London - Lima
Today you will board a direct flight to Lima, the City of Kings, where you’ll be met and taken to your spectacular oceanfront hotel.
The following day you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s bustling atmosphere and rich history on a private, half day tour. Founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1535, today Lima is a captivating mix of extraordinary Baroque churches, colonial squares and contemporary galleries. The tour will show you both the modern and colonial areas of Lima, with stops at the imposing cathedral, the Presidential Palace, Church of San Francisco and the San Isidro and Miraflores districts.
Stay: One night in an Alcoba room at the B Arts Boutique – bed & breakfast
Next you fly to the beautiful colonial city of Arequipa, set in a stunning valley at the foot of the snow-capped El Misti Volcano. This Aymara Indian and Inca settlement became a colonial city in 1540, and your guided tour will reveal a wealth of fine Spanish buildings and Baroque churches including the Santa Catalina convent which was built in 1579. Keep your camera at the ready – there will be fantastic views of Mount Misti, Mount Chachani and Mount Picchu-Picchu to snap.
Stay: Two nights in a superior room at the Casa Andina Premium Arequipa – bed & breakfast
Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, the Colca Canyon is reputed to be the world’s deepest river gorge. It is certainly one of the most spectacular. Your four-hour drive from Arequipa will take you through the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, where you will have the chance to spot indigenous wildlife like alpacas and llamas. Before you reach the Colca Canyon you will stop to see the fascinating rock formations at Callalli which are reminiscent of medieval castles.
Early on the second day you’ll set off to see condors soaring above the canyon at the Cruz del Condor lookout point, with a breathtaking backdrop of snow topped mountains. From your hotel you can also rent a bicycle, set off on canyon treks or go riding on Peruvian Paso horses.
Stay: Two nights in a garden view room at Belmond Las Casitas – half board
Time to head to the famous lake straddling Peru’s southern border with Bolivia. Enroute you’ll pass through some astonishing highland panoramas, as well as make a stop to visit the Sillustani archaeological site with its mysterious circular funeral towers.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, with stunning views and shores that are home to Aymara and Quechua Indians – people who pre-date the Incas by over 1,000 years. You’ll stay on a private peninsula and take birdwatching tours, try mountain biking and horse riding, go on trekking expeditions and visit the lake’s floating reed islands, villages, archaeological sites and colonial churches.
Stay: Three nights in a king room at the Titilaka Hotel – full board
This morning you will be transferred to the train station at Puno for the long but scenic rail journey across the Altiplano to Cusco. You will make your way down from the higher altitudes down into the warmer climes of the Central Valley, watching the scenery shift from the dramatic Andean mountains into the gentler, sloping Andean plains dotted with vicuna and alpaca. You will eventually arrive in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage site, and be taken to your hotel right by the city’s main square.
As well as relics left over from the Inca Empire, Cusco is rich in masterpieces of colonial architecture such as the Cathedral and Church of the Company of Christ. A tour will take you around the quaint cobbled streets and Baroque buildings, as well as beyond the city to visit the massive walls of the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. You’ll also take in the famous archaeological sites of Kenko and Tambomachay, both important religious centres for the Incas.
Stay: Three nights in a junior suite at the Palacio Nazarenas Hotel – bed & breakfast
On day thirteen you will board the Hiram Bingham train to reach what is one of the world’s most spectacular archaeological sites. The train weaves through a parade of changing landscapes, from lush fields and vibrant villages to epic mountains and the meandering Urubamba River. After about three hours you’ll arrive in the town of Aguas Calientes, where you’ll be met and taken by bus to Machu Picchu for a guided tour of the tiered terraces, temples, staircases, palaces and fountains of this ancient citadel.
The next morning you will further explore the Sacred Valley and really immerse yourself in the Inca civilisation. A full day tour will show you the ruined town of Pisac, famed for its artisan market, as well as Ollantaytambo – the longest continuously occupied village on the continent with roads, canals and a fortress that have barely changed since the Inca period. Not forgetting the charming Andean village of Chinchero with its well-preserved Inca wall; the salt production centre of Maras and the greenhouse terraces of Moray, which were used by the Incas to refine their farming techniques.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe terrace room at Belmond Rio Sagrado – bed & breakfast
From the treasures of the Sacred Valley now come the riches of the rainforest. From Cusco you fly to Puerto Maldonado where you’ll be met and taken by bus and boat to your eco-lodge on the banks of the Madre de Dios River. Now your expedition into the Amazon Basin really begins, with river trips in authentic dugout canoes, guided walks into the rainforest and canopy walkways high above the forest floor to discover the birds and creatures that live amongst the treetops.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at Reserva Amazonica – full board
Puerto Maldonado – Lima – London
Today you fly back to Lima, where you will connect with your direct flight home.
Rob was always quick, efficient, charming and helpful- CH, Burma, 2013