The trip starts in the beautiful colonial city of Arequipa, replete with history and culture and the gateway to the Colca Canyon.
Nestled at 2,325m/7,628ft metres, Arequipa is called the ‘white city’ sits at the foot of three tremendous volcanoes: El Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu.
From here we travel to the Colca Canyon via Chivay to see the famous Andean condors flying.
With a year-round spring climate and sunshine guaranteed for 300 days of the year, Colca is the perfect place to begin acclimatising before continuing upwards.
It is well worth a visit to the Colca Canyon – read our blog for travel advice for a trip here.
We have a trip from Arequipa that will take you to the soaring condors of the canyon.
Arequipa’s attractions include the Cathedral, Compañía de Jesús Church, Santa Catalina Convent and the Dama de Ampato (Juanita Mummy) Museum.
Built of earthquake-resistant sillar, a white pumice stone, the city has a rich historic and cultural heritage, and offers natural beauty and scenic landscapes.
See condors close-up, soaring and flying on thermals in the Colca Canyon - the world's deepest.
Arequipa's historical centre, including Santa Catalina convent.
Look for hand-woven souvenirs made by the highly-skilled weavers in the area.
Gentle walks through stunning mountain scenery.
Marianne and driver from Arequipa to Colca Lodge were great. Very informative and Marianne was quite a character. Lovely bubbly personality. The driver was kind and drove safely.
Colca Lodge was amazing and it was great having the 3 nights here to relax. We did a half day tour of the canyon including the Condor cross, villages and surroundings. We used a guide and driver from the lodge that were excellent. On the second day we walked up to the local village and watched the school kids dancing in the main square - apparently they do this every morning from about 6.30am.
We then did a walk which took us through the village, past some amazing scenery and up to some pre-inca ruins and waterfall. Walking back to the lodge the path took us through the terraces of working farmland.
The food was good and the staff were good.
Jen Gibbons, Qatar
We welcome you at Arequipa airport or bus station, and take you to your hotel in Arequipa.
Free time to explore the city.
Today we explore Arequipa on a guided tour.
Evidence suggests that there have been people living in the Arequipa area for six to eight thousand years. The early inhabitants were hunter-gatherers. In the 7th century the Huari culture made an impact as did the later Tiahuanaco culture (10th century) and then the Incas.
Today Arequipa (officially founded by the Spanish in 1540) is an important commercial city of 650,000 inhabitants.
The 17th and 18th centuries saw the city’s importance grow thanks to the silver mined at Potosi in Bolivia and, in the 19th century, from the export of alpaca wool to Britain. There are several impressive sillar colonial buildings, the most well known being the incredible ‘mini city’ of the Santa Catalina Convent.
Not to be missed is the excellent museum (Museo Santuarios Andino) housing the Inca mummy Juanita (it was found at over 6,000m/19,6895ft on Ampato in 1995).
Another must is Santa Catalina convent. Founded in 1579 and closed to all visitors until 1970, this fascinating labyrinth of alleyways is a city in itself. At one time 300 nuns lived here shut away from the world. A tour gives an impression of what life must have been like – don’t forget your camera.
You are collected from your hotel and travel through Colca Valley, passing the Pampas Cañahuas where vicunas, the South American camel, can be found.
We head to Patapampa (4,800m/15,748ft) where we are rewarded with fantastic views of the surrounding volcanoes. We travel on to Chivay, and in the afternoon we visit the thermal baths at Clera.
Night in hotel in Chivay, where you can choose accommodation from a cosy lodge to luxury spa, depending on your tastes and budget.
The head of the Colca valley is at about 4,000m above sea level. At this altitude very little grows and the land is only used for grazing. Lower down the valley, around Chivay (3,633m/11,919ft), the land is suitable for agriculture; here the typical agricultural terraces are seen.
A few kilometres from Chivay the valleys begins to narrow and the sides steepen to form the Cañon de Colca, which has an average depth of 3,400m/11,155ft for over 100km.
Although there is evidence of occupation here several thousand years ago, the landscape owes its appearance to the more recent pre-Inca Collaguas and Cabanas people. They were great agriculturalists and the designers and builders of the characteristic irrigation canals and terraces of the Colca Canyon.
Their gods were the region’s mountain spirits; Hualqa-Hualqa mountain (6,075m/19,931ft) was worshipped for its power to control the water flowing into the valley.
