Andean Highlands of the Incas and Amazon Wildlife

Machu Picchu may be the most iconic archaeological site in South America, but Peru’s wonders extend far beyond the mountain citadel.  A destination best experienced on foot, trekkers will revel in hiking Peru’s numerous ancient Inca roads through the high Andes while urban adventurists can take in the colorful colonial plazas and epicurean delights of Cusco and Lima.  For a walk on the wild side, travel beyond Machu Picchu to Peru’s southern Amazon basin with remote lodges in Tambopata and Manu offering some of the best Amazon rainforest wildlife viewing all of South America.

Adventure Highlights

Trek the Inca Trail or Salkantay Route to Machu Picchu

Explore colonial Cusco

Hike through the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Travel to highland indigenous markets and ruins

Track wildlife in the Amazon Basin

Discover Peru’s array of culinary delights

Paddle Lake Titicaca in a kayak

 

 

In just over 100 years, the Inca Empire grew to be the largest in pre-Columbian America, stretching over 2,500 miles from the capital city of Cusco in Peru’s highlands.  Their roads, temples and cities still punctuate Peru’s landscape and Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas still reside in villages throughout the Peruvian Andes, where they maintain traditional farming, herding and weaving methods.  Travelers come to Peru for the archeology but they return for the people; sharing a meal with a local family, participating in a sacred offering to the Apus or lending a hand with the potato harvest often create the most memorable moments during a journey to Peru.  All of our private and small-group escapes are carefully crafted to allow unscripted magic to occur – serendipity time if you will – and our expert local guides are pros at interpreting the culture and history of the Incas while also enabling you to explore and experience Peru on your own terms.

Descending into the clouds while trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Descending into the clouds while trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Beginning from the Coast and moving inland, Peru is divided into three distinctive zones running north to south.  Along the coast is an extension of Chile’s Atacama Desert, though in Peru this region receives cooler temperatures and fair bit of moisture from La Garuùa.  A dense fog created by the collision of the frigid waters of the Humboldt Current with the heated sands of the Atacama, La Garuùa settles along the coast from roughly May-August.  Many great pre-Incan cultures thrived along the coast, including the Moche, Nazca and Chimu who were all known for their elaborate weavings and detailed ceramic arts.

The best known region of Peru is the central high sierra of the Andes, one of the youngest mountain
ranges in the world and home to the greatest archeological relics of the Incas which include Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, Choquequirao and conceivably a wealth of other sites yet to be ‘rediscovered’.  Snow and ice capped peaks give way to high altitude cloud forests where an astonishing array of orchids and birdlife delight naturalists; adventure seekers will thrive in the challenges of the Andes, from high technical mountaineering to white water rafting, kayaking, mountain biking and trekking through the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest on the planet.

Tracking a Jaguar in the Amazon jungle of Peru

Tracking a jaguar in the Amazon jungle of Peru

East of the Andes the snows from mountains high melt, tumble down and give birth to the headwaters of the Amazon Basin.  This is one of the last true frontiers on earth, a dense green swath covering half of the country, providing refuge for hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, thousands of birds and plants and several indigenous tribes.  Expanses of this wildlife and biodiversity haven are heavily protected and remain pristine though pressures of the modern world to exploit the riches of the Amazon loom constantly.  Make no mistake, the Peruvian Amazon is the real wild deal and a trip here always promises a bit of true adventure.

Peru’s diverse regions lend themselves to a range of experiences and endless itineraries. Here are a few of our favorite destinations to get you started!

  • Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail: A World Heritage Site, this archaeological mecca was hidden for centuries, until it was re-discovered in the early 1900s by Hiram Bingham. It is an incredible feat of engineering by the Incas, in a breathtaking location, accessible by a four-day trek of The Inca Trail, or by a combination of train and bus or train and a shorter 1-day hike along the last stretch of the Inca Trail.
  • Cusco: At over 3000 meters above sea level sits the colorful historic city of Cusco, with its unique blend of Incan and Spanish colonial heritage. The capital of the Incan civilization, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, today Cusco is a must see city with some of the best dining options in the country. It is also the major jumping off point for just about any adventure through the central Andes and has a distinctive adventure-hub vibe.
  • The Amazon Basin:  Peru has some of the easiest access to the diverse beauty of the Amazon, from the river the region is named for, to one of its many tributaries.  Wildlife viewing is extremely good and both remote rustic lodges and comfortable river cruises provide opportunities to see macaws, capybaras, caiman, monkeys and the occasional jaguar.
  • Colca Canyon: Twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is typically a side trip from Arequipa, which is a three-hour drive away. Adventure enthusiasts head for the Canyon’s Colca River for white-water rafting, while those less inclined toward danger hike along the canyon for gorgeous vistas. The highlight is the Cruz del Condor, a mirador where lucky visitors might spot the Andean condor in flight.
  • Chan Chan: A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, this archaeological site was home to the second largest pre-Columbian society in South America: the Chimu. The estimated 30,000 Chimu residents built the mud city between 850 and 1470. You can roam the ruins—which contain 10 walled citadels that house burial chambers, ceremonial rooms, and temples—on a day trip from the charming northern city of Trujillo.
  • Lake Titicaca: At 3,812 meters (12,500 feet), Puno’s Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. More than 25 rivers empty into it, and according to Inca legend it was the birthplace of the Sun god who founded the Inca dynasty. On Isla Taquile and other islands here Quechua-speaking people preserve the traditions of their ancestors. Kayak among the azure waters and spend a night on an island with local families!

