Examining the Andes
Peru is a country that is steeped in ancient Incan culture, pre-Columbian art and is home to verdant Amazonian rainforest. I believe that you and Jane will be fascinated by the colorful culture, incredible cuisine, rich natural environment and Andean architecture.
Day 1: Arrival
Per our conversation, I have selected a hotel that will be perfect for your stay in Lima. Your guide, Andrea will accompany you there and make sure you are settled. The first day will be devoted to rest and relaxation in your new surroundings.
Day 2: Cuisine and community
This morning, Andrea will take you to visit one of Lima’s bustling markets to see the amazing array of fish, fruit, and vegetables used in Peruvian food. We’ll give you a list of names and descriptions of foods that you will encounter to help you discover the secrets of Peruvian cuisine. Expert chefs from a famous restaurant will demonstrate how to prepare Peru’s main dishes, and teach you how to make an exquisite cebiche or a lip-smacking lomo saltado (sautéed tenderloin strips and French fries).
After lunch, you will be taken on a journey through the Historical Center of Lima: the Main Square, the beautiful Cathedral, Santo Domingo Convent, where you will learn about its ancient inhabitants through the art and architecture of colonial times. Make a stop at a panoramic view of Huallamarca, a pre-Inca pyramidal huaca located in the residential district of San Isidro.
Finally, I’m sure you will delight in visiting a traditional Limean family, who will show you their customs, their marvelous art collection, and their pre-Incan ceramics. They have a treasure trove of pieces, from pre-Incan ceramics and textiles, to the most complete collection of nativity scenes in America—I know Jane will be particularly keen about these.
Day 3: Nazca lines
Today, you will travel south along the Pacific Coast to your hotel in Ica. Along the way, you will pass through the different types of landscape, including arid desert and lush oasis, while your guide will introduce you to the new Peru coastal population as well as to the various vestiges of ancient civilizations. You will enjoy a magical flight over Pisco, Ocucaje, Palpa and the amazing Nazca Lines, located on the Pampas.
On this journey, observe a number of geoglyphs, representing stylized pictures of animals and plants, distributed amidst a huge labyrinth of rectangles, trapeziums, triangles and spirals carved on the land and preserved for almost 2,000 years. You will end the day with a perfect change of pace at the Libertador Paracas Luxury Collection.
Day 4: Paracas, Lima’s island paradise
A refreshing boat ride will lead you to the Ballestas Islands, situated off the coast of the Paracas Reserve, Peru’s largest coastal wildlife sanctuary. Jane will love this trip because these two beautiful islands are home to thousands of resident migratory sea birds, including pelicans, boobies, cormorants, gulls, and others, which share their habitat with colonies of sea lions. On the way, you will also see one of the mysterious drawings etched on the desert face: the Candlestick.
You will both enjoy unwinding while contemplating the scenery before returning to Lima to take in a dinner show at La Dama Juana Restaurant. Then, you will spend the night at Country Club 5*; a serene hideaway that perfectly fits your tastes.
Day 5: Puerto Maldonado Nature Reserve
Another day in tranquil natural surroundings awaits, you will be welcomed to Puerto Maldonado where you will be whisked along Madre de Dios River to Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica. After a short briefing, you will be invited to settle into your beautiful cabaña where you can commune with nature and enjoy your lunch. I know that Jane will be enchanted by a trail adventure and a twilight river excursion. You can get the most out of this stunning enclave by taking in an informative nature presentation.
Day 6: Puerto Maldonado—lake and forest
Today, you will be enthralled by an excursion along Lake Sandoval into the Tambopata National Reserve where you will have the opportunity to enjoy the remarkable Inkaterra Canopy Walkway. As you ascend the first tower, 29 meters above the forest floor, you begin your encounter with the treetop realm. This voyage into the canopy will offer an enchanting view of the virgin rainforest. During this expedition, Jane will be in her element while on the lookout for colorful toucans, woodpeckers, trogons and monkeys. This close encounter with nature will leave you hypnotized by the beauty of the Peruvian environment. After your descent from the canopy, experience the Anaconda Walk, which will take you along a 200-meter wooden bridge over the Aguajales Swamps. Here you can observe this lush ecosystem. Learn more about this paradise by taking in the daily nature presentation back at the lodge and then be lulled into a deep sleep by the soothing sounds of the forest.
