LIMA / CUSCO / PUNO / LA PAZ ( BOLIVIA ) / SALT LAKES / SALTA / BUENOS AIRES
Itinerary: 18 DAYS
Day 01 : Lima.
Upon arrival to Lima Airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the fashionable district of Miraflores by the sea. This district is very open and attractive with many restaurants’, shops and good walks as well as easy access into the centre of the capital, Lima. Overnight stay.
Day 02 : Lima. Half Day City Tour.
It is always in my opinion worth a day just to visit Limas’ historical centre and to dine in one of the many exquisite restaurant’s in and around the area of Miraflores. Peru has a high recognition in the world of international cuisine.
In the morning, visit Colonial Lima and its Cathedral, located on the main square. Originally built in 1555 it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1746 and then rebuilt on the same site under the direction of Jesuit priest, Juan Rehr, both its facade and interior are austere with its remarkable wooden choir stalls, altars and the tomb of Francisco Pizarro, who died in 1541. Latter you will visit the Church of San Francisco, its Convent, Art Museum, Cloisters and Catacombs.
Afterwards walk and enjoy the panoramic view of the main square with the Government Palace, the Municipal Hall and the old Victorian Train Station “Desamparados”, before driving through the old streets, with its spectacular and traditional old Mansions and overhanging Moorish styled balconies. Continue through classic and modern Lima before finally arriving back to Miraflores and the beautiful sea views of the Pacific Ocean.
After take an optional visit to the Rafael Larco Herrera Museu founded in 1926, which has the largest private collection of Pre-Columbian art in the world. The collection concentrates on the refined ceramics of the Moche Dynasty and the people who lived along the northern coast of Peru between 200 and 700 AD. You will learn about their religion, agriculture, transport, dance and music through their ceramic designs and shapes or free afternoon.
In the evening optional dinner in one of Limas’ well known restaurant’s and enjoy this very interesting cuisine or evening free. Overnight.
Day 03 : Lima / Cusco. Half Day City Tour of Cusco and Surrounding Ruins.
Transfer in the morning to Lima Airport and board your flight to Cusco, which lies at over three thousand meters above sea level. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Time to relax and acclimatise to your new surroundings and the altitude.
In the afternoon you will be collected for your City Tour visiting Cusco’s Historical Inca and Spanish Colonial Monuments, such as the main square and known in Inca times as Huacaypata or the Warrior’s Square; it was the scene for many key events in Cusco’s history. Then the Cathedral, originally built on the site of the old temple of Suntur Wasi (House of God), now the church of El Triunfo, with its choir cloisters, pulpit and the engravings on its altar and furniture. Continue onto the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, a Spanish construction belonging to the Dominican Order built upon the foundations of the Inca temple of Koricancha or Temple of the Sun. Koricancha (in quechua, site of gold) was the main religious building of the Incas who were dedicated to the worship of the Sun and whose walls, according to the chroniclers, were plated with sheets of gold. Magnificent blocks of finely carved stone were used in its construction.
After, you will visit the surrounding ruins of Cusco: Sacsayhuaman a huge Inca fortress built on three overlapping platforms, each of them over 360 meters long. Then we continue onto Tambomachay, known as the Inca baths, it was apparently a site dedicated to the worship of water and a resting place for the Inca monarch. Kenko, it is said to have been a worship site. There is a huge 5. 9 meter high stone block that looks like a Puma and there are also passages, canals and stairways with stone engravings representing animals. Finally, Puca Pucará, which was an administrative and military centre formed by terraces, stairways, passages, turrets and vaulted niches. Return to hotel and the evening free to rest or explore this magical place. Overnight.
Important. If you would prefer not to overnight at Cusco because of the altitude ( 3,500 meters ) you can travel down into the Sacred Valley which is about a thousand meters lower and overnight. All this can be designed into your program.
Day 04 : Cusco to Sacred Valley. Full Day tour of the Valley.
In the morning, at around 08:30 a.m. you will be collected from your hotel and driven overland to the Sacred Valley and to the archaeological complex of Pisac, a journey which will take approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes. On the way you will stop on route to take some pictures and admire the Pucara Bulls on the roofs of Andean houses. These small bulls are thought to be amulets that bring wealth to each family who owns them; they are usually given as wedding gifts. On arrival to the archaeological complex of Pisac, you will begin your tour of the site, during the course of our hike around this area; appreciate the magnificent Andean Terraces, which were built to expand the agriculture lands. After visit the artisan market of Pisac a colourful local event that over the centuries has attracted local traders and remote communities from all over the valley, dressed in their traditional and colourful costumes. Enjoy the opportunity to interact with local people and appreciate their craftsmanship, handicrafts as well as local fruit and vegetable stalls.