When?

From May to October is the dry season and most popular time to visit the Sierra (mountains) and the Selva (Amazon Basin.) However, if you prefer to avoid the crowds or the cold, consider traveling during the shoulder months of March, April or November. Trekking is possible just about year round but is ill-advised in January and February, typically the rainiest months during which some trails (like the Inca Trail) are closed for maintenance.

How to get there?

International flights into Peru touch down at Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez (LIM), on the northwestern border of Lima. Nonstop flights to Lima range from 7 hours direct from Miami; to 6 hours 45 minutes from Houston; to 8 hours 35 minutes from Los Angeles.

How much time?

One week is just enough time to get a taste of Lima and complete the Cusco—Machu Picchu circuit.  Trekkers should give themselves about nine days to allow time to acclimate to the altitude before heading out on the Inca Trail or other routes.  (Cusco sits at 11,400’ and many treks include high passes close to 15,000’) Give yourself an additional 7-10 days if you want to add time in the Amazon Rainforest, Lake Titicaca, the Colca Canyon or northern coast.

Who is it for?

If you like ancient ruins of past civilizations, fresh seafood, active adventures, colorful markets, vibrant indigenous cultures, the serenity that comes only from remote mountains meanderings and jungle wildlife, Peru is an ideal travel destination for you.  Peru is also a great travel destination for families with older children and teens!

Visa?

Visitors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand require only a valid passport and return ticket to be issued a 90-day visa at their point of entry into Peru.

How to get around?

Almost every major destination is within a two-hour flight from Lima. Train travel is limited, but fun and easy over several established routes. Traveling by car is trickier—roads are improving, but signage is spotty. Many destinations in the Amazon Basin can only be reached by river, in anything from a motorized dugout canoe to a river cruise boat with comfortable cabins.

Book one of our suggested itineraries or use them as inspiration to work with us to build your perfect private tour!


Incas and Andes 7-Day Cultural Peru Tour

From $3200 per person sharing

Lima, Peru

Experience the colonial cities, Andean countryside, and Incan history of Peru on this week-long cultural journey. Explore the colorful markets of Lima and Cusco, learn about the traditions of the Amaru communities in the Andean Highlands, hike to Incan ruins, and immerse yourself in the lost city of Machu Picchu! Read More…


Looking for something different? We specialize in custom, private travel – contact us and we’ll start planning your perfect trip!

Hotel B

Hotel B Bedroom

Hotel B – Located in the bohemian seaside district of Barranco, Lima, Hotel B occupies a restored historic mansion. The original house was designed by the French architect Claude Sahut, who was also commissioned to design Lima’s Presidential Palace and several theaters and gardens around the city. Hotel B has 17 meticulously appointed Suites, a rooftop lounge with views of the Pacific Ocean, and a restaurant by renowned chef Oscar Velarde. It is a welcome addition to Lima as the city’s first upscale boutique hotel, and the perfect place to end a special anniversary, birthday, or honeymoon trip to Peru.

 

Second Home Hotel Lima

Second Home Hotel, Lima

Second Home  -This historic Tudor mansion was once home to Victor Delfin, one of Peru’s most famous sculptors. Today, the building has been renovated into a charming Lima boutique hotel run by his daughter Lilian, and displays several of Delfin’s pieces throughout. Second Home is right on the Barranco coastline with views of the Pacific Ocean. Hallmarks include intricate woodwork, high ceilings, and numerous patios and gardens where guests can relax in a comfortable hammock. This boutique hotel also boasts a gorgeous swimming pool that is open during Peru’s summer: December to April.  There are only 6 guests rooms, each open and airy with wonderful views of either the ocean or the sculpture garden. Each features a large bathroom with a massive tub, electric heater, flat screen cable TV, and Internet.

