New Energies Collection Ecuador & Peru

Icon | Big Five ToursExplore classic colonial cities from Quito to Lima and discover and journey to the fabled Galapagos Islands to encounter the unique wildlife from flightless birds to playful sea lions to tortoises. Savor Lima’s diverse culinary through a local market, traditional bodegas and artisan eateries. Discover incredible ancient sites from the oldest center of civilization in the entire Americas to one of the largest stone complexes in the western hemisphere. This journey offers an exciting blend of nature and history while supporting properties that incorporate sustainable practices.

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New Energies Collection

COUNTRIES VISITED

Peru

Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

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TOUR LENGTH

18

Tour Highlights/Full Description

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  • Discover Quito, one of the first cities declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978
  • Encounter the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands from flightless birds to playful sea lions to tortoises
  • Explore Lima’s diverse culinary history at a local market, traditional bodegas and artisan eateries
  • Visit the 5,000-year-old Sacred City of Caral-Supe, oldest center of civilization in the entire Americas
  • Learn about the pre-Incan Chachapoyas civilization, known as the ‘warriors of the cloud’ at Kuelap, one of the largest stone complexes in the western hemisphere

Day 1: Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Ecuador. After claiming your luggage, you are met by your Big Five Ecuador representative and transferred to your boutique hotel in the historic center of Quito, built in the early nineteenth century. Quito has the largest and best-preserved historic center in the Americas. It was one of two cities to be the first to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. The historic center of Quito is considered one of the most important historic areas in Latin America with some 130 monumental buildings.

Your city hotel maintains high environmental standards to warranty the lowest impact on the surrounding environment and ecosystems. This is the first hotel in the country with LEED Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by the U.S. Green Building Council. The operation and maintenance of Carlota and all its services is Green Globe certified for sustainable and environmentally responsible practices. Hotel Carlota – Suite Deluxe

Day 2: Quito
The capital of Ecuador, Quito, lies at an elevation of 9000 feet in the province of Pichincha surrounded by the Andes Mountains. One of the most beautiful capitals in the world, the city was founded as San Francisco de Quito on December 6th, 1534 by the Spanish conquistador. The historic center encompasses  narrow and winding cobblestone streets, magnificent churches and wide-open squares. The buildings that line the streets reflect Spanish colonial influence with balconies, tile roofs, thick columns and central patios.

Venture out on a half-day private tour of Quito that begins with a visit to Panecillo Hill, at an elevation of 10,200 feet, for panoramic views of colonial Quito. Then a short drive takes you downtown for a walk in and around Plaza de la Independencia, where you enjoy a delightful chocolate tasting at one of the best chocolate workshop of Quito. Ecuador’s cocoa is among the best in the world. Take in La Compania de Jesus church, a 17th century jewel of the barroque style in Latin America, and the monastery of San Diego. This a beautiful monastery, also 17th century, sits in a quiet courtyard behind thick walls above the Old Town. Inside are displays of outstanding colonial works from both the Quito and Cusco schools. Lunch will be served at one of the best traditional restaurants of the city. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Hotel Carlota – Suite Deluxe (B,L)

Day 3: Quito / Santa Cruz
This morning you transfer to the airport and depart on a short flight to Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands made famous by Charles Darwin. The islands are home to flightless birds, playful sea lions, tortoises and iguanas – all specially adapted to each particular island habitat.

Upon arrival to Baltra Airport on a small island known by the local name of South Seymour.  You are welcomed and taken to board a boat for a short ride to Puerto Ayora. Then you drive to the hotel, arriving in time for a gourmet lunch at your hotel. Montemar offers a nature immersion located far enough from town begin to experience the wildness of Galapagos. Sustainability measures are vital to these fragile islands. Montemar collects 100% of the water from the rain. Clouds arrive at Galapagos without any contact with civilization for thousands of miles. Water used for drinking and showering is some of the most natural waters on Earth. The hotel generates 99% of the energy used in its operation from solar panels and a solar water heater.  Nature provided the local materials used for 70% of the volume of the construction. In addition to providing camouflage, local bamboo, Spanish cedar and lava rocks help to create an authentically pleasant atmosphere. The property grows much of the organic food in a biodynamic garden used its kitchens.

