Walk in the footsteps of the Incas & live it up on this 11 day adventure. Experience the Colca Canyon, see the King of the Andes at Condor Cross & get up close to the locals & their unique way of life on Lake Titicaca’s floating islands. Pump up the volume in Cusco where action & adventure await, then wrap up the experience at Machu Picchu. Wash it all down with some Pisco Sours & good times in Peru’s awesome spots. You can choose to either trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, or take it easy & go by train.
Day 1 – ARRIVE LIMA
Hola! Welcome to Lima and the start of an awesome South American adventure. On arrival into the city, check-in with your Tour Manager, then spend the day exploring the city with your fellow travellers on our included city tour.
Made up of 43 different districts, almost all with their own flare and vibe, Lima is a bustling metropolis. The opulence of the Spanish colonial era is visible everywhere in the city, from the detailed wood-work of the historic centre’s balconies, doors and architecture to the lavishly decorated churches. We’ll explore the Basillica Cathedral for a glimpse of the city’s former glory or, for something different you could head to the Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of San Francisco) and take a look at its famous catacombs. As the city’s first cemetery, these underground tunnels (catacombs) contain the bones of over 70,000 people, many of which are set in cool geometric patterns.
Then we make tracks to the Barranco district– its bohemian energy will make you feel right at home. Wander past the beautiful colonial mansions of the neighborhood, many of them recently restored. Take a walk on the beachside boardwalk, cross the Lima’s Bridge of Sighs or just sit in one of the cafés that overlooks the ocean and spend the afternoon relaxing with a Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink.
Later we’ll check out the city’s more modern aspects. If shopping, gourmet restaurants, great cafes and bars is what you’re after, this is the perfect spot.
Tonight we head back to the hotel for a rest then we are off to our included dinner and show.
Looking to check out Lima by night? There are loads of places to head to. From chilled-out lounges, to bars with live music, or dance clubs that run late into the night, just let your Tour Manager know what you feel like and they’ll give you some tips on where to head.
See the Historic Centre, Barranco & Miraflores
Day 2 – LIMA TO AREQUIPA
This morning it’s an early start as we fly to Peru’s second largest city, the “White City” of Arequipa, or La Ciudad Blanca. Lying in the shadow of three volcanoes, including the perfectly-symmetrical El Misti, the city was built using white volcanic rock called Sillar which gives the city its name.
Upon arrival, get your bearings on an orientation tour of the city. After we arrive at the hotel, there’s time to freshen up before free time for lunch. With many great restaurants and cafés, there are loads of places to indulge in some great local food. Arequipa is one of Peru’s main dairy regions and chocolate is a must-have whilst you’re here. The La Iberica factory and shop produces and sells some of the country’s finest chocolate, so keep your eyes peeled.
This afternoon, we’ll delve into the city’s history for an-in depth look into its past with a walking tour. First up is the stunning Santa Catalina Monastery. A city within the city – the nuns, often wealthy young Peruvians, once lived in silence and were not allowed to leave the premises. Today, it is still a working monastery, with most of the premises open to the public.
From here we walk through our first UNESCO World Heritage site on the tour and one of the country’s most beautiful plazas – the Plaza de Armas. The hub of urban city life here, it’s filled with palm trees and flanked by a 17th century Cathedral.
Tonight you’ll really get to know your tour buddies over dinner at one of the city’s great restaurants. You’ll have the choice of some of Peru’s famous cuisine like Recoto Relleno (stuffed hot peppers) or Chupe de Camerones (crayfish chowder). Later, take it up a notch – you can visit the bars on the Plaza de Armas and take in the beauty of the illuminated square and cathedral while savoring a Pisco Sour.
City tour of Arequipa visiting the Santa Catalina Convent
Day 3 – AREQUIPA
This morning, we travel to one of the world’s deepest canyons – Colca Canyon. We’ll drive through through Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve where the elusive Vicuña, the smallest of the South American camelid family roams wild.
