Overview

Southern Peru is home to the most famous Peruvian destinations and receives thousands of travelers every year. Visiting these sites, however, can also be done in a much more authentic manner. Let us help you change classic into unique and rediscover these famous destinations in our very own Peruvian Soul style! Let’s go together through the back roads of Peru, discovering its countless secrets along the way. Reach off-the-beaten-path villages, walk across waterfalls, and be part of our oldest Andean traditions in a fantastic drive through the Central Andes from Lima to Machu Picchu. If you are the kind of person who enjoys waking up at dawn or driving a little farther to reach places others can’t, this is the trip for you.

Why we love this trip!

  • Hike through lagoons and waterfalls in the Nor Yauyos Cochas Scenic Reserve.
  • Be amazed by the finest artwork of local artisans at Ayacucho and the Mantaro Valley.
  • Visit the Amantani Island at Lake Titicaca and learn about their Andean Lifestyle.

Itinerary day-by-day

Day 1: Welcome to Lima, The City of the Kings

Welcome to Peru and Lima! Upon arrival, our local staff will greet you and transfer you to your hotel in Miraflores, where you are free to relax and wander around at your own pace. Depending on your arrival time, we have plenty of suggestions for you to make the most of your first day in the city. After check-in, we’ll hand you your travel kit and have a short briefing to answer any last-minute questions.

Day 2: The Must-Sees of Lima & Journey from Lima to Lunahuana

Today, we take you back in time through the prehispanic and colonial stages of Peruvian history. First, we visit the beautiful Larco Herrera Manor, a fantastic museum that features the most exceptional exhibits from ancient Peru. Then, we head to Lima’s historic city center to enter a 16th-Century convent and have a look at Lima’s main square. This way, you will see both sides of Peru, our Andean ancestry, and our Hispanic legacy, a perfect introduction to the country. In the afternoon, we leave Lima and head south towards Lunahuana, in the Cañete Valley. We will stay at a charming riverside hotel in this small village. You can maybe try some local river shrimp for dinner tonight.

Day 3: Scenic Journey from Lunahuana to Huancaya & The Love Forest

Early this morning, set off into the Andes to Huancaya, our base town, to explore the surreal Nor Yauyos Cochas Scenic Reserve. It will be a beautiful 5-hour drive into the mountains. On route, we’ll see how the arid coastal surroundings slowly change into colorful landscapes. Nor Yauyos Cochas is one of the most breathtaking places you will ever see in Peru. Its meandering river forms a continuity of turquoise lagoons and waterfalls that flow across fields, bush forests, and towns. This afternoon we will visit the village of Vilca, from where we’ll begin a one-hour hike to the spectacular Papacocha waterfall. Locals know this area as Love Forest Cascades because of its romantic beauty.

Day 4: Hike from Huancaya to Carhuayno Falls & Hualhua Lagoon

Once the sun warms us up this morning, we’ll begin a soft hike to the Carhuayno falls and Hualhua lagoon. We’ll be taking a local path following the emerald lagoons and waterfalls formed by the cañete river. It’s quite common to bump into locals working in their fields and terraces, some of which go back to pre-Inca times and are still in use.

We’ll first reach the Carhuayno falls, where we can rest. After, we can continue walking for another 20 minutes to reach the Hualhua lagoon, from where we have fantastic views of the valley. If we are lucky and the little boat of the community is available, we’ll be able to paddle in the lagoon to reach more amazing falls on the other side.

Day 5: Farewell Pachamanca in Laraos & Journey to the Mantaro Valley

The village of Laraos is a unique Andean town surrounded by thousands of terraces that make it look like a gigantic amphitheater. At this amazing location, we’ll take part in a Pachamanca, a traditional culinary experience in the mountains of Peru. Pachamanca is a cooking technique where the food is prepared underground using hot stones and leaves to separate the ingredients from the soil. This dish is a very symbolic meal in which we interact with the Pachamama or Mother Earth. We’ll be participating in the entire process, from harvesting to finding the right herbs and stones. Finally, we’ll enjoy this farewell meal before continuing our journey to our next destination, the Mantaro Valley.

Day 6: The Artisans of the Mantaro Valley & Drive to Pampas

The Mantaro Valley is one of the most extensive and most fertile valleys of Peru. It is also home to some of our most famous artisans. We’ll visit Cochas Chico, a small village where we will meet Eulogio Medina, one of the most recognized and talented artisans in the region. He will show us how he carves and burns designs into dried squash shells to produce fantastic pieces of art we call Mates Burilados. After the visit, we continue to Pampas, where we’ll be staying at the Pamuri Andes Lodge, a beautiful country manor surrounded by eucalyptus forests and farms.

