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Pelicano: Essential Peru

14 days from £2418pp

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Pelicano: Essential Peru:
Trip Dossier

This is a comprehensive holiday packed with stunning highlights. It is 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 well serviced train ride to Cusco, one of the Great Railway Journeys of the World in anybody’s book, is a superb way to drink in the scenery at a relaxed and comfortable pace.

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. 

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart Saturday, 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, Saturday.

Detailed itinerary

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

Day 1

Overnight in the capital.
Those passengers 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.


Day 2

Walking tour of the historic centre; fly to Arequipa.
You have a walking tour of the colonial centre, including the Plaza de Armas with its monumental cathedral and the government palace.

Take an afternoon flight to the southern colonial university city of Arequipa (1 hour). 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 3

At leisure in colonial Arequipa.
At leisure to explore the city. Stroll 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 (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. Wander through 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.

Arequipa, Peru

Day 4

By road through the Andes to Colca Canyon.
Arequipa lies at the foot of the slopes of the conical El Misti volcano, and also visible are the jagged formations of the Chachani Volcano and the long ridge of Picchu 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 passes 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 submerge yourself in the warm, healing waters of the hot springs.

Day 5

Condor spotting excursion; visit traditional villages.
By road along the canyon's rim, with terraced fields of traditional Andean crops such as potatoes, quinoa and kiwicha fringing the road up to the Cruz del Condor. Here you stand on a bluff looking into the deepest part of this colossal canyon, where patch-worked colours spread across the valley like a quilt, and watch as graceful condors soar effortlessly skyward from inaccessible crags and rocky ledges.

Along the way to the viewpoint you stop at a number of small villages where the women still wear hats and bright embroidered dresses of incredible intricacy. If you choose, there is the option to follow a couple of the ancient footpaths which link traditional villages such as Coporaque and Ichupampa. Walk along the paths of ancient aqueducts, with spellbinding views down on to the canyon floor, and through terraced fields.

Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru

Day 6

By road to the shores of Lake Titicaca.
A 6 hour private road journey leads across the Andes to Puno, 3,805m up 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 7

Excursion by boat to the Uros Islands.
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.

Uros Islands, Puno

Day 8

Journey over the altiplano to Cusco.

A luxurious all-day train journey takes you from Puno to Cusco (10 hours) along one of the most scenic routes on the continent (from April 2017 this journey will be done by private vehicle owing to the train no longer operating). First you cross the highland altiplano, a vast, windswept plain of bog and moor, where bowler-hatted indigenous women tend herds of llamas and alpacas, punctuated by the occasional market town. As the snow-dusted mountains close in, the train climbs to the high pass at La Raya (4,200m), and from here the scenery changes dramatically as you race down through the increasingly fertile pocket-sized fields of corn and potatoes to Cusco.

The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire, which reached its zenith at the same time as England was fighting the Wars of the Roses. 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 and bars.

Day 9

City tour of Cusco and Inca fortress of Sacsayhuamán.
Today an experienced guide gives you a 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. In 1536 a desperate and defining three-day battle was fought between the Spaniards and the Incas around this fortress. The first conquistadors to see it were awestruck, and centuries later it is still an extraordinary and imposing sight.

There is also free time to explore Cusco; to wander through its cobbled streets bracketed by impressive Inca walls, to explore its colourful, bustling markets and splendid churches, and to stop at some of the many excellent cafés. The air is thin at this altitude, and the streets are steep, so take your time.

Cathedral, Cusco, Peru

Day 10

Excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas; overnight.
Today, 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.

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.

Continue along this picturesque, patchwork valley to the temple of Ollantaytambo. 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. You spend the night in the tranquil valley.

Sacred Valley, Peru

Day 11

By train to Machu Picchu; guided tour of the ruins.
Travelling for just 2 hours 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, Peru

Day 12

Optional re-entry to Machu Picchu; 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 13

Day at leisure in Cusco; optional excursions.
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 in the surrounding region, including a trip to Maras and Moray, about an hour’s drive from Cusco, should you wish to venture outside of the city. Moray is a system of ancient agricultural irrigation paths which now form circular depressions in the earth, with wonderful views into the Sacred Valley and in the shadow of the snowy peak of Mount Veronica. From here it is a short walk to the salt pans at Maras, circular pans of glistening white carved into the mountainside. Feeling you’d like to be active? White-water rafting, cycling and horse riding are on offer.

Day 14

Fly to Lima and depart on international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Saturday.