Now, as then, the Colca agricultural produce is some of the best in Peru. Volcanoes bordering the canyon include Coropuna (6,425m/21,079ft) and Ampato (6,320m/20,735ft). North of the canyon is the Cordillera Chila, one of whose peaks (Mismi, 5,596m/18,360ft) is considered the source of the Amazon River.
A hundred kilometres long, the incredible gorge of the Colca canyon is said to reach a maximum depth of 3,400m/11,155ft) – twice that of the Grand Canyon. It was formed through a fault in the earth’s crust being eroded over thousands of years by the largest river of the Peruvian coast, the river Colca.
Although a mere 160km north of Arequipa, its full extent was recognised only as recently as 1954; the first major explorations took place in 1978 and the first descent by raft and canoe in 1981.
On both sides of the canyon you’ll find picturesque villages whose inhabitants will help you with directions. Cave paintings suggest that people have lived here since the fist humans arrived in the Andes.
The characteristic terraces of the Colca valley rival those of the Incas. They were carved out of the land 1,400 years ago by the Collaguas, who were Aymaras from Tiahuanaco, and the Cabanas, who were of Quechua origin, both pre-Incan people with an advanced level of agricultural development. The terraces are still widely used. Many local people still wear distinctive and colourful traditional costumes, and the valley boasts an extraordinary genetic variety of potatoes, corn, quinua, maca, oca, and isaño.
We leave early to reach Cruz de Condor (3,800m/12,467ft) and watch the majestic birds riding the thermals.
On our return we stop at various points of interest including the towns of Yanque, Maca and Chivay, returning in the afternoon to Arequipa. There is also a tourist bus which leaves from Chivay and drives across the Altiplano, making stops en route to Puno, for those who wish to head to Lake Titicaca without returning to Arequipa.
We transfer you from your hotel for your onwards journey.
Prices From $450 / £382 per person
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Transport, hotel with private bathroom, breakfasts, English speaking guides on tours.
Flights (we can look into these for you), meals (other than breakfasts), tourist ticket (US $15 – payable in Chivay), final transfer out, insurance, personal items, tips.
Hotels, based on 2-3* clean, central and with private bathroom.
Upgrades possible at extra cost (where available).
All our guides are qualified, local and English-speaking and will help you get the most out of your trip.
You meet different guides for different tours, each with specialist knowledge of the areas you are visiting.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for if we are notified in advance, please ask for more information.
Breakfasts at the hotels will generally consist of hot drinks, toast, jams, cereals, fruits and eggs.
If at a local restaurant, it will often include soup to start, a main of rice with meat and/or veg. and a small pudding. Dinners are similar, and often served buffet style.
When eating out under your own steam, there are a host of restaurants to choose from in Arequipa, and a few in Chivay.
Note: In remote hotels, meals may only be available from your hotel.
This trip is open to people with a penchant for exploring, with a positive attitude and outlook. The days are not strenuous, in walking terms, but we are out and about seeing things on a daily basis.
Being at altitude will most likely provide the biggest challenge – see Practical Information for more.
You don’t need a specific fitness level as such, but to be adaptable, enjoy being outdoors and viewing sites etc.
Peru is the perfect holiday destination for adventure travellers that want an amazing variety of activity, geography and cultural travel experiences.
The breadth of travel experiences in Peru is breathtaking – from trekking in the Andes to Machu Picchu to the tropical jungle of the Amazon, and plenty in between.
The people of Peru make it a special destination too, with its colourful and traditional street life and friendly locals.
Peru is made up of 3 distinct geographical areas: the coast, the mountains and the jungle.
The costa or coastal region is a narrow ribbon of desert 2,250 km long, crossed by fertile river valleys flowing from the Andes. It takes up 11% of the country and holds more than 40% of the population.
The cold Humboldt current gives rise to a blanket of mist – the garua – which hangs above coastal cities like the capital Lima from May to November.
Heading east, you’re soon climbing above the garua and into the Andes. The sierra, or mountainous region, covers some 25% of Peru’s territory and contains 50% of the population. The sierra inhabitants are mainly Indigenous or Mestizo, and many still speak Quechua or Aymara.
The sierra contains dozens of 6,000-metre snow peaks and volcanoes, including Huascaran (6,768m) the highest mountain in the tropics. The deep valley basins contain most of the towns and arable land; the terracing and canal systems of the Incas and pre-Incas are often still used today.