Day 7: The Accos Inca Trail & Pampas Exploration

Let’s enjoy the Andes to their fullest! We’ll start our day with a hike along a segment of the Inca Trail located in the Atocc community. This three-and-a-half-hour trail is part of the 32,000 km road network built by the Incas, which we call Qhapaq Nan. These roads crossed mountains, deserts, and forests connecting an Empire that reached from southern Colombia to northern Chile and Argentina. The afternoon is free to enjoy the surroundings or, if you wish, join any of the local activities Pamuri Andes Lodge. You can choose from yogurt and cheese making, tree climbing, mushroom harvesting, or a warm and cozy campfire. You can request any of those activities at the lodge.

Day 8: Scenic Drive from Pampas to Ayacucho

Pamuri Lodge produces its milk, cheese, yogurt, and more, so breakfast here is quite a treat! After a tasty breakfast, we must say goodbye to hosts at Pamuri and start our journey to our next destination, Ayacucho. At this point, we will have crossed Junin, Huancavelica, and Ayacucho, three regions in the heart of Peru’s Andes that are rarely visited by travelers. However, they are home to much of our local culture and some fantastic scenery. From Pampas, we must drive 220km through the mountains. It will take us most of the morning. Upon arriving at Ayacucho, we’ll check into our hotel in the city’s Main Square, and have the rest of the day to rest and self explore.

Day 9: Discovering the Artwork of Ayacucho

Ayacucho is well-known for its fantastic artwork. After breakfast, we’ll meet Marcial Berrocal, a skilled artisan from Sarhua, a town where the tradition of gifting painted beams to the newly wedded continues. These beams are a symbol of friendship and depict their families and local activities. Marcial will show us how to make small Sarhua beams, which we can then take with us. Afterwards, we head to Quinua, a small town famous for its pottery. Here, we will visit the Limaco workshop to learn how to prepare their traditional pieces. Finally, we return to Huamanga, and if you feel like it, we can visit the Joaquin Lopez de Antay Workshop and Museum to learn about the famous Retablo Ayacuchano.

Day 10: Scenic drive to Andamarca, Pachapupum Thermal Springs & Scissors dancers

Andamarca, our next destination, is a small village enclosed by the mountain’s history-rich Sondondo Valley. To reach it, we must cross some dramatic Andean scenery on a five-hour journey. On route, we will make a stop at Pachapupum, a bizarre thermal formation in the shape of a volcano. There are some rustic but beautiful thermal springs here, where we can relax for a while. We’ll be arriving in Andamarca this afternoon and check in to our basic but lovely hotel in the center of the village. Hundreds of pre-hispanic terraces surround this town that locals still rely on for agriculture. Tonight, we will enjoy a marvelous display of the local culture by traditional Danzaq or Scissors dancers.

Day 11: Mayobamba’s Condor Viewpoint & Andamarca Terraces

A 30-minute morning drive will take us to the Mayobamba Viewpoint. From here, we have commanding views of the valley and steep surrounding mountains that make this site perfect for Andean Condors. We enjoy picnic breakfast here while gazing at these birds flying right in front of us. A little later, we’ll set off on a 3-hour hike to the top of the mountain terraces surrounding Andamarca. As we walk, we’ll learn about the prehispanic peoples that inhabited the area and the Inca occupation. Finally, if you still have energy, we can visit Caniche, a large pre-Inca site located only 5 minutes away from the town square. To top it all off, we’ll have a farewell pizza dinner tonight.

Day 12: Journey to the Surreal Stone Forest of Pampachiri

Prepare for another amazing drive through the remote Andes to Pampachiri in the Andahuaylas region. Once in town, settle in your cozy hotel in this small village to rest for a while. Then, when ready, we’ll set off to visit the Stone Forest of Pampachiri, one of the most surreal landscapes we’ll ever find in Peru. Here, volcanic activity over centuries has formed bizarre cone-like rocks that vary in size from just a few centimeters up to 4-meter. The combination of the grey and red cones with blue skies and deep green vegetation growing naturally in the area makes this visit unique. We’ll have time to explore the area and maybe spot llamas, alpacas, and even vicuñas here.

Day 13: The Apurimac Canyon & The Chonta Viewpoint

Our beautiful off-the-beaten-path journey is bringing us closer to Cusco every day. This morning, we prepare for the longest day of our trip, but don’t worry; it’s well worth the effort! As we leave the Pampampachiri, we’ll follow the Pachachaca river towards Abancay. We’ll pass by Sayhuite and reach the Apurimac river before crossing into the Cusco region. Finally, we’ll reach the warm and sunny Limatambo valley where we’ll rest at our country house hotel for a while. This afternoon, hike to a local site known as Chonta viewpoint. If lucky, we can see up to twenty condors flying over the canyon here. However, the canyon views alone are already well worth the visit.

Day 14: Drive to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Killarumiyoq & Ñaupa Iglesia on route

Finally, we’ll reach the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Peru’s most popular attractions near Cusco today. However, we will show you some alternative points of interest along the way. We first stop at Killarumiyoq (moonstone in Quechua). This small Inca site has some unique rock carvings you won’t see elsewhere. We then continue into the Sacred Valley through the Pachas river. On route, there is one more forgotten site worth seeing. It is an old altar finely carved into the bedrock in a small cave on one of the slopes of this narrow valley. The quality of the carving is quite impressive, and the whole place feels sacred. Very few people come here.