Buffet lunch and after we will make our way to the historical town of Ollantaytambo, with its distinct Inca urban planning, visit the religious, astronomical and military complex and observe how the ancient Peruvians moved boulders of nearly 60 metric tons from one mountain to another and across the river and valley. Finally you will be transferred to your hotel in the Sacred Valley. Overnight
Please note that this program can be changed to include other attractions such as Chincheros and the Inca Salt Mines as well as Ollantaytambo.
Day 05 : Sacred Valley / Machu Picchu / Cusco. Full day visit to Machu Picchu.
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the station to board the train to Machu Picchu, a great World Heritage Site. This archaeological site was hidden for centuries until it came to light during the early 1900s, by the famous discoverer Hiram Bingham.
It is impossible to describe in words, how you will feel when faced with the citadel, a huge complex located between the mountains and the jungle and a wonderful challenge to your imagination.
Upon arrival to Aguas Calientes, reception at the train station and transfer uphill to Machu Picchu (approximately 20 minutes). On arrival you will begin your tour of the Citadel where you will appreciate the history of this enigmatic and impressive place. It was built on a very special spot covered in vegetation between two mountains: the Machu Picchu (old mountain) and Huayna Picchu (young mountain), at the foot of which meanders the Urubamba or Vilcanota River (lower Jungle featuring abundant flora and fauna). In the afternoon, you will return to Aguas Calientes to explore the village by your own. At coordinated time, you will be transferred to the station to board your return train to Cusco. Upon arrival, reception and transfer to your hotel. Overnight.
Day 06 : Cusco / Puno.
In the morning, you will be transferred to board the regular first class train to the city of Puno, a full day journey crossing the great Altiplano with the ever presence snow-capped Andean Mountains. Dinner will be served onboard and in the afternoon, folkloric entertainment given in the bar area. You will also find an open veranda at the back of the train, great for photos. One stop is made on the way, where you can disembark and enjoy a local market before continuing on to Puno. On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel, overnight.
Day 07 : Puno . Full Day excursion, visiting the Floating Island of Uros and the Island of Taquile.
In the morning begin your full day visit to the floating island, known as “Uros” in Lake Titicaca. Located 4 km / 2.5 miles from Puno, the original inhabitants of these floating islands are said to descend from one of the most ancient peoples of the Americas, and still to this day practice their ancient traditions. Their dwellings made of totora reed, are built on the surface of Lake Titicaca. Afterwards, you will make your way by boat to the unique Island of Taquile, where time appears to have stopped. The Mediterranean atmosphere of this place is striking, with its steps of stone and its houses centred around the square. Its indigenous community that lives here, has around 350 families that are descendants of the Incas and are well known for their textile activities, such as their beautifully woven chumpis (belts), chullos (caps), and ojotas (and sandals). According to the custom, officials are distinguished by black or brown caps. Taquile also offers a magnificent lake landscape from where the impressive snowfalls of the Cordillera Real (Real mountain chain) can be seen. In the afternoon return by boat to Puno and your hotel. Overnight.
Day 08 : Puno / La Paz.
In the morning you will be transferred to take the regular bus to La Paz, the journey will take us along the shores of Lake Titicaca and to the frontier of Peru with Chile, a scenic journey passing local communities, a lot of the people here are Amaras with the typical rounded hats and platted hair. At the border we will disembark and walk to the local customs office, first Peru and then onto Bolivia, after which we will board our Bolivian bus and continue onto La Paz. The City of La Paz, is an extraordinary place, nestled in a canyon with an altitude of more than three thousand meters and surrounded by the Royal Range of snow-capped mountains . It has the highest ski slope in the world and is the seat of government. On arrival reception and transfer to your hotel. Overnight.
Optional : Full Day Catamaran. Puno - Copacabana - Sun Island (South) - Inti Wata Complex- Titikaka Lake - La Paz.
