Travel through the highlights of Peru on this South American adventure tour

From rugged to refined, sassy to spiritual, South America spans a whole world of diversity. Venture into the continent's Andean heart on this small-group adventure that goes from the cosmopolitan streets of Lima to the winding, alcoved alleyways of La Paz. See Peru's answer to the Galapagos on a tour of the Paracas National Reserve. Follow the ancient trade route of the Incas on the legendary Inca Trail, finishing up at breathtaking Machu Picchu. Get a feel for life adrift the water on a visit to Lake Titicaca's floating islands and watch condors scoring the skies of the Colca Canyon. Striking the perfect balance between freedom and structure, this trip is made for those craving a Peruvian adventure.

This trip requires Inca Trail Permits. View permit availability here.


Start
Lima, Peru
Finish
La Paz, Bolivia
Country
Peru
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer, Walking & Trekking
Code
GGBL
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • The giant desert inscriptions of the Nazca Lines are one of Peru's great unsolved mysteries. Scrutinise them up close on foot or from a bird's-eye-view on an optional flight

  • Wake early and observe Andean condors taking to the sky during their morning routine as the sun rises in the spectacular Colca Canyon

  • Cuzco is a great city to explore by foot. Enter a bygone era as you explore the ancient Incan ruins dotted all over the city

  • A trip through Peru wouldn't be complete without a visit to Machu Picchu. With three different trails to choose from, people of all fitness levels are able to explore this ancient citadel

  • Spending a night with a local family on Lake Titicaca takes you right into the heart of preserved island traditions, and is a unique experience you won't forget anytime soon

  • Peer through the shop window of the Witches’ Market in La Paz and witness a world of unique, curative traditions. Amulets, potions and dried frogs are just a handful of the treatments administered by local witch doctors

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves a lot of travel on local buses, including some long trips and an overnight bus. Bus travel can be tiring, but is also a great opportunity to relax, rub shoulders with the locals and enjoy the scenery.

  • There will be a lot of hiking and walking on this trip (especially on the Inca Trail which can be quite challenging), so this requires a moderate level of fitness. There are a few different trail options to suit your interests and physical capabilities. Please bring durable footwear suitable to hiking. See the ‘What to Take’ section of the trip notes for more information.

  • You’ll be staying in some very basic group accommodation with shared facilities, especially along the Inca Trail, in the Amazon and on Lake Titicaca (where there are drop toilets and no showers). This is all part of the adventure of being among nature.

  • This trip visits places that are at high altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to Lima, Peru. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

If you arrive early, perhaps take a walk around Miraflores and head from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to the entertainment complex of LarcoMar. Alternatively, stroll along to Parque del Amor (Love Park) for a great view of Lima's beaches.

Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lima - Leader-led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Lima - Archaeological Museum - PEN15
  • Lima - Museo de la Nacion - PEN10
  • Lima - Banco Central de Reserva Museum - PEN5
  • Lima - Pachacamac Tour (30 km from downtown) - USD37
  • Lima - Museum of the Inquisition visit - Free
  • Lima - Gold Museum - PEN35
  • Lima - Coast Biking Tour - Urban Adventures - USD44
  • Lima Home Cooked - Urban Adventures - USD79
  • Lima Night Bites & Sights - Urban Adventures - Free
  • Lima Discovery - Urban Adventures - USD34
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral of Lima, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro. The afternoon is then free to explore the city on your own. In the evening, possibly head to one of Lima's many seafood restaurants to try one of the nation's favourite dishes, ceviche.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, travel by taxi or minivan to Lima's bus station and take a local bus to Paracas (approximately four hours). The bus will stop three or four times before reaching its destination, so you'll be able to stretch your legs and use the bathroom. The small fishing town of Paracas is the gateway to the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve. The area is also the birthplace of Peru's national drink, the Pisco Sour. For some local food specialities head to the Plaza de Armas and try some tejas, which are small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits. In the evening, experience the nightlife of Paracas.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning you can choose to visit the Islas Ballestas, which will be at an additional cost. There are lots of optional activities available during this visit, including spotting wildlife such as penguins, seal lions and flamingos from a speedboat. The Ballestas are part of the Paracas National Reserve and sometimes known as the 'Galapagos of Peru' – so expect unspoiled coastlines, flourishing vegetation and wildlife such as pelicans and red-footed boobies. After you return from the islands continue onto Nazca, which takes around three hours.

