An optional pre-trip extension featuring the famous Nasca Lines and other wonders found along the Pacific coast of southern Peru will be offered.
DAY 1, Sat. June 1: Arrive in Lima in the morning and continue on by air to the colonial city of Arequipa in southern Peru. Arequipa lies at an elevation around 2400 m (7875 ft) and this is an excellent way to ease into the higher elevations of the Andes gradually, avoiding the altitude problems commonly experienced when flying directly into Cusco.
Arequipa is renowned for both its beautiful setting in a valley overlooked by the perfect snow-capped cone of Volcán El Misti, and for its pleasant climate, always sunny but pleasantly cool. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site for its Spanish colonial architecture, well exemplified by the cloister of the Compañía de Jesús.
At AQP airport we will be met by our local guide (bilingual, of course) and taken to our lodgings for tonight and tomorrow, La Casa de Mi Abuela (My Grandmother's House). After checking in and perhaps checking out the grounds of our unusual but very comfortable little hotel, it's time to rest up from the long flight down to South America. We recommend supper at the hotel.
DAY 2, Sun. June 2: Founded in 1540, Arequipa is known as La Ciudad Blanca ("the White City") as many of its colonial buildings are constructed of a light-colored volcanic tuff. This morning we'll enjoy a guided tour-- mostly walking-- of some of the more important sites such as the impressive Plaza de Armas, with its majestic palms, the cathedral, and other notable colonial sites. Our tour will include the sprawling Santa Catarina Convent, practically a city within the city. This convent formerly housed as many as 450 nuns in total seclusion, being closed to outsiders for over 400 years. Only in 1970 was it opened for visitation; the remaining few nuns continue to live a sequestered life in a section of the complex that remains private.
After the city tour you'll have some free time. You may want to eat a late lunch (eating on the second floor veranda of a restaurant overlooking the central plaza is quite enjoyable). After lunch you can return to our hotel to hang out and relax, or perhaps go shopping in some of Arequipa's many stores selling fine woollen goods (you can even buy genuine vicuña...if your pocketbook is deep enough!) and delicious La Iberica chocolates can be bought at the factory's downtown outlet store.
Second night in La Casa de Mi Abuela. Included meal: B
DAY 3, Mon. June 3: After breakfast (included, as is the custom in most Peruvian hotels), we board our charter bus and head out and up. Leaving Arequipa behind we slowly ascend into the Andes, with close-up views of Misti Volcano as we climb up to the puna or high alpine desert terrain. On the puna we have a good chance to see vicuñas in small herds ruled by a dominant male, or sometimes singly (probably young males without a harem). This wonderfully graceful animal is the smallest of the Andean camelids, and was once endangered, being over-hunted for its fine fleece. Fortunately, it is now protected and is making a good comeback.
You can also expect to see both of the domesticated camelids: llamas and alpacas. In fact, along some stretches of the road they are so numerous as to almost become a road hazard!
Spectacular views abound along today's journey: the landscape is broad and majestic, with Andean lakes and waterfowl and snow-capped peaks in the background. While stopping for photos of scenic vistas we may also enjoy on a more intimate scale the unusual vegetation adapted to the alpine climate. Perhaps we'll spot a vizcacha sunning on a rock, looking much like a short-eared rabbit that has sprouted a squirrel's tail.
We will cross a high pass, then descend into the upper Colca Valley, with its extensive pre-Inka terracing, to the town of Chivay and then on to nearby Yanque. In this small town we find a very pleasant surprise: the Eco Inn Colca (formerly the Mirador de Collahuas), our delightful lodging for the next two nights, consisting of artistically constructed cabañas perched on a cliff commanding a marvelous view. The food is great here, too!
Included meal: B, BL (box lunch), D
DAY 4, Tues. June 4: We will spend all day today in the Colca Canyon area, doing a little hiking, watching for condors, and gawking at the Brobdingnagian scale of our surroundings. We'll leave the lodge early to get to the viewpoint known as Cruz del Condor, well-known as a spot to see the great vultures up close as they leave their rocky sanctuary and slowly begin to ascend on warming morning thermals. You don't have to be a member of the Audubon Society to be completely thrilled when one of these magnificent birds sails by so closely you can hear the hiss of the wind through its feathers and see the color of its eyes (one way by which the sexes can be distinguished!). June is a good month to see condors, so let's keep our fingers crossed for condor-watching luck equal to that of our 2003 trip when we saw a dozen to as many as 20 at a time.
