- Discover the iconic Machu Picchu by train with guided tour
- Homestay on traditional Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca
- See Colca Canyon and its soaring condors
- Wander through the colonial city of Arequipa and the Santa Catalina Convent
- Drive deep into the Andean highlands and the Apurimac Valley
Those travelling on the group flights and those who have booked a transfer through Exodus will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima. There will be a notice board in the hotel reception with details of where and when the group welcome briefing will be held.
We set off very early this morning (around 5.30am) and drive south from Lima until we reach the port of Paracas (4-5 hours’ drive). The Ballestas Islands lie a short distance off the coast here and are home to one of the highest concentrations of seabirds in the world – we visit them by boat.
On the outward journey we pass the curious pre-Inca Candelabra geoglyph, a huge (over 150m high) three-pronged trident shape etched into the sandy hillside, the origin and purpose of which remains unknown (although there are many theories). Upon reaching the islands we explore the caves and rock archways by boat and observe the Sea lion and Fur seal colonies as well as Humboldt penguins and an array of birds such as cormorants, pelicans, tendrils, and Peruvian Blue-footed booby birds.
The boats are open-top motorised boats and are shared with other non-Exodus clients (occasionally the sea is too rough and the boats can’t operate). Take heed of seabirds above – it is advisable to wear a hat! The boat trip lasts around two hours.
Once back on dry land we drive for an hour or so to Ica, the heart of Peru’s wine-growing region where we spend the night.
We drive towards Nazca, stopping to visit the viewing platforms overlooking the Nazca Lines. These are one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries, consisting of enormous drawings and patterns etched in the desert sand.
In the afternoon, for those who wish there is usually time to take a scenic flight over the Nazca Lines (additional cost), weather permitting. Due to the small planes used, this is not suitable for those with a fear of flying or who suffer from travel sickness. Alternatively, your leader can help arrange optional visits to the nearby burial grounds, Antonini Museum, or the Planetarium.
We turn inland from the coastal desert today, climbing high into the Andes on today’s long (12-13 hrs) but spectacular drive. Vicuñas (a smaller wild relative of the llama) can be seen along this road, as this area is Peru’s largest vicuña reserve. This region has only recently become easily accessible to tourists due to an upgrade of the Abancay/Chalhuanca road. The altitude here can make physical exertion difficult (the highest point we reach today is Negro Mayu, a high pass at approx. 4600m). It is recommended to rest in the evening. Tonight, we stay in Abancay on the road to Cuzco.
We set off towards Cuzco this morning, stopping to visit the unique Inca Saywite stone and Tarawasi ruins. The glaciated summits of the Vilcabamba Mountain range and the descent into the Apurimac River valley demonstrate the dramatic contrasts of the Andes Mountains, and we should expect stunning scenery throughout today’s 7-8 hour drive.
It is recommended to take it easy upon arrival into Cuzco and to drink plenty of water to allow your body time to acclimatise to the altitude (3,400m).
To help acclimatise, we have a relaxed walking tour this morning to discover its historic buildings and winding streets of Cuzco, one of South America’s most beautiful cities. The rest of the day has been left free for exploring on your own. The Plaza de Armas is a fantastic spot for people watching, and the Koricancha Sun Temple located in the Santo Domingo Church and monastery is worth a visit. The Mercado San Pedro is the place to try some local produce and there are many handicraft markets to shop for souvenirs such as alpaca jumpers and scarves.
Outside the town are more Inca ruins, notably the fortress of Sacsayhuaman where the Inca armies made their last stand against the Conquistadores. A combined entrance fee (Tourist Ticket) for these sites and many others is recommended – please see the Optional Excursions section below for prices. Sightseeing excursions to places outside Cuzco, including the Sacred Valley of the Incas, are also available. Please ask your tour leader.
For most people, the highlight of the trip is the visit by train to the greatest ruin in the world, the lost city of Machu Picchu. This is one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world, in a mountain setting of staggering immensity. The Spaniards never found it; the Incas left no records of it, so Machu Picchu remains a great enigma, a city lost for centuries in the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.
We transfer (approximately 2 hrs) to Ollantaytambo train station to catch a train to Aguas Calientes (the town below Machu Picchu). The railway line follows a beautiful route through the Urubamba River Valley. In the afternoon we take a short bus ride up the winding road to Machu Picchu for a guided tour of the ruins.
