On arrival in Lima you will be picked up and a transferred to your hotel. The day is free to spend at your leisure. Known as the City of Kings, Peru’s capital city Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany) in 1535. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of old Lima, and it is here you find the Cathedral, Government Palace and Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral dates back to the 1700s and houses the remains of the conquistador Pizarro. To get a feel for colonial Lima, take a cab to the Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the Palace Guard in the afternoon. Walk the streets surrounding the Jirón de la Unión for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to get a taste for life in a large South American city. There are many fine museums in and around the city, including the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which houses an equally impressive collection of pottery, mummies and textiles from the Paracas and Nazca cultures. An optional city tour visits many of the city’s highlights. The more affluent districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, which are on the coast, offer good nightlife and cafés all within walking distance. Limeños (Lima’s residents) are friendly, and the city is filled with excellent restaurants; seafood lovers in particular should be sure to try a ceviche, for which Lima is well known. Note: If you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Theme Pack, your Lima cooking class can be today or on day 17 and the Cuzco cooking class will be on one day 12. As this pack does not include extra on-trip time in Lima, it is necessary to bundle it with a pre- or post-trip stay.
Today will begin very early, to give us time to eat breakfast and catch our flight to Iquitos, where we’ll transfer to our Amazon River ship, our privately chartered home for the next seven days. But before boarding, we get acquainted with this jungle port city an orientation tour. This is the country’s main river port, established in 1864 in the heart of rubber country on the Amazon’s deep waters. Like any port, it has a hustle-bustle feel, yet it is not without its places of quiet and shaded retreats. Much of the architecture we see is a 19th-century vestige of the era when European commercial barons held sway over life and culture here. And while Iquitos has seen many fortunes rise and fall, its isolation has remained constant: access to the city is by air or river only. We will also make a brief stop at the Amazonian Manatee Rescue Centre. The Amazonian Manatee is very rare and endangered mammal unique to the Amazon Jungle. This centre focuses on rescuing orphaned manatees who have been victims of poaching. The centre helps rehabilitate and reintroduce these wonderful creatures back into the Amazon Basin. Here you will have a see the efforts of the rescue centre as well as have the opportunity to feed these amazing and loveable animals. Once on board ship, you can just relax and let the wild rainforest surround you. Step out on deck to watch the riverbanks go by—but keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as gray and pink dolphins. Our ship casts off and wends its way to the confluence of the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers. Here, it is generally (but not universally!) considered that the Amazon River begins, at least in name. Approximate Distance: 1020km Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours
After breakfast, we have an excursion on the Amazon and some of its tributaries to see the wonders of the rain forest. This is our chance to see monkeys, sloths, and a variety of birds. Back onboard , we’ll gather for lunch, followed by a presentation on the Amazon River. Afterwards, we’ll walk along the shores of the Ucayali River, located in the Yucuruchi region of the Amazon. Here we’ll have an opportunity to see the Victoria Regia water lily—a gigantic aquatic plant
Today we rise early to visit the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve for a full day of discovery in Peru's largest national park. Then, keep your eyes wide open and your binoculars at the ready to catch sight of cocoi heron and striated herons, colorful macaws, squirrel and woolly monkeys, caimans, sloths and many more primate, bird and mammal species. Current counts record more than 200 bird species and 10 primate species within its boundaries. Our route takes us over the tributary waters of the Marañon. Along the way, our guides will point out the interesting wildlife species that inhabit the riverbanks—not to mention unusual fish and vegetation in the river. Back onboard, we'll gather for breakfast followed by a presentation on the life, history, and culture of the Amazon's main tribes. After lunch, we have an introductory discussion about shamanism that will help us understand the traditions of the rain forest people. Our ship then arrives in the Amazon Natural Park where we'll take a short walk to the Enchanted Lake. Board a 'skiff' (local boat) and travel down the river listening to the local birdsong and keeping our eyes peeled for different animal species found in this area. Before dinner, we'll touch upon the spirit realm, paying a visit to a local shaman. Mystic ... minister ... healer—one might consider a shaman to be "all of the above." But to understand shamanism requires something of a leap of faith, a leap into the spirit world that is the shaman's domain. Shamanism is practiced around the globe, and is universally distinguished by a trance state called shamanic ecstasy. In these "out of body" travels, the shaman enlists denizens of the spirit world to help him with a variety of duties, from healing the sick to assisting a deceased person's soul into the afterworld—and all the while, the shaman remains conscious. Before you leave the Amazon jungle, you'll gain rare insight into the complexities of this phenomenon when you meet an actual practicing shaman in a river village. He'll introduce us to his spiritual healing craft and tell us about rain forest plants that indigenous peoples have for untold centuries held to possess curative properties. Your experience may not be "out of body," but it's sure to be out of the ordinary.
