Peru

Tailor-Made Tours

Introduction

Peru is steeped in ancient Indian culture – from the vast coastal deserts, to the misty ruins of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and beyond into the dense jungles of the Amazon basin.

Evidence of long-ago civilisations remains at the archaeological sites of Chiclayo, