Buffet breakfast daily (B), 6 lunches (L), and 4 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–Lima. 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 return flight to Lima, where the remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B)
Day #11 Lima–Iquitos (Embarkation)–Amazon Cruising. Fly to Iquitos, nestled on the banks of the Amazon River in the heart of the northern Peruvian Amazon region. Transfer to the river, where the M/V ARIA, a luxury yacht launched in 2011, awaits you. Shortly after embarkation, set sail on a spectacular adventure. After your welcome dinner on board, perhaps enjoy stargazing and a nightcap on deck. (D)
Day #12 Amazon Cruising. Wake up early and head out for your first glimpse of the majestic Amazon River. Explore some of the smaller tributaries with your Naturalist by speed BOAT and watch this wild world awaken around you. This is the best time of day to spot birdlife, like flycatchers, macaws, parrots, kingfishers, and many more species! After breakfast, journey to the YACAPANA ISLES, meaning “Isle of the Iguana,” to see these reptiles that inhabit the area. While here, join your Naturalist and try your hand at piranha fishing! Later this afternoon, an excursion down the YARAPA RIVER presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the pink freshwater dolphins found in the Amazon. As the sun sets, keep an eye out for caiman and other nocturnal creatures. (B,L,D)
Day #13 Amazon Cruising. In December through May, cruise with your Naturalist through the flooded forest of YANALLPA in search of various types of monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife. In June through November, you will take a Naturalist-guided JUNGLE WALK to a local village and on to a stunning lake where the famous Victoria Regia giant water lily makes a home. This afternoon, take the boat out with your Naturalist in search of monkeys, birds, and dolphins as the sun sets over the Amazon! (B,L,D)
Day #14 Amazon Cruising: Iquitos (Disembarkation)–Lima. This morning, cruise into PACAYA-SAMIRIA RESERVE, a flooded forest covering over 5 million acres at the headwaters of the Amazon Basin. See the Ucayali and Marañon tributaries form the mighty Amazon River as you glide through the waters in search of birdlife, monkeys, and other wildlife. Next, visit a native VILLAGE to meet some indigenous Indians and learn about their culture, traditions, and way of life. After lunch, disembark and stop at the MANATEE RESCUE CENTER to see some endangered Amazon manatees being cared for and prepared for reintroduction into their natural habitat. Continue to the airport for your return flight to Lima. (B,L)
Day #15 Lima. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)