Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.
Our Plus tours allow you to immerse yourself within a destination or culture whilst travelling and sleeping in comfort. They are packed with highlights to ensure you get the most out of your valuable time away yet are also slower paced allowing you time to savour the culture, traditions and sights of your destination – the perfect balance.
At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru.
An airport arrival transfer is included. This transfer is only valid if arriving on day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through Intrepid. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel (note - we may not be able confirm request made within 15 days of travel). Once you have provided your details a transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
While Peru's capital officially began life in 1535, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city on the Day of the Three Kings, settlements had been scattered through the valley since before the Incas. The city was built on top of an existing palace and temples that belonged to the local chief who had little choice but to move on. Lima was in its prime during the Spanish colonial days and much of the city's attraction now lies in its well-preserved historical centre.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre - so there's no need for you to visit the downtown area prior to the trip. Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro.
If you arrive early, we recommend you take a walk around Miraflores. Go from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to LarcoMar via Larco Avenue. Alternatively go to Parque del Amor (Love's Park) for a nice view of Lima's beaches. Other things to see and do include a tour to Pachacamac (approx 30 km from downtown Lima), the Museo de la Nacion and the Gold Museum. Limenos (Lima's residents) are friendly and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to sample ceviche, a local seafood speciality.
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!Before your trip: Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.During your trip: While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly.
Accommodation: Antigua Mira Flores or similar (1 nt)
On day 2 we travel by minivan to Paracas. This afternoon why not take a visit to the Paracas National Reserve. Home to a large number of birds and wildlife species, Paracas National Reserve helps preserve Peru's marine ecosystem and the cultural heritage of the Paracas people.
Spanning 335,000 hectares of land and sea, Paracas National Park is widely regarded as one of the most important marine reserves in the world. This coastal and marine national park is located on a peninsula in the Pacific Ocean and is home to one of the highest concentration of marine birds in the world. Providing a vital habitat for sea lions and dolphins, Paracas is without doubt one of the most biologically diverse coastal areas in the Americas.
Accommodation: Posada del Emancipador Hotel (1 nt)
Early in the morning we make our way to Pisco's port before travelling by boat to the Ballestas Islands.
Sometimes called the 'Galapagos of Peru', the Ballestas Islands are a haven for wildlife including hundreds of pelicans, red-footed boobies, flamingos, sea lions and even penguins. Get up close to this amazing wildlife with a boat tour of the islands (approx 1.5-2 hrs). Between June and September the port might be closed by the Peruvian Navy due to weather conditions. Should this occur an alternative option of a land tour to the Paracas National Reserve will be offered.
Travel from Pisco to Nazca by private van. Driving straight through it would take about 3 hours. However, time permitting we will stop en route at the oasis of Huacachina.
The town of Huacachina is built around a small natural lake surrounded by dramatic sand dunes, which offer endless photography and sandboarding opportunities.
This evening we enjoy an included dinner.
The entire desert in the Nazca area was once home to the ancient Nazca and Paracas cultures which preceded the Incas by over 500 years. Remains of their cultures are still visible - Nazca is home to the famous and enigmatic Nazca lines, enormous designs inscribed in the desert on the arid high plateau.The enormous lines have been etched into the ground by scraping away the top darker layer of gravel which then contrasts with the paler one underneath. Animals, insects and birds are depicted, and some of the simpler line formations are up to 10 km (32 miles) in length. Who drew them, how and why, can only be guessed at, but theories range from alien invaders to complex Nazca calendars.
These mysterious shapes are better seen from the air. Small four/six seater planes offer 30 minute flights that allow viewing all 26 figures scattered through the desert floor.Warning! Planes turn sharply from one side to another to facilitate viewing from both sides of the plane. Plastic bags are provided on board but needless to say, this flight is not recommended for those with a weak stomach.A safety note. A number of local operators offer flights over the Nazca lines. It should be noted that there have been numerous safety issues over Nazca in the past – as such Intrepid has used its best endeavors to assess the safety of the operation of some of these companies. While it is impossible to guarantee the safety of air operations, your leader can only assist you to book this activity through companies Intrepid assesses are safer to fly with. Your leader is specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting booking this activity through any other operators.
From a lookout tower it's possible to admire two of the Nazca Lines: the tree and the hands.
Accommodation: Majoro Hotel (1 nt)
Continue travelling by private van to Arequipa (approx 10 hrs)
Standing at the foot of El Misti Volcano and oozing the best of Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cuzco for the title of Peru's most attractive city. Built out of a pale volcanic rock called sillar, the old buildings dazzle in the sun, giving the city its nickname - the 'White City'. The main plaza, with its cafes and nearby cathedral, is a lovely place to while away the day.
You will have a walking tour of Arequipa with a local guide. The tour includes a visit to the main square, the San Ignacio Chapel with its impressive colonial mural paintings, the Santa Catalina Monastery, and the suburb of Yanahuara.