Second night at Eco Inn Colca. Included meal: B, BL, D
DAY 5, Weds. June 5: Today we ascend higher into the Andes, via a scenic road that climbs to the altiplano near Juliaca, where we turn south towards the town of Puno on the north shore of Lake Titikaka. Expect to see Andean camelids-- llamas, alpacas and perhaps more vicuñas. We will pass by several Andean lakes where sightings of flamingoes, Andean geese, giant coots, and other water birds are common. We'll carry box lunches with us to eat as we roll along.
Between Juliaca and Puno we will take a short side trip to the important archeological site of Sillustani. Here, a small plateau of lava rock rises amid an austere other-worldly scene, and here in this special place pre-Inka and Inka peoples erected stone funerary towers known as chullpas.
In Puno we'll overnight at the Hotel Qelqatani, right in the heart of this little Andean city, within easy walking distance of lots of restaurants and pizzerias, shops with alpaca sweaters and other artesanía, internet cafes, etc. Puno has a nice, pedestrian-friendly central area.
Included meals: B, BL
DAY 6, Thurs. June 6: After breakfast we will set out for a full day on beautiful Lake Titikaka, famous as the highest regularly nagvigated lake in the world at 3810 m (12,500 ft) above sea level. Our first stop will be to visit the historic ship SS Yavari (ship on the left in the photo). The Yavari was built in England in 1862 in approximately 2500 pieces, each light enough to be carried by a mule. The pieces were crated and shipped around the Horn, then brought up and over the Andes to be assembled and launched on Lake Titikaka in 1867. The results of this herculean engineering feat sailed Titikaka for about a century before being decommissioned. Originally steam powered (designed to burn llama dung!), she was converted to diesel in 1913. She is now in the process of being restored and will be put back into service for cruises. In the meantime, we can have an educational and fascinating visit aboard her.
After our lesson in ship history we will boat out to the floating islands inhabited by the Uros people. This small group of indigenous people live on artificial islands made of floating mats of totora reeds. The community even has its own schools on the islands. As a part of our glimpse of this amazing living space and lifestyle, we will see --and perhaps take a ride on-- the traditional reed boats. Be sure to carry some fresh fruits with you to give the Uros children-- a real treat for them.
Our third stop for the day will be on Taquile Island, a major island with several indigenous communities. We will have lunch here (included). Be prepared for climbing a long flight of steps-- light hiking boots recommended.
In the afternoon we will return back across the lake to Puno for a second night in the comfortable Hotel Qelqatani.
Included meals: B, L
DAY 7, Fri. June 7: Today we turn back north, towards the Inka capital of Cusco...but with a lot to see and do for the next three days en route.
The highway takes us along the northern shore of Lake Titikaka for a farewell vista, through Juliaca, and on across the altiplano, and finally up through a high Andean valley, to cross a divide and start down the Cusco side. We can expect to see herds of llamas and alpacas en route.
Around mid-morning we arrive at Pucará, a colonial town built adjacent to a ceremonial site belonging to the Wari culture. The Wari predated the Inka and were closely allied culturally with the Tiwanaku culture. The remains of a semi-subterranean temple at this site will look familiar to anyone who has visited Tiwanaku at the south end of Lake Titikaka.
About halfway to Cusco we reach the small town of Raqchi, where we'll overnight in private homes in this Quechua community. Don't expect luxury. But do expect clean beds and wholesome food and an opportunity to get to know something about the lives of the Andean people. Our 2008 group got to participate in a local celebration and loved this homestay experience. Whatever may be going on locally, you can expect a warm and friendly reception from the Quechua natives who are truly glad to receive our groups.
While at Raqchi we will visit the fascinating and imposing ruins of the Inka Temple to Viracocha, the creator of the world in Inka theology. The temple remains stand amid a complex of storehouses, barracks-like buildings, and other constructions along the margins of a lava flow. Descendants of the Inkas continue to farm the site and the barley and wheat fields glow golden in the late evening sun. This is one of our very favorite Inka sites.
