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: ARRIVE LIMA, PERU
Welcome to Peru! Upon arrival in Lima, Peru, please proceed through Immigration and Customs. After claiming your luggage, exit the Customs Hall where a representative from Big Five will be waiting for you. Once you are met and assisted, you are transferred to your hotel. Your guide will review your itinerary for your trip and other information with you and will be happy to answer any questions. Your hotel is ideally located on the corner of the Boulevard Saenz Peña and San Martin, 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 sizes, a signature restaurant, library, outdoor patio, and a rooftop lounge overlooking Barranco and the Pacific Ocean. HOTEL B – Aposento/Chamber
DAY 2: LIMA
Today you enjoy a walking tour of the city with a Friend in the City, a unique program that features local people showing you around who share some of your interests or have specific expertise to offer. You explore the Barranco area, soaking in the atmosphere and admiring the unique architecture in this historic district. Originally a trendy seaside resort for wealthy Lima residents at the beginning of the 20th century, Barranco features elegant mansions and stately homes of neo-colonial style and charming decorative features. As you meander through the area, you will also spend some time discovering a few of the innovative art galleries, traditional craft shops and trendy ateliers such as the innovative Lucia de la Puente Art Gallery and the Las Pallas and Dédalo craft shops. Before returning to your Lima hotel, take advantage of the amazing dining options in one of Barranco’s many trendy restaurants.
This afternoon, with an expert guide, investigate Lima’s concentration of ancient history. The origins of the city pre-date the Spanish occupation by several millennia, and its museums are full of the artistic treasures of magnificent pre-Columbian civilizations that flourished throughout the coastal deserts of Peru. Begin to unravel this multifaceted history and discover the complex past of this fascinating city with a visit to the colonial area of Lima featuring the Cathedral (closed on Sundays), the Convent of Santo Domingo, and the Main Square with its beautiful baroque-style buildings. You will also have a chance to visit Casa Aliaga, reportedly the oldest home on the continent and still family-owned after 17 generations. It was first deeded to Jerónimo de Aliaga after he became one of the 13 men who stayed with Francisco Pizarro during his grueling exploration of Peru’s coast in 1527. Today, the house is in superb condition, exemplifying life in the period of the Viceroyalty. Marvel at the series of salons representing décor during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Explore the courtyard and chapel where the walls used to be covered in silver sheets prior to the ‘sacking’ of 1826. HOTEL B – Aposento Chamber (B)
DAY 3: LIMA / AREQUIPA / COLCA VALLEY
Your guide will meet you at your hotel to escort you to the airport for your early morning flight to Arequipa. Upon arrival at the Arequipa airport, you will be welcomed by an English-speaking Big Five representative and will be driven to Colca Valley. The Colca Valley and Canyon (3,650m/11,975ft) constitute one of Peru's most dramatic and spectacular natural landscapes. The Colca River, considered by a recent National Geographic survey to be the source of the Amazon, cuts a sensational scar through the mountains for more than 50km/31mi, and is surrounded by a lost paradise of Spanish villages. The churches still stand despite being battered by earthquakes, and the women still dress in those traditional voluminous Andean skirts and colorful hats.
Depart from Arequipa (2,335m/7,660ft) in your private car as you take in stunning views of the volcanoes that surround the city. The landscape and vegetation changes as you gradually gain altitude, transforming the land from an arid scrub with abundant cacti to the puna highlands, a frigid grassland dotted with snow-capped peaks, rare relict woodlands of short trees, and condors flying overhead. Enter the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, one of Peru’s two protected areas devoted to preserving the vicuña, a wild and rare Andean camelid whose soft fur is used in fabric-making. Take a short break in Patahuasi for an invigorating cup of coca tea. Back on the road, head to Patapampa (4,914m/16,122ft), the highest point on this overland route. Your gradual descent to the Colca Valley starts before you approach the unique Toccra Lagoons, where a variety of Andean birdlife abounds. Upon arrival at the Colca Valley you will be transferred to your lodge in Chivay or Yanque.
