Discover Peru your way with our self-guided walking holidays.

We set up the logistics so you can tour Peru’s highlights independently with our flexible self-guided adventure holiday.

Included are all the top attractions – sweeping from Arequipa and the Colca Canyon to Lake Titicaca before rounding it all off with the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.

This is an entirely flexible self-guided trip and we can add in more days, attractions and sites – as you wish. The Inca Trail will be in a small group and guided.

More on self-guided walking holidays, Peru

You begin in Peru’s capital, Lima, and from here, you head south to Arequipa with time to enjoy the unique atmosphere and spring climate of the ‘White City’ and the nearby Colca Canyon.

We have built in a fantastic overland trip from Colca to Puno, which lies on the shore of Lake Titicaca.

From here, you head onto the highest navigable lake in the world and stay a night in a family home on Amantani, giving a fascinating insight to this native community, where there are no roads or electricity.

 

Cusco, the Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail

We turn north, by road or rail to Cusco, ancient capital of the Inca Empire.

This intriguing city combines intricate Inca stonework and colonial Spanish architecture, and you can explore the nearby Sacred Valley and its rich archaeological sites.

Fully acclimatised, now we trek the world famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in a small group,  before returning to Cusco.

Here you can carry on to the Amazon or many other Peruvian treasures – with the self-guided, the choice is yours.



Trip Highlights

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  • Self-guided walking holidays in Peru – we do the logistics, you simply enjoy

  • Lima, city of kings, fabulous seafood

  • Arequipa white city, built of vocanic rock

  • Colca canyon, deep terraced scenic valley

  • Possibility of seeing condors close up

  • Puno and Lake Titicaca

  • The altiplano

  • Cusco historical centre and Inca sites

  • World famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

  • The Sacred Valley: colourful markets, Inca sites

Peru has to be one of the friendliest, prettiest places. Really, all of the contacts were great.

Jesus in Cusco was also really lovely and warm. The hotels were fantastic, and the amount of time allocated to things was ideal.

I must say Alan, you put together a really fantastic holiday for my Mom and I really loved it, there were just so many highlights I can't really point out only one, but Cusco is a really special spot, and so is the Sacred Valley.

Our Amazon lodge was beautiful, and our guide Listen was just such a darling, by far the best guide in the Amazon.

I don't think I would do anything differently - it was really a perfect trip. Thank you so much.

L. van Nunen, Peru Tailor Made

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Lima, transfer into hotel

Join the tour in Lima.

Day 2: Make own way to airport, fly to Arequipa, transfer to hotel (B)

We take an early flight to the colonial city of Arequipa (2,325 metres/7,628ft), which sits at the foot of three tremendous volcanoes: El Misti (5,821m/19,098ft), Chachani (6,075m/19,931ft) and Pichu Pichu (5,542m/18,182ft). The city is built of earthquake-resistant sillar, a white pumice stone.

Arequipa is a city with many attractions of its own and additionally is a good base for visiting the remarkably deep canyon of Colca. 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.

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.

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.

Today Arequipa (officially founded by the Spanish in 1540) is an important commercial city of 650,000 inhabitants.

On arrival choose a city tour or wander this lovely city independently, with many places to enjoy.

Day 3: Tour to Colca Canyon, hotel (B)

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/13,123ft 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/11,920ft), 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.

Day 4: Condor viewing, take PM bus from Colca to Puno, transfer to hotel (B)

We leave early to reach Cruz de Condor (3,800m) and watch the majestic birds riding the thermals.

In spite of weighing some 10 or 12 kilos the condor, with a wing-span of over three metres, achieves amazing efficiency in flight. With barely a beat of its wings it is able to soar to great heights and glide enormous distances. The Colca Canyon is one of very few places where you are almost guaranteed close-up sightings of these majestic birds.

Around 13.00, board the bus at Chivay, and take a scenic six hour drive, with stops, through the altiplano to Puno, your stop before your trip on Lake Titicaca.

The altiplano is the vast highland plateau straddling Peru and Bolivia. There are few trees; just ichu scrubgrass, roaming herds of llama and alpaca and scattered potato plots.

