Buffet breakfast daily (B), 4 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–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–Easter Island, Chile. Later this evening, fly from Lima to Easter Island today. The island is considered the largest open-air museum, boasting over 400 moais, ruins, and temples. (B)
Day #12 Easter Island. Your first stop will be AHU VAIHU, where eight large moais lie in ruins. You continue on to AHU AKAHANGA, which is also known as the platform of the king. According to legends, this is the site where the bones of the first king of Easter Island (Hotu Matu'a) were buried. Your trip continues on to one of the most attractive places on Easter Island, RANO RARAKU, the volcano where 95% of all moai were carved. Today you can find 394 statues remaining in various stages of completion. There will be a hike to the top of the volcano to not only reveal many statues but also to admire a spectacular view on Rano Raraku’s gorgeous freshwater lake. To some observers the quarry looks like a graveyard of giants’ stone. It seemed as if production of moai was abruptly abandoned, leaving a frozen snapshot of time so we can look closely at how exactly the moai were carved out of the volcanic rocks. Next, visit the beautifully restored AHU TONGARIKI. This magnificent platform is the largest on the island with its 15 moai. Continue your trip along the north coast and pass through La Perousse Bay to stop at AHU TE PITO KURA, the site of the largest moai ever transported and erected onto an Ahu. Last stop is the beach of Anakena, where King Hotu Matua first landed on Rapa Nui. Anakena is one of two beaches on an island surrounded by a rough, black rock coastline. (B,L)
Day #13 Easter Island. This morning, visit the volcano RANO KAU, the second oldest on the island. Its caldera contains one of the island’s freshwater lakes. Next, continue to the nearby ceremonial village of ORONGO, best known for the birdman cult celebrated here. Within the village, 47 houses have been restored and the remains of an ancient Ahu can also be seen. From here you’ll have a magnificent view of the three small islands: Motu Nui, Motu Iti, and Motu Kao Kao. In AHU VINAPU you will see two major Ahu where moai once stood. The fallen remains of the broken moai can now be seen lying on the ground. The figures here are slightly different from the others. While most do not have legs, this site contains moai with short legs. The last stop this morning is ANA KAI TAGATA, a beautiful cave with wall paintings on the rock with paint made from mineral pigments found on the island. The paintings depict the Manutara bird. The arrival of this bird in spring would initiate the Tangata Manu competition (birdman competition). This afternoon, visit AHU AKIVI with seven restored moais, built in the middle of the island. According to an old legend, the seven moai statues on this Ahu represent the seven scouts sent to Rapa Nui (Easter Island’s local name) by King Hotu Matu’a. Continue on to the ANA TE PAHU CAVE, one of the biggest caves on the island, which was created by lava tubes. Finally, visit the topknot-quarry PUNA PAU with its red scoria stone, where all the Pukaos that were placed on top of the moais were made. (B)
Day #14 Easter Island. Transfer to the airport for your return flight. (B)