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Grand Tour of Peru, including Paracas + Nazca Lines


PRG17L
17 NIGHTS
FROM £2,895
International flights quoted separately
This comprehensive tour of Peru visits the rugged Paracas Pensinsula & Ballestas Islands with their amazing marine & bird life. Fly over the fascinating Nazca Lines and travel by bus to Arequipa. See the condors of Colca Canyon & Lake Titicaca, then travel to Cusco & Machu Picchu, ending in the Amazon. English speaking city guides, all transfers, buses & excursions included.
Tour of Peru with Machu Picchu, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Nazca Lines &  Amazon
• 
Lima
• 
Paracas Peninsula
• 
Ballestas Islands
• 
Nazca Lines
• 
Arequipa
• 
Lake Titicaca
• 
Colca Canyon
• 
Cusco & Sacred Valley
• 
Machu Picchu
• 
Amazon Cloud Forest
• 
Lima
• 
Paracas Peninsula
• 
Ballestas Islands
• 
Nazca Lines
• 
Arequipa
• 
Lake Titicaca
• 
Colca Canyon
• 
Cusco & Sacred Valley
• 
Machu Picchu
• 
Amazon Cloud Forest
Day 1
You will be met at Lima Airport and transferred to your hotel.
 
Check in and relax in this capital city - the largest in Peru and its gastronomical centre.
Day 2
Today enjoy a half day tour of historic Lima, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its well preserved architecture.
 
Founded in 1535, Lima was re-named the "City of Kings" when it was conquered by the Spanish and became the most important city in the region. On the main square, the Plaza de Armas, you can see many imposing colonial buildings with their intricate balconies - including Government Palace, where the changing of the guards takes place. See the beautiful Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace and the City Hall. The baroque Torre Tagle Palace, a couple of blocks east of the main square, adds to the city's charm.
 
Our next stop is the 17th century Santo Domingo Convent, which is also a World Heritage site. We then drive through the modern financial district of San Isidro for a tour of Huaca Huallamarca, a pre-Incan adobe pyramid.
 
Afterwards we head for the residential district of Miraflores, stopping off at the Parque del Amor (Lover’s Lane), with its incredible views over the Pacific Ocean. Balance of day at leisure.
 
Note: Lima Cathedral is not open on Sundays.
Day 3
This morning transfer to the coach station to board the public bus for the 3.5-hour journey through sparely populated desert landscapes and small fishing villages to the town of Paracas.
 
On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Day 4
This morning enjoy a 2-hour excursion by motorboat to the Ballestas Islands in the Bay of Paracus, passing by the mysterious 2,500-year old "Candelabra of the Andes" - an immense design drawn in the sand dunes of the northern Paracas Peninsula that never disappears, despite the blustery sand storms that sweep this desolate coast.
 
One of the most important marine reserves in the world, the arches and caves of Paracas National Reserve offer shelter to thousands of sea lion and a wide range of seabirds including the albatross, boobie, Guanay cormorant and Peruvian pelican. If you are lucky you may even see a famous Humboldt penguin or a dolphin.
 
Afterwards transfer to the coach station and board the public bus for your 4-hour journey to Nazca, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
 
Ensure you dress appropriately for the boat ride (as the weather can change from very cold to very hot) and take sunblock and a hat, as there is no shade.
Day 5
Today transfer to the airport to experience a thrilling light aircraft flight, including 30-minutes flying over the famous Nazca Lines.
 
From the plane you will be able to see hundreds of these gigantic shallow-line geometric figures, etched into the desert floor with impressive precision by the Nazca culture over 1,500 years ago by removing the red pebbles from the topsoil and exposing the white/grey ground beneath. The figures range from simple lines to more complex designs such as a flower, tree, hummingbird, spider, monkey, fish, shark, killer whale, lizard, llama, jaguar, monkey and human figure. The largest figures are over 200 m (660 ft) across.
 
Afterwards you will be dropped off at the bus station for the public bus to Arequipa, a scenic 9.5-hour journey along a winding coastal road that follows the cliffs and bays of the Pacific shore, before heading inland through dramatic volcanic desert landscapes.
 