Seated on the right bank of the Colca River, the Colca Lodge offers breathtaking canyon views, geothermal heated floors, eco-spa treatments, hot springs, an alpaca ranch. The outdoor activities are geared toward allowing you to unplug from modern technology for a bit and get closer to nature. The recently renovated Adobe suites have traditional thatch roofs and are decorated with simple elegance, incorporating aesthetic touches of the Andean countryside, and include a private terrace and entrance, with stunning views of the area. COLCA LODGE – Matrimonial Suite (B)
DAY 4: COLCA VALLEY
This morning, you may choose your activity - visit the well-preserved colonial church of Coporaque, hike to the nearby pre-Inca ruins of Uyo-Uyo, go horseback riding or simply relax at your hotel. In the afternoon, you and your guide will journey to the colonial church of Lari before driving further down into the valley toward the Condor Cross to view the majestic condor in flight. Although it cannot be guaranteed that they will show up, you will have a very high chance of observing these giant birds from this vantage point. Following your excursion, you will be transferred back to your lodge to enjoy your evening at leisure. COLCA LODGE – Matrimonial Suite (B)
DAY 5: COLCA VALLEY / AREQUIPA
This morning, your guide will collect you from your lodge to start your journey through wonderful scenery and traditional towns, leading to a lookout point from where you can see snow-capped mountains. Continue through a forest-filled with interesting rock formations and the Pampa of Cañahuas. The mountains surrounding the area provide the quintessential scene of the Peruvian Andes, dotted with farms, sheep and llamas along the way. Following this, you will make the return journey to Arequipa, a journey of approximately three and a half hours. A box lunch will be provided en route.
Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, is commonly referred to as “The White City” as it is constructed from chalk-white volcanic stone excavated from five nearby volcanoes. Enjoy warm, dry weather year round in and around the city, which is filled with interesting sights and charming colonial buildings and plazas. In the afternoon, you will start your tour in the modern district of Yanahuara and Carmen Alto, where you will find unique and spectacular viewpoints of the city, the countryside, the stunning “El Misti” and other nearby volcanoes. Proceeding to the Plaza de Armas, navigate through the heart of the city, exploring one of the most impressive main squares in Peru, the Cathedral, and branching out to the neighboring streets.
The Jesuit Church of La Compania is a unique example of American baroque architecture with a wonderfully intricate facade illustrated with local motifs and a superb polychrome chapel dome. You also have access to the Convent of Santa Catalina*, commonly known as the ‘pride of Arequipa.’ This expansive 29,426 square-meter/ 316,739 square-foot convent was founded in 1580 and is a masterpiece of colonial architectural design. Then, visit the Santuarios Andinos Museum, the location of the body of a teenage girl from the time of the Incas that was only discovered in 1995. Depending on your interests, Arequipa also has a variety of other interesting convents and colonial houses to visit and offers good shopping. Then check into your stately hotel in the former Mint House (Casa de la Moneda). This national historical monument is one of Arequipa’s most beautiful and traditional houses. The original manor house was meticulously restored in 2008 and is located in the heart of Arequipa’s historic center, only three blocks away from the Main Square behind the Santa Catalina Convent. The Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa has 41 spacious and comfortable rooms, three of which are located in the original house while the others are housed in a newer, attached fiour-story building. The hotel features high-vaulted ceilings, two wide colonial style courtyards, and a gourmet restaurant.
*Please Note, Santa Catalina and a few of the other sites in Arequipa have their own official tour guides, so your guide will not be permitted to enter these sites. In these cases, your guide will be waiting for you when you complete your visit. CASA ANDINA PRIVATE COLLECTION AREQUIPA – Suite (B)
DAY 6: AREQUIPA / CUSCO / URUBAMBA (SACRED) VALLEY
This morning, your guide will meet you to escort you to the airport for your flight to Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco, you will be met by explora’s staff and be escorted by shared vehicle to the fabled Sacred Valley. Traveling directly from Cusco to the Urubamba Valley (2,900m/9,514ft) makes acclimatization easier because the valley is at a lower altitude than Cusco. Nonetheless, it is still recommend that you take time to rest upon arrival.
explora Valle Sagrado is located on an old corn plantation originally established in one of the most remote farms of the valley. It is sheltered and surrounded by mighty mountains that were once the home to the great Inca Empire. It has 50 rooms designed to maximize silence, privacy and the surroundings to ensure a deep rest after a long day of exploration.
