Peru Sky High & River Deep

This Peru journey takes you beyond the conventional to explore new territories. Set sail with Jean Michael Cousteau and his team to experience the Amazon from the perspective of a conservationist: discover this fascinating destination as you learn about the challenges we face to preserve wildlife habitats, delicate ecosystems and evolving cultural traditions and economic pressures which threaten the environment.

Country Information



Peru experiences two very distinct seasons, wet and dry - terms that are more relevant than "summer" and "winter." Peru's high season for travel coincides with the driest months: May through September, with the most visitors in July and August. May and September are particularly fine months to visit much of Peru.

Time Zone:

Peru is in the same zone as U.S. EST (GMT -5 hours).

Flight Information:

flight injforamtion



Nuevo Sol (S/), divided in 100 cents. Coins come in 5,10,20 and 50 cents. Banknotes are in denominations of 10 20 50 100 and 200. US dollars are welcome at most shops, restaurant and services stations at the current exchange rate.

Peru Sky High & River Deep Enrichment Series

(Countries Visited)


(Interest Type(s))

Sustainable Travel


Adventure Travel

(Tour Length)

18 Days

Tour Highlights

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Two Special Amazon River Sailings with Jean Michael Cousteau in 2018

  • Experience the Amazon from the perspective of a conservationist: discover this fascinating destination as you learn about the challenges we face to preserve wildlife habitats, delicate ecosystems and evolving cultural traditions and economic pressures which threaten the environment
  • Take on a high altitude trek to find the glacial waters coming from the vertical rocks on the slopes of the Mismi Snow Mountain, which was as confirmed in 2001, during a National Geographic Society Expedition, to be the main headwater of the Amazon River
  • From this natural viewpoint, you clearly see the road entrance to the Colca Valley and the confluence of the rivers. With a depth of 3,270 m/10,725 ft, Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world, and more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States.
  • Explore Lake Titicaca and learn about its ecology, including the Titicaca water frog, a critically endangered species found only here that was first discovered by Jean Michel’s father, Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s
  • Savor an extraordinary eight-night journey to explore the Amazon River in depth, meet some of the people who call the forest home; learn about the challenges facing the world’s longest river and more forest

Day 1: Lima, Peru
Welcome to Peru! After you clear Immigration and Customs, you will gather your luggage. Exit the Customs Hall, where a representative from Big Five will be waiting assist you and escort you to your hotel. Country Club Lima Hotel 

Day 2: Lima
This morning, join your guide for a half-day city tour of colonial Lima, the center of Spanish power in the New World for three centuries after Pizarro's conquest of Peru. This distinctive capital is the starting point for most visitors. It enjoys a considerable legacy of art and architecture from its colonial period, while its museums house artifacts of gold, ceramic, and weavings unearthed from the country's ancient settlements. Discover the city’s beautiful colonial churches and promenades. Continue to Barranco, one of Lima’s 43 districts, considered the city's most romantic and bohemian. It is the home and working place of many of Peru's leading artists, musicians, designers and photographers. In the 19th century, it was a very fashionable beach resort for the Limeño aristocracy, many of whom spent summers here and in neighboring Chorillos. A lovely walkway to the sea runs through Barranco – the Bajada de los Baños. Crossing over this walkway is the Puente de los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs. On the far side of the bridge is a park with a statue of Barranco's famous singer and composer, Chabuca Granda. After your tour, the remainder of the day is free to pursue your own interests. Country Club Lima Hotel (B)

Day 3: Lima / Arequipa
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Arequipa, and check in to your hotel. This is the most beautiful colonial city in Peru and the second largest. Known as the White City for the white stones used in buildings, Arequipa sits in southern Peru at an elevation of approximately 2,286 meters/7,500 feet and is surrounded by the towering peaks of El Misti, Chachani and Picchu Picchu.

