Beginning with a couple of nights in historic Lima on the shores of the Pacific, we fly into the heart of the Andes to explore the Inca strongholds of Cusco and Machu Picchu, as well as the traditional Indian markets of the ‘Sacred Valley’. We then board the Belmond Andean Explorer for a stunning two-day rail journey across the high ‘Altiplano’ to Lake Titicaca and the Colca Canyon, where Andean condors wheel on the thermals rising from its depths, before a final couple of nights in the beautiful ‘white city’ of Arequipa.
LONDON / LIMA
Morning departure from London Gatwick on a British Airways flight to Lima arriving in the early evening. On arrival transfer to the Casa Andina Private Collection Hotel, located right in the heart of the fashionable Miraflores, where two nights are spent. Dinner at the hotel.
Depart for a morning tour of the ‘City of Kings’. Visit the Casa Aliaga, America’s best preserved colonial mansion, and the Convento de los Descalzos, built in 1592 by ‘the Barefooted’, a reference to the Franciscan friars. See the Paseo de Aguas or ‘Avenue of Waters’, a garden built in the 18th century by the Viceroy Amat in honour of his mistress Perricholi, and the Almeda de los Descalzos, Lima’s famous promenade which was built in 1611 by the Marquis of Montesclaros. End the morning with a visit to the San Francisco Monastery, the jewel of colonial Lima, established soon after the foundation on the city with its fascinating interior decorated in Mudejar style and decorative stone façade.
Continue to the Larco Herrera Museum for lunch. The privately-owned museum is housed in an 18th century vice-royal mansion and contains 45,000 pieces including the finest gold and silver collections from ancient Peru and pre-Colombian ceramics including the famous erotic collection. Visit the Pedro de Osma Museum of Colonial Art, located in the bohemian district, Barranco, with its valuable collection of paintings and sculpture. Dinner under own arrangements.
LIMA / CUSCO / SACRED VALLEY
Transfer to Lima Airport for a domestic flight to Cusco. On arrival transfer to the Sacred Valley via Pisac.
Packed lunch. Visit Pisac market and interact with the local people and even try your hand at bartering. Check into the Casa Andina Premium Sacred Valley, where two nights are spent. The hotel has a beautiful setting with extensive gardens overlooked by mountains and facilities include an excellent restaurant, spa, planetarium and observatory. Dinner at the hotel.
Visit the impressive salt flats of Maras and the Moray terraces which have been in use since the Incan Empire. Continue to the picturesque Andean village of Chinchero with its main square bordered by an Inca-constructed wall and its church decorated with unique frescoes.
Lunch at Casa de Barro restaurant in Chinchero. Afternoon visit to the Inca fortress and citadel of Ollantaytambo built just as the Spaniards arrived and one stronghold where the Incas were never defeated. Dinner under own arrangements.
SACRED VALLEY / MACHU PICCHU / CUSCO
Early morning departure for Ollantaytambo station and board the train to Aguas Calientes. Visit Machu Picchu, the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, which was discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. Construction began around 1430 AD but it was abandoned by the Incas a hundred years later at the time of the Spanish Conquest, although it was never discovered by the invaders. Since it was not plundered by the Spanish, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place. Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Late lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel at Machu Picchu. Depart for Aguas Calientes to board the Hiram Bingham, the luxury train service named after the American explorer, Hiram Bingham. This spectacular 3½ hour journey takes you through a changing landscape while you enjoy pre-prandial drinks, a 4-course dinner and live music as the train descends back to Cusco through the Andes. On arrival, check into the Belmond Monasterio where two nights are spent. The hotel was originally built as a monastery in the 16th-century and converted into a hotel in 1995. It remains a national historical landmark, protected by the INC, (National Institute of Culture), and has retained its characteristics and charm. It is a splendid model of the colonial renaissance style, consisting of three sections on different levels. The heart of the hotel is the central courtyard with its fountain and 300-year old cedar tree surrounded by gardens and the famous stone cloisters – a unique atmosphere providing the comforts and quality of a modern five-star hotel.
Morning city tour of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, set in a verdant valley high in the Andean mountain range. Placed on the World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO in 1983, it is undoubtedly one of the most important destinations in Peru. Explore the cobbled streets and Andean baroque buildings from the colonial period such as the Cathedral and the Santo Domingo Church built upon the foundations of the Inca temple, the Koricancha, (the Temple of the Sun).