The Nazca Lines are enormous designs inscribed into the desert. Who drew them, how and why is unknown, but most scientists believe the Nazca people created them about 2,000 years ago. These enigmatic wonders are best seen from the air, as the area and inscriptions are so vast. For an additional cost, head up in a small four/six seat plane for a 30-minute flight over all 26 impressions. Planes turn sharply from one side to another to facilitate viewing from both sides of the plane. While plastic bags are provided on board, this flight is not recommended for those with a weak stomach. In the early evening, drive to your hotel for the night.

Notes: While it's impossible to guarantee the safety of air operations, your leader can only assist you to book this activity through companies Intrepid assesses are safer to fly with. Your leader is specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting booking this activity through any other operators.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Ballestas Islands - Guided tour - PEN57
  • Nazca - Flight Over the Nazca Lines - USD100
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Early in the afternoon travel from Nazca to Arequipa by local bus (approximately nine hours). Standing at the foot of El Misti volcano and exuding Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cuzco for the title of Peru's most attractive city. As you’ll be arriving into the city quite late, perhaps grab some food at one of the city's cafes and relax before tomorrow’s adventures.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Arequipa - Santa Catalina Monastery - PEN45
  • Arequipa - Juanita Museum - PEN20
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a free day to explore Arequipa. After breakfast, perhaps start your day at Monasterio de Santa Catalina for a glimpse into a bygone way of life. The 16th-century convent has a unique history, having once only accepted women from high-class Spanish families. From here, call by the Juanita Museum and take a look at the ‘Ice Maiden’, the Incan mummy of a young girl who died in the 1440s. During your walk around Arequipa, you'll come to understand why it’s referred to as the ‘White City’. Built out of the pale volcanic rock, the old buildings shine brightly in the sunshine. While away the rest of your day in the cafes and restaurants on the main plaza.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, venture out by minivan to Chivay (approximately five hours). Stop to take pictures along the way, as you're likely to see llamas, alpacas and vicunas. After around two hours of driving, you'll have the chance to try some coca tea from local tea stalls. After a third stop at Patapampa (the highest place of the trip at 4,800 metres above sea level), descend to Chivay town. In the afternoon, your local guide will organise a short trek through the spectacular Colca Canyon, before finishing at the local hot thermal baths. Choose to spend your evening soaking in the baths, dining on llama steak or listening to live Andean music at a pena (music hall).

Notes: Accommodation in Chivay is in a very basic hostel. While there are en suite toilets, there's no heating (you can request extra blankets) and some rooms can be noisy.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Colca Canyon - Guided tour
  • Colca Canyon -Guided tour
Optional Activities
  • Colca Canyon - La Calera hot springs - PEN15
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Early in the morning, take an optional walk into the canyon to witness the morning routine of the Andean condor. This is an amazing opportunity to see the world's largest flying bird in predator mode. There will be a short walk around the area (approximately 45 minutes) before you return to Chivay. In the afternoon travel back to Arequipa, which takes around five hours. Enjoy a free evening to do as you wish.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Use your last day in Arequipa to get under the skin of the city. For a bit of culture, stroll down to Casa Museo Villalobos for a look at the extensive art collection that’s housed there. If you’re looking for something a bit more hands-on, there are regular cooking classes in the city. For more ideas on what to do, please speak with your trip leader. This evening at about 8 pm, take an overnight bus to Cuzco (approximately 6-7 hours). The bus has comfortable reclining seats and a toilet on-board.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Bus (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
The overnight bus usually arrives into Cuzco between 5:30- 7 am this morning. After dropping your luggage off and having breakfast, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around downtown Cuzco, the local San Pedro market, the main square and past the 12 Angled Stone. The city is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries, before the Spanish built their first capital here. Take the time to acclimatise to the city's altitude, which is 3,450 metres above sea level (please see ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ sections for more important information). For lunch perhaps go to Yanapay Restaurant at 415 Calle Ruinas, which uses its profits to support local children.

