Highlights of Southern Peru
Enjoy Peru’s unique natural and cultural heritage in a journey of discovery along the main highlights of our country. Arrive to Lima and explore the best that our capital city has to offer. Visit colonial Arequipa and spot condors in the Colca Canyon. Explore Lake Titicaca’s stunning landscapes and traditional communities. Wander in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas before your visit to the beautiful citadel of Machu Picchu, Peru’s crown jewel. Venture into the Amazon Rainforest and finally relax in the sunny coastal deserts Ica and Paracas. Prepare to see the very best of our country!
- Enjoy Arequipa’s exquisite local cuisine
- Sail around Lake Titicaca in your private boat
- Venture into the Amazon’s most biodiverse forests
Welcome to Lima, Peru
Welcome to Peru and Lima! Upon your arrival you will be met by our friendly, English-speaking local representative and together you’ll head to Miraflores in our private transport. After check-in at your hotel, you’ll be free to relax and wander around this beautiful part of Lima at your own pace. Depending on the time of arrival, we’ll offer plenty of suggestions for you to make the most of your first day in Lima.
Note: When possible, we recommend arriving between 10am and 4pm so that you have time to wander a little and get an initial feel of our capital city (and maybe try some of its amazing cuisine)
Lima’s Must See’s
This morning’s activity will take us back in time through the Colonial and Pre-Hispanic stages of Peruvian History. Our first stop we’ll be the Larco Museum. The collection exhibited at Larco features the finest gold, silver and ceramics collection from Ancient Peru and offers the perfect introduction to Peru’s millenary history.
Afterwards, we’ll head to Lima’s Historical City Center to have a look at its majestic architecture. Here we will visit the 16th Century Santo Domingo Convent and have a look at Lima’s main square. We should be returning to our hotel around 1pm, just in time for some lunch!
Getting a taste of Arequipa’s amazing local cuisine
Today, at the coordinated time, we’ll head to Lima’s airport and take a 55-minute flight to the city of Arequipa. If possible we will try to get a seat on the left side of the aircraft as some of the best views of the Andes can be seen by this side of the plane. On arrival, you’ll be received and driven to your hotel together with your local guide who will give you a short introduction about the city. If we arrive before lunch, today we’ll enjoy a traditional Arequipa-style meal, ready for you. We’ll walk to “La Benita” restaurant located within the cloisters of a historic church and taste this region’s exquisite cuisine.
We’ll start today by visiting “San Camilo”, Arequipa’s main Market, founded in 1881. It is here where most “Arequipeños” buy groceries, flowers, clothes, shoes, and other quality items at low cost. After this interesting experience we’ll continue to the city’s main square and the “Compañía” Church, famous for its rich baroque style and the colorful Cúpula of Saint Ignacio. Next, we’ll have a look at “El Tambo La Cabezona”, a 17th century apartment compound constructed in a classical colonial architectural style. Finally, we’ll walk to the Santa Catalina Monastery, a gorgeous 16th Century religious enclosure that was only opened to the public in 1970. This site is a city within a city and is probably the highlight of any visit to Arequipa. Our walking tour will last approximately 4 hours.
Journey to the Colca Canyon
Rise and shine! This morning we’ll wake up early and travel to Chivay in the Colca Canyon. The route is incredibly scenic, offering beautiful views of volcanoes and classic high Andean landscapes. Get your cameras ready – we’ll be crossing Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Park, where it is very common to see wild vicuñas, llamas, alpacas and sometimes even Andean flamingos. We’ll then pass by the volcano viewpoint of Patapampa before descending into the Colca Valley and reaching our final destination, the charming village of Yanque. During the afternoon, we can relax for a while at the hotel and enjoy its magnificent surroundings. Likewise, we may decide to take a walk through the village and visit its picturesque plaza, its colonial church and a local museum where you’ll see a replica of Juanita the Mummy and an exhibition of several colonial churches in the Colca Canyon. If you wish, we can also visit local hot springs today.
The Condors Cross viewpoint
Our second day exploring the Colca Canyon starts with an early journey to the ”Cruz del Condor” (Condor’s Cross) viewpoint, a perfect spot to observe the flight of Andean condors and the depth of the canyon. On bright sunny days, we can usually see up to 10 condors overflying the canyon, barely a few meters away from us, however, it’s a weather dependent activity and if it’s rainy the condors might choose not to appear. After spending some time at the viewpoint, we make our way back to Yanque, stopping on route at some traditional Andean villages and panoramic viewpoints of the canyon. This afternoon, if you wish, you can join a complimentary hike, offered by the hotel, to Oqolle’s Amphitheater (Pre-Inca terraces), the Sifon Bridge (where you’ll see the colcas) and the Uyu Uyu ruins. Before returning to the hotel, you can visit Yanque’s hot springs located on the banks of the Colca River.
