Lima – Arequipa
This morning you’ll have time to absorb the atmosphere of Lima, founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1535, with its extraordinary Baroque churches, colonial squares and contemporary galleries. A morning tour will show you both the modern and colonial parts of the city, taking in the imposing cathedral, the Presidential Palace and the San Isidro and Miraflores districts.
After the tour you fly to the beautiful city of Arequipa, set in a stunning valley at the foot of the snow-capped El Misti Volcano. The Aymara Indian and Inca settlement became a colonial city in 1540, and your guided tour will reveal a wealth of Baroque churches, convents and chapels, as well as the traditional districts of Carmen Alto and Yanahuara. Keep your camera at the ready – there are fantastic views of Mount Misti, Mount Chachani and Mount Picchu-Picchu.
Stay: Two nights in a superior double room at the Casa Andina Premium Arequipa – bed & breakfast
Twice as deep as the better known Grand Canyon, Colca is claimed to be the world’s deepest river gorge. It is certainly one of the most spectacular. Your four hour drive will take you through the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, where you will have the chance to spot indigenous wildlife like alpacas and llamas. Before you reach Colca Canyon you will stop to see the fascinating rock formations at Callalli which are reminiscent of medieval castles.
Early on the second day you’ll set off to see condors soaring above Colca Canyon at “Condor Cross”, followed by a visit to the Hanging Tombs of Choquetico and the interesting towns of Maco, Achola and Yanque.
Stay: Two nights in a standard double room at the Colca Lodge – half board
Time to head to the famous lake straddling Peru’s southern border with Bolivia. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, with stunning views and shores that are home to Aymara and Quechua Indians – people who pre-date the Incas by over 1,000 years. On the way to the lake you’ll travel through astonishing highland panoramas, as well as visit the Sillustani archaeological site with its circular funeral towers.
You’ll stay on a private peninsular and take birdwatching tours, try mountain biking and horse riding, go on trekking expeditions and visit the lake’s islands, villages, archaeological sites and colonial churches.
Stay: Two nights in a dawn room at Hotel Titilaka – full board & all activities
Today you embark on an eight hour drive through enchanting scenery to Cusco, stopping en route at the ancient Racchi ruins and the town of Andahuaylillas with its 17th century church. You eventually arrive in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Cusco itself is a feast of Inca remains, as well as boasting colonial masterpieces like the Cathedral and Church of the Company of Christ. A tour will take you around the quaint cobbled streets and Baroque buildings, plus the impressive Temple of the Sun and the massive walls of the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. You’ll also visit the famous archaeological sites of Kenko and Tambomachay, both important religious centres for the Incas.
Stay: Two nights in a patio suite at Inkaterra La Casona – bed & breakfast
In the Urubamba Valley you can really begin to immerse yourself in the Inca civilisation. Urubamba is the Sacred Valley of the Incas and features the ruined town of Pisac, plus well preserved fortresses, urban complexes, temples and Andean terraces. You’ll see traditional Andean spinning and weaving at Urpi, and visit Ollantaytambo – the longest continuously occupied village on the continent with roads, canals and a fortress that have barely changed since the Inca period.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe terrace room at the Belmond Rio Sagrado – bed & breakfast
The Vistadome train takes you along the Urubamba Valley to perhaps one of the world’s most spectacular archaeological sites. The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu marches up the side of a mountain on tiered terraces featuring astounding examples of Inca temples, staircases, palaces and fountains.
Stay: One night in a superior room at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel – half board
You will have the whole of today to explore the ruins of Machu Picchu accompanied by a local private guide. You will also have time to explore the site on your own, really taking the time to soak in the atmosphere and majesty of this world wonder. Later you will board the Vistadome train back to the historic city of Cusco.
Stay: One night in a patio suite at the Inkaterra La Casona – bed & breakfast
From Cusco you fly to Puerto Maldonado where you’ll be met and taken by bus and boat to your eco-lodge on the banks of the Madre de Dios River. Now your expedition into the Amazon Basin really begins, with river trips in authentic dugout canoes, guided walks into the rainforest and canopy walkways high above the forest floor to discover the birds and creatures that live amongst the treetops.
Stay: Three nights in a superior cabana with view at Reserva Amazonica – full board & all excursions
Puerto Maldonado – Lima – London
You leave Puerto Maldonado in the afternoon to connect with your onward flight home from Lima.
It was a great experience and now I have dipped my toes in the Ultimate waters I shall be back for more.- JE, October 2014