Day 7: Beautiful butterflies
After a boat trip on the tranquil Madre de Dios River, you will arrive at Puerto Maldonado, where you may visit Inkaterra Butterfly House to see the marvelous spectacle of winged colors.
Following this serene morning, you will arrive in Cusco. Here, you will spend the rest of the day relaxing and acclimatizing to the high life of the Andes in Aranwa Cusco Boutique, the hotel I chose for you, which I know will give you an authentic feel for the area.
Day 8: Colonial city
Get to know the imperial city’s history through its Incan and Colonial past. The Koricancha, an old Incan palace will provide you with a taste for the rhythm of life of the ancients and the Main Square will captivate you both with its majestic cathedral, the exquisite Church of the La Compañía de Jesús, and other remarkable colonial buildings. Another place worth visiting is the Casa Concha Museum and its interesting exhibition of Machu Picchu artifacts that Yale University recently returned. These give a more personal insight into the Inca way of life. A sumptuous local cocktail will allow you both the perfect chance to reflect upon the grandeur of the imperial city.
The Sacsayhuaman Fortress is an impressive example of Incan architecture that dominates the city and a must for Inca enthusiasts. Additionally, the temple of Kenko and the archaeological sites of Puca Pucara and Tambomachay, also known as the Inca Baths, will stimulate your imagination and prepare you for a journey into the Sacred Valley.
Day 9: Sacred valley
As promised, today you will take a magical excursion into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. There you will visit the colorful market of Pisac, where you will wonder at the blend of color, tradition and local people. You will be charmed by Ollantaytambo, the most ancient and continuously occupied village of the American continent, especially its narrow roads and canals, which haven’t changed since Incan times. The pièce de résistance, is the Ollantaytambo Fortress, a grand lookout. Maras is home to the most important salt mines of the region, which have been in operation since Incan times and the viceregal period. These and the huge circular and semicircular agricultural terraces near Moray will allow you to comprehend the ingenuity of the Inca civilization. The agricultural terraces were built in natural holes on a limestone plateau facing the Urubamba Valley. They were used as a botanical lab by the Incas.
After your explorations, gastronomic delights will be served at the exclusive Sol y Luna Wayra Restaurant, along with entertainment in the form of a live Paso Horse Dance show, which I know you will love. The hypnotic sound of Cusco will be with you as you retire at the Rio Sagrado Hotel.
Day 10: Ancient citadel
Today you will take the much awaited journey to the top of the mountain and citadel of Machu Picchu, one of the most renowned examples of Inca architecture, surrounded by lush rainforest, shrouded in mist. Lost in history, it was not rediscovered until 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham. A private tour of the ruins will heighten this awesome adventure, followed by a welcome a la carte lunch at Café Inkaterra. Feeling refreshed, the ancient wonder of Machu Picchu will beguile you with its lofty charms as you appreciate the citadel at a leisurely pace.
Day 11: Exploring Machu Picchu
The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu will captivate you both for a second day, when you will be able to explore ruins such as Intipunku or the Gate of the Sun. Once the main entrance to the ancient citadel, this gateway is where the sun would emerge flanked by imperial guards, only allowing the elite through to the sanctuary. You will walk in their footsteps as you take in the wondrous scenery and a view of the complex. The best view follows an adrenaline-filled ascent to Huayna Picchu or Young Mountain in the morning, the site of the mysterious Temple of the Moon, which offers a breathtaking view of the citadel.
After taking lunch at El Mapi Restaurant, you will return to the comfort of your hotel in Cusco.
Day 12: Cusco – Fond farewell
The time has come to say goodbye to Cusco until next time, and return to Lima to savor many new memories of beautiful Peru.
Zach, it has been a pleasure to plan this itinerary for you and Jane. Please feel free to ask if you have any queries about the trip.