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.
Peru is in the same zone as U.S. EST (GMT -5 hours).
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.
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Day 1: Lima, Peru
Welcome to Peru, land of the Incas. After claiming your luggage, exit the Customs Hall, where a representative from Big Five will be waiting to assist you and escort you to Lima’s luxury boutique hotel, about 40 minutes from the airport. Hotel B – Aposento
Day 2: Lima
Lima was the center of Spanish power in the New World for more than 300 years after Pizarro conquered Peru. Today, this classic colonial city is the focal point that draws the country into one land. The capital and the starting point for most visitors, it offers a considerable legacy of art and architecture from the colonial period. Its museums are bursting with artifacts of gold, ceramic and weavings unearthed from the country's ancient settlements. Your half day sightseeing program will include Lima’s superb colonial churches, palaces and promenades. Peru is also known in South America as a gastronomic paradise. Begin your culinary adventure at Suquillo Market, a characteristic market where you get an overview of the variety of Peruvian products, from exotic fruits to a huge variety of fish and seafood. You will also visit the exclusive restaurant of Señorío de Sulco, to assist the Peruvian chef in creating your own lunch of the most typical dishes using Quinoa, the most versatile of Andean grains. Whole grain, raw or toasted flour, flakes, semolina and instant powder can be prepared in many different ways, producing a wide array of traditional and innovative recipes. After lunch, continue to the Larco Herrera Museum, with its collection of pottery, gold and silver works, mummies and the most unusual ancient erotic ceramics from the Chimu, Mohica and other Pre-Inca civilizations – the only collection of its kind in the world. Today, you may have a private consultation with the curator of the Larco Herrera Museum, if available This evening, you are in for a grand culinary experience…. dinner at the famed restaurant Astrid y Gastón, known as one of the top restaurants in all of South America. The chef-owner is a well-established player on the global food scene. The menu at his eponymous restaurant started out as traditional Peruvian, but has morphed into Peru-meets-international haute cuisine. Indigenous ingredients and local cooking methods are fused with a dizzying array of global flavors. Hotel B – Aposento (B,L,D)
Day 3: Lima / Cusco / Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley of the Incas)
This morning, you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Cusco. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to San Salvador district, where you pass colorful quinoa cultivated fields in the fertile Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The grain is believed to have been originated in Peru as far back as 5,000 years BCE near Lake Titcaca, and is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. It is high in protein, lacks gluten, and is tolerant of dry soil. It is cultivated throughout the Andes and, indeed, all over the world today, including the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa. Urubamba Valley has a large concentration of quinoa plantations. Travel along the Urubamba River to the town of Pisaq and its Indian Market, one of Peru’s most famous. Then visit the authentic Calca Andean local market, where Peruvians are actively involved in selling and purchasing Andean crops including quinoa. Savor a late lunch at Huacatay Restaurant with its own special Andean quinoa recipes. Late this afternoon, arrive at your hotel. Tonight enjoy a very special welcome dinner with quinoa recipes at the hotel. Rio Sagrado – Deluxe Room (B,L,D)
Day 4: Urubamba Valley
Today, you step back in time some 800 years as you explore the traditional communities of Willoq and Hatuncancha, and interact with the villagers to learn about the customs and traditions that have been passed down over the centuries. Willoq is a small Andean village, whose quaint adobe houses are roofed with either straw or red tiles. In the Patacancha Valley, the villagers, who are direct descendants of the Incas, speak Quechua and still dress in colorful red ponchos and shawls, and woolen hats decorated with red ribbons. Their remarkable apparel is usually embellished with elaborate, dark colored patterns, which represent the history of their community, and that serve as records of the most important aspects of this rich culture. Hatuncancha sits on the shores of a crystalline stream flowing in the Paramo. In this unique mountain habitat, condors glide on updrafts and llamas and alpacas graze. It is also home to one of the most authentic Quechua-speaking families you will ever meet. They welcome you into their homes as they have done with other travelers since the time of the ancient Incas. You enjoy their hospitality as you learn about their ancient way of life. This is a great opportunity to interact with Hatuncancha families and learn about their connection with quinoa and other ‘lost crops’ of the Incas. You can, if you wish, participate with villagers in an aspect of rural agricultural production processes such as harvesting, plowing and the like, depending on the season. You can also help prepare lunch using quinao and other local ingredients before sitting down to eat what you have prepared. Then, you continue to Ollantaytambo, a beautiful and tranquil village that is the site of some spectacular and extensive Inca ruins, most of them enclosed within the Temple Fortress. Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, and built the town and ceremonial center in the mid 15th century. The unfinished temple contains some of the largest stones ever used by the Inca builders. Rio Sagrado – Deluxe Room (B,L,D) IMPORTANT NOTE: This evening, pack a small bag for your rail journey tomorrow. For all Perurail journeys, each passenger is allowed 1 bag or backpack which must not exceed 05kg/11pounds and/or 62 inches/157cm (length + height + width). Please pack light. Baggage that exceeds these measurements will not be allowed. Your additional luggage will be stored by your Big Five representative.