Early morning transfer from your hotel to Copacabana in Bolivia, this journey will take us along the shores of Lake Titicaca and to the Bolivian Border, journey time approx two hours. Crossing the border we will then board our bus for the short journey to Copacabana. Short time to explore the main square before boarding the Catamaran Cruise Ship, snack on board while sailing to Sun Island, the legendary birthplace of the Inca Empire. Visit the Inca Garden, its steps and fountain followed by the Inti Wata Cultural Complex including the Ekako Underground Museum. Enjoy a unique sailing experience aboard a huge Titikaka traditional vessel for a panoramic visit to the Pilkokaina Inca Palace. Board our Catamaran for the continued journey across Lake Titicaca with buffet lunch served onboard. On arrival to the other side transfer by bus to La Paz and your hotel. Overnight.
Day 09 : La Paz. Morning City Tour of La Paz and in the afternoon optional excursion to the ruins of Tiwanaku.
In the morning explore on foot the narrow meandering streets of Rosario, San Jorge and San Miguel, some of La Paz's oldest and most lively neighbourhoods’. Pass through the well known witches' market in the middle of the city, where women in their traditional petticoats and bowler hats of the altiplano, sell medicinal herbs and spices, as well as spiritual and superstitious artefacts’. Continue onto the cathedral of San Francisco, one of the oldest and largest in the city and home to some impressive examples of colonial religious art. At La Paz's central square known as Plaza Murillo, your guide will point out the Presidential Palace, the National Congress, and other important government buildings—all impressive colonial buildings in the oldest quarter of the city. You will then board your bus and drive to the Valle de la Luna, a fascinating geological anomaly called Moon Valley, named because of its bizarre moon-like landscape just outside of La Paz. Disembark and spend some time walking through this valley with its huge stalagmites and trenches, all of which have been carved out of the soil from centuries of erosion by the wind and rain. Return to hotel and afternoon free or optional tour to the ruins of Tiwanaku. Overnight.
Optional : Board your bus for the one hour journey to the ruins of Tiwanaku, a scenic journey through the High Plateau with opportunities to observe the more traditional, countryside way of life. Upon arrival to Tiwanaku which is a UNESCO site, visit the Lithic and Ceramic Museums, to understand the history and background of this remarkable civilization. After we will make our way to the main attractions where we will explore the many temples including the Pyramid of Akapana and Kalasasya as well as the inspiring Gateways to the Sun and Moon. In addition to the traditional examples of Tiwanaku architecture, giant monoliths and figurative representations are scattered throughout the archaeological complex. What is perhaps is most impressive about Tiwanaku is the incredible skill and craftsmanship needed to create such architecture. Huge stone blocks weighing as much as 45 tons each have been placed with such precision that not a single gap between the stones can be found. The sculptures too are worthy of modern day appreciation- intricate details of both the people and the gods can be seen on the spiritual figures of Tiwanaku. A trip to here is more than just a walk through history, it is a breath-taking testament to an ancient civilization that was advanced well beyond its years. Return to La Paz.
Day 10 : La Paz / Salt Lakes : Full day tour of the Salt Lakes.
Transfer and fly to Uyuni, on arrival you will begin your tour with a visit to the antique train cemetery just outside the town of Uyuni , today all that is left are rusted, forgotten steam trains, a surreal sight on the flat expanse outside of Uyuni. Continue onto the village of Colchani stopping at the Palacio de Sal and Spa which is on the edge of the vast Bolivian salt flats. This is one of the most unique hotels in the world, built entirely of salt with the world’s only salt golf course. Finally, arrive to Salar de Uyuni or Salt Flats and with the Andean Mountains on the horizon and the arid white expanse laid out in front of you, entering the salt flats is like approaching the edge of the world. At times the Salar can be glazed with a few centimeters of water, creating a nearly perfect mirror for the deep blue sky. The horizon seems to disappear as the line between the sky and the Salar becomes imperceptible. A truly incredible sight. Continues across the salt flats, the Isla del Pescado or Fish Island rises from the middle of the enormous white expanse like a mirage. Here you can climb up the steep island where gigantic cacti, some 9 meters tall, cover the landscape of this strange oasis. On the shores of the “island”, lunch is served as you take in the incredible panoramic views of the Salar. At the foot of the Thunupa Volcano near the edge of the Salar , we stop to explore the so-called “mummy caves”. A sacred spot for local communities, the network of caves contains the remains of 1,000-year old mummies, preserved from decay by the region’s arid climate. The mummy caves are one of the best-kept secrets of the Salar de Uyuni tours, and a highlight for many of our travellers. As the sun starts to set across the reflective surface we make our way to our hotel. Overnight.
