Rediscovering Southern Peru
Peru is a country which never ceases to amaze those who explore it. Whether it is your second or third time visiting our wonderful country, get ready to experience it again as if it were your first time and embark on a journey of rediscovery! We’ll take you along hundreds of kilometers of lesser-travelled routes, from remote Andean communities to the enigmatic citadel of Machu Picchu, through stone forests, canyons, lakes, waterfalls and sacred mountains. Discover the warmth and authenticity of Andean communities, soaking in thousands of years of tales and traditions. Are you ready to expect the unexpected?
- Soft hiking at Huancaya, one of the most beautiful places in Peru
- Visit the bizarre stone forests of Pampachiri
- Stay at charming owner-run properties and meet the locals
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. Once at your hotel, you’ll check-in and then be free to relax and wander around this beautiful part of the city at your leisure. Depending on the time of arrival, we’ll offer plenty of suggestions for you to make the most of your first day in Lima.
When possible, we recommend arriving between 10am and 4pm so that you can enjoy a full afternoon and get an initial feel of our capital city (and maybe try some of its amazing cuisine.
Lima as a Local and journey to Lunahuana
Today, see Lima from a ”Limeño’s” perspective. We’ll be mostly walking but we will also have our transport ready in case you wish to see the historical city center. This is actually a very flexible activity. We’ll pick you up from your hotel in the morning and, based on your interests and our inside knowledge, we’ll plan a fun day in Lima together to ensure we make the most of our time here. A nice combination is always the Larco Museum (best place to offer an introduction to Peru’s history), followed by a visit to the pre-Inca Pucllana Pyramid, and then have lunch at Pucllana’s high-end restaurant (not included). In the afternoon, to save some time on tomorrow’s journey, we’ll leave Lima and head to Lunahuana, a charming village in the Cañete Valley, where we’ll check into our very comfortable riverside hotel. The journey from Lima to Lunahuana should take approximately 2.5 hours.
Reaching the Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve
This morning, after breakfast, we’ll prepare to head to Huancaya, our base town to explore the amazing Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve. From Lunahuana, we’ll be driving east into the mountains, on a beautiful 4-hour ascent to Huancaya. Get those cameras ready, because on route we’ll see how the arid coastal surroundings slowly change into more colourful, rocky landscapes. When approaching Huancaya, we’ll pass the Pikicocha lagoon where can stop to stretch our legs and enjoy a modest (but nonetheless delicious) picnic-lunch, prepared with fresh fruit from the valley. From here onwards, the river forms many lakes and waterfalls, making this is one of the most scenic areas in all of Peru. Upon arrival to Huancaya, we’ll get settled with our hosts, the friendly Lara family, and our day will end with a little exploring around the town’s picturesque cobbled stone streets and colonial bridges.
Hiking through Lagoons and waterfalls
Today we’ll enjoy an easy hike from Huancaya to the wonderful Carhuayno falls and Huallhua lagoon, taking local paths across emerald-green lagoons and clear waterfalls. It’s also quite common to come across local villagers working in their fields and terraces, some of the latter dating back to pre-Inca times and, impressively, still in use today. After a small rest in Carhuayno we can choose to continue walking for another 20 minutes up to the Huallhua lagoon, from where we can enjoy some of the most iconic views of the valley. As a matter of fact, this spot is a favourite for snapping incredible landscape photographs! If we are lucky and the little boat belonging to the local community is available, we can paddle in the Huallhua lagoon to reach the falls of the same name. Afterwards, we’ll have some free time to explore this amazing natural paradise at our leisure. We’ll then enjoy another modest but very tasty picnic-lunch made with local produce from the area (such as potatoes, cheese, corn, etc.) After that, we’ll have some time to relax and in the afternoon, we’ll head to the charming little village of Vilca. Along the route you’ll be delighted to see even more breathtaking views of emerald-green lakes, waterfalls and unbelievably turquoise lagoons. Once at Vilca, we’ll take a bridle path from the village towards the main viewpoints of the area from where we can admire the lovely “Love Forest Cascades” and Papacocha lagoon.
The artisans of the Mantaro valley and Pampas
We’re waking up super early today! We’re crossing the Nor Yauyos Cochas landscape reserve! A 5-hour journey awaits us today, framed by pristine Andean landscapes of countryside, mountains and the occasional small farm. Eventually, we’ll reach the Mantaro Valley, one of the main valleys of the Central Andes. From here, we’re approximately one hour away from Pampas, a green valley on the eastern slopes of the mountain range. At Pampas, we’ll be staying at the Casa Hacienda San Juan, a recently refurbished 19th century country manor which even has its own colonial church.
During the journey we will have the chance to spend some time at the Mantaro Valley, which is home to different artisan villages in its picture-perfect countryside. One of the most interesting ones is Cochas Bajo, where locals specialize in gorgeous carved gourds or “Mates Burilados”, similar to carved pumpkins.
San Juan de Pillo Country Manor and Ayacucho
Today we’ll have all morning to relax and enjoy our stay in San Juan. If time allows it, we could visit the stable and have a look at local dairy production in the village, have a walk through a eucalyptus forest, visit local trout farms or just pick your favorite spot and relax all morning. Then, after an early lunch, we’ll continue our journey to Ayacucho. Today’s drive is approximately 220km of scenic Andean landscape and should take us most of the afternoon. Upon arriving to Ayacucho, we’ll check into our hotel in the city’s Main Square, overlooking its stunning colonial church.