Day 5: Urubamba Valley / Machu Picchu
This morning, you board the Vista Valle train, which stops at your hotel, Rio Sagrado, for a delightful journey into the Andes to Machu Picchu, a highlight of any trip to the Andes. The scenery is simply spectacular as this hour-and-a-half journey takes you through changing landscapes of beautiful Sacred Valley and on into the Andes Mountains. On arrival in Machu Picchu, you board a small bus that takes you to the entrance of the ruins. Machu Picchu rises to an altitude of 2,408 m/7,900 ft above sea level between the Huayna Picchu (young peak) and Machu Picchu (old peak). It lies within the spectacular framework provided by the exuberant vegetation of nearby jungle and the rugged landscape. The ruins are situated on the eastern slope of Machu Picchu in two different areas: the agricultural and the urban. The latter includes the civil sector of dwellings and canals and the sacred sector which includes temples, mausoleums, squares and royal houses. Although constructions show different levels of architecture, religious buildings exhibit a high degree of perfection. The construction was with general use of stone, and the roofs were built of tree trunks and thatched with ichu straw. The walls were made with an inward inclination for protection against earthquakes. You enjoy lunch at Sanctuary Lodge Hotel. Later this afternoon, small buses take you down to Aguas Calientes to the village and check in at your hotel, where you will enjoy a delicious dinner this evening. Machu Picchu Inkaterra Hotel – Superior Deluxe Room (B,L,D)
Day 6: Machu Picchu / Ollanta / Cusco
The morning is at leisure for you to relax or explore the area. Your private guide is available to assist you. You may choose to visit the Indian market in the village, or discover the hotel’s cloud forest trails including the Orchid Garden (372 species), and do a bit of bird watching to look for endemic birds such as the Cock of the Rock, Peru’s national bird, hummingbirds (18 species) and see the only South America’s bear specie: the Spectacled Bear. For those who wish to return to the Archaeological Site, your admission fee and round trip bus tickets are included and your guide will privately accompany you back to Machu Picchu. You can opt for a guided walk along to the Sun Gate, which is the last section of the famous Inca Trail for panoramic views of Machu Picchu. For a truly mystical experience, early risers can hike up Huayna Picchu peak, situated opposite of Machu Picchu, for more incredible panoramic views of the imposing the citadel and the Urubamba Valley beyond. (Huayna Picchu tickets are limited and subject to availability). Today, you lunch at Hotel Inkaterra. Later in the afternoon, return aboard the Vistadome Valley train to the Ollanta station, where you will be met and privately transferred to your hotel in Cusco. Inkaterra La Casona Cusco - Suite Balcon (B,L,D)
Day 7: Cusco
High in the Andes, about 3474 m/11,400 feet above sea level, Cusco is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere. Founded in the 15th century by the Incas, it was later conquered by Spain. Much of the city’s architecture reflects the dramatic Spanish style known as Cusco Baroque. The Incas conceived their capital in the shape of a Puma with the river serving as the spine, Sacsayhuaman the head and the main city center the body. You can spot traces of this earlier era in the Incan walls, arches and doorways of almost every central street in the city. Enjoy a half-day visit of this magical city as you drive through the main streets. Visit the Qorikancha (Sun Temple) now referred to as Santo Domingo Church. The curved stonework of the temple is probably unequalled in the world. Imagine walking in to a temple of the time that had stone walls covered with gold! Then, visit the archaeological sites that surround Cusco: the Saqsayhuaman Fortress, an amazing site with huge stone constructions. The site is said to have great cosmic energy, which has lead some to think it was an astronomic observatory and an Inca oracle. Q’enqo was used for worship and as a ceremonial center. Enjoy people watching at San Pedro market before heading over to San Blas, the artisan neighborhood of high, narrow streets and a beautiful little plaza. Here, artists create works in textiles, clay and wood. Continue to see the famous Twelve Angles stone, part of the largest Inca wall remaining in Cusco. It once served as the Hatunrumiyoc (Big Stone) palace. This is an example of Inca skill in the use of polygonal masonry. Enjoy lunch at exclusive Inka´s Grill Restaurant in Cusco’s Main Plaza for another great experience with quinoa recipes. This afternoon is at leisure to pursue your own interests. This evening you dine at Chicha Restaurant, another Chef Gaston restaurant. Inkaterra La Casona Cusco - Suite Balcon (B,L,D)
