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Active Peru and Bolivia: trekking Andean peaks to tropical rainforest

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Andean Peru and Bolivia have some of the best hiking opportunities in Latin America, if not the world. This trekking holiday combines two popular and spectacular trails, on in each country, and although reaching high altitude, are not technically difficult and within the abilities of most keen walkers.

The Salkantay trek, an Inca path which ends close to Machu Picchu, can really rank alongside the better known Calssic Inca Trail for its dramatic scenery, and has the added attractions of passing remote farmsteads, fields rich with tropical crops, and what is probably the best first-time view of Machu Picchu across ranges of rugged mountains. 

The Choro Trail in Bolivia, leading from high altitude La Paz down into the semi-tropical pre-Amazon valleys, has the appeal of being mostly downhill. You can easily appreciate the influence of altitude on the landscape: from a skeletal rocky pass towered over  by icy crags through cloud forest and on down to the tropical plantations of the Yungas n the foothills separating the high Andes from the Amazon region.

n both cases you'll come across hardy people leading tough lives in small remote communities and farmsteads - a lesson in resilience for us in the First World.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima and transfer to hotel.

Day 2

Tour of Lima by car ending at the airport for flight to Cusco.

Day 3

Walking tour of Cusco and nearby Inca ruins.

Day 4

Guided exploration of the Sacred Valley of the Incas on foot.

Day 5

Hike the Salkantay Trail.

Day 6

Second day of the Salkantay trek.

Day 7

Descending to the valley.

Day 8

Arrive Machu Picchu.

Day 9

Guided tour of the ruins. Return to Cusco by rail and road.

Day 10

Tourist coach to Puno and transfer to hotel.

Day 11

By road to Copacabana, Bolivia. Guided lake excursion to Sun Island.

Day 12

Continue to La Paz by road.

Day 13

Walking tour of the Bolivian capital.

Day 14

First day of the Choro Trail to Chairo.

Day 15

Second day of the trek.

Day 16

Third day of the trek.

Day 17

Return by road to La Paz.

Day 18

Transfer to La Paz international airport.

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What our experts say

It was really fun putting this holiday together: the two treks we chose for this trip are less well-known than others in the Andes and combining them was an opportunity to showcase the diverse landscapes found in Peru and Bolivia. What I love about this trip is the mixture of snowy peaks so close you feel you can touch them and the unexpected semi-tropical valleys below La Paz which are reached by a mostly downhill trek – unusual in the region.

Isabelle

Isabelle Mazille

Product and Marketing

Places visited on this holiday

Active Peru and Bolivia: trekking Andean peaks to tropical rainforest

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Lima Cathedral
A city as huge and dynamic as Lima, City of Kings, is bound to offer something of interest to all visitors. Lovers of architecture and history will thrill to the monumental cathedral and Presidential Palace in the Plaza de Armas, and colonial wooden balconies overhanging atmospheric lanes in the spruced-up centre. But out on the Pacific coast are the smart, modern middle-class suburbs of Miraflores and Barranco, brimming with sophisticated restaurants, boutiques and live music. The traffic is horrendous, but the city has some of the Spanish Empire’s best museums; it’s well worth crossing town to find them.
When to go
A cold Pacific current puts the kibosh on the tropical climate you might expect and a chilly mist hovers over the city May-Nov. But as this is the best time to visit the Andes, you may have to visit Lima at this time. In the southern summer the sun breaks through, happy limeños spill out onto the pavement bars, ice cream parlours and beaches.
Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency
Peruvian Nuevo Sol. Notes in local currency or US dollars can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. Numerous money exchange offices exchange US dollars cash (few accept euros or sterling and the rate may be poor).
Time difference

GMT -5 hours.

Combines with

The pre-Columbian adobe ruins of a ceremonial centre at Pachacamac  in the desert just 31 km south of Lima;  Paracas National Park, 214 km (3-4 hours’ drive) down the coast, for the Ballestas Islands “mini-Galápagos” Nature Reserve;  the Moche pyramids at Chan Chan, near Trujillo, 561 km (8 hours on the Pan American Highway or 1 hour by air); Cajamarca, charming Andean colonial town, 856km, (12 hours by scenic road or 90 mins by air).