This evening we will have a briefing in preparation for the Inca Trail which begins tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cuzco - Orientation Walk
Optional Activities
  • Cuzco - Full Boleto Turistico Pass, which gives you access to 16 archaeological sites in/around Cuzco (Transport & guides are not included) - PEN135
  • Cuzco - Cathedral Visit - PEN25
  • Cuzco - Coricancha Archeological Site, guided tour - PEN15
  • Cuzco - Half Boleto Turistico Pass, which gives you access to selected archaeological sites in/around Cuzco (Transport & guides are not included) - PEN75
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Depending on your pre-arranged travel arrangements, during the next four days you may: hike the Classic Inca Trail, hike the Inca Quarry Trail or stay in Cuzco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes. While away from Cuzco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cuzco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (5 kg maximum).

Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cuzco and only travel with the necessary items for the next few days.

Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
Today travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3,100 metres above sea level. On the way you’ll see the ruins of Llactapata, which was burnt to the ground by the last Inca emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail. In the evening, set up camp while the cook makes dinner.

Notes: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 km long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3,700 meters above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas.

Notes: The Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 km long in total and its highest pass is at 4,450 meters above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Route 3 Train:
For those travellers disinterested in hiking the trail or who are unable to, spend two extra nights in Cuzco before travelling by bus to Ollantaytambo. From here take a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to the town of Aguas Calientes where you’ll spend a third night.

Please note: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Trekking
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
This is the most challenging day of the trek, as we ascend a long steep path (approximately five hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4,200 meters above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3,650 metres.

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4,370 meters high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4,450 meters. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, which is only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo.

Route 3 Train:
Today, perhaps use your free day indulging your inner foodie in the eateries of Cuzco. Head to lunch at the arty Fallen Angel restaurant, and if you still have room for dessert, the ChocoMuseo offers tastings and chocolate-marking workshops.

Please note: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3,980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending for around 2-3 hours to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3,850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the two-hour descent down the Inca steps, which takes you to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Visiting the natural hot springs in town is a soothing way to spend the late afternoon. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.

Route 3 Train:
In the morning take the three-hour train to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is nestled in the hills at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want to, there’s time to visit Machu Picchu independently before the guided tour the next day. If you’d like to do this, please advise your group leader at the welcome meeting at the start of the trip. Otherwise, you might like to while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs of Aguas Calientes.

Please note: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4.30 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 5.30 am. The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes around two-and-a-half hours. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as the sun rises (and before it’s packed full of tourists).

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5:30 am along the winding road to Machu Picchu (30 minutes). At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who hiked the Classic Inca Trail. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular sunrise over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins.

Route 3 Train:
In the morning usually between 5:30 - 6:30 am we take one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy some free time afterwards to wander around on your own before we head to Ollantaytambo for the night.

Notes: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy, our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking trips to the mountaintop ruins of Wayna Picchu.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, this fertile valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. Venture to a community in the valley to learn about the local lifestyle. If your visit coincides with market day (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday), spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos.

