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Private Journeys

Family Peru: Machu Picchu and Amazon adventures

19 days from £3,560pp



map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Lima. Spend the night at a hotel at the airport..

You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel by one of our local representatives. It’s just the other side of the road opposite the terminal. It has comfortable sound-proofed rooms and a bar offering pisco sours  – a grand introduction to Peru (though Premiership football may be showing on the lobby TV!)

Lima is a vast, complex metropolis, with a history dating from the era of its wealth and importance to Imperial Spain to its current status as a dynamic, growing city of trade, industry and tourism.

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Day 2

Fly to Arequipa.

It’s an hour’s flight to the colonial university city of Arequipa. The pearl white buildings appear translucent against a rich blue sky; the domes, spires and pillars create a Middle Eastern aspect. Arequipa lies at the foot of the slopes of the conical El Misti Volcano. Peru’s second city, it is a traditional rival to Lima, relatively calm and conservative in comparison to the dynamic capital.

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Day 3

City tour of Arequipa and Santa Catalina Convent.

Take a guided tour of the city, strolling through its flowery plazas and shady lanes, visiting some of the most striking architectural masterpieces of the Spanish legacy. A highlight is the visit to the (mostly uninhabited) Santa Catalina Convent, its walls painted in pastel hues. Wander through the tiny cobbled courtyards where orange trees flourish, peeking into the vacant nuns’ cells.

You will also impress the kids with a visit to the Museo Santuarios Andinos, a little museum which houses the somewhat ghoulish remains of several Inca mummies recovered from surrounding volcanoes and mountains. They have been superbly preserved by the freezing conditions, and many were thought to have been sacrificed as offerings to the mountain gods over 500 years ago. The most famous is Juanita, although she is often on tour.

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Day 4

Drive up through the Andes to Colca Canyon.

On the road to the Colca Canyon you’ll get a closer look at the magnificent scenery around Arequipa. The road crosses a desolate high plain, but there is always something to look at, such as weird rock formations and delicate vicuña quietly grazing.

The vicuña, a smaller, more delicate relative of the llama, has fine wool which is literally worth more than its weight in gold. You may also come across vizcachas, alpacas, llamas and flamingos all feeding on the coarse grasslands.

The climb continues around the cavernous crater of an extinct volcano and over a high pass before emerging onto the rim of the Colca valley. From here you can look out over the vast network of meticulously terraced fields and minuscule hamlets.

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Day 5

Condor spotting excursion.

Get up early to continue by road to where the valley steepens to frame the Colca valley. Look out over the rim to a concertina of terraced fields of traditional Andean crops such as potatoes, quinoa and kiwicha which line the road up to the Cruz del Condor. Here you can stand on a bluff looking into the deepest part of this colossal canyon, where a patchwork of tawny colours spreads across the valley like a quilt, and watch as graceful condors soar effortlessly skyward from lofty crags and rocky ledges.

Along the way to the viewpoint there are a number of small villages where the women still wear traditional headwear and embroidered dresses of remarkable intricacy. Drive to the valley’s main town of Chivay, stopping at the villages of Maca and Yanque.

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Day 6

Drive to Lake Titicaca.

A 6hr road journey leads across Andean highland moors to the lively port and University town of Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The scenery along the way is windswept and desolate and the vastness of the landscape yawns towards the distant horizon under a bright Andean sky. En route, the occasional stop alongside a collection of small highland lakes may give you the chance to see flamingos feeding in the mineral-rich waters.

The vast, indigo Lake Titicaca – almost an inland sea – sits on the Peruvian-Bolivian border, and the fish-laden waters and surrounding fertile soil are the lifeblood of subsistence farming communities clustered in scores of adobe villages along the waters edge. Legend has it that this mystical spot is the birthplace of Inca civilisation: the progeny of the Sun God sprung from its depths to found the empire in Cusco.

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Day 7

Boat trip to Taquile Island, Luquina and Uros Islands, overnight.

Take a boat trip to the remote and tranquil island of Taquile with its stunning views of Lake Titicaca. Around 1,500 Quechua-speaking indians live in this remote community and many still wear the traditional hand-woven dress. The island, 7km long, is devoid of roads and vehicles, its terraced hills scattered with pre-Inca ruins. Your children may be amused by the fact that the men do the knitting, as they stroll along.

