Private Journeys

Signature Peru and Chile: Machu Picchu and Easter Island

15 days from £4,810pp

Peru

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

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

Fly into Lima, set on the coastal desert strip between the Pacific and the Andes. Colonial Spain's City of Kings is now a modern, bustling metropolis of eight million people, and growing. The colonial centre, which is gradually being renovated, has many historic churches and buildings famed for their traditional intricate balconies. There are also several excellent museums. In recent years a number of world-class restaurants have opened, and the city is fast becoming the gastronomic capital of the western hemisphere.

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Day 2

Guided tour of the capital.

Your guided walking tour offers an excellent overview of a city which is full of contrasting neighbourhoods, from the upmarket Pacific-side residential district Miraflores to the colonial magnificence of the historic centre. The walk start on the clifftop parks overlooking the Pacific Ocean and beaches, including the romantic Parque del Amor, with its sculpture of two lovers embracing.

Continue to 'Huaca Pucllana', a pre-Inca 5th century temple before arriving at San Isidro, an elegant residential and commercial district with a beautiful olive grove and some super-smart hotels and restaurants surrounding its leafy well-tended squares. You’ll be ready for a snack at Tanta Restaurant, owned by the famous Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio where you can sample a typical Peruvian dish.

Thus refreshed, continue to the outskirts of central Lima where you will stroll through the baroque Torre Eagle Palace, and the Plaza de Armas, Lima's grandiose historic main square home to the cathedral and the presidential and Archbishop's palaces. The appeal of the delicate wooden balconies and monumental colonial baroque architecture, is enhanced by the recent refurbishment of the area: the squares are now squeaky clean, lined with little artisan shops and modern cafés.

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Day 3

Fly to Cusco and continue to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The Urubamba river carves its way across the raw plains of the altiplano before dropping down to the rainforested Amazon basin. Here, just beyond Cusco, the mature river is bordered by fields bulging with vegetables, fruit and cereals. This was the breadbasket of the Incas, and as such attracted the building of many temples, administrative centres and barracks; at the peak of the empire it was home to tens of thousands of inhabitants. Nowadays the oft well preserved, abandoned ruins share the beautiful rural landscape with modest Spanish colonial settlements and modern upstarts including a clutch of top quality hotels.

It’s a delightful scenic drive, a lovely introduction to the Andes, and along the way you will call in either at an animal sanctuary, llama and alpaca farm, or the artisan market at colonial Pisac.

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Day 4

Full day guided tour in the Sacred Valley: Maras, Moray, Chincheros

Travel by road through the stunning countryside against a backdrop of the snow-capped Andes to Chinchero, an attractive market village with both a colonial and Inca heritage. The central square has a splendid Inca wall while on its upper level is the town's adobe colonial church, decorated internally with beautiful floral designs. Visit the home of a resident of Chinchero or the tranquil village Maras for a demonstration of the weaving of traditional Peruvian textiles. Continue to the Maras saltpans, a series of blinding white terraces which look a bit like a wedding cake: a natural source of saline water is evaporated by the strong Andean sun. In use since Inca times, the saltpans continue to be worked by the local community.

The tour also visits Moray, a grand Inca site pitting a windswept grassy plain which was an experimental agricultural centre at the apogée of the empire. It comprises numerous circular terraces carved into a large, natural amphitheatre, each one with a different microclimate from those above and below.

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Day 5

Visit Ollantaytambo temple fortress, on to Machu Picchu.

Rising above the community of the same name the walled terraces and fortress of this Inca sanctuary provide some of the finest examples of Inca architecture, with the six monoliths of the Temple of the Sun an outstanding feature. The colonial village was built on top of an existing Inca settlement and the original Inca town blocks - known as canchas - can still be seen. It’s a rustic, atmospheric place where you can really get a sense of how life was lived in both the Inca and Spanish eras.

It is here where you join the train for your thrilling ride through the Urubamba canyon to Machu Picchu. The route passes through some of Peru's most exquisite and dramatic scenery. From the fertile valley floor, rimmed by rugged brooding mountains, the track enters an ever-narrowing gorge: the river froths over water-smoothed boulders and vertical cliffs, increasingly draped in dripping tropical vegetation, tower skywards.

Machu Picchu, the world-famous terraced Inca citadel, sprawling across a mountain saddle where the Andes fall towards the Amazon basin, is the most magical of South America's pre-Columbian archaeological sites. The city was founded in the 14th century as an important ceremonial centre. Undiscovered by the Spanish conquistadores and untouched by looters for 400 years, the site was very well preserved when the archaeologist, Hiram Bingham, stumbled upon it in 1911. The lush slopes of the forested mountains, swirling clouds rising up from the Urubamba valley, and the distant snow-capped peaks of the Andes all provide a stunning backdrop.