Visit Sacsayhuaman, the impressive Inca ruins above Cusco, an intricately designed walled temple complex built of massive interlocking stones and, like much of the Incas’ stonework, there is still much mystery surrounding how it was constructed. Continue to the red fortress at Puca Pucara, Qenqo, a ritualistic site with subterranean galleries which form an underground maze, and Tambomachay, also known as the Incan baths.
Lunch in a local restaurant. Afternoon walking tour of the artistic San Blas district with its winding streets and whitewashed houses. Time at leisure to explore the local markets. Dinner under own arrangements.
CUSCO / PUNO (ANDEAN EXPLORER)
Board the Belmond Andean Explorer train for a two-night journey from Cusco to Colca. Settle down in your luxurious cabin as the train begins its journey southeast towards Puno.
Lunch on board in one of the elegant dining cars. Andean specialities are served with contemporary flair. Disembark to visit Raqch’i. Once an important control point for the Incas, it is a fascinating archaeological site brimming with history. Return to the train in time for tea and to take in the sunset over La Raya Mountain range. Dinner on board. The train continues to Lake Titicaca, where it will stop for the evening.
PUNO / COLCA (ANDEAN EXPLORER)
Awake early to catch the sunrise across Lake Titicaca. Today’s tours explore the eclectic beauty and rich diversity of life on Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and home to many islands. First take a traditional boat ride out to the Uros Islands, stunning man-made lands carefully created from woven reeds that are constantly being replenished. Continue to Taquile Island, a beautiful island with a way of life barely touched by time.
Private lunch on Collata Beach, with demonstrations from traditional dancers and artisanal workers. Return to the train for tea as your journey continues. Dinner on board.
Set off on an early-morning excursion of Lake Lagunillas. Afterwards visit Sumbay Caves, home to fascinating cave paintings that are estimated to be almost 8,000 years old. Disembark at Km99 and transfer to the Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and reputed to be the world’s deepest river gorge. Check into the Colca Lodge where two nights are spent. The lodge, situated amidst ancient farming terraces and the Colca River, has been built in the traditional style using stone, mud bricks and thatched roofs in keeping with the natural surroundings. The lodge offers thermal water springs with medicinal properties.
Lunch at the lodge. Afternoon visit to the Colcas at Chininia and the pre-Inca constructions. See the view-point at Ocolle and the amphitheatre followed by a short walk to the ruins at Uyo-Uyo. Dinner at the lodge.
Morning visit to the observation point at ‘Condor’s Cross’, with its panoramic views of the canyon, to try and catch sight of the Andean Condor, the largest flying bird in the world. Return to the lodge passing through the local villages of Maca at the base of the Sabancaya Volcano and Yanque with its baroque church from the colonial era.
Lunch at the lodge. Afternoon at leisure. Dinner at the lodge.
COLCA CANYON / AREQUIPA
Morning at leisure.
Lunch at the hotel. Drive to Arequipa across Pampa Cañahuas in the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, inhabited by herds of vicuñas and alpacas. You will also see beautiful pre-Columbian terraces, still being cultivated by the native Collaguas. On arrival transfer to the centrally located Casa Andina Private Collection Hotel, where two nights are spent. Formerly the mint, a historical monument and one of the most beautiful colonial houses in Arequipa, it has been transformed into one of the foremost hotels in the city. Dinner under own arrangements.
Morning tour of the ‘white city’. Visit the Main Square, one of the most beautiful squares in Peru because it is built of sillar (a white volcanic rock) with intricately carved arches. It is next to the impressive Arequipa Cathedral, built in the 17th century and fully rebuilt after several earthquakes. Continue to the Church of the Society of Jesus or La Compaña (1590), considered a classical example of the local baroque architecture, which houses an exceptional collection of paintings and murals. The tour ends at the Monastery of Saint Catherine, an authentic medieval cloister and a small religious citadel built in 1579.
Lunch at Chicha Restaurant. Afternoon excursion to the countryside surrounding Arequipa, the ‘campiña Arequipa’. The area features pre Inca terraces on the banks of the largest river which descends from the highlands. Start at the watchtower in one of Arequipa’s outlying areas, Carmen Alto, which provides beautiful views of the Misti, Chachani and Pich Pichu volcanoes. This is followed by Yanuhuara, one of the typical towns located close to the city and the Sabandia water mill. Farewell dinner at Zig Zag Restaurant.
AREQUIPA / LIMA / LONDON
Morning at leisure.
Lunch under own arrangements. Transfer to Arequipa airport for a flight to Lima, connecting with a British Airways flight to London.