Included meals: B, BL, D
DAY 8, Sat. June 8: After breakfast we board our bus again and head for a place seldom seen by outsiders, and which will surely prove one of the most memorable of many memorable experiences on our trip: the last authentic Inka suspension bridge. Getting there, by the way, is at least half the fun as our road winds through the high country, passing Quechua villages, flocks of sheep and llamas, patchworks of potatoes and wheat. We can expect some friendly encounters and cultural exchanges along the way, such as this Quechua girl sharing delicious freshly boiled papas with a group of Rutahsa Adventurers. Perhaps we'll get to witness the bringing in of the harvest, and hear the Quechua villagers sing as they carry their sheaves of grain in for threshing.
The suspension bridge, known as a keshwa chaca, is made of qq'oya grass and must be renewed every year. The rebuilding is a three-day community project, performed each June. The bridge was first made known to the outside world by explorer/author Loren McIntyre (see McIntyre's fascinating article in the Dec. 1973 issue of National Geographic), and is the last remaining Inka straw bridge that has continued to be maintained and rebuilt since Inka times. It spans the Apurimac River where it passes through a narrow canyon. We intend to arrive at the bridge site on the last day of the rebuilding, and to see the renewed bridge go up. And those brave enough to trust a bridge of straw 60 feet above the swift Apurimac can walk across the bridge.
The three-day bridge-building process started on Thursday, which was spent manufacturing the ropes and heavy cables of qq'oya grass. Typically the cables go up on the second day of the project, though sometimes the cable-raising is not completed until the third day. The six main cables have to be laboriously hauled across the Río Apurimac and stretched into place by lines of heaving villagers.
By arriving midday on Saturday, we will get to see the final stages of bridge construction. The weaving of the sides of the bridge starts with two master bridge builders and their assistants working out from opposite bridgeheads. The bridgemasters and their assistants tie the handrail cables to the floor cables with a great multitude of small rope stringers that form sidewalls so that the bridge can be crossed without danger of falling into the icy river below. As they weave the sidewalls they also insert cross-sticks into the huge floor cables and lash them to the cables with fresh rawhide, to transform the loose cables into a stable platform for walking. This process continues until the two teams meet in the middle.
After the bridge sides are woven, the next-to-last step is the laying of the walkway, which consists of mats of brush, giving a solid floor that is easy to walk upon.
The bridge-building activities are carried on under the watchful eyes of a local shaman who performs the rituals necessary for the construction to proceed as planned. Upon completion of the great work, sometime late this afternoon, the bridge will be blessed, and then opened for crossing. Sometimes the first crossing is reserved for special guests, but we will have our chance and no matter how many times Rutahsa Adventures visits this wonderful site (2013 will be our 14th visit!), it is always thrilling to stride swaying high above the swift Apurimac, supported by our faith in a half-millenium (or more) of native engineering and bits of twisted grass!
To see a detailed photo album of the keshwa chaca rebuilding and festival, visit the Last Inka Suspension Bridge.
Although the keshwa chaca has been described in National Geographic (1973 and 1987), the subject of a NOVA program (1995), filmed for a Peruvian cultural documentary (1999), featured in a BBC special in 2005, and filmed by a Japanese film crew in 2006, it remains to date little visited by outsiders. It is part of a rural Peruvian world nearly forgotten. Rutahsa Adventures' travelers have the privilege of witnessing first hand the ancient traditions and engineering techniques of the Inkas, maintained today by their descendants as a way of honoring their ancestors and Pachamama ("Earth Mother").
We hope that our visits (and the fame that the bridge is beginning to gain) will serve to help the people of the bridge-building communities maintain this beautiful tradition. In order to show our appreciation to the people of the four communities that construct the bridge, we will make a donation of school supplies, children's clothing, toothbrushes and toothpaste to the local village authorities, to be distributed to the children of the communities. This is our way of saying "Muchas gracias!" to the villagers for maintaining their venerable custom of rebuilding the straw bridge-- a custom that has been abandoned everywhere else in Peru.
