Opt to trek the 1-Day Inca Trail, an excellent option for those wanting to experience trekking in Peru, but don’t want to do the full four days.. Cusco is a great city to explore on foot. Enter a bygone era as you explore the ancient Incan ruins dotted all over the city. A trip through Peru wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Enjoy a guided tour around the ruins as well as plenty of free time to discover it on your own. Spend a full day exploring the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and Taquile Island, with the chance to meet the local Uru people
There are many sides to South America, from the energy of the cities, the beauty of the lansdcapes and the spirit of its people. Discover it all on this trip that winds through the Inca heartlands and jungles of Peru, the enigmatic cities and natural wonders of Argentina and the dynamism of Brazil’s vivacious Rio. See animals, meet locals, traverse trails and marvel at all the contrasts of this very special corner of the world.
Kick off your adventure in Peru's coastal capital. The tour begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm where you'll meet your tour guide and travel group. Please check the noticeboard near the hotel reception for confirmation of the location of the meeting. After this important meeting, head out on a walking tour of the vibrant Miraflores area with your tour leader. Enjoy free time to explore at your own pace, then perhaps meet back up with the group for an optional dinner. Whether you dine with the group or sample the city's renowned food scene on your own, don't miss sampling Peru's national dish, ceviche (raw rish marinated in lime juice, often served with hot peppers). If you're not a fan of seafood, there are plenty of other excellent options on offer. Ask your tour leader for advice.
Begin the day with a guided walking tour of Lima's historic cenre. Stroll atmospheric streets flanked with ornate mansions, palaces and Spanish colonial churches, taking in Plaza Mayor, the Cathedral of Lima, the San Francisco Monastery and the central market. Your leader will guide you through the market where you'll find vendors selling a variety of fresh produce, as well as more unusual fare like cuy (better know as guinea pig) – a Peruvian delicacy! Sample some local fruits and street food, then head away from the tourist trail and visit Alameda de Chabuca Granda. This pedestrian strip is where Limenos (locals from Lima) go for street food and entertainment. Sample authentic Peruvian desserts here, like mazamorra morada (a sweet porridge made from purple corn) and picarones (Peruvian donuts made from local squash and sweet potato, then drenched in a sweet syrup). Later on, travel by minivan to beautiful Paracas (about four hours).
Wake early and make your way to Paracas' port, where you'll board a boat bound for Islas Ballestas. The islands are home to an abundance of wildlife including pelicans, red-footed boobies, flamingos, sea lions and even penguins. Have your camera handy, as there's a good chance you'll get up close to the wildlife on this 1.5 to 2 hour boat tour. Keep in mind that the port is sometimes closed due to weather conditions between June and September. If this happens during your trip, an alternative land-based tour of the Paracas National Reserve will be arranged instead.
After some awesome wildlife-viewing, hop in a private van and drive one of the world's most mysterious archaeological sites, the Nazca Lines. It's about a three-hour journey, but we may stop at the oasis town of Huacachina along the way. Nazca’s origins date back to the 2nd century BC. Thanks to the dry desert conditions found here, mummies, textiles, ceramics and other relics have been remarkably well-preserved, providing archaeologists with clear snapshots of the highly developed, pre-Inca civilisation that once resided here. Climb to the viewing platform, or perhaps take an optional flight over the lines for the best experience. The flight is 30 minutes long and covers the 26 figures scattered throughout the desert.
Travel about nine hours from Nazca to Arequipa by private vehicle. Standing at the foot of El Misti Volcano and oozing the best of Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cusco for the title of Peru's most attractive city. Built out of a pale volcanic rock called sillar, the old buildings dazzle in the sun, giving the city its nickname - the 'White City'. The main plaza, with its cafes and nearby cathedral, is a lovely place to while away the day.
Get to know this beautiful city with the help of a local guide. Visit the main plaza, Santa Catalina Monastery, San Ignacio Chapel and the suburb of Yanahuara. Afterwards, you're free to explore Arequipa at your own pace. Perhaps return to the main square to take a closer look at its lovely cathedral, cafes and eateries. You may also like to visit the Juanita Museum, which houses Peru’s famous ‘Ice Maiden’, the Inca mummy of a girl who died in the 1440s. Ask your tour leader for other tips on how to make the most of your free day.
