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.
Day 1: Lima, Peru
Welcome to Lima. Upon arrival, an English-speaking Big Five representative greets you and escorts you to your hotel to assist you with check-in to your luxury boutique hotel offering stylish accommodation in the heart of Barranco, Lima’s bohemian arts district. This was formerly the seaside district for Lima’s aristocracy and today it is one of the most distinctive areas of the capital. A refurbished historic mansion, the Relais & Chateaux property, is flanked by the tree-lined boulevard Saenz Peña and is easy walking distance from art galleries, fashion boutiques d award-winning restaurants. Adorned with an eclectic collection of contemporary art and sculptures, the intimate property offers 17 plush rooms kitted out with either rain showers or bath tubs. An inviting roof terrace affords views to the oceanfront promenade, only a few meters away, while the chic 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. Hotel B – Aposento
Day 2: 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 cherimoya, 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 amongst locals for its variety of classics that 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 con sangrecito, escabeche and estofado. You can also sip on a chilcano, pisco sour or an ice-cold Peruvian craft beer. If you have any room for dessert you can set out to 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. It sports an array of vibrant street art, fashionable ateliers, boutiques, galleries and impressive museums. This is an easily walkable area. The galleries and shops you might visit will depend on your interest 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 3: 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 124 miles 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 constructed… millennia before the Romans constructed the Colosseum or the Khmer Empire erected Angkor Wat. Think of that! Caral is truly remarkable due to 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 features filtered 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 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. Empedrada Lodge – Valley View Room (B)
Day 4: 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 ochres 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. Perched high in the Andes, Cuesta Serena is a charming independent boutique luxurious hotel with just seven rooms. It is tastefully designed with a firm nod to Peruvian culture, using splashes of colorful textiles, Andean motifs, embroidered decorative cushions and traditional ornaments. Each room offers en suite bathrooms and is uniquely decorated, balancing style with homey warmth. Outside the city of Huaraz, the setting is picturesque yet just a stone’s throw from the region’s airport just a 20-minute drive away. Manicured gardens with hammocks offer stunning views of Huascarán Mountain and its neighboring peaks. Hearty breakfasts can be served up on the terrace to soak in the fresh mountain air. In addition to the pool, you can savor a visit to the spa. Cuesta Serena Lodge - Standard Room (B,L,D)
Day 5: 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. Today’s excursion involves only light walking, allowing you to acclimate. A picnic lunch is included. Cuesta Serena Lodge - Standard Room (B,L,D)
Day 6: 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. 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 7km / 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.
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. Cuesta Serena Lodge - Standard Room (B,L,D)
Day 7: 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. Cuesta Serena Lodge - Standard Room (B,L,D)
Day 8: 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 Jaen. Upon arrival in Jaen, our representative welcomes you and accompany you on the transfer to Chachapoyas. A three-hour scenic drive takes you along the Utcubamba River for most of the journey. You arrive and check into you hotel. Achamaqui Casa Hacienda is a peaceful hotel with 31 rooms on several acres of land just off the Utcubamba River in Chachapoyas. It is designed in the style typical of old haciendas in the region, with wooden balconies, spacious rooms, red tile roofs and a classic stone pool. In addition to the rooms in the main building, the property offers two villas ideal for groups or large families. You can see touches of the local culture in the hotel’s decorative ceramics and textiles handmade by local artisans, the traditional food offered at the onsite restaurant, and the bar on the banks of the river - which is covered by a hand-woven hut made of dried banana leaves using traditional techniques. Achamaqui Casa Hacienda – Suite (B,L,D)
Day 9: Chachapoyas – Gocta Waterfalls – Chachapoyas
Setting out with your private guide on the path to the waterfall. The walk is on is well-maintained trail and provides a stable and scenic journey and crosses 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 Gocta Waterfalls, 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’ll 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. Achamaqui Casa Hacienda – Suite (B,L,D)
Day 10: Chachapoyas – Kuelap – Chachapoyas
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 meters/9,842 feet above sea level on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru. The imposing site is over 600 meters/1968 feet in length, and its surrounding walls up to 20 meters/66 feet 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. During the visit, you will pause to enjoy a box lunch. At the end of your visit, you drive back to your hotel. Achamaqui Casa Hacienda – Suite (B,L,D)
Day 11: 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 occupancy: Price starts from US$600 per person per day.