Now, the price of admission: In order to see this amazing marvel of native engineering and to attend the fiesta celebrating its completion, tonight we must camp out near the bridge site, for there are no hotels in this remote area. We will have dome tents, sleeping bags and pads, and excellent food service, all provided by our Peru service contractor, a respected vendor of quality trekking services which we have used many times before. We can guarantee you'll find this a memorable experience. Lunch and supper will be provided in camp. [Note: You need to be well-prepared for sleeping in cold weather. Bring flannel or fleece long johns or other clothing that can be layered for sleeping. Sometimes nights are relatively mild here, but sometimes they are quite cold, and it is essential to be prepared for the latter.]
Included meals: B, L, D
DAY 9, Sun. June 9: Today the villagers-- the more than 300 who work on the bridge, plus their families-- celebrate the completion of the bridge and the honoring of their ancestors and Pachamama ("Earth Mother") represented by the maintenance of their ancient tradition. The formerly bare mountainsides sprout a multiplicity of tents, loud speaker systems are set up and the rainbow-striped banner of the Inka Empire floats in the breeze. Vendors arrive with their wares, and hundreds of Quechua people, many in their finest fiesta dress come streaming in, arriving by bus, truck, horseback and afoot. The main feature of the festival is a dance contest that includes performances by many native dance groups, all in traditional costumes. Rutahsa Adventures travelers will be treated to a thoroughly Peruvian spectacle. You'll get a memorable dose of colorful costumes, energetic swirling dancers, raucous Andean music, and pungent smells of local cookery. It is a truly great scene!
After lunch we will, somewhat regretfully, say our goodbyes, and leave this amazing place-- remote in location and in time-- and head for Cusco! As we climb up out of the Apurimac canyon we can make some photostops to record the dramatic scenery we rushed through to get to the bridge site yesterday.
And there is much fine Andean scenery further on towards Cusco-- the valley of the Vilcanota River and picturesque towns en route. Also, we have sites to visit: the ornate and beautiful colonial church at Andahuaylillas; the great Inka wall and gateway of Rumicolca (once the south gate to the Inka capital); and the enigmatic archeological site of Pikillacta, a pre-Inka walled city belonging to the Wari culture. We can only stop at as many of these sites as time permits, so photographers need to keep this in mind as they consider requesting photostops. We'll do our best to include it all!
Upon arrival in Cusco we'll settle into one of our favorite Cusco hotels, the four-star Hotel Picoaga, in a converted Spanish aristocrat's mansion in the heart of the historic district, just a three-block walk from the Plaza de Armas.
Included meals: B, L
DAY 10, Mon., June 10: Our morning starts with an extensive buffet breakfast at the Picoaga. Afterwards, we get down to learning our way around Cusco with a guided walking tour of the capital and sacred center or the Inka Empire, the very "Navel of the World". Our visits will include the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral (built over the ruins of one of the Inka palaces), and also the Inka holy of holies, the Q'orikancha or Sun Temple. As we marvel at the foundation walls of the palace of Inka Roca we'll see a famous icon, the "Twelve-Cornered Stone", located in an Inka wall which the conquistadores used as the base of the archbishop's palace. In fact, everywhere we walk in the heart of Cusco the tragic conflict between the Inkas and the conquering Spaniards is evident in the contrast between Inka architectural remains and the colonial structures that sit atop them. Our guide will teach us how to distinguish between original Inka walls and Spanish colonial walls constructed by Inka stonemasons for the conquerors. The Inka stonework lives up to its reputation...it is marvelous!
Then after a break for lunch (on your own) we will take a short bus ride up into the hills above Cusco to see the nearby ruins of Tambomachay (the Bath of the Inka), Puka Pukara (the Red Fortress), Qenco (an extremely weird huaca or sacred place), and finally the mighty fortress of the Sacsahuaman. This amazing work is built of truly cyclopean stones fitted together with uncanny precision. Unquestionably, it is one of the wonders of the world! From atop the fortress we will enjoy a splendid view of the valley of Cusco and the city the fortress once protected. Overnight again at the Hotel Picoaga.