On arrival in Arequipa, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in this second largest city in Peru. Surrounded by three magnificent volcanoes, this Ciudad Blanca ("White City") was the old Spanish colonial capital and has many beautiful baroque buildings constructed from white volcanic stone.
Day 6
This morning enjoy a city tour of Arequipa, an important regional capital that is the seat of the Constitutional Court.
 
Start with a walking tour around the elegant Plaza de Armas (the main square) with its neo-Renaissance Cathedral and the magnificent Church of the Jesuits, with its multicolored dome and hundreds of pieces of colonial art. The Convent at Santa Catalina will be a highlight, as it is practically an entire city within a city, with its narrow cobblestone alleys, plazas and cloisters that have remained intact over centuries.
 
We continue to the Carmen Alto Lookout for spectacular views of the city’s three surrounding volcanoes - Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu. You can admire the attractive natural scenery that surrounds the city, including Inca terraces still used for crop cultivation, see the well-maintained colonial houses of the district and its famous temple, and visit the Yanahuara lookout for more magnificent views of Misti.
 
You will then be dropped off at your hotel, with afternoon at leisure to explore Arequipa independently.
Day 7
This morning join your shared tour and travel 3-hours to the magnificent Colca Canyon, a popular hiking and bird watching destination that is renowned for its giant condors.
 
We travel through the towns of Yura and Pampa Arrieros, and the Salinas & Aguada Blanca National Reserve with its volcanoes and wetlands, frequented by Andean flamingos in season. Nearly 140 different species of birds have been observed here including blue billed ducks, eagles and kestrels. It is also the ideal place to see small herds of South American camelids (llama, vicuna and alpacas) in their natural habitat.
 
We continue driving through Torja, with its natural lagoons, to Patahuasy. Chucura is the highest point of the journey at 4,800 meters above sea level. At Patapampa we will see the volcanoes of the Chira Mountains, where the well-preserved Mummy Juanita (or Inca Ice Maiden) was found. Enjoy an included lunch in Chivay, before relaxing at your hotel for the rest of the afternoon.
Day 8
We make an early start today as we drive 1-hour by air-conditioned coach to the Colca Canyon - the third deepest in the world, plunging 0,6 miles (1 km) from its vertical rim to the river below. The breathtaking scenery here is dominated by the snow-capped peak of Mismi Nevado, the source of the Amazon River.
 
In the small village of Yanque you can see traditional dancing by school children, before continuing to the Cross of the Condor, one of the most popular viewing points over the canyon. With a drop of over 1,200m this is an ideal location to observe the majestic flight of the giant condor - the largest bird in the world. Weather permitting, you are almost guaranteed to see several of these magnificent birds as they stand sentinal on the lofty crags or use thermals to circle up from the depths of the canyon against breathtaking scenery. The best viewing conditons are in the morning (8 to 9.30 am).
 
Further down the valley it is gentler and greener, with huge pre-Inca terraces carved over the centuries by isolated communities who still live here and wear traditional intricately woven costumes. On the way back admire the beauty of the canyon and the fertile valley below.
 
After an included buffet lunch, leave Chivay and travel 5-hours by air-conditioned coach to Puno, travelling through beautiful Andean scenery. Along the way we stop at a viewsite overlooking the 'lagunillas' - small lagoons that are home to the Andean flamingo.
 
On arrival check into your hotel in Puno - a lively university town situated on the shore of Lake Titicaca with several churches dating back to the Spanish colonial period. Puno is an important centre for Peruvian folklore, with a rich tradition of music and dance, and this is a great place to buy local handicrafts.
Day 9
Today enjoy a full day excursion to Uros and Taquile Islands on Lake Titicaca - which at 3,860 m above sea level is the highest lake in the world navigable by large boats.
 
A boat will be waiting at the port to take us to the unique floating islands of Uros, made from layers of tortora reeds. Uros Indian fishermen and hunters withdrew here to escape the invading Spanish and preserve their own culture. Today there are over 40 man-made reed islands and as a source of income, they offer optional rides on their distinctive totora reed boats.
 