We’ll stop for a break at “the crossroads” where the routes to Colca Canyon and Puno separate. We’ll enjoy a steaming cup of coca tea at a local shop and awesome views of the windswept landscapes of the sandstone cliffs found here. We’ll continue on to the highest point of our entire journey which at 4910 metres/16,108ft above sea level is the same height as Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak. Stop for some pics at the top, before our descent into Chivay, one of the largest towns in the Colca Valley and capital of the Caylloma province in the Arequipa region. We’ll take a quick look around town before making our way to Chivay’s hot springs for some chill time. Fed from natural springs, you can take a dip while taking in the dramatic landscape views from the pool – it’s the perfect way to relax. Once everyone’s chilled out, we’ll head to our Contiki Special Stay, a cute rustic lodge where we’ll be treated to a delicious traditional dinner. Later on, spend your evening hanging with the group. Cards and board games or drinks and conversation by the hotel’s enormous fireplace are a must.
Contiki Special Stopover Lunch,Breakfast,Dinner
See wild Vicuña
See El Misti, Chachani & Pichu Pichu volcanoes
Visit the Salinas & Aguada Blanca National Reserve
Indulge in a relaxing hot spring dip in Chivay
Special stay in our Colca Canyon Lodge
Day 4 – COLCA CANYON TO PUNO
We’ll set out early this morning and head to Cruz del Condor, a platform 3800m above sea level for a chance to spot the King of the Andes, the Andean Condor. With a wingspan of up to 3 metres/10 feet, this regal bird uses the warm air currents to float effortlessly through the canyon searching for food. It’s a pretty incredible sight, so keep your camera ready in case they buzz close overhead. We’ll return to Chivay for lunch via the small, picturesque villages that dot the road along the way. We’ll also stop for a visit the beautiful colonial church of Yanque which helps to illustrate the history of the area. In the afternoon, we travel through Peru’s altiplano (high plain) to Puno on the edge of Lake Titicaca.
Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is the gateway to the surrounding islands and unique cultures. On arrival, we’ll check-in to our hotel where you can freshen up or chill out before heading out to find a local spot for dinner. Enjoy a night of drinking and dancing at one of the bars on the main pedestrian street but be careful, you might have to catch your breath as dancing at over 3657metres/12 000 ft above sea level is a challenge!
See the massive Colca Canyon
Visit Cruz del Condor
DAY 5 – PUNO
This morning, it’s time to check out the area from a different angle! First up, we’ll make our way to the town’s port by a classic means of transport, the triciclo or three-wheeled bike taxi. We’ll then jump on board our boat for a two and a half hour trip across Lake Titicaca to Taquile Island. The boat trip is the perfect way to chill as you learn about the history, culture and ecology of the lake and its communities while taking in the views of the distant Cordillera Blanca (the White Mountain range) located on the Bolivian side of the lake. Although there are many travellers that come to this area every year, Taquile still remains one of the most culturally intact communities in Peru. From the quality of their famous weaving and the use of their woollen hats, to the terracing and traditional means of government, the people of Taquile Island continue to live in a manner not far off from that of their ancestors, the Incas. On arrival at the island, there’s the opportunity to visit some weaving groups and to savor a tasty local meal before jumping back on the boat for our cruise to our next stop – the famous floating Uros Islands.
Uros Islands are fascinating to visit and you’ll love experiencing the entrepreneurial spirit of the locals here. You’ll get a glimpse at the local lifestyle as you visit small fish farms, a natural history museum, a local’s home and check out the variety of wares for sale by the women of the community, including local textiles and mini totora reed boats.
You can opt to take a ride on one of the larger reed boats which were formally the only means of transportation that the islanders had. Later, we’ll return to Puno for dinner and a couple of drinks or turning in for an early night.
Ride on a triciclo!
Island boat trip on Lake Titicaca
Visit Taquile & Uros island communities
DAY 6 – PUNO TO CUSCO
Our first stop outside of Puno is the village of Pukara, named after a pre-Inca civilization. We‘ll visit a small museum where you’ll see the Pukara archeological site (500bc-200ad). The village is locally renowned for artistic ceramic bulls which are symbols of protection and prosperity and if you take a look above, you’ll see them on the roofs of houses throughout the highlands. Take one home for yourself when we visit a local ceramics shop.
Next up is La Raya, the highest point of our journey, marking the border between the regions of Puno and Cusco. Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Andes we’ll stop to stretch our legs and take in the stunning beauty of the Peruvian altiplano (the widest point of the Andes). We will continue on to town of Sicuani for a lunch stop before reaching Raqchi.