On this scenic bus journey from Chivay to Puno we go over some high passes and through some wetlands with andean geese, with stops to enjoy the often dramatic mountain scenery. At some of the lakes, there is a good chance of spotting flamingoes.

Lake Titicaca is the major feature of Peru’s altiplano. This amazing, deep blue lake at 3,838m/12,592ft has a unique charm and supports many Indian communities on its islands and shores.

Day 5: Transfer to port, overnight visit to Amantani, homestay (B,D)

It’s an early start and down to the bustling port of Puno.

We set off on the world’s highest navigable lake, with the first stop being the floating islands of Uros. We step off the boat and explore these fascinating islands, seeing how people live and make the islands.

There is a chance to buy some of the high quality weaving and sail in one of the local’s reed boats before we set off for Amantani.

If you are staying overnight, the village elder will designate your host family for the night.

You are then free to explore the trails and far reaches of this fascinating culture.

Day 6: Return to Puno via Taquile, transfer to hotel (B)

After a free morning, your boat takes you back to Puno via Taquile, arriving Puno mid-afternoon, leaving you with an evening to explore the lakeside town.

Day 7: Make own way to station for bus to Cusco, transfer to hotel (B)

Today we take the train (extra cost) or bus across the altiplano to Cusco.

About half way, we climb to a pass at 4,300m/14,108ft, and then descend into the lush, fertile world of the Vilcanota valley. Eventually, turning into the Huatanay valley, we travel the final kilometres to Cusco. Archaeological capital of South America, Cusco and the surrounding region contain a wealth of archaeological and cultural treasures unequalled in the Old World.

Cusco is also a lively and exciting city boasting a wide range of restaurants and an active nightlife to suit everybody. Nowadays Cusco’s main source of income is tourism, but it remains an important market town for the many farming communities that surround it. Street markets contain a huge range of highland and jungle produce.

Cusco is a beautiful city with a unique fusion of Inca stonework and elegant Spanish colonial architecture. Legend has it that Cusco was founded around AD 1100 by the first Inca king, Manco Capac, and his sister queen, Mama Ocllo, in AD 1100. He was the son of the Sun god (Inti) and she the daughter of the Moon goddess. They were sent to earth at Lake Titicaca with instructions to and civilise humanity.

Their travels took them to Cusco, where Manco Capac plunged his staff into the ground. This was the sign that he had found the capital of the new (Inca) empire. Archaeological evidence suggests that, for the first few hundred years, the Inca tribes kept within a short radius of Cusco with little conquering ambition. Only in 1438, with the arrival of Pachacutec (ninth Inca Emperor), did serious expansion begin and soon Cusco was at the centre of a rapidly expanding empire.

Pachacutec also masterminded the design of the imperial capital. The heart of the city was Huacaypata a large central plaza, and scene of all important ceremonies in the Inca calendar. This was surrounded by the sumptuous palaces of the Inca kings. The characteristic interlocking stonework of these Inca structures is today still much in evidence.

When Francisco Pizarro and the Spanish Conquistadores reached Peru, Cusco was the thriving capital of a flourishing empire. But an internicine civil war within the ruling family made its conquest relatively easy. The Spanish were impressed by the grandeur of Cusco, but spent little time admiring it before they began to loot it of its treasure.

From the time of Pizarro’s arrival until 1572, Cusco witnessed many battles of native resistance as well as power struggles between the colonists. The Spaniards’ appointed ruler, Manco Inca, soon realised he was no more than a ‘puppet’. In 1536 he led an attack on the city but, against all odds, the Spanish managed to break out of the besieged city and retake it. The Incas retreated to Vilcabamba, deep in the mountains to the north.

Tupac Amaru, the last leader of the rebel Incas at Vilcabamba, was finally captured by the colonial powers and put to death in Cusco in 1572.

Day 8: Free day In Cusco, hotel (B)

Free day in Cusco.

Day 9: Group Sacred Valley tour, hotel (B,L)

We spend today exploring the Sacred Valley. Thirty kilometres from Cusco lies the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a must-see for its spectacular setting, archaeological sites and markets.

Pisac hosts a very good craft market and boasts a nearby mountain-top citadel. The Inca town of Ollantaytambo and Indian market of Chincheros are unique and fascinating.