Included meal: B
DAY 11, Tue. June 11: After another great Picoaga breakfast we board our bus and head for the Sacred Valley, stopping first to visit the colonial church at Chinchero, built on top of Inka ruins and famous for its frescoes. Amidst the Inka terraces is a huge limestone boulder with an amazing staircase hewn by the Inkas directly out of the stone.
Next, a drive across a beautiful patchwork agricultural panorama, with snow-capped Andean peaks as a backdrop. This will bring us to the enigmatic Inka site of Moray, where giant natural sinkholes have been converted by the Inkas into terraced agricultural sites. Some archeologists believe these sinkhole-farms served as an agricultural experimental station, where Inka cultivators took advantage of microclimates provided by different elevations within the sinkholes. Today the site is favored by seekers of the mystic who come here to meditate.
After a picnic lunch, perhaps at Moray, we will drive to the town of Maras to begin a hike of several miles (almost entirely downhill) down to the Sacred Valley, passing through the salineras (salt evaporation ponds) of Maras. At this site water from a salt spring has been used to manufacture salt since pre-Conquest days. Salt water is diverted through a complex system of tiny channels into family-worked ponds to evaporate and deposit salt. From afar the hundreds of ponds and dikes encrusted in white salt give the illusion of a gleaming miniature city.
Those who do not wish to hike can stay aboard the bus which will arrive at the salineras by dirt road...provided the road is passable this year. Afterwards, the bus driver will continue on to the Sacred Valley and to our hotel in Ollantaytambo, then return to pick up the hikers at a pick-up point in the Sacred Valley.
Our lodging tonight will be at the lovely Hotel Pakaritampu in the town of Ollantaytambo. Included meals: B, L
DAY 12, Wed. June 12: In the morning we will drive through the Sacred Valley to the town of Pisac. Looming above the colonial town is the amazing archeological site also called Pisac, which many visitors find as dramatic and thrilling as Machu Picchu itself. The approach by road winds up the mountainside, affording views of Pisac's stupendous agricultural terraces, known as andenes, built by the Inkas and still in use today. From the parking lot we will stroll through a section of ruins, across the top of the terraces, to reach a fortified dwelling area, with a view of a cliffside Inka cemetery. From here we will hike along a breath-taking trail, up steps and through a tunnel, then past watchtowers and down steps to reach the Pisac temple complex. By the time you reach the Sun Temple you will be fully convinced of one thing: the Inka people didn't sleep-walk!
After visiting Pisac we will stop for a really fine buffet lunch in the Sacred Valley, before returning to Ollantaytambo.
Back in "Ollanta" we will explore the Inka fortress-temple of Ollantaytambo. This site was still under construction when the Conquistadors arrived, and today's ruins preserve evidence of the construction techniques.
In addition to the impressive ruins, the living town of Ollanta is very special: it retains its original Inka civic planning layout of canchas, a grid of narrow cobbled streets separating walled blocks with interior courts. We will visit a home in one of the canchas to get a glimpse of Quechua homelife, replete with the household cuy, or guinea pigs, underfoot. Ollantaytambo is also a good place to see traditional Andean costume still in daily use, and hand-loomed ponchos and other textiles may be purchased here.
Our lodgings tonight are at the Hotel Pakaritampu again, so we will have ample opportunity to explore Ollanta, enjoying the town, its history, and the surprising variety of restaurants that have popped up in the last several years. Included meals: B, L
DAY 13, Thurs. June 13: This morning you need to pack light: just take what you need for the next two days at Machu Picchu and send the rest of your luggage back to Cusco with our bus; the less encumbered you are on the train, the happier you will be! (There isn't much room for luggage storage.) We board the narrow-gauge train that will trundle us down the Urubamba River gorge to Machu Picchu, the legendary "Lost City of the Inkas", one of the world's premier archeological sites, the "must-see-of-must-sees" in South America, and one of those exceedingly rare places where the works of nature and society combine to create a place of transcendental mystic beauty. Our train arrives in the town of Aguas Calientes by mid-morning, and sending our luggage over to the Machu Picchu Inn, we'll go right on up the zig-zag "Hiram Bingham Highway" to the sacred citadel for a guided introduction to the site.
