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 astonishing Nazca Lines
- Visit world-famous sites, including Machu Picchu
- Discover the Inca heartland around their capital of Cuzco
- Explore the amazing biodiversity of Peru
- Observe the area’s wonderful endemic wildlife
- The New World
- Small Group
We fly from London to Lima and upon arrival this evening, 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, enjoy a walking tour of some of the highlights of the Spanish Colonial capital.
This morning we depart from 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 viewing the extraordinarily extensive and well-preserved Santa Catalina Monastery, which has been 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, kitchens, storerooms, refectory, cloisters and a number of chapels, most of the fabrics of all these structures are vividly painted. We continue to the ‘Museo Santuarios Andinos’. The museum houses archaeological material from the region but it is most famous as home to some marvellously preserved mummies of the Inca period, found among the glaciers of nearby mountains. 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 we fly to Cuzco. Upon arrival there is time to relax and acclimatise to the altitude, before taking an optional walk through 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. This 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 Tipon, south of Cuzco, to see this beautifully positioned archaeological site, which has extensive and well-built Inca terrace systems. After lunch, we see the 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 complete our exploration of Machu Picchu, before returning to enjoy a leisurely lunch in Aguas Calientes. Later, we return up the valley by train to Ollantaytambo and thence to Cuzco.
A further day to explore 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 lunch we visit the Casa Concha Machu Picchu Museum. The rest of the day is left for us to spend as we wish. Perhaps visit the Martin Chambi Museum, or simply relax in a local cafe.
This morning we drive to the small colonial village of Pisac to experience its lively local market. We will also briefly view part of the extensive Pisac ruins after lunch.
Today we take an early morning flight to Lima, where we visit the magnificent Larco Herrera Museum. The collections here include objects from all the ancient cultures that we have encountered on this tour. We stop at the museum for lunch and then make our way back to Lima airport for our flight home.
After an overnight flight, we arrive in the UK this afternoon.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - Most meals included
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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