This afternoon, explore the city, visiting the classically beautiful Plaza de Armas. Continue to La Compania and then to the 16th-century Convent of Santa Catalina, which remained closed to outside visitors for almost 400 years (until 1970). This magnificent convent has been the scene of many historic, religious events. Take in the architecture, art and furnishings of a world that seems to have stood still since 1579. Travel through Arequipa’s surrounding villages and lovely countryside. You have the opportunity to visit the La Mansion del Fundador and El Molino de Sabandia to catch a stunning sunset. Tonight, you will have a briefing about tomorrow, which will include information about the trekking/hike experience which starts tomorrow. Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa (B)

Day 4: Arequipa / Pampas Cañahuas / Mollepunko / Colca Canyon / Sibayo Hot Spring
Early this morning, you will meet your guide and driver at your hotel and transfer by private 4x4 from Arequipa to Tuti (3,800m/12,464 ft). Along the way, you will stop to appreciate the Andean landscapes, the flora and flora of this region. After about four hours driving to the upper part of the Colca Valley (3,880 m/12,730 ft) passing through Andean landscapes and a national reserve of Vicuñas and Andean birds. Savor spectacular views of the volcanic ranges of southern Peru. Arrive in Mollepunko, home to caves with paintings dating back between 6,000 and 7,000 years BCE. Continue driving on unpaved road that descends to La Ventana Del Colca at 4,300 m/14,107 ft. This “window of Colca Canyon” geological formation in the shape of a window was carved by wind and rain erosion over millennia. From this natural viewpoint, you clearly see the road entrance to the Colca Valley and the confluence of the rivers. With a depth of 3,270 m/10,725 ft, Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world, and more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States. After lunch in the town of Sibayo, check in to your hotel. In the afternoon, you can enjoy a moderate trek to the thermal bath on the bank of the Colca River. Familiar Lodge (B,L,D) 

Day 5: Sibayo / Tuti / Ran Ran / Aquenta / Quebrada Carhuasanta – Base Camp
Today you begin a high-altitude trekking adventure as you set out early this morning on a drive toward the villages of Callalli and Tuti, and then travel upward through La Gran Pampa and Ran Ran until Aquenta. Another hour and a half drive takes you close to Carhuasanta River. Then you begin your trek along with donkeys that carry your camping gear, meals and backpacks, on a single track to find the waters coming from the vertical rocks on the slopes of the Mismi Snow Mountain. In 2001, during a National Geographic Society Expedition, it was verified that the main headwater of the Amazon River has its glacial source on Mount Mismi. The expedition discovered that Carhuasanta stream flowing into Río Apurímac originates on the mountain's northern slopes and then runs its course through other tributaries and rivers to help form the main Amazon River. In 2007, Brazilian scientists confirmed that the headwaters of Río Apurímac are the source of the Amazon River and pointed at Quebrada Apacheta as the most probable source of the Amazon. You hike for another hour through high Andean landscapes with classic fauna that includes llama and alpaca and flora such as Ichu straw grass and Yareta moss. After one more hour of hiking, you arrive to the base camp located at Quebrada Carhuasanta (4,750 m/15,580 ft). Campsite (B,L,D) 

Day 6: Mismi Mount / Chivay
Today, you rise around 2:00 am to attack the summit of the Mismi Mount, which stands 5,585 m/18,318 ft. This is the climax of your expedition in the southern highlands of Peru. Necessary equipment will depend on the season. The ascent to summit takes around five hours. You will savor simply spectacular views of the entire Colca Valley and the snow-capped volcanoes of the region. The hike down from the summit will take about three hours. Lunch will be at the base camp before you trek one more hour back to the 4x4 and then drive about 45 minutes to the hot spring of La Calera. Late afternoon, you will be the transfer to Chivay. Colca Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 7: Chivay / Colca Canyon Condor Cross Lookout / Cabanaconde
Early this morning, you drive along the Colca River through colonial villages such as Yanque, Maca and Pinchollo. Take a short walk along the canyon to get to the lookout of La Cruz Del Condor. From here, you can see the depth of the canyon and, if you are lucky, you may spot the rare and majestic Andean condors as known as the king of the Cordillera De Los Andes. From this lookout is possible to see picturesque villages in the canyon where many people still practice agriculture using pre-Inca terraces dating back some 1,400 years, where they grow a variety of potatoes, amaranth, maize, and fruits trees as avocado, lemon, mango and orange. Then, you trek three hours from Tapay viewpoint to the town of Cabanaconde, 3,280 m/10,758 ft. Lunch will be waiting for you in Cabanaconde. After your hotel check in, the remainder of the day is free to use as you wish. Hotel Kunturwasi Colca (B,L,D)

Note: trekking experiences in this itinerary are done at high altitudes and participants should be in excellent physical condition.

