PERU RUINS CITIES NATURE 11D/10N
- Day 1: Arrival in Lima
- Day 2: Arrival in Paracas & Nazca Lines Tour
- Day 3: Ballestas Islands Tour & Return to Lima
- Day 4: Arrival in Arequipa & Arequipa City Tour
- Day 5: Colca Canyon Tour & Overnight
- Day 6: Colca Canyon Tour & Return to Arequipa
- Day 7: Arrival in Cusco
- Day 8: Cusco City Tour
- Day 9: Sacred Valley Tour
- Day 10: Machu Picchu Tour
- Day 11: Departure from Cusco
Prepare to be astonished by the majesty of Peru’s past civilizations, the grandeur of its natural landscapes, and the wealth of its cultural and culinary traditions on this 11-day tour from Lima, down the desert coast and up to the highest Andes. In the cities of Lima, Arequipa, and Cusco, you’ll see the enchanting mix of old and new that typifies Peru’s urban centers and you’ll get to sample famous Peruvian dishes in between visits to museums and historical sites. There’s no shortage of adventures on this tour:
You’ll fly over the Nazca Lines to observe South America’s most enigmatic archaeological site. Sail to the Ballestas Islands to witness colonies of lazing sea lions, dancing blue-footed boobies, and charismatic Humboldt penguins. Travel to the depths of the Colca Canyon and watch condors soar over sky scraping mountains.
Ruin-hop from Cusco to the Sacred Valley, ride the train through the deep gorge of the Urubamba River, and climb Inca terraces that open up to views of Machu Picchu guaranteed to take your breath away.
Day 1: Arrival in Lima
Upon arrival at the Lima airport, meet our representative for a transfer to your confirmed Lima hotel. Spend the evening at your leisure. Go to the seaside promenade “Malecon” for amazing views of Lima’s coastline or mingle with locals in and around Park Kennedy in Miraflores.
Nazca Lines Spider glyph from above ground
Day 2: Arrival in Paracas & Nazca Lines Tour
After breakfast at your hotel, meet your transfer to the bus station for your trip to Paracas, a city located 3.5 hours south of Lima and reached by a comfortable first class bus. The port town of Paracas is near the famous Paracas National Marine Sanctuary, and a gateway to both the nearby Ballestas Islands and the Nazca Culture, which flourished in the area for nearly a thousand years.
Upon arrival in Paracas, meet our representative for a transfer to your confirmed Paracas hotel.
Check in, drop off your luggage, and head to the Pisco airport, located about 30 minutes by car from your hotel. Board a small aircraft for an exciting flight over the world-famous Nazca Lines. Built between 500 BC and 500 AD, the Nazca Lines are a World Heritage Site whose significance continues to perplex researchers despite more than half a century of careful study. Many scientists believe the lines served an astronomical function for the Nazca civilization, although other more colorful theories abound.
During your hour-long flight, look out for famous “etchings” such as the condor, the hummingbird, and the monkey. The giant figures were made by removing dark stones that then reveal the lighter color soil underneath. Some are up to 600 feet long.
After you touch back down on earth, return to your Paracas hotel, arriving in the late afternoon or early evening. Relax and ponder the mysterious Nazca Lines as you enjoy a beautiful sunset over the Paracas Bay.
Note: Flights from Pisco to Nazca require a minimum of two passengers per departure. Please contact your Travel Advisor for single passenger options.
Boats approach guano-covered Ballestas Islands
Day 3: Ballestas Islands Tour & Return to Lima
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before departing on an adventurous boat trip to the nearby Ballestas Islands, an important sanctuary for marine life. From your boat, see and hear raucous sea lions, fur seals, Humboldt Penguins, guano birds, and possibly even Green Sea Turtles and dolphins. The tour lasts approximately 2 hours.
On the way to the islands, the boat passes by the Candelabra, a nearly 595-foot (181-meter) long, candlestick-shaped symbol etched into the side of a hill that can be seen from the sea. Some experts believe it may have served as a navigational guide for ancient sailors and was based on the constellation of the Southern Cross. Others believe that it was somehow related to the Nazca Lines. Still others believe it to have been inspired by a local cactus with hallucinogenic properties!
During the tour, you can get up close and personal with marine birds and sea lions. Some of the unique bird species you might see include the Humboldt Penguin and the Peruvian Booby which only live along the Humboldt Current, as well as the Guanay Cormorant and the Red-legged Cormorant. Depending on the season, you’ll see sea lions playing with their young or simply frolicking on the rocks.
After your boat excursion, enjoy some free time at your hotel before going to the bus station to return to Lima for the night. After you check in to your hotel, you have the evening in Lima to enjoy at your leisure. Be sure to try one of Lima’s restaurants, which are some of the finest in the world.
Tree-shaded Plaza de Armas next to Arequipa Basilica Cathedral
Day 4: Arrival in Arequipa & Arequipa City Tour
Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight to Arequipa. Arequipa is often called the White City because many of its buildings are constructed of Sillar, a white volcanic rock. It’s also the birthplace of the Nobel-Prize winning Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.
Upon arrival at the airport in Arequipa, meet our representatives and go to your confirmed Arequipa hotel where you can relax before your City Tour.
Next, meet your guide for your Arequipa City Tour. The Arequipa historic center boasts a distinctive integration of European and native architectural features and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. The tour stops at Chapel of San Ignacio, as well as the beautiful, colonnaded main square, the Plaza de Armas, bordered on one side by the soaring neoclassical Cathedral. You’ll also explore the Santa Catalina Monastery, a strikingly beautiful, 16th century convent that once housed 500 nuns. The tour will end at one of two famous miradores, or lookout points, either the Mirador de Yanahuara or Carmen Alto, where you can appreciate views of the city framed by the majestic Misti Volcano nearby.
Spend the evening at your leisure, but don’t call it a night before sampling one or two of the regional dishes, such as rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers) or adobo soup, which have made Arequipa a top culinary destination in Peru.
Colca Mountains and patchwork of green farm fields
Day 5: Colca Canyon Tour & Overnight
Start the day early with a filling breakfast before setting off on a scenic drive to the Colca Canyon. The 3 hour drive takes you through spectacular, high altitude landscapes of the Reserva Nacional de Salinas y Aguada Blanca. Keep your eyes open for wild vicuñas (smaller cousins of the llama) and viscachas (small rodents that resemble rabbits).
The highest point of your journey, at Patapampa Pass, reaches a breathtaking 16,109 feet (4,910 meters) above sea level. On the descent into the town of Chivay, pre-Inca agricultural terraces blanket the sides of the valley walls. The Ampato, Sabancaya, and Mismi volcanoes tower in the distance.
In Chivay, visit the main square and stop for lunch (not included).
After lunch, ride to the Calera Hot Springs, renowned for the therapeutic effects of its thermal waters. You can either take a dip in the natural baths or just take in the stunning scenery.
Later, transfer to your Colca Canyon hotel, where you can continue to relax amidst the pastoral beauty of this incomparable Andean landscape.
Travelers try for photographs of condors in action
Day 6: Colca Canyon Tour & Return to Arequipa
Early this morning, meet your guide and drive to the Mirador Cruz del Condor, one of the best viewpoints over the canyon and home to the famed condors that soar on the thermal currents. The road leads past picturesque villages and pre-Inca ruins dominated by the Ampato and Hualca glaciers, both visible in the distance. Once you reach “Cruz Del Condor”, you can stand at the viewpoint and gaze into the depths of the canyon, which stretches nearly 4,000 feet below.
Return to Chivay where you can enjoy lunch (not included) or browse the local market before continuing on to your Arequipa hotel, enjoying spectacular views of the Andes on the way.
In the evening, explore more of Arequipa or just relax in your comfortable hotel.
Colonial church and arches in Cusco
Day 7: Arrival in Cusco
After breakfast at your Arequipa hotel, transfer to the airport for your flight to Cusco.
Upon arrival at the Cusco airport, meet our representative for the drive to the historic center. As you approach the oldest sections of the city, gorgeous examples of Spanish colonial architecture will draw your eye. Look closely and you might see the remains of Inca stonework – these are the former palaces and temples of the former Inca imperial capital.
Cusco is at higher altitude than Arequipa, but is lower than the highest points of the Colca Canyon. Once you have adjusted to the altitude, Cusco has many options for casual and fine dining.
Overnight in Cusco.
People stand on wood balconies overlooking Cusco Plaza de Armas
Day 8: Cusco City Tour
Spend the morning at your leisure. This is a good time to explore some of Cusco’s less-visited attractions including the famous San Pedro Market, the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas, or one of Cusco’s many fine museums. Get a glimpse of Peru’s long artistic heritage at the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, hone your knowledge of the Inca Empire at the Casa Concha (“Machu Picchu Museum”), or make your own chocolate from scratch at the Choco Museum.
In the afternoon, meet our expert Cusco guide to tour the city’s must-see attractions. Stops include the Cusco Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas, the fabulous Temple of the Sun or Koricancha, the gargantuan ruins of the Sacsayhuaman fortress/temple overlooking the city, as well as the ruins of Q’enko, Puka Pukara, and Tambomachay nearby.