Day 15: Ollantaytambo Fortress & Machu Picchu

We begin today by visiting Ollantaytambo. This charming village has not changed much since Inca times. Besides it, we have the Ollantaytambo archaeological site, a place with impressive Inca stonework only seconded by Machu Picchu. Next, we’ll head to the Ollantaytambo train station to board our train to Aguas Calientes. Upon arriving, we’ll take a 30-minutes bus up the steep zigzagging road to Machu Picchu Citadel, located on an impressive mountain setting. Once there, begin your grand tour of the most famous place in all of Peru. The afternoon is the best time to visit the site as most travelers should already be leaving at this point.

Day 16: Train to Ollantaytambo & Textile workshops at Parobamba

After a fun day in Machu Picchu, today, we can sleep in and have a late breakfast. When ready, we will take the train back to Ollantaytambo and continue to Cusco. On route, we’ll make a stop at Calca and visit the local workshop by the Parobamba community. They specialized in textiles weaving, and UNESCO recognized them for it. Our hosts will share with us their traditional weaving techniques using waste looms, camelid fibers, and natural dyes. The quality of the garments they produce and the variety of colors they obtain from nature is mind-boggling. After this exceptional experience, we continue our return journey to Cusco.

Day 17: Cusco Walking City Tour

Strap on your walking shoes and prepare for a soft stroll around Cusco’s historic center. Our walking city tour will take us not only through the most touristic sites in Cusco, such as the Main Square, Cathedral, and Koricancha, also known as Temple of the Sun. You will walk along ancient streets, local markets, and old neighborhoods where you will discover the magic of Cusco. This hike is the perfect way to get a more authentic feel of this fantastic city and its people.

Day 18: Scenic Drive Journey to Cuatro Lagunas, Qeswachaca & Tambo Queque Norte

It is now time to head to another famous region, Puno. As always, we have an alternative route with hidden places to show you see. We’ll pass by Oropesa, where they make Chuta bread, a tasty local sweet bread sold in most markets in Cusco. We then enter Cuatro Lagunas (four lagoons), where potato fields and mudbrick houses surround colorful lakes which are home to flamingos and other migrant birds. This path leads us to Qeswachaca, the last remaining Inca bridge. The locals rebuild this fiber-woven bridge that crosses the Apurimac River in a yearly festival. Finally, we arrive at Tamboqueque Norte, a cozy colonial country manor where we’ll spend the night.

Day 19: Tinajani Canyon, Tarukani & Sailing to Amantani Island

From Tambo Quequenorte, we drive today towards Lake Titicaca and the Capachica peninsula. Our scenic route crosses the reddish rock formations of the Tinajani Canyon and an area called Tarukani, famous for its Puyas Raymondi. Puyas are endemic plants that only grow on shrubby and rocky slopes in the highlands. Some of them can grow up to 12 meters, have 8000 flowers, and produce over 6 million seeds! Once at Capachica, on the shores of the famous Lake Titicaca, we’ll board our boat towards Amantani Island. Upon arriving, our local hosts will welcome us and invite us to their homes where we’ll spend the night. We’ll spend the afternoon exploring this beautiful Island with our new friends.

Day 20: Exploring the Amantani Island & Traditional Huatia

Amantani island has no cars or roads, the locals that live here walk to their farms and villages along well-maintained trails that connect the island. Today, we’ll continue to explore the island and learn from the local way of life. This morning, hike to the ceremonial sites of the island, Pachatata and Pachamama, from where we have 360° panoramic views of this vast lake. For lunch, we can prepare a Huatia, a simple but tasty traditional Peruvian food from the countryside. To make it, locals build a small mud-brick oven next to their fields in which they prepare their recently harvested produce. This evening, we’ll join a local offering ceremony for the Pachamama.

Day 21: Leaving Amantani & Flight back home

You will have the morning free to enjoy some relaxing time at the shores of the lake or venture into other activities. For example, you can hike a little further along the countryside overlooking the lake or join your host family in their daily activities if you are feeling curious! After a farewell lunch, it’s time to say goodbye and take our motorboat back to Capachica. From here, we’ll drive you to Juliaca’s airport to board your flight back home.

What’s included?

  • Personalized attention before and throughout your trip.
  • Brief presentation prior departure.
  • All transfers and transports.
  • Entrance fees.
  • Local English-speaking guide focused on personalized trips.
  • Accommodation at well-thought hotels according to your travel style.
  • Mentioned meals.

What’s not included?

  • Services not specified in the program, extras & tips.
  • Domestic flights.
  • International flights.
  • Travel Insurance.

    Inquire about this trip

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