The eastern Andes are heavily forested up to 3,350m and sweep down into the Amazon Basin.
Peru’s selva or jungle makes up almost two thirds of the country’s area, but holds only about 6% of the population: the only towns with significant populations are Iquitos and Pucallpa.
You can also read about the weather of Peru in our blog.
Peru is located in the southern tropics (latitudes 0º to 18º), but climate varies significantly according to season, altitude and region.
Lima & the coast
From May to October, Lima is often overcast, but with minimal precipitation. There are sunny spells, and it’s a fresh to pleasant 13-20ºC.
At the same time, inland areas and the north coast mid to high 20’s ºC.
November to April is generally warm and sunny and Lima enjoys warm temperature of 19-25ºC, with the coast averaging 22-30ºC.
Climate depends largely on altitude. As a rule of thumb, below 2,000m climate is mild and above 2,000m warm clothing is required for evenings, nights and early mornings.
The Andean sun is very strong.
May to Oct (dry season in The Andes)
Cusco (3,300m): Average max/min temps: 22ºC /2ºC. Average 3 or 4 wet days per month.
Arequipa (2,380m): Average max/min temps: 26ºC /9ºC. Sunny more than 340 days/year with minimal precipitation.
On highland treks: Conditions are generally dry. However, at this time of year, expect a range of conditions within a single day: cold/freezing nights at camps above 4,000m, where pre-dawn temperatures can be -5ºC; warm, spring-like mornings and afternoons; and cold evenings.
Note that mountain weather can be fickle and localised, and that precipitation is not unknown in the dry season. Expect temperatures to swing between sun and shade, sheltered and exposed ground and with altitude gain and loss. A quick-setting sun means temperatures drop fast.
In the cloud forest, e.g. around Machu Picchu, daytime conditions are generally warm or hot, and evenings cool.
Nov to March/April (wet season in The Andes)
Cusco: Average max/min temps: 23ºC /6ºC. Average 13 wet days per month.
Arequipa: Average max/min temps: 25ºC /14ºC.
On highland treks: Wetter conditions, with cooler days and milder nights than dry season. Jan-Mar usually the wettest months.
The Amazon rainforest
Year-round, weather conditions are hot and humid and there is always the risk of rain
There is a ‘dry season’ in Tambopata and Manu between May and October. The average daytime high temperature is between 25°C and 34°C and the average nighttime low is between 16°C and 22°C. Heavy downpours typically occur every few days.
Around 80% of annual average rainfall – approx 2,000 mm in Manu and Tambopata and 1,400 mm in Iquitos – occurs in the wet season Nov-April.
On rare occasions, between May and September, cold fronts from Argentina – ‘friajes’ – can sweep into southwest Amazonia and push temperatures down to 9° C. (Friajes usually last between 1 and 3 days).
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
When planning for the varied climatic conditions you will encounter across Peru, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system.
The sun is very strong throughout the country, so good sun cream, a hat and sunglasses are vital.
It can also get very cold at night time especially in the mountains. Jumpers, fleeces and warms hats – which you can buy there – are also essential.
Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.
Below is a more detailed guide.
Detailed kit list
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Peru boasts in its Amazonian region a vast swathe of world-class tropical wilderness with several rain forest and cloud forest reserves which are home to an immense diversity of wildlife.
Accessible from Lima, Iquitos or Cusco, the Amazon jungle is just a short flight away.
In Peru’s southeast lies the extraordinary region comprising the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene and Manu National Parks, with the greatest animal and plant diversity anywhere in the world.
Whether you choose to base yourself at a comfortable lodge or enjoy a more demanding camping trip, you can be sure of a unique, exhilarating and unforgettable experience.
The beautiful colonial city of Arequipa is replete with history and culture, and is the gateway to the condors of Colca Canyon.
Nestled at 2,325m/7,627ft, the ‘white city’ sits at the foot of three tremendous volcanoes: El Misti (5,821m/19,098ft), Chachani (6,075m/19,930ft) and Pichu Pichu (5,542m/18,182ft).
With a year-round spring climate and sunshine guaranteed for 300 days of the year, it is the perfect place to begin acclimatising before continuing upwards.
Nearby is the famous Colca Canyon. At hundred kilometres long, this incredible gorge is said to reach a maximum depth of 3,400m/11,155ft – twice that of the Grand Canyon.
An overnight tour to Colca gives you the chance to see the iconic, soaring condors of the canyon.
