Cultural Explorer Peru 11 Days

AREQUIPA CITY TOUR- COLCA CANYON HOTSPRINGS & CONDORS – LAKE TITICACA FLOATING ISLANDS – CUSCO INCA CAPITAL – SACRED VALLEY –PISAC MARKET- OLLANTAYTAMBO – FULL MACHU PICCHU TOUR – CUSCO

This trip is ideal for travellers looking to experience the best of Southern Peru in just eleven days plus have the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu. There are both set departures where you can join in with a group about once per month and private departures for 2 or more that can operate any day.

We begin our journey in the ‘White City’ of Arequipa in Southern Peru dominated by the stunning conical “El Misti” mountain. At 2600m Arequipa is the ideal place to begin our acclimatisation to the rarefied air of the Andes. One can explore Arequipa’s fine Plaza, the ice mummy museum or visit the many alpaca textile shops. We then board a private minibus and head off through remote villages to the impressive Colca canyon and the delightful Colca Lodge. Here we have the chance to see Condors over one of the world’s deepest canyons, hike to local ruins or just relax in some of the finest hot-springs imaginable.

A spectacular drive through the altiplano brings us to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  This busy lakeside town is the base for our day trip on Lake Titicaca. We take a private express boat to visit the floating reed islands of Uros and Taquile Island. These are renowned for their ancient way of life, weavings and spectacular views of the lake.

We then take one of the World’s classic railway journeys* from Puno across the high plains to Cusco. We spend a day exploring Cusco, the former Inca Capital – a wonderful place to explore full of culture, history, good restaurants and fun nightlife.

Now fully acclimatised, our next adventure takes us to the local ruins surrounding Cusco and through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, passing local markets and the Inca Fortress town of Ollantaytambo, before arriving at the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu. After a night in the colourful town of Aguas Calientes, we spend a whole day exploring the awe-inspiring citadel of Machu Picchu. The return to Cusco is by luxury train and bus with a final free day for any last minute sightseeing and souvenir hunting before heading back to the airport for your ongoing flight.

Those with more time should consider adding on our Amazon Rainforest Jungle Extension.

* Please note: the train only operates four times a week, there is a luxury bus alternative on the other days.

DETAILED ITINERARY

For those requiring Lima hotel, airport transfers and internal flight services within Peru, please contact us for best options and availability.

DAY 1: AREQUIPA: You will meet your guide on arrival off your flight to the “White City” of Arequipa. This is the ideal place to start acclimatizing to the rarefied air of the Andes and a beautiful city to explore. Arequipa boasts a magnificent marble Plaza de Armas, quaint old town streets, the picturesque Santa Catalina Monastery (included in your tour) and Juanita the Ice maiden museum (optional). Alpaca wool is Arequipa’s finest export and there are plenty of opportunities for treating yourself to some stunning textiles here. (B)

DAY 2: AREQUIPA TO COLCA CANYON: Driving out of Arequipa we enjoy spectacular views of the mountains surrounding the city before climbing high into the Andes and descending into the amazing Colca canyon. The Colca canyon is one of the World’s deepest canyons and is home to Condors and a fascinating local culture, totally different from any other place you will visit on this trip. We over night in the charming Colca lodge. Soaking in the World class hot-springs is the prime activity here, closely followed by exploring the lodge’s restaurant, bar or games room. Dinner can be taken either a la carte or try their delicious Alpandina buffet to sample Peru’s finest. (B,L)

DAY 3: CRUZ DEL CONDOR AND COLCA CANYON: The private guide and minibus are at your disposal for the day. An early morning drive to Cruz del Condor is recommended in search of one of the world’s largest birds, the condor, which nest in the cliffs of one of the world’s deepest canyons (approx. 3,400m deep). Hiking to near-by ruins and a tour of the unique native culture and weavings in the area are also available activities. On return to the lodge plenty of time is left for just relaxing in the hot springs, taking advantage of the amazing spa facilities (the hot-rock massage is recommended) or book  up more hiking, horse riding, biking or fishing trip at the in house adventure agency. (B,L)

DAY 4: COLCA CANYON, SILUSTANI AND PUNO / LAKE TITICACA: A spectacular drive through the high Andes, passing beautiful lakes, Vicuña herds and huge vistas as we travel on a newly asphalted road to Juliaca and on to our destination of Puno. En route we can take a visit to Silustani ruins, whose fascinating circular burial chambers pre-date the Incas. The amazing stone work of this early civilisation was obviously a strong influence on the famous Inca stone masons.

In Puno we check into our hotel and can explore this interesting town and barter for locally hand-knitted woollen goods. (B,L)

DAY 5: LAKE TITICACA – UROS AND TAQUILE: Lake Titicaca is a photographer’s dream, its clear sapphire water and the astounding blue skies are mesmerizing. A full day’s boat trip with your own private guide and shared rapid boat ensure you see all the sights in safety and style. The famous floating reed islands of Uros and the ancient traditions and weavings of Taquille Island are explained and viewed at your leisure. We have lunch in a typical restaurant before returning to Puno and transferring back to your Hotel (B,L)

DAY 6: ORIENT EXPRESS TRAIN TO CUSCO: Today we board the luxury all day train from Puno to Cusco. This classic Orient Express train journey, repeatedly voted “one of the top ten railway journeys of the world” cuts across the formidable Peruvian Altiplano, whose high plains are rich with llama herds, green Ibises and mountain villages where life is harsh but the resilient locals keep their communities with pride and good humour. On arrival at Cusco train station we transfer to your hotel. This evening we stretch our legs around the spectacular Plaza de Armas and dine in one of the many excellent restaurants as we begin to explore the fascinating city of Cusco. Please note: the train only operates four times a week, there is a luxury bus alternative on the other days. (B,L)

DAY 7: CUSCO LOCAL RUINS: Your guide and minibus are at your disposal for the day to explore Cusco and its outlying ruins. A 0900 pick up for the ten kilometre drive out of Cusco at Inca ruin of Tambo Machay. This is popularly called the Inca’s Bath due to its finely preserved waterfalls, carefully diverted through fine stone channels. The Incas acknowledged water as one of the principal elements of life and revered it accordingly.

