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16 days/14 nights:

Ballestas, Nazca & Inca culture

Highlights of this tour:

Lima, the Ballestas islands, the Nazca lines, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno, Lake Titicaca, visit to the Uros people, Taquile Island and visit to the Quechua Indians, Cusco, ‘Urubamba’ – the Sacred Valley, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Flights from the UK to Lima (enquire regarding direct flights)
  • Flights from Cusco to the UK
  • Transfers from and to the airports (in small, international groups)
  • Coach travel: Lima – Pisco – Ica – Nazca – Arequipa – Colca Canyon – Puno – Cusco
  • Train travel: Return trip, Cusco – Aguas Calientes
  • 14 nights’ accommodation in good hotels incl. breakfast
  • 3 x lunch (days 6, 8, 9)
  • Individual round trip, although all excursions are in small international groups with local, English-speaking guides
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Emergency hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Daily departures

The following package of excursions are included:

  • Half-day tour of Lima, including a visit to the Lima Museum of Art
  • Sailing trip to the Ballestas Islands
  • Flight over the Nazca lines
  • Half-day tour of Arequipa, including a visit to the Santa Catalina Monastery
  • Two-day visit to Colca Canyon – famous for its condors, thermal baths and ancient agricultural terraces
  • Full-day trip to Lake Titicaca and the islands of Uros and Taquile
  • Half-day tour of Cusco and the surrounding area
  • Full-day trip to The Sacred Valley
  • Two-day trip to Machu Picchu, including train travel and guided tour
  • Admission to the attractions mentioned

Single room supplement: £695
Discounts are available for groups of 4 or more people

Choose this tour because…

Peru is a magnificent country to travel in and explore. Your visit starts in Lima, the capital city, and continues on to the Ballestas Islands – also known as the ‘mini-Galápagos’ – where you can admire curving rock formations, blue-footed boobies, penguins and sea lions. It is also just off this group of islands that you can see La Candelabre on the Paracas peninsula. One of the absolute highlights of this trip is the chance to see the world-famous Nazca lines, which can only be viewed from the air. There will also be time to visit ‘The White City’ of Arequipa and the deep and intriguing Colca Canyon. On the highest lake in the world – Lake Titicaca – you will have the chance to meet the local people and find out more about their culture and everyday life. Of course, no trip to Peru would be complete without experiencing Cusco, the ancient and elegant capital of the Inca Empire, and The Sacred Valley, including a visit to the museum town of Ollantaytambo and the town of Pisac, famous for its Indian markets and impressive ruins. Yet another highlight is the world-famous ruin complex of Machu Picchu, where you can enjoy an enchanting view of the high mountains and cloud forest before making your way back to Cusco, which marks the start of your journey home.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Departure from the UK and arrival in Lima

Departure day, where you will fly to Peru, with connecting flights along the way. You will land at Lima Airport, where you will be met by a representative of our partner in Peru, who will accompany you to your hotel. The journey from the airport to the hotel takes around 40 minutes, and en route your guide will answer any questions you may have regarding your trip. The rest of the day is yours to do with as you wish.

Overnight stay Hotel Britania Miraflores

Day 2: Tour of Lima

The day starts with a half-day tour of the Peruvian capital city, which was founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro. The itinerary will take you to the magnificent, bustling central square called Plaza Mayor, which is decorated with rose gardens, tall palm trees and a famous fountain capped with a representation of the city’s guardian angel. The square is lined with beautiful buildings in colonial style, including the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace and the city’s impressive cathedral which dates back to 1555 and contains the earthly remains of Pizarro himself. You will then have the chance to visit the San Francisco Monastery and its church from 1674 – which happens to be the most attractive Baroque church in the city. The monastery is decorated with delightful mosaic tiles from Seville and fresco paintings that were rediscovered when an earthquake destroyed parts of the outer wall. Particularly worthy of note are the monastery’s museum of religious art, the library of more than 25,000 books, and the catacombs beneath the church.

