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, Sat: Lima, Peru
Welcome to Peru! Upon arrival in Lima, please proceed through Immigration and Customs. After claiming your luggage, exit the Customs Hall where a representative from Big Five will be waiting to assist you and transfer you to your hotel. Miraflores Park Hotel – Ocean View Junior Suite
Day 2, Sun: Lima
This morning, join your guide for a half-day city tour. Lima, the center of Spanish power in the New World for three centuries, is the focal point to begin your exploration of this fascinating country. The capital enjoys a considerable legacy of art and architecture from its colonial period, while its museums house artifacts of gold, ceramic, and weavings unearthed from the country's ancient settlements. You will discover Lima’s colonial heart, found in its churches, palace, and promenades. Continue to Barranco, one of 43 districts, considered to be the city's most romantic and bohemian because it is home to many of Peru's leading artists, musicians, designers, and photographers. In the 19th century, it was a very fashionable beach resort for the Limeño aristocracy, and many people would spend the summer here and in neighboring Chorillos. There is a beautiful walkway to the sea that runs through Barranco – the Bajada de los Baños. Crossing over this walkway is the Puente de los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs. On the far side of the bridge is a park with a statue of Barranco's famous singer and composer, Chabuca Granda. Miraflores Park Hotel – Ocean View Junior Suite (B)
Day 3, Mon: Lima / Iquitos / Marañon River
This afternoon, you board your flight to Iquitos. The hour-45-minute flight takes you into the heart of the Peruvian Amazon region. After you’ve claimed your luggage, you will board an air-conditioned bus for your hour and a half drive through the Peruvian countryside to the small village of Nauta at road’s end. From the moment you step on board, you will enjoy the atmosphere of low-key luxury of your ship - either the 12-suite Aqua Amazon or the 16-suite Aria Amazon. Both the 40 meter/130 foot Aqua Amazon and the 45 meter/147 foot Aria Amazon are handsomely appointed, with over-sized suites. Take in the views from the upper deck as you leave Iquitos behind. Over the next four days, you will sail along large tributaries of the Amazon, as well as the mighty river itself. You are embarking on a spectacular adventure to a place where few travelers have gone. Later in the air-conditioned lounge, you will learn about life onboard, and will have the first of the nightly briefings about your adventure to follow. You will meet the naturalist guides and the cruise director, who will use video, photos, and maps to explain the details of your journey into the Amazon. Then you sit down to sample some fine South American wine and enjoy outstanding cuisine, created by Executive Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, whose restaurant, Malabar, is the one of the best in all of Lima. Schiaffino’s recipes include the imaginative use of local products – fruit, fish and spices – to make every meal a delightful adventure. The menu always offers choices, including a vegetarian option. Aboard Aria Amazon or Agua Amazon (B,L,D)
Day 4, Tue: Marañon River / Choroyacu / San Pedro De Tipishca / Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
This morning, board skiffs to explore part of the vast Amazon flooded forest to learn firsthand about the rainforest. Float through a “gallery forest,” so called because of its narrow vegetation that creates a tunnel of leaves. Return to the M/V Aria for lunch. This afternoon, you set out on a jungle walk to visit a village and meet some of its residents, subsistence farmers. They will tell you how they learned to cultivate wild plants and trees. As your adventure takes you deep into the primary forest, your guides will also show you the wealth of fruit trees and medicinal plants hidden in the jungle. Aboard Aria Amazon or Agua Amazon (B,L,D)
Day 5: Wed: Tacsha River / Pacaya Samiria National Reserve / San Martin De Tipishca
Today you can choose between two options. You can opt to take a full-day excursion into primary forest on a skiff and travel deep into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve on the Samiria River. Along the way, you look for some of the abundant wildlife here including several species of monkeys – howler, squirrel, saki and saddleback tamarin, and many bird species such as blue, yellow and scarlet macaws, toucans and river hawks. You arrive at the PV2 Tacsha watch post, where you hike into the rainforest and savor picnic lunch in the jungle before returning to your vessel late this afternoon. Alternately, you may choose to go on a guided jungle walk and dolphin expedition. Walk into the primary forest this morning with your naturalist guide to explore one of the sustainable resource management projects in Amazonia. Travel to a village to learn how its residents are planting palms to obtain oil. Your may also see some of the artificial nests created on sand to protect turtle eggs. As you move further into the jungle, you encounter wildlife and learn about the important medicinal value of many jungle plants. See the famous Kapok trees, the tallest trees in the Amazon Basin. Return to the M/V Aria for lunch and some relaxation time. Late this afternoon, you set out on another skiff excursion to search for more wildlife in the jungle canopy. Some 13 species of monkeys reside in the reserve including the small tamarins, dusky titi monkeys and tiny pigmy marmosets. Watch for alligators, and keep your binoculars at the ready, as you are likely to see more than 200 species of birds. As the sun sets and our searchlight comes on, keep your eyes out for caimans, tree boas, tarantulas, and frogs. Aboard Aria Amazon or Agua Amazon (B,L,D)
Day 6, Thu: Yanayaquillo / Tahuayo / Charo Lake
Back on the river as the sun rises, you see a treasure trove of wildlife, including colorful parrots, macaws and toucans as well as more monkeys. You stop near a poplar dolphin feeding spot and enjoy a “bag breakfast” of light sandwiches and fresh juice. Return to your ship and begin your journey back toward Iquitos. This afternoon, travel to this splendid “hot spot” lake, where you will be certain to catch some of the more than 3,000 species of tropical fish that live in the Amazon basin. Our key focus will be on piranhas, those small, sharp-teethed carnivorous fish with a big reputation for being scary. Catching one will make for great cocktail conversation back home. Return to the M/V Aria, which begins its sailing back to Iquitos through the night. This evening, you share a farewell dinner with your shipmates. Aboard Aria Amazon or Agua Amazon (B,L,D)
Day 7, Fri: Iquitos / Lima / Depart
The excursions today depend on the level of the river. Weather and time permitting, this will be the last opportunity to see how people live along the Amazon by floating in skiffs through the lively riverside community of Belen, in Iquitos. Here, where the houses and shops float on the river during some months, you will see the bustling food market for the entire Peruvian Amazon. All local inhabitants throughout the region sell and purchase goods here.
Your afternoon in the remote city of Iquitos, accessible only by river or air, will not disappoint. This bustling town, complete with a house built by Gustave Eiffel, was once a rich center of the rubber industry. Before we head for the airport, we will take you to visit the Manatee Rescue Center, where biologists and volunteers care for endangered Amazon manatees that conservation authorities have seized from local people, including fishermen. Biologists will give a presentation about the project and its efforts to help these helpless mammals. You will also see how the manatees are cared for and are prepared for re-introduction into their natural habitat. Finally, we will stop at the San Juan Amazonian Indian Market, for a last chance to shop for local crafts. Your guides will help you with check-in, and will stay with you until you have boarded your flight back to Lima, where you connect to your flight. (B,L)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From $5,100, valid until Dec 15, 2014