Peru & the Nazca Lines
Machu Picchu, Cuzco, the Colonial jewel of Arequipa and the enormous, enigmatic Nazca Lines — this is the classic tour of some of Peru’s major archaeological and cultural attractions. Explore the world-famous sites of the Inca alongside the intriguing remains of their lesser-known predecessors and immediate descendants as we climb from the Pacific into the highlands to the ancient heartland of the Inca Empire. From intriguing lines in the arid coastal deserts to royal estates on the Urubamba river on our descent to the ‘lost city’ of Machu Picchu, from colonial cities to breathtaking golden artefacts left by the earliest Andean civilisations, this is an epic adventure.
- Fly over the astounding Nazca Lines
- Visit world-famous sites, including Macchu Picchu
- Discover the Inca heartland around their capital of Cuzco
- Explore the amazing biodiversity of Peru
- Observe this area’s wonderful endemic wildlife
- The New World
- Special Access
- Small Group
- All Inclusive
We fly to from London to Lima, arriving in the evening. From here we transfer to our hotel.
The day is spent in Lima. In the morning, we visit the National Museum of Anthropology & Archaeology and, after lunch by the sea, we enjoy a walking tour of some of the highlights of the Spanish Colonial capital.
We leave Lima and drive south along the desert coast to the city of Ica. Here we tour the Regional Museum, which houses a wealth of ancient coastal artefacts, notably some very fine pots from both the Paracas and Nazca cultures. Ica is a fertile agricultural area and produces some of Peru’s best wine. Later in the afternoon we continue south to the modern town of Nazca.
Our day begins with a drive across the desert to the extensive Nazca ceremonial centre of Cahuachi. Featuring some 40 mounds that originally formed the bases to mud brick structures, Cahuachi is thought to have been a pilgrimage site, maintained by a small permanent population but visited at certain ritually important times of the year by people from throughout the Nazca area. After lunch back in the town, we visit the Antonini Archaeological Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Nazca material, including pots, some intriguing architectural models and Nazca mummies, remarkably well preserved in the dry coastal environment.
First thing in the morning we have the opportunity to fly over the Nazca Lines in a small plane. This is purely optional, but for those who decide to go it is a remarkable experience and the best way to gain an appreciation of the scale and extent of these extraordinary pre-Columbian ‘geoglyphs’. We return to our hotel for breakfast before heading on south to the coastal site of Puerto Inka, a little visited but extensive and important ancient port, from where in Inca times coastal products were shipped to Cuzco along a road that is still visible heading off into the interior. We have a late lunch here before investigating elements of this very unusual place that has wonderful views across the Pacific Ocean.
With various scenic stops along the way, we drive on further south and then inland to the city of Arequipa, at a height of 2,300m and dramatically surrounded by volcanoes. Arequipa’s Spanish Colonial centre is deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only is there much to see in Peru’s second largest city, but it also possesses a famous regional cuisine, which we will have ample time to sample.
Our day in Arequipa begins with a visit to the 'Museo Santuarios Andinos'. The museum houses archaeological material from the region but is most famous as home to some marvellously preserved mummies of the Inca period found among the glaciers of nearby mountains.
In the afternoon, we view the extraordinarily extensive and well-preserved Santa Catalina Monastery, which has long been Arequipa’s most famous attraction. Founded in 1575, the convent is a small town within a city, enclosed by lofty protective walls. It has its own streets, tiny individual houses or cells, kitchens, storerooms, refectory, cloisters and a number of chapels, most of the fabric of all these structures vividly painted. Afterwards, there will be time to wander around other parts of Colonial Arequipa, to visit the Jesuit and other churches and some of the impressive Colonial houses.
In the morning, depending on our flight time, we may be able to see a little more of Arequipa before leaving for Cuzco. Upon arrival there will be time to relax and acclimatise to the altitude before taking an optional, leisurely walk through the centre of the Inca capital.
We start out with a walking tour of Cuzco in the morning, during which we see the Coricancha - or Temple of the Sun, the Incas’ most sacred shrine. After this we make our way to the extensive Inca Museum, very close to Cuzco’s main plaza. In the afternoon, we explore the great fortress of Sacsayhuaman, its massive walls constructed from huge blocks of limestone that were dragged from nearby quarries by thousands of workers, paying their labour tax to the Inca state. From Sacsayhuaman we travel a short distance to the site of Q’enqo, built of comparably worked stone but a smaller, sacred site where observations were made of the movements of planets and stars.
We first make our way to Tipton, south of Cuzco, to see this beautifully positioned archaeological site, which has extensive and well-built Inca terrace systems. After lunch, we see the impressive Temple of Viracocha at Raqchi, built largely of mud brick on stone foundations. This is Inca in date, but is surrounded by other structures, notably a large series of storehouses that have recently been discovered to be much earlier.
In the morning, we travel to the beautiful site of Chinchero. Originally the private estate of the ruler Topa Inca, it possesses impressive carved rock outcrops, sweeping Inca terrace systems and a painted early Colonial church that incorporates a large Inca hall. We also make a specially arranged visit to a local family to witness a demonstration of traditional weaving. Later, we descend to the Urubamba Valley or ‘Sacred Valley’ for lunch and proceed to Ollantaytambo, where we walk through Inca terraces into the town.
Today we spend time exploring the main Ollantaytambo ruins, which enjoy impressive views across the Urubamba to the ancient quarry site. From here, we then drive up through the Patacancha Valley, past a number of ancient settlements, to the Inca site and Colonial church located at Marcacocha. Here, we stop for a picnic lunch before returning to Ollantaytambo, where we can visit other parts of this uniquely well-preserved Inca town.
We board the train in Ollantaytambo for Machu Picchu and travel along the Urubamba river to Aguas Calientes. This small town is situated directly below Machu Picchu and, in the afternoon, we catch a bus up to the legendary site and will spend the rest of our day here. Despite being hugely popular with tourists, the remarkable quality of the stonework and the stunning location of the site still take the breath away.
We set off early this morning to continue our exploration of Machu Picchu. This renowned site was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1983 and has since been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, alongside the likes of China’s Great Wall, Chichén Itzá and Rome’s iconic Colosseum. Once we have completed our tour here, we rest our legs and sit down to lunch in the town of Aguas Calientes. Later, we make our return up the valley to Ollantaytambo and eventually end up back in Cuzco.
A further day of exploration in Cuzco, concentrating initially on the Spanish parts of the city. We follow a walking tour that takes in the Cathedral, the church of San Blas, the Casa Cabrera and the main Colonial buildings around the Plaza Nazarenas. After a stop for lunch, we visit the Casa Concha Machu Picchu Museum. The rest of the day is left for people to enjoy a little free time, though there is the option of a visit to the Martin Chambi Museum, which displays the remarkable pictures taken early in the 20th century by the now world-famous local photographer.
In the morning we drive to the small Colonial village of Pisac to experience its lively local market, where traditional textiles and jewellery are to be found alongside the fruit and vegetables. After lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the market, we briefly view part of the extensive Pisac ruins, which lie above the modern town, before returning to Cuzco.
Today we take an early morning flight to Lima, where we visit the magnificent Larco Herrera Museum, a massive collection of first class objects from Peru’s principal ancient cultures housed in a purpose-built structure that sits on top of an ancient platform. We have a relaxed lunch at the museum before making our way to Lima airport, where we catch our flight home.
After an overnight flight we arrive back in the UK in the afternoon.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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