At Journey Latin America we use cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on our website.
Find out more

Peru: Drive across the Andes

16 days from £3980pp

Book Holiday Enquire online

Peru: Drive across the Andes:
Trip Dossier

We present an adventurous and challenging way of exploring some of both Peru’s highlights and more remote areas - less visited but no less alluring.

An experienced and confident driver, you are excited by the idea of tackling sinuous, cliff-hugging, rock-and-dirt roads climbing and plunging through the tortured valleys of the ice-jacketed Andes, passing tumbling rivers and penetrating volcano-studded desert. You’ll love the freedom, the control, the ability to make ad hoc stops to investigate pocket-sized adobe villages, discover a secluded Inca ruin, gaze up at a condor or survey a flock of grazing vicuñas.

Here, on a pre-designed itinerary with pre-booked accommodation, you can drive a four wheel drive (4WD) vehicle yourself; accompanied by a support vehicle staffed by experts and carrying everything you might need to deal with an unforeseen eventuality.  

Travel to places away from the well-trodden tourist path. Your 4x4 vehicle allows access to authentic locations in remote areas. Visit top sights such as Cusco as well as emerging destinations with the colonial city Ayacucho. Maybe add a non-drive extension to wind down after your expedition, such as a visit to northern Peru, an Amazon cruise or even a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

If you wish to take a break from driving for a short while on any section of the route, support staff are available to drive for you. Safety is the number one priority. If you don’t want to do any driving you can travel as a passenger in your 4x4 vehicle with a local experienced driver. If you are travelling alone you can travel as a passenger in the support vehicle on any confirmed departure.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Lima and transfer to hotel in Miraflores on the Pacific coast.

Day 2

Meet your guide and expedition vehicles and depart down the Panamerican Highway to Nazca.

Day 3

Drive up into the Andes on a paved road. Overnight at Chalhuanca gorge.

Day 4

Continue the ascent to Cachora, overnight overlooking the Apurimac canyon.

Day 5

Explore the area, continue to Cusco in the afternoon (4 nights).

Day 6

City tour of Cusco and the surrounding Inca ruins.

Day 7

Optional day trip to Machu Picchu with guided tour.

Day 8

At leisure to explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Day 9

Drive to the highland town Andahuaylas, overnight.

Day 10

Drive to colonial city Ayacucho.

Day 11

Drive past the Mantaro gorge, overnight on a ranch near Huancavelica.

Day 12

Morning horse-ride, continue down to Tarma valley, flower producing region.

Day 13

Descend to the jungle, overnight in Pampa Hermosa Jungle Lodge.

Day 14

Re-ascend to Tarma for farewell dinner, overnight.

Day 15

Return to Lima, overnight.

Day 16

Transfer to airport in Lima for international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Lima and transfer to hotel in Miraflores on the Pacific coast.
You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel by one of our local representatives.  

You are staying in Miraflores, a modern, upmarket residential and commercial district right on the Pacific coast.


Day 2

Meet your guide and expedition vehicles and depart down the Panamerican Highway to Nazca.
There will be a detailed briefing in relation to routing and equipment before you are familiarised with your Toyota Hi Lux 4x4 expedition vehicle. This will take place at your hotel or on the edge of town.

You will follow the guide/safety vehicle out of the teeming suburbs, heading south along the Pan American Highway, Latin America's most significant thoroughfare.

This paved road follows the Pacific coast and suddenly the views over the populous city give way to immense, unpeopled desert vistas, with surf-capped ocean waves crashing down onto wild beaches.

From the little port of Pisco, if there is time, you may have the opportunity to take a light aircraft flight over the Nazca Lines, huge geometrical figures carved into desert rock by a long vanished pre-Columbian civilisation.

Lunch is taken at the palm-shaded desert oasis of Huacachina, with its undulating sand dunes and lake. From here you head inland through skeletal desert landscapes to Nazca, a settlement established over 2,000 years ago. If you have not flown over the lines you can climb an observation town for an aerial view of one of them.

At sunset, you’ll arrive at a hacienda with lush gardens, pools and peacocks.

Paracas to Ica

Day 3

Drive up into the Andes on a paved road. Overnight at Chalhuanca gorge.
After breakfast you will head off road into the desert to discover the surreal and ghoulish cemetery of Chauchilla, where the well preserved mummified remains of individuals from the Nazca culture are scattered across a bleak, stony plain.