Day 10: Transfer from Cusco, trek to Huayllabamba (12km trek) (L,D)

We pick you up early from your hotel in Cusco. After picking up all other trekkers you travel by bus, via the highland villages of Chinchero, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, for the three hour journey to the start of the Inca Trail

From the road there are great views of the Cordillera Urubamba mountain range and the snow capped peak of Veronica 5,860m/19,225ft.

Most of our groups have up to 16 trekkers with one main English-speaking guide and an assistant guide. Trekkers come from all over the world, and are of all ages.

At Chilca, where we start the trek, you walk down to the entrance, where your tickets are checked. Sign in, cross the bridge and make a left turn following the trail gently along the river bank until uphill we reach a eucalyptus grove and Llactapata – the first major ruins on the route. Vast retaining walls have converted the steeply sloping hillside into agricultural terraces: an amazing sight.

Just below Llactapata the Río Cusichaca, a tributary of the Urubamba, takes a spectacular plunge into the ground and runs through a subterranean channel for some way. The trail climbs steeply out of the ruins over a low pass, and the hike up the valley begins.

After about an hour you’ll reach a bridge, putting you on the other side of the valley, and will continue on to the village of Huayllabamba (3,000m/9,843ft). You will reach it in a further half hour. By this time it is likely to be very hot and you will welcome the cold drinks at the village which makes its living out of Inca Trail hikers.

First night camp with basic facilities.

Distance:    11.1km/6.9 miles

Highest point:  2,912m/9,554ft

Starting altitude:   2,753m/9,032ft

Finishing altitude:     2,885m/9,466ft

Height gained:   398m/1,306ft

Height lost:    302m/991ft

Day 11: Huayllabamba to Pacamayo (12km) (B,L,D)

We break camp and set off with our big target in mind – Dead Woman’s Pass!

Our path enters woods – first scrub, then very beautiful cloud forest where the trees are hung with moss. These fairy-tale woods will help keep your mind off the fact that you are still going steeply uphill with no sign of respite.

Eventually, however, the trees become more stunted and you emerge into a meadow, Llulluchapampa. From The Forks to the meadow is about two hours. This is the last campsite before the pass, aptly named (if you are a female hiker) Abra de Huarmihuañusqa, ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ (4,198m/13,773ft), which you can see ahead of you.

It will take you about another 90 minutes hours to climb to the top of the pass. This is the highest point on the trail, so take heart – if you survive this, you’ll survive the other passes. Take time to look around you. You should be able to pick out the circular ruins of Runkuracay ahead, just below the next pass.

The descent is steep but not difficult. Just follow the trail on the left side of the valley to the valley floor and the next designated campsite at Pacamayo (3,600m/11,811ft).

Nearby are some huts with basic toilets and sinks built by the INC.

Camp for the evening.

Distance:                     12.3km/7.7 miles

Highest point:             4,222m/13,852ft

Starting altitude:        2,885m/9,466ft

Finishing altitude:       3,603m/11,821ft

Height gained:            1,361m/4,465ft

Height lost:                 613m/2,011ft

Day 12: Pacamayo to Wiñay Wayna (15km) (B,L,D)

From Runkuracay the path is clear over the second pass (Abra de Runkuracay, 4,000m/13,123ft) and, excitingly, much of the time you are on Inca steps. The descent down the steps is steep, so take care.

Just before the trail turns right, you’ll see the sign for Sayacmarca. These ruins lie about an hour from the top of the pass and the name, which means ‘the Inaccessible or Secret City’, is apt. You approach Sayacmarca up a superbly designed stone staircase. This is a diversion (the main trail continues its gradual descent to the right) but don’t let fatigue persuade you to miss it.

Like so many Inca ruins, no one really knows the purpose of Sayacmarca, but these are the visible facts: it was built on a precipice commanding a spacious view; there are no agricultural terraces so the complex could not have supported many inhabitants; ritual baths and an aqueduct run round the outside of the main wall; there are curious stone rings set in the wall by trapezoid openings. For us the mystery adds to the beauty, and it is beauty all the way from here – if you are fortunate with the weather.

