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Signature Peru and Chile: Machu Picchu and Atacama

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The innovative explora group of lodges, situated on the fringes, or even in the heart, of some of South America's most remote and captivating landscapes, make exploration-in-comfort their watchword. In addition to first class accommodation and gourmet cuisine, a stay there includes a choice of imaginative guided excursions and activities with the flexibility to allow you to choose exactly what you want to see and do. Visit two of these highly rated properties, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas outside Cusco and among the skeletal landscapes of the Atacama desert. Add time to explore the Inca capital  Cusco, Machu Picchu and punctuate your trip with two distinctive capital cities: Lima and Santiago,

This holiday is all about the experiences, the adventures, the unforgettable things you’ll see and do. The landscapes of the Andes fall from ice-jagged peaks down to soft valleys crammed with fruit and pasture and rise again to sun-baked deserts. This is the home of the condor, llama and alpaca, living alongside little-changing traditional communities. The seismic history of empire, colonisation and resistance is evident in the haunting Inca ruins, Spanish baroque architecture and gaudy local markets.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima. Transfer to hotel in Pacific-side Miraflores.

Day 2

Fly to Cusco; by road to hotel explora in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Days 3,4

Choice of excursions and activities in the area (included).

Day 5

By road to Ollantaytambo, on to Machu Picchu by train, guided tour of the ruins.

Day 6

Return to Cusco by rail and road.

Day 7

Guided walking tour of Cusco.

Day 8

Fly via Lima to Calama in the Atacama desert of Chile.

Days 9-11

Choice of complimentary excursions and activities in the area.

Day 15

Fly to Santiago and transfer to central hotel.

Day 13

Guided walking tour of the historic core of the Chilean capital.

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Places visited on this holiday

Signature Peru and Chile: Machu Picchu and Atacama

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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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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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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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Atacama Desert
San Pedro de Atacama

 

The Atacama’s inhospitable desert landscape is harsh and rugged, but it isn't an empty wasteland. Volcanoes and geysers steam and hiss into life. Pink flamingos haunt the featureless white salt flats, cacti stride towards the horizon and oases splash the tawny landscape with vigorous vegetation, especially after rare flash rainfall. The culture and settlements echo with the legacy of the desert’s pre- and post- Columbian inhabitants, with ruined temples and dusty colonial villages. There are some top quality hotels and the area is becoming a favourite for adventure activities such as volcano climbing and horse riding. If coming from Santiago or Patagonia, you may notice the high altitude as you explore the Atacama: however, all hotels are in San Pedro - at a comfortable 2,450m.

When's the best time to go to Atacama Desert?

San Pedro de Atacama is all-year destination, although its climate is influenced by the Bolivian Andes. Occasional strong rains in Jan-Feb can close visitor sites for a few days and, between Jun-Sep, snow can hinder the high-altitude crossings into Bolivia and Argentina. For almost all of the year, the sun shines and the night skies can be spectacular.

What's the official language of Atacama Desert?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Atacama Desert?

Chilean Peso. Bring your local currency needs from a larger town, where notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows.

What's the time difference between Atacama Desert and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, from Sep/Oct to early Mar.  

What places combines well with Atacama Desert?
The Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, usually visited on a 3-day package by 4WD; La Serena and the Elqui Valley, 1.5 hours by air from Calama, a hour drive from San Pedro; Lauca National Park near the northern border, 800 km.
How do I getting to Atacama Desert?

Fly from Santiago to Calama (2 hours) then it’s a 2 hour road journey (104 km) to San Pedro.

What are the festivals and cultural events in Atacama Desert?

The feast day of Saints Peter and Paul:  24 Jun. The entire village of San Pedro joins in the celebrations with processions.

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Santiago and the vineyards
Santiago and the vineyards
With a backdrop of snow-draped Andean peaks in a sunny fertile valley, Chile’s huge capital lies at the heart of the country. A multi-layered place of contrasting neighbourhoods it is worth getting to know.

There’s a tiny colonial heart which displays an often poignant history, offset by the glittering malls, skyscrapers and shady boulevards of a modern economy. Interspersed are European-style centres for shopping and eating out such as Italianate Bellavista and newly vibrant, villagey localities among which is trendy Lastarría. The surrounding Mediterranean landscape is the perfect setting for vineyards and wineries producing Chile’s well respected wines.
When's the best time to visit Santiago and the vineyards?
Santiago has a hot dry summer and cool winters with some rain and even snow. Spring and autumn (Sep-Oct and Apr-May) are pleasant times for a city visit. The vineyards are at their prettiest in spring (Sep-Oct) but a visit may be most interesting at harvest time (Mar-Apr).
What is the official language in Santiago and the vineyards?

Spanish.

How can I get local currency in Santiago and the vineyards?
Chilean Peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. There are also many banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash; rates for euros and sterling are harder to find and frequently poor.
What's the time difference between Santiago and the vineyards and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, from Sep/Oct to early Mar. 

What places combine with Santiago and the vineyards?

Valparaiso, colourful Pacific port growing in popularity among visitors, 106km (2hours by road); a beach wind-down in Chile’s principal resort, Viña del Mar (100km, 2 hours); a few days on Polynesian Easter island (5 hours direct by air); winter skiing in the family resort of Valle Nevado (65km, 1 hour 40mins by road).

How do I get to Santiago and the vineyards?

There are no direct flights from the UK, average flight time is 16 hours; a change of plane is required in Europe, Brazil or the USA.

What are the festivals and cultural events in Santiago and the vineyards?

Feria Internacional de Artesania: Nov; Parque General Bustamente, Centro, Santiago, the city’s best craft festival.

Feria Internacional del Libro: Nov, Machopo station, Santiago. A Hay Festival is imminent for Santiago – watch this space!

Fiesta de la Vendimia: Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, An annual grape harvest festival in early Mar. 

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

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