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Family Peru: Machu Picchu and Amazon adventures

19 days from £3,575pp

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Family Peru: Machu Picchu and Amazon adventures:
Trip Dossier

The top sights of Peru will leave all the family thrilled by the scenic grandeur, ruined temples, colonial cities and exotic wildlife. You travel from the dizzy heights at the rim of the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world, and the floating reed islands of the Uros Indians on Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu, the Inca Lost City, once buried under the tropical forest which surrounds it.

Fly from the vast capital, Lima to the colonial plazas of Arequipa, Peru’s White City, which sits in the desert in the shadow of Volcano Misti. Travel by road up through stark desert to remote Colca Canyon, where a traditional rural lifestyle has been preserved.

Drive on to the icy, sapphire waters of Lake Titicaca: spend time with the farmers and fishermen who live there. 

Continue by road to historic Cusco, showcase of Inca and Spanish colonial treasures. It’s a short drive to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with towering ruined temples and lovely country walks. Travel by rail through a narrow gorge to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, set on a mountain saddle above the Urubamba Valley which leads down to the oh-so-close Amazon: you’ll travel by short flight and boat to a wildlife lodge for adventure and wildlife spotting.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima. Transfer to hotel in the Pacific coast district of Miraflores.

Day 2

Fly to Arequipa.

Day 3

City tour of Arequipa and Santa Catalina Convent.

Day 4

Drive up through the Andes to Colca Canyon.

Day 5

Condor spotting excursion.

Day 6

Drive to Lake Titicaca.

Day 7

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

Day 8

Return to Puno.

Day 9

Travel by coach across the altiplano to Cusco.

Day 10

Walking city tour, including nearby Inca ruins.

Day 11

Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Overnight there.

Day 12

Walking tour around Huilloc and Pumamarca.

Day 13

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

Day 14

Optional revisit to the site, return to Cusco.

Day 15

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

Days 16-17

Guided jungle adventures.

Day 18

Fly to Lima.

Day 19

Colonial Lima and Larco Museum.Transfer to airport.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima. Transfer to hotel in the Pacific coast district of Miraflores.
 
You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel by one of our local representatives. The half hour drive to the hotel through Lima is not the most enchanting introduction to this city of extreme contrasts, but it does encapsulate the invigorating buzz of a modern-day Latin American capital.
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Lima

Day 2

Fly to Arequipa.
 

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.

This guided trip offers you and your family a unique opportunity to experience the day-to-day life of the Limeños. Instead of being insulated in a tour operator's vehicle you get around by taxi and local bus: Lima's crowded, chaotic transport system is an experience in itself! You'll head to the Pacific-side, arty quarter of Barranco, famed for its village-like atmosphere, its innovative restaurants and dawn-defying nightlife, brimming with live shows and bars with spirited bands. Continue to the dock in Chorrillos, on the water's edge, and visit a market laden with freshly-landed fish.  Also explore two other markets in this commercial city, selling a vast array of produce including exotic tropical fruits and over 50 varieties of potatoes. 

In the afternoon, fly 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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Lima market stall

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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Arequipa mummy

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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Colca canyon

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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Condor

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 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.

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Lake Titicaca

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.

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Taquile

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.

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Uros islands

Day 9

Travel by coach across the altiplano to Cusco.
 

By coach 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.

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Viracocha temple

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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Sacsayhuaman

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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Ollantaytambo

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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Cusco area

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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Machu Picchu

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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peru train

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 deep in the rainforest.

The accommodation is constructed in harmony with its isolated jungle setting, combining simplicity with relative comfort. One side of each room is facing the forest and open air, taking advantage of the low incidence of mosquitoes to allow intimate contact with the sights and sounds of nature.  Insects humming, tropical birds whooping, howler monkeys growling: great fun for all!

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Posada Amazonas

Days 16-17

Guided jungle adventures.
 
Your 2 full days here are packed with adventurous, educational and adrenalin- pumping activities.

The guides are biologists, tourism professionals or come from the nearby indigenous settlements. Rainforest wildlife is most active in the early mornings and late afternoons, so wildlife spotting outings are normally at these times. You will learn about the natural environment and how the local communities benefit from it. Visit the canopy tower, brazil nut trail and camp, mammal licks, a local farm and a nearby ox-bow lake, and enjoy presentations and nocturnal walks.

In addition to these included excursions, there are other activities which can be arranged at extra cost, including a biology field project designed for teenagers, a handicraft workshop and a children's rainforest trail; and for the active guest of any age kayaking, stand-up paddling, off-road biking and canopy climbing. Some of these must be booked in advance, so please let us know what you are most interested in.

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JLA's Tamsin in the Amazon

Day 18

Fly to Lima.
 

Fly back to Lima for your last night in Peru.

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Day 19

Colonial Lima and Larco Museum.Transfer to airport.
 

Visit the Larco Museum before transfer to the airport for flight home

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Essential information

Transport

4 flights (1hr); 3 road journeys; 2 rail journeys (longest 3.5hrs).

Accommodation

Here we use a mix of family-friendly hotels, choosing accommodation we think is very comfortable but also extremely well located and with some local character. Whether colonial in style or modern they have well-equipped rooms, private bathrooms and heating. 

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 2, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12; full board days 15-17.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Lima: Tour of markets and street life
• Arequipa:  city tour with Santa Catalina Convent
• Lake Titicaca: Taquile and Uros Islands, Luquina Chico
• Cusco: city tour and surrounding ruins
• Ollantaytambo: Walking around Huilloc and Pumamarca
• Sacred Valley: excursion to Inca ruins and villages
• Machu Picchu: guided tour
• Puerto Maldonado:  daily excursions in the Amazon jungle

Summary of nights

19 days, 18 nights: Lima 1; Arequipa 2; Colca Canyon 2; Lake Titicaca 3; Cusco 2; Sacred Valley 2; Machu Picchu 1; Cusco 1; jungle lodge 3; Cusco 1.

Included in the journey price

• Insurance
• Tips and gratuities
• International flights to Latin America.
• Meals other than specified• Optional excursions

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities 
• Meals other than specified 
• International flights to Latin America 
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket 
• Optional excursions

Currency

The unit of currency in Peru is the sol.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$45 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Journey grade

There are some early mornings and a couple of long days of travel (with stops) on this holiday.

This holiday is suitable for all able-bodied, reasonably fit families. 

The streets in Cusco are cobbled and steep and you must be cautious walking at altitude (see “Altitude” below).

Climate

The rainy season in the Andes runs between November and March when there are showers most afternoons.

The dry season is in June, July and August when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically (from freezing point to 10°C). April, May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells.

Lima is covered in a dull grey mist for much of the year, although the sun does break through between November and March. It almost never rains in Lima, and temperatures are moderate. Arequipa has a sunny and temperate climate and for most of the year it is warm enough to wear a shirt during the day and perhaps a light jumper at night.

The Amazon jungle is hot and humid (30°C) all year around, and heavy rain can be expected at any time.

Altitude

Your stays at Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca are at high altitude (2,800-4,000m). A small minority of visitors may suffer temporarily from altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. Most people are unaffected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of suffering any symptoms.

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex (or similar) outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants, although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate. Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for pools though most hotels don’t have them.

Due to luggage restrictions on the train to Machu Picchu, arrangements will be made to transport the bulk of your baggage to Cusco. You can take up to 10kgs per person on the train and an overnight holdall is recommended to separate your luggage for the night spent away.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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