Crossing Andean high plains towards Lake Titicaca
Today, you can wake up late and enjoy stunning morning views of the canyon. Then, at the coordinated time, we begin our scenic 6-hour journey by land to Lake Titicaca. We’ll be crossing the heart of the Andeans high plains today. The views are great and a main highlight is the viewpoint at Lagunillas lake. Upon arriving to Puno in the afternoon we’ll check into our lakeview hotel.
Sailing at Lake Titicaca
Get ready for a full day visiting lake Titicaca’s lively communities and enjoying its beautiful landscapes. We’ll start by setting sail at 7am for the floating reed islands of Uros, located just out of Puno Bay in Lake Titicaca. Upon arrival, we’ll disembark on these bizarre, artificial islands to spend some time at an Uros community. We’ll learn about how these islands are built using reeds gathered from the shores of the lake and locals will prepare a presentation on how they used to make a living through fishing and trade (nowadays, its mostly tourism).
Our next stop will be Taquile (11am arrival), a Mediterranean-like island where we’ll have around three hours to explore and relax. We’ll be able to observe how the traditions of Taquileans have been kept alive for centuries. Their colorful clothing as well as their unique knitted and woven textile handicrafts are also spectacular to see. We’ll have lunch in a nice restaurant (not included) overlooking the blue Titicaca Lake and then we’ll walk down the stone stairs that will take us to the dock where we’ll board our boat back to Puno. Arrival estimated at 5:30pm.
Sillustani, Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Today at the coordinated time, we’ll head to Juliaca’s airport to board our flight to Cusco. On route we’ll visit the archaeological site of Sillustani, an enigmatic area full of mysticism and energy, located at the shores of lake Umayo. This short stop will allow us to observe something a bit different to what we’ve seen at Lake Titicaca. We’ll be visiting an amazing burial site made up by huge cylindrical tombs called ”Chulpas”. Most of the tombs date back to Pre-Inca times, however, after the Incas conquered the Pukaras in the XVth century, they continued to build these tower-like tombs. After this tour, we’ll continue to the airport. Upon arriving to Cusco, our local guide will be waiting for us at the airport to continue our journey towards our hotel in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once again, the route is incredibly scenic, with plenty of photo opportunities along the way.
The Sacred Valley at leisure
At last, we are now in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the area with possibly the most Inca sites in all of Peru! Today we’ll be able to explore it at our own pace, with private transportation and an English-speaking guide. You can customize this day to suit your interests, but we suggest visiting the fantastic Maras Salt Flats and Moray Terraces. Other options are to visit Pisac and its colorful market, or, if you’re in for a little soft adventure, we could do the Urquillos hike. However, if you simply want to rest and take it easy, we can set this day free to relax in Yucay and have lunch in a nice restaurant.
Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu
Today is the big day! We’ll be exploring two of the most interesting Inca sites we know of. First, in the early morning, to beat the big crowds, we’ll walk from our hotel to the Ollantaytambo archaeological site, an impressive Inca complex that protected this area from invasions from the Amazon Basin. Ollantaytambo is one of the best examples of Inca architecture we can see nowadays. This should take us roughly around an hour and a half.
Then, at around 10 or 11am, we’ll board the train to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town). The train journey is a spectacle in itself as we’ll be able to appreciate the changing landscape from green fields and eucalyptus forests to lush jungle, always travelling besides the meandering Urubamba River. Upon arriving to Aguas Calientes, we’ll head to the nearby bus station to take a 20-minutes bus up the steep, zigzagging road to Machu Picchu Citadel, located on an impressive mountain setting.
Ideally we would like to be at the entrance gate to Machu Picchu between 1 and 2pm. This will give us plenty of time for our 2 to 3-hour guided excursion in which we’ll explore just about every corner of the famous citadel. We like to visit Machu Picchu in the late afternoon because it is the time with the least crowds and therefore the best experience!
Machu Picchu closes at 5pm, time at which we’ll take our bus back to Aguas Calientes. We’ll have a little more than an hour to relax and maybe have a snack there before returning to Ollantaytambo for the night.
Note: We like to organize our visits this way because we think they offer the best experience however, if you prefer to have more time in Machu Picchu to maybe take one of its optional hikes, we could also visit Ollantaytambo the day before and therefore take an earlier train to spend the entire day at the famous citadel. Please note that if you prefer this, we need to know by the time of booking.