Sondor and journey to Pampachiri
This morning, after an early breakfast, we’ll prepare for our longest day of the trip (don’t worry, it’s well worth the effort!). We’ll try and leave Ayacucho very early and begin today’s activities by driving 260km to Sondor and Pachuca Lake in Andahuaylas. Sondor is quite a peculiar archaeological site. It initially belonged to the Chankas who were probably the Incas’ fiercest rivals. Eventually, the Incas conquered the Chankas and occupied it too. Here, we’ll find a strategically located pyramid and settlement with awe-inspiring views. To one side, we’ll be able to see lake Pachuca and to the other we’ll have the Apurimac canyon in the distance, and even further away we’ll get to see some snowcapped peaks of the Vilcabamba mountain range. We’ll spend some time at Sondor and maybe find a restaurant near Pachuca lake to taste local trout dishes. Then, when ready, we’ll continue our drive as we’ll still have another 135 km ahead of us; once again, the road will take us through high Andean scenery as we reach the small village of Pampachiri in the Pampas Valley. We should be arriving in our small but charming hotel in Pampachiri in the late afternoon.
The bizarre stone forests of Pampachiri
After yesterday’s long journey today we’ll sleep in and have a quiet morning to get some rest. When ready, we’ll set off to the Stone Forest of Pampachiri, one of the most bizarre and, at the same time, impressive landscapes you’ll find in Peru or even South America. We’ll leave the village and head south along the Pampas Valley. This is a small but rather steep valley which traverse very slowly, surrounded by wild and beautiful countryside. Eventually, we’ll enter the stone forest area where, over centuries, volcanic activity has formed bizarre cone-like rocks that vary in size from just a few centimeters to up to 3 or 4-meters in height. The combination of these grey and red cones with blue skies and deep green vegetation growing naturally in the area make this visit remarkably unique. The journey is well worth the effort once you are there! We’ll have plenty of time to explore this fantastic area, with the chance of spotting llamas, alpacas and even vicuña herds in the proximity. Afterwards, we’ll continue our journey for about two more hours to reach today’s hotel near Chalhuanca.
The Apurimac Canyon and the Chonta Viewpoint
Today we’ll continue our off-the-beaten path journey, getting closer to Cusco every day. After breakfast, we’ll get ready for another 195km or road travel. As we leave Tampumayo, we will follow the Pachachaca river all the way to Abancay. During this first part of the journey, if you wish, we can stop to have a look at the remains of the Yaca Hacienda, an old colonial country manor that used to own sugarcane plantations.
After crossing Abancay, we’ll pass by Sayhuite, an interesting Inca carving the resembles a map and the Apurimac river, the official border between the provinces of Apurimac and Cusco. Then we’ll continue our journey until we reach our countryside hotel in Limatambo. We’ll settle in and relax for a while and, in the afternoon, we’ll hike to a local site known as the Chonta viewpoint. It is said that on a clear afternoon, you can see up to twenty condors from this site, however if we are unlucky and don’t get to see them, the general landscape and the snowcapped mountains in the distance are well worth the visit.
Killarumiyoq, Chinchero and arrival to the Sacred Valley
This morning, after breakfast, we’ll finally make our last stride into the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Peru’s most popular attractions, near Cusco. During our 125km drive to our hotel in Ollantaytambo, we’d like to stop to show you two very interesting sites. The first is called “Killarumiyoq” (“Stone that has a moon” in Quechua). This is a small, less visited Inca Site and has some peculiar carvings, including a moon carved on the rock. We’ll spend some time having a look at this site before continuing our travels to Chinchero, a very friendly town where we’ll have the chance to visit a textile workshop. Chinchero women are extremely passionate about their textiles and will happily put on an amazing presentation of how they construct their masterpieces using only camelid and sheep wool, combined with natural dyes such as the cochineal and various plants. Finally, we’ll continue our journey to Yucay, a charming Inca Village where we’ll spend the night. If you feel like it, we’ll have time this afternoon to explore the surroundings a little further; otherwise we’ll simply relax in the village.
The Sacred Valley at leisure
We are finally in the Sacred Valley, the area with possibly the most Inca settlements in all of Peru, and today we’ll have our private transport and guide at our disposal to explore it at our own pace – what a treat! There’s plenty to explore, but when it comes to suggestions, the Maras Salt Flats and Moray Terraces definitely top our list! The picturesque village of Pisac and its colorful market are also an option, or, if you’re in for a little soft adventure, we could to the Urquillos hike. Finally, if you simply want to relax today, we could spend a quiet day at Yucay and go to a nice restaurant for lunch!
Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu
Today is the big day! We’ll be exploring two of the most interesting Inca sites discovered so far. 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 here before returning to Ollantaytambo for the night.
Train ride back to Cusco
This morning, after a long but fun day in Machu Picchu, we can sleep in, and indulge in a late breakfast. When ready, we’ll make our way to Cusco, the old Inca Capital and the next destination in 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.
Time to say farewell
Today, we’ll have some free time to take a last walk around Cusco’s shops and markets and then, when scheduled, it’ll be time to say goodbye to Peru and head to Cusco’s airport to board your flight to Lima and international connecting flights to your next destination.