Flight time from UK

Average flight time to Lima is 12.5 hours. There is a direct flight from London Gatwick to Lima. Popular non-direct routes to Lima involve a change of plane in Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid.

Key events
Gran Serenata: Live music in the Plaza de Armas on 17 Jan to celebrate the city’s foundation.
Semana Santa, Easter. Many religious processions.
Peru Art Week:   Annually in May.  Museums, art galleries and open air exhibitions in Barranco, Miraflores and San Isidro welcome visitors. Independence Day (Fiestas Patrias): 28 Jul annually: celebrated in plazas and parks throughout the city centre, with music and fireworks in the main plaza the evening before. On the final day a Great Military Parade takes place on either Avenida Brasil or Avenida De La Peruanidad.
Corpus Christi: Jun. Statues of the Virgin Mary and saints have a day out from their churches and are paraded to the Cathedral.
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Cusco
High in a fertile mountain valley at 3,399m and surrounded by the lofty ice peaks of the Andes, the former capital of the Inca Empire and Spanish colonial masterpiece, Cusco, was cut off from the rest of the world until about 100 years ago. Now it is recognised as one of the most enticing, unspoilt cities on the continent. The history running through its veins is exposed in the meticulous masonry of the Inca temples, the baroque intricacy of its golden churches and palaces and the lively markets, fiestas, art galleries, boutique hotels and gourmet restaurants of the present day city. Here you can immerse yourself totally in Peru’s rich cultural mix.
When to go
Cusco can be visited throughout the year. Most visitors will use climate as a criterion but others may be attracted by any one of numerous fiestas: Inti Raymi, Easter, Corpus Christi, Christmas. The dry season when sunny days can be expected runs May-Oct but in Jun-Jul it can be below freezing at night.  Rain falls Jan-Mar.
Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency
Peruvian Nuevo Sol. Notes in local currency or US dollars can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. Numerous money exchanges (casas de cambio) change US dollars cash (few accept euros or sterling and the rate may be poor).
Time difference

GMT -5 hours.

Combines with

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, 53 km by road; Machu Picchu, 75km by road and rail; Tambopata and the lodges of the southern Amazon, 1 hour by air; Lake Titicaca, 6-9 hours by road or 10 hours by train; Colca Canyon, 236km by road.

Getting there

Flights to Cusco from Lima take 1 hour.

Key events

Inti Raymi:  24 Jun. Inca festival of the winter solstice celebrated at the temple of Sacsayhuamán.

El Señor de los Temblores:  Variable. Vast Easter Monday religious procession.

Corpus Christi: Jun. Statues of the Virgin Mary and saints have a day out from their churches and are paraded to the Cathedral.
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Sacred Valley of the Incas
Sacred valley
The Sacred Valley of the Incas was both the Inca civilisation’s breadbasket and its spiritual home. Nowadays, its appeal is not just the fast-flowing, broom-lined River Urubamba, rushing relentlessly towards the Amazon basin. Nor the parade of spiky snow-stifled peaks alongside; nor the adobe colonial villages, nor the monumental ruined Inca cities and temples. Nor the earthy quilt of sunlit fields bursting with maize, fruit, flowers and vegetables.  It’s the combination of all these which makes the Sacred Valley such a unique and gorgeous place for visitors. Now peppered with hotels from family hostels to first class boutique hotels, it’s increasingly a place to linger for a few days; lower in altitude than Cusco, 3,399m,  and conveniently en route to Machu Picchu, 2,430m.
When to go
The Sacred Valley can be visited throughout the year. The dry season, when sunny days can be expected, runs May-Oct. Travel in Apr-Jun and you’ll find the l fields full of ripening produce.
Language

Spanish and Quechua.

Getting local currency
Peruvian Nuevo Sol. US dollars can be exchanged for local currency in a couple of small shops in Ollantaytambo and Pisac but you are better off using an ATM in Cusco or at the airport before heading into the valley.
Time difference

GMT -5 hours.

