Peru is marked by the extraordinary ancient civilizations who left their footprints on the landscape and their spirit in the heart of the people. The Andean mountains cut through the countryside. Their snow-capped peaks and glacial lakes present superb trekking opportunities including the famed Inca Trail. Peru's Amazon Basin is one of the world's top biodiversity hot spots and contains the remote Manu Biosphere Reserve. Billed as the single best wildlife destination in the entire Amazon, it is home to tapir, jaguar, twelve species of monkeys, and at least 530 species of birds. Peru's Amazon may be the very best place in the world for visitors on one of our Peru tours to encouter such rarely seen animals in their native environment. Peru welcomes the tourist, the ecologist, the anthropologist, the historian -- it is a country that fascinates people from all walks of life and appeals to our sense of curiosity and adventure.
Rich in ancient and modern Inca history, Cusco is Peru's a main destination for travelers during their Peru tour and is one of the most important cities in the Americas. Known by the Incas as the "home of the gods," Cusco became the capital of one of the largest pre-Columbian empires: the Tawantinsuyo. At one time the city served as a hub for the Inca as they traveled the vast network of roads interconnecting virtually the whole of South America. Cusco is also a colonial city, with splendid churches and manors built on foundations of elaborately carved stone.
The beauty and mystery of Machu Picchu's walled ruins -- once palaces of fine Inca stonework -- is augmented even more by the lush landscape of its surroundings. The ruins blend harmoniously amid the narrow and uneven topography. This historic region sits nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, on top of a ridge between two peaks. With its discovery in 1911, Machu Picchu made its debut as an authentic archeological enigma. Its purpose continues to intrigue, with mysteries that perhaps will never fully be unraveled.
A less explored region of Peru is the pre-Incan civilizations of the Northern Kingdoms. Coastal Chiclayo and Trujillo offer a phenomenal valley of ancient pyramids, evidence of their advanced and significant society. Chachapoyas, Kuelap, and Cajamarca are found within the interior of Northern Peru. One of the last kingdoms to succumb to the Inca Empire, the Chachapoyas created the archeological spectacle, the fortress of Kuelap. Lingering on the mountainside, Kuelap includes a vast urban community of stone homes and palaces enclosed within a 70-foot-high stonewall.
Located in the southern region is one of Peru's most important wildlife sanctuary, Paracas National Resrerve and the Islas Ballestas. This region is famous for its variety of sea lions and birds and is a favorite destination for many Peru tours. The Paracas Reserve has one of the highest concentrations of marine birds in the world. A short distance from the reserve is the ancient phenomenon, the Nazca Lines. These mysterious lines date back to the Nazca period, between 900 BC and 600 AD. Formed to the likeness of a monkey, hummingbird, and lizard, these images are so large that they can only be fully viewed from the air.
Its shoreline dotted with ruins, Lake Titicaca is as beautiful as it is mystical. Legend has it that the first Inca rose out of its azure waters. Visit the floating islands of the Uros people and spend the night on Amantani Island with a local family. A night on Amantani is a journey 500 years into the past. Residents till the dry soil by hand and weave all their clothing on small wooden looms.
Located 7750 feet above sea level and surrounded by snowy peaks, Arequipa delights with its colonial charm and friendly inhabitants. Arequipa is nicknamed the "white city" because of its buildings made of light-colored volcanic rock. A visit to this city includes an excursion to the deepest canyon in the world, Colca Canyon. As rich in history as the Cusco area, Colca's pre-Inca terraces rise straight up the canyon. Ancient tombs are found perched on vertical canyon walls. A drive from Arequipa to Colca takes travelers past herds of llamas and alpacas and through 400-year old colonial towns where residents raise potatoes and tend sheep. A visit to the canyon during a Peru tour also includes a relaxing soak in hot springs and a local peña (a folklore show)!
Follow the historic route to the sacred Inca city of Machu Picchu. The stunning combination of Inca ruins, magnificent mountains, exotic vegetation, and extraordinary ecology call to trekkers from all over the world. Over 250 species of orchids have been counted in the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, as well as numerous rare birds, animals, and reptiles. Several species on this hike are also considered to be in danger of extinction. The trail goes over high passes with unforgettable views, through cloudforest, and finally into subtropical vegetation. The sensation of walking in the footseps of the great Inca civilization is unrivaled. Andean history comes to life along this ancient route and its impressive ruins. On the final day of the trek, hikers rise early for a walk to the Sun Gate to watch the surnise over Machu Picchu.
The Cachiccata Trek is a great alternative to hiking the Inca Trail. This cultural hike not only explores Peruvian history, but also visits modern Inca communities and customs. The hike begins with a journey to the Inca temple of Chokekillka where trekkers explore the ancient Incan curiosity with the cosmos. The trail continues to the community of Soccma. During this Peru tour you'll have the chance to visit a local school to learn more about the daily lives of the people in this region. The hike continues along an Inca water channel to the golden Ccorimarca Valley. This is the most demanding part of the trek, but the views are extraordinary. In the distance, Mount Veronica reigns supreme over the skyline. The second pass offers spectacular sights of the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo. Inca ruins await at every turn; ancient walls, tombs, terraces, and water channels line our trail. The trek ends with a visit to the quarry of Cachiccata.
Aside from its stunning glacial lakes and rural highland village, the Ausengate Trek offers an additional reward to its hikers: natural thermal waters. This Andean trek begins at the river Ocongate and onto the puna (high grasslands) towards majestic Mount Ausengate. Considered sacred by the Andean people, the mountain dominate sthe skyline at 20,940 feet. The trek continues past a commuity of Andean farmers tending their llamas and alpacas. The trail climbs through scenic valleys and over high mountain passes, camping alongside glacial lakes and natural hotsprings. The highest point of the trek is Palomani Pass, ascending to 16,654 feet. Trekkers are rewarded with a panorama of the surrounding Andes. Finish this Peru tour in the small village of Pacchanta.
This trekking journey combines the most popular route in Peru with the road less traveled, making for a complete two-week alpine adventure. Begin the trek into the glacially sculpted terrain of the Andes. The trail through the Vilcabamba range guides hikers through magnificent mountain scenery, past glacial lakes and down through the lush greenery and colorful orchids of an Amazon cloudforest. The highest point of the journey is Incachirisca pass, reaching 15,252 feet. In the small community of Huayabamba, trekkers joint the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and fall into step with fellow pilgrims from around the world. The carefully laid stonework gives way to a well-trodden path as it approaches the Sun Gate and the first glimpse of beautiful Machu Picchu.
One of Peru's most sought after treks is the Cordillera Blanca. Compacted into a fairly small area, this region has more than 50 peaks 18,700 feet or higher, including Huascaran, Peru's premier mountain. The Cordillera Blanca offers unforgettable panoramic views of soaring Andean summits. The trek travels through alpine meadows overlooking fluted glacier peaks, pre-Inca trails of paved stonework, challenging passes, flower-filled slopes, cascading rivers, and the Queñual and Quisar tree forests, whose twisted trunks offer testament to the harsh conditions of their environment. Along the journey keep an eye out for peculiar wildlife and enjoy the pure and simple hospitality of the local people.