Raqchi was an important ceremonial site for the Inca’s and is famous for being the home to the only remaining two-storey Inca walls. It also possesses one of the largest single structures of the ancient Incan empire, the Temple of Wiracocha. You will have the opportunity for an up-close visit to the site before completing the final stretch of today’s journey to the hub of ancient Incan culture, Cusco.
Tonight the evening is free to check out the sights, smells and sounds of Cusco. There are loads of places in town to try out some local cuisine, or maybe try some delicious street food and head out for a taste of how to party, Cusco-style.
Visit Pukara, La Raya & Sicuani
Entry to the Temple of Wiracocha
Mountain biking adventure
Approx. cost: 154 PEN
Horse riding through the Sacred Valley (Full day)
Approx. cost: 420 PEN
White water rafting on the Urubamba River
Approx. cost: 175 PEN
Day 7 – CUSCO
Cusco, the heart of the Inca Empire, is now the modern-day starting point for visits to Peru’s most famous site, Machu Picchu. With huge numbers of travellers flocking to the site every year, it’s led to the development of loads of awesome attractions, so there’s plenty of cool ways to spend your time.
First up we’ll help you get your bearings on a walking tour of the city including a visit to the neighborhood of San Blas, and a stop on Calle Hatunrumiyoc, not far from Plaza de Armas. It is a narrow pedestrian street, famous for its Inca walls where huge stones are precisely carved to fit together without mud or concrete. Hatunrumiyoc is a great place to have a closer look at the engineering skills of the Incas. The 12 sided stone, and the wall it is found on, is a perfect example of the stonework that was reserved for the ‘elite’ of Incan society who lived in houses of perfect stonework, cut and shaped with not a gap to be seen. The walls were so well built that the Spanish used them for the foundations of their buildings after the conquest.
From here we’ll head to the Koricancha or Santa Domingo Church. Originally an Inca temple devoted to the worship of the sun god, in its glory days it was covered in gold leaf with a field filled with gold statues surrounding it. The site was later converted into a Dominican church during the Spanish conquest. We’ll take a guided tour so you can really get into the history as we learn about the differences in architecture and cultural beliefs.
Our next stop is Cusco Cathedral. Built over a period of more than 100 years, the cathedral is a true testament to the place of the church in both the heart of the Spanish conquistadors and their desire to convert the religious beliefs of the locals to coincide with their own. It is filled with beautiful examples of the ‘Cusco School’ style of paintings, gold and religious icons.
Take a break for lunch before visiting the famous San Pedro market. As you cruise from aisle to aisle you will be amazed by the variety of foods on offer here. From delicious jungle fruits, whole animals to ‘cacao buds’ (one of the new ‘it’ super foods) there is little that you can’t find. A must-do is trying a tasty and refreshing freshly squeezed juice.
If getting an adrenalin fix or getting back to nature is what you’re looking for, then Cusco is perfect for getting amongst it. With a free afternoon, there are tons of options – from biking, rafting and horseback riding and best of all, your Tour Manager can arrange these for you.
Or, for those wanting to explore town, simply take a stroll through the city’s cobble-stone streets for a load of examples of Inca constructions and the intricately-carved, wooden colonial doors and balconies.
For the shopaholics in the group, this is the perfect spot to pick up some gifts for friends and family (or for yourself), there are loads of artists selling items like woolen and alpaca goods, gorgeous jewellry to artwork. These can be purchased from low-priced market stalls to expensive boutiques that line the streets near the main square, so there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets.
For the foodies on tour, you are in for a treat in Cusco. Peru’s cuisine is exquisite and can be tried in lots of places dotted throughout the town. If you’re feeling like a taste of home, there’s also a number of cosmopolitan restaurants here too, it’s perfect for finding something for everyone.
Tonight we’ll check out the nightlife that is sure to keep you hopping into the wee hours of the night.
City walking tour
Visit San Blas, La Catedral & Koricancha
Day 8 – CUSCO TO SACRED VALLEY
Say farewell to Cusco this morning as we make our way to the Sacred Valley of the ancient Incas.
The Sacred Valley was the heart of the Inca’s agricultural setting and an important ceremonial region, with the sacred sites of Cuzco at one end and Machu Picchu at the other and countless ceremonial sites in between. Our first stop is to one of these sites, Pisac. On our guided tour we will see two of the most important aspects of the Inca culture – terracing – a farming technique created by the Inca’s and their religion. We’ll take a walk before descending in the village below for a quick visit to the market. This will be great practice for those who have chosen the one-day hike to Machu Picchu tomorrow. Don’t miss the town’s huge wood-oven bakery!
