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.
“I am from Chiclayo, Peru so Peru is at the heart of everything that inspires me. This journey is one I want to share with my husband and especially my son. I want him to know the cultures and traditions of Peru. This is a great vacation for families. It has something for everyone – family-friendly museums, white water rafting, a picnic in the Andes, the chance to see the magnificent Andean condor, a preserve for llamas, vicunas and alpacas, and a train journey through the mountains to one of the world’s most dramatic archaeological sites…Machu Picchu. Peru has so much to offer.” Gisela Polo, Destination Specialist
Day 1: Arrive Lima
Upon arrival in Lima, Peru, a representative from Big Five will be waiting for you outside the customs hall to welcome you and transfer you to your hotel. Miraflores Park Hotel
Day 2: Lima
Lima was the center of Spanish power in the New World for 300 years, and remains the capital and starting point for most travelers. It enjoys a considerable legacy of art and architecture from its colonial period, while the museums are bursting with artifacts of gold, ceramic and textiles unearthed from the country's ancient settlements. Discover Lima’s superb colonial churches, palaces and promenades. Inspect the Museum of the Nation, one of two major museums of Peruvian history in the city. Thousands of artifacts span the centuries of human occupation here, including an impressive collection of Moche, Nazca and Wari ceramics as well as the Lanzón, a recreation of the burial chamber of the Lord of Sipan, and the famous painting Revolt of the Objects Mural. Miraflores Park Hotel (B,L)
Day 3: Lima
Early this morning, travel the Pan-American Highway alongside beautiful beaches to the pre-Inca ruins of Pachacamac, Temple of the Sun and the Palace of the Virgins. This afternoon, visit Hacienda Tres Cañas to see the museums and little church in the Hacienda. Enjoy a Creole buffet lunch and an exhibition of the Peruvian Paso horse. Miraflores Park Hotel (B,L)
Day 4: Lima / Arequipa
This morning fly to Arequipa, at an elevation of about 7,500 feet, it is surrounded by the towering peaks. You are welcomed on arrival and transferred to your hotel. This afternoon, tour this handsome colonial city also known as the White City. Explore the Plaza de Armas, La Mansion del Fundador and an 18th-century mill El Molino de Sabandia. Continue on to La Compania, a fine representation of 17th-century religious architecture. Finally, see the 16th-century Convent of Santa Catalina, which was closed to outsiders for almost 400 years, opening for visitors again in 1970. Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa (B,L)
Day 5: Arequipa / Chivay, Colca Canyon
Travel through gorgeous countryside to the edge of Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon on the planet, reaching depths of 11,000 feet – twice that of the Grand Canyon! En route, through the rich flora and fauna of the Andean paramo, stop at a preserve for llamas, vicunas and alpacas. Las Casitas del Colca (B,L,D)
Day 6: Colca Canyon / Arequipa
Today’s focus is the grandeur of the Colca Canyon. Stop at the best vantage points to view the magnificent Andean condor as well as the spectacular canyon itself and the extensive ancient terracing before returning to Arequipa for the night. Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa (B,L)
Day 7: Arequipa / Cusco
Fly today to Cusco, where you are met and transferred to your hotel. High in the Andes, about 11,400 feet above sea level, Cusco is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere. Founded in the 15th century by the Incas, it was later conquered by Spain. Much of the city’s architecture reflects the dramatic Spanish style known as Cusco Baroque. The Incas conceived their capital in the shape of a Puma with the river serving as the spine with Sacsayhuaman as the head and the main city center as the body. Almost every central street has remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways. Many streets are lined with Inca stonework that serves as foundations for more modern buildings. Inca stonework is tapered upwards (battered), and every wall has a perfect line of inclination towards the center, from bottom to top. Churches display many of the marvelous works from the Cusco School of painting, which is distinguished by its eccentric mix of Catholic and pagan imagery. Enjoy a half-day exploration of this magical city as you drive the main streets, and visit the Sun Temple, now the Santo Domingo Church. The curved stonework of the temple is probably unequalled in the world. During the Inca period, the stones were layered with gold. Then, visit the archaeological sites that surround Cusco, including Saqsayhuaman Fortress, with its huge stone constructions. Many people believe the site has great cosmic energy, and may have been an astronomic observatory and the site of an ancient Inca oracle. Also visit Q’enqo, used for worship and as a ceremonial center. In the city, stop by the San Pedro local market, where you pause to watch the everyday life of the people of Cusco. Visit “San Blas,” the Artisans’ Neighborhood of high, narrow streets, a beautiful little plaza, where textiles, clay and the wood are turned into art pieces. The famous Twelve Angles stone is part of the largest Inca wall in Cusco, and used to be the Hatunrumiyoc (Big Stone) palace, a fine example of Inca skill with polygonal masonry. Hotel Monasterio (B)