 

Casa Cartagena Hotel Cusco

Casa Cartagena Hotel Courtyard

Casa Cartagena Boutique Hotel & Spa: This luxurious boutique hotel & spa in Cusco was originally a Spanish house occupied by regent Don Fernando Cartagena, after whom it is named. Sixteen spacious suites with private balcony feature all the amenities you need to make you feel at home and several have a mezzanine level – great for families traveling together.  Décor is a blend of classic colonial and modern minimalism. Walk to the nearby Nazeranas Plaza, considered one of the most elegant neighborhoods in Cusco, or the Plaza de Armas in the heart of the City.

 

 

 

Casa San Blas Cusco

The lovely courtyard at Casa San Blas

 

Casa San Blas Tucked away in the heart of Cusco’s most atmospheric neighborhood, San Blas, this boutique hotel is perfect for visitors looking for a relaxed option away from the
Plaza de Armas. Rooms offer superb distant views of Cusco’s tiled rooftops and surrounding mountains or of the handsome interior courtyard, central fountain, and ample terrace. Several rooms on the upper levels share a spacious balcony.  There is one apartment-style suite that can accommodate families.

 

 

Sol y Luna Lodge Standard Casitas

Sol y Luna Lodge & Gardens

Sol y Luna- Nestled in the middle of the Urubamba Valley, Sol y Luna combines comfort, artistry and excellent service with
a rustic Andean ambiance. Surrounded by a landscape of blooming gardens and the majestic mountains of the Andes, the hotel has round standard casitas (recently refurnished) and several deluxe and premium suites decorated with murals by local artist Federico Bauer.  Suites also feature flat screen TVs, heated flooring, cozy fireplaces and preloaded ipods complete with docking stations. Premium suites are split into three separate rooms (bedroom, living room, entrance hall) and have large terraces with private jacuzzi tubs.  Standard round casitas boast tastefully appointed interior, private bathroom and shower, king-sized beds and a private terrace but do not have televisions or fireplaces. Sol y Luna also features a full-service spa, swimming pool and bbq area, a stable of Peruvian Paso horses available for riding upon request and an exceptional restaurant featuring typical Peruvian dishes as well as international plates.  You can reserve a spot at the Chef’s Table and join the chef in his kitchen for a hands-on cooking lesson followed by lunch or dinner.

 

El Albergue Hotel

El Albergue Rooms and Gardens

El Albergue– Though the location right at the train station in Ollantaytambo may seem loud and busy, El Alberque is an oasis among the hustle with beautifully planted gardens, orchards, an organic farm. The hotel has simple yet tasteful whitewashed rooms with wooden beams and accents.  Many travelers come just for the award-winning restaurant, which utilizes organic produce from the farm to serve a variety of Peruvian and international dishes. Tour the farm and participate in a Pachamanca, or traditional Peruvian BBQ feast that honors the Mother Earth.

 

 

Pueblo Hotel Deluxe Casita

Mach Picchu Pueblo Hotel Deluxe Casita

Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel: Located on the edge of Aguas Calientes but a world apart from the backpacker vibe of the town, Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel by Inkaterra is the ideal base for exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu. Surrounded by 12 acres of cloud forest on the banks of the Urubamba River, the hotel’s spectacular scenery is matched by an incredible rich flora and fauna. The hotel has the worlds largest native species orchid garden with over 372 species. A lush garden, stone-paved paths and canals flowing with spring water set the tone for a relaxing atmosphere. Guests are encouraged to explore the grounds and environment on a variety of guided birding and naturalist themed guided tours. Large and bright rooms have wooden furniture specially made by local craftsmen and they are well distributed amidst the lush foliage of the hotel grounds. The UNU Spa features natural products and herbal extracts to soothe your body with a massage, sauna and aromatherapy.

 

el-mapi-hotel

El Mapi Hotel by Inkaterra

El Mapi– El Mapi Inn is a comfortable and functional boutique hotel decorated in a contemporary style, that makes an
affordable base for visiting Machu Picchu. Located right in the town of AguasCalientes, El Mapi offers an affordable hotel option while still providing the same great service of an Inkaterra-managed property. The hotel is a blend of classic styles and recycled materials, with a high-ceiling atrium and natural light.  There are 48 comfortable rooms, decorated in a simple modern style with views to the hills, a trendy bar-lounge, a light restaurant serving nutritious breakfasts and snacks, and a garden with a hot water pool.