Arrive at any time. There are no planned activities on this day, so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Founded by Francisco Pizarro, on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany) in 1535, Lima is known as the City of Kings. It is Peru’s capital city and as such, deserves a visit. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of old Lima and you’ll 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 around the streets surrounding the Jirón de la Unión for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to experience 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 cities highlights. The more affluent coastal districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro offer good nightlife and cafés. The Limeños are friendly and the city’s many interesting museums, churches, markets, restaurants and nightlife will surely entice you. Seafood lovers should be sure and try a ceviche, for which Lima is well known. Note: If you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Theme Pack, your Lima cooking class will be today and the Cuzco cooking class will be on day 10. 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.
Take the morning to explore more of Lima before hopping on a bus for our short trip down the coast to Paracas. Walk the town’s lively peatonal (pedestrian avenue) and find a café to sample some Peruvian food, such as ceviche or papa a la huancaina (potatoes with a chilli cheese sauce). Paracas is just down the coast from the important port town of Pisco, which gives its name to the white grape brandy produced in the region. If you haven’t tried the national drink, don’t pass up this chance to sip on a tasty and frothy Pisco Sour in the heart of Pisco country. From here, opt to visit the Ballestas Islands, where we observe the sea lion colonies, Humbodlt penguins and a variety of other birds. Further south, the road climbs slightly and we rise above the coastal mist to find one of the world's greatest archaeological mysteries, the Nazca Lines, consisting of patterns and pictures etched in the ground, crisscrossing an area of flat desert. Some of the lines measure up to 10 km (32 miles) in length, and yet remain perfectly straight. The depictions of birds, insects and animals are only recognizable from the air. Who drew the lines, and why, is something that modern archaeologists can only theorize about, but current beliefs suggest that they may be part of complex agricultural calendar. From the ground we can make out very little, and the best view is from a light aircraft, which can easily be arranged. The entire desert area was also once the home for the Paracas and the Nazca cultures, which preceded the Incas by more than half a millennia. Remains of the Nazca culture are still visible during an optional tour of an ancient desert cemetery site, which also includes a visit to a pottery workshop. In the evening we assist in the preparation of a thousand year-old tradition: a "Pachamanca", an ancient ceremony akin to the Polynesian meal of burying a variety of delicious treats wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooking them with pre-heated rocks buried in the ground. Day 2, Lima to Paracas Approximate Distance: 285 km Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours Day 3, Paracas to Nazca Approximate Distance: 175km Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Day 4, Nazca to Arequipa, overnight bus Approximate Distance: 570km Estimated Travel Time: 8-9 hours
Peru’s second most important city after Lima, Arequipa, maintains a traditional colonial style and more laid back pace in comparison with the capital. Arequipa is built from a very light coloured volcanic rock called sillar, the older buildings dazzle in the sun, thus the nickname, “the White City.” The main plaza with its cafés and nearby cathedral is a top draw for visitors. Those with an interest in history and architecture may take an optional visit to the Convent of Santa Catalina, offering a brief respite from the outside world and a unique view into a by-gone way of life. Spectacular mountains surround Arequipa, the most famous of which is El Misti Volcano, at 5822 m (19096 ft) and with a beautiful snow-capped peak . Our overnight excursion to the Colca Canyon involves a remarkable drive through Inca and pre-Inca terracing. Once at the Canyon we will look for the king of the Andes, the Andean Condor, as well as alpacas, llamas and vicuñas, while enjoying the stunning highland scenery. Take a bus from Arequipa to Cuzco on the night of Day 8.
Cuzco attracts thousands of travellers who come to experience an age-old culture and to delve into its tragic and noble past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations of the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. We spend the next few days relaxing and exploring this fascinating city, while taking time to acclimatize to the higher altitude before our trek. Note: If you have booked the Peru Adrenaline Theme Pack, you will have the opportunity to do the full-day rafting trip and the half-day horseback riding excursion on two different days during your free time in Cuzco (Days 10, 11, and 15). Cuzco is the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts thousands of 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. Cuzco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend. Cuzco’s numerous colonial churches are one of the 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. 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. This 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. The best advice in exploring Cuzco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore! Ollantaytambo is a major Inca ruin site and your first taste of what lies ahead on the Inca Trail. 