Essential information


2 flights (1 hour each), 2 road journeys (longest 6 hours), 3 rail journeys (2, 3.5 and 10 hours).


On this holiday we use superior quality hotels, choosing very comfortable accommodation which is well located and with some local character. Whether colonial in style or modern they have fully-equipped rooms, private bathrooms and heating.

Examples of hotels include:

• Lima: Casa Andina Select Miraflores
• Arequipa: Libertador
• Colca Canyon: Colca Lodge
• Puno: Libertador Lago Titicaca
• Cusco: Novotel
• Sacred Valley: Pakaritampu
• Machu Picchu: Inkaterra Machu Picchu

These hotels are subject to change and are dependent on availability. Address and contact details will be sent out with your final documents.


Breakfast daily, lunch days 6, 8, 10; dinner day 4 & 11, full-board day 5.

Included excursions

• Lima: walking tour 
• Colca Canyon: condor spotting 
• Lake Titicaca: boat excursion to the Uros Islands 
• full day luxury train from Puno to Cusco (Until April 2017)
• Cusco: city tour and nearby Inca ruins 
• Sacred Valley: tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
• Machu Picchu: guided tour of the ruins

Summary of nights

14 days, 13 nights: Lima 1; Arequipa 2; Colca Canyon 2; Puno 2; Cusco 2; Sacred Valley 1; Machu Picchu 1; Cusco 2.

Included in the journey price

• Services of Journey Latin America tour leader
• All land and domestic air transport
• Accommodation as specified
• Meals as specified
• Excursions as specified

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and insurance
• Meals other than specified
• Optional excursions

Optional Excursions

There are optional excursions available throughout this holiday bookable locally through your tour leader once you are in Latin America. Not all excursions available will suit everybody, whilst others only operate within certain seasons, with minimum numbers or may not be included due to time constraints. Prices can fluctuate depending on the size of the party and so cannot be provided accurately until travel commences, but a budget of $150-200USD should cover participation in a wide range of the following options. The list below is only a guideline, so please enquire with your tour leader for any further areas of interest:

• Arequipa: visit Santa Catalina Convent 
• Arequipa: visit the frozen mummies in the Museo Santuarios Andinos 
• Colca Canyon: walking or horse riding excursions 
• Colca Canyon: visit to a planetarium 
• Puno: excursion to the funeral towers of Sillustani 
• Machu Picchu: re-entry to the ruins
• Machu Picchu: climb Huayna Picchu (this excursion must be pre-booked due to availability issues so please let the office know before travel)
• Sacred Valley: Maras village (salt pans) and Moray archaeological site 
• Cusco: white water rafting, horse riding, visits to Inca ruins

Travelling alone

There is no extra cost for single travellers who are willing to share a room. You will be accommodated with another same-sex member of the group who is also travelling solo. For single travellers who wish to have their own room there are a limited number of single rooms available, which carry a surcharge.


The unit of currency in Peru is the sol. 


It is difficult to give a precise guide for essential expenses but a budget of around $45USD per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the tour price, 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 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 you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. These bills should be in good condition as soiled or torn bills may be refused. Travellers’ cheques are increasingly less favoured by visitors who find them difficult to exchange as well as offering a poor rate of exchange. If you do decide to carry some with you they should be US dollar cheques only (American Express are by far the most accepted brand).


Tips are normally welcomed and expected. Local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $3USD (or local equivalent) per person per day for each of guides and drivers, depending on the size of the group. 

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.

If you would like to show your appreciation to your Journey Latin America tour leader, who you may feel has exceeded your expectations, a discretionary gratuity would be gratefully received. As a guideline we recommend an amount of between $4 and $6USD per person, per day. You are obviously free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality.


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 on this trip, though all land journeys are very scenic. The countryside walks are optional, some more strenuous than others, and you can discuss with your tour leader which are suitable for you around Machu Picchu and in the Colca Canyon. The streets in Cusco are cobbled and steep and you must be cautious at altitude.


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 is sunnier than Lima 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 rainy season in the Andes runs between November and April 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). May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells.


Your stays in the Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca area, Cusco and the Sacred Valley 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 your tour leader; 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 might wish to take swimwear for the hot springs and for the occasional pool.

Due to luggage restrictions on the train to Machu Picchu, you will leave the bulk of your baggage in Cusco. You can take up to 5kgs 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.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP. You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 


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. Clients with a different nationality should enquire or check with the Peruvian 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 $14USD 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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