In the late afternoon, return to your Cusco hotel and spend the evening at your leisure. Enjoy the local cuisine and the splendor of Cusco at night, the surrounding hills twinkling with lights and the sky overhead littered with stars.
Inca ruins contrast majestically with Sacred Valley peaks
Day 9: Sacred Valley Tour
Explore the beautiful Peruvian countryside with a full-day tour of the magical Sacred Valley, home to several royal estates of Incan emperors. First, visit the town of Pisac, famous for its bustling indigenous market and for the beautiful Inca ruins on the hillside overlooking the city. In the market, browse stalls brimming with beautiful handicrafts and handwoven garments. In the center of the market, village women in traditional dress gather to buy and sell local fruits, vegetables, and other natural products. While exploring the Pisac ruins above, wander narrow paths with walls of spectacularly cut stones and enjoy stunning views of the village and the Sacred Valley below.
After Pisac, stop for lunch (not included) at a buffet restaurant to sample a variety of Peruvian and international dishes near the town of Urubamba. The town is named after the sacred river (whose upper stretch is called the Vilcanota) that flows through the valley, on its way to Machu Picchu and eventually the Amazon jungle.
Next, visit the spectacular fortress of Ollantaytambo. These magnificent Inca ruins that cling to the hillside were part of the royal estate of the Incan emperor Pachacuti. Later, during the Incas’ heroic resistance against the Spaniards, a great battle was fought, during which the Spaniards were repelled by the guerrilla emperor Manco Inca. The small town of Ollantaytambo at its base still has Inca houses, making Ollantaytambo the only Inca city that is still inhabited today.
The tour ends at your comfortable hotel in the Sacred Valley. If you’ve selected a hotel in Ollantaytambo, you can explore the former Incan town at your leisure, which still boasts mountain water coursing through Inca-built gutters in the center of its streets and where many of the inhabitants still speak the Incan language, Quechua.
People explore nooks and crannies of Machu Picchu
Day 10: Machu Picchu Tour
After breakfast at your Sacred Valley hotel, take a train to Machu Picchu, the hidden Inca citadel. This 2.5-hour train journey is one of the finest in the world. Much of the path winds along the rushing Vilcanota river and snakes through gorges cut into the bases of massive mountainsides, offering passengers dramatic views of the Andean landscape as the train descends from high altitude plains down through the cloud forest. The foliage dramatically changes as the train approaches the meeting point of the Andes and the Upper Amazon rainforest, providing visitors an intimate view of one of the most spectacular transitions in the world.
The train arrives in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, which is surrounded by tall granite cliffs and a cloud forest inhabited by orchids and hummingbirds. Meet our representative at the train station gates and walk to the bus station for a 20-minute ride up to the secluded Inca citadel high atop a mountain ridge.
Next, meet your expert, English-speaking guide for a 2-hour tour of the most important sites in Machu Picchu, including the Intihuatana (Sun Stone), the Sun Temple, and the Room of 3 Windows. Machu Picchu is ranked as one of the “must see” archaeological sites in the world. Royal palaces, temples and astronomical observatories cling to a granite spur some 2,000 feet above the valley floor, affording spectacular views of the cloud-wreathed Andes and the Urubamba River far below.
After your tour, you have the option to explore more of the ruins on your own and capture some final photos.
In the late afternoon, take a comfortable train back to Cusco and then meet our driver for a transfer to your Cusco hotel for the evening.
Want an extra day at Machu Picchu? Customize this package to include an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. The next morning, make a second visit to get your fill of the enigmatic citadel and then return to Cusco in the evening.
*Optional: Hike up Wayna Picchu, the peak overlooking the Machu Picchu ruins. This hike is steep and takes about 3 hours round trip to complete, but affords spectacular views of the surrounding Andes and views over the Machu Picchu citadel from above. Numerous Inca burials have been found in cavities on this mountain. Please let your Travel Advisor know if you’d like to add this to your itinerary.
Travelers stand in front of towering Cusco Cathedral facade
Day 11: Departure from Cusco
After breakfast at your hotel, meet our representatives at your hotel and transfer to the airport for your journey home or on to your next destination.
- Airport pick up / Drop off
- 2 night’s hotel in Lima
- 1 night hotel in Paracas
- 2 night’s hotel in Arequipa
- 1 night hotel in Colca Canyon
- 3 night’s hotel in Cusco
- 1 night hotel in the Sacred Valley in Peru Hotels based on standards
- All tours stated in the itinerary with English-speaking guides
- Ground transportation
- Bus Lima – Paracas – Lima Round/trip
- Flight over Nazca Lines 30 minutes
- Train service: Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes town Round/trip
- Machu Picchu entrance fees
- All entrance fees
- Airfare / Airport taxes
- Lunches or dinners (unless otherwise specified)