Combines with

Cusco, 53 km by road; Machu Picchu, 23km by rail; Tambopata and the lodges of the southern Amazon, 1 hour by air from Cusco; Lake Titicaca, 6-9 hours by road or 10 hours by train from Cusco; Colca Canyon, 280km by road.

Getting there

Flights to Cusco from Lima take one hour.

Key events
Semana Santa, Easter. Processions and other celebrations in towns and villages.

Carnival: Feb/Mar. Celebrations start in Pisac 7 weeks before Easter Sunday with competing dance groups and continue in local villages.

Reyes Magos: 6 Jan in Ollantaytambo. Commemorates the Three Wise Men, with statues of poncho-clad Jesus brought down from the mountains. A fair, bull-fighting and dancing.

Señor de Choquekillca:  Variable, 50 days after Easter Sunday; but spreading over 4 days. Ollantaytambo celebrates its patron saint’s day with dances, processions, masses, a cockfight and bullfight.

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Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
So remote that it was discovered by Hiram Bingham only 100-odd years ago, Machu Picchu is now disarmingly accessible.  The journey there by road and rail through an ever-tightening river gorge is all part of an amazing experience of multiple sensations. Everyone is familiar with the dramatic shot of the citadel, astride a series of man-hewn terraces carved into a rainforest-clad mountain saddle at 2,430m in the Andean foothills. A visit never disappoints: the steep stone staircases, bridges, temples, houses and palaces are easy to explore, and beg to be photographed.
When to go

Machu Picchu can be visited throughout the year. With its humid climate, the city can be shrouded in mist at any time, but you’d be unlucky if the sun didn’t shine at some time during your visit. Most rain falls Dec-Mar.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency
Peruvian Nuevo Sol. There are no banks in the village and exchange rates for cash are poor. Obtain notes in advance in local currency or US dollars from the many ATMs in Cusco or at airports, using a UK credit or debit card.
Time difference

GMT -5 hours.

Combines with

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, 23 km by rail; Cusco, 75 km by road and rail; Tambopata and the lodges of the southern Amazon, 1 hour by air from Cusco; Lake Titicaca, 6-9 hours by road or 10 hours by train from Cusco.

Getting there

Flights to Cusco from Lima take one hour; from there it’s a 4 hour land journey to the site.

Key events
Cruz Velacuy: variable dates in May or Jun in Machu Picchu village. The community decorates the cross of its church and prepares it for its procession to churches in neighbouring villages. This celebration held in gratitude to pre-Columbian gods for bountiful harvests, also serves as a setting for folklore shows.
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Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake at 3,812m, straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia. It ranks alongside the Iguazú Falls as one of the most extraordinary natural sights in Latin America: a vast sheet of cobalt blue water, peppered with golden islands and peninsulas harbouring traditional indigenous communities, it’s a culturally rich location. It was here in the sacred waters that the Inca Sun God was born. 

A regiment of snow-capped mountains – The Cordillera Real - defines the lake’s borders on the far horizon. The lake area is surprisingly well populated: the fertile soils on the lake shores support pretty adobe villages with fields stretching down to the water’s edge.

On the Peruvian side, close to the port of Puno, are the unique man-made reed islands of the Uros indians. The rugged, terraced islands of Amantani or Taquile, once lost in time, where the local population still lives a traditional way of life, now eagerly welcome visitors in a sensible, controlled way. Over the border in Bolivia are the serene islands of the Sun and the Moon, and the religious sanctuary of Copacabana, with a modest sandy beach, which lent its name to the somewhat larger one in Rio de Janeiro.
When's the best time to go to lake Titicaca?
Lake Titicaca is visited throughout the year, not least because it is on the main route between southern Peru and Bolivia. The dry season, when sunny days can be expected, runs May-Oct but in June and July it can be below freezing at night.  Rain falls Jan-Mar and the lake becomes grey and choppy, but still atmospheric.
What's the official language at Lake Titicaca?

Spanish.