This afternoon enjoy a coffee walk around the organic and biodynamic coffee plantation and learn about the Giant Tortoises that live in Montemar and the programs that take support the conservation of Giant Tortoises. This evening savor dinner at your hotel. Montemar – Villa Lechuza (B,L,D)

Day 4: Santa Cruz – Tortuga Bay
After breakfast, you set out for a hike to Tortuga Bay, considered the nicest spot of the archipelago. Sea turtles lay their eggs here. The island offers excellent bird watching. Tortuga Bay features a walking path, about 1.55 miles/2,490 meters. Tortuga Bay has a perfectly preserved beach that is closed to swimmers to protect wildlife that includes marine iguanas, Galapagos crabs and many species of birds among the volcanic rocks. A separate cove offers opportunities to swim, where it is common to view white tip reef sharks in groups, an occasional tiger shark and brown pelican. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach before taking a kayak experience by the mangrove forest keeping an eye out for sharks, marine turtles & rays. Return to the hotels to savor a gourmet dinner. Montemar – Villa Lechuza (B,L,D)

Day 5: Santa Cruz – Bartolome
Early morning you are picked up from your hotel to driven to the embarkation point to board your yacht. Explore Bartolome Island and hike the island to observe the wildlife. The trail offers a fairly steep climb on wooden steps to the summit, which offers spectacular views of the islands. Interesting lava formations and tuff cones can be observed and see sea lions and penguins swimming in the vicinity of Pinnacle Rock. After an on-board lunch, enjoy snorkeling or swimming from the beach. Montemar – Villa Lechuza (B,L,D)

Day 6: Santa Cruz – North Seymour
Early morning, board your yacht for a visit to North Seymour. A stroll on flat terrain takes you past Palo Santo trees, colonies of blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and magnificent frigate birds.  On the other side of the island, the ocean crashes against the rocks and sea lions surf in the waves. This afternoon, you return to your hotel for dinner this evening. Montemar – Villa Lechuza (B,L,D)

Day 7: Galapagos Islands / Guayaquil / Lima, Peru
This morning, you are transferred to Puerto Ayora to board your boat transportation to Baltra Airport for your flight to Lima with stop in Guayaquil. Upon arrival, your Big Five representative greets you and escorts you to your luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Barranco, Lima’s bohemian arts district. Once a seaside district for Lima’s aristocracy, it remains one of the most distinctive areas of the capital.

A refurbished historic mansion, Hotel B, a Relais & Chateaux property, is flanked by the tree-lined boulevard Saenz Peña and is easy walking distance from art galleries, fashion boutiques and award-winning restaurants. Adorned with an eclectic collection of contemporary art and sculptures, the intimate property offers 17 plush rooms with either rain showers or bathtubs. An inviting roof terrace affords views to the oceanfront promenade a few meters away, while the library and adjacent patio hosts a daily afternoon tea. Hotel B’s signature restaurant, overseen by renowned chef Oscar Velarde, reflects Lima’s status as a culinary powerhouse serving up creative twists on Peruvian classics.

The hotel contributes to the development of the community by purchasing from local producers. It has replaced plastic water bottles with glass bottles. It has a recycling system encompassing multiple  systems within the hotel. Hotel B – Aposento (B)

Hotel B – Aposento (B)

Day 8: Lima
Having exploded onto the global food scene, Peru is now widely regarded as one of the world’s principal food travel destinations. Lima is home to colorful dishes inspired by the country’s dramatically diverse geography, rich ethnic make-up and long culinary history. Today you set out on a sampling tour to savor some of the flavors that have helped put Peru on the world food map. You’ll explore a local market, traditional bodegas and artisan eateries that collectively showcase some of the best of Peru’s produce, and discover new ingredients and flavor combinations. Learn more about Lima’s trailblazing gastronomic status. Start at the lively market brimming with foods at the core of Peruvian cuisine, including fish, crucial to the classic Peruvian Ceviche; the all-purpose potato, which Peru boasts more than 3,000 varieties; and Andean “super foods” such as cañihua, sacha inchi, maca and kiwicha. You also sample some native fruits such as Chirimoya, mamey, and camu.