Accommodation: Casa Andina (2 nts)
Travel by minivan to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approx 6 hrs). On the way we stop at the Sillustani archaeological site.
Tucked away in between the many small villages around Puno are the ruins of Sillustani. These ruined towers are set on a beautiful peninsula near Lake Umayo, built by a pre-Inca civilisation hundreds of years ago. The Sillustani Indians built several 'chullpas', funeral towers. Each tower would have contained the remains of noble men, buried together with offerings to secure their comfortable passage into the next life.
Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture and traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented here. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. Many festivals are celebrated here, so if you're lucky your visit might coincide with one of the colourful evening parades, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Tour the lake by slow motor boat stopping off to visit the floating islands. The Uros originally built the islands from many layers of totora reeds that grow in the lake's shallows to isolate themselves from the rival tribes. As the reeds closest to the water begin to rot, more layers are added on top. These reeds are used for making everything on the islands, including the boats which can last up to 12 months.We will also visit the Taquile Island, where knitting is strictly a male domain and women do the spinning. This is a great place to pick up some high quality, locally knitted goods. To reach the main part of the island there is a an uphill trek (approx 1 hour) with great views of the lake. There will also be an optional lunch consisting of a basic set meal where you can taste the nutritious quinua soup and enjoy a muna tea (Andean mint tea).A descent of approx 500 steps brings us back to the boat which will take us all the way back to Puno (approx 3 hours).
Accommodation: Taypikala Lago Hotel or similar (2 nts)
Travel by local bus across the spectacular Altiplano to Cuzco (approx 6 hrs).
The Cuzco region truly is the heart and soul of Peru. The city itself is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today Cuzco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Inca foundations. This is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend and is a perfect base for explorations into the Inca world or to enjoy a range of outdoor activities.Take the time to acclimatise to the city's 3,450 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour including a visit to the Coca Musuem - where you can learn more about this infamous plant which has been an essential part of life in the Andes for centuries - and the local San Pedro market.
The cathedral, built on top of an Inca palace, dominates the Plaza de Armas, Cuzco's picturesque heart. The cathedral is one of the city's greatest repositories of art and houses an elegantly carved choir stall and a silver-covered Neoclassic altar.
There are several impressive Inca ruins within the city. The most easily accessible is Coricancha, which was the Inca empire's richest temple. Once plated in thick gold, the Spanish built a Dominican church atop its sturdy walls.
For lunch or mid-morning coffee and cake head to Yanapay restaurant at 415 Ruinas St. This restaurant uses all its profits to support children in Cuzco through Aldea Yanapay and its social projects. For more info on Aldea Yanapay visit: http://yanapay.facipub.com/
Accommodation: San Agustin Hotel or similar (2 nts)
We'll head to a community along the valley to learn about local lifestyle and activities, and if our visit coincides with market day, we can spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos and maybe practising a little bit of the local language, Quechua. Lunch is provided today by the local community.
The town of Ollantaytambo has been built over an ancient Inca town, which is a magnificent example of Inca urban planning. This is one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish.
Ollantaytambo's archaeological site is located to the east of the Plaza de Armas. The upper terraces of this site offer great photo opportunities of the squared grid town below.
Today you'll leave most of your luggage in Cuzco while we visit the Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. Please make sure you have a small backpack to carry the necessary items for the three days ahead.
Accommodation: Samanapaq Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Aguas Calientes is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu.
While away your free time in the natural hot springs that give the town its name.
This evening we enjoy an included dinner.
Accommodation: Santuario Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Take a bus up the winding road to Machu Picchu (approx 30 mins).
While it's thought Machu Picchu was built around 1440 as a country retreat for Incan nobility, there is evidence this had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Another school of thought is that this was an astronomical observatory. There's plenty of time for you to decide for yourself as you wander around the many temples, palaces and living quarters. You will have a guided visit (approx 1.5-2 hrs) with plenty of free time afterwards. After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cuzco for a well deserved shower and a pisco sour.
WAYNA PICCHU: Due to our internal safety policy our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking this activity.
Accommodation: San Agustin Hotel or similar (2 nts)
Fly from Cuzco back to Lima (approx 1 hr). The rest of the afternoon is free for you to continue exploring Lima.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation: Antigua Mira Flores or similar (1 nt)
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTESTS:
Demonstrations and protests, often in response to local labour or social issues, occur regularly throughout Peru. National strikes can be called at short notice and can cause disruption to road networks leading to inevitable itinerary changes. Intrepid does everything possible for these changes to be at little or no extra cost; however in such circumstances we find that travellers need to access part of, or the entire, emergency fund. Please read below for more information on this trip's emergency fund.
The wet season in this region is from December to March when heavy rains can cause disruptions to ground transport. Intrepid will monitor any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to natural weather occurrences.
Domestic airlines require passengers' passport numbers to issue their tickets. It is then very important that you provide this information at the time of booking.
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