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Peru by Rail

10 days from £6,002pp

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Peru by Rail:
Trip Dossier

Enhance the magic that is Peru on this sumptuous short holiday where you travel between the highlights by luxury train. You’ll get a different perspective on this country of such great variety, as you glide through countryside of fields bulging with fruit and vegetables and along wind-buffeted prairies rimmed by ice-jacketed Andean mountains.

Travel by train to and from Machu Picchu, perched on a saddle where the mountains descend to the Amazon jungle. Then from the Sacred Valley you board another luxury rail service. This is a train with a difference: you spend two nights actually sleeping on the train – not in a couchette, but a luxury fully furnished stateroom. The train will be halted at remote, utterly peaceful locations, where you can enjoy blissful, uninterrupted sleep. 

In Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley you will stay in first class hotels reflecting the same standard of luxury and service as the trains which are operated by Belmond, formerly Orient Express, whose prestigious history and experience in train travel means you will be in good hands.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Lima, transfer to hotel on the Pacific coast.

Day 2

Guided tour of colonial Lima and the Larco Museum. Fly to Cusco.

Day 3

Full day guided tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Day 4

By luxury train to Machu Picchu and guided tour of the ruins.

Day 5

Revisit the ruins and return to Cusco by luxury Hiram Bingham train.

Day 6

Guided tour of Cusco and nearby Inca ruins.

Day 7

By luxury train to Lake Titicaca.

Day 8

Onward by luxury train to Arequipa.

Day 9

Arrive in Arequipa, the White City.

Day 10

Transfer to the airport and fly to Lima for your international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Lima, transfer to hotel on the Pacific coast.
 

Lima is 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.

The renovated colonial centre has many historic churches and buildings decorated with intricate balconies. There are also several excellent museums. A number of world-class restaurants have opened, and the city is fast becoming the gastronomic capital of South America.

You will be escorted from the airport to your hotel by one of our local representatives. Your hotel, the Belmond (formerly Orient Express) Miraflores Park, is situated in a dramatic location on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

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Lima

Day 2

Guided tour of colonial Lima and the Larco Museum. Fly to Cusco.
 

Plaza San Martín, with its colonial churches, promenades and palaces marks the beginning of a tour unearthing the country's eventful past. You’ll visit several palaces including the Torre Eagle Palace, built for the treasurer of the Royal Spanish fleet, and the baroque/Moorish monastery of San Francisco with its library and catacombs.

Continue to the Larco Museum, one of the finest in Latin America, housing a vast collection of pre-Columbian pieces. The majority of artefacts are ceramics and there is also a collection of textiles, gold and silver work, and mummies.  We love this museum, so we have included a special guided tour just for you.

Afterwards, fly to Cusco high in the Andes. On arrival at the former Inca capital, take a scenic 80km road dropping down in to the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. The intensively cultivated valley is patch-worked by fields of cereals and vegetables, speckled with tiny adobe farmsteads and colonial villages, and fringed by broom and wildflowers.  The road follows the route of the Urubamba River, which flows towards the attractive town Urubamba near which your hotel is sited.

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larco museum

Day 3

Full day guided tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
 

Once the bread-basket of the Inca Empire, the Sacred Valley was heavily populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins recall the highly developed Inca society.

You visit Pisaq, a colonial village, with terraces and Inca fort high above. The engineering and preservation are unrivalled. From the flat valley floor the sculpted hillside rises up like a green staircase to the heavens.

Continue to the temple fortress 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 conquistadores. 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.

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sacred valley peru

Day 4

By luxury train to Machu Picchu and guided tour of the ruins.
 

Travel by Hiram Bingham luxury train from Ollantaytambo to the ruins of Machu Picchu. All the stops are pulled out to give you a wonderful first class experience, with gourmet cuisine and commentaries by expert guides.

As the Urubamba River 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 modern day village of Machu Picchu.

The majestic ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, is reached by minibus up a sinuous road. 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.

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Machu Picchu Peru

Day 5

Revisit the ruins and return to Cusco by luxury Hiram Bingham train.
 

Since you have stayed overnight at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge (at the ruins), and so are not restricted by the small window of opportunity offered by a day trip, there’s time to revisit the ruins and take one of the many trails within the site itself.

It’s a short 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 torturously steep Huayna Picchu mountain the other side of the valley, but you need to book in advance.

Return to Cusco by Hiram Bingham train. The final bit into the city is by road, avoiding a laborious switchback section of track.   

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Cusco, Peru

Day 6

Guided tour of Cusco and 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, its lanes 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 have a guided tour of the city. You visit Q’oricancha, once the principal Inca Sun Temple, with intricate stonework, and then explore the colossal zigzag walls of Sacsayhuamán, brooding on a hillside above Cusco. The first conquistadores to see it were awestruck, and centuries later it is still an extraordinary and imposing sight.