Next stop on the itinerary is the San Isidro district, with its attractive parks, and the modern Miraflores quarter, with its fine beaches, gardens and squares, as well as charming cafés and restaurants. Before the tour draws to a close, there will be time to visit the Lima Museum of Art, which is famous for its comprehensive collections of pre-Colombian jewellery and applied art.

The late afternoon and evening are yours to do with as you wish.

However, it would be a good idea to have an early night, as you will be continuing on your way early in the morning.

Overnight stay Hotel Britania Miraflores

Day 3: Lima – Ballestas – Ica

You will be picked up from the hotel very early in the morning and driven to the bus station to catch your ride to Paracas – a trip of around 4 hours. On arrival, you will be met at the bust station and driven to Pisco from where you will sail to the Ballestas Islands.

The Ballestas are a small group of islands off the southern coast of Peru, and they are often called the ‘mini-Galápagos’. The islands primarily consist of rock formations that have been eroded by the sea to create steep cliffs and enormous arches. The Ballestas Islands constitute the most important bird and marine life reserve in Peru, providing a habitat for a large population of sea birds including cormorants, sea gulls and the magnificent blue-footed booby – which is also indigenous to the Galápagos Islands. Other wildlife on view here includes sea lions, which sometimes swim right up close to the boats, and Humboldt penguins, which were borne to the islands from the Antarctic by the powerful Humboldt Current. It is not permitted to set foot on the islands themselves as they are protected, but the sailing trip will allow you to see the animals at first hand.

The trip also takes in La Candelabre, at the northernmost tip of the Paracas Peninsula. La Candelabre is a gigantic drawing representing a three-armed candelabra or a cactus. This was a symbol of power in the Chavín culture which was strongest farther to the north, but also had an influence on large stretches of the coastal region. It is not known who drew the drawing – or for what purpose.

After visiting the sights, you will sail back to Pisco where you will be driven to the bus station to catch a bus to Ica. On arrival in Ica, you will be met at the station and driven to your hotel.

Overnight stay Hotel Villa Jazmin

Day 4: Ica – Nazca – Arequipa

In the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel and taken to the bus station to catch a ride to Nazca, which is located in a verdant valley surrounded by desert and the highest sand dunes in the world. On arrival, you will be met at the bus stop and driven to Nazca’s local airport, where a plane is waiting to fly you over the incredible Nazca lines that can only be viewed from the air. The lines trace a variety of drawings of animals and geometric figures up to 300 metres tall. They were created by the Nazca people in the period 200 BC to 700 AD. They are etched into the dry surface of the desert and have been preserved for around 2000 years on account of the almost total lack of rain in the region, and because of winds that have cleaned the area without erasing the lines themselves. The reason why the drawings were made has never been definitively established.

After this once in a lifetime experience, you will be flown back to the airport and then taken to the bus station once more. From here, a long drive awaits; you will be starting out on a 9-hour journey to the elegant colonial city of Arequipa, located at an elevation of 2,400 masl. The city is surrounded by the volcanoes Misti (5,822 m), Chachani (6,057 m) and Pichu-Pichu (5,669 m), which generate a truly extraordinary atmosphere. You will be met on arrival at Arequipa bus station and driven to your hotel.

Overnight stay Maison du Soleil

Day 5: Guided tour of Arequipa

The morning is given over to a tour of the city. Arequipa is built almost exclusively of white volcanic stone and is therefore often called ‘The White City’. During the tour, you will see a host of magnificent villas and colonial buildings from the 1700s with their exquisitely carved doors, French windows and ornate fences around spacious courtyard gardens. You will also visit the beautiful central square – Plaza de Armas – with its tall palms, old gas lights and magnificent fountain. It is also the site of the city’s enormous cathedral.