The trail continues down to the valley floor. From here it becomes a glorious Inca Road, being on a raised causeway over marshy ground that then rises up through cloudforest. Stone paving on raised stone foundations, steps and a gentle gradient make for easy walking, and even if it is raining (and it does at times) you will marvel at the Inca workmanship.

Before the climb to the third pass there is a campsite with basic toilets. During the ascent you climb through two Inca tunnels, and if it is a clear day you will have the added bonus of a view of Salkantay over to your left. The pass (3,700m/12,139ft) is used as a campsite, but it gets crowded and water is some way below. Just below the pass, about 2 hours from Sayacmarca, are the impressive ruins of Phuyupatamarca. Access is down a steep flight of stairs. Clear water runs through the channels cut into the rock that feed five baths, leading one from the other down the hill (you may camp here).

An Inca staircase leads from the west side of the ruins (the far end from the baths) and disappears into the jungle, leading you down a thousand steps. Literally. You’ll think that your knees will never feel the same again.

The trek arrives at the campsite near the ruins of Huiñay Huayna (Wiñay Wayna).  This is the last camping spot before Machu Picchu and it is often very full. Basic camping facilities, toilets, running water.

Huiñay Huayna lies just below the campsite, round to the right as you are descending, and is the most extensive of the ruins so far.

It has some beautiful stonework, a fantastic location, and an air of mystery often lacking in the crowded Machu Picchu ruins.

Distance:                     12.9km/8 miles

Highest point:             3,893m/12,772ft

Starting altitude:        3,603m/11,821ft

Finishing altitude:       2,732m/8,962ft

Height gained:             1,185m/3,888ft

Height lost:                 1,345m/4,413ft

Day 13: Huiñay Huayna to Machu Picchu (5km), guided tour, afternoon train to Cusco, hotel (B)

When we arrive there is plenty of time to take photos of Machu Picchu. We walk down through the site to the main entrance where you can safely leave your backpacks. You can also use the toilet and have a drink in the restaurant just outside the entrance. We head back into the site for a complete tour of the major sectors of Machu Picchu. The tour takes about two hours so by about mid-morning you’ll be free to continue to explore the ruins alone.

The train back to Cusco leaves from Aguas Calientes, the nearest village to the ruins of Machu Picchu, at approximately 16:30 and you get back into Cusco for about 21:00.

We suggest that after visiting Machu Picchu you take the bus down to Aguas Calientes at 15:30 at the latest (depending on your train departure time). Buses depart every 15 minutes. Check with the guide for actual times. This leaves you plenty of time at the site or to do one of the other walks nearby.

There are many restaurants in Aguas Calientes to satisfy all tastes and budgets. Of course you could also visit the hot springs that Agues Calientes is named for, which will help ease those aching muscles. Entrance to the springs costs US$5, and you should allow a couple of hours to fully enjoy them.

 

Distance:                     7.9km/4.9 miles

Highest point:             2,739m/8,988ft

Starting altitude:        2,732m/8,962ft

Finishing altitude:       2,452m/8,046ft

Height gained:              311m/1,020ft

Height lost:                 377m/1,237ft

 

IMPORTANT – Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu entrance permits.

Regulations (August 2011) mean that the number of visitors to Machu Picchu is limited to 2,500 people per day. This means that you must pre-book your entrance to the site. The entry ticket cannot be purchased in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu pueblo but must be bought in advance (by us) in Cusco.

On the 5 day Inca Trail if you wish to visit the site on your last day (day 5) you will need to reserve and pay for your entrance ticket at the time of booking. The cost is USD 80 per person.

If you wish to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain, places now also have to be pre/booked and come at an additional cost.

 

Machu Picchu mountain has to be climbed before 11am, and there are two departure times for Huayna Picchu:

Group 1 (G1): 0700 – 0800

Group 2 (G2): 1000 – 1100

 

The price is USD 80 including the entrance fee to Machu Picchu.

Day 14: Tour ends (B)

Tour ends, or enjoy onwards travel.


Prices From $1,934 / £1,640 per person

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What's Included?

Meals (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner), transfers, hotels, tours as listed, buses Chivay-Puno and Puno-Cusco, small group 4-day guided Inca Trail, entry to Machu Picchu, train Aguas Calientes-Cusco, small group Sacred Valley guided one day excursion

What's Not Included?