The early morning offers another opportunity to watch the world awakening in the rain forest. Perhaps you'll spy iguanas, river turtles, cormorants, or wattled jacana during this excursion. We return to our riverboat and prepare to meet a local Indian family. They will welcome us into their home to share conversation over the midday meal, introducing you to their culture, costumes, and way of life. This is a rare and unforgettable opportunity to gain new insight into a world truly apart from our own. Be sure to be well rested, so that you won't miss our late-night excursion to discover who comes out at night in the jungle! As we join our Trip Leader for a nighttime boat ride in the wild, be on the lookout for mammals, bats, and reptiles such as capybara, black caiman, poison frogs, and a vast number of other species.
Today we rise early and set out to explore the impressive biodiversity of this unusual ecosystem. We’ll look for a quiet spot to enjoy our picnic breakfast, followed by a trip to explore Choroyacu. We’ll also ride up the Nahuapa River for a little fishing expedition. What’s biting? Piranhas, of course! Reputedly “the most ferocious fish in the world” (to quote Teddy Roosevelt), piranha are a dietary staple for many of the Amazon rain forest’s indigenous people. While fearsome, they’re also esteemed as some of the best eating fish in South America. They have a light, nutty-tasting flesh that lends itself wonderfully to any number of cooking methods, which we’ll discover when we cast our lines today. Piranha aren’t terribly selective about what they eat, making piranha fishing fairly easy. No hand-tied flies or special casting technique required. It’s often enough just to drop a line—usually baited with raw meat or chicken—where they’re swimming. We will also visit Choroyacu Creek where we’ll have the opportunity to climb in a dugout canoe and explore this scenic area with the locals. After lunch, you’re invited to plunge into the river for a swim, perhaps sharing the water with some pink or grey river dolphins. Back onboard, we’ll enjoy a video about the flooded forest. Then we can kick up our heels as we learn a local dance. We’ll have another chance to witness the nocturnal life of the rain forest after dinner this evening, as we venture out in small boats onto the Marañon River. Perhaps our flashlights will reflect the red eye shine of the black caiman—or even the glowing yellow eyes of a jaguar!
This morning, we’ll call on the town of Nauta, where the Ucayali and the Marañon—the major headstreams of the Amazon—join together. On our included tour, we’ll ride the local motorcars and browse the local market. You’re welcome to try your hand at bargaining! Continuing on our way, we visit the Sapisapi River to look for charapas and turtles. The river has given up its secrets—or at least some of them. Tonight, we’ll celebrate our discoveries at our Farewell Dinner and Party, complete with live music, aboard our ship.
Disembark at Iquitos. We will transfer to the Iquitos airport for our flight back to Lima. Once arriving in Lima you will be met by a G Adventures representative and transported to your hotel. Spend a night in the City of Kings and enjoy a Pisco Sour or try some Peruvian ceviche! In the evening you will meet your G Adventures CEO who will accompany you for the remainder of the journey to Cusco and Machu Picchu.
Fly to Juliaca and take a short bus ride to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Afternoon free to come to terms with high altitude. The next morning we board our comfortable 35 foot fully equipped speed boat to explore the Taquile and/or Amantaní Island. En route, we stop on the floating reed islands of the Uros people. Located at 3830 m above sea level, Puno is the highest altitude of any place we sleep on the tour. As a result the weather can be extreme with very cold nights and a strong sun during the day (don’t worry, if you get cold, buy an alpaca sweater from the market —they are inexpensive). Puno is also known for its wealth of traditional dances: there are up to 100 different varieties, usually performed in the street processions celebrating Catholic feast days. If you are fortunate enough to be visiting at the right time you may even catch one of these celebrations. Titicaca is also the largest lake in the world above 2000m, and the views from both Amantaní and Taquile Islands are stunning. Our first stop on Lake Titicaca is the floating islands of the Uros people. The Uros began their unusual floating existence centuries ago in an effort to isolate themselves from the Colla and Inca tribes. Sadly, the Uros language has died out, and today the islanders speak Aymara due to intermarriage with Aymara-speaking clans. Today about 300 families live on the islands, however their numbers are slowly declining. The Totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake are used for making everything from the islands themselves to the model boats that the islanders sell. The islands are made up of layers upon layers of reeds; as the layers closest to the water start to rot, they are replaced with fresh reeds on top. The reeds are also used to build their boats, which if constructed well will last up to 6 months. The people of Taquile Island’s unique culture, style of dress and lifestyle make for a memorable visit. The men of the community do all the knitting, as this is strictly a male domain, while the women do the spinning. High quality, locally knitted goods are available for purchase at various cooperatives on the island. Despite the short distance that separates the two islands, Amantaní is quite distinct. Its soil is a rich terra cotta red, due to the high iron deposits, and the colour contrasts brightly with the deep azure blue of the lake and sky and the greenery of the local crops. Approximate Distance: 856km Estimated Travel Time: 4.40 hours