With the exciting new explora Valle Sagrado, travelers discover traditional towns, barely touched by the forces of globalization; ancient ruins impeccably conserved through time; emerald lagoons at the foothills of snowy peaks; and immense fluvial valleys that open up between mountains. EXPLORA VALLE SAGRADO – Suite (B,D)
Days 7-8: URUBAMBA VALLEY
These days, you explore your surroundings on some of the 20 different excursions offered by explora Valle Sagrado in different environments. explora believes that in order to really immerse oneself in this destination, you should experience all three different areas: the valley, plateau, and mountain peaks. Explorations happen on foot, by van or bike, and can take a half-day or a full day. They are especially designed to meet each individual's needs and interests as well as encompass the area’s must-see sites and that which lies beyond what is known. EXPLORA VALLE SAGRADO – Suite (B,L,D)
DAY 9: URUBAMBA VALLEY / CUSCO / SORAYPAMPA
Early this morning, you are transferred to Cusco El Mercado Hotel for the drive to the Salkantay Lodge in Soraypampa. En route, visit the Inca ruins of Tarawasi near the town of Limatambo (approx. 1.5 hrs. from Cusco). Later, pass through the mountain village of Mollepata and pause for a short coffee break before ascending a winding mountain road to Marcoccasa. Here, you begin your trek to Soraypampa, on an old route called the “Camino Real” (Royal Path). This is a good opportunity for you to acclimate, while enjoying a beautiful six-hour trek. Salkantay Lodge (3,868m/12,690 ft.) takes its name from the majestic peak at the head of the valley—Mt. Salkantay, the second most sacred peak in Inca mythology and, at 20,600 ft., the highest in the region. After a warm welcome by the friendly staff, you are shown to your room with time to wash-up, before tea and cookies. The trip leader will hold a briefing by the fireplace, followed by aperitifs and dinner.
Trekking time: Approximately 6 hours (including picnic lunch en route). Hiking level: moderate. SALKANTAY LODGE (B,L,D)
DAY 10: SORAYPAMPA
Today, you take an acclimatization hike on the slopes above the lodge to Lake Humantay, fed by the hanging glaciers of Mt. Humantay. The hike is optional, but the views are amazing, and those brave enough can even go for a dip. Return to the lodge for lunch, after which you may choose to trade the glacial swim for a relaxing soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi. The afternoon is at leisure. This evening the guide will brief you on gear and the itinerary for the following day.
Trekking time: Approximately 4 hours. Hiking level: moderate to challenging. Option: horseback ride. SALKANTAY LODGE (B,L,D)
DAY 11: SORAYPAMPA / WAYRA
This is the big day! After an early start, hike up the Rio Blanco Valley, circling Humantay Peak across from Salkantay Peak. The highest point on the trek is the Salkantay Pass at 4,636m/15,213 ft. At the pass, stop to take in views of the snowcapped peaks of the Vilcabamba Range in every direction, and the glaciated south face of Salkantay that towers above. Keep your eyes peeled for Andean condors, often visible in this area. From the pass, descend towards Wayra Lodge (“Wayra” is ‘place where the wind lives’) your destination for the evening. The lodge is 3,905m/12,812ft. A hot lunch is served en route.
Trekking time: 6–8 hours (including lunch). Hiking level: Challenging, crossing a 4,636m/15,213 ft. mountain pass. WAYRA LODGE (B,L,D)
DAY 12: WAYRA / COLPA
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Wayra Lodge before setting out on the descent along the left bank of the Salkantay River, through increasingly verdant scenery. Feel the warm air rising from the jungle, accompanied by colorful butterflies and striking orchids. Upon arrival at Colpa Lodge, at 2,869m/9,414 ft, you are greeted with a Pachamanca meal, a traditional festive Peruvian meal cooked by layering meat and vegetables with hot stones, and then covering the whole thing up to bake. Colpa Lodge is located on an open plateau at the confluence of three rivers. The outdoor Jacuzzi has panoramic views of lush green mountains. We spend the afternoon relaxing or exploring the nearby orchid trail.