Cusco is the archaeological and cultural capital of South America.
The one-time centre of the vast Inca Empire is a bustling highland city with bags of character.
Its whitewashed streets and plazas feature a fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish colonial stonework and offer endless possibilities for exploration.
You don’t have to venture far to find outstanding examples of high quality Inca architecture, including the monumental temple fortress of Sacsayhuaman.
There is also the fertile farming land of the Sacred Valley on the doorstep, with many Inca terraces, temples and fortresses, plus colourful local markets and small villages.
At night, Cusco offers an excellent array or restaurants and bars plus the continent’s best Andean folk music scene.
In the northeast of Peru lies Kuelap – the jewel in the massive archaeological crown of the Chachapoyas Cloud People.
The mystical structure of Kuelap – dubbed the Peru’s second Machu Picchu by locals – is 1,200 years old.
It features massive limestone walls towering 60 feet, pottery, bones and hundreds of mysterious round stone structures, and away from the crowds of other sites.
This is a remote area of sub-tropical valleys, half way down the eastern slopes of the Andes. The jungle is impenetrable, dense with low trees, bromeliads, bamboos, orchids and mosses.
Lake Titicaca, at around 4,000m/13,123ft above sea level, is a vast shimmering body of water on the Peru/Bolivia border.
It is the world’s highest navigable lake, set against a breathtaking background of towering ice-covered Andean mountain peaks.
The islands and shoreline of Lake Titicaca support many Indian communities, including the well known floating islands of Uros and the more remote islands of Taquile and Amantani. Here, traditions are strong and it appears time really does stand.
Agriculture, fishing, knitting and weaving are important to the islanders and by staying a day or two you gain just a small insights into this traditional way of life.
Islanders welcome tourists into their homes and this is a wonderful opportunity to experience island life.
Lima, the capital city of Peru, is a vibrant bustling place with a wide variety of things to do.
Stroll or bike around the historic centre, visiting the many museums or just chilling out in a café or restaurant in Miraflores.
In Parque Kennedy you can sit outside in Parisian fashion and watch the world go by in cafes and restaurants, or walk to the shore and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
There are a number of artisan shops & market stalls, plus a big silver jewellery trade, and a burgeoning number of top end restaurants with delicious food.
The centre of Lima is home to impressive Colonial architecture – Plaza de Armas has the Palace, official residence of the president, on one side, and on another is the Cathedral.
San Francisco Church, home of the Catacombs, is well worth a visit, as is the Inquisition museum.
Nothing says Peru quite the way Machu Picchu does.
The Lost City of the Incas, perches dramatically on a ridge-top 400 metres above the Urubamba river. The extensive site, with its many terraces, temples and palaces, is set amid a beautiful landscape of deep gorges and thickly forested mountains.
When Machu Picchu was rediscovered early in the 20th century and cleared of forest, it was found to be very well preserved. It has since presented archaeologists with many unanswered questions regarding the role it played in Inca times.
The sense of grandeur, whether you arrive on the Inca Trail or not, is impressive.
Try to arrive early at the site to enjoy it at its best – and late afternoon can often see you almost alone in the ruins.
North east of Lima, the Cordillera Blanca offers fantastic mountain scenery and some of the best trekking and climbing in the Andes.
The Cordillera Blanca boasts dozens of peaks over 6,000 metres, including Peru’s highest Huascaran at 6,768m/22,205ft above sea level.
The Blanca range also contains the world’s largest concentration of tropical glaciers.
This is an ideal destination for treks, from just a few to 12 days or so and also an ideal starting place for learning or improving mountaineering skills.
The nearby Huayhuash mountain range contains a dazzling array of snow peaks including seven summits above 6,000 metres.
This is a trekking paradise with breathtaking majestic panoramas and stunningly remote and picturesque camping spots. There is no better place to visit to get away from it all.
2023 price, per person, shared room basis
Price based on two people
Shorter/longer stays possible
Single supplement applies
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Students Study Food Insecurity & Climate Change in Peru University of Edinburgh students and teachers report back from Peru, where they learned how traditional farming techniques could help prevent climate change and reduce food insecurity. The team visited coastal Lima, the Cusco Highlands, and the cloud forest. For Andean Trails and our local team, it was a chance to showcase a side of Peru that many visitors may not see when passing through. It went so well that the University has already signed up its team to another Food Security tour in the spring of 2024. Learning About …
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