A delightful combination of culture, wildlife and history, our Best of Peru package offers something for everyone!
The tour begins at Lake Titicaca, one of the most fascinating lakes in the world. It is the world's highest navigable lake at over 3800 meters and is a sacred place for the Inca civilization, as their mythology says that the first Inca king, Manco Capac, was born here. We stay on Taquile island where you can enjoy a 'homestay' which will be a memorable experience before being transported to Cuzco on the luxurious Andean Explorer where you will be spoilt by outstanding views and incredible service.
At the heart of the once mighty Inca empire, Cuzco is an experience to enjoy in itself before setting off for a 3 day trek to Machu Picchu. The trail starts from the Sacred Valley, so called because of its incredible fertility, and crosses two 4000 metre passes as well as visiting the relaxing hot springs in Lares before finishing at Aguas Calientes and your tour of Machu Picchu.
Flying to Puerto Maldonado, we take a motorised canoe up the Tambopata River to the Tambopata Ecolodge. In Peru it is tourism that has made it possible to create national reserves and save the forests of the Amazon basin from destruction. By working to encourage travellers to visit the rainforest, we are ensuring it will be around for future generations to appreciate. Pioneering projects like Tambopata Ecolodge, established in 1991, provide the model that teaches local people the importance of conserving our natural heritage, by showing them that forests are worth more to us all when they are left to flourish, instead of being exploited. The Tambopata Ecolodge is verified by the Rainforest Alliance.
You will be met at Juliaca Airport and transferred to your hotel in Puno. The rest of the day will be free time in Puno.
Your guide will pick you up from your hotel at 07.30 hours to be transferred to the port of Puno where you will board a motor boat and travel across the lake for about 40 minutes to visit the floating islands of Uros. Here a family will welcome you, invite you into their homes and explain about their customs and way of life. You will then have time to make a short tour on the reed boats (Totora) around the islands. You then continue across the lake and after a 3-hour journey arrive at Taquile Island. There, a long gradually ascending path will take you to the village. It takes approximately 50 minutes to walk up to the village to visit the communal cooperative, where you can watch the islanders making traditional textiles and clothing. You have lunch at one of the local restaurants with magnificent views of the surrounding area. After some free time in the afternoon, your guide will take you for a hike to the highest point of the island to watch the sunset.
After breakfast you leave your host family and hike for around 2 hours to the far end of the island, passing through local communities and with some great views across the lake. Your trek will end at a quiet beach, where you have time to relax, and if you're feeling brave, can take a swim in this famous lake. Lunch is taken at a restaurant overlooking the beach. You leave the island to return to Puno, a 3-hour return journey, at about 13.00 hours. Upon arrival at Puno, at approximately 16.00 hours you are transferred to your hotel.
We will collect you from the hotel for a private transfer to Juliaca airport where you will catch your flight to Cuzco. It takes around an hour to fly to Cuzco, with some great views of the Andes below. On arrival in Cuzco, you will be met by your Kandoo guide and transferred to your hotel.
Today we tour the Andean city of Cuzco, once the foremost city of the Inca empire and the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city. Firstly we visit the Plaza de Armas followed by a trip to Sacsayhuaman, a huge, stunning ruin of both religious and military significance. The most striking part of the site is the magnificent three-tiered zigzag fortifications. Some stones weigh more than 360 tons but were carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar. We also see Q'enqo - also known as the Labyrinth, this temple dedicated to Mother Earth is a unique centre of celebrations and astronomical studies and has numerous ceremonial carvings, holes and zigzagging channels cut into the rock. Q'enqo is thought to have been used for ritual sacrifices – letting the blood flow and determining whether they were intended for heaven or hell depending on which direction it flowed. Next up is Puca Pucara, or the Red Fort. This is a smaller Inca site, thought to have been used as a resting place for guards. The complex contains several rooms, inner plazas, aqueducts, and has some great views over the surrounding jungle. Moving on to the archaeological site of Tambomachay which is thought to have filled an important altar function linked to water and the regeneration of the land and closely linked with Pucapucara. The site consists of large terraces, canals, and aqueducts which carry water – presumed to be from an underground spring further up the mountain.