After this, it is time to visit perhaps the most famous attraction in Arequipa: the Santa Catalina monastery, which was once home to more than 400 nuns. Santa Catalina was founded in 1580 by the rich widow Maria de Guzmán, and it was extended in the 1600s. The institution was reserved exclusively for the upper class locals, and during the colonial years it was customary for the second daughters of rich families to become nuns. The girls were taken to the monastery at the tender age of three, after which they never ventured beyond its walls again. It was not until 1970 that the monastery doors were opened, and around 20 nuns still live here today – although they are now free to receive visitors and to leave Santa Catalina as they wish.

Before returning to the hotel, there will be time to visit Yanahuara Square, which provides excellent opportunities to take photos of the volcanoes that surround the city.

Overnight stay Maison du Soleil

Day 6: By coach from Arequipa to Colca Canyon

The day commences with an early-morning check-out from your hotel, after which you will start your journey to the fascinating Colca Canyon, which is 3,191-metre-deep – or more than twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the United States. Only the nearby Cotahuasi Canyon is deeper, and only by 150 metres.

En route, you will cross the spectacular Altiplano and pass through a number of small villages where you are sure so see local herders with their flocks of lamas and alpacas. After a drive of a few hours, you will reach the town of Chivay, which serves as the entrance to Colca Canyon. Here, the landscape around the town is dominated by two mighty volcanoes: Sabancaya (5,976 m) and Ampato (6,288 m).

Following your long coach journey, you have earned a bit of rest and relaxation, and a visit to the hot thermal baths of Chivay is sure to work wonders on your weary muscles.

Overnight stay Casa Andina Colca

Day 7: By coach from Colca Canyon to Puno

Early in the morning, you will head off towards Mirador Cruz del Condor, a breath-taking vantage point near one of the deepest parts of Colca Canyon. It is a truly amazing experience to stand here and look out over the canyon. You may even be lucky enough to see some condors soaring on the warm air currents. Condors are the largest flying birds in the world, with a wing span of up to 3 metres.

Following this captivating natural delight, you set off on a short hike into the valley, where you can observe some of the old agricultural terraces that have been in use for centuries.

It is then time to return to the hotel for lunch, before continuing on to Puno, which is located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world, situated at an altitude of 4,000 masl. Puno was of historical significance to the Incas, because it was here that the first Inca, Manco Capac, arose from the waters of Lake Titicaca, founded the Inca Empire and became the first king in Cusco. Today, Puno is an agricultural town that focuses primarily on raising lamas and alpacas. This makes it a great place to buy woollen items.

Overnight stay Hotel Sol Plaza

Day 8: Lake Titicaca

Today is devoted to a full-day excursion to Lake Titicaca, which is shared harmoniously by Bolivia and Peru. Indigenous peoples speaking Quechua and Aymara dialects currently live on separate stretches of land along the shores of the lake. You will first visit the Uros people, who have survived through a combination of hunting and fishing, and who live on undulating reed islands in Puno Bay, where both their houses and their boats are built of reeds harvested from the islands. You will have the opportunity to learn a little about their culture and gain some insight into their everyday lives.

The day continues with a sailing trip to the peaceful island of Taquile, where you will likewise spend some time with the locals and will be sure to discover that the two societies are very different from one another. Your guide will then accompany you on a hike to the highest point on the island, where you can enjoy a truly enchanting view out over the giant Lake Titicaca, which is 174 km long and 64 km wide.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, you will be sailed back to Puno and the rest of the day is yours to do with as you wish.

Overnight stay Hotel Sol Plaza

Day 9: By coach from Puno to Cusco

Get ready for a long but eventful day! You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the bus station, where a coach is waiting to take you to Cusco, which was once the official capital of the Inca Empire, and is now an elegant, thriving and multicultural city.