From here, continue by boat to the indigenous village of Luquina Chico on the Chucuito Peninsula. This community-based tourism initiative has strict controls over visitor access and a visit allows you to spend time with locals and learn more about their way of life. During the afternoon, walk along the lakeshore and enjoy the scenery.

Spend the night in the home of one of the local families – a fascinating opportunity to gain a genuine insight into the unchanging lifestyle of local people. Your hosts are friendly and welcoming but speak little English, so some knowledge of Spanish will enhance your visit. There is little in the way of creature comforts.

Lake Titicaca

Day 8

Return to Puno.

After breakfast with your local family, set out on the lake aboard a motor boat to visit the Uros Islands. You alight on the floating islands, constructed entirely from the lake’s tortora reeds – the same material used to build their canoes – and the ground moves almost imperceptibly beneath your feet.
During severe storms, the islands may break up into smaller islets. Once devoted to fishing, the inhabitants now earn their living mainly through selling handicrafts to tourists and, while this is a unique experience, it has the air of a living museum.
Afterwards, return to Puno.

Uros Island

Day 9

Travel by road across the altiplano to Cusco.

By road from Puno to Cusco (9hrs). First you cross the altiplano, a vast, windswept plain, punctuated by the occasional market town, where bowler-hatted indian women tend herds of llamas and alpacas. As the mountains close in, the road climbs to the high pass at La Raya (4,200m), and from here the scenery changes dramatically as you race down through the fertile fields of corn and potatoes to Cusco. En route there are several stops at interesting spots including Inca temples and baroque churches, with shopping, snacking and toilet possibilities.


Day 10

Walking city tour, including nearby Inca ruins.

The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire. Today its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches.

It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and cafés.

Today you’ll be led on a half day guided tour of the city. You visit Q’oricancha, once the principal Inca Sun Temple, with extraordinarily intricate stonework, and then explore the colossal zigzag walls of Sacsayhuamán, brooding on a hillside above Cusco. The first conquistadors to see it were awestruck, and centuries later it is still an extraordinary and imposing sight.

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Day 11

Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Overnight there.

Today, head down from the high plains to explore the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the Inca Empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created. The drive passes through or close to several of the villages and temple fortresses that pepper the valley.

The Pisaq complex, set high above and visible from the eponymous colonial village you will visit, is built on terraces carved into the steep hillsides. The engineering and preservation are unrivalled. From the flat valley floor this intricate hillside ruin rises up like a green staircase to the heavens. Lunch at Rancho Wayra, with a Peruvian pace horse show and traditional dancing.

Continue along this picturesque, patchwork valley to the temple of Ollantaytambo, the snow-frosted Andean cordillera forming a stunning backdrop. Ollantaytambo, sits strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin. The citadel was built at the top of steep, walled terraces to enhance its strategic position. Within the site, the Temple of the Sun occupies the highest point and its rose-coloured monoliths are an exceptional example of Inca masonry.

You spend the night beneath the dome of a vast, clear Andean sky in the little town also known as Ollantaytambo which lies at the foot of the Inca fortress and is itself built on top of an Inca town.

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Day 12

Walking tour around Huilloc and Pumamarca.

Today you have a guided hiking adventure which rewards you with spectacular Andean scenery, an insight into life in a traditional weaving community, and a visit to the small but well preserved Inca ruins of Pumamarca.

Drive to the Andean community of Huilloc and visit homes where you will observe the different traditional processes and techniques used in textile weaving. The culture and way of life here have changed little since Inca times. Afterwards, hike along the Patacancha River towards the village of Pallata to arrive at Pumamarca. Continue the hike back to Ollantaytambo along the top of Inca terraces.

Look out for red plastic bags on a pole outside local houses: this indicates that chicha (maize beer) can be bought there.  A white flag indicates bread. The fertile countryside is beautiful, and the climate amenable to walking.

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Day 13

By train to Machu Picchu, guided tour. Overnight nearby.