The site was discovered in the 1920s with the oldest mummies dating back to 200AD. From here, the adventure continues as you start to climb up into the Andes proper.

You ascend a lonely, winding road – all paved and relatively easy to navigate - to  a heady altitude of over 4,000m above sea level in just 90km. This will be your first encounter with altitude and the coca leaf, which is served in tea to help relieve any altitude symptoms.

As you rise above the desert to a region where rain falls, the landscape takes on a more fertile allure as green-gold pampas grass covers steep slopes where vicuñas graze. You can also see eagles, pink flamingos and the occasional watchful condor in the Pampas Galera National Park.

As you head higher towards the clouds, the route is studded with translucent glacial lakes and the horizon is rimmed by snow-crowned peaks. Picnic among wild alpacas then descend to a lodge in a gorge, half-way between Nazca and Cusco. It’s quiet, with large rooms, but there are no amenities such as phone, TV or internet.


Day 4

Continue the ascent to Cachora, overnight overlooking the Apurimac canyon.

Today you drive ever higher into the Andes and head ‘off-road’ to the village of Cachora, which sits on the south side of the river Apurimac close to the ruined Inca city Choquequeirao.

With views of the imperious snow-stifled peak of Mount Saltankay towering over the gorge your accommodation is a traditional, rustic Peruvian lodge. It’s a cosy place with a log fire and expansive views from floor-to-ceiling windows.

An optional afternoon horse-ride takes you off road to enjoy the views in the open air at a slower pace. Return to the lodge for a home-cooked Peruvian dinner.

Cachora Trek

Day 5

Explore the area, continue to Cusco in the afternoon (4 nights).
Back in your vehicle to head out from Apurimac towards Cusco (3,300m), the Imperial City of the Incas with an optional stop at Tarawasi – an Inca edifice dating back thousands of years and a great picnic spot.

Declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire. Here, precision Inca masonry and Andean colonial baroque architecture are inter-locked in Cusco's stone-flagged streets, which resonate with vestiges of the city’s multi-layered history.

You will spend three full days in the area to visit the museums, palaces, markets and abandoned Inca temples and citadels. You won’t have access to your vehicle during your time in Cusco, and you won’t need it.


Day 6

City tour of Cusco and the surrounding Inca ruins.
It’s easy to explore this easy-going, increasingly chic (but still historically evocative) city on foot.

Along its narrow cobbled lanes you will find artisan craft stalls, fruit and vegetable markets and ornamental plazas.

After a free morning, you will be offered a guided city tour visiting the churches, squares and the monumental temple/fortress Sacsayhuamán which glowers over the city from the rim of the highland bowl in which Cusco is set.

In the evenings you are at liberty to sample dinner in any of the plethora of eateries in town, which range from street market barbecues to trendy, minimalist restaurants serving fusion cuisine.


Day 7

Optional day trip to Machu Picchu with guided tour.

This is your opportunity to take an optional excursion by road and rail down towards the Amazon jungle to discover the Inca citadel Machu Picchu. The rail journey is worth doing in itself: the track clings to the banks of a shaded gorge confining the spluttering river Urubamba between vertical cliffs.

One of the most recognisable places on earth, Machu Picchu never disappoints. On a guided tour you explore the well preserved temples, residences and palaces, all set on sunlit terraces cut out of a mountain saddle smothered with tangled jungle vegetation. A buffet lunch at Belmond’s first class Sanctuary Lodge is included.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Day 8

At leisure to explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
On a free day you can choose from a range of optional adventures. Top of the list is a visit to the colonial adobe villages, handkerchief-sized farmsteads, rural markets and Inca ruins which pepper the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas, once the breadbasket of the Incas. Today corn, peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables vie for space in the fecund plain defined by steep, tawny hills.

Alternatively, take a full day white-water river-rafting trip, crossing a series of foaming rapids on the river Urubamba as it tumbles towards the Amazon basin.  

Horse-riding, mountain-biking and other excursions to cultural sites beyond Cusco are also on offer from this city of limitless possibilities.


Day 9

Drive to the highland town Andahuaylas, overnight.
Back behind the wheel of your 4x4, you head north away from the tourist Mecca of Cusco heading gently down towards the jungle.

It’s a truly isolated area of subtropical forest swathing bulky mountains, home to endangered species such as the spectacled bear. Here you can spot the Andean condor high in the sky while at your feet bromeliads and orchids abound.