Take time for a Peruvian coffee and head to a local food-haunt such as La Preferida. This particular bodega is in a quiet residential neighborhood and is popular with among locals for its variety of classics you can sample at the bar, including mini causitas, pulpo al olivo, almejas al balsámico, cevichito mixto and choritos a la chalaca served tapas-style. Then, drive to the artsy and bohemian district of Barranco to try home-style criollo Peruvian meals such as pan con pejerrey, papa rellena, lomo saltado, cau cau sangrecita, escabeche and estofado. You can also sip on chilcano, pisco sour or an ice-cold Peruvian craft beer. If you have room for dessert, you can sample some decadent chocolates or sweet Peruvian treats such as picarones and suspiro de limeña.

After your gastronomy experience, you soak up the atmosphere as you walk around Barranco and take in its unique architecture. At the beginning of the 20th century, Barranco was a trendy seaside resort for wealthy Lima residents looking to escape the heat of downtown city center for the coastal breezes. They used neo-colonial style architecture to build their elegant mansions and stately holiday homes, today many of these once-grand buildings are in mixed states of repair. While modern apartment blocks are springing up between atmospheric dilapidated and renovated buildings, Barranco retains its hallmark architectural feel that harks back to that earlier time. The historic district has long held a reputation as the bohemian art and cultural district of Lima with vibrant street art, fashionable ateliers, boutiques, galleries and impressive museums. This is an easily walkable area. The galleries and shops you might visit depend on your interests and opening hours at the time of your visit. From the main Plaza to the Bridge of Sighs and its quiet backstreets, this half day walking tour allows you to discover the best of Barranco. Hotel B – Aposento (B,L)

Day 9: Lima / Caral
This morning your guide and driver will meet you at your hotel in Lima to drive north along the coastline about three-and-a-half hours to reach the Supe Valley. Before the reign of the mighty Inca Empire, the deserts and arid valleys of northern Peru were home to many innovative, ancient civilizations. The Sacred City of Caral-Supe is the oldest center of civilization in the entire Americas. Located about 200 km/124 mi north of Lima, this 5000-year-old, UNESCO World Heritage Site is exceptionally well preserved, sitting on a dry desert terrace overlooking the green valley of the Supe River. Upon arrival, check in to Empedrada Lodge, your base to explore Caral. Enjoy lunch at the lodge before setting out on the half hour drive to Caral.

Caral rose from the desert in the late Pre-Ceramic era (circa 3000-2100 BCE), making it the oldest city in the Americas and one of the world’s earliest largest cities. This was a thriving urban city around the same time as Egypt’s ancient Pyramids of Giza were being built, millennia before the Romans constructed the Colosseum or the Khmer Empire erected Angkor Wat.  Caral is truly remarkable for its architectural complexity and the impact it had on developing settlements in the Supe Valley and subsequently a large part of the Peruvian coast. Caral is a legacy of the Norte Chico civilization, which was a fully developed socio-political state and the hub of 18 urban settlements in the area that controlled neighboring valleys. The most highly developed of this conglomeration of city-states, it reflects the rise of civilization in the Americas. As you visit Caral you see its masterful architectural design. Especially notable are striking sunken circular courts, six stone pyramids and earthen platform mounts. Once home to houses, plazas, temples and residences of the elite, the city’s urban plan and some of its elaborate components show clear evidence of ceremonial functions. You learn key aspects of the complex such as its large pyramids, most of which have been at least partially excavated, and grand sunken amphitheater, as well as other smaller buildings. You may also witness ongoing excavation being performed by archaeologists from San Marcos University.

Caral’s urban design came to be used on the coast for many centuries, making Caral the best representation of the Late Archaeic Period of the Central Andes as well as town planning in ancient Peruvian civilizations. The large site is largely intact because the site was abandoned was not rediscovered by outsiders until the 1940s. After your guided tour of Caral, return to your lodge in a secluded oasis nestled in a desert valley. This tranquil hideaway boasts panoramic views of mountain scenery.

