Day 1: Lima, Peru
Welcome to Peru! Upon arrival in Lima, clear immigration and customs and claim your luggage. Exit the customs hall where you are greeted by a representative from Big Five Tours and Expeditions, and transferred to your hotel, ideally located on the corner of the Boulevard Saenz Peña and San Martin in the heart of Barranco, Lima’s bohemian art district. The first Relais & Châteaux hotel in Lima, this luxury boutique hotel sits in one of the main plazas surrounded by art galleries, historic homes and fashionable boutiques. The hotel’s 20 suites, a signature restaurant, library, outdoor patio and a relaxing rooftop lounge overlooking the city and the Pacific Ocean. It offers family-friendly activities such as Pizza Night, adventure sports options, bicycle rides and a visit to the Choco Museum in Lima. Indeed, children of all ages are welcome. Other activities include yoga and cooking classes. Hotel B – Aposento
Day 2: Lima
Today, set out on unexpected adventure in the outskirts of Lima. About 11am, you are picked up at the hotel and set out in private 4x4s towards the region of Chilca, some 60 km/37 mi and approximately an hour away from the city for a sandboarding experience. Chilca, like Ica further in the south, combines countryside and farmhouses with beaches and Sahara-like sand dunes. This is a perfect combination for an active afternoon! Upon arriving at Chilca, head to a charming family country house for a fresh lunch accompanied by locally distilled Pisco.
After, travel off road to venture over the dunes and across the desert that stretches to the base of the Andes. Your expert drivers will show off their skills during this highly entertaining drive. Finally, you reach larger dunes, ideal for testing your sandboarding and sand sledding abilities. The adventurous can try their sandboarding skills in this new environment while everyone else has a blast sledding down the dunes. After a couple of hours of fun, you journey back to Lima, where a well-deserved rest awaits. Hotel B – Aposento (B,L)
Day 3: Lima / Chiclayo / Illescas
This morning, you are picked up from the hotel in the early morning and are transferred to the airport to board the flight to Chiclayo. On arrival, join your guide and driver for the two-and-half-hour drive to the starting point of your off-road adventure. Leave the pavement behind for the pure remoteness from here. Drive through dry river basins, desert dunes and rocky hills until you reach your beachfront private home. It is the isolation that makes Illescas so unique. Over the next few days, you share the beaches with flamingos, sea lions, penguins, and even Andean condors that call the beaches here home. The lodge is simple but cozy and the meals are fresh and homey. Savor the nature around you. Punta Luna Lodge – 1 House (B,L,D)
Day 4: Illescas National Reserve
Enjoy a full day to explore Illescas National Reserve on the tip of the Illescas peninsula, which forms the southern boundary of Peru’s largest bay, the Sechura Bay. Depending on the season, weather conditions, and a bit of luck, spot colonies of sea lions, Humboldt penguins, guanay cormorants, flamingos, blue-footed boobies and, of course, Andean condors. Up to 30 condors live in this reserve. Indeed, Illescas is one of the few places in the world where you can find condors living on the coast. The best time for spotting condors is during the morning and later in the afternoon. Spend plenty of time in the main lookouts while enjoying the ocean breeze and landscapes. Be sure to bring a bathing suit as it is warm and sunny here, especially during summer, and the clear waters are inviting. Illescas is a hidden paradise for surfing, too, with a beautiful 600-meter-long wave that breaks right in front of the lodge. Punta Luna Lodge – 1 House (B,L,D)
Day 5: Illescas / Chiclayo
Today, depart for Punta Luna on a five-hour drive to Chiclayo, where you have time to rest and enjoy a lunch in one of the best restaurants in Chiclayo. After lunch, check in at your hotel, Casa Andina Select Chiclayo, which offers visitors an excellent location minutes from downtown and the airport.
