Andes to Amazon is a trip that covers the 3 marvelous regions of Perú and includes days to acclimatize to the inevitable high altitude. You will be driving from the western side of the Andes, the edge of one of the driest regions of the world, across towering Andean peaks, through the second largest and highest plateau in the world, Altiplano, to the cloud forest, and finally into the dense lowland rainforest. On this trip our experiences will include stunning Andean scenery, national reserves, colonial architecture, fascinating Andean markets, incredible biodiversity, and the extensive wild life of the Amazon. The journey begins in Lima, then you will fly to Arequipa at 8,000 ft. to journey into Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world, next you'll travel to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, then it's on to Cusco, the home and residence of gods, the Sacred Valley where the mysterious Machu Picchu lies, and finally the Amazon.
Upon your arrival at the Lima airport you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel.Lunch & dinner at your own expense.
A guided tour of the Larco Herrera Museum is a great introduction to Peru before the Incas' landscape. Here you'll see an exquisite collection of portrait pottery, an outstanding display of the richness of gold, silver and precious stones of the Andean world, and the beauty and durability of metals that gave adornments and artifacts an almost divine value. After a great learning experience, we will drive to downtown Lima to explore by foot a UNESCO site city. We'll see the beautiful San Francis of Assisi Convent, with unique catacombs. Afterwards we'll explore the colonial main square were our government palace is located. Here sit the most important buildings. Unique balconies are part of the charm of downtown.Lunch and dinner at your expense.
After Lima you are going to fly south above giant dunes and dessert terrain towards Atacama Desert to land in Arequipa, located between the Andes and the coastline. It sits nestled between Misti, Pichu Pichu, and Chachani, a series of volcanic mountains ranging in height from 18,578 ft. to 19,866 ft. The city's many colonial buildings were crafted from smooth, white ashlar stone, giving much of the city a uniformly pearly appearance. After lunch we'll have a walking tour where we'll visit the main square, travel down the colorful streets, and go to the Monastery of Santa Catalina. Santa Catalina is essentially its own little city, complete with the cutest alleys and streets, colorfully painted walls, gorgeous courtyards, and fresh flowers at every turn.Lunch and dinner at your own expense.
On this day your tour will start with a visit to the Museo Santuarios Andinos, where you will meet an Inca Ice Maiden. Perhaps the best-preserved mummy in human history, she is also known as the 'Lady of Ampato' because she was found at the top of Mount Ampato, a dormant volcano sitting at 20,624 ft. high.
The mummy is a 15th century Royal Incan girl and was discovered in Peru in 1995. Her body was so well preserved due to the freezing temperatures on top of Mount Ampato. Researchers have suggested that Mummy Juanita was a victim of an important Incan sacrificial rite known as Capacocha, which has sometimes been translated as royal obligation. Next we'll visit the Jesuit church with 17th century murals depicting scenes of heaven and paradise, and then the colorful San Camilo market. After lunch we will explore the Yanahuara District with some marvelous views of the majestic Misti Volcano at 19,100 ft. You will have the rest of the day to support the local economy or to explore more of the colorful city.
Today we leave behind the arid terrain of Arequipa and climb to the high plateau to visit the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve Salinas. There we will try to see vicuña, a member of the camel family and thought to be the wild ancestor of the alpacas, llamas and guanacos. Vicuñas sport the finest wool and are the fastest camelids, running up to 50 kph/30 miles per hour.
Our climb by bus will continue with outstanding views of the Andean swamps containing herds of llamas, alpacas, flamingos, and many other high Andean birds. We'll come to the highest pass, Apacheta at 16,000 ft., where we'll have views of the Chila mountain range and Mismi Mountain, which is where the Amazon River begins. In the afternoon you will have the option to visit the hot springs of Calera.
On the sixth day we'll drive through colorful Andean villages with Pre-Inca and Inca roots that are now inhabited by people of the Cabana and Collagua cultures. Here we'll find small villages with colonial churches, such as Yanque, Achoma, Maca, and Pinchollo, and a spray of colors lit up by the hundreds of farming terraces from before and after Inca times. These are still in use by farmers today and the women wear their traditional clothing of long floral skirts. As we drive along the road, eventually the valley turns into one of the deepest canyons in the world at a depth of 13,650 ft., twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Located here at 10,800 ft., Cruz del Condor is the most popular point for viewing the canyon. It sits almost 4,000 ft. above the Colca River.