It’s a spectacular bus journey up a zig-zag road to the ruins. The site is well preserved and is now fiercely protected by the Peruvian authorities. You'll be allocated a ticket either for this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Upon entry, you will be taken on a guided tour around the ruins: staircases, terraces, temples, palaces, towers, fountains and the famous sundial, after which you may continue to explore the ruins independently.

Overnight in the village below the ruins.

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Day 6

Return to Ollantaytambo by rail and proceed back to Cusco.

If you took your tour of the ruins yesterday afternoon, you can use your ticket to enjoy a second unguided entry in the morning. The train ride to Ollantaytambo is followed by a scenic drive to Cusco. Cusco - ancient capital of the Inca Empire and UNESCO World Heritage site - is an architectural and cultural jewel high up in the Andes at 3,399m. Many of the walls in the centre still incorporate Inca masonry and have stood the test of time far better than the colonial builders' handiwork. But that’s not to belittle the craftsmanship of the Spanish: the blissful colonial churches, arcades, huge, imposing squares from which radiate tiny cobbled alleys are impressive to say the least.

The city is a busy place thronging with visitors from across the world, giving it a real international buzz. But it is surely one of the most Peruvian cities - this in a country where so much of the cultural identity is intact -and your enjoyment of its discovery will be enhanced by the excellent food, drink and shopping opportunities. Browse the vast indoor market at San Pedro, with its towers of fruit and vegetables alongside alpaca sweaters, traditional jewellery and wood carvings to observe the bustle of contemporary life while you explore the magnificent vestiges of the past.

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Day 7

Guided walking tour of Cusco.

Much of the pre-Columbian stonework now serves as foundations for modern dwellings. Your private guided tour explores the magnificent Plaza de Armas, the 16th century cathedral and the church of Santo Domingo - distinguished from the many other churches in Cusco by its construction on the site of Qoricancha, Cusco's major Inca temple.

Glowering over northern outskirts of Cusco are the ruins of Sacsayhuamán, believed to have serve the Inca Empire both as a fortress and ceremonial centre. There are some magnificent Inca walls, immaculately erected from huge rocks some of which weigh as much as 130 tons. The visit also includes the nearby ruins of Tambo Machay, with its ceremonial fountains and bath, Puka Pukara - a staging post - and the temple of Q'enko.

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Day 8

Fly to Santiago de Chile and transfer to your central hotel.

Take advantage of a direct flight from Cusco to Santiago, Chile’s cosmopolitan capital. The city is a vast mélange of architectural styles reflecting an eventful history and immigration from many countries with contrasting cultural traditions. Modern high-rise buildings dominate the skyline but at street level Santiago retains some fine historic buildings alongside eye-catching contemporary structures. Your guided walking excursion will take you to some of the interesting landmarks and neighbourhoods at a leisurely pace. To cover it all on foot in a short time is impossible: you'll explore in bite-size chunks, with the longer stretches done by vehicle.

Historic ports of call include the ornate Museo de Bellas Artes, romantic hilltop park Cerro Santa Lucia, the Central Market and the former Mapocho railway station. Your guide will also identify examples of modern design such as the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral the Museum of Archaeology.  The tour includes a stop at the former National Congress where Salvador Allende was overthrown in 1973 and culminates in the Plaza Mayor, the heart of Santiago's busy historic centre.

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Day 9

Full day guided walking tour to Valparaiso and a vineyard.

Valparaiso, Chile’s principal port just a couple of hours’ drive from the capital, is a different kettle of fish. Very little remains of the colonial settlement which Drake plundered in 1578 and which Darwin witnessed in the 1830s, many of its buildings having been destroyed by a gigantic earthquake in 1906. This, alongside the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, signalled an end to the port's prosperity. Present day Valparaiso retains a certain tumbledown charm and plenty of character, making it one of Chile's most photogenic cities and a delight to explore on foot.

Drive back towards Santiago via the attractive, rolling countryside of the Casablanca Valley. With its pleasant Mediterranean climate tempered by the Pacific Ocean, the Casablanca Valley has recently become one of Chile's premier wine-producing regions with a deserved reputation for good quality Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Carnménère and Pinot Noir. Visit one of the vineyards for a tour and a little congenial wine tasting, before continuing your return journey to Santiago.