The small 22-room property is simple yet stylish and offers an inviting outdoor swimming pool that is perfect for cooling off from the desert heat under palm trees, or you can thumb through books on Caral’s ancient history in the lounge bar. The bedrooms have private bathrooms and a handful are equipped with Jacuzzis. Rooms offer terrace balconies overlooking the valley. The lodge employs recycling and has an organic garden. Empedrada Lodge – Valley View Room (B)

Day 10: Caral / Huaraz
One of the splendid aspects of Peru is its breathtaking variety of scenery. Leaving behind the arid coastline of the Pacific, the landscapes couldn’t be more different as you traverse 277km/172mi into central Peru to reach the spectacular Cordillera Blanca. The ochre tones of the desert give way to imposing mountain peaks as you travel by road for just over five hours to one of the most impressive mountain ranges in Peru – and arguably all South America.

You arrive at your lodge in the Cordillera Blanca via the city of Huaraz, the center of commerce and the tourist hub for the nearby mountains in the central part of the Callejón de Huaylas Valley. The Cordillera Blanca mountain range is dotted with sparkling glacial lakes and dramatic mountain peaks, 20 of which reach up over 6,000m/19,685ft. This includes Peru’s highest mountain Huascarán, at 6,786m/22,263ft. Not only is this pristine natural area a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, serious hikers and lovers of jaw-dropping landscapes, it is also rich in history and dotted with important archaeological sites such as Chavín de Huántar. Your journey culminates at your lodge, where you enjoy an alfresco picnic lunch with time to relax in the green gardens or take a dip in the indoor pool.

The Lazy Dog Inn is an eco-friendly mountain lodge with direct access to some the best trekking in Peru. As well as sustainable accommodation (the lodge was built by hand with local materials and is solar powered) you’ll experience authentic inter-cultural connection with the local indigenous community. Benefiting the local community is a huge part of the Lazy Dog’s ethos and they achieve this through their NGO, Andean Alliance. Staying at the Lazy Dog directly boosts the local economy, through staff employment, purchase of locally made goods, dining in local homes and more. Meals at the Lazy Dog Inn are made using fresh, organic produce from the site’s seven greenhouses and four gardens. Lazy Dog Inn – (B,L,D)

Day 11: Huaraz
Today, you have a private vehicle and guide to explore the Llanganuco Lakes and Cañon Del Pato. Highlights of the Cordillera Blanca are the Llanganuco Lakes, turquoise glacial lakes tucked away in the heart of the Huascarán National Park. The park is surrounded by the majestic mountain peaks of Huascarán, Yanapaccha and Huandoy, offering stunning landscapes. Then head toward Cañon del Pato, which divides the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra mountain ranges as they nearly come into touching distance of each other. Pass through the Callejón de Huaylas Valley to reach the lakes. Along the way, pause to visit Campo Santo Memorial Hill to memorialize the town of Yungay, once located here before being wiped out by a devastating avalanche caused by an earthquake in the 1970s.

Leaving paved roads behind, you travel into the mountains through agricultural lands and small, rural villages and enter Huascarán National Park. As you drive toward the lakes, continue upwards to the through a dramatic valley calved by glaciers and surrounded by thick forests. Llanganuco is the collective name for two connected lakes, Chinancocha and Orconcocha, at some 3,850 meters/12,631 ft., which are fed by a stream of thawing ice from the snow-capped mountains behind them. A gentle hike through the María Joesfa Forest takes you to the lakes. Small row boats can optionally be rented to go out onto the vibrant, cerulean waters. Follow the shoreline path to Orconcocha Lake, skirted by twisting tree branches of indigenous high Andes polylepsis trees.

Later, drive down the mountain to the scenic town of Caraz and continue to Cañon del Pato. Enjoy spectacular scenery on an adventurous stretch of road that carves its way through the mountain ridges of the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra. Two ranges come face-to-face with a dramatic gravel road squeezing itself between the rugged canyon walls over a precipitous gorge that plummets to vertiginous depths of up to 1,000 m/3,280 ft. Follow this snaking, narrow road through multiple one-lane tunnels, which have been blasted through the sheer vertical rock. The canyon is located at the north end of the Callejón de Huaylas Valley and was formed by the erosion from the river, Rio Santa. From here you will return to your lodge. Lazy Dog Inn – (B,L,D)