En route, you will cross Altiplano, where you may well see some vicuñas, an animal that is related to the camel but looks more like a lama or alpaca. The coach will make several stops along the way, so you can take part in guided tours of various ruins and monuments. The first stop is at the Pukara pyramid: the hugely impressive step pyramid that was built by the people of Pukara 3,500 years ago. The coach will subsequently take you over La Raya – the highest point on the route at 4,319 metres above sea level – before descending into a beautiful valley used to cultivate a variety of crops including corn and potatoes. You will then arrive in Raqchi, where you can view the ruins of Viracocha Temple, one of the most sacred sites of all to the Incas. The last stop before Cusco is at the famous colonial age church Andahuaylillas, better known as the ‘Sistine Chapel of the Americas’ on account of its magnificent painted ceilings and other fine art.

On arriving in Cusco, you will have time to check into your hotel before spending the evening exploring the city and its excellent restaurants.

Overnight stay Maytaq Wasin Boutique Hotel

Day 10: Cusco

There is nothing scheduled for today until the afternoon, when a guided tour of Cusco and its surroundings has been arranged. You start at the city’s central square – the Plaza de Armas, which was known as Hucaypata or ‘The Warriors’ Square’ during the age of the Incas. It was here that many of the most important events in the history of Cusco took place. One of the finest sights here is Santo Domingo Cathedral, which was built between 1560 and 1654 on the site of Viracocha’s Palace, the former Inca edifice. The ‘modern’ building features a fine mix of Spanish Renaissance architecture and exquisite Inca stone carving. The street that runs alongside the church leads to what was once the most important cultural location in the Inca Empire: the formerly magnificent Sun Temple of Koricancha, which was built without using mortar, with every stone carved perfectly for its given position.

Next on the itinerary is Kenko, another sacred Inca site marked with a 5-metre-high stone block which is said to resemble a puma. This site is dedicated to the worship of Mother Earth and features water channels carved in solid rock and a subterranean room. Farther along the road stands a small fortress called Puka Pukara, which is believed to have been used to guard the road and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Here you will see terraces carved into the side of the mountain, as well as steps, tunnels and towers. Continuing north, you will come to Tambomachay, a sacred bathing site for the Inca conquerors and women of the royal household The system is a masterpiece of construction, and is still able to deliver water to this day.

The last stop on the tour is the military complex of Sacsayhuaman, which enjoys a magnificent location with a wonderful view out over Cusco. Sacsayhuaman is a fascinating example of the architectural skill of the Incas. It is an impressive construction, with double walls of carved granite, where the heaviest block weighs more than 125 tonnes.

After the tour, you will return to Cusco where the evening is yours to do with as you wish.

Overnight stay Maytaq Wasin Boutique Hotel

Day 11: The Sacred Valley

The day is devoted to an excursion to Urubamba Valley, The Sacred Valley of the Incas. Your first stop is at Pisac, renowned far and wide for its Indian markets, where you will have the chance to buy everything from Peruvian wool sweaters and musical instruments, to paintings, tapestries and jewellery. The town is also well-known for the impressive ruins nearby. The ruined buildings were constructed of smaller stones than those used in Sacsayhuaman, but the precision with which they have been carved and sized is hugely impressive – just like the view.

After lunch, you will continue on your way to Ollantaytambo, another charming village in the heart of the valley, which is considered to be an open air museum, in that all residents observe the old traditions and laws that can be traced back to the their earliest forefathers. The town is probably best known for the complex of the same name, which comprises temples, baths and impressive military installations.

You will then return to Cusco, where the rest of the day is yours to do with as you wish.

Overnight stay Maytaq Wasin Boutique Hotel

Day 12: By train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes

This morning, you will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the station to catch the train to Aguas Calientes – a journey of around 3 hours. Aguas Calientes is a small town located near the cloud forest and close to Machu Picchu, the world-famous complex of ruins. On arrival, a bus will take you to your hotel, and the rest of the day is yours to do with as you wish.

Overnight stay Flower’s House

Day 13: The Inca city of Machu Picchu

Early in the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel and driven to one of the absolute highlights of your trip: the fantastic ruins of Machu Picchu, which have been designated one of the wonders of the modern world. The ruins stand enchantingly on a steep and verdant ridge of hills in the Urubamba Valley, surrounded by cloud forest and green hilltops, with snow-capped mountains far off in the distance. Here, you will be given a guided tour of the area and can experience the narrow terraces on the steep mountain sides, as well as areas containing burial sites, prisons, small residences and temples.