What's the official currency at Lake Titicaca?
Peru: Nuevo Sol; Bolivia: Peso Boliviano. Notes in local currency or US dollars can be withdrawn from banks in Puno using a UK credit or debit card.  Money exchange offices exchange US dollars cash (few accept euros or sterling and the rate may be poor). In Copacabana, Bolivia, there’s a bank which offers advances on a Visa card and casas de cambio which exchange US dollars and Peruvian Soles. Commission rates are generally higher than in the major towns and cities.
What's the time difference between GMT and Lake Titicaca?
GMT -5 hours (Peru); -4 (Bolivia).
What countries combine well with Lake Titicaca?

Cusco, Peru 6-9 hours by road or 10 hours by train; La Paz, Bolivia (155km).

How do I get to lake Titicaca?

Travel to Puno (Peru), by train from Cusco (10 hours) or by road (6-9 hours). Fly to Juliaca from Lima or Arequipa, 1 hour and 30 mins respectively; from here it’s a 45 minute drive to Puno. It’s a couple of hour’s drive and short ferry ride to Copacabana from La Paz (3.5 hours).

What are the festivals and cultural events at Lake Titicaca?

Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria: Puno and Copacabana, early Feb. Dance competitions, re-enactments of local Aymara legends, masked processions, much drinking and generalboisterousness.

Semana Santa (Easter): Candelight processions in Puno, pilgrims walking the stations of the cross in Copacabana.

Foundation of Puno: Puno, 5 Nov. Impressive pageant, and enactment of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo emerging from the waters of the lake.   

Independencia: Copacabana, first week of August. Animated music, parades, fireworks, boozing.

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La Paz and the altiplano
La Paz
Driving along the flat, windswept plains of the high-altitude altiplano, you are taken by surprise when you find yourself on the lip of a broad canyon brimming with the Lego-land of closely-packed buildings of Bolivia’s capital. At a dizzying 3,632m and overlooked by the ice-jacketed Mount Illimani, the city is a busy place with a compact historic centre from which endless quirky street markets fan out, selling everything from dried llama foetuses to cameras and Levi jeans. There are also modern boulevards with cool bars and ice cream parlours, where Aymara Indian ladies shuffle by in their traditional ponchos and bowler hats.
When's the best time to visit La Paz and the Andean altiplano?

The weather can be a critical factor: the city looks its colourful best in the sunlight Apr-Oct, in Dec-Jan it can be dull and chilly at this altitude (3,500-3,800m).

What's the official language of La Paz and Andean altiplano?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in La Paz and Andean altiplano?

Peso Boliviano. Notes in local currency and in some cases US dollars can be withdrawn from the many ATMs in prominent avenues eg Bolivian National Bank and Banco Mercantil de Santa Cruz.; there are many money exchanges (casas de cambio) and banks which exchange US dollars. (a few accept euros or sterling but the rate may be poor).

When withdrawing money from an ATM using a debit card, you are offered a choice of account type from which to make your withdrawal: select 'credit card' (ie NOT Current account or Savings Account options).

What's the time difference between La Paz and UK?

GMT -4 hours. 

What places combine well with La Paz and Andean altiplano?

A visit to Lake Titicaca, 122 km and a couple of hour’s drive away; Coroico (70km) in the semi-tropical Yungas over an icy Andean pass: get there by scenic road, cycle or hike; Sucre, Bolivia’s southern colonial second city accessible by air in an hour; the silver and tin mines of Potosí, prosperous key city in imperial times, 2-3 hrs drive from Sucre; the salt lakes of Uyuni, close to the Chilean border. 

How do I get to La Paz and Bolivian altiplano?
Average flight time is 16 hours. There are no direct flights from the UK to Bolivia; routes to La Paz involve a change of plane in Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid and Lima, Peru; or a change of plane via  the USA. 

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Due to flexible pricing and minimum room night requirements during peak times (such as New Year, Carnival and Easter) we may not always present all the dates we have available.

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Active Peru and Bolivia: trekking Andean peaks to tropical rainforest

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Active Peru and Bolivia: trekking Andean peaks to tropical rainforest

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Hiking and trekking tour of Peru and Bolivia

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