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Here’s What Your Amazing Holiday Could Look Like...
Diverse Peru has something for everyone, with native wildlife and a wide ranging history, gorgeous landscapes and a fascinating culture. This small group Journey will take you to watch the frolicking sea lions in the Ballestas Islands, wonder at the mysterious Nazca lines, discover the history of the Incas at Machu Picchu and travel through the picturesque mountain villages of the Andes.
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Your Example Itinerary
Fly from the UK to Lima and meet the rest of your group.
Feel like you’re on another planet as you drive to Paracas National Park, a huge sweep of sandy desert and big blue sky. Being not too far from Pisco, this is a great place to sample Peru’s national drink, the Pisco Sour, a refreshing concoction of lime juice, syrup, egg white and angostura bitters mixed with Peruvian pisco. The next day, take a boat to see the sea lions, boobies and penguins of the Ballestas Islands, 15 kilometres offshore, and marvel at the mysterious candelabra, a giant figure etched into the sandy hills.
Stop by the oasis of Huacachina, a small lake in the middle of the desert surrounded by cafes and sand dunes, making for quite a sight after miles of emptiness. It’s a popular sand boarding and dune buggying spot, so why not have a go? Continue on to Nazca and visit a pre-Inca cemetery where 1500 mummies and relics are strewn across the desert. The next day, take to the skies for the best view of the mysterious Nazca lines, a collection of enormous patterns and pictures drawn in the desert between 400 and 600 AD (optional, extra cost).
Head for Arequipa and admire the views of 5822 metre high El Misti, the huge volcano that looms over town, dominating the skyline. Arequipa retains a smattering of colonial buildings including the historic convent of Santa Catalina, an attractive maze of rooms and alleyways with brightly coloured walls and flower-filled window boxes, allowing for some pretty photographs. Be sure to head down to the Yanahuara district of town, where the pleasant plaza and its surrounding archways offer perfectly-framed views of the volcano and the city below, a popular vantage point for local postcard shots.
Fly on to Cusco, a historic city filled with fascinating traces of the Incas. Relax in a pavement café, browse the markets and wander the squares as you adjust to the 3400 metre altitude. Often being overshadowed by nearby Machu Picchu, it’s surprising to find Cusco to be a worthwhile destination in its own right, a pretty town filled with cobbled streets, Inca ruins and colonial architecture. A number of wide squares, markets and cathedrals give it a European feel, and its surrounding mountains and Inca ruins mean there’s plenty to see and do. Explore the museums and be sure to visit the wonderful Chocomuseo for heavenly hot chocolates or to have a go at making chocolate yourself.
Arrive in Urubamba and explore the winding Sacred Valley, a string of quaint villages and towns peppered with markets and Inca ruins. Cream of the crop are the dramatically situated Pisac ruins, with its plunging gorges, and Ollantaytambo, with its storehouses and agricultural terraces. Call in at a weaving cooperative and see how the project benefits the local women, giving them training and a source of income, and have lunch a t a community restaurant in Huchuy Qosco, a village rarely visited by tourists.
Take the train through scenic mountain panoramas to Aguas Calientes, the end of the line and the access point for Machu Picchu. Perhaps learn about the life of a butterfly at the butterfly house, a learning centre and breeding project which houses some colourful indigenous species, or check out the lush scenery in the botanical gardens and admire the blooming orchids. Alternatively, you can relax in the hot springs after which Aguas Calientes (hot waters) is named (all optional, extra cost).
See the Inca city of Machu Picchu in the soft morning light, take a guided tour of the complex and admire the gorgeous mountain scenery. A World Heritage site and definitely one for the bucket list, Machu Picchu is one of the finest examples of preserved Incan settlements anywhere, and is further enhanced by its dramatic natural setting. Your guide will tell you about the history of the site, and show you around the key sights including the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. Perhaps visit the Inca bridge, suspended over a 579 metre high cliff and with fabulous views of the mountains (optional extra cost). Return to Cusco by scenic train.
Look out for llamas on your way to Puno. From this lakeside town, sail to Lake Titicaca’s floating islands of Uros and learn about how these islands are made from totora reeds, also used to make the boats that the locals use to reach neighbouring islands. Soak up the pretty views over the lake from Taquile island, its blue waters shimmering at the foot of green hills and rocks, giving it a Mediterranean feel. Take a look around the local weaving cooperatives and meet the locals in the markets.
Fly back to Lima for your final night. Visit any sights you missed out on – perhaps one of the museums or the cathedral, and stock up on last-minute souvenirs. Look back over your Peruvian adventure with a final night’s meal with the rest of your group.
Depart Lima and return to the UK.
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