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Pelicano: Essential Peru

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This is a a fascinating tour through southern Peru, the heartland of the Inca Empire, where plunging canyons and soaring mountains form a spectacular backdrop to ruined temples and fortresses and indigenous markets awash with bold colour.

Stand on the rim of the Colca Canyon as condors soar alongside you and tread a cautious foot on to the floating reed islands on the icy waters of Lake Titicaca. The journey to Cusco is a superb opportunity to drink in the contrasts of the Andean scenery as you descend slowly from the llama-dotted frosted highland prairies to a landscape of small holdings with kitchen gardens and eucalyptus groves on the other side of the watershed.

The adventure continues amid the intricate stonework and cobbled streets of Cusco, the Inca's imperial city, and at the Lost City of Machu Picchu, set on a ridge spur between forested peaks above the River Urubamba, roaring through a tropical canyon.

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart, arriving Lima, Peru, the same day.

Day 1

Overnight in the capital.

Day 2

Walking tour of the historic centre; fly to Arequipa.

Day 3

At leisure in colonial Arequipa.

Day 4

By road through the Andes to Colca Canyon.

Day 5

Condor spotting excursion; visit traditional villages.

Day 6

By road to the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Day 7

Excursion by boat to the Uros Islands.

Day 8

Journey over the altiplano to Cusco.

Day 9

City tour of Cusco and Inca fortress of Sacsayhuamán.

Day 10

Excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas; overnight.

Day 11

By train to Machu Picchu; guided tour of the ruins.

Day 12

Optional re-entry to Machu Picchu; return to Cusco.

Day 13

Day at leisure in Cusco; optional excursions.

Day 14

Fly to Lima and depart on international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

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What our experts say

Explore the highlights of Peru in comfort and style on our Pelicano Journey. In 14 days you'll take in the cultural and scenic highlights of southern Peru, including colonial Arequipa; the stunning Colca Canyon; Lake Titicaca, and finishing with the fascinating Inca heartland of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.

Alex Walker

Alexandra Walker

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Pelicano: Essential Peru

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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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Arequipa and Colca Canyon
Arequipa & the Colca Canyon

On a fertile oasis in the desert of southern Peru, Arequipa - the White City - squats at the foot of craggy volcanoes and shimmers in the constant sunlight. The pearl coloured mansions and churches, shady arches, spires and unreconstructed grid of gabled colonial houses have a middle-eastern flavour. The small shops and cafés and flowery plazas make it a great place to relax, and to get accustomed to the altitude (2,335m) if heading into the Andes.

From here a lonely road heads 83km up through a wind-sculpted wilderness to plunge into the cavernous Colca Canyon, in the shelter of which pre-Inca communities built astounding amphitheatres of agricultural terracing which survive to this day.

When to go

Arequipa can be visited throughout the year. Its climate is perfect for visitors, the sun shines on 360 days of the year and temperatures rarely exceed 23°C.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency
Peruvian Nuevo Sol. Notes in local currency or US dollars can be withdrawn from 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

Lake Titicaca, 224km (9-12 hours by road) from Arequipa via Colca Canyon or 40mins flight from Arequipa to Juliaca; Nazca Lines, 404 km (10 hours on the Pan American Highway); Cusco 320 km (12 hours by road, 1 hour by air from Arequipa).

Getting there
Flights to Arequipa from Lima take one hour. The drive from Arequipa to Colca takes 4-6 hours.
Key events
Semana Santa, Easter. Inspired by the celebrations in Spain’s Seville, with huge nightly processions and the reading of Judas’ Will in Yanahuara on Easter Sunday.

May is the “Month of the crosses” with hilltop ceremonies.

Arequipa’s anniversary (14-15 Aug) is celebrated with music, dancing parades, pageants and a huge fireworks display and parade of floats in the Plaza de Armas.


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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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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.
Back to list of places visited
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.

Back to list of places visited
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.

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

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Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today. Pelicano: Essential Peru

  • Peruvian Amazon 5 days from £988pp

    The Peruvian Amazon is just an hour's flight from Cusco. This bird-filled area of humid tropical rainforest embraces many ox-bow lakes, an ideal home for caimans, turtles and giant otters.

    Day 1: Transfer to Cusco airport for the flight to Puerto Maldonado. Staff from Posada Amazonas will escort you to the lodge by road and dugout canoe (3hrs). Accommodation is simple and comfortable, constructed to harmonise with the forest environment.

    Days 2, 3:  Your stay includes a variety of early morning and late afternoon excursions. There are small clay licks close by, which attract throngs of parrots and parakeets. English-speaking guides will lead your exploration of the trails around the lodge. Climb a nearby 35m high canopy tower for expansive jungle and river vistas. You can discover the lakes and river banks by canoe to search for aquatic wildlife.

    Day 4: Return to Puerto Maldonado and fly to Lima. Transfer to your hotel in the Pacific-side district of Miraflores, Casa Andina Private Collection.

    Day 5: Continue your holiday or transfer to the airport for your international flight.

    Breakfast daily, full board days 2, 3.

  • Nazca Lines + Paracas 3 days from £700pp

    Travel to the Paracas Peninsula and explore the bird-smothered Ballestas Islands by boat. Fly over the Nazca Lines for a bird’s eye view of the giant symbols and lines carved into skeletal desert rock by the pre-Columbian Nazca people.

    Day 1: From Lima, travel by public coach south to Paracas (3.5hrs) on the Panamerican Highway, which follows the contours of the coastal cliffs, carving a lonely path through bleak desert scenery. The severity of the sparsely populated landscape is relieved by tiny oases producing dates or maize and rickety fishing villages. Your modern hacienda-style hotel, La Hacienda Bahia Paracas, overlooks Paracas Bay.

    Day 2: Embark on a private motor-launch tour of the Ballestas Islands, which comprise one of the most important wildlife areas of Peru. The arches and caves - the result of wind and tide erosion - provide shelter for thousands of seabirds: albatrosses, cormorants, boobies, pelicans and the odd Humboldt penguin. The coves and surrounding waters are also visited by sea-lions, the mournful cries of which mingle with the screeches of the birds in a cacophonous symphony of sound.

    Later, board a light aircraft for a 90min flight to and over the Nazca Lines. This series of giant geometrical figures, animals and insects was etched into the desert floor by the Nazca people over a period of several hundred years. The interpretation of the lines puzzles scientists – do they comprise an astronomical map, calendar or astrological symbols? The rocky, wind-contorted desert scenery seen from the air is as startling as the lines themselves.

    Day 3: Return to the city of Lima to continue your holiday or to the airport for your international flight.

    UK clients arrive home the following day

    Breakfast daily.

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