And there is more to follow; the spectacular Colca Canyon plunges to a depth twice that of the Grand Canyon. Lake Titicaca – the world’s highest lake – is a natural masterpiece. Arequipa is a symphony in Baroque architecture.
And then there is Machu Picchu. One of the planet’s most definite must-sees, this Inca citadel features terrace after terrace of temples, palaces, fountains and staircases.
Today you’ll have time to absorb the atmosphere of this ancient city, founded by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1535, as well as visiting extraordinary Baroque churches, colonial squares and contemporary galleries. A morning tour will show you the imposing cathedral, the mansion Casa Aliaga and the San Isidro and Miraflores residential districts.
Fly to the beautiful city of Arequipa, set in an incomparable valley at the foot of the snow-capped El Misti Volcano. The one-time Aymara Indian and Inca settlement became a colonial city in 1540, and your guided tour will reveal a wealth of Baroque churches, convents and chapels, works of art from the colonial period and the traditional districts of Carmen Alto and Yanahuara. Keep your camera at the ready – there are fantastic views of Mount Misti, Mount Chachani and Mount Picchu-Picchu.
Stay: One night at the Casa Andina Private Collection in a double room.
Twice as deep as the more famous Grand Canyon, Colca is claimed to be the world’s deepest river gorge. It is certainly one of the most awesome. Your four hour drive will take you through exceptional countryside and give you the chance to see indigenous wildlife like vicuna, alpaca and vizcacha.
Early on the second day you’ll set off to see condors soaring above the Colca Canyon, followed by a visit to the Hanging Tombs of Choquetico and the interesting towns of Maco, Achola and Yanque.
Stay: Two nights at Colca Lodge in a double room.
Time to head south to the famous lake straddling Peru’s southern border with Bolivia. It’s the highest 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 1000 years. And on the way to the lake you’ll travel through the astonishing highland panoramas of ‘Volcanoes Lookout’, as well as visiting Sillustani archaeological site with its circular funeral towers.
You’ll stay on a private peninsular and take birdwatching tours, try mountain biking and horse riding, go on trekking expeditions and visit the lake’s islands, villages, archaeological sites and colonial churches.
Stay: Two nights at Hotel Titilaka in a king suite.
Now a train journey takes you through the mighty Andean Mountains that tower over the deep valleys of the Huatanay River, before gliding gently down into the warmer Central Valley, arriving at Cusco. This ancient capital of the Inca Empire is a UNESCO World heritage Site, and rightly so.
It is a feast of Inca remains, like the Temple of the Sun, as well as colonial masterpieces like the Cathedral and Church of the Company of Christ. Your tour will take you around quaint cobbled streets, Baroque buildings, the main square and the massive walls of the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. Plus visits to three famous Inca archaeological sites.
Stay: Two nights at the Inkaterra La Casona Hotel in a patio suite.
In the Urubamba Valley you can really begin to immerse yourself in the Inca civilisation. Urubamba is the Sacred Valley of the Incas and features the ruined town of Pisac, plus well preserved fortresses, urban complexes, temples and Andean terraces. After lunch you’ll visit Ollantaytambo – the longest continuously occupied village on the continent with roads, canals and a fortress that have barely changed since the Inca period.
Stay: One night at Sol y Luna in a deluxe casita.
The Vistadome train takes you along the Urubamba Valley to perhaps one of the world’s most spectacular archaeological sites. The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu marches up the side of a mountain on tiered terraces featuring astounding examples of Inca temples, staircases, palaces and fountains.
Stay: One night at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel in a superior room.
Machu Picchu – Cusco
Revisit Machu Picchu during the early part of the day – one tour of this world wonder is never enough – before taking the Vistadome train back to the historic city of Cusco.
Stay: One night at the Inkaterra La Casona Hotel in a patio suite.
From Cusco you fly to Puerto Maldonado where you’ll be met and taken by coach and boat to your eco-lodge. 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 variety of creatures that live amongst the treetops.
Stay: Three nights at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica in a double cabana.
Puerto Maldonado – Lima – Home
You leave Puerto Maldonado in the late afternoon to connect with your onward flight home from Lima.