Relax this afternoon at the hotel with its spacious common areas, large terrace, gym, spa and pool, or opt for a walk to Santa Maria Cathedral or Mercado Modelo. Casa Andina Select Chiclayo – (B,L)
DAY 6: Chiclayo / Lima
Ruins of Sipan
Today, set out for a full-day discovery of the ruins of Sipan, site of four tombs in Sipans Huaca Rajada near Chiclayo. The Huaca is a mausoleum built by the Moche culture that ruled the northern coast of Peru from the time of Christ to 700 AD, centuries before the time of the Incas. Sipans treasures reveal the Moche cultures’ ability to work with prized metals – gold, silver and copper as well as precious stones. Their fine quality and mastery of metallurgy was unrivaled in the Americas as can be seen in the museum’s collections of masks, necklaces, earrings, and other elaborate jewelry. At the nearby Sipan Museum, you enjoy a splendid introduction to the cultural history of the Lambayeque area. Treasures from the tombs of Sipan are displayed here. Dr. Walter Alva and his archaeological team uncovered the tomb of the Lord of Sipan, who many consider the King Tutankhamen of the Americas. The discovery is the most spectacular ever uncovered in the Western Hemisphere. Then continue to Tucume, a vast Lambayeque-era archeological complex north of Chiclayo, a site of more monuments of the Moche culture that includes pyramids and mounds in the Valley of the Pyramids, which has only been excavated in recent years. The region contains the remains of some 250 decaying and heavily eroded mud-brick pyramids. The site was a major regional center, maybe even the capital of the successive occupations of the area by the Lambayeque/Sican (800-1350 AD), Chimú (1350–1450 AD) and Inca (1450–1532 AD). The largest complex is El Tucume, where legendary explorer Thor Heyerdahl is currently directing an excavation project. The area was referred to as Purgatorio (purgatory) by local people. Then, you are transferred to the airport to board your flight to Lima. Upon arrival, check into the hotel at the airport. Wyndham Hotel Lima Airport – 1 Suite (B)
Day 7: Lima / Cusco / Sacred Valley
Today, you will be transferred to the airport to board your flight to Cusco. You are met on arrival and transferred to Sacred Valley of the Incas (Urubamba Valley). Stop for a short visit at Yucay Museum to learn about the Peruvian textile arts. It is hosted by local Quechua women artisans, who create beautiful crafts and help you understand the culture. Alsoo encounter the camelids in the Andes that include llamas, alpacas, vicunas and guanacos. Alpacas have thick wool that is widely used for textiles while the vicunas are smaller with delicate fur that is considered the finest in the world. Continue to Ollantaytambo for a picnic at a lovely farm at the Andes. The historic town and Inca archaeological site are located at an altitude of 2,792 m/9,160 ft above sea level. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who conquered the region.
Check in to your hotel, a cozy ‘casita’ house made of local stone and each of the private sanctuaries is uniquely decorated. Gardens filled with flora native to the Sacred Valley surround each of the private sanctuaries facing the Andes Mountains, where the Incas believed their gods dwelled. Each cottage features an outdoor terrace opening into the high-ceilinged living space with terra cotta tile floors, Peruvian textiles, Sacred Valley artifacts, Spanish colonial style furniture, a king bed or two doubles with goose feather duvets, quality Peruvian pima cotton sheets and a spacious marble bathroom with deep soak bathtub. Each casita also features an original wall mural inspired by the Sacred Valley of the Incas as well as unique three-dimensional pieces. Quechua, ‘house of water,’ is an intimate spa wrapped in artful stained glass and local stone offers holistic relaxation. Native healing meets modern pampering with rejuvenating massage, facial and hydrotherapy treatments incorporating organic, locally grown Andean plants and herbs. Sol y Luna – Casita Superior (B,Picnic)
Day 8: Sacred Valley
This morning, set out on a mountain climb in the Andes as you ascend a 300-meter/984-foot rock face on a via Ferrata, a path with a safety system permanently installed. This allows those with little or no climbing experience the opportunity to move through spectacular mountain scenery using minimal equipment. The climber is permanently tied to a steel cable that runs through the entire route. Metal ladders, bridges and similar facilities are used to maintain the physical difficulty of climbing with a beginner’s skill. It provides access to very high and extreme vertical sections of a mountain that would normally be accessible only to experienced rock climbers. Without exception, via Ferrata climbers are always accompanied by a guide.
Note: Certified CE Equipment provided: a standard climbing harness, helmet, gloves, and a via Ferrata lanyard, (double system with strength dissipater especially designed for via Ferrata climbers). The equipment used allows the person to remain tied to a “lifeline,” in this instance a steel cable. Through the via Ferrata lanyard, the climber is secured with carabineers. If a fall occurs, the person remains tied to the lifeline without any risk. All guides are certified mountain guides trained in vertical rescue and ropes.