A few hundred metres back towards Cusco we visit the site of Puca Pucara. This delightful ruin on a small prominence is believed not to be the ’red fort’ its name suggest but a ‘Tambo’ – a rest house for travelling animals, goods and travellers. We now cut across country following the old Inca road from Cusco to Pisac. The traditional farming methods and highly adapted Andean crops are a treat to see still functioning.

With Cusco now in our sights we visit the fascinating Q’enko. This ‘waca’ contains some of the finest examples of Inca carvings in-situ. The eroded limestone fissures have been artfully carved into zigzag channels (from where Q’enko derives its name), pumas, condors, snakes and houses. Bountiful Mummy Niches in the caves, an amphitheatre and the central phallic column all add to the mystery of its multi-functional use. After a picnic lunch we visit our final and most stunning ruin is the extensive Sacsayhuaman. Although the smaller stones of Sacsayhuaman were used to build modern day Cusco, the remaining stones are up to 8.5m high and weigh over 360 tones. The distinctive zigzag ramparts that form are attributed to being Puma teeth, lightening and also fortification. This major centre obviously had many functions with storehouses, administration buildings, reservoir and play area. It was also site of a crucial battle between the Incas and the Spanish. With time and energy permitting we head down to San Cristobal church built on top of Inca Manco Capac’s Palace and a fantastic view point of Cusco. Overnight in Cusco Hotel. (B, L)

DAY 8: SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS TO MACHU PICCHU: Your guide and minibus are again at your disposal for the day. An early pick up for the thirty two kilometre drive out of Cusco to the picturesque Andean village of Pisac. The village is famous for its Sunday market and superb Artisan stalls. Old Pisac ruins have much to explore with a circular hike along a well defined through Royal buildings, look-outs, terraces, tunnels and irrigation channels before returning on another good trail to the bus. After lunch near Urubamba, a short drive down the Sacred Valley of the Incas brings us to Ollantaytambo, site of the last battle between Incas and Spanish before the remaining Incas rebels fled into the jungles of Vilcabamba. In this well-preserved village and ruins you can still feel the true magic of the Incas.  Heading to the train station, we take the late afternoon train down the Urubamba River gorge to Machu Picchu town (formally known as Aguas Calientes and check into our hotel for the night. (B,L)

Note: If you wish to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu this could be added to the trip here.

DAY 9: MACHU PICCHU GUIDED TOUR: Early this morning we set off to the fabled “Lost City of the Incas- Machu Picchu”. A short bus ride takes you direct to the ruins (or hike). Once there your guide gives you an extensive walking tour of the ruin and explains the fascinating history of the Incas to you. If time permits you may wish to explore further to the Inca bridge, walk back up the Inca Trail to the sun gate or try the strenuous climb to the top of Huayna Picchu for an awe-inspiring Condor’s eye view of Machu Picchu.  Some may prefer to just relax and take in the awesome location. We return to Aguas Calientes from where we catch the afternoon train return and bus back to Cusco. If we have the energy we can then explore Cusco’s excellent nightlife. (B)

DAY 10: CUSCO: A free day to explore Cusco. From the Plaza de Armas, we suggest a visit to the the Qoricancha Sun Temple, this sacred Inca site was the centre of the Inca Empire Sun-Worship. It had temples for the sun, moon, stars and lightening. There was so much gold, silver and jewels it was said the Spanish took three months to melt all the treasures down. Also the impressive Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas with its famous paintings of Cusco’s great city fire and the last supper where Jesus is eating Guinea pig.  For those looking to relax there are countless excellent bars and cafes overlooking the Plaza de Armas and plenty of bargain hunting to do in the artisan markets.  (B)

DAY 11: TRANSFER TO AIRPORT FOR ONGOING FLIGHTS: Today, we transfer to Cusco airport in time for your internal and international flights home. (B)

Or for those with more time consider one or more of our Excellent Extensions to the Amazon Rainforest, Nazca and the Ballestas islands or more adventures by bike, foot, canoe, raft or horse. Please contact us for more details.

WE PROVIDE: All airport transfers, private vehicle transport and all train/bus tickets. Entrance fees to Sta Catalina monastery, Colca Canyon, Silustani ruins, Taquile island, the Inca ruins surrounding Cusco, Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. Three registered, English-speaking, local guides. Extensive First-aid kit & oxygen. A guided tour in Machu Picchu. A bus transfers between the ruins, Transport from Machu Picchu to your hotel in Cusco will be on a train service and bus transfer. Quality  3* accommodation in Arequipa, Colca, Puno and Cusco, Aguas Calientes. All meals as indicated in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner).

NOT INCLUDED: National or International flights, personal belongings, airport taxes ($6 local, $31 international), personal expenses, travel insurance and tips.

Lima hotels, airport transfers, day rooms, tours and all internal flights are not included but can also be organised and quoted for on request.

Please Note: The price varies according to season, style and availability of accommodations. Please contact us for a free price quote. Groups  of 6 and families are eligible for special rates.

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