We continue to Taquile Island situated deeper in Lake Titicaca, where the local Quechua speaking Indians have kept intact the customs and traditions of their ancestors, including their incredible knitting skills. The island is 4.5 miles (7 km) long, without any roads or vehicles, and its terraced hills are scattered with pre-Inca ruins. Walk up a steep hill to the main plaza, where you can buy local handicrafts including some of the finest hand knitted items in all of Peru. A picnic lunch is included today.
 
Please note: Taquile Island is not recommended if you have mobility problems. Ask about alternative excursions.
Day 10
This morning transfer to Puno Railway Station in good time to board the PeruRail Train departing for Cusco.
 
This spectacular 10-hour train journey travels across remote highland plains, at time flanked by snow-capped peaks. The narrow gauge track wends its way through rural fields and across Andean landscapes dotted with adobe huts, herds of llama and alpaca. Enjoy an included lunch with traditional Peruvian folk music and be sure to look out when you travel through these small towns, to see how market stalls are cleared to make way for the train.
 
You will be met at Cusco Railway Station and transferred to your hotel. Check in, settle in and relax in this ancient Inca capital city set high in the Andes Mountains, that is today a World Heritage Site.
 
Note: The train runs from Puno to Cusco on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. On other days a coach transfer will be substituted. Remember to take a daypack for the train, as your luggage will be stowed in the baggage car.
Day 11
Today enjoy a half day shared tour of the magnificent colonial city of Cusco, built on Inca foundations and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Comprising a fascinating mix of colonial churches, monasteries and extensive pre-Columbian ruins, almost every central street in this city has remnants of Inca walls.
 
We start with a visit to the impressive Temple of the Sun (Koricancha) whose walls and floors were once covered in sheets of solid gold. On the site of this ancient Inca palace and centre of worship of the Sun God, the Dominicans ordered a church to be built, which survives to this day  (Note: not open on Sunday mornings & religious holidays).  
 
We walk along the cobbled streets to the Plaza de Armas, the central plaza around which you will see many magnificent colonial buildings - including the Cathedral and the Church of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Walking down well-preserved Loreto Street you can see the remains of Incan palaces, as well as old colonial buildings. If you walk down Hatun Rumiyoc, a cobbled street near the Archbishop's Palace, keep an eye out for the famous 12-sided stone that fits so perfectly you can't even insert a coin.
 
We then leave the city and visit the impressive walled fortress of Sacsayhuaman on the northern outskirts, believed to have been both a military and ceremonial centre. This enormous Inca structure has massive walls of hewn stone and is strategically located on a hill overlooking the city. We also visit Qenko - where the sun, moon and stars were worshipped - and Puca Pucara, which may have been a "tambo" or rest and lodgings for the Inca. Finally we visit an art workshop, where you will be able to see artists working in silver, paint and wood - the perfect place to see Andean art.
 
After your tour why not try a Pisco sour - the national drink. If you are feeling adventurous you can also savour guinea pig - the local speciality dish.
 
Note: You will need to carry your passport today to gain access to the site at Sacsayhuaman.
Day 12
This morning we set out on a shared tour to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
 
Our first stop is at Chinchero, a small picturesque Andean village. Enter the home of a textile artisan, where you will see some of his original work and learn about his techniques and creative process.
 
We continue to significant Inca ruins dating from the end of the 15th Century and visit a beautiful traditional church. We also stop at the Racchi viewpoint, for one of the best views of the Sacred Valley.
 
After an included lunch we visit the citadel of Ollantaytambo, built to protect the northern entrance to the Sacred Valley from invasion, and later the centre of Incan resistance against the Spanish. The fortress and walled terraces of this town provide some of the finest examples of Incan architecture, with the six rose-coloured monoliths of the Temple of the Sun being particularly outstanding. The village itself is the best surviving example of Inca urban planning, with stone-paved streets that have been used since the 12th Century. At the end of your tour you will be dropped off at your hotel in the Sacred Valley.
Day 13
Today transfer to Ollantaytambo Station for the air-conditioned Vistadome train to the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu - an amazing 1.5-hour journey to this magnificent mountain top city situated in a beautiful cloud forest, that was abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1911.
 
