Buffet breakfast daily (B), 5 lunches (L), and 1 three-course dinners (D); Local Host service in each city; sightseeing with a Local Guide and transportation as outlined in the day-by-day itinerary (except intra-vacation flights, which are additional; inside visits and special features are shown in UPPERCASE).
Day #1 Arrive Lima, Peru. Arrive in Lima, Peru, where you will be met by your Local Host.
Day #2 Lima. Your included city TOUR focuses on Lima’s rich colonial history as well as the modern city. Lima was the bastion of Spanish South America from its founding in 1535 until the independence of the South American republics in the early 19th century. See the Cathedral, where the remains of Francisco Pizarro are sealed in a wooden coffin and San Francisco MONASTERY with its eerie burial crypts. (B)
Day #3 Lima–Pisco–Nazca Lines–Paracas. Enjoy a scenic drive south along the Pan-American Highway to Pisco, the wine capital of Peru. Have your camera handy today as you board your aircraft for a FLIGHT over the Nazca plains, which can only be appreciated by air. Your pilot will point out the mysterious markings known as the Nazca Lines, a series of drawings of animals and geometric figures etched into the parched soil—some up to 1,000 feet long! Theories vary, but the most accepted belongs to German mathematician Maria Reiche, who dubbed the land the “astronomical calendar” of the ancient Peruvians. (B)
Day #4 Paracas–Ballestas Islands–Lima. Head north to the Bay of Paracas. CRUISE out to the Ballestas Islands, which are inhabited by a wide variety of sea mammals and exotic birds, including boobies, sea lions, and Humboldt penguins. The huge Candelabro, an unexplained candelabra-shaped etching on the Paracas cliffside, can also be seen as you cruise back to shore. Later, return to Lima. (B)
Day #5 Lima–Cusco. Fly to Cusco high in the Andes. Take a short drive into the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, to AWANAKANCHA, where you will learn about the importance of the alpaca (llama) for Inca cultures as well as the ancient weaving techniques still in use today. Continue to the market town of PISAC. Handmade rugs, alpaca sweaters, and jewelry can be bought here at bargain prices. At the other end of the valley visit OLLANTAYTAMBO. Here, some of the finest examples of Inca masonry can be seen. Tonight, try out the area cuisine at one of Cusco’s numerous restaurants recommended by your Local Host. (B,L)
Day #6 Cusco–Machu Picchu. Board a TRAIN bound for MACHU PICCHU and cut a path through the Sacred Valley to this “Lost City of the Incas,” discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. On a guided TOUR, explore this intact fortress with its temple remains, holy houses, and mile-long aqueduct. For hikers, a brisk one-hour walk leads to the Sun Gate, the ancient entrance used by the Incas. (B,L,D)
Day #7 Machu Picchu–Cusco. A morning at leisure in MACHU PICCHU allows you to wake up early to see the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Return to Cusco, where your Local Host will recommend options for your free time. Perhaps visit the Inca Museum or wander through the artisan district of San Blas. (B)
Day #8 Cusco–Juliaca–Puno. Your guided TOUR of Cusco visits the Plaza de Armas and its CATHEDRAL and the Santo Domingo MONASTERY, previously the Koricancha Temple, one of the most important temples devoted to worship of the sun. It is said it was covered in gold leaf and filled with golden representations of nature. Later, fly to Juliaca, where you will be transferred to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. (B)
Day #9 Puno. Lake Titicaca. Today, enjoy a full-day sailing on LAKE TITICACA and take a motorboat to some of the lake’s more unique islands. Start with TAQUILE, once part of the Inca Empire and one of the last areas of Peru to be conquered by Spain in the 16th century. The Spanish banned traditional dress on the island, which is why the Spanish peasant dress can still be found today. Next, travel to the fascinating UROS ISLANDS, home to the Uros Indians who were forced to live on the lake as the Incas pushed farther into their territory. These islands are completely made from reeds, which are continually added to as they disintegrate to the bottom of the lake. (B,L)
Day #10 Puno–Sillustani–Juliaca–Arequipa. Depart for Juliaca this morning, visiting the ruins of SILLUSTANI en route. At this pre-Incan burial ground, see where the ancient Aymaras buried their high priests in chullpas, above-ground cylinder-shaped tombs dating back to the 1400s. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Arequipa, located in the Chili River Valley and flanked by three snowcapped volcanoes: Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu. Known as the “white city,” Arequipa definitely does justice to its nickname, as its buildings are made of sillar, a white volcanic rock found throughout the area. The stone embellishes the facades of the city’s homes and churches. Upon arrival, a city TOUR of Arequipa shows off the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral before visiting the Jesuit CHURCH, considered the best example of the mestizo baroque style. Continue to the residential districts of Yanahuara and Chilina, where you enjoy a magnificent view of Arequipa’s countryside and the Mount Misti volcano. (B)
Day #11 Arequipa–Colca Canyon. Depart for Colca Valley. Drive across Pampa Cañahuas within the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, the habitat of vicuñas and a variety of birds. Admire beautiful pre-Columbian terraces still being cultivated by native Collaguas. Stop for lunch in the town of Chivay. This afternoon, relax at LA CALERA hot springs. (B,L)
Day #12 Colca Canyon. Today is free for independent exploration. Colca Canyon is an impressive geological formation carved out by the river as it descended between the mountains (made of largely volcanic materials) over millions of years. More than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world. Observe the spectacular terracing, considered among the most extensive in southern Peru. These terraces, which allow cultivation and meticulously controlled irrigation of the steep slopes of the canyon, were built by Collagua and Cabana ethnic groups between the 9th and 14th centuries. (B)
Day #13 Colca Canyon–Arequipa. Proceed to CONDORS’ CROSS, an observation point where you have the possibility of observing the flight of the condor in its native habitat. From here, also enjoy the impressive Colca Canyon panorama. Next, visit the towns of Yanque, Maca, Achoma, and Pinchollo. In the afternoon, return to Arequipa. (B,L)
Day #14 Arequipa–Lima. Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Lima. (B)
Day #15 Lima. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)