Travelling by train from Ollantaytambo, you reach the ruins of Machu Picchu. As the river Urubamba enters its narrow gorge between thickly-forested granite hills, there is room only for a single track, which hugs the right bank and passes through hamlets that are no more than collections of shacks beside the railway. Close to the foot of the mountain on a saddle of which the citadel was built is the bustling village of Machu Picchu dedicated to serving the many visitors with artisan markets, bars and restaurants.

The ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, is reached by minibus up a sinuous road, or on foot up a near vertical rocky path. The American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath jungle vegetation. It is the ruins’ location, on a ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon, that most ignites the imagination.

You will have a guided tour of the ruins and there’s time later to take one of the many trails within the site itself, such as the hike to the vertiginous Inca Bridge, carved into a cliff edge or wander amongst the stone buildings and llama-dotted grassy ledges soaking up the atmosphere.  You can climb the tortuously steep Huayna Picchu mountain for views into the other side of the valley (book in advance).

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Day 14

Optional revisit to the site, return to Cusco.

Train times permitting, there will be time for you to revisit the ruins in the morning. Return to Cusco by rail and road, about 4 hours.

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Day 15

Fly to Puerto Maldonado in Amazonia, by boat to lodge.

Fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon basin (less than 1hr). This busy port is a market town for the communities which live along the banks of the Amazon tributaries. Continue by road and then by motorised canoe along the Tambopata river to your wildlife lodge in the rainforest.

Catering for lovers of nature, your child-friendly lodge is set beside a lake and is built in typical Amazonian style. All rooms look out onto the forest with separate bathroom, hot water, ceiling fan and mosquito net, so the children will feel they are in a remote and adventurous location but with familiar the comforts of home (no internet though!)


Days 16-17

Guided jungle adventures.

Rainforest wildlife is most active in the early mornings and late afternoons, so wildlife spotting outings are normally at these times. In the evening you will have a twilight tour by canoe, exploring the river’s banks and creeks. On a clear evening the starts shine brightly in a sky free of light pollution, so you can learn about the constellations with the help of your guide.

The following day, hop into your canoes again and navigate to the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway Interpretation Centre where you will learn about the lodge’s conservation projects. Now you will explore the jungle from on high: climb a 30m tower to walk the seven suspended bridges strung between the tree tops, where with luck you will eyeball some wildlife: white-throated toucans, woodpeckers, trogons, squirrel monkeys and three-toed sloths can be spotted Back down at ground level there’s a wooden walkway above the anaconda wetlands.

Further explorations to excite the imagination of the young and older alike include an atmospheric, eerie night walk, punctuated by the sound of nocturnal insects and birds, a visit to a botanical garden rich in tropical plants, and a fishing expedition on magical lake Sandoval, where you may be observed by cackling hoatzim (a prehistoric type bird|) and curious monkeys.


Day 18

Fly to Lima.

Fly back to Lima for your last night in Peru. If there is time, you might wander around the magnificent historic core, centred on two squares, Plaza San Martin and the superb refurbished main square, Plaza de Armas, which recalls the majesty of the city when it was the capital of the Spanish Empire in Peru.

Plaza de Armas, with its colonial churches, promenades and palaces marks the beginning of a guided tour that unearths much of the country’s turbulent past. Nearby are several palaces including the Torre Eagle Palace (built for the treasurer of the Royal Spanish fleet and considered to be the most striking of Lima’s 18th century mansions). Another building which borrows its architectural style from Baroque and Moorish Spain is the Monastery of San Francisco with its fascinating library and catacombs.


Day 19

Colonial Lima and Larco Museum.Transfer to airport.

Visit the Larco Museum, which houses an astonishing private collection of pre-Columbian ceramic pieces. The impressive range of pottery provides an insight into the development of Peruvian culture. There are particularly good examples from the Moche, Sicán and Chimú cultures, which constitute the world’s largest collection of artefacts from these civilisations. In addition there are displays of textiles, gold and silver work and mummies, all crafted by pre-Inca civilisations; and an extensive and unique collection of erotic figurines.

Transfer to the airport for flight home

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.


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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

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    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

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    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

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    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

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    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

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