Day 1 Arrive Lima
Overnight in Lima.
Day 2 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 3-4 Colca Canyon
- 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
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.
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 5 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 6 Islands of Lake Titicaca
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Depart this morning with your guide to see 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 7 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 8 Journey to Cusco
A luxury-class bus takes you from Puno to Cusco.
Arrive in Cusco in the early afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day!
Day 9 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 10 Ollantaytambo Ruins | Train to Machu Picchu
In the morning, visit the under-rated ruins of Ollantaytambo before the larger groups of tourists arrive. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo served as a royal estate and later a refuge after the Spanish conquered Cusco. The ruins feature expansive terraces, giant building blocks and well-preserved architecture. Even the town itself is still laid out as it was during the Inca empire, allowing its visitors to glimpse the history which still exists within its boundaries.
Board the train late this morning and follow the Urubamba River as it tumbles its way towards the Amazon and the sacred city of Machu Picchu, Peru. After checking into your hotel and enjoying lunch in Aguas Calientes, enter Machu Picchu and begin exploring this amazing site - the former retreat of Inca kings. Walk along 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 walking amongst the massive complex of ruins, receiving a guided tour 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 11 Free Day at Machu Picchu | Return to Cusco
Today you can return to the ruins at Machu Picchu for further exploration. Depending on your preference in permits, return early with the hope to watch the sunrise at Machu Picchu or arrive in time to hike to the top of Huaynapicchu for incredible views of the entire area. Other options within the citadel include the ability to walk the relatively easy routes to the Sun Gate or the Temple of the Moon. Alternatively, just walk among the vast expanse of ruins and listen to the spirits of the city's past inhabitants. (This basic re-entry permit is included in the cost of this tour. Further permits may require additional costs.)
Once you've had your time in the ruins, return to Aguas Calientes to catch an afternoon train toward Cusco. Settle into your hotel or head out on a famous Cusco culinary adventure.
Day 12 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 13 Fly Cusco to Lima | Bus to Paracas
Today catch your flight from Cusco to Lima. Transfer to the Lima bus station and journey by bus with your guide to Paracas (approx. 4 hours). Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure.
Day 14 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.
Overnight at your hotel in Paracas.
Day 15 Paracas | Nazca Lines Over-Flight
Transfer directly from the Paracas bus station to the airport this morning for your flight over the Nazca Lines or wait for the others on the ground. These mysterious lines date back to the Nazca period, between 900 BC and 600 AD. The images of the monkey, hummingbird and lizard are so large that they can only be fully viewed from the air. After you are back on ground, return to Lima by bus and enjoy a night's rest in your hotel.
*If weather does not permit for flights in the morning, they can be scheduled for later in the afternoon.
Day 16 Lima City Tour | Return Home
Today, explore Lima with the opportunity to visit Lima's principal attractions such as the Cathedral of Santa Domingo, the 1535 home of Francisco Pizarro & his descendants, Aliaga House, and Larco Herrera Museum. Enjoy lunch at the museum cafe before transferring to the airport for your flight home.