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Condor: Peru in depth

21 days from £2988pp

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Condor: Peru in depth

21 days from £2988pp

Group Journey


UK clients depart, arriving Lima, same day.

Days 1-2

Spend 2 nights in the capital Lima.

Those arriving on an international flight will be met at the airport by a Journey Latin America tour leader or a local representative who will escort you to the hotel. The scenes from your window on the half-hour drive to the hotel through Lima encapsulate the invigorating bustle of a modern-day Latin American capital.

Lima, the City of Kings, was once the capital of Spanish America, and the vestiges of its glorious past can still be seen in the faded grandeur of the colonial churches and traditional wooden balconies in the city centre. The explosive growth of the last 50 years, so typical of capital cities in the developing world, has transformed Lima into a dynamic and chaotic low-rise city of over 6 million people. In crowded streets, throngs of traffic race out towards Miraflores, a modern middle-class suburb on the coast, where your hotel is located.

On your first full day of the trip there will be a walking tour of the old centre of the city, where the Plaza de Armas, imposing cathedral, city hall and palace are located. A real contrast to the ever devoloping suburbs.

Day 3

Fly to Arequipa.

Short flight to the colonial city of Arequipa. The squat buildings, constructed from a white-grey volcanic stone called sillar, are striking against a rich blue sky and give the city a somewhat Middle Eastern aspect.

Day 4

Walking tour of the city and the Santa Catalina Convent.
Walking tour of the historic heart of the city. Wander through its colonnaded plazas and shady lanes visiting some of the striking baroque architectural masterpieces of the Spanish legacy.

A highlight is the visit to the (now mostly uninhabited) Santa Catalina Convent, a timeless, peaceful enclave, its walls painted in pastel hues, where its shady nooks and crannies are dotted with flowering potted plants. Enter the tiny cobbled courtyards where orange trees flourish, peeking into the vacant nuns’ cells.

Time permitting you might also visit the Museo Santuarios Andinos, a fascinating little museum which houses the remains of several Inca mummies recently recovered from the tops of surrounding volcanoes and mountains. They have been superbly preserved by the freezing conditions; many were thought to have been sacrificed as offerings to the mountain gods over 500 years ago.


Day 5

Drive to Colca Canyon.
Arequipa lies at the foot of the slopes of the conical El Misti volcano, and within sight of the jagged formations of the Chachani Volcano and the long ridge of Machu Picchu. On the road to the Colca Canyon you'll get a closer look at this magnificent scenery.

The road crosses a desolate high plain and through a vicuña reserve. The vicuña is a smaller, more delicate relative of the llama, whose fine wool is literally worth more than its weight in gold. You may also come across vizcachas, alpacas, llamas and flamingos all feeding from the scrub. The climb continues around the cavernous crater of an extinct volcano and over a high pass before emerging onto the rim of the valley. From here you can look out over the vast network of ancient, intricately terraced fields and tiny villages. After descending into the canyon, you could choose to submerge yourself in the warm, healing waters of the hot springs.

Day 6

Condor spotting and local excursions.
You’ll be up early for your trip along the canyon's edge, with terraced fields of traditional Andean crops such as potatoes, quinoa and kiwicha lining the road up to the viewpoint at Cruz del Condor. Here you stand on a bluff looking into the deepest part of this colossal canyon, where a patchwork of tawny colours spread across the valley, and watch condors soaring effortlessly skyward from inaccessible crags and rocky ledges.

Along the way you stop at a number of small villages where little has changed in the rural lifestyle over the centuries. The women continue to wear traditional, intricately embroidered dresses. If you choose, you may follow ancient footpaths linking adobe villages and follow the paths of ancient aqueducts, with spellbinding views down to the canyon floor.

Colca Canyon

Day 7

By road to Lake Titicaca.

A 6hr private road journey leads across the Andes to Puno, 3,805m high on the chilly altiplano, and on the shores of glimmering Lake Titicaca. The scenery along the way is windswept and desolate and the vastness of the landscape is laid out under a bright Andean sky. The occasional stop alongside small highland lakes may give you the chance to spot 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 water’s 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.

Day 8

Visit the floating Uros islands; by lakeside road to Bolivia.

Today you set out on the lake aboard a motor boat to visit the Uros Islands: gliding over the deep glacial waters on a sunny day is a definite highlight. 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. In the afternoon, there’s an opportunity to take an optional excursion to the Chullpas at Sillustani, towering stone tombs said to be the burial site of the ancient Hatun Colla chiefs. The towers are on the treeless shores of a lonely highland lake; the landscape, while unremittingly bleak, is spellbinding.

Later set off along the lakeshore towards the Bolivian border. The still waters almost lap the road, and wader birds may be seen negotiating the reeds. Having stopped to admire the little church at Pomata you continue to Copacabana (3hrs), a pretty little town impressively located between two grand hills on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Its beach gave the name to the better known one in Rio.
Lake Titicaca

Day 9

Optional trip to Sun Island.
The peaceful town of Copacabana is a religious sanctuary and its whitewashed buildings and Moorish-style basilica are striking against a clear blue Andean sky. The Basilica is frequented by pilgrims to the miraculous 16th-century Dark Virgin of the Lake, and they bring their rickety cars to the forecourt, bedecked in flowers, to be blessed by her.

If you have the energy in this rarefied air, climb the stations of the cross for views out over the lake and the snow-capped cordillera in the distance. From Copacabana there’s an optional boat trip to Isla del Sol. Legend has it that this mystical spot marked the beginning of Inca civilisation. The children of the sun god sprung from the lake's depths to found the mighty empire in Cusco, and a rock at the northern end of the island was their birthplace.

Day 10

By road to La Paz, Bolivia’s highland capital.