After lunch at the ruins (included) you can continue to explore Machu Picchu on your own-- there is so much to see in the main ruins, and a short hike out to the Inka drawbridge is also recommended. But don't miss the last bus down the mountain to Aguas Calientes, where we overnight at the Machu Picchu Inn.
Included meals: B, L
DAY 14, Fri June 14: Most of our group will want to take an early bus up to the ruins and beat the trainload of daytrippers that comes in around 10 AM. Here you'll have all morning and the early afternoon to get to know the intricacies of Machu Picchu proper-- its residential areas, its fountains, temples, amazing agricultural terraces, and a thousand intriguing nooks and crannies. Or, if you're a hiker wanting a thrill, climb up Huayna Picchu for a breath-taking (literally) view of Machu Picchu far below. Another good hike is along part of the famed Inka Trail to the Inti-Punku ("Sun Gate"). But make sure you are back at the Machu Picchu Inn at the time indicated by our Tour Conductor....you don't want to miss the train back to Cusco!
A return visit to Machu Picchu sanctuary is not the only possibility today. If you are a bird watcher, you might prefer to take a guided bird walk on the beautiful grounds of the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel...where cocks-of-the-rock, trogons, tanagers, many species of hummingbirds, and other birds can be seen. (If you want to do this, you'll need to go to the hotel office the night before to sign up for this experience.) A hiking enthusiast wanting a really unusual hike -- one that includes some fairly astonishing ladders-- should try the hike up to Putukusi. This hike leads to the top of the peak directly across the Urubamba gorge from Machu Picchu and provides a view of Machu Picchu that only a tiny fraction of visitors ever see.
Because of the varied possible options today, it is probable that not everyone in our group will return to the ruins. For this reason we are not including the cost of the bus ride and ruins entry in your trip cost.
In the afternoon we will return on an afternoon train to Cusco (our Tour Conductor will advise you of the departure time, probably around 3 PM) where we will return to our familiar and comfortable digs in the Hotel Picoaga (the luggage you left in Ollantaytambo will be awaiting you here.)
Included meal: B
DAY 15, Sat. June 15: A full free day in Cusco! You can visit more fascinating archeological sites, important colonial buildings, and museums. Or, you can stroll, shop and just enjoy Cusco's unique ambience. There is much to see and do, and the the choices are yours-- Use your guidebook!
Final night at the Hotel Picoaga.
Included meals: B
Day 16, Sun., June 16: Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and today is the last day of our amazing Peru trip. You should have some time this morning for last minute sight-seeing, but around midday we will fly back to Lima. Our excursion will officially close at the Lima International Airport, where you can board your flight home this evening, or, depending on your flight schedule you may wish to go to a hotel in Lima.
Once in on the ground in Lima, we will say our goodbyes to our Tour Conductor and traveling companions. For those who want to overnight in Miraflores, we can arrange transportation and lodging for you. Those who are flying out of LIM tonight will either remain in LIM airport or we can have you taken to the nearby Hotel Manhattan for a chance to repack, freshen up, and rest a bit before returning to the airport. (Note: These extra airport transfers and hotel accommodations are extra cost services, not included in the basic trip price.)
However you end your trip in Lima, rest assured you will carry away a million memories and tales to tell your friends and family. You won't forget this trip in a lifetime! And we don't doubt that you'll be back to Peru sometime-- You now know what a fabulous travel destination Peru is...and it is a big county...northern Peru has as many wonders as the south. We hope you'll be back in Peru soon...on another Rutahsa Adventure!
Included meal: B
COST OF THE MAIN TRIP:
Note: To the above costs must be added the cost of the two internal flights, Lima to Arequipa and Cusco to Lima. At the time of the publication of this webpage the cost is approximately $289, but is subject to change. We will reserve these flights for you and bill you exactly what the flights cost us, no service charge.
SINGLES SUPPLEMENT: Single room accommodations are available for a supplementary fee of $XXX. (TBA)
Would you like to see the mysterious Nasca Lines? How about the Islas Ballestes and their outstanding scenery, birds and wildlife? Dramatic desert coastal scenery? Take a look at our pre-trip extension plans:
DAY 1, Weds., May 29: Fly into Lima, capital city of Peru. After clearing customs and immigration you will be met and taken to the hotel Casa Andina Miraflores Centro in the Miraflores section of Lima.