Trekking time: 3–4 hours. Hiking Level: Easy To Moderate. COLPA LODGE (B,L,D)
DAY 13: COLPA / LUCMA
Today's hike takes you along Hike along the Santa Teresa River Valley through more populated rural areas. Pass through banana, granadilla, and avocado orchards and coffee plantations. A hot picnic lunch is served by the river. After lunch, hike another hour before a private vehicle meets you for a short drive to the beginning of the “Llactapata Inca Trail.” From the head of the newly restored Inca Trail, you easily make your way to Lucma Lodge, at 2,134m/7,003 ft, and set in an avocado orchard.
Trekking time: 5–6 hours (including lunch). Hiking level: moderate to challenging because of distance, not terrain. LUCMA LODGE (B,L,D)
DAY 14: LUCMA / AGUAS CALIENTES
After a hearty breakfast, begin the last day of the trekking journey. Head uphill for 2-3 hours towards Llactapata Pass (2,735m/8,974ft.), where you come upon a distant but spectacular view of the mountain fortress of Machu Picchu from the southeast, a view few travelers ever get a chance to admire! Take a short break to explore the recently restored Llactapata Ruins. Lunch is served at a scenic viewpoint, looking out to Machu Picchu. Begin the final descent to the Aobamba River through lush bamboo forests, orchards and coffee plantations. Aguas Calientes, the town of Machu Picchu, is a short, scenic train ride away. Upon arrival, check into your hotel for a celebration dinner with your guide and one last briefing!
Trekking time: 4–6 hours. Hiking level: moderate to challenging. INKATERRA MACHU PICCHU PUEBLO HOTEL – Superior Room (B,L,D)
DAY 15: AGUAS CALIENTES / MACHU PICCHU / CUSCO
After a very early buffet breakfast at the hotel, proceed to the bus station for the 30-minute ride up to Machu Picchu Sanctuary. The trip leader will give the group an introductory two-hour guided tour of the ruins, after which you can spend the rest of the morning exploring the site independently. It’s not hard to find a secluded corner away from other people to admire this incredible site. There is also the option to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (please note that permits must be purchased in advance).
Afterwards, return by bus to Aguas Calientes for a late lunch and to board your luxury train - the Belmond Hiram Bingham Train, which guarantees the highest quality of attentive service. It consists of just four cars: two dining cars, a bar car, and a kitchen car, with room for 84 passengers. Aboard the train, a team of dedicated wait staff attend to your every need and ensure your experience is as comfortable and luxurious as possible. Guests enjoy a gourmet dinner during their spectacular, approximate three-hour journey through the Sacred Valley, passing by lush landscapes and Andean villages. Enjoy the comfort of the warm and elegant carriages before arriving to the Poroy train station.