This is one of your ‘Camel trophy’ moments, as the route then takes you on dirt roads to the small town of Andahuaylas which occupies a delightful, fertile valley supporting meadows, cornfields and eucalyptus and willow, at an altitude of around 3,000m.

Saywite Inca ruins

Day 10

Drive to colonial city Ayacucho.
You now head into some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in Peru as you traverse the Andes watershed, high above the Amazon jungle to the east, and the Pacific coast to the west.

Pass through Andean indigenous villages high up on the windswept plains with views overlooking the icy peaks beyond. Local people live a traditional lifestyle unchanged over the centuries, and their preferred mode of transport is the horse.

You then head down into the evocative city Ayacucho. This architecturally graceful place, brimming with ornate Spanish colonial churches (33 of them), was a centre of rebel activity and for decades off limits to tourists but is now peaceful and celebrating a renaissance. It’s still unspoilt: Cusco without the tourists, some say. Houses fronting cobbled streets are hung with wooden balconies, there are plenty of restaurants serving fortifying regional cuisine and with its mild climate it is a very agreeable place to wander around. 


Day 11

Drive past the Mantaro gorge, overnight on a ranch near Huancavelica.
From Ayacucho you ascend again and follow the narrow pass along the Rio Mantaro Gorge for some exciting on and off road adventure. This area is rich in both landscape and tradition: the sunlit valley floor is verdant with lush pasture and flecked with dairy farms; while the region plays hosts to numerous festivals and traditional weaving communities. 

The valleys are hemmed in by rocky mountains, with whispering eucalyptus trees clinging to the steep slopes. 

This road requires concentration and a steady nerve, before a steep ascent on an equally challenging track to the colonial Casa Hacienda San Juan near to Pampas, famous for its dairy products, and only accessible by 4x4.

The hacienda offers an optional horse ride into the mountains in the afternoon or morning. It may be chilly at night but you’ll be able to sit next to a vigorous log fire in the evening following your home-cooked dinner.

Rio Mantaro Gorge

Day 12

Morning horse-ride, continue down to Tarma valley, flower producing region.
After a morning horse ride from the hacienda (optional), set off once again in your 4x4 to climb up over a chilly pass and descend 1,000m towards Tarma (3,000m), the centre of Peru’s principal flower-producing region, a quiet little town enlivened at Easter by its procession over pavements carpeted with blooms.

As you approach you’ll drive through pea-green pastures rising to terraced fields splashed with the vivid colours of the flowers which blanket steep mountain slopes and glades shaded by eucalyptus and cactus.

Along the way you can way enjoy views of craggy limestone cliffs above which humpy mountains are mantled by treeless moorland.

This is the exquisite bucolic setting for Hacienda Santa Maria, a white-washed Spanish colonial ranch near Tarma, itself an attractive town on the brow of the Amazon basin devoted to producing leather and textile goods in addition to exporting flowers. You’ll have a hearty supper in the frescoed dining room, after which you can unwind over a pisco sour next to the open fire.

Road to Tarma

Day 13

Descend to the jungle, overnight in Pampa Hermosa Jungle Lodge.
Now you’ll be heading further down towards the Amazon basin. As you descend this challenging route, the climate becomes warmer and more humid, and the vegetation more dense and succulent.

This is cloud forest: misty tangles of trees - their vine-strangled boughs heavy with dripping leaves - ferns, orchids and bromeliads cling to steep slopes of valleys cut through the ranges by energetic streams and rivers.

Wildlife becomes more evident: butterflies, hummingbirds, macaws, toucans and the bright orange cock-of-the-rock bird may cross your path. It’s a precipitous route taking up to three hours further down to your eco-lodge (850m above sea level approx.), where palm-thatched cabins blend in seamlessly with the tropical hardwood forest enveloping the property. Here alongside the many birds mammals and reptiles may be spotted, including deer, river otters and monkeys all inhabit the grounds.

To unwind after a day confined at the wheel, explore some of the forest trails leading to one of the many impressive waterfalls in the area.

Coq of the Rock bird

Day 14

Re-ascend to Tarma for farewell dinner, overnight.

Climb back out of the jungle to Tarma, where you will attend a traditional Peruvian pachamanca celebration. This is basically a cooking ritual, where a dish buried underground and heated over hot stones for 3-4 hours is the manifestation of homage to the earth mother, Pachamama.

Spend an atmospheric night at a historic adobe hacienda which has been in the same family for over 200 years.