Day 12: Huaraz
Explore more of the Cordillera Blanca, choosing between one of the full-day adventures offered by the lodge. You can begin with a hike to gorgeous Laguna 69, with a private vehicle and guide. Today’s excursion involves only light walking, allowing you to acclimate. A picnic lunch is included. A high, alpine lake with unbelievably bright blue waters, Laguna 69 sits at an elevation of some 4,650 meters/15,255 feet and offers a spectacular hike. The picture-perfect lagoon is fed by a gently tumbling waterfall from the melting snow caps that loom over it, with an almost other-worldly backdrop. The path winds its way up through the sublime scenery of the Cebollapampa pastoral valley, passing babbling brooks and grazing cows. This area is home to a great diversity of flora and birds that are unique to the Huascarán National Park. It feels as if the views couldn’t possibly get much better and the occasional plateau and a smaller lake provide much needed opportunities to rest and soak up your surrounds. The last stretch of the hike is definitively the hardest, with a challenging steep incline to reach the brilliant waters of Laguna 69. The vibrant color stands in stark contrast to the rocky scree slopes and soft white snow behind. Later. return along the same trail to meet by private transport to your lodge.

Another option is a full day exploration of Pastoruri Glacier, at 5,250 meters/17,200 feet, is remarkably easy to access, tucked between Andean mountain peaks. The glacier is a dramatic example of the effects of climate change. The glacier is melting quickly and retreating, having lost around 22% of its size and 15.5% of its ice mass in the last 30–35 years. In fact, it is technically no longer considered a glacier since it no longer builds up ice in the winter. This thawing has uncovered dinosaur prints in the rocky landscape. Drive through scenic Andean alpine landscapes to reach the Pastoruri Glacier. Along the way, pause at Patococha Lake and see Puya Raimondi up-close, a plant native to Peru and Bolivia. Coined ‘the Queen of the Andes’, raimondi is the world’s largest specie of bromeliad, reaching up to 15m/49ft in height, and considered endangered. Drive to the glacier to take a hike on walk uphill along a gradually ascending 2km/1.24mi path for around 30-45 minutes. You arrive at a scenic spot close to Patoruri’s imposing cliff-like edges. It is also possible to hire a horse for the distance if you’re feeling the effects of thin air at altitude.

For a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, you can take on the challenging hike up to Laguna Churup with a private vehicle and guide. After breakfast, drive to the trail head of Laguna Churup, at 4,450 m/14,599 ft, on the outskirts of Huaraz city for a challenging hike to this beautiful lake inside the Huascarán National Park. Although the route is relatively short in terms of distance, just seven km/4.35mi, it is all uphill to reach the lake sitting at the foot of Churup Mountain. The trail climbs upwards and has strategically placed positioned to provide a rest stop and panoramic views over the valley. As you approach the lake, the terrain gets rockier, so you will need to scramble up the rocks for a short stretch using a well-maintained steel cable for support. The path gets rockier still as you need to pull yourself up rocks, using the steel cable to reach the lake. Alternatively, it is possible to skip the adrenaline-inducing need for this additional scrambling and take a longer hiking trail to access the lake via a higher view point. The reward of either trail is the stunning deep blue hues of the lake, reflecting the mountains behind in the crystal-clear waters.

Today’s excursion involves only light walking, allowing you to acclimate. A picnic lunch is included. After the hike, you have the option to continue to Willcahuaín Ruins that sits at 3,400m/11,154ft. It traces its beginnings back to the Recuay culture, with construction of the site beginning in the year 50 CE. It was later used by the Wari culture and is believed to have functioned as a burial site for dignitaries of the era. The principal building, constructed from stone, is nine meters/29 feet high with an interior of passages and chambers. The small community of Paria and the archaeological site of Ichic Willcahuain are nearby. Return to your lodge this afternoon. Lazy Dog Inn – (B,L,D)

Day 13: Huaraz
Peru’s rich history stretches back thousands of years and traces of its ancient empires still dot the central Andes today. One of the most impressive archaeological sites is Chavín de Huantar, which served as the capital and ceremonial center for one of Peru’s most sophisticated early, pre-Incan cultures, Chavín. A three-hour drive through the Cordillera Blanca Mountains to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chavín, 3,177 meters/10,423 feet, to investigate archaeological ruins and a site museum. The complex offers you a look at an outstanding achievement of ancient construction and showcases artifacts and ruins from the Chavín culture, which developed between 1500 and 300 BCE in Peru’s Mid-Late Formative Period. In its heyday it was the center of power for the Chavín civilization, a place of worship and an important pilgrimage site for spiritual rituals. Its strategic location, at the confluence of two rivers, marked an important meeting point between the coast, mountains and jungle.