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Day 10

Fly to Easter Island and your hotel in Hanga Roa town.

Easter Island (Isla de Pascua or Rapa Nui) is surely one of the most mysterious places on earth. Rising from the Pacific Ocean 3,790km west of the Chilean mainland, its nearest neighbour is Pitcairn Island  1,921km away and, although it forms part of Chilean territory, its culture is more Polynesian that Latin American. It is thought that the original inhabitants arrived by canoe from Polynesia or Marquesas and about half the population descends from the Rapa Nui people, the rest being immigrants from Chile.

The island is triangular in shape, with an extinct volcano on each tip.  The subtropical territory was originally carpeted in forest but is now almost bare: as society developed, the original luxuriant vegetation was chopped down for building and fishing boats. Much of the island now has protected national park status (the rest is livestock grazing) and is listed by UNESCO. But although the island is now dominated by river-less moorland the scenery is exceptionally beautiful, especially the pristine beaches which lie at the foot of cliffs around the coast.

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Day 11

Introduction to Easter Island.

Most visitors are attracted to Easter Island by the watchful presence of 600 giant moais (stone statues), set on altar-like pedestals, all facing inland and believed to be manifestations of ancestor worship. Sculpted from quarried stone they were transported over large distances without the help of wheels. The whole island is best regarded as an open museum. Over the next few days you will visit come of the most imposing sites.

 Today’s full-day guided tour introduces Easter Island's archaeological heritage, encompassing the highlights of the island's north and east coast. After a brief call at the restored platforms of Tahai (800 AD), drive to the white-sand beach at Anakena, said to be the arrival spot of the first Polynesians. There's time to swim in the South Pacific and admire restored moai with their turquoise oceanic backdrop. Continue to Te Pito Kura, site of the largest moai ever erected (10m), which is now found lying down having been thrown over during the tribal conflicts of the 17th Century.

Explore the extinct volcano of Rano Raraku, the quarry where all the moai statues were carved, and where almost 400 of them still lie silently in various stages of the carving process. There’s plenty of time to explore the volcano, both inside and outside the crater. The tour ends at Ahu Tongariki with its 15 restored moai, Polynesia's largest and most impressive single archaeological structure.

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Day 12

Further explorations of the island.

The day begins with a visit to the unrestored site at Vinapu, with its 6 toppled statues. It is one of the best examples of close-fitting Rapa Nui stonework. Move on to Puna Pau, the quarry of the topknots, or 'hats', which adorned many of the moai. Continue to the inland ahu (ceremonial platform) of Akivi, one of Easter Island's iconic and most photographed sites.

In the afternoon, visit Rano Kau, a vast extinct volcanic crater and the island’s most spectacular natural feature. Orongo, dramatically perched between the cliffs and the crater's edge, is the site of the long-standing Birdman competition, where competitors had to obtain the first egg of the migratory sooty tern - with the winner becoming chief of the island for the next 12 months.  Finally, enjoy a short walk down to the coast and cave of Ana Kai Tangata, translated as the 'Cannibal Cave' and famous for the bird figures painted on its interior.

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Day 13

Discover the hidden gems of Easter Island.

This guided excursion explores the lesser-known attractions of Easter Island. Concealed in the island's rugged volcanic landscape they are harder to find and greatly rewarding if you've already visited the more popular places, and can usually be enjoyed without other tourists around. Typically you'll visit the petroglyphs at Papa Vaka, Ahu Heki'i, Taharoa Bay, Ovahe beach and Akahanga.

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Day 14

Fly back to Santiago.

In good weather, sunrise at Ahu Tongariki is extraordinary between October and April when the sun rises directly behind the 15-moai platform. Rise at dawn for the 30 minute drive to the east coast and be back in your hotel for breakfast, later departing for the airport and your flight back to Santiago.

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Day 15

Transfer to airport for international flight.

There should be time in the morning to have a look round the immediate vicinity of your hotel which is adjacent to the beautiful Parque Forestal,  sculptured and maintained with shady trees and lawns. It’s a favourite with local dog walkers, families and couples as well as visitors to the city. Attractions within walking distance include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Plaza de Armas, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and the folksy arty neighbourhoods of Lastarria and Bella Vista, plastered with street art. Later, transfer to the airport.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Jamie Swan
    Jamie Swan - Travel Consultant

    Jamie backpacked across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil before joining us; he has a degree in politics and is also a keen sportsman..

  • JimAshworth
    Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant

    Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    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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