For travelers arriving Lima in the morning, we can arrange a Lima city tour starting at 2 PM, and visiting the Plaza de Armas and principal historic buildings in the "City of Kings". The cost of this city tour will depend on the number of participants.
DAY 2, Thurs., May 30: After breakfast we board our chartered bus with professional driver and head south along the coast. First stop: the ruins of the famous Oracle of Pachacamac, one of Peru's most sacred pre-Columbian sites-- a pre-Inka site later venerated by the Inkas.
Next we continue towards the town of Pisco, whose grapes are the source of the fiery brandy by that name, which, in turn, produced Peru's most famous drink, the Pisco sour. Close by is the little port town of Paracas where we will overnight at the Hotel El Condor.
The Paracas area was the center of the Paracas culture, a pre-Inka people, famed for their beautiful textiles, many examples of which have been wonderfully preserved in burials in the desert. This afternoon we will visit the Paracas Reserve, enjoying its sere but beautiful coastal desert scenery. A visit to the Julio C. Tello Museum will give us the opportunity to see some of the textiles for which the Paracas culture is justly famous, in addition to mummy bundles, and deliberately deformed skulls that typified the Paracas culture's elite. [Note: This museum was closed in 2008 due to severe damage sustained during the Aug. 2007 Paracas earthquake. We hope it will be reopened by the time of this trip.]
Included meal: B, BL
DAY 3, Fri., May 31: In the morning we will take a boat ride out to the Islas Ballestas nature preserve to cruise along the dramatic, eroded rocky coast of the islands, replete with sea caves, stacks and arches. Here we can expect to see thousands of marine birds, including Peruvian boobies, Humboldt penguins (though we can't always promise a chorus line!), pelicans, cormorants and Inca terns, plus hundreds of sea lions, and perhaps dolphins. Occasionally killer whales are spotted. And we'll see evidence of the famous "sea island guano" workings. En route to the islands we cruise along the coast of the Paracas Peninsula, where a giant image known as the "candelabrum" has been dug into the sand and rock of the peninsula-- when or by whom or for what purpose, no one knows.
In the afternoon we will bus on down the coast through barren desert, broken here and there by areas of verdure watered by streams descending from the Andes. En route, time permitting, we will make a short visit to a bodega or pisco distillery, to learn how the fiery brandy is made. We might even sample some! Whether or not we make this visit will depend on the hour we return from the Islas Ballestes and how efficiently we can get through lunch. There is so much of interest to see in Peru, it is hard to include it all!
Further south from the bodega, we will come to a steel tower, apparently in the middle of nowhere. Climbing to the top, discover that we are in the the middle of the Plains of Nasca, and the famous Nasca Lines and figures are at our very feet-- but impossible to see from the ground level. The Maria Reiche Tower is named for the German researcher who spent most of her life studying the lines and working to preserve them.
Upon arrival at Nasca we will proceed to the airport where we will overfly the mysterious Nasca Lines and figures, viewing them from light planes carrying 3 to 5 passengers. The late afternoon is a good time to fly over the lines, as the low sun angle makes them stand out. Our skilled pilots will dip first one wing, and then the other over each important figure, allowing good views and picture-taking from both sides of the planes. The lines are innumerable, some running miles, perfectly straight. In addition to lines there are elongate trapezoids resembling runways, "ray centers" (where numerous lines radiate out from a point), and other mysterious markings all criss-crossing and overlapping. And, of course, there are the giant figures, such as the monkey, the hummingbird, the spider and others. With good weather, we'll see them all. [Note: The overflights, like all flights, are subject to cancellation due to bad weather conditions; to date we have never failed to take our scheduled flights, but travelers need to be aware of this possibility.]
In Nasca our lodgings for the night will be the hotel Casa Andina Classic, sister hotel to our Miraflores lodgings.
Included meal: B
DAY 4, Sat., June 1: Today will be a long road day, approximately 10 hours en route to Arequipa. For this reason we need an early start and everyone's cooperation in loading the bus for departure on time and making rest stops en route as brief as possible. Box lunches will be provided so that we can have our midday meal while rolling along and admiring the dramatic scenery.