Day 8: Cusco / Urubamba (Sacred Valley of the Incas)
Today you set out on a rafting adventure on the Urubamba River. Following a safety briefing, you enjoy a two-hour river run, riding through what are usually Class 3 and 4 rapids (Water levels are subject to seasonal variations. The minimum age for rafting is 8). The river starts gently, building up to rapids through a beautiful section of the canyon. Enjoy a typical “pachamanca,” a technique for cooking in the earth. Used around the globe, the technique is infinitely variable. In Peru, hot rocks are used instead of smoldering coals. As in many cultures, cooking in this manner is a communal affair, and everyone gets involved. After lunch, tour the village of Ollantaytambo, which has extensive Inca ruins, most enclosed within a temple fortress. The unfinished temple contains some of the largest stones ever used by Inca builders. The village itself is constructed on top of Inca foundations. Rio Sagrado Hotel (B,L)
Day 9: Urubamba (Sacred Valley of the Incas)
Depart by vehicle this morning to Moray. Your guide takes you down into these ruins. The ancient agricultural terraces of circular and concentric shape were built by the Incas and thought to be used as a seed-producing area for the main crops of the empire: maize and potato. You stroll along a mostly flat path to the town of Maras through farmlands with views of the surrounding mountains. On the way to the salt pans, you pause for a picnic lunch before continuing on to the salt pans. Your guide explains how the salt-draining process works. Walk down into the Sacred Valley. You may spot a Cara Cara, a member of the falcon family, Andean gulls or hummingbirds. The path, which runs alongside a gorge, takes you down to the Urubamba River. On one side of the path is the brook that runs through the salt pans. Cross the hanging bridge, and board a van that takes you back to the hotel. Rio Sagrado Hotel (B,L)
* Important Note: This evening you will need to pack a small bag for your rail journey tomorrow. For all Perurail journeys, each passenger is allowed 1 bag or backpack, which must not exceed 05kg/11pounds and/or 62 inches/157cm (length + height + width). Please pack light. Baggage that exceeds these measurements will not be allowed. Your additional luggage will be stored by your Big Five representative.
Day 10: Urubamba / Poroy / Machu Picchu
This morning, you are escorted to the Poroy Station to board the Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu. The train journey is a highlight of any trip to the Andes. Enjoy brunch as stunning scenery unfolds before you through the large picture windows. The three-and-a-half-hour journey takes you through the Sacred Valley, past lush green fields and colorful villages in the foothills of the Andes. Arrive at the train station in Aguas Calientes, where you and your private guide board small buses for the short ride to the entrance of the ruins. Machu Picchu is nestled between the Huayna Picchu (young peak) and Machu Picchu (old peak), at an altitude of 7,900 feet above sea level. In this rugged landscape, the fortress is situated on the eastern slope of Machu Picchu in two different areas: the agricultural and the urban. The latter includes the civil sector (dwellings, canalizations), and the sacred sector (temples, mausoleums, squares, royal houses). Although constructions show different levels of architecture, religious buildings exhibit a high degree of perfection. The construction used stone, with roofs of trees trunks and thatched with ichu straw. The walls have an inward inclination to protection against earthquakes. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 11: Machu Picchu / Poroy / Cusco
Today you are free to explore the Machu Picchu area with a private guide at your disposal. Experiencing the ruins at sunrise should not be missed; even if it is misty and cloudy, early morning on this sacred site is an amazing experience. For a truly mystical experience, those who like to hike can go up Huayna Picchu peak, opposite Machu Picchu, for imposing, panoramic views. The breathtaking views of this mountain-top citadel are a photographer’s dream. You can also walk along to the Sun Gate, which is the last section of the famous Inca Trail. Late this afternoon, you return to Cusco via the Hiram Bingham. On board, savor pre-dinner cocktails and live entertainment in the bar before settling down to a four-course dinner. Upon arrival in Poroy station, you are met and privately transferred to your historic hotel in the heart of Cusco. Hotel Monasterio (B,L,D)
Day 12: Cusco / Lima / Depart
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Lima. Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel where you have a day room for your convenience. The remainder of the day is at leisure. This evening, transfer to the airport for your flight out. Miraflores Park Hotel – Day Use (B)