We leave Cuzco early in the morning by private bus and travel through the Sacred Valley, stopping in Calca for a break before continuing for 3 more hours to Qiswarani (3700m). There we will meet our arrieros (horsemen) and start our trek. We begin by going up gradually to 4200m where we will rest at a nice lagoon. From there we continue to the first pass, Hualcacassa (4425m), where there are great views of snowy peaks and below the seven lagoons to which we descend for lunch. In the afternoon we head off to the second pass, Qolqecasa (4200m), and descend down to the village of Cuncani (3800m), where we will camp tonight, and whose inhabitants still speak in the local Quechua language.
After breakfast, we start today by ascending gradually up to 3900m to follow the undulating trail to reach the Huachahuasi Valley. We then start to climb up to the Auroracassa Pass. At 4600m, the pass is the highest point in our trek. We then descend to our second campsite at Mantanay (3850m).
This will be our last day of hiking and the easiest. We descend through a Qeuñas bush valley with plantations of potatoes, corn and vegetables before we arrive in Yanuara, where we will have our last camping lunch. Here we will say goodbye to the staff (cook, horsemen) as we now continue by road to Ollantaytambo. Situated in a fertile river valley and sheltered by mammoth mountains, this ancient Inca village is considered one of the most important living museums in the world. We take the train from here to Aguas Calientes and spend the night there in a hotel.
Today, you will be given a guided tour of the Lost City of the Incas and then have time to explore the ancient ruins for yourself. There is an option to climb Huayna Picchu, the famous mountain behind the ruins. In the afternoon, we will catch the train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, where you will be met by our driver who will transfer you to your hotel in Cuzco.
We will collect you from your hotel and transfer you to Cuzco airport for your flight to Puerto Maldonado. On arrival, you will be met by your naturalist guide and transferred to a dugout canoe for the trip up the Tambopata River to the Tambopata Eco Lodge. On the journey the vegetation changes from colonized deforested areas to virgin rainforest. A box-lunch is provided on board. On arrival you'll have a welcome drink and meet the rest of the staff. In the late afternoon you set off for an introductory walk into the "terra firma" forest behind the lodge, dominated by giant Brazil-nut and Dipteryx trees. After dinner there will be a night walk to find nocturnal animals, as about 50% of the animals in the rainforest are nocturnal.
After an early breakfast you and your guide will board the motorized canoe once again for the short journey to the trail head to begin a morning's exploration by foot and paddle canoe of the lake system of Condenado. This whole area is rich in bird and aquatic life and a family of giant otters lives in the vicinity of the lake. The afternoon is for exploring the forest close to the lodge (with or without your guide), relaxing and bathing in the Gallucunca, a cool clear stream beside the lodge. An option bookable locally it to visit the tree platforms, going up with ropes and harnesses for a bird's eye view of the forest and for close-ups of arboreal orchids and the many other species of plants and animals that are never seen near the ground. After dark you will go searching for caiman (alligators) and other nocturnal animals by motorized canoe along the Tambopata River.
After an early breakfast you will take a short boat ride down river to the trail head. Here you embark on a longer trail which leads to a spectacular hidden lake, requiring the crossing of streams and swampy ground, past the giant Lupuna trees (kings of the jungle) which abound in this part of the forest. On the walk you are introduced to more aspects of the forest and its animals. At the lake itself it is possible to spot the elusive Black Caiman and Giant Otters. You return to the lodge for lunch and the afternoon is free for relaxation.
A dawn start is required for the canoe trip back to Puerto Maldonado, giving memorable views of the sunrise over the river. This gives you a last chance to look out for wildlife that are particularly active at this time. Howler monkeys are frequently heard, as they stakeout their territories. From the airport at Puerto Maldonado you can fly to your next destination in Peru, or back to Lima for your international connection.