This spot will give us a high probability of seeing the great condors circling above the cliffs against breathtaking scenery. Andean Condors are massive birds weighing around 33 pounds, and with their massive 10-foot wing span are among the largest birds in the world able to fly. For this reason, they prefer to live in windy areas and cliffs so they can glide on air currents with little effort. In the evening we will drive across the scenic Altiplano out to Lake Titicaca in Puno. At 13,000-14,000 ft., the Altiplana-Puna Plateau is the highest plateau associated with abundant magmatism and is the second largest after the Tibetan Plateau in height and reach.
On this day we visit the floating islands of the Uros and Taquile Island. We'll arrive at our first stop by a shared boat ride on the highest navigable lake in the world. The community that lives on these artificial, floating islands made of reeds (totora) is both surreal and incredible. Despite outside influences, they have maintained their traditional culture, and you will not be disappointed by your experience if you accept the fact that visiting the Uros Islands is a commercial venture focused entirely on supporting tourism, as this is the reason that we still have the art of making these islands out of reeds. Without tourist dollars, we would only be able to see pictures of how people used to live on these reed islands. The people of Taquile are known for their fine handwoven textiles and clothing, which are regarded as among the highest quality in Peru. Knitting is exclusively done by males, starting at age eight. Women exclusively spin yarn and weave. Their textiles are protected by UNESCO. After this incredible visit you will continue the boat ride to Takile Island, a UNESCO site, which is known for its unique textile art. Visiting here is like going back in time as the island is covered with sandstone terraces constructed a couple of thousand of years ago by Tiahuanaco. Tourism here is strictly controlled by the island elders to maintain the island's culture. They also make sure that trails are in excellent condition, because the only way to move around is by foot.Lunch included.
On the route back to the high plateau and just outside Puno we will stop at the archeological site of Sillustani, a place in constant change due the occupations of various reigns. At the time of the Spanish were already where now is Panama, In Sillustani the Incas used giant boulders to build burial sites that can only be measured in tons.
After this visit, we will continue our drive through colorful Quechua villages along the high plateau until we reach La Raya Pass at 14,200 ft./4,200 m. Finally, we arrive on the eastern side of the Andes and drive next to the Vilcanota River, which is the beginning of the Sacred Valley. Before we check in to our hotel we will have time to explore the local farmers market of Sicuani.
This day we'll have an early morning departure to the trailhead at Rainbow Mountain, Pampachiri, which sits at 14,300 ft./4,360 m. We start our hike with a climb to Rainbow Mountain whose height reaches 16,564 ft./5,050 m. The mountain is striped in colors ranging from turquoise to lavender to maroon and gold. The view point will be our highest altitude. We arrive back in Cusco in the late afternoon. Box lunch includedDinner at your own expense.
A cosmopolitan city with over 300 thousand inhabitants, located on the eastern side of the Andes at almost 11,000 ft. above sea level and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities, it has a complex history, woven with significant events and legends. It's an urban center created by the Incas, then added onto by the conquering Spaniards, who built Baroque churches and palaces throughout the ancient city, leaving its foundation intact. Much of its highly crafted early stone architecture is preserved in the ground floors of colonial and modern structures. Known as the home and residence of gods and the spiritual and political capital of the Incan Empire, it is a city built in the shape of a puma that can only be seen from the air.
You will walk through Incan streets that are illuminated by the sun every winter solstice, and experience some of the most important Incan and Spanish religious sites, such as Qorikancha, also known as the Golden Enclosure, which displays a sophisticated stone construction technology, and Cusco Cathedral, which is still in use today and contains an art gallery consisting of 17th-century canvasses in the Cusco School of painting, with a special highlight consisting of 'The Last Supper' featuring a guinea pig. You will have the rest of the day to support the local economy at the unique galleries or at the handicraft markets.
On this day you will climb up to ruins through a rocky gorge surrounded by vertical walls that house Incan burial sites on its sheer face. Here you will observe lots of Andean flora, along with well-preserved Incan farming terraces, while farther up on the crest of the mountain you'll witness Incan "condos" and the Sun Temple surrounded by awesome views.
You'll also have a good chance of seeing giant Andean hummingbirds, 21 cm or 8 in in length. You will then hike back to town to explore Sacsayhuaman by foot, an Incan fortress 400 ft./120m above the city of Cusco. The site was built with massive boulders, some of which weigh more than 100 tons. Interestingly, the Spaniards did not believe that such monolithic stones could be moved by human beings and they attributed Sacsayhuaman's construction to the mythical Cyclops. Thus, this type of architecture is known as the "Cyclopean Inca style".
