The morning is free to wander around Miraflores and explore Colonial Lima. In the afternoon you'll catch a bus to the beach town of Paracas, where the desert meets the ocean. Transfer to your hotel and enjoy the beautiful sunset over the sands of southwestern Peru.
Referred to as a Little Galapagos, this morning you'll depart by boat to the Ballestas Islands. Sea lion colonies lounge on the rocks and thousands of sea birds (such as Guanay Cormorants and Peruvian Boobies) circle overhead and strut along the rocky shoreline. After your island visit, it's off to the giant sand dunes of Paracas National Reserve for a bit of hiking. In the afternoon, bus to Nazca.
Since their discovery 70 years ago, these puzzling drawings in the earth have intrigued visitors and scientists. To get a bird's-eye view of the Nazca lines, take a short flight this morning. Afterwards, it's off to Chauchilla cemetery where thousand-year-old mummies lie in the open, and ancient bones and pottery shards litter the ground - an archeologists playground! This evening, take an overnight bus trip to Arequipa (8 hour trip on a bus with reclining "sleeper" seats).
Located 7750 feet above sea level and surrounded by snowy peaks, Arequipa delights visitors with its colonial charm and friendly inhabitants. Visit the Santa Catalina Monastery (a 4.5 acre maze of gardens, plazas, and churches in the town center), people watch in the main plaza or just relax in the colonial hotel.
As rich in history as the Cusco area, Colca's pre-Inca terraces rise straight up the canyon and ancient tombs can be found perched on vertical canyon walls. You'll leave Arequipa early this morning for the deepest canyon in the world. The drive takes you back in time, past herds of llamas and alpacas and through 400-year old colonial towns where residents raise potatoes and tend sheep according to the rising and setting of the sun. During your two nights in the canyon at the Colca Lodge take ample time to relax in the hot springs! One morning you'll head to the Cruz del Condor where you'll have your best chance to see the Andean condor. In the afternoon you'll walk along the canyon edge to the pueblo of Cabanaconde for a taste of village life in the Colca.
An optional one-night homestay on Day 2 with a local family is available for travelers wanting to experience the daily and communal life in a Peruvian village. Travelers will return to the Colca Lodge for the night of Day 7. Click here for homestay details.
You'll take a bus to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca where you'll visit the floating islands of the Uros people and stop for the night on Amantaní Island with local families. Share in the hospitality of the Aymara Indians and experience a short day in their lives.
A luxury-class bus takes us from Puno to Cusco. Along the way, enjoy optional visits to the "Sistine Chapel" of Peru and a pre-Incan site, as well as a huge lunch featuring traditional Peruvian cuisine. Entrances to the sites are additional (around $10 per person), but the lunch is on us!
Arrive in Cusco in the early afteroon and enjoy the rest of the day!
You'll test your bargaining skills with the locals while visiting one of the great textile markets in the area. You may hike to the inspiring ruins of Pisac, or take a short walk through the countryside to the seldom-visited town of Maras and its pre-Columbian salt mines (still in use today with salt being collected in traditional fashion) as well as the Inca agricultural terraces of Moray, thought to have been a nursery to experiment with and modify different varieties of crops. Eventually, you will make your way to the living Inca city of Ollantaytambo where you can relax for the night. Relax in front of a fire in the shadow of one of the great Inca citadels.
In the morning, visit the ruins and town of Ollantaytambo. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo served as a royal estate and later a refuge after the Spanish conquered Cusco in 1537. The ruins feature expansive terraces and well-preserved architecture, and the town is still laid out as it was during the Incan empire, allowing its visitors to glimpse the history which still exists within its boundaries.
Board the train and follow the Urubamba River as it tumbles its way towards the Amazon and the sacred city of Machu Picchu, Peru. Tour ancient canals that still bring water from the high mountains to the baths used by Inca priests. As visitors, you are welcomed to respectfully dip your hands in the cool water. After the tours of Machu Picchu, you'll return to the village of Aguas Calientes (located at the base of Machu Picchu). Enjoy one of many excellent local restaurants or end your day soaking in the hot springs after exploring one of the most magical archaeological sites in the world.
Today is your chance to watch the sunrise at Machu Picchu and to listen to the spirits of the city's past inhabitants before the hikers from the Inca Trail arrive. You can choose to book a permit to climb the sacred peak of Huayna Picchu, hike to the Sun Gate which overlooks the ruins or take a walk through the lush cloudforest to the Temple of the Moon. In the afternoon, you'll return by train to Cusco with your guide. (Let us know if you would like help arranging entrance fees or hiking permits for today – these are not included and sell out in advance!)
Today is free to relax and explore with your guide or on your own. Travelers can go on a city tour of the churches and surrounding ruins, such as the enormous Sacsayhuamán ruins that overlook Cusco (these ruins showcase building blocks the size of SUVs). You can also wander through the bustling Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco, shop for love potions in the local markets, or people watch from the cafes and restaurants that line these lovely streets. For those bursting with energy, horseback riding, mountain biking, or even whitewater rafting (Class III-IV) can be arranged.
Travelers will also have the opportunity to visit the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco, a local organization committed to preserving the region's weaving traditions. (If visiting the Sacred Valley on Sunday, you will visit their center in Chinchero instead). Watch weavers demonstrate their craft and learn about the history and processes of Peru's most well-known art form.The evening is yours to take in some of Cusco's varied and exciting nightlife.
$940 single supplement