Day 8: Cabanaconde / Huambo / Lluta / Huanca / Yura / Puno
This morning, you set out on an uphill drive to the highest point as known as Patapampa, which sits at an altitude of some 4,850 m/15,912 ft. Known as the Andean lookout, this is where you can see the volcanic range of the south of Peru, including the snow-capped Mount Ampato, famous as the place where the well-preserved frozen body of an Inca girl – the ice maiden "Juanita" – was found in 1995 near of the summit. Also known as the Lady of Ampato, this Inca girl was killed as an offering to the Inca gods sometime between 1450 and 1480 when she was between about 12 to 15 years old. Drive downhill to Toqra Pampa to stop near some small lagoons to spot some of the Andean birds such as caracara, Andean goose, pink flamingos, ducks, ibis and more. You continue driving through the Altiplano and encounter llamas and alpacas grazing on the Ichu grass. The last stop is the National Reserve of Aguada Blanca and Salinas, where you may see the vicuñas on this high plateaus. Vicuñas are a protected, wild species living above 3,800 m/12,467 ft, with large groups of llamas and alpacas. From the reserve, travel to Puno, with a visit along the way to Puruña, where erosion, wind and rain have created some interesting rock formations. At Lagunillas Lake, you see the landscape surrounding the lake where the locals farm trout for the gourmet restaurants in Arequipa and Puno. Casa Andina Private Collection Puno Hotel (B,L) 

Day 9: Puno – Lake Titicaca
This morning, you have the opportunity to go sailing on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. You learn about the ecology of the lake, including the Titicaca water frog, an endemic, very large and critically endangered species of frog in the family Telmatobiidae. It is aquatic and found only in the lake and rivers that flow into it. Jacques Cousteau first made known the Giant Frog in the 1970s. Cousteau came to film one of these frogs that measured 50 centimeters, nearly 20 inches. The frog is valuable for the ecological balance of Lake Titicaca.

You will visit one of the well-known floating reed islands, built on layers of totora reeds. The islands are home to the traditional Uros Indians, some of whom still live as their ancestors did in generations past, depending on the resources of the lake for their living. Then continue by boat to Taquile, a remote island with a remarkable community where they still speak Quechua, the language of the ancient Incas. The highlight of its inhabitants is their handicraft derived from techniques developed over centuries. Lunch is included. Return to Puno in the late afternoon. Casa Andina Private Collection Puno Hotel (B)

Day 10: Puno / Lima / Iquitos / Amazon River
This morning, you are transferred to Juliaca Airport to board your flight to Lima, where you will connect with your flight to Iquitos. On arrival, the Aqua Expeditions staff welcome you and transfer you to the pier to begin this once-in-a-lifetime journey to the main headwater of the Amazon River in the company of the Jean Michael Cousteau, who led a large-scale scientific exploration of the Amazon from its mouth to its origin. The expedition culminated in a six-hour television documentary titled “Cousteau’s Amazon” released in 1983. It offered study information to last years and gave insights into the biology and geology of the largest river system on earth. Using an international team of twelve and bringing in expeditionary specialists from Germany, France, Argentina, Peru and the USA, Cousteau put together resources and logistics spanning a thousand miles of unknown jungle.

From the moment you step on board the Aria Amazon, you will feel the vessel begin to move, signaling the beginning of a grand adventure; a spectacular journey to a place visited by very few of even the most experienced world travelers. Over the next seven days, you will sail along the two largest tributaries of the Peruvian Amazon, the Ucayali and the Marañon, as well as on the mighty Amazon itself, and enjoy evening talks and conversations with Cousteau and his team as you learn about international conservation from a true expert. Enjoy insider access as you get to know Cousteau in the intimacy of a small group of travelers as you share excursions into the Amazon jungle. Grab a bike or a kayak and pedal or paddle beside this fun and entertaining world traveler as he shares moments from his many journeys.