The trip from Puno to Cuzco by private vehicle takes the better part of the day, with stark, beautiful scenery en route as you travel through the high Altiplano region. Our late afternoon arrival at the hotel is followed by a short familiarization walk around the Plaza de Armas (main square) and free time to explore this city steeped in one of the world's most alluring and ancient cultures. An evening briefing and dinner together before returning to your hotel prepare us for tomorrow's numerous activities. Day 12 allows you to pick optional activities according to your interest. They include horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking or visits to Incan ruins around town. Note: If you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Theme Pack, your Cuzco cooking class will be in the afternoon of Day 12 and the Lima cooking class will be on Day 17 (departure day). As this pack does not include extra on-trip time in Lima, it is necessary to bundle it with a pre- or post-trip stay. Cuzco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts travellers who come not just to visit a unique destination but also to experience an age-old culture very different from their 20th century way of life; one could easily spend a week just in and around the area. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other major Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend. Every year Cuzco attracts thousands of travellers who come to delve into its noble but tragic past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations around the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. Relax and explore this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude. Cuzco’s numerous colonial churches are one of the city’s most common sights. The Cathedral was started in 1559 and took 100 years to build; it is also one of the city’s greatest repositories of colonial art. Immediately in front of the entrance is a vault containing the remains of the famous Inca historian, Garcilaso de la Vega. Also worth visiting are the churches of La Compañía, La Merced and San Francisco. The city itself offers many museums, shops, churches, cathedrals and so much more to pass the day away. An evening of rustic restaurants, local cuisine, fine dining or anywhere in between are available here as well. Eat, drink and enjoy as little or as much as you like on this last night in Cuzco. While most ruins are just outside of the city, the main ruin within is that of the Coricancha, once the Inca Empire's richest temple. Today the ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors this incredible wealth had all been melted down. It is left to the individual imagination to envision the magnificence of the original structure. There are several good museums in Cuzco, including the Archaeological Museum, which also houses a small art museum, the Regional History Museum and the Religious Art Museum. Our best advice for exploring Cuzco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore! Approximate Distance: 389km Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours
Travel with our local guide through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Visit the impressive Pisac ruins and the colourful artisan market (market days only). The day trip finishes in the picturesque village of Ollantaytambo, site of another large Inca ruin. The town and fortress of Ollantaytambo are strategically situated overlooking the beautiful Urubamba River Valley. This major ruin site is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and engineering. It is admired for its huge steep terraces guarding the Inca Fortress and for being one of the few places where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest. We spend the night in this small town before heading out towards Machu Picchu the next morning. Approximate Distance: 95km Estimated Travel Time: 2.30 hours
We board a morning train that winds through the steep Urubamba Valley to its final destination of Aguas Calientes. Relax in the natural mountain hot baths that gave the town its name. For serious archaeology buffs, there is time for an optional independent visit to Machu Picchu before the guided tour the following morning. *Please note: those who have pre-booked and purchased the "1-day Inca Trail" hiking option will disembark the train at km 104 to begin the trek. The trail rises steeply up into the mountains and will take hikers past the archaeological sites of Wiñay Wayna and Inti Pata, where the local guide will provide insights into the fascinating culture of the Incas en route to the trek's culmination at Machu Picchu. Enjoy a packed lunch along the way and reach the Sun Gate in the late afternoon with a chance for a preliminary exploration of Machu Picchu before the guided tour on Day 15. Transfer by bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes to rejoin the group and spend the night in a hotel. If time permits, take an optional visit to the nearby hot springs to soak the sore muscles. Approximate Distance: 43km Estimated Travel Time: 1.45 hours Those taking the 1-day Inca Trail option: Approximate Distance: 15km Estimated hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Rise early to take advantage of viewing Machu Picchu in the early morning light. This is the best time to view the "Lost City of the Incas". Our local guide will provide a detailed interpretation of the Inca history before other tour groups arrive at midday. Leave Cuzco by train in the afternoon. Machu Picchu is both the best and the least known of the Inca ruins. It is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors and archaeologists today can do no more than speculate on its function. The local Quechua farmers in the area knew of Machu Picchu for centuries, but it was not until an 11 year old boy led the American historian Hiram Bingham (who was in search of Vilcabamba) to the site on July 24, 1911, that the rest of the world became aware of its existence. At that time the site was covered in thick vegetation, and Bingham and his team returned in 1912 and 1915 to clear the growth. Over the years, much work has been done on excavating and studying the site. Despite these efforts, many unanswered questions remain. Approximate Distance: 118km Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hours
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport and board your flight to Lima and enjoy a final night out on the town. Approximate Distance: 572km Estimated Travel Time: 2.20 hours