Train ride back to Cusco
This morning, after a long but fun day in Machu Picchu, we can sleep in and have a late breakfast. When ready, we’ll make our way to Cusco, the old Inca Capital and another highlight of our trip. The journey to Cusco takes roughly about 2 hours. Cusco is one of the most interesting cities in Peru and South America. We’ll have most of today to explore the streets, plazas and markets of this UNESCO World Heritage City at our own pace.
Cusco at leisure
Today is all about relaxing and enjoying this marvelous city! Upon request, we have plenty of recommendations and additional activities for you to enjoy today.
Entering the Amazon Rainforest
This morning, we’ll head to the local airport to board our flight to Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to Peru’s Southern Amazon and the Tambopata National Reserve. On arrival, we’ll be welcomed by our local guide and head to our nearby office to drop off our excess luggage, register, and do some last minute shopping.
Then, we’ll head to the small port in the Inferno Community, about 1 hour away, where we will embark on our one-and-a-half-hour boat trip up the Tambopata River, in which we might appreciate vegetation and also see some wildlife. Once at out lodge, we’ll be shown the facilities and briefed on the “dos and don’ts” in the rainforest. This afternoon we’ll go for a short walk to observe some local flora such as Ironwood or Kapok trees and maybe birds such as Trogons, quails and wild turkeys.
Important note: We recommend to book flights arriving at Puerto Maldonado before 12:30 hrs. On your departure day, you will be arriving at Puerto Maldonado at 10:30 hrs. approx.
Las Torres parakeet Claylick and Tres Chimbadas Lake
This morning, we’ll leave at dusk and travel fifteen minutes upriver to observe macaws, parrots, parakeets and the occasional mammal feeding at La Torres parakeet Clay Lick. We will have breakfast upon returning to the lodge. After a short rest, we’ll go fifteen minutes downriver to the beginning of the trail to Tres Chimbadas Lake. It’s a 45-minute walk to reach the lake, and once there, we will board a traditional catamaran to explore it. With some luck, we’ll probably spot snakebirds, herons and kingfishers, perhaps reptiles, mammals, and, if we are lucky, elusive giant river otters! It’s also possible to practice “catch and release” fishing and maybe even catch a piraña. We will be back at our lodge for lunchtime and, after having another rest, we’ll visit a local farm, an area where traditional agriculture is practiced. This is a great opportunity to see, harvest and try various exotic fruits from the amazon, aromatic herbs and medicinal plants widely used by locals.
Las Torres Lake
Today, we’ll go on our Las Torre lake excursion. We’ll take a boat for about fifteen minutes upriver and disembark at the Las Torres Park rangers post and continue by foot. The trek will take us between four and five hours. It’ll turn more interesting with every step, as our local guide tells us about the surrounding plants and their practical and medicinal uses and preparation. We will also get to a mammal clay lick deep inside the rainforest called Solitaria clay lick. It’s the last of a number of clay licks coming from the south and we can frequently spot peccaries, brocket deer and sometimes even tapirs. At night, we’ll head out on a boat trying to spot some nocturnal animals such as caimans, bats, nightjars or capybaras, on the banks of the Tambopata River.
Goodbye Amazon, hello Ica desert
After breakfast it’s time to say goodbye to our Amazonian friends. This morning, we’ll board our boats to return to Puerto Maldonado where we’ll pass by our office to collect any baggage we might have left, and then continue to the local airport to board our flight to our next destination, the sunny deserts of Ica and Paracas.
You actually need to fly to Lima to reach Paracas. From Lima Airport, we’ll make our way south for approximately 250km towards Paracas Bay where we’ll check into our beautiful seaside hotel. Paracas is the gateway to the Ica desert and Paracas Nature Reserve.
Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve
This morning we’ll board fully equipped speedboats to the Ballestas Islands from the hotel pier. Nicknamed the “Little Galapagos”, the islands are literally booming with marine wildlife, so be prepared to see Humboldt penguins, sea lions and other marine bird species along the way. On route, our boat will make a stop to observe the ”The Chandelier”, a huge, enigmatic figure against a sandy backdrop that can only be seen from the sea. Upon returning, we’ll drive to the nearby Paracas National Reserve, one of Peru’s most important Natural Reserves. Here we will drive to the main local viewpoints for great views of its ocean and desert landscapes. If you wish, we can also have lunch (not included) in the tiny fishing village of ”Lagunillas” were you will find some amazingly fresh seafood.
Today, you’ll have all morning to relax next to the ocean and make full use of the excellent hotel facilities. Then, at the coordinated time, we’ll head back to Lima Airport in order for you to catch your international flight home.