On this day we will drive up to Chinchero, known as the the land of the rainbow as it sits 12,000 ft. above sea level. Here we'll interact with the weavers, explore the colorful and striking aspects of weaving in Chinchero and learn about textiles in the Andes. Here you'll get to be hands on with any stage in the weaving process, including the back strap loom. Next, on to Moray, which is one of the best examples (along with Machu Picchu) of what might be called extreme Inca landscaping. Three enormous pits, each with beautifully curved sides that staircase down like the interiors of titanic flowerpots, have been carved out of the earth to depths of up to 100 feet and more. Air temperatures between the top and bottom layers can differ by more than 20 degrees.
Next we venture to Ollantaytambo in Urubamba to witness an exquisite example of Incan stonework: the unique Sun Temple made out of pink granite boulders each weighing 50 tons. We will walk through the marvels of a superbly preserved Incan town named in honor of an Incan warrior called Ollantay, who was deeply in love with Kusi Qoyllur, the forbidden and "high maintenance" daughter of King Inka Pachacutec.
The train we will take on this day follows the dramatic Urubamba River with its striking scenery of white granite cliffs cloaked by a cloud forest full of thousands of orchids, ferns and bromeliads. We will hike a classic Incan trail in the cloud forest, passing through the exceptional ruins of Wiñay Huayna and through the Sun Gate Pass at 2,750 m/9,000 ft. This is truly one of the world's most thrilling viewpoints and the only way to see Machu Picchu in its full glory. You will have a chance to stay to enjoy the sunset until the park rangers close the park to visitors.Lunch and dinner included.
In the morning you will return to one of the most amazing sites on the world, but this time to explore the surrounding areas like the Sun Gate, the Inca bridge (a very easy walk), or you may prefer to be a bit more challenged and climb Waynapicchu, a most iconic mountain. This is based on the number available of permits, and the climb will be around 1,000 ft. Here you'll see hanging terraces that were once suspended gardens full of orchids dedicated to the one of the most import deities, the sun. Or you can choose to soak up the sun once again at Machu Picchu. In the afternoon we return to Cusco.Lunch & dinner at your own expense.
We will leave behind the high Andes with a flight to Puerto Maldonado. We'll travel 23 km/14 miles by vehicle or 45 km/28.5 miles by boat from the jungle town to virgin rainforest. You'll see the vegetation change from colonized, deforested areas to pure rainforest. In the afternoon after settling in at the eco lodge, one of our naturalist guides will invite you to explore the trails in the surrounding forest. Frequently seen fauna on these trails include saddle-back tamarinds, brown capuchins, agoutis, blue morpho butterflies, trogons, toucans, and many other bird species. After dinner we'll take a night walk in search of nocturnal rainforest species.Lunch & dinner included.
After an early breakfast, we will board our boat for the 9-kilometer ride upriver to the trailhead. We will spend an hour walking this trail, with plenty of time to observe Amazon flora and fauna along the way. At the clay lick, we will await the arrival of the white-lipped peccaries that tend to gather here to feed on mineral deposits. Moving on through the forest, we will continue to El Gato macaw lick, where in the early morning groups of scarlet and red/green macaws often gather to feed on clay deposits. After plenty of time to observe the birds, we will return to the river via another forest trail and take the boat back to the lodge in time for lunch. On the trails it is possible to see howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys and squirrel monkeys. After lunch, you can choose from a number of activities, including exploring the trails around the eco lodge, visiting a nearby forest farm, swimming in a stream that flows close to the lodge, or relaxing and enjoying the facilities of the eco lodge. In the evening, we will meet in the bar for a brief talk given by our guides on the caiman. Then we will set off to the river in search of this fascinating nocturnal creature. We'll use flashlights to pick out their "eye shine" as they hunt along the river banks.Lunch and dinner included.
After a short boat ride downriver, we will hike a forest trail to a spectacular lake. During the walk your guide will introduce you to more aspects of the forest and its fauna. At the lake it is possible to spot black caimans and giant otters. We will return to the eco lodge for lunch, and you will have the afternoon free for relaxation and swimming.Lunch and dinner included.
Your stay in the Amazon basin ends on the fourth day with a magical early morning return by river for the flight from Puerto Maldonado. This is an excellent time of day for wildlife observation as the forest awakens. You'll then fly back to Lima for your departure home or you can choose to extend your trip.
You will be spending a minimum of 2 nights in most hotels, with the exception of Cusco and the rainforest lodge where you will spend 3 nights although there will be some hotels where you'll spend only 1 night.