Upon arrival at the Poroy train station, you will be welcomed by our representative and transferred approximately 20 minutes to your hotel in Cusco. Situated on a hill near the archaeological site of Sacsayhuamán, Palacio Manco Capac is a new boutique hotel in Cusco, just a 10-minute walk from the main square. Each of the five spacious rooms has an elegant, modern design with unique colonial touches and offers guests a garden view, satellite TV and private bathroom with organic amenities plus Wi-Fi access. You can enjoy the garden and views from the terrace or can sit down to a nice meal at the restaurant, which serves delicious, traditional Peruvian dishes. You hotel offers a quiet and restful retreat. PALACIO MANCO CAPAC - Suite (B,D)
DAY 16: CUSCO
Cusco (3,400m/11,155ft) is without a doubt the most beautiful town in Peru and possibly in South America. The ancient Incan considered it the navel of the earth and served as the capital of Tahuantinsuyo (Inca Empire). This empire, 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. After being transported from your hotel, begin your visit in the Plaza de Armas in the city center. Make your way around the city as your guide shares stories of the incredible history and important moments that took place in the streets and buildings you pass. Visit the renaissance-style Cathedral, certainly one of the most imposing structures in the city. 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 variety of unique fruits and potatoes, before you head out to the outskirts of the city to view the important Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman. The remainder of your day is at leisure. PALACIO MANCO CAPAC - Suite (B)
DAY 17: CUSCO / LIMA / PARACAS
Transfer to the airport to board your flight to Lima. Upon your arrival, you will be transferred by private vehicle approximately 3.5 to four hours to the quaint fishing town of Paracas in southern Peru. Along the way, you will see the coastal desert sprawling on all sides and pass through several towns. On route to your hotel, you enjoy a two-hour excursion on sand buggies in the desert near Ica. Navigate this lunar-like landscape on the speedy sand mobiles beginning at the Adrenarena Park just fifteen minutes from Paracas. The tracks go through dunes, which range from 5 to 100 meters high where you will enjoy panoramic views of the desert and many photo and video opportunities. The route also takes you through the “Rompe Hueso”, a 150 meter high dune. Then you reach the Sandboard Zone where you’ll get a chance to “sand surf.” Upon arrival in Paracas, you meet your expert guide and then enjoy your evening at leisure or partake in one of our additional excursions. La Hacienda Bahía Paracas Hotel offers those travelling Lima's southern coast a comfortable and stylish accommodation overlooking the Paracas Bay. The beachside resort is ideal for relaxing and enjoying the tranquility of the bay and the hot, sunny weather with an outdoor pool, water activities like wind surfing, tennis courts and bicycle rentals among other outdoor sports amenities. LA HACIENDA BAHÍA PARACAS HOTEL –Standard room (B)
DAY 18: PARACAS - NAZCA - PARACAS
This morning, your guide will collect you and transfer you by private vehicle about 20 minutes to the Pisco airport for your overflight of the mythic Nazca Lines and the nearby Palpa Lines, ancient geoglyphs in southern Peru. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and stretch more than 80 km/50 mi between the towns of Nazca and Palpa. The animal and geometric figures ranging up to 300 meters/984 ft in size. The plane is a Cessna Grand Caravan 208B Series with capacity for 12 passengers, and the flight lasts approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes, of which 20 minutes are spent circling over the dramatic Nazca and Palpa Lines. After the overflight, your guide will be waiting to accompany you by private car to Paracas where you may enjoy lunch at your hotel or at one of the many local restaurants. Following lunch, you will return to your hotel to rest or enjoy one of the additional excursions around Paracas. LA HACIENDA BAHÍA PARACAS HOTEL –Standard room (B)
DAY 19: PARACAS / LIMA
This morning, your guide will take you to the Paracas pier, where you will board a boat to visit the Ballestas Islands, an archipelago rich in wildlife. The islands are riddled with arches, tunnels and other wind and sea sculptures where you will appreciate different kinds of sea birds and sea lions. You will also visit Punta Pejerrey, near the northern-most point of the isthmus and the best spot for seeing the Candelabro, a candelabra-shaped drawing etched into the highest point of a cliffside overlooking the bay. This group tour takes approximately two and a half hours, with about 45 minutes spent watching wildlife. *Please note that the Ballestas Islands tour is a group service with shared boat and guide. Your guide will not accompany you during the tour. Let us know if you want a private Guide.
After your tour of the Ballestas Islands, your private guide will be waiting to accompany you to the Paracas National Reserve, Peru’s only marine protected area that was created to protect large breeding populations of Humboldt penguins, South American fur seals and sea lions as well as 63 migratory bird species that stop here annually. During your tour you will have a chance to view native flora and fauna, as well as geological formations along the beaches of this stretch of marine territory and coastal desert. Following your guided visit, you return by private car to Paracas for lunch on your own. After lunch, you return to Lima by private vehicle. HOTEL B – Aposento (B)
DAY 20: LIMA / DEPART
Transfer to the airport to board your flight back home. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$1,000 per person per day