Day 8: Cusco
This morning head out to Villa Tipón, a private farm home located just outside the city of Cusco. This beautiful retreat is set in the midst of stunning mountains landscapes. Gardens of vividly colored flowers invite a relaxing stroll. Enjoy a delicious Peruvian lunch including quinoa recipes. Then take in an Andean healing ceremony with a local Shaman. Before returning to your hotel, visit the Incan archaeological site of Tipón, the Temple of the Water. Its impressive agricultural terraces and sacred fountains and aqueducts are still in use. Tipón is a 500-acred, walled settlement served as an estate for Inca nobility and has been farmed for more than 450 years. This stunning civil engineering achievement by the Inca has been nominated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a “Water Engineering Masterpiece of the Inca Empire.” They designed buildings, waterworks, and massive structures to be visually and functionally in harmony with the natural environment. Your guide will take you on a tour of the canals, plazas, aqueducts and fountains. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure before you savor an exclusive farewell dinner at the hotel. Inkaterra La Casona Cusco - Suite Balcon (B,L,D)
Day 9: Cusco-Puno / Lake Titicaca
This morning you transfer to the train station to board the deluxe Andean Explorer train. Settle in and relax and take in the beautiful Andean landscapes as the train travels between mountains and clouds. This ten-hour ambles through a changing countryside of mountains, plains, valleys and quinoa fields and past hundreds of llamas and alpacas. The Andean Explorer recalls the lush style of the great Pullman trains of the 1920s and includes dining cars and a car-bar outdoor observatory. Named among The Best Journeys by Train of the World, the Andean Explorer is one journey you won’t want to miss. On your way to Lake Titicaca, enjoy and exquisite lunch onboard as well as entertainment. On arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel. Hotel Libertador Lake Titicaca Puno - Lake View (B,L,D)
Day 10: Lake Titicaca
Today you will visit the legendary islands of the Uros, and meet one of traditional families that live there. The Uros Floating Islands are located near the protected National Reserve of Titicaca. The people of Uros are a proud culture, who, due to persecution by other groups, found refuge by living on manmade islands. They call themselves kot-suña or people of the lake. Learn about their fascinating history and culture; and learn about the uses for totora reeds. these impressive islands. The islands are a must-see for many travelers, so, depending on the season, you may expect to encounter many other international visitors. Then, drive in a private vehicle along the lake shore past sandy beaches, thick reeds and lush marshes to the Llachon community, a small village on the peninsula of Capachica . This community of 1,300 belong to the ethnic group of Quechuas. Here, you will see the origin of quinoa and how the people of the Aymaras and the Quechua still employ ancient agriculture practices handed down for a millennium. Explore the village; visit family houses; see how they farm and their weaving techniques. Sample local foods at a lunch using traditional quinoa recipes. You have the opportunity to go kayaking on the highest navigable lake of the world. Late afternoon return to the hotel. Hotel Libertador Lake Titicaca Puno - Lake View (B,L,D)
Day 11: Lake Titicaca / Juliaca / Lima/ Depart
Transfer to Juliaca Airport for your flight to Lima. On the way, visit the Sillustani Tombs, a pre-Incan burial ground on the shores of Lake Umayo near Puno. The above-ground tombs are tower-like structures called chullpas, and were built to house the Aymara elite in the pre-Inca and Inca period. The Aymara were conquered by the Inca in the 15th century. Continue to Juliaca airport for your flight to Lima, where you are met and assisted to the international terminal and for your onward flight. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$800 per person per day