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Lamas at Sacsayhuaman

Day 7

By luxury train to Lake Titicaca.
 

It’s back on to the track with a sumptuous rail journey across the altiplano to Lake Titicaca. 

The train heads southeast towards Lake Titicaca across the upper Vilcanota Valley to the Andean heartland. It slowly climbs out of the bowl in which Cusco is set, passing through eucalyptus groves and small farmsteads where adobe houses punctuate tiny vegetable fields.  

As it ascends the landscape becomes more of a wilderness, with gently rolling tawny plains grazed by llamas and alpacas, while jagged snow-splashed mountains rear up on the horizon. There are a few market towns such as Sicuani en route and there's a stop at the Inca ruins of Raqchi, famed for the towering stone-and-adobe walls of its temple to the Inca God Viracocha. 

After tea, at sunset, you pause at La Raya, the highest point and watershed at 4,350m notable for its hot springs. Dinner is taken on board and the train comes to a halt outside Puno. It will be dark now: but after a peaceful night in your cabin you'll awake to dawn at the lakeside.

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Belmond Luxury Sleeper

Day 8

Onward by luxury train to Arequipa.
 

Continue by rail down the western flank of the Andes through volcanic desert landscapes to Arequipa.

Situated on the scrubby steppes of the altiplano is Lagunillas, a sapphire lake fringed by rocky crags. Llamas and alpacas graze near the shores. You take an early breakfast on board with views over the chilly water, which is frequently dotted with flamingos. 

Disembark to inspect the remote Sumbay Caves, whose walls are covered with striking pre-Columbian folk art. There are over 500 images and some are estimated to be over 8,000 years old.

After lunch continue down towards the Spanish colonial White City of Arequipa; it's a savage territory of distorted rocks and volcanic peaks, interspersed with tough grassland grazed by protected vicuña, the daintiest of the llama family with incredibly soft and valuable creamy-tan wool.

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lake titicaca

Day 9

Arrive in Arequipa, the White City.
 

Arequipa is Peru’s second city, a traditional rival to Lima, relatively calm and conservative in comparison to the dynamic capital. The buildings here are constructed from sillar, a white-grey volcanic stone, and appear translucent against a rich blue sky. The domes, spires and pillars add to a somewhat Middle Eastern aspect. The city lies at the foot of the slopes of the conical El Misti Volcano. The Santa Catalina Convent complex is the highlight to visit here.

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Arequipa

Day 10

Transfer to the airport and fly to Lima for your international flight.
 

UK clients arrive home the following day.

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Essential information

Transport

2 flights (1hr); 3 rail journeys (Cusco to Machu Picchu return, 3 day, 2 night train journey Cusco to Puno (overnight) Lagunillas (overnight) and Arequipa.

Accommodation

Here we are proud to accommodate you in three of Belmond's luxury properties in Peru in Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. All are extremely well located and with some local character, whether traditional or contemporary in style. Service is exemplary. The hotel in Arequipa is also first class.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch (on the train)  and tea days 3 dinner (on the train) day 4; full board days 7,8 (on the train).

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: Colonial city tour and Larco Museum.
• Sacred Valley: Excursion to Pisaq and Ollantaytambo.
• Machu Picchu: Guided tour.
• Cusco: City tour and Sacsayhuamán ruins.
• Visit the Inca site at Raqchi.
• Lake Titicaca : Uros Islands.
• Visit the Sumbay Caves near Lagunillas.

Entrance fees to sites above included.

Summary of nights

10 days, 9 nights: Lima 1; Sacred Valley 2, Machu Picchu 1, Cusco 2, Lake Titicaca (train) 1, Lagunillas (train) 1, Arequipa 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

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-$60 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. 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 welcomed 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. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able-bodied, reasonably fit visitors, including families. In other cases, and if you have a disability or other special requirements, please call us.

See “Altitude” below.

Climate

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 March when there are showers most afternoons. Arequipa is dry ans mostly sunny all year round.

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.

Altitude

Your stays in the Sacred Valley (,2800-3000m), Cusco (3,400m), Machu Picchu (2,400m), Puno (3,800m),  and Arequipa (2,300m) are at high altitude. Most people are only mildly affected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol for the first couple of days at altitude), you’ll probably be OK. 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. 

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 waterproof/breathable 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 repellant, sun block and sun glasses. You might take swimwear for pools or hot springs 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. They are more strict on the size of luggage than the weight. It must fit on the overhead rack.

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, and must be applied for by you personally.
Passports must be digital e-passports with an embedded chip. 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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