At over 3,500m, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. It is a glittering mosaic of tin, slate and tile roofs, interspersed with a line of skyscrapers that march down the valley. And beyond, keeping an eye on it all, is the colossal snow-capped Mount Illimani. This busy, commercial city has a 60% indigenous population; women dress in voluminous multi-coloured skirts, bowler hats and have centre-partings, as decreed by the Spanish monarch 3 centuries ago. There is a city tour, and 3 nights in the city gives you plenty of opportunity to explore the colonial centre around the quaint Plaza Murillo.

La Paz

Days 11-12

Explore the city and surrounding area.

At leisure further to explore.  There is an optional excursion to the ruins of Tiwanaku, about which little is known. Travel 2hrs from La Paz across the bleak, tawny earth of the altiplano, past glimmering lakes and herds of haughty alpacas. These pre-Columbian ruins are considered among the most important on the continent, and the massive gateways and imposing walls are redolent of bygone glory. It is believed that the inhabitants here were more advanced than the Incas in pottery, mathematics, art and astronomy. Explore a new museum on the site which houses more than 100 artefacts and provides a fascinating insight into the history of the ruins. Alternatively you may choose to venture out of town to Chacaltaya, once the world's highest ski resort, located at 5,000m in the Cordillera Real. It takes around 90mins to climb the 7 km of winding, rural roads. There's no longer any snow here, but from a wooden chalet house, set on a steep cliff there are views over 3 countries, the cordillera and Lake Titicaca twinkling in the distance.

Days 13-14

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

Drive back onto the flat plains of the altiplano to the airport for your short flight to Cusco. Upon arrival, head out from Cusco over the high plains and descend 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. Stay 2 nights in the valley.

Your base is Ollantaytambo where the snow-frosted Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop. Ollantaytambo, sitting strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin, was never captured by the Spanish conquistadors, but the inhabitants decided that the settlement was too vulnerable and would eventually fail, and so they abandoned it. The fortress, the colonial grid plan and the Inca foundations are still intact and there are wonderful views down over the sloping hillsides and into the fertile valley.

Later travel to the Pisac 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 rises up like a green staircase to the heavens.

There is also a full day at leisure with the opportunity to visit the spectacular salt pans of Maras which cascade down the steep terraces, the fascinating Inca site of Moray or the the colourful indigenous village of Chinchero.

Day 15

Train ride to Machu Picchu, with guided tour.
Travelling for just 2hrs 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 a collection 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 (formerly known as Aguas Calientes), dedicated to serving the many visitors with artisan markets, bars and restaurants.

The majestic 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 perhaps 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.

Machu Picchu

Day 16

Optional re-entry to the ruins; return to Cusco.

There is the option to return to the ruins with time to walk one of the many trails within the site itself, such as the hike to the vertiginous Inca Bridge, carved into a cliff edge. You can climb the tortuously steep Huayna Picchu mountain on the other side of the valley (please enquire with the office, as spaces are limited and it's necessary to pre-book). Your tour leader will be on hand to talk through the various walking options. In the afternoon return to Cusco, arriving in the early evening.

Day 17

City tour of Cusco and surrounding Inca sites.
The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire. Its many impressive, original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, and the squares are dotted with ornate colonial churches. It's a vibrant, lively city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention on cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and clubs.

An experienced guide gives you a detailed tour of Cusco, which includes a visit to several nearby Inca ruins. You visit Q'oricancha with its impressive stonework, once the principle Inca sun temple, and then go on to explore the colossal zigzag walls of Sacsayhuamán, set on a hillside above Cusco. In 1536 a desperate and defining 3 day battle was fought between the Spaniards and the Incas around this fortress; the first conquistadors to see it were overawed and centuries later it is still an extraordinary and imposing sight.

Day 18

At leisure.
Cusco is a compact city, easy to explore on foot independently. You are at leisure to discover the colourful markets, the many churches and museums, and to wander the attractive narrow streets. There are a number of optional excursions within and without the city. If you are interested in the area’s rich historic culture, you might make a trip out to the pre-Columbian ruins at Picillacta, a huge walled complex, or the aqueducts at Tipón or the baroque church in the village of Andahuayillas, famous for its well preserved frescoes and even nick-named the Andean Sistine Chapel.

Feeling you’d like to be active? White-water rafting, cycling and horse riding are on offer.

Day 19

Fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Basin.

Today you say goodbye to your Journey Latin America tour leader and fly from Cusco to the jungle town of Puerto Maldonado, situated on the Madre de Dios River only 50mins from Cusco but light years away in its culture, climate and geography. The town is prospering as a result of the invasion of gold prospectors seeking to make their fortunes panning the river and its tributaries, as well as being a market centre for the surrounding villages. Your lodge, which is located a 1hr boat trip from Puerto Maldonado, is an eco-friendly property built in harmony with the environment and well run. All meals are included and showcase the local flavours of the region. English-speaking guides (some of the best in the region) will be on hand 24hrs a day to look after of you and introduce you to the ecosystem and the complex relationship between plants, insects, animals and birds.

Day 20

Discover the rainforest from a jungle lodge.
A network of nature trails weaves through the surrounding forests, and there are lakes to explore and a canopy walkway. Large animal sightings are rare, although you may see monkeys, caiman and otters, but the main interest is the forest itself with its wide variety of colourful birdlife.

Several excursions will be made using the lodge as base camp, including a walk to an oxbow lake where the birds, reptiles and mammals are more exposed to view, an evening boat trip spotting alligators, exploration of a tributary in a small canoe or a night time jungle walk.


Day 21

Fly back to Lima and connect with your international flight or continue with an extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

21 days from £2988pp

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