This legendary "Lost City of the Incas" is without a doubt one of the world's most impressive archaeological sites. Built on the summit of Machu Picchu (meaning "Old Peak"), on a natural saddle between steep forested mountains, it overlooks the deep canyon of the Urubamba River some 3,400 m above sea level. With its giant walls, terraces and ramps that appear to have been cut naturally out of the rock escarpments, Machu Picchu's history remains shrouded in mystery as the Incas did not leave any written records.
 
At the gateway town of Aguas Calientes, leave the train and board the bus for the 40-minute zig-zag ride up to this 14th century citadel for a guided tour (please expect queues for the bus). Here we visit the Main Plaza, Circular Tower, the Sacred Sun Dial, Royal Quarters, Temple of the Three Windows and various burial grounds. In the afternoon return by bus to Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Ollantaytambo Station, where you will be met and transferred back to your hotel.
 
Note: You must take your passport with you today, as this will be needed to gain entrance, which is restricted to 4-hours (based on either a morning or afternoon schedule). It is mandatory to enter with a guide and you cannot take selfie sticks, tripods, umbrellas, food or alcohol onto the site. You may not wear high heels or hard soled shoes and smoking is prohibited. If you leave the sanctuary for any reason (eg for lunch), re-entry will not be permitted. Only one bag not exceeding 11 lb (5 kg) is allowed as hand luggage on the train. From January to June parts of the rail track may be impassable at times due to mud slides, when a bus transfer will be substituted.
Day 14
Transfer 2-hours to Cusco Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Puerto Maldonado Airport and transferred to town. Here you will be asked to take only the necessary items for the next few days and leave the rest in safekeeping to keep the boat and cargo light (overnight bags are provided by some lodges - please check with us).
 
You will then be transferred 1-hour by bus to the Tambopata River for your boat ride to your Amazon lodge. This scenic river transfer takes up to 2.5 hours upstream, depending upon your lodge, and includes a light traditional lunch.
 
On arrival walk 15-minutes to your lodge, check in and relax in your tropical jungle surroundings.
Days 15 To 16
Explore the birds and wildlife of the amazing Amazon Basin today - a 2,7-million sq.mile (6.7 million sq.km) conservation area that is the largest in the world, spreading across eight countries - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
 
Your naturalist guide will accompany you along the many trails that wind through the rainforest. As you walk through woods and past waterfalls, you can marvel at the magnificent trees and the extraordinary variety of orchids, bromeliads, ferns, begonias, lichens and mosses that grow here.
 
You may see caimans (related to alligators), turtles, woolly monkeys, tufted brown capuchin monkeys, a variety of frogs and many other reptiles and insects. You may also be fortunate enough to see some of the colourful birds of the rainforest such as the brilliant golden-headed quetzal, grey-breasted mountain toucan, blue-crowned motmot, umbrella bird, blue-banded toucanet, fruit-eating tanager, red-crested cotinga, banded-tail fruit-eater and a variety of flycatchers. At certain locations, from September to November you may see the raucously competitive lek mating displays of the spectacular Cock-of-the-Rock, Peru’s fiery orange national bird.
 
Activities vary by lodge but can include climbing an observation tower for treetop views over the primary forest, visiting a parrot clay lick to see these colourful birds or a peccary clay lick frequented by forest pigs, canoe rides in search of hoatzin (stinkbird), otters, macaws and other lakeside wildlife, learning about traditional and medicinal plants, visiting a local village, watching pink river dolphins or a night walk in the jungle.
 
Note: a headlamp is essential in the Amazon.
Day 17
Transfer by boat 1.5-hours downstream to Puerto Maldonado Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Lima Airport and transferred to your hotel.
 
Check in and relax in this capital city - the largest in Peru and its gastronomical centre.
Day 18
Transfer to Lima Airport for your flight home.

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