You will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel where you are free to rest in the hotel or just wander around Miraflores, the area of Lima where our hotel is located. Some of Lima's best galleries and shops and restaurants are located in this area. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Lima is the oldest capital in South America, with a superb combination of Spanish Colonial and 19th century European architecture. If you have time to visit a museum we would recommend the brilliant Larco Herrera Museum which also has an excellent onsite restaurant or the Museo de La Nacion or the Larco Herrera Museum. Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Miraflores Centro or similar.
This morning we will be taken on a guided tour of the city, founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. It has a superb combination of Spanish Colonial and 19th century European architecture. We'll also visit the famous Museo de la Nacion or the Larco Herrera Museum - which give us an excellent overview of the Andean cultures. This afternoon we drive down the coast of Peru from Lima in a private vehicle to the vibrant town of Chincha. On the way (if the site is open) we visit the famous centre of the oracle at Pachacamac, which is a superb example of a reconstructed Inca temple site. Many believe this was one of the most important sites in the pre Hispanic world of the Andean peoples. It was home to the great oracle. Overnight in Chincha.
This morning we will drive to the small coastal resort of Paracas. From here we continue towards the Paracas Peninsula where we take small sturdy launches for a 3 hour cruise out to the Ballestas Islands described as Peru's mini-Galapagos a haven for marine wildlife. The bird and seal life here in this protected reserve is impressive. On the way we get a chance to see the huge 'candelabra' - a massive figure of what looks like a giant cactus etched in the huge sand dune. This can only be seen from the sea. We then drive to the desert oasis of Ica before arriving in Nazca where we will spend the night.
The Nazca Lines are located in the coastal desert of Peru and are best described as remarkable and enigmatic. The huge designs etched into the desert by the people of the Paracas and Nazca cultures between perhaps 500BC and 900AD. There are several ways to see the lines and our leader will take us to a fantastic vantage point, a watch tower set high above the desert. Another option is to take an optional overflight. Previously, there were limited civil aviation controls at Nazca and no effective safety authority inspecting aircraft or pilots. The Peruvian airport authority has taken over the running of the small Nazca airport from where all aircraft take off for the overflights of the Nazca Lines which has resulted in much better control of the flight schedules and general flight safety at Nazca. World Expeditions cannot arrange these flights on your behalf and they are not included in the trip cost. We can assist you locally to arrange them however it is important you are aware that you take full personal responsibility for contracting and paying for your own over-flight. These flights take place in small single-engine high- winged aircraft, generally with 10 or 12 seats with their own window. The cost varies between US$50 and US$120 per person for a 30 minute flight (cost depends on demand on the day). Please discuss this with your leader locally should you like to arrange it. In the afternoon, following our exploration at Nazca, we will drive by first class public bus to Arequipa (please note the departure times of the bus may vary).
The city is known as the white city because of the lovely pale volcanic rock that is used for many of its buildings. In the afternoon we take a tour of the city and surrounds including the lovely convent of Santa Catalina.
After an early breakfast we board our private vehicle for a spectacular drive past volcanos to the dry semi-desert where we often see herds of wild vicu a. We spend the rest of the day visiting parts of this massive canyon it is the deepest in the world!
An early start for a drive along the top of the canyon to visit the famous 'Condor's Lookout' where we get a chance to look for these magnificent birds (the heaviest flying bird in the world) gliding below and above us. Since they are wild birds we cannot guarantee sightings but most groups do get to see them. Early in the morning, as the sun starts to heat the air, is the best time to view the condors as they set sail from the rocky valley sides into the thermals. After a last look at the Colca area we depart for the 7 hour drive by private vehicle to Puno set on the shores of Lake Titicaca at 3280m (12,530ft). This is a stunning road journey across high and remote pampas. We get a good chance of seeing vicu as - that most delicate and smallest of the Andean camelids. A picnic lunch will be taken during the journey.
Puno is a typical high Andean town, set on the great altiplano that surrounds the lake and stretches all the way to La Paz. After breakfast we head down to the old lake port with its century old steamers still tied up at the wharf. From here we board small motor boat to cruise out to visit the famous Uros Islands. These islands often given the misnomer of 'floating islands' are in fact tortora reed mats that grow out of the shallower waters of the vast bay of Puno. The islands have for centuries been occupied by the small Uros community who continue their traditional methods of 'farming' and fishing the lake. From here we continue to the islands of either Taquile or Amantani where we spend a night in a local island home. These islands have been occupied by traditional farming communities and spending a night gives us a good chance to learn more about the Andean people and their traditional lifestyles.