It is one of the earliest and best-known pre-Columbian sites and reveals much about the once-thriving Chavín culture. The ceremonial and cultural nature of the site is evident by its architectural and technological design, comprising terraces, temple-like structure, plazas and agricultural rooms. Most structures visible today were constructed between 900 and 700 BCE. Chavín also has a labyrinthine network of dark underground corridors and chambers where Andean priests undertook mysterious religious ceremonies. Hallucinogens from the native San Pedro cactus were likely used on novices being initiated into the religious cult before entering the underground maze, instilling fear in nonbelievers and affording priests an otherworldly power. An extraordinary feat of engineering, some of these subterranean passageways are lit for you to explore and imagine what this intense initiation process may have felt like.

In the heart of the ruins, your guide will show you an enormous granite monolith, known as the Lanzón de Chavín, which is adorned with deities of the Chavín culture and believed to have been of ritualistic importance in this ceremonial center. Though the archaeological site suffered a landslide in the mid-20th century and an earthquake in the1970s, restoration continues to reveal more about this ancient society. After visiting Chavín you return to your hotel. Lazy Dog Inn – (B,L,D)

Day 14: Huaraz / Lima / Chachapoyas
Today, you transfer to Huaraz airport for your domestic flight to Lima, where you will connect with your onward domestic flight from Lima to Chachapoyas. Upon arrival, our representative welcomes you and accompanies you on the transfer to your hotel. Gocta Natura Cabins offer eco-friendly accommodation in the Gocta Nature Reserve. The ecolodge has five en suite cabins, each with a private deck. The main house has a kitchen, dining room, sitting room, and a large deck. Ingredients for meals are locally sourced and everything is home cooked. The cabins in the breathtaking Chachapoyas region and are the perfect base for exploring one of the most biodiverse places on earth.

The owners of Gocta Natura are committed to aiding the recovery of the cloud forest and supporting the local community. Their work is partially funded by the cabins; it allows them to continue restoring the land and developing sustainable projects for the community. After 11 years of reforestation, nearly 13,000 trees have been planted and there has been a noticeable increase in the variety of these species. The company seeks to help develop environmentally friendly businesses that also benefit families who work with them. GNR financially supports the start of a project in partnership with a family and accompanies it until the moment when the activity becomes independent. Past projects have included the Bio-Garden Network, for capacity building and access to organic seeds; and Vacas del Campo, for the creation of a family stable, the development of dairy production and the learning of ecological methods of organic matter use and energy generation. This year, the business project consists of the development of a farm of hens in partnership with a local family. Gocta Natura Cabins (B,D)

Day 15: Chachapoyas – Gocta Waterfalls – Chachapoyas
Set out with your private guide on the path to Gocta Waterfalls. Walk along a well-maintained trail that provides a stable and scenic journey, crossing small streams and gorges spanned by short bridges. Some sections have steep inclines, and horses can be hired for part of the journey to the falls. You can also arrange in advance for a horseback ride back if you’ve had enough walking by then. The walk starts through farmland where sugarcane and other crops are grown, before changing to lush cloud forest with jungle-like vegetation. Surrounded by the sounds, sights and smells of the cloud forest, enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna along the way.

Even before you see the dramatic falls, you hear its voice, which gets louder as you get closer. With about a third of the way to go, the vegetation opens up, and finally you see the falls. For the rest of the walk the incredible thunderous flow of water is in sight, until you arrive at the base of the falls, stretching your neck into the sun to see the top. At a special vantage point with a view of the waterfalls, you take a break and enjoy snacks and a refreshing drink. After taking in the views, and maybe splashing in the pool at the base of the falls, return on the same path to your hotel to enjoy lunch. Gocta Natura Cabins (B,D)

Day 16: Chachapoyas – Kuelap – Leymebamba
With your expert guide, explore the pre-Incan Chachapoya civilization, known as the ‘warriors of the clouds.’ Kuelap is one of the largest ancient stone complexes in the western hemisphere. It was constructed at 3,000 m/9,842 ft. above sea level on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru. The imposing site is over 600 m/1968 ft. in length, and its surrounding walls up to 20 m/66 ft. high. Kuelap is commonly described as a fortress, but the complex includes not only military structures but also buildings that suggest religious, civil and domestic use that might have accommodated as estimated 3,000 people at its height. The site encompasses multiple levels within the complex and over 400 constructions, most of which are cylindrical, with some friezes and decorative patterns remaining.