Meals not listed, extra trips in Arequipa, Cusco, any international or domestic flights (we can look for these for you), tips, insurance, alcoholic or soft drinks.


Accommodation

Mixture of hotels, camping and Lake Titicaca homestay.

Hotels are 2-3* with private bathrooms.

Homestay  on Lake Titicaca is basic, with some flush toilets but no showers. Rooms can be shared by 4-8 people. Beds have lots of blankets. If staying on Uros, you stay on a floating island in a woven house –  real experience – it can be cold at night.

 

Inca Trail

You will join a small group of other trekkers to walk the Inca Trail. We use four season tents, designed for all weather conditions, and with lots of space for you and your belongings.

If you travel solo and have a tent to yourself, it will be 2m long x 1.4m wide – a two person tent.

Those sharing a tent will be in a tent 2.2m long x 2m wide – a four person tent.

If you stay an extra night in Aguas Calientes, we add a 2* hotel but can book 3, 4 and 5* options on request (extra cost).

 

Toilet facilities on the standard trek

All of the campsites that we use have a toilet block with running water. Facilities have improved a lot on the Inca Trail in the last few years. If you do need to go the toilet when there aren’t any toilets then do so well away from the trail and water supplies; dig a hole, and take the paper with you in a bag to deposit in one of the several bins along the way, do not leave it to blow about in the wind. There are shower facilities at Wiñay Wayna on day 3 although these basic and most people wait until Aguas Calientes showers or their hotel in Cusco.

Tour Staff

Throughout the tour you’ll meet local, bilingual Peruvian guides with many years’ experience.

 

Inca Trail

In Cusco you will meet Jesus Sucari, our local man on the ground, and he’ll answer any questions with a pre-trek briefing.

We operate the Inca Trail together with our Cusco partner, owned and managed locally, in accordance with Inca Trail regulations.

On the Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages. We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos.

We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We try to ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.

Additionally, each year we donate to the communities our Inca Trail porters come from. We ask the community what is most needed and usually we are asked to provide materials (books, pencils, paper etc.) for the children and the local school.

Most of the porters are farmers and cannot afford to pay for all of the materials their kids require for school. By trekking on the Inca Trail you are directly helping the families and communities of your porters.


Meals

Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please ask us for more information.

Breakfasts at hotels will feature teas, coffees and juices to drink, plus cereals, fruit, eggs, toast and jams etc.

While out on tours and where included, we either supply a packed lunch of sandwiches, snacks, soup, fruit etc, or we eat at a local restaurant. These are often buffet style with soups, rice, pasta, potatoes and then puddings/fruit. Lake Titicaca features lots of fish and/or eggs.

Evenings are often free for you to choose to eat in a local restaurant. Bigger towns have international and local Peruvian options.

 

Inca Trail

Standard menu

A typical day’s menu would be something along the following lines:

Snack: Mandarins and granola bar

Breakfast: Porridge , bread, butter, jam, milk, coffee, tea, fruit juice and fruit salad.

Lunch: Wantan (deep-fried pastry filled with cheese and ham),  quinoa soup,  chicken with stir fried rice, corn salad

Afternoon tea: Biscuits, pop corn, coffee, tea, infusions.

Dinner: Vegetable soup, meatballs with gratin potatoes and rice, salad selection and swiss chard pie, fried bananas.

 

Special dietary requirements

People with special dietary requirements are well catered for. A typical day of vegan fare on the standard Inca Trail could be:

Breakfast: Corn bread,  fruit salad, soya yoghurt, quinoa flakes, hot drinks.

Lunch: Vegetable soup; broad bean, carrot, mushroom and seaweed salad with “sancochadas” potatoes. Hot drinks.

Dinner: Vegetarian minestrone soup, sautéed green beans with soya meat, vegetables and rice, poached apples. Hot drinks.

 

Celiacs/gluten free diets are catered for by replacing rice and pasta with quinoa, canihua and quiwicha as well as special produce such as camote (sweet potato) bread.

 

Water on the trail

You will be provided with boiled water every morning, and evening – fit for drinking. There are always generous amounts available.