This evening, meet in the air-conditioned lounge for your first briefing about your Amazon adventure. You will meet the naturalist guides and cruise director, who will use video, photos, and maps to introduce the details of your journey deep into the Peruvian Amazon. Then relax with fine South American wine and the innovative Amazonian cuisine, created by Executive Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, whose restaurant, Malabar, is the one of Lima’s top ranked dining experiences. Schiaffino’s imaginative use of local products – fruit, fish, spices – makes every meal a delightful adventure. The menu always offers choices, including a vegetarian option. Perhaps sip a nightcap on the Upper Deck, under the stars, before retiring. Aboard Aria Amazon Cruise (B,D)

Day 11: Amazon River – Yacapana Islands & Dolphin Watching
The Amazon River originates in streams that run through the Andes Mountains and flows mightily across South America. Considered the longest river on earth, the Amazon runs at least 6,400 kilometers/4,000 miles, carrying with it more water than any other river in the world. It is responsible for about one-fifth of all fresh water that flows into the world’s oceans.

Today you explore Yacapana Islands, the so called the "Islands of the Iguana" because of the resident reptiles. These miniature prehistoric-looking dinosaurs seem to crawl on over everything and rest in the treetops. As you continue to explore the waterways, you may catch site of gray and pink freshwater dolphins as they swim and play around the boats. Amazonian peoples believe that these dolphins possess the power to turn into men and women of great beauty. Aboard Aria Amazon Cruise (B,L,D) 

Day 12: Amazon River – Yarapa River, Moringo Lake & Lake Clavero
This morning, you board a comfortable skiff to sail from the Amazon River to the Yarapa River. Life jackets, ponchos, rubber boots, and fresh water are always available. As you float down the Yarapa, past the occasional fisherman paddling in a canoe, keep your binoculars ready to spot wildlife. The Amazon River has the richest biodiversity of any river in the world.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, “To date, at least 40,000 plant species, 427 mammals (e.g. jaguar, anteater and giant otter), 1,300 birds (e.g. harpy eagle, toucan and hoatzin), 378 reptiles (e.g. boa), more than 400 amphibians (e.g. dart poison frog) and around 3,000 freshwater fishes including the piranha have been found in the Amazon.”

At Lake Moringo, you have the opportunity to go fishing for the infamous piranhas and other fish species. As you fish, trained naturalist guides will tell the story of the lake and its inhabitants. Later, you journey on to Lake Clavero, where villagers paddle their traditional dugout canoes. You may want to try your hand paddling one of these canoes or taking a swim in the lake’s calm waters. You can also visit the community to gain a glimpse of their lives. Aboard Aria Amazon Cruise (B,L,D) 

Day 13: Amazon River – Ucayali River, Yanallpa & Dorado River
This morning, board the skiffs to explore Ucayali River, a fascinating black water stream, part of the vast Amazon flooded forest within the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Your guides talk about the jungle as you explore what scientists call a "gallery forest," because of its dense vegetation that creates a tunnel of leaves. As you continue to explore this type of riparian vegetation, make sure you look up occasionally for parrots, macaws, and fluffy monk saki monkeys.

This afternoon, set out on a magical journey on the Dorado River through the Jungle of the Mirrors, where towering trees are reflected in the dark river. The river is rich in biodiversity and you may observe enchanting parrots, macaws and a variety of primates, such as tamarins, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys and marmosets. All seem unperturbed by your presence. As you return to your ship. you may also see alligators, frogs and fishing bats. While you dine, your ship continues the journey upstream toward the headwaters of the Amazon River, where the Ucayali and Marañon Rivers merge. Aboard Aria Amazon Cruise (B,L,D)

Day 14: Birthplace of the Amazon River / Marañon River
This morning, the Aria Amazon skirts the edge of the vast Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a flooded forest covering five million acres at the headwaters of the Amazon basin. You will want to rise early to catch this once-in-a-lifetime experience, one of the great spectacles of the Southern Hemisphere – sunrise over the origin of the Amazon River. Here, the junction of two major tributaries, the Ucayali and the Marañon, form one of the greatest waterfalls in the world. Your savor the sounds of bird songs, as you glide in your small boats past large-billed terns, laughing falcons, exotic short-tailed parrot, and dozens of other vibrantly hued birds.

