Day 1 Arrive Lima
Overnight in Lima.
Day 2 Paracas
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 (4 hour bus ride), where the desert meets the ocean. Transfer to your hotel and enjoy the beautiful sunset over the sands of southwestern Peru.
Day 3 Islas Ballestas and Paracas National Reserve
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 (4 hour bus ride).
Day 4 Nazca Lines/ Arequipa
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).
Day 5 Free Day Arequipa
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.
Day 6-7 Colca Canyon
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.
Day 8 Drive to Puno | Lake Titicaca
After breakfast transfer to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approximately 5-6 hours). Feel free to make short stops for photos and village visits along the way. Arrive at mystical Lake Titicaca in the early afternoon. Legend has it that the first Inca rose out of its azure waters. Transfer to your hotel and explore on your own this afternoon.
Day 9 Islands of Lake Titicaca
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Depart this morning with your guide to thet the floating islands of the Uros people. Peru's floating islands are built using the buoyant totora reeds that grow along Lake Titicaca, and these reeds are interwoven to make homes, boats, and crafts.
We continue to Amantani Island, a quiet island known for its hilltop ruins that honor Pachamama and Pachatata (Mother and Father Earth). Here we meet our host families whose generosity is apparent with their open arms (and open doors to their homes) and smiles. Explore this island with your guide and then settle in to share a short day in the lives of the Aymara.
Day 10 Visit Taquile Island | Return to Puno
After breakfast and bidding farewell to your host family, travel to Taquile Island. Climb the steps to the plaza at the center of the island for breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
In the afternoon, return to Puno and relax this evening on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Day 11 Journey to Cusco
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!
Day 12 Journey through the Sacred Valley
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.
Day 13 Ollantaytambo and Train to Machu Picchu
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.
Day 14 Free Day at Machu Picchu. Return to Cusco
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!)
Day 15 Explore Cusco
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.
Day 16 Fly Lima and Return Home