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 for the start of the hike the next morning. For those craving more before they head out on the Trail, opt to take a Sacred Valley tour which includes not only Ollantaytambo but also the ruin site of Pisac. INCA TRAIL: The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is physically challenging but worthwhile, and the excursion is within the ability of most reasonably fit. It is a 44-km (27 mile) hike, with 3 high passes to be crossed, one of which reaches an elevation of 4200m (13776 ft). The trail is often steep, and it may rain even during the dry season. The temperatures at night may fall below zero, so it is important to come prepared. Depart Ollantaytambo for km 82 where we begin our walk in the footsteps of the Incas. Our local crew of porters, cook and guide look after us well for the duration of the hike. Porters carry the majority of the gear for the hike, so those passengers doing the hike only carry a small daypack with water, rain gear, snacks, a camera, etc. As you walk the trail that linked this ancient empire, admire breathtaking views at every step as we move from high plateau areas to dense cloud forest. Depending on the season, you may see a great variety of flora, including miniature and large orchids, and fiery rhododendron bushes. You pass several smaller ruin sites, the first of which is Llactapata. The second day climb the long steep path to Warmiwañusca, or Dead Woman’s Pass. At 4198 m (13769 ft) above sea level, this pass is the highest point of the trek. The second pass of the hike is at 3998 m (13113 ft) where on clear days, we enjoy superb views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba. The trail goes through some beautiful cloud forest on the gentle climb to the third pass, where you will walk through a causeway and a tunnel, both original Inca constructions. The highest point of the third pass is at 3700m (12136 ft). On clear days you are rewarded for all this work with beautiful views of the Urubamba Valley below. Soon you reach the serene ruins of Phuyupatamarca, or the 'Town above the Clouds', at about 3650 m (11972 ft) above sea level. We will camp either here or an hour and a half further along close to Wiñay Wayna (Forever Young) ruins, a grandiose terraced hillside site, with panoramic views of the valley below and just a short hike from Machu Picchu. On the final day of the hike we climb the steps to the Sun Gate overlooking the peaks that surround Machu Picchu. When the morning is clear, there is no way to describe the feeling of the first views of Machu Picchu, as the mist rises off the mountains early in the morning and the famous site appears in front of you. Following the visit to Machu Picchu, time allowing, travellers can opt to visit the Inca Bridge (15 min walk away) for no additional charge. 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. NOTE: Those passengers not able or interested in the hike spend 2 days in Cuzco, then travel by train to Aguas Calientes, where they overnight. Next morning they take the bus to the Machu Picchu entrance and rendezvous with the hikers at the ruins. If you decide not to do the hike we need to know prior to your departure in order to obtain train tickets. There is an additional fee for any changes made once Inca Trail permits are confirmed. This fee may vary depending on the changes that are made to your itinerary. Please advise your agent or G Adventures. Also note that portions of the Inca Trail will be closed for general maintenance during the month of February each year. Also, closures may occur at various times throughout the year due to inclement weather or other conditions beyond our control. During these periods, any tour affected will hike the Lares Trek. Distances of the Inca trail: Day 1 Km 82 to Wayllambama Approximate distance: 11 km Estimated hiking time: 5-6 hrs Day 2 Wayllabamba to Paqaymayo Approximate distance: 12 km Estimated hiking time: 6-7 hrs Day 3 Paqaymayo to Wiñaywayna Approximate distance: 16 km Estimated hiking time: 8 hrs Day 4 Wiñaywayna to Intipunku (Sun Gate) Approximate distance: 4 km Estimated hiking time: 1.5 hrs Intipunku to Machu Picchu Approximate distance: 1.5 km Estimated hiking time: 45 mins
Today we travel through the high Altiplano region to get from Cuzco to Puno, on Lake Titicaca. After spending one night in Puno, we board a boat and head to Taquile Island for lunch in a local restaurant and the chance for some shopping in the local weaving cooperatives. From there we head to Amantani where overnight with a local family and enjoy typical music of the area. The following morning we will visit the floating islands of Uros en route to Puno. Titicaca is the largest lake in the world above 2000m, and the views from both Amantaní and Taquile Islands are stunning. On our way to Taquile Island we pass 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 they speak Aymara due to intermarriage with Aymara-speakers. 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. After visiting these islands we will head to the Lluquina Peninsula where we will spend the evening in a small, local community, mostly unaffected by tourism. Unlike the neighbouring islands the communities of Lluquina have only recently started to accept visitors and have a less commercial and more authentic feel. Spend a night with a local family and get a true feel of life on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Accommodatin in Islands may be multishare.
The drive along the shores of Lake Titicaca and through the altiplano to La Paz, the capital city of the impressive nation of Bolivia. Founded by Alonso de Mendoza in 1548, La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (the City of Our Lady of Peace) is a great place to explore on foot. Although Sucre is the official capital, La Paz is the Bolivian centre of commerce, finance and industry, and the de facto capital. This is a busy modern city, with its centre at the base of a canyon 5 km (3 miles) wide, with sprawling impromptu housing all the way up the surrounding hillsides. The city is at nearly 4000 m (13,120 ft) above sea level, so visitors should be prepared for cool evenings and mornings. Explore the city’s many fine museums or its historic ecclesiastical structures, such as the Iglesia de San Francisco, whose architectural details reflect the indigenous and mestizo heritage of modern Bolivia. The city is also renowned for its many markets, including the Mercado de Hechicería (Witches’ Market), where Paceños and visitors may purchase potions and incantations made from all sorts of herbs, seeds, and secret ingredients to remedy any number of illnesses (real or imagined) and protect from evil spirits. There is also a thriving black market and a Carnaval market, where locals purchase carnival costumes. You’ll also find a wealth of shops selling all sorts of handicrafts, mainly alpaca wool products, silver jewellery, woven textiles and leather goods. Optional activities in La Paz include museums, excursions to Tiahuanaco ruins (cradle of Inca civilization), a tour of the Valley of the Moon, or a visit to the world’s highest ski resort, Chacaltaya (5600 m/18,368 ft). To the south of the city is the Valley of the Moon, with crater-like formations made of sand.
Depart at any time.