Travel by boat to a community located along the Marañon River, where you will meet and interact with local villagers in this remote part of the world to learn about their traditions and folklore. Walk around with our naturalist guides to see how Aqua Expeditions works with these communities to improve their natural resource management. You will also have the opportunity to buy local handicrafts directly from the artisans. 

This afternoon, visit the town of Nauta, founded in 1930. Nauta is the main point where villagers from around Amazonia come to sell the products they harvest in their rural communities. Walk around Nauta to gain insights into the life of these coastal peoples, and visit the local fresh market with your guides on hand to point out the different fish caught by the fishermen of Amazonia as well as the types of indigenous fruits. Later, you may explore the Lupunillo or Marayali Creek, a tributary of the Marañon River. Aboard Aria Amazon Cruise (B,L,D)

Day 15: Amazon River – Yanayacu-Pucate River
Discover the Yanayacu - Pucate River within Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Here on this black water river you observe many species of flora and fauna, especially macaws and several species of primates like squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys and the famous river dolphins, either pink or gray. You can try your hand again at piranha fishing. During this stop at a community located along the great Marañon River, your expert guides will introduce you to some of the people of Amazonia. Visit the lands where they practice subsistence farming to see how they cultivate wild plants and trees to earn income. In the primary forest, your guides will also teach you about the fruit trees and medicinal plants hidden in the jungle. Aboard Aria Amazon Cruise (B,L,D)

Day 16: Amazon River – Samiria River & Nauta Caño
This morning your naturalist guide will talk about sustainable development projects in Amazonia. You will visit one of the projects, where villagers are planting palms to obtain oil. Your guide will also show you the artificial nests created in the sand to protect turtle eggs. Then, you go into the jungle to scout for wildlife and learn first-hand about the value of medicinal plants found here. Keep an eye out for the famous Ceiba tree, the tallest in the Amazon. You can also make brief trips in traditional Amazonian canoes and swim in the waters of the Samiria River. Nauta Caño is part of the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, where you will observe toucans, macaws, and iguanas, as well as alligators, frogs and fishing bats. Aboard Aria Amazon Cruise (B,L,D)

Day 17: Amazon River – Marañon River
Travel along the Marañon River looking for the varied species indigenous of flora and fauna. You reach the community, where you set out on a hike to explore the environment of the river from its birds such as tanagers and orioles to its reptiles and amphibians. Keep an eye out for the beautiful and eye-catching but poisonous frogs along this fascinating trail, as well as trees and medicinal plants. You return via skiff to the Yacapana Islands, passing them by. You will have one last chance to fish for piranhas and other fish. Then you go in search of the world's largest aquatic plant called “Victoria Regia." As the sun goes down, photograph the freshwater Amazon dolphins both gray and pink. Once back on board, the ship will continue its journey downstream, sailing toward Iquitos through the night.

This evening, your guides will introduce some of the crewmembers who worked "behind the scenes" to ensure your memorable trip has been filled with countless exceptional experiences. Aboard Aria Amazon Cruise (B,L,D)

Day 18: Amazon River / Iquitos / Depart
Depending on the weather, you may have on one last excursion to the flood zone that borders the city of Iquitos to observe the houses and shops that actually float on the Itaya River for several months of the year. Then visit the traditional market of Bellavista Nanay, bordering the Nanay River, to see products from the Peruvian Amazon including exotic snacks like the Amazon Caterpillar, called "Suri." These caterpillars live in the palm trees and are considered a very appetizing snack, even in the city.

Disembark this afternoon and set out on a tour of Iquitos, once a vibrant city in the days of the rubber boom. Visit the Manatee Rescue Center, a kind of animal orphanage for Amazonian manatees that have been rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Later, stop at the Amazonian Indian Market San Juan, where, you may wish to look for local crafts. Guides will help with check in at the airport and stay with you until you have boarded your flight back to Lima, where you will connect your flight back home (B,L) 


Two Special 2018 Departures:  January 31- February 16, 2018 and September 26 – October 12, 2018

Per Diem: Land/Cruise: Price starts from US$880 per person per day, land/cruise only double occupancy


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