Travels in Peru

English: Colca Canyon, Arequipa, Peru Français...

Image via Wikipedia

I met Martha in London last November and we talked about Peru. “Late April is the best time to visit,” she said. “The countryside is green and lush after the rains and the crowds are still waiting for June.” I asked her about the Amazon. “A camp is good enough. The cruise boats cost four times more” she smiled. Few weeks later, I had the private tour itinerary I wanted, the cost looked reasonable and now I am ready to take the plunge.

The easiest way to fly to Lima from the north of England is with KLM from Leeds/Bradford airport via Amsterdam. It is important to make sure that the transit time in Amsterdam is al least two hours to ensure that you do not miss your connection and that your luggage travels with you. The Leeds office of Trailfinders will make you your flight arrangements efficiently at a reasonable price.

Day 1: I arrive in Lima and am transferred to Estelar Hotel, where I have a briefing about the itinerary.

Day 2: LimaI get acquainted with Peru’s Capital City and its 2000 years of history and colonial heritage. I tour Lima’s Historical Center, admire its imposing Cathedral, visit Casa Aliaga – America’s best-preserved colonial mansion occupied by the same family since 1535, visit San Francisco Monastery, a masterpiece of colonial architecture housing colonial paintings and drive through the residential districts of Miraflores and San Isidro with views of the Pacific Ocean and its beaches before returning to Estelar Hotel.

Day 3: Lima/Paracas/Nazca. I drive to Paracas, approximately four hours from Lima stopping en route to see the vineyards of Pisco.  At the dock, I take a boat to the Ballestas Islands, inhabited by boobies, pelicans, sea lions and Humboldt penguins.  The boat will make a stop in front of the peninsula to view the unexplained figures of the Candelabro Lines.   I drive to Nazca to stay at the 3 star Nazca Lines Hotel.

Day 4: Nazca/Arequipa In the morning I take a high-wing light aircraft over the desert and the Nazca Lines and continue my journey to Arequipa to stay at El Cabildo Hotel for two nights.

Day 5: Arequipa. I visit the Historic Center of Arequipa, a Unesco World Heritage Site, built mostly with a local sillar, a pale volcanic rock and Plaza de Armas and Cathedral, before visiting the Convent of Santa Catalina, founded in 1580. With an area of 20,000 square meters, the Convent is a city in miniature, a walled fortress with streets, passageways, stairways and plazas. I visit the Jesuit Church, considered to be the best example of the mestizo baroque style in Arequipa.  Finally I go to the residential districts of Yanahuara and Chilina, with magnificent views of Arequipa’s countryside and Mount Misti volcano.

Colca River

Colca River, Image via Wikipedia

Day 6: Arequipa/Colca.I start early morning for the drive to the Colca Valley, across Pampa Cañahuas within the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, the habitat of herds of vicuñas and pre-Columbian terraces still being cultivated. Lunch will be at Balcon Don Zacarias Restaurant and overnight at Casa Andina Cola Hotel.

A condor (Vultur gryphus) flying over the Colc...

Condor, Image via Wikipedia

Day 7: Colca / Puno I drive early to “Condors’ Cross” – the observation point from where one can view these great Andean birds. Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world  (3,000 mts/ 9,800 ft). After lunch at Casa Andina Colca, I continue to Puno across the Peruvian high plateau with clear blue skies and Ichu, the unusual   highland   vegetation. Four Star Casa Andina Private Collection is my base for two nights in Puno.,

Day 8: Puno. The day is spent sailing in Titicaca Lake, the highest navigable lake in the world, and visiting the floating islands of Uros, where the inhabitants still live as they did centuries ago, on floating islands they make with the totora reeds that grow on the lake.  I continue sailing towards Taquile Island for a 30-minute hike towards its small town inhabited by Quechua speaking natives who have, over the generations, developed both an efficient and original social system as well as a refined hand weaving technique. Lunch is served in a local house that serves as a restaurant and we continue to explore the island before returning to Puno.

I take a day trip to Tiwanaku and Sukakollos in Bolivia.

Day 9: Puno/Cusco. I take the ten-hour Andean Explorer train to Cusco along dramatic landscapes of the highland plateau with little Andean villages and herds of llamas and vicunas and check into Novotel Hotel for three nights.

Day 10: Cusco. I tour the city, starting at the Santo Domingo convent monastery, which previously was the Koricancha temple, one of the most important Inca temples devoted to worship of the sun.  It was covered in gold kleaf and filled with golden objects. I stop at the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral and drive to the countryside outside Cusco to visit some of the remarkable Inca ruins in the area such as the cult center of Sacsayhuaman, the temple and amphitheater of Kenko, and the Red Fortress of Puca Pucara.

Day 11: Cusco/Sacred Valley/Cusco. I drive to the Urubamba valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, to visit the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo, built just as the Spaniards arrived with evidence of how it was constructed still visible and stroll through the quaint streets of today’s town. I continue to Pisac to haggle with vendors at its handicraft market and to have Lunch at a local Restaurant.

Day 12: Cusco / Machu Picchu. I take the morning train from Ollantaytambo station to Machu Picchu. A 25-minute motor-coach ride takes me to “The Lost City of the Incas”, which was discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, for a guided tour of the marvelous citadel. I lunch at the luxury Sanctuary Lodge Restaurant and stay overnight at “EL MAPI” MACHU PICCHU HOTEL

Day 13: Machu Picchu/Cusco. I takean early morning second entry to the ruins on my own and later visit the private art gallery:   “Machu Pictures – Inspiring Views of the Sanctuary”, located within Cafe Inkaterra in Machu Picchu pueblo, near the rail station using a privileged access created for me. In the afternoon, I return to Cusco by train to Ollanta station for another night at NOVOTEL HOTEL

Day 14: Cusco/Puerto Maldonado. I fly to Puerto Maldonado. And take a twenty-five-minute motorboat ride down the Madre de Dios River to the starting point of a half-an- hour trek.  After arriving at a small channel, I board a dugout canoe for the short trip to Lake Sandoval.  I continue the journey on a catamaran to Sandoval Lake Lodge.  After lunch, I board the catamaran again to visit the west side of the lake and in the early evening, observe the macaws arriving. After dinner, I take a canoe expedition in search of the black caiman. Sandoval lake lodge is my base for two nights.

Day 15: Puerto Maldonado. I Wake up at dawn to be at the lake at sunrise for a hopeful encounter with the family of giant otters frequently visiting the lake.  There is a chance of seeing the rare prehistoric looking hoatzin birds. After breakfast, I walk through the upper jungle near the lake to see towering wild Brazil nut trees and a demonstration of natives’ techniques to collect, open, pack and commercialize the product, an important economic activity in the area.  After lunch, I visit to the east area of the lake to spot some of the five species of monkeys inhabiting the place, especially the remarkable brown capuchin and after dinner, I take a night walk to observe nocturnal wildlife.

Day 16: Puerto Maldonado/Lima. I fly back to Lima and have a free day.

Day 17: I take the flight home.

Do you approve? Revisit me in May 2012 and I will tell you how it went.


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