Travel by minivan to Puno, a town located on the shores of Lake Titicaca. It's a long drive (about five hours), but the dramatic views of Peru’s highlands, the Altiplano, make it an exceptionally scenic one too. As you approach Puno, stop to pay a visit to the ruins of Sillustani. Tucked between small villages on a beautiful peninsula near Lake Umaya, the pre-Inca ruins are comprised of circular towers called chullpas that served as burial sites for noble men. It's about a 45-minute drive from here to Puno. Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan indigenous culture. Traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented here earning to town the title of Folklore Capital of Peru. If you’re lucky enough to arrive during a festival, you’ll be treated to an elaborate parade of costumes and dances.
Lake Titicaca / Puno
Start the day with a tour of Lake Titicaca. Sitting 3820 metres above sea level, it holds the title of highest navigable lake in the world. Hop in a motorboat and learn about the spiritual significance the lake holds for the Quechua while cruising across its waters. Stop off at Uros Titinos, floating islands made entirely from layers of totora reeds. As you'll find out, the islands are constantly under construction; as the reeds closest to the water begin to rot, more layers are added on top. Reeds are used for making everything on the island, including the boats used to travel to the mainland, which can last up to 12 months. Continue to Taquile Island, where the locals make their livelihood out of textiles. Here, knitting is strictly a male domain, while women doing the spinning. To reach the main part of the island, there is a one-hour uphill trek with great views of the lake. Sit down to an optional set lunch consisting of a local staple – nutritious quinoa soup – washed down with a cup of muna tea (Andean mint tea). After a brief stay, a descent of about 500 steps brings you back to the boat, which will take you back to Puno (about three hours).
Take a scenic bus ride across the Altiplano towards Cusco (about six hours). Cusco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city and here, colonial buildings are built upon foundations remaining from Inca times. Spend a little time acclimatising to the high altitude (3450 metres), then set out to discover some of Cusco's lesser-known sights on a guided walking tour. Visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, San Pedro market, the main square, 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. End the walking tour at Cusco's Chocolate museum where you'll get to sample a decadent cup of hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. There’s a small store where you can browse handicrafts and artisanal chocolate products.
Enjoy a free day in Cusco, the heart and soul of Peru. You may like to visit the city’s many museums and archaeological sites with a boleto turistico (tourism ticket). This includes the Contemporary Art Museum, Regional History Museum, Qosqo Native Art Museum and the Inca ruins of Saqsaywaman, Q'enqo, Pica Pakara, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. The most easily accessible among these sites is Coricancha, which was once the Incan empire's richest temple until the Spanish built a Dominican church on top of it.
Set out by private bus through the Sacred Valley. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the valley has been a source of livelihood to the locals for hundreds of years. You’ll see maize crops covering the terraced valley walls and the sacred river beneath. Just outside Cusco, make a stop to visit the Inca fortress, Sacsayhuaman. Overlooking the city from its hilltop position, the fortress is built out of massive stone blocks and is the ultimate example of the Inca's military strength and engineering ingenuity. For lunch, visit a community that live in the valley and learn about the local lifestyle and language. If it’s market day, you may have the opportunity to browse the local handicrafts such as beads and ponchos. Continue your journey to the town of Ollantaytambo where you’ll spend the night. If there’s time you may like to see the town’s archaeological site, which includes remnants of an Inca city and soaring views over the present-day settlement.
This morning, catch a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes (about 90 minutes). The city is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want a sneak peak, there is time to visit Machu Picchu independently before a guided tour tomorrow. Otherwise, you can while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs at Aguas Calientes.
One-Day Inca Trail:
If you're the active type, you can choose to trek the One-Day Inca Trail today. Keep in mind, you must pre-book this option at least 30 days prior to departure. If you choose this option, the day begins bright and early with a 6:30 am train ride to the starting point. With a local guide leading the way, the trail will lead uphill and downhill, passing a few archaeological sites along the way. See Chachabamba and Winay Wayna (2680 metres), also known as 'Forever Young'. This impressive complex is consider by many to be most impressive site on the whole Inca Trail, and is made up of a terraced argicultural centre, religious sector and urban sector. From here, it's about a one-hour trek to Intipunku (the Sun Gate), where (weather permitting), you'll enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as you enter Machu Picchu. Depending on how long the trek takes, you'll have time to snap some pics and look around before taking a short bus ride down to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) where you'll re-join the group and spend the night at a hotel.
Take an early bus up the winding road to Machu Picchu at 5.30 am. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Another school of thought is that this was an astronomical observatory. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy free time afterwards to wander around on your own before the group returns to Cusco.
Visiting Machu Picchu:
According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted.