from five nearby volcanoes. This UNESCO World Heritage city has a wealth of colonial history as seen in the buildings and plazas. Begin your morning in the Plaza de Armas, where you will explore one of the most impressive main squares in Peru, the Cathedral, and neighboring streets. Then head to the Jesuit Church of La Compañia, a unique example of American baroque architecture with a wonderfully intricate facade illustrated with local motifs and a superb polychrome chapel dome. You will also visit the Santa Catalina Monastery,* commonly known as the pride of Arequipa. This expansive 29,426 square meter/316,738 square foot convent was founded in 1580 and is a masterpiece of colonial architectural design. Next, you will be transferred to the Santa Teresa Convent for a tour of the many exquisite pieces on display. Built in 1710, Santa Teresa is a former religious center that has been converted into a Colonial Art Museum and houses some pieces older than the convent itself. The convent boasts an excellent collection of paintings, wood sculptures, silver and decorative objects.
You can also visit the charming shop at the front of the complex to purchase soaps and baked goods handmade by the nuns. Afterwards, you tour the Santuarios Andinos Museum, where the body of Juanita, a frozen mummy, is on display. Uncovered atop Ampato Mountain in 1995, Juanita was a teenage girl sacrificed to the Inca gods in the 1400s and is eerily well-preserved. Depending on your interests, Arequipa also has a variety of interesting convents and colonial houses to visit such as the Mansion del Fundador and Casa Museo José Villalobos. The city also offers good shopping if you are looking for cozy Andean alpaca garments. Late this afternoon, you will meet your escort at the hotel who transfers you to the airport for your flight to Lima. Your Guide will assist you with all check-in procedures and escort you to the departure area to catch your international flight. (B)
*Please note that Santa Catalina monastery and a few of the other sites in Arequipa have their own official tour guides and your guide will not be permitted to enter these. In these cases, your guide shall wait for you outside and meet you upon finishing the visit.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$900 per person per day, land only.