After breakfast on the island and a farewell to our hosts we head back by boat to Puno. We continue with the spectacular 6 to 8 hour journey by bus to Cusco. The fact that we travel by private vehicle means we can stop where we wish during this fascinating journey (this is a tremendous advantage over the many companies who use public transport for this unique drive). The road takes us north ascending to the continental divide at La Raya. To the west are the strange peaks of the Carabaya Range as we descend along the great valley below Cusco.
Today we have a guided tour of Cusco and its nearby ruins. The city, once capital of the extensive Inca Empire, has seen many changes since Francisco Pizarro's men took the city with such apparent ease in November 1533. We explore the city by foot to appreciate its superbly constructed Inca walls and architecturally extravagant colonial churches and palaces. This also includes a visit of Koricancha, the Golden Temple of the Sun, in ancient times. After this we take a short drive to visit the monolithic walls of Sacsayhuaman along with Tambomachay, better known as 'the bath of the Inca. Both sites are spectacularly set above the city. In the afternoon you may have time to explore some of the central parts of the city and a chance to look at some of the great varieties of local craft work on sale in open-air artisan markets and shops.
The following morning we start early for the drive to the Sacred Valley. After a briefing from our professional river rafting guides we board our rafts and set off downriver. The rafting is relatively gentle and would best be described as Class 2 rafting. Once we reach the finishing point after approximately 1,5 hours we board our bus to return to the Inca village of Ollantaytambo. Should you prefer not to avail of the rafting option, it is possible to forgo this and return to Ollantaytambo by vehicle to await the return of the group. Please let your reservations consultant know if you would prefer not to raft. You will be without a guide for a few hours though there is plenty to absorb you in Ollantaytambo. This village is famous for its monolithic granite blocks that had been hauled centuries before from the quarries more than 8 kilometres away to become part of an unfinished temple high above the village. The monumental ruins site you'll visit here is definitely the most impressive in the valley. We'll have plenty of time to explore this lovely village and have the opportunity to do some 'tourist shopping', selecting from a variety of expertly made craft work, including alpaca sweaters and hats,ceramics, weavings and traditional Andean instruments. The evening is spent at our hotel in the heart of the valley.
From our hotel, we drive to the railway station at Ollantaytambo where we take an early morning train to Machu Picchu. Our early start ensures we can thoroughly explore these remarkable and truly enigmatic ruins. We will enjoy a guided tour of the sanctuary which lasts 2 hours and at the end, you will have another 2 hours in the company of the guide to explore this fascinating site. We then take a late afternoon bus down to Aguas Calientes, where we spend the night.
This morning we get up early to savour the views and atmosphere of the mystical morning light over Machu Picchu. We are treated to a unique second visit to Machu Picchu including another guided tour visiting the sites that you may have missed yesterday in this colossal sanctuary. After the official tour ends, you will have more time in the company of the guide to continue exploring this incredible site. In the afternoon or early evening we depart from Machu Picchu for the train ride back to Ollantaytambo where we transfer to our vehicle for the drive back to Cusco. Overnight: Casa Andina Cathedral Hotel or similar. NB - depending on train schedules, we may arrive into Cusco very late at night.
OPTIONAL HUAYNA PICCHU CLIMB OR MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN CLIMB - For the more adventurous, you can purchase an additional Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain permit (ask us for costs), and forego the guided tour of Machu Picchu which is non-refundable and non-transferable. Please be aware that this is NOT a guided climb, and it takes minimum 2.5 hours (45 mins up & 45 mins down and some time at the top). Both climbs are very steep (including many small and narrow steps) and can be slippery and are quite very exposed with vertiginous drops. Before purchasing the permit on your behalf (non-refundable and non-transferable), we require any passengers to sign a waiver form. Note - there are limited Huayna Picchu permits and they sell out fast, if you are interested in this option, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
A last day in Cusco before heading home. One could spend weeks exploring this beautiful city and walking its ancient streets. We also enjoy the many markets and shops selling endless varieties of handicrafts that are unique to this part of the world. Cusco has also become something of a gourmet's paradise with many restaurants offering excellent meals prepared with local produce like quinua and quiwicha. In the evening we go out for a farewell meal at one of the many restaurants in the centre of the city with a superb view of the main square. Overnight: Casa Andina Hotel or similar.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport where your trip concludes.