After a stop for lunch in Urubamba we’ll make our way to one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns of South America – Ollantaytambo.
On our way, we can see the ‘salineras’ or salt mines of the area from a distance. For hundreds of years these pools, constructed by the Inca’s, have provided salt to the surrounding communities.
We’ll also make a quick stop to try the local brew “Chicha de Jora” (traditional beverage made from fermented maize) and play a traditional Peruvia game of “Sapo” (Frog) if you’re up for it.
We soon arrive to the town and archaeological site of the same name, Ollantaytambo, the last fully-functioning Inca town. We’ll wander around the site or visit the still inhabited Inca buildings before checking into the hotel.
Entry into the Sacred Valley & a guided tour of the ancient ruins of Pisac & Ollantaytambo
Try some local Chicha de Jora
Day 9 – TRAIN TO AGUAS CALIENTES OR TREK THE INCA TRAIL
For those that have chosen the Inca Trail trek, well wake up this morning and take the train to KM104 to start your trek. Under the guidance of our professional Inca Trail Guide you’ll climb a gentle slope and experience the wildlife and cloudforest found here. You’ll pass a beautiful waterfall on your trek to Winayhuayna where we’ll stop for lunch at a trekker’s lodge. Explore the area if you’re up for it, to get you warmed up for Machu Picchu.
After lunch begin the journey to our highlight, Machu Picchu. We’ll walk along the original Inca stonework path, past an altar to the Sun Gate where you’ll catch your first look at this awesome site. Another 45 minutes will take us to the Guardian’s House, where there’s the opportunity to take photos of the site at its best. After a wander around the site and some stunning photos to show off back home, we’ll take a bus back into town to meet up with the rest of the group where you can tell your stories from your day of hiking.
If you haven’t chosen our Inca Trail Trek today, then the morning is free to explore Sacred Valley. If you’re up for it, rafting and horse-riding await you today. Or if relaxing is more your thing, visit the town’s spectacular square and have a wander through the local markets.
This afternoon, we’ll catch a train through the lush and verdant mountains to Aguas Calientes the town at the base of the ruins. Tonight, soak up the atmosphere, wander through the market stalls, or visit the hot springs which gave the town its former name of Aguas Calientes. Later, we’ll meet up with those who chose to do the one-day hike into Machu Picchu and listen to the stories of their day! The chilled atmosphere and amazing setting makes for a great place to enjoy a couple of drinks on the patio with the group.
Train ride to the 104km point
Tour Machu Picchu with our local guide
Day – 10 AGUAS CALIENTES (MACHU PICCHU) TO CUSCO
It’s an early start this morning to be among the first to enter Machu Picchu. Take advantage of the peaceful early morning quiet to grab some awesome pics from every angle as the sun rises above the mountain tops.
You’ll learn all about the site as we take a tour through the most important parts of the site such as the Temple of Three Windows, the ceremonial baths and the altar. Widely believed to be the country retreat for wealthy Incas, this site is as fascinating as it is stunning. After the tour, there’s time to explore more of the site in your own time. For those finishing early and looking for a little exercise you can walk down to the simple but interesting Machu Picchu museum at the base of the mountain. Or, for those really feeling up for it, you could continue on to the waterfall 40 minutes outside of town or simply return to “main street” and have a drink before we return to Cusco via train then coach.
Being full of knowledge about Cusco past and present, now might be time to try one of the delicacies of the Peruvian highlands, ‘cuy’ or crispy fried guinea pig. It’s a must-try in Peru. If you are not feeling quite so adventurous, a traditional dish of trout or some of Peru’s fusion cuisine that mixes traditional ingredients such as quinoa with non-traditional flavors might be a better option.
Tonight is a great night to become a bona fide member of our “Illary Club” – by heading to one of the clubs and dancing until the sun rises.
Tour the Temple of Three Windows, the ceremonial baths & altar
Return train ride from Macchu Picchu
Day 11 – DEPART CUSCO
Don’t forget to swap addresses with your mates and Tour Manager, as our South American adventure ends this morning after breakfast.