Arrive at any time. Arrival transfer is included. Arrive in Lima at any time. On arrival you will be picked up and transferred to your hotel.
Drive south to the sun-soaked coastal town of Paracas, which serves as the starting point for trips to the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve. Check in to your hotel and spend the evening at leisure, opting to enjoy fresh seafood and pisco sour–Peru's national drink. Enjoy a drive down the coastal desert to Paracas, a sleepy fishing village that serves as the starting point for all tours to the Ballestas Islands.
There is little to do in town, but for those that love seafood and are looking to try Peru's national drink, the Pisco Sour, it's heaven.
Embark on a boat tour of the impressive Ballestas Islands, a group of rocky islets that provide refuge to sea lions, marine otters, penguins, and hundreds of species of seabirds. Next, we'll visit the Tacama Winery, one of South America's oldest wineries. Learn about the history of wine production in Peru with a resident expert, and enjoy a tasting of pisco. After lunch, drive towards Nasca, stopping at the oasis town of Huacachina to view its soaring sand dunes. The Ballestas Islands are often referred to as "the poor man's Galapagos." Home to hundreds of sea lions and many species of marine birds, including the Humboldt penguin, incredible wildlife spotting is pretty much guaranteed.
Continue south by land to Nazca with a stop to see the Huacachina sand dunes along the way.
The Nasca province of Peru is named for the mysterious Nasca civilization that flourished here between 200 BC and 600 AD. Venture to a Nasca cemetery in the desert to see ancient mummies, cloth fragments, and pottery; then visit a nearby pottery studio for a demonstration of traditional pottery making techniques. For dinner tonight, we'll enjoy a spread of delicious dishes cooked in the style of a pachamanca, an ancient technique of burying food in an earthen oven, lending a hand with the preparation. Nazca is home to one of the world's greatest archaeological mysteries, the Nazca Lines. The entire desert area was also once the home for the ancient Paracas and the Nazca cultures, which preceded the Incas by more than half a millennium.
Set off on a full day drive along the coast to the beautiful, volcano-framed town of Arequipa. Settle into your hotel and enjoy a restful evening after the day's long journey. Embark on a very long drive, which will include rest stops and lunch at Oasis Camana.
Discover the sights of Arequipa, nicknamed the "white city" for its buildings made of white sillar??a type of volcanic rock. On a guided walking tour, explore the lanes of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic center, including a visit to the 16th-century Santa Catalina Monastery. Later, dig into Arequipa's renowned cuisine with a cooking class led by a chef at a picanteria, a traditional lunchtime restaurant. Try local favourites such as guinea pig, stuffed spicy peppers, and chicha??a local beer typically made from fermented maize. Peru's second most important city after Lima, Arequipa maintains a traditional colonial style and more laid back pace in comparison with the capital. Spectacular mountains surround Arequipa, the most famous of which is El Misti Volcano. Standing at 5822m (19096 ft), it has a beautiful snow-capped peak.
Fly to Cusco, once the capital of the great Inca Empire and a designated World Heritage site. Settle into your hotel and explore the charming city on your own. Opt to visit Plaza de Armas, the historic main square; venture to the 15th-century Sacsayhuaman fortress; discover a stunning array of artifacts at the Inca Museum; and more. Every year Cusco attracts thousands of travellers who come to delve into its noble but tragic past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations around the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. Relax and explore this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude.
Drive to the scenic Sacred Valley for a full day of exploration with a local guide. Tour the G Adventures–supported Parque de la Papa, or Potato Park, a rural Andean community working to preserve hundreds of varieties of native potato. During this exclusive experience, you'll walk through the park to learn about potato cultivation, traditional weaving, and the importance of both these practices to Andean culture. We'll also visit the fascinating Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo and Pisac, and enjoy a meal at the G Adventures–supported Parwa Community Restaurant in Huchuy Qosqo, an indigenous village.
Travel by train through the lush Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes, a frontier town nestled beneath Machu Picchu. The afternoon is free for optional excursions. Take a relaxing soak in the local hot springs, visit a botanical garden, or wander the handicraft stalls in town as you prepare for an early start the following day to go up to Machu Picchu. Board a morning train that winds through the spectacular Sacred Valley to the end of the line: the village of Aguas Calientes, a frontier town nestled in the hills beneath Machu Picchu. This is the closest town to Machu Picchu, making Aguas Calientes an ideal night stop.
To best enjoy this area, take advantage of the opportunity to visit the butterfly house, botanical gardens, or hot springs. Opt for a day hike to Mandor Gardens to see orchids and a waterfall, enjoying the lush, green scenery en route.
This morning, embark on a guided tour of Machu Picchu??the 15th-century Inca citadel famously introduced to the world by archaeologist Hiram Bingham in the April 1913 issue of National Geographic magazine. After being taken through the temples and terraces of this awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site, return to Cusco by train. Rise early to take advantage of viewing Machu Picchu in the early morning light. This is the best time to view the "lost city of the Incas." Join our local guide for a detailed interpretation of the site and Inca history without the pressure of other tour groups that arrive at midday.
Later in the afternoon, return by train to Ollantaytambo or Poroy and then transfer by van to Cusco, arriving in the evening.
Discover the cultural treasures of Cusco on your own today, or opt for a white-water rafting, horseback riding, or mountain biking excursion. Alternatively, roll up your sleeves for a hands-on cooking class, picking out fresh ingredients at the market and learning to prepare an array of Peruvian specialities. This evening, visit the Cusco Planetarium for a presentation on the skies of the Southern Hemisphere, and learn about the vital role that astronomy played in the lives of the ancient Inca. Weather permitting, peer through the planetarium's telescopes for a dazzling look at the stars. Take in the Plaza de Armas (main square) and explore a city steeped in tradition. There are numerous optional activities including horseback riding, mountain or motor biking, rafting, hiking or visits to Inca ruins or museums around town.
Head south on a scenic drive to Puno, perched on the western shore of Lake Titicaca. The journey will take us through the Altiplano, a vast, windswept landscape of plateaus and plains that counts among the planet's most extensive highlands. Arrive in Puno, the region's commercial hub, and settle into your hotel. The trip to Puno takes the better part of the day, and includes stark, beautiful scenery en route as you travel through the high Altiplano region.
Set out to explore Lake Titicaca??one of the highest navigable lakes in the world and the second largest lake in South America. On a guided boat tour, visit the floating Uros Islands??built entirely of reeds??and step ashore Taquile Island, home to a thriving indigenous textile industry. For lunch, we'll head to the small rural community of Luquina Chico. Enjoy a traditional meal in the home of a local family while taking in sweeping views of Lake Titicaca and its picturesque isles. Later, opt for a tour of Sillustani, a fascinating pre-Inca burial site. In the morning, board a comfortable 35-foot fully equipped speed boat to explore the lake. Stop at various islands to enjoy the lake's scenic splendor and to meet the friendly people of these communities.
Transfer to the Juliaca airport to catch a flight back to Lima. Spend your last evening in Peru at leisure opt to explore the streets of Lima's World Heritage-listed historic center and enjoy mouthwatering Peruvian tapas. Time for some last-minute shopping in Puno before the flight back to Lima and the final stop on the journey. Enjoy one last night out on the town.