The sterilising tablets ‘MicroPur’ can be bought in most pharmacies in Cusco. With these you put the tablets in the water and then wait 40 minutes before drinking. Try to ensure that the mouth of the bottle is also fully sterilised, by tipping your bottle up and down and allowing sterilised water to flow out before you drink.

Activity Level

The majority of the trip is open to people of good mobility and health. We build in acclimatisation, and the first tours are not physically strenuous.

The Inca Trail requires every participant to be well acclimatised to high altitude and to be in good physical condition.

We grade this as a ‘medium’ trek because of the high altitude and consecutive trekking days.

Trekkers ideally need to be used to walking while carrying a rucksack and ideally accustomed to walking several days in a row.

However, it is also open to first time trekkers who are in good physical shape.

Approximate walking times:

Day 1: 4-5 hours
Days 2 + 3: 5-7 hours
Day 4: 1 hour + tour (2 hours)

Enquire about booking

Practical Information

Introduction to Peru

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.

Geography of Peru

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.

 

Weather in Peru

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.

 

The Andes

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).

Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.

 

Overview

When planning for the climatic conditions encountered in the High Andes, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system.  It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.

To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers. Layers should have the following qualities:

  1. Breathability (able to wick away the humidity produced by sweat):
  2. Isolation (able to keep in the warm air our body produces); and
  3. Impermeability (able to impede the passing of wind and water).

 

First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.

Mid layers: These isloating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.

Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

We provide thermarests on the trek but you have to bring (or RENT, please ask) a sleeping bag (-5ºC).

We also carry an extensive first aid kit & oxygen on all trips, but these are generally for emergencies only.

Below is a more detailed guide.

 

Detailed kit list

  • 2 pairs synthetic inner socks (e.g. polypropylene, thermastat, coolmax) and 2 pairs thick loop-stitch/wool socks for cold.
  • Trekking boots – should be well broken-in, waterproof and provide good ankle support.
  • Trainers/sandals for city-wear, evenings at lower camps & river crossings.
  • Base layer leggings (1 pair).
  • Thick fleece leggings (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Goretex-type over-trousers (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Trekking trousers (2 pairs).
  • Shorts – wear sparingly in early stages at altitude, as sun burns.
  • Thermal base layer shirts (2).
  • Microfleece mid-layer shirt (1).
  • Shirt/t-shirt 1 or 2 for lower altitudes. Long-sleeved, collared shirt protects against sun
  • Fleece jacket or similar (1).
  • Warm jacket (down or synthetic). For camp and upper slopes.
  • Waterproof Goretex-type jacket.
  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Warm hat, fleece or wool. (N.B. Up to 30% of body heat can be lost through the head).
  • Sunglasses with UV filter.
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna – to protect neck from strong sun.
  • Light inner gloves
  • Warm gloves, e.g. fleece, and outer waterproof gloves or mittens (1 pair)
  • Mittens allow you to keep the fingers together, and better conserve heat (though they also make it difficult to perform certain tasks).
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Pair of telescopic trekking poles (optional, can be rented, please ask). Note: You must have rubber tips on your poles.
  • Duffel bag or large rucksack for extra clothing, carried by horse/mule/porter while you are trekking.
  • Water bottle (2 litres approx.) & purification tablets.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Sunscreen (factor 30+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags – ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

All other non-personal trekking camping gear e.g. tents, cutlery etc is provided.

 

Miscellaneous others

  • Money belt.
  • Passport.
  • U.S. dollars cash, mixed-denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • ATM cash/credit card.
  • Any inoculation certificates.
  • Personal & medical insurance certificates.
  • Presents e.g. Postcards from home.
  • Comfortable clothes for travel, smart clothes for night life.

ATOL holiday protection

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’s Amazon Rainforest

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.

Arequipa & Colca Canyon, Peru

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).

Arequipa’s attractions include the Cathedral, Compañía de Jesús Church, Santa Catalina Convent and the Dama de Ampato (Juanita Mummy) Museum.

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, Peru

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.

Kuelap, Peru

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, Peru

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, Peru

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.

Machu Picchu, Peru

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.

The Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash, Peru

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.

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