Once you reach the top, you take a thrilling zipline down to the Sacred Valley. The zipline has six lines or cables, from 100 to 500 meters/328 to 1,640 feet, for a total of 2,000 meters/6,562 feet. You walk 35-minutes to the first line. All lines are equipped with a via Ferrata system that provides maximum security and confidence to all adventurous travelers and no experience required. Then, you join your guide for a visit to Tarawasi Archaeological Site with a stop along the way for lunch. The site was of great importance since it offered a strategic location for ceremonial practices and a resting point for those who ventured out to the Chichaysuyo. It once served as a resting place for the Inca chasquis, Inca runners who delivered messages over long distances. The exceptional polygonal retaining wall is noted for its 28 human-sized niches.
From Huarocondo, a traditional Peruvian pueblo, discover the Zurite terraces, the largest continuous terraces in the region. Prior to the government taking over the site, the terraces were farmed and controlled by a wealthy family. There are also ruins on the hill above the terraces, referred to as Qenqo, declared a Cultural Heritage Site by the National Institute of Culture and is one of the largest huacas (holy places) in the Cusco region. It was believed to be a place where sacrifices and mummification took place. While the ruins above are accessible, it is a difficult hike with no established trail.
Then travel to Killarumiyoc (Quillarumiyoc) Temple of the Moon, a site of ritual adoration to one of the most important deities for the Incas, mother of the firmament and representation of the feminine side of the universe. Stop near Willque Pass for stunning views of Salkantay Peak and the valley of Limatambo. Return to your hotel. Sol y Luna – Casita Superior (B, L)
Day 9: Sacred Valley / Machu Picchu / Cusco
Depart early this morning on a private transfer to the Ollantaytambo rail station. Here you will board the 360 Machu Picchu train to Aguas Calientes, a highlight of any trip to the Andes. The scenery is simply spectacular as this hour-and-a-half journey takes you through a changing landscape of mountains, a deep dramatic canyon, and the beautiful Urubamba River running through the Sacred Valley.
On arrival in Machu Picchu, you transfer by small buses to the entrance of the ruins to commence your touring. Machu Picchu rises to an altitude of 7,900 ft. above sea level between the Huayna Picchu (young peak) and Machu Picchu (old peak). It lies within the spectacular framework provided by the exuberant vegetation of nearby jungle and the rugged landscape. The ruins are situated on the eastern slope of Machu Picchu in two different areas: the agricultural and the urban. The latter includes the civil sector (dwellings, canalizations), and the sacred sector (temples, mausoleums, squares, royal houses). Although constructions show different levels of architecture, religious buildings exhibit a high degree of perfection. The construction used stone for walls with roofs built of tree trunks and thatched with ichu straw. The walls were made with an inward inclination for protection against earthquakes.
After your exploration of this extraordinary site, you enjoy lunch at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge before heading to Aguas Calients to take the Vistadome train to Cusco where you are met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Inkaterra La Casona is the first boutique hotel in Cusco, located in the traditional Plaza de las Nazarenas, surrounded by vibrant, cobblestoned streets. This 16th Century manor house stands on the training grounds for an elite army of Incas. After it was harmoniously restored emphasizing its original architecture, Inkaterra La Casona reflects the blend of cultures and traditions across centuries. Surrounding the main patio, its 11 suites have chimneys, heated floors and extra-large bathtubs. Its halls are decorated with colonial furniture, pre-Columbian textiles and original murals. Inkaterra La Casona – Suite Patio (B,L)
Day 10: Cusco
This morning, you set out on an amazing hiking adventure to Apu Wanakaure. You are picked up at your hotel for the hour-and-a-half drive to the starting point at 3,780 meters/12,400 feet. Warm up hike up to the top of Wanakaure peak, site of a ceremonial Inca structures but stunning views of the Valley of Cusco, the mountains surrounding and breathtaking views 4,084 meters/13,400 feet. Find your way down on the original Ritual Inca Trail back into the city on a three-and-a-half-hour hike. You are then driven to Tipon for a delicious lunch! Wyndham Hotel (B,L)
Day 11: Cusco / Lima / Depart
The morning is at leisure to relax or explore near your hotel before an afternoon transfer to the airport for your flight to Lima to connect to the flight back home (B)