Day 11 : Salt Lakes. Full day tour of the Salt Lakes.
In the morning continue our tour of the Salt Lakes visiting a series of colourful, mineral-rich lagoons where the landscape begins to evolve from the extreme flats to a volcanic surface dotted with lagoons and geysers. One of the few opportunities for wildlife viewing during the tour is at Laguna Cañapa, a salty lake where pink flamingos often migrate. You’ll find more flocks of pink flamingos further along the road at Laguna Honda, a shallow body of water rich in minerals. Other scenes worth stopping to see along the way are the vibrant green colours of Laguna Chiarkhota and the shallow Laguna Colorada, where the bright red water is the result of high levels of algae and plankton. Surrounded by mountains, the vast, high-altitude Siloli Desert is a favourite for a lot of people on the second day, it is home to many bizarre rock formations, such as the famous Tree Rock carved by the winds blowing across the desert, the tree-shape rock is known as the inspiration for a Salvador Dali painting. Overnight
Day 12 : Salt Lake / Villazon / Salta and Argentina.
Enjoy the beautiful sunrise across this volcanically actively region with sinkholes of bubbling mud and geysers spewing steam 50 meters into the air. Relax in a hot spring of Termas de Polques , mineral-rich waters believed by the local people to relieves arthritis and other ailments. Highlights on the final day include the emerald waters of Laguna Verde or Blue Lagoon. The blue-green colour of the lagoon comes from the high levels of copper in the soil and provides incredible photo opportunities with pink flamingos wading in the waters. Just southwest of the lagoon is the dominating Licancabur Volcano, which provides a superb background for photographs of the Laguna Verde. Continue to the border with Argentina and cross over at Villazon and continue onto Salta and your hotel. Overnight
Day 13 : Salta /Journey to the clouds.
In the morning board your transport and begin the climb into the Andean Cordillera – following the route of the famous Train to the Clouds – through Quebrada del Toro and northwards on to the quaint mountain village of San Antonio de los Cobres. At lunch time enjoy some of the local delicacies and after continue with our journey across the Puna grasslands up to the white wonder of Salinas Grandes: the largest salt lake in Argentina. Latter you will take the dramatic winding roads of Cuesta de Lipán towards the charming town of Purmamarca, located in the foothills of the simply spectacular Cerro de los Siete Colores. Overnight in the local village.
Day 14 : Quebrada de Humahuaca/ Salta.
After spending the night in one of the local villages explore the enchanting magic of the Humahuaca Valley. Flanked by the high plateau, this designated UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a sumptuous blend of sights and colours – soak in the authentic delights of Maimará; visit Tilcara, the archaeological capital of the north; and stop by the tiny archaic pueblo of Uquía. From ruins of the Inca empire to traces of Argentina’s fight for independence, these three rural outposts together offer stories of a bygone era. Enjoy a city tour around Humahuaca before returning to Salta. Overnight.
Day 15 : Salta : Overnight stay.
Enjoy your free day, relax or explore the town of Salta. Overnight.
Day 16 : Salta / Buenos Aires.
At a co ordinated hour transfer to local airport and fly to Buenos Aires, on arrival reception and transfer to your hotel. Overnight.
Day 17 : Buenos Aires : City tour and in the evening dinner and enjoy the famous and well known Tango Dancing.
Your tour of Buenos Aires begins at the symbol of the city, the Obelisk. This giant monument was built in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city. After take in major sites including the Plaza de Mayo, Plaza San Martín, and Plaza Congreso. Travel along the city’s famous avenues, such as Corrientes, Mayo, and 9 de Julio. You’ll see the city’s massive football stadiums, home to Argentina’s favourite pastime. Buenos Aires boasts a lively multi-cultural blend of generations of old families and you’ll experience the diverse neighbourhoods, getting a feel for the city and the people who call it home. Discover the unique architecture of historic areas such as La Boca, San Telmo, and Montserrat. Enjoy the finer things in life in elegant Palermo, where you’ll have time to explore Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. From there you’ll move on to Recoleta, home to the well-known cemetery that is the final resting place of Eva Peron and many other notables. Between neighbourhood visits, you’ll be able to admire the natural beauty of Lezama and tres de Febrero parks. Return to your hotel and the afternoon free. In the evening enjoy dinner with traditional live Tango Dancing.
Day 18 : Buenos Aires / Home.
At a co ordinated hour transfer Buenos Aires International Airport for your flight home.