Although the trail is long today, it will include much of interest. IF we depart on time, and if the group is willing to make an already long day a little longer, we can make a brief visit the 1500-year-old puquios --underground aqueducts, seen here from the air-- that made civilization possible in the Nasca valley, and continue to do so today. The aqueducts can be accessed through spiral respiradoras, or breather holes. The native farmers believe the underground water tapped by the aqueducts comes from a mountain-sized sand dune named Cerro Blanco, but also known to the Nasca Valley farmers as the "Volcano of Water".
After the puquio visit we have a long drive south to Arequipa. Stops along the way will be as necessary, and need to be kept brief. The drive takes us along the barren, but dramatic coast before we turn inland and climb up to the city of Arequipa at 2400 m (7875 ft).
Upon reaching Arequipa we will check into our hotel, La Casa de Mi Abuela, where we will join the rest of the excursion group. We'll spend two nights here, so you can rest up a bit from today's long drive, and enjoy the ambience of this Spanish colonial city.
Included meal: BL
This pre-trip extension will greatly enhance your visit to Peru and we highly recommend it!
COST OF THE PRE-TRIP EXTENSION:
SINGLES SUPPLEMENT: $XXX (TBA)
Note that by participating in the pre-trip extension you will save the cost of the flight from Lima to Arequipa.
HOW TO GET ABOARD: To request an application blank, please e-mail Jackie at Rutahsa Adventures. Don't delay: trip participation will be limited to 18, and this trip has been known to sell out quickly.
TRIP FEE INCLUDES: Airport transfers in Arequipa and Cusco, all lodging (in double occupancy rooms); breakfasts in most hotels, other meals as specified in the itinerary) ground transportation by private bus with professional driver; boat transportation to Islas Ballestas and on Lake Titikaka; train ride to Machu Picchu; flight from Lima to Arequipa and from from Cusco back to Lima; entries to all visitor's sites specified in the itinerary; services of a bilingual Peruvian Tour Conductor, and bilingual local site guides. Also included: medical emergency and medevac insurance policy for the trip.
NOT INCLUDED IN THE PUBLISHED TRIP FEES: Round trip air fare from point of origin to Lima; domestic flights in Peru; meals not specified in the itinerary; souvenirs, tips, phone/fax/internet services and other personal expenses; airport departure taxes for Peruvian domestic flights; Peru exit tax ($28 at the time of this writing).
If you have any questions about the trip, Jackie know by clicking here Ask Jackie!.
FYI: The background color used in this website is the html color officially known as "Peru".
RECOMMENDED READINGS: Beltran, Miriam, 1970, Cuzco, Window on Peru, Second Ed. Revised: New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 221 p. Frost, Peter, 1989, Exploring Cusco: Lima, Nuevas Imagenes S. A., 195 p. Frost, Peter, and Bartle, Jim, 1995, Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary: Lima, Nuevas Imagenes S. A., 64 p. Hadingham, Evan, 1988, Lines to the Mountain Gods: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru: Oklahoma City, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 307 p. Hemming, John, 1981, Machu Picchu: New York, Newsweek Book Division, 172 p. Hemming, John, and Ranney, Edward, 1990, Monuments of the Incas, Albuquerque, Univ. of New Mexico Press, 228 p. Kendall, Ann, 1973, Everyday Life of the Incas: New York, Dorset Press, 216 p. Prescott, William H., 1882, History of the Conquest of Peru: Philadelphia, J. B. Lippencott & Co., v. 1, 510 p., v. 2, 530 p. [Prescott's amazing work went through various editions and printings, and should be available in major libraries.] Squier, E. George, 1877, PERU: Incidents of Travel and Exploration in the Land of the Incas: New York, Henry Holt and Co., 599 p. [A classic 19th-century travel work by an archeologist and diplomat; originals scarce, but a modern reprint has been issued.] Wright, Ruth M., and Valencia Zegarra, Alfredo, 2004, The Machu Picchu Guidebook - A Self-Guided Tour, Revised Edition: Boulder, Colorado, Johnson Books, 188 p. [By far the best guidebook for Machu Picchu; be sure to have this one with you when you visit.]