New regulations for visiting Machu Picchu are now fully enforced; you will be limited to a maximum of four hours within the site and must be accompanied by a guide. There will also be three set routes to follow around Machu Picchu; Exodus selects the most comprehensive route. Please note that exploring the ruins involves a reasonable amount of walking, including up and down steep and uneven stone steps.
Visiting in the afternoon tends to be quieter than the mornings and the mist which shrouds the ruins at dawn has usually dispersed.
Today we have a free morning to enjoy the buzz of this little town in the jungle below the ruins. There are some hot springs nearby, however they tend to suffer from overcrowding and therefore poor water quality, so are not recommended.
Should you wish to visit Machu Picchu again this morning, your leader will help you to purchase a second entrance ticket (subject to availability) which will allow you a further four hours to explore the ‘Lost City’ – for the second visit it is not mandatory to have a guide. At the time of writing a morning ticket costs PEN152 (approx. US$37).
In the afternoon we board the train back to Ollantaytambo and then continue by minibus to Cuzco, arriving in the late evening.
We have a final chance to enjoy the sights and shopping of this beautiful city. If you fancy something more active then there is an array of optional activities available from Cuzco that your leader can organise. These include paddle-boarding on a lake, mountain biking, or a combination of via ferrata and zip-lining in the Sacred Valley.
Today we travel for 8-10 hours along the Vilcanota River and onto the altiplano, the high plains separating the Andes from the jungle. Although it is quite a long drive, the views are often spectacular. There are scheduled stops at interesting sites to help break up the day and we will get to appreciate the immensity of the Andean landscapes. This afternoon we arrive at the shores of Lake Titicaca (3800m) and board a boat for our trip to Amantani Island. Hiking around the island offers great views across the lake, whilst the night spent with a local family is a fantastic cultural insight into lives very different to our own. (A packed lunch is included today).
We explore the island in the morning before boarding our boat for the three-hour journey to Puno on the lakeshore. On the way, we visit Uros Island. The Uros have been living on rafts of reeds for centuries, and although many have now moved to the mainland there are still a couple of thousand who remain on the islands which are anchored close to Puno. A reasonable amount of their income is now provided by strictly regulated tourism, but they also still fish the lake and engage in barter with communities on the mainland to obtain essential daily items.
Today we head off across the altiplano again. This time we cross to the south-west, heading back towards the coast to the high Colca Canyon (5-6 hours’ drive). En route we have opportunities to see vicuñas and possibly flamingos, crossing the Patapampa Pass (4810m) before descending into what is considered to be the second deepest canyon in the Americas (the deepest, the Cotahuasi Canyon, is also in Peru). There is time in the evening for an optional visit to the hot springs near the main town of Chivay (3635m) – a warming pleasure after the chill of Lake Titicaca.
An early start to view condors soaring on the morning drafts rising out of the canyon. Extensive terraces, stunning colonial churches, and burial tombs are viewed before we ascend out of the canyon and cross Patapampa Pass (4910m) on our way to Arequipa, known as the ‘White City’ due to the pale volcanic stone used to construct many of its colonial buildings. The picturesque city enjoys a year-round pleasant climate and is surrounded by 6000m volcanoes, including the near-perfect cone of El Misti.
In the morning we visit the huge and serene convent of Santa Catalina. Built in 1580 and only opened to the outside world in the 1970s, it offers a rare insight into the lives led by the nuns and has changed little through the centuries. There are still around 20 nuns living in the northern corner of the complex. In the afternoon or evening we fly to Lima where will transfer to our hotel in Miraflores.
There is time today for optional tours of Lima including visits to the Gold Museum and tours of the historic downtown before we are transferred to the airport in the afternoon for the overnight flight to London.
- 13 nights hotels and 1 night homestay
- Group normally 5 to 18, plus leader. Min. age 16 yrs
- Time spent at altitude
- Travel by internal flight, train, boat and private bus
- Several long drives and early starts
- Countries visited: Peru
- All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner
- All accommodation
- All transport and listed activities
- Tour leader throughout
- Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
- Arrival and departure transfers
Images courtesy of Exodus Travel
EXT – APD