It is said that Machu Picchu was rediscovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham on 24 July 1911. This is not strictly true, but he is certainly responsible for spreading the news of this truly remarkable place to all corners of the globe. The Inca city was built in around 1462 – i.e. during the Golden Age of the Inca Empire – but was abandoned less than a century later, probably on account of a smallpox epidemic. As Machu Picchu was never discovered and plundered by the Spanish invaders, it retains major cultural significance and is considered a sacred site. Machu Picchu was home to priests, highly ranked civil servants, craftsmen, servants and virgins selected to devote their lives to the Sun God. It was a city with streets, aqueducts – which still carry water to this day – fountains and walkways, and it fulfilled a variety of religious functions.

After a guided tour, you will have time to explore the area on your own. Your admission ticket to the ruin complex is valid until 12.00 noon.

Next to Machu Picchu stands the 2,693-metre-high mountain, Huayna Picchu. It is 260 metres higher than Machu Picchu, and from the top of the mountain you can enjoy a fantastic view of the ruin complex and the Urubamba river. However, it is a demanding climb to the top up small, steep and, at times, slippery steps – so not for everyone. There are limits to the number of people allowed to climb Huayna Picchu, so if you wish to do this, you should book in advance when booking your tour. A small surcharge applies.

You spend the afternoon on your own in Aguas Calientes, where you can enjoy your lunch and possibly a visit to the thermal baths, also called hot springs, and relax in the naturally heated water. Remember to bring a bathing suit. These hot springs lend their name to the town Aguas Calientes, which means hot water.

Your train back to Cusco leaves late in the afternoon. Your guide will let you know the exact time after the Machu Picchu tour.

On your arrival in Cusco, you will be driven back to your hotel.

Overnight stay Maytaq Wasin Boutique Hotel

Day 14: Cusco

No activities or excursions are planned, so you can spend your day in this charming town as you wish.

Overnight stay Maytaq Wasin Boutique Hotel

Day 15: Return flight

You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the airport to catch your flight to the UK, which will feature connecting flights along the way.

Day 16: Return trip

Arrive back in the UK after a wonderfully eventful holiday.

Highlights of this tour:

Lima, the Ballestas islands, the Nazca lines, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno, Lake Titicaca, visit to the Uros people, Taquile Island and visit to the Quechua Indians, Cusco, ‘Urubamba’ – the Sacred Valley, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Flights from the UK to Lima (enquire regarding direct flights)
  • Flights from Cusco to the UK
  • Transfers from and to the airports (in small, international groups)
  • Coach travel: Lima – Pisco – Ica – Nazca – Arequipa – Colca Canyon – Puno – Cusco
  • Train travel: Return trip, Cusco – Aguas Calientes
  • 14 nights’ accommodation in good hotels incl. breakfast
  • 3 x lunch (days 6, 8, 9)
  • Individual round trip, although all excursions are in small international groups with local, English-speaking guides
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Emergency hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Daily departures

The following package of excursions are included:

  • Half-day tour of Lima, including a visit to the Lima Museum of Art
  • Sailing trip to the Ballestas Islands
  • Flight over the Nazca lines
  • Half-day tour of Arequipa, including a visit to the Santa Catalina Monastery
  • Two-day visit to Colca Canyon – famous for its condors, thermal baths and ancient agricultural terraces
  • Full-day trip to Lake Titicaca and the islands of Uros and Taquile
  • Half-day tour of Cusco and the surrounding area
  • Full-day trip to The Sacred Valley
  • Two-day trip to Machu Picchu, including train travel and guided tour
  • Admission to the attractions mentioned

Single room supplement: £695
Discounts are available for groups of 4 or more people