In the afternoon we make our way back to Cuzco.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sacred Valley - Local community visit and lunch
Optional Activities
  • Ollantaytambo - Archeological site - PEN70
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Today enjoy free time to relax, shop or explore more of Cuzco's sights. Perhaps head to a cafe on the Plaza de Armas, or for those seeking an active adventure, try mountain biking in the hills surrounding Cuzco. In the evening, you might like to head out for dinner with the group for your final night in Cuzco.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Cuzco - Mountain biking - USD35
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning travel by local bus for six hours through the Altiplano plateau to Puno. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. If you're lucky, your visit might coincide with an evening parade, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians. Once you're settled, go on an included visit to the pre-Incan burial ground of Sillustani.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Puno - Sillustani archaeological site - USD10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. Today take a tour of the lake by slow motorboat, stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. The Uros people built these islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes in ancient times. They're built completely from multiple layers of totora reeds, which grow in the shallows of the lake. In the evening, enjoy a homestay in a local community on one of the lake’s non-floating islands. Your homestay is in a mud-brick house, with shared drop-toilets but no shower. It can get quite cold here. The homestay will provide plenty of blankets, but remember to pack thermals and plenty of layers. Help your host family with their daily activities or perhaps play a game of soccer in the village with the local kids.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lake Titicaca - Boat tour & Homestay
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
In the morning board the boat for a visit to Taquile Island, which is a great place to pick up some locally knitted goods. On the island knitting is strictly a male domain, while women do the spinning. An hour’s uphill trek brings you to the main area of the island. Explore the local markets before descending the 500 steps back to the boat. Return to Puno (approximately three hours) and enjoy a free night to do as you wish.

Puno is the hometown of Kusimayo, a terrific local organisation that works towards improving the living condition of children and adults affected by poverty and malnutrition in this part of the world you have now come to know so well. Take a look at this short video for more information on this wonderful project: https://vimeo.com/154422813
Kusimayo is supported by the Intrepid Foundation which means you can donate to this project and your donation will be match dollar for dollar by Intrepid. Please donate through our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/kusimayo/
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel by comfortable local bus to Desaguadero (just over seven hours) and cross the border into Bolivia. You'll be asked to leave the bus to proceed through Peruvian migration. The group will then walk across a bridge, submit passports at the Bolivian migration office and reboard the bus for La Paz. Approximately 30 minutes after crossing the border, there's another stop where the army will check your documents again. The journey to La Paz takes around eight hours in total. In the evening, perhaps head out for an optional group dinner.

Notes: Don't forget that Bolivia's timezone is 1-2 hours ahead of Peru.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • La Paz - Visit to the 'Witches Market' - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your 'Essential Peru' adventure ends today, as there are no more activities planned. You're free to leave the accommodation at any time.

If you have some more time in La Paz before flying out, take a walk around the city's famous Mercado de Hechiceria (Witches' Market). Browse the weird and wonderful stalls selling everything from aphrodisiac potions to dried frogs and llama foetuses. If that’s not for you, there are plenty of markets selling goods made of alpaca wool, leather and other traditional materials.
Optional Activities
  • La Paz - To 3,600 Metres, and Beyond - Urban Adventures - USD41
  • La Paz - Food with Altitude - Urban Adventure - USD57
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

20 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners

Transport

Train, Public Bus, Private Vehicle

Accommodation

Camping (with basic facilities) (3 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (15 nights), Overnight bus (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Lima - Leader-led walking tour
  • Colca Canyon - Guided tour
  • Colca Canyon -Guided tour
  • Cuzco - Orientation Walk
  • Trekking
  • Sacred Valley - Local community visit and lunch
  • Lake Titicaca - Boat tour & Homestay

Dates & availability

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Important notes

INCA TRAIL
Inca Trail permits are sold on request basis only. Once deposit is paid and passport details provided, Intrepid will endeavour to secure a permit for you.
If Inca Trail permits are unavailable by the time you book, you can opt to hike the Inca Quarry Trail instead. https://www.intrepidtravel.com/en/inca-quarry-trail

The Inca Trail closes in February to allow cleaning and restoration works. If the trek portion of your trip starts in February you will be automatically booked to hike the Inca Quarry Trail.
Should you choose not to hike at all, please let us know in writing at the time of booking so alternative arrangements can be made. Without this prior warning, local fees may apply.
BOLIVIAN VISA FOR U.S CITIZENS
Nationals from the United States need a visa to enter Bolivia and you we highly recommend you obtain this visa in advance from your nearest Bolivian consulate or Embassy. Not obtaining the visa in advance is likely to cause long delays at the border.
Please see the visa information on these trip notes for more information.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip however excludes night 18 (Lake Titicaca, homestay) where you will be in shared accommodation.

Essential Trip Information

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2016 Essential Peru, October 2016

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