For today’s exploration you are met at your hotel by your private vehicle and driver for the drive to the Kuelap cable car ticket office. After a 10-minute shared bus ride to the station, you take a cable car ride to the site entrance, enjoying incredible views on the way up. Once at the top, you have about a 30-minute walk to the archaeological site via a paved uphill path. Horses are available if needed. Led by your expert private guide, you discover the remarkable story behind this city and its significance as a fortified city. Savor panoramic views of the Chachapoyas cloud forest in the valleys below.

After this wonderful experience, travel to Leymebamba and Kentitambo Lodge. Your lodge is a simple and environmentally integrated lodge offering comfortable lodgings in a tranquil forested location with just five en suite guest rooms with private terraces – built from locally sourced materials. Kentitambo invites you to connect with the natural beauty of the area. The name comes from the Quechua language meaning Hummingbird. An abundance of tiny hummingbirds are attracted to the vibrant flowers and bird feeders around the property. The owners started the lodge to help protect the culture and ecology of Leymebamba. Sustainability is at the core of everything they do at the site, including construction, water and energy conservation, and the provision of locally grown food. Kentitambo Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 17: Leymebamba
This morning, visit the Tombs of Revash high in the hills of Peru’s northern cloud forest. The collection of tombs from the pre-Incan Chachapoya civilization sit on the edge of a limestone cliff. Built with mud-set stones, they resemble houses painted red and white, and collectively form miniature villages along the cliff face. In the 1980s, archaeologists discovered 12 skeletons, along with musical instruments and tools made from bone. Along with the tombs, there are paintings of animals, people and geometric designs.

To explore the area, you drive a winding road through the hills with scenic views of the landscape to the village of San Bartolo, where you pause to register to visit the site. From there, you walk about half hour to 40 minutes along a well-maintained trail, mostly paved. It does get steeper and uneven towards the end. Your expert guide will lead you on this excursion into ancient Peru. The mausoleums were used as collective tombs for the wealthy and powerful of their society rather than individually.

Below, there is a small sheltered viewpoint offering a great perspective of the tombs above. Your guide will explain the construction and importance of the tombs and set up a telescope so you can enjoy an up-close look at the detailed painting and designs. You return to the village via the same path where your vehicle and driver are waiting to take you back to the hotel for lunch. This afternoon, explore the Leymebamba Museum, which was established after the discovery of burial tombs and mummies on a remote cliff above Laguna de los Cóndores in the 1990s. It required an arduous ten-hour journey by mule from Leymebamba to reach the site. Also created by the pre-Inca Chachapoya civilization, this was a sacred place to honor the dead. Looters badly damaged the site looking for sellable treasure. The NGO group Centro Mallqui embarked on an emergency salvage mission, removing the contents of the tombs and taking them to a lab in Leymebamba for urgent conservation work. The findings were deemed so special that the museum was created for their protection.

Today, more than 200 mummies, burial gifts and other artifacts are on display here. Enjoy an insightful tour with one of the directors of the museum. The four main rooms of the museum are home to the diverse finds from the clifftop tomb site including ceramics, textiles, wooden figures, bones, and quipus (knotted strings used for accounting) with insightful narratives on Chachapoya life and culture. Big Five’s guests are offered exclusive behind-the-scenes access to areas of the museum not usually open to the public, including the special climate-controlled depository where the famous mummies are kept and laboratories where bio-archaeologists are still carrying out important conservation and cataloging of the Laguna de los Cóndores artifacts. Kentitambo Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 18: Chachapoyas / Lima / Depart
This morning, you will be transferred to Chachapoyas airport to board your flight to Lima and then, connecting your international flight. (B)

 

Land price, per person, double occupancyFrom US$500 per person, per day

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