Tarma Flowers

Day 15

Return to Lima, overnight.
Today you can sit back and let someone else do the driving. According to road conditions, you will continue with a local driver, in car or minibus. Your 4x4 vehicle remains in Tarma.

From an altitude of just over 3,000m above sea level at Tarma the road climbs back over the lofty spine of the Andes and the bare-boned, elemental wilderness of the world’s second highest railway pass at a frosty 4,829m.

Vegetation is minimal here: you may have been shocked by how quickly it has changed over the past couple of days as the warm, soft jungle breeze is replaced by a chilly, knife-sharp wind.

Continue back down to the coastal plain and the oasis heralding your return to Lima and your last night dinner, where you can congratulate yourself on your now finely-honed driving skills!

Day 16

Transfer to airport in Lima for international flight.
Depending on your flight schedule you may have a free morning in the capital. It’s your opportunity to check out the highlights of this vast, historically significant city, formerly known as the City of Kings and important centre of the Spanish Empire and its plundered riches.

We recommend you explore the colonial centre, which is focused on the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin. The Torre Eagle Palace, the cathedral and the San Francisco Monastery and catacombs are but three of the top colonial monuments.  Visit the Larco or Archaeology Museum, explore local markets or take a stroll along the Pacific coast cliff-tops.

larco museum

Essential information


Self-drive, as a passenger with driver, in Toyota 3.0 Diesel Hi Lux 4WD vehicle, accompanied by support car. Solo passengers (up to two) can travel in the support car.

  The vehicle will have the following features: underbody steel protection; uprated OME heavy duty lifted suspension; rear canopy enclosure; ARB rear bumper and step; all-terrain Maxxis tyres, LED laser lights and fog lamps; rear seat mount.

  The vehicles are provided with: field kitchen kit; camping stove; water bottles; mini cooker; solar shower; 2 way radio; camp table and chairs; LED torch; first aid kit/fire extinguisher/emergency oxygen. In addition: 

  Wildlife and bird photo identification cards in each vehicle as well as a safety card. A small glove compartment bag is issued with chargers for front and rear, anti- bacterial hand wash and wipes, lighter, and blue-tooth instructions for  smartphones, along with tablet mounts for the rear seats. Bottled water is chilled and placed in each vehicle each morning, along with boiled sweets including coca sweets, and replaced whenever necessary along with a small rubbish bin. Oxygen cans are issued to each vehicle and replaced whenever necessary.

  There will be from 4-7 hours driving per day, according to conditions, except for the three days spent in Cusco and the final drive from Tarma to Lima which is undertaken in a transfer vehicle driven by a local driver. 


There is a mix of hotel standards; in Lima and Cusco they are top of the range but in remote locations we use best available hotels or restored colonial haciendas in rural settings.  All guest rooms have private bathroom and heating.


Breakfast daily, lunch days 5-8, picnic (or restaurant) lunch and dinner 2-4; 9-15.


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 clients on their return.

Included excursions

Cusco: city tour and Sacsayhuamán ruins. Entrance fees to the sites are included.

Summary of nights

16 days, 15 nights: Lima 1; Nazca 1; Chalhuanca 1; Cachora 1; Cusco 4; Andahuaylas 1; Ayacucho 1; Pampas 1; Tarma 1; San Ramón 1; Tarma 1; Lima 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.Services of local representatives, drivers and guides.
• All land transport within in Latin America including your Toyota 4WD vehicle.
• 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.

• Travel Insurance (if you are going to drive yourself, check with your chosen insurance company that you are insured to drive a 4WD vehicle on unmade roads)

Optional excursions

• Light aircraft flight over the Nazca Lines from Pisco.
• Horse riding at Hacienda San Juan.
• Jungle hike to waterfall, Pampa Hermosa Ecolodge.

There are a number of half-day, full-day or longer excursions and activities you may wish to consider for the three full days you are in Cusco in order to customise your holiday to cater for your interests. Please contact us to discuss these further before you depart or book them at the first briefing in Lima:

• Day trip by road and rail to Machu Picchu with guided tour and lunch.
• Tour of the Sacred Valley of the Inca and its ruined temples.
• White water rafting, Cusco.
• Maras and Moray, Sacred Valley.
• Visit to craft projects and Pisaq market, Sacred Valley.

Travelling alone

If you are a single traveller with flexible dates, you can participate in this journey as a passenger in the support vehicle on a confirmed departure, with no single supplement. Please enquire for details.


