The coloured dress and bowler hat of the weather beaten lady selling potatoes in every shape, size and colour. The disdainful stare of a llama as you cross the altiplano. The cacophony of macaws at the salt lick in the rainforest. The views across Lake Titicaca from Taquile, a view fit for the gods. All the colourful shades of Peru.
We start in Lima, the bustling capital, with time to see the highlights. We fly up to Arequipa where views are dominated by El Misti (5800m), the dormant but still impressive volcano. The climate here is warm and pleasant all year around. We have time to enjoy the colonial architecture and particularly a trip around the Santa Catalina monastery, dating from 1570. It looks little changed in all that time. Next we drive across the altiplano with herds of vicuna and llama grazing beside the road to the arid Colca Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world. Watch condors rising on early morning thermals it is not uncommon to feel the draft as they soar close by, unconcerned by your presence.
We sail to Lake Titicaca’s unique floating islands and travel out to Taquile Island for probably the best walk of the holiday. The views across Lake Titicaca to the Andes range are as spectacular as any. Cuzco has amazing Inca temples and fortresses, and we visit one of the best Andean markets at Pisac during our stay in the Sacred Valley. The train journey to Machu Picchu is just as breath-taking as the Lost City of the Incas itself. Finally, by the Madre de Dios River in the Amazonian rainforest, we can enjoy unimaginable flora and fauna more diverse than anywhere else in the world!
We depart from London our direct British Airways flight to Lima. On arrival we transfer to the Lima hotel where we stay for one night. Dinner is not included tonight but the leader will point out options to those that wish to eat.
After breakfast we will have a day’s sightseeing in Lima including the Plaza de Armas and the Church of San Francisco. We will visit the Larco Museum and take lunch at the museum restaurant. Late afternoon we fly to Arequipa (two nights) situated 2,335m above sea level, the most "colonial" city in Peru. It is a good place to begin our acclimatisation to high altitude. Please note dinner is not included this evening but the town square, a short walk from the hotel, has plenty of eating options.
This is the desert or arid region, some 600 miles south of Lima. Arequipa is known as the ‘White City’ because many of its buildings have been made from sillar, the white volcanic rock quarried locally. We will visit the monastery of Santa Catalina to see the architecture, art and furniture of a world that has stood still since 1570.
This morning we depart by coach on the road through the magnificent scenery of the high pampa plains and over the 4,900m Patapampa Pass. This will be the highest altitude we reach on our holiday. Herds of vicuña are often seen. It will be early afternoon when we arrive in Colca Canyon for two nights.
We visit the valley of the Colca Canyon, a cleft in the earth's surface said to be 3,000m deep, double that of Colorado's Grand Canyon, its grandeur creating an enormous impression on visitors. We set out early in order to see (if we are lucky) a display of condors. On a good day these huge birds fly astonishingly close.
From Colca we take the road back over the Patapampa Pass and continue to Puno arriving late afternoon for a two night stay.
Puno lies on a bay of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,827m amidst bleak, almost treeless countryside, with the peaks of the Cordillera Real in the far distance. The local people have retained many ancient customs, which with the existence of pre-Hispanic and colonial monuments make the area another fascinating region to visit. We will visit the Island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca (the home of skilled weavers and knitting men). The walk across Taquile Island for many will be the most spectacular walk of the holiday. We also stop to see some of the ‘floating’ islands of the Uros Indians in the lake. We also have a chance to visit the Yavari project where local labour is involved in restoring a steam ship made in Victorian Britain and transported over the Andes to Lake Titicaca in pieces by mule. Ramblers Worldwide Holidays is proud to support the Yavari project.
We travel by road the 250 miles from Puno through mountainous country to Cuzco (approx. 8 hours) for one night. En route we will visit the Sillustani Peninsula, with its mysterious burial mounds or tombs thought to be those of ancient Hatuncolla chiefs. We visit Cuzco for several reasons not least for its Inca and Spanish colonial remains and the local people who have retained their original clothing and customs but also for the outstanding beauty of the scenery. This region has a strong character of its own. The city is sited at over 3,000m in the Andes. Little is known of its history before the arrival of Pizarro’s rampaging armies. During our stay here we have an opportunity to see the magnificent architecture of the convents and churches.
We leave Cuzco early and drive out to the Sacred Valley to walk down from the ruins above Pisac into the market, another walk with spectacular views. The market in Pisac at the end of the walk is probably the best place to buy local crafts on the holiday. We stay one night in the Sacred Valley.
After a leisurely morning we take an afternoon train for Machu Picchu. We travel the 70 miles by train for a night in the village of Aguas Calientes (one night) below Machu Picchu.
We will take minibuses up to Machu Picchu to enjoy the early morning light and enjoy a full guided tour of the ruins before the midday crowds arrive. We will have plenty of time to take in the site, undoubtedly one of the wonders of the world. Whole books have been written on this “Lost City of the Incas”. We catch the early afternoon train back to Cuzco and to our hotel where we stay three further nights.
Back in Cuzco we have a day to explore the city and walk to the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman, an enormous construction on the outskirts of Cuzco of whose walls Pedro Sancho wrote in 1534: "Spaniards who have seen them say that not even the Bridge of Segovia nor any construction of Hercules or the Romans can be compared to this".
This is planned as a free day for you to relax or explore Cuzco in more depth.
We fly from Cuzco down the Andes to Puerto Maldonaldo, we continue by boat on the Madre de Dios River for the 30 min journey to a jungle lodge for two nights. Here, east of the Andes, is the greatest tropical forest in the world - the Amazon Jungle. We will walk, canoe and explore the jungle with an expert local guide to get the most of a stay. A canoe trip on Lake Sandoval offers the chance to spot otters (endangered and rarely seen), howler monkeys (which you will likely hear before you see), macaws and caimans.
We return to Puerto Maldonado by boat from where we fly back to Lima for our last night.
We have free time in Lima, before transferring to Lima airport and flying direct overnight to London.
We arrive back in the UK at London Gatwick.
See where this holiday travels to.
The hotel is decorated in the guadiano style, the only one of its kind in Cusco. It is only a short walk to the main square, the focal point of this culturally important city. Clean and cosy rooms have en-suite facilities, a TV, phone, safe and heater. A free oxygen service is even available if you should be feeling the effects of altitude. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel. A free breakfast buffet is served in the stone walled restaurant, which also serves a dinner of Arequipan and international flavours. There is also a bar and lounge and a charming small walled garden where you can unwind.
Just in front of Santa Catalina Convent and three blocks from the main square, the San Agustin Posada is set in an 18th century stone building and features bright and clean rooms with free Wi-Fi, safes and flat-screen TVs with cable channels. A free breakfast buffet is served in the stone walled restaurant, which also serves a dinner of Arequipan and international flavours. There is also a bar and lounge and a charming small walled garden where you can unwind.
In a superb location in the Sacred Valley, the Sonesta Posada is a former monastery built in the 18th century in the traditional Hispanic hacienda style. It has beautiful gardens through which friendly alpacas roam free. Friendly staff and an excellent restaurant all add to the experience of your stay. All rooms come with a safe, hairdryer, bathroom, telephone, cable TV and heater. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout.