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: Arrive Lima, Peru
Upon arrival in Lima, Peru, please proceed through Immigration and Customs. After claiming your luggage, exit the Customs Hall where a representative from Big Five will be waiting for you. (Our representative will be holding a sign indicating your last name). Once you are met and assisted, you are transferred to your hotel, your room is available upon your arrival. Atemporal Boutique Hotel
Day 2: Lima
Lima, the center of Spanish power in the New World for three centuries after Pizarro's conquest of Peru, is the focal point that draws the country into one land. The capital and the starting point for most visitor itineraries enjoys a considerable legacy of art and architecture from its colonial period, while 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 known in South America as the gastronomy paradise. Today your culinary adventure begins at a lively, local market brimming with ingredients that are core to Peruvian cuisine such as fish, crucial to the classic Peruvian Ceviche; the humble potato, of which Peru boasts more than 3,000 varieties; and grains like caiguas and cañihua. You will also be introduced to native fruits such as chirimoya and sacha inchi – with the guarantee that there will be some that you’ve never heard of before.
Pause for a Peruvian coffee and head to a local food-haunt such as La Preferida, located in a quiet residential neighborhood and popular among the locals for its wide variety of Peruvian classics which you can sample at the bar, such as mini causitas, pulpo al olivo, almejas al balsámico, cevichito mixto and choritos a la chalaca served tapas-style. Jump back into your car and head 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 con sangrecito, escabeche and estofado. You can also sip on a chilcano, pisco sour, or an ice cold Peruvian craft beer. If you still have room for dessert you can head elsewhere to sample decadent chocolates or sweet Peruvian treats like picarones and suspiro de limeña. Tonight you will have a welcome dinner at Astrid & Gaston, one of the most famous, gourmet restaurants in Lima. Atemporal Boutique Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 3: Lima
Travel south out of the city for a tour of the ancient of Pachacamac. This archaeological site overlooks the Pacific Ocean and predates the Inca by centuries; however the Inca did maintain it as a religious center. Afterwards is lunch at La Gloria Del Campo, and/or La Casa Don Cucho which is in the refurbished Hacienda Casa Blanca built in the 1800’s. Pacachamac is also the area to view the traditional Peruvian Paso horses at the nearby Hacienda Mamacona. Other options while in the countryside include touring a working “lucuma” farm, which grows the “lucuma” fruit, native from Peru and great for Ice creams and desserts, or visit a working olive farm, or fig farm. Please join us this evening for a special cocktail reception and dinner at Casa Luna, the private hacienda of your hosts Javier and Eva Luna, where an eclectic art collection containing over 1,500 nativities is on display. Atemporal Boutique Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4: Lima / Cuzco / Urubamba (Sacred) Valley
Transfer to the airport to board your flight to Cuzco. On arrival join your guide for the drive to the Quechua village of Chinchero, located on an ancient Inca road used to transport goods and people between the north of the Empire in Ecuador and Machu Picchu. As such, it is an important and meaningful archaeological site. Today, Chinchero is home to some of the best weavers in Peru who have preserved the traditional Incan skills of dying the wool with natural dyes, and producing colors unique to the community. Weaving is done by hand or on simple looms. You have the opportunity to visit Paulino and Vilma Quillahuaman’s home, husband and wife, with four children, who operate a weavers' cooperative of eight families who help the children of the community. They have provided funding and labor to help build a boarding school for orphaned girls from the Umasbamba region. At school, the girls learn traditional weaving skills that will give them a trade and a means of supporting themselves when they graduate. Other projects by the cooperative include providing cows as a source of milk for families in Chinchero, with the community providing the land and growing the crops to feed the cows. The original herd, which numbered six, has grown to more than a dozen. The village hopes to open a cheese factory as the herd grows. Here you can witness the ancient Inca textile technique incorporating symbols of Andean myths and cosmic vision. Following the visit, stroll through the Chinchero market and explore the nearby archaeological site. Enjoy a typical “pachamanca”, while the technique of cooking in the earth is found around the globe, the specifics of how it is done are infinitely variable. One of the most unique approaches is found here in Peru where hot rocks are used in lieu of smoldering coals. And, like in other cultures, cooking in this manner is a communal affair. The repast becomes a celebration in and of itself. Even though the hostess is cooking for all comers, you find yourself getting caught up in the spectacle. After lunch, enjoy a tour to Ollantaytambo - a beautiful and tranquil village. Here, you find some spectacular and extensive Inca ruins, most of them enclosed with a Temple Fortress. The unfinished temple, begun by the Pachacuti, contains some of the largest stones ever used by the Inca builders. The village itself is constructed on top of Inca foundations - so you can see typical Inca stonework down almost any street. Sol y Luna Lodge & Spa (B,L)
Day 5: Urubamba Valley
Depart by vehicle this morning to the ruins of Moray. Your guide will take you down into these ruins and explain their function. It is said that the ancient agricultural terraces of circular and concentric shape, which were built by the Incas, were used as a seed-producing area for the principal crops of the empire: maize and potato. Start walking towards the town of Maras through the countryside, surrounded now by farmlands and the occasional local habitat. The view of the mountain ranges never fades away. (The path you’ll take is mostly flat.) Once you get to Maras there are several things to see and visit. Influenced by the Spanish conquerors, some of the doorposts are in colonial style and beautifully worked. On your way to the salt Pans, you will have a deluxe picnic in the middle of awesome scenery. You will continue to the salt pans, you’ll spend some time so the guide can explain how the salt-draining process works. You might even have the chance to try making salt yourself. Your descent into the Sacred Valley starts off on a narrow path, and you will need to walk cautiously. You may spot the Cara Cara, a typical Andean mountain-bird and a member of the falcon family. The path, which runs alongside a gorge, takes you down to the Urubamba River. On one side is the brook which also runs through the saltpans. Because of its high salt content, it turns the earth on its banks white. Other birds you might spot while you approach the river are the Andean gull and the hummingbird. After you cross the hanging bridge, the van will pick you up to take you back to the hotel. Rio Sagrado Hotel (B,L)
*Important Note: This evening you will need to 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 6: Urubamba Valley / Cusco / Machu Picchu
This morning you are transferred to the Poroy rail station to board the Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu. The train journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu is a highlight of any trip to the Andes. The Hiram Bingham will depart Cusco's Poroy Station at about 9:00 a.m. Brunch will be served on board while travelers enjoy spectacular scenery as it unfolds through the large windows. The 3 ½ hour journey takes you through the Sacred Valley, passing by lush, green fields and colorful villages in the foothills of the Andes. From here on, there are wonderful vistas of the mountains and, deep in its dramatic canyon, the beautiful Urubamba River running through the Sacred Valley. You will arrive at the train station of Aguas Calientes around 12:30 PM. You shall meet your private guide here and transfer by small bus to the entrance of the ruins to commence your touring. Machu Picchu rises to an altitude of 7,900 ft. above sea level. The fortress sits 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 (dwellings, canalizations), and the sacred sector (temples, mausoleums, squares, 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. Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge – Mountain room (B,L,D)
Day 7: Machu Picchu / Cusco
The morning is at leisure to explore Machu Picchu area. Your private guide is available to assist with the leisure options available to you. You can choose to visit the Indian market in Aguas Calientes village. For those who wish to return to the Archaeological Site, your guide will privately accompany you back to Machu Picchu. For a truly mystical experience, we advise those early risers to also hike the Huayna Picchu peak, situated opposite of Machu Picchu, where there is a prodigious panoramic view of the imposing mass of ruins and the Urubamba valley. The breathtaking views from this mountaintop citadel and its well-preserved ruins are a photographer's dream. You may also walk along to the Sun Gate, which is the last section of the famous Inca Trail. Late this afternoon, you shall board the Hiram Bingham for your return journey to Cusco. Once on board, pre-dinner cocktails and live entertainment will be enjoyed in the bar. After drinks, you will enjoy a 4-course gastronomic menu. Upon arrival into Cusco’s Poroy station, you are met and privately transferred to your hotel. Belmond Hotel Palacio Nazarenas (B,L,D)
Day 8: Cusco
High in the Andes, about 11,400 feet above sea level is Cusco, considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere and of major historical importance. Founded in the 15th century by the Incas, it was later conquered by Spain and much of its architecture reflects the dramatic Spanish style of what is 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. Almost every central street has remains of Inca walls, arches and doorways. Before lunch a walk is planned through the San Pedro market to familiarize you with the local ingredients. It is an open-air, local market with many venders and full of color and a great variety of foods. For lunch we go to Tupananchis restaurant for a cooking demonstration and preparation of your own meal. Enjoy a half day visit of this magical city as you drive through the main streets with their Inca walls. Visit the Qorikancha (Sun Temple) now referred to as Santo Domingo Church. The curved stonework of the temple is probably unequalled in the world. During the Inca period, the stones were covered with gold. Then, visit the archaeological sites that surround Cusco: The Saqsayhuaman Fortress, an amazing site with huge stone constructions. The site has a great cosmic energy - that is why people think it was an astronomic observatory and an Inca oracle. Also visit Q’enqo, a place that was used for worship and ceremonial center. Back to the city, visit the San Pedro Local Market where you will see the real life of Cusco and then proceed to “San Blas”, the Artisans’ Neighborhood of narrow and high streets, beautiful little plaza, where the fibers of wool, the pieces of clay and the wood pieces turned into real art pieces. Continue to see the famous Twelve Angles stone, part of the largest Inca wall of Cusco, which used to be the Hatunrumiyoc (Big Stone) palace, built by Inca Sinchi Roca. This is an example of Inca skill with polygonal masonry. At night you will visit La Divina Comedia Restaurant and will enjoy a delicious dinner. Belmond Hotel Palacio Nazarenas (B,L,D)
Day 9: Cusco / Lima / Depart
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Lima. Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel. You will have a farewell dinner at El Mercado restaurant and be transferred, at night, to the airport for your flight back home. Atemporal Boutique Hotel (B,D)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$850 per person per day