The unit of currency in Peru is the sol.

Daily spend

In Lima and Cusco around US$45 per day should cover the cost of modest-standard meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more and any optional excursions will be additional.

Elsewhere you will not incur many expenses as all meals are included; just make an allowance for some drinks and tips.  

How to take it

Cash machines are available in Lima and Cusco, and there are a few in Ayacucho, but none in the more remote areas. Taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number and stocking up in Lima and Cusco 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. 


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.
An appropriate tip for your driver/guides would be $US10 per person per day.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.


Travel insurance is essential. You (the driver) should have a policy which will cover you for accident or other eventualities resulting from driving a 4x4 vehicle on unmade roads at altitude.

You will be charged a refundable £900 security deposit  to cover deductions to may for damage caused by negligence or loss of vehicle equipment. This will be charged at the Briefing in Lima and you can pay by cash or credit card.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax and taxes on internal flights are usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

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

Important information for drivers:

 - Drives must be between 25 and 70 years of age. passengers must be at least 7 years old.
- You will be required to submit to us a scanned copy of your passport and driver's licence. You will be able to drive if you have no more than 6 points on your UK licence (other nationalities please enquire). 
 - No previous 4x4 experience is required - you will receive a briefing on the special characteristics of 4x4 vehicles before you leave Lima -  but you must be a confident and experienced driver and willing to drive in the dark if required by any delay. Preferably (but not essentially), your companion(s)should be able to take the wheel if necessary, so their scanned documents will also be required in advance of travel. 
 - You will expect to be at the wheel for 5-7 hours per day (with breaks) on paved and unmade roads, with the occasional foray to ford a stream. Roads may be steep, sinuous, or in poor condition, but your support crew are there to advise you. The support staff are also 
proficient in field repairs. 
- You will be travelling across several zones of climate and vegetation, including at altitudes of well over 3,000m. Rest breaks are factored in. Oxygen is present in all cars but should only be used after taking advice from the support staff. Should you have any symptoms of altitude sickness at any time, stop driving and report to the support staff.


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. 

Once you leave Lima the mist disappears and it is weakly sunny all year round on the Pacific coast and in Nazca. Temperatures will be in the late teens or 20s centigrade. As you climb into the mountains it will be colder, with rainfall especially between November and March when there are showers most afternoons.

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

It is almost always hot (temperatures around 30-35°C) and humid in the cloud forest and jungle at altitudes of 1,000m or less. 


Your stays in Cusco (3,400m), Ayacucho and the haciendas of the Andes , are at high altitude (over 3,000m) and passes you will drive over are higher. You are ascending from Nazca (591m) to the high Andes (3,998m) in just a day. The nights following days 4-6 are spent at 3,000m-3,400m. On days 10-12 altitudes of 3,000m-4,000m are attained but you should be acclimatised by then. The highest altitude you reach on this holiday is 4,829m on the last day but you will not be driving this stretch yourself.

If you drink plenty of water and do not exert yourself you should be fine. If you are driving yourself, the first few days of driving mean that you will not be taking much exercise so your body will have an opportunity to acclimatise.

Symptoms of altitude sickness vary: most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you are at the wheel of the car and suffer any of these symptoms, stop and consult the support staff. In very rare instances if you don’t recover in a day or two you may have 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 make a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts should be made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials.

If you plan to eat in smart restaurants in Lima or Cusco, 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 should take swimwear for river swims and waterfalls. 

It is very important that your clothes are sufficiently comfortable for sitting in a car for most of the day.

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


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. Consult your doctor about the use of malaria prophylactics. You should also consult your GP for specific requirements.

You can also find helpful information on:


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 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.

Page Full Path: /sitecore/content/JLA/Home/destinations/peru/holidays/peru-drive-across-the-andes/trip-dossier

Page ID: {FB8B5D1F-FBC0-4938-8B8D-9738C790456A}

Page Name: trip-dossier

Page Display Name: Trip Dossier

Page Template Name: T054-TripDossier

Page Template ID: {4B17EDBB-85D2-4A79-B178-A0CE05055C05}

Parent ID: {F5946CB1-E503-4B6D-A832-63A7C5A07CCB}

Parent Name: peru-drive-across-the-andes

Parent Display Name: Peru: Drive across the Andes

Parent Template Name: T013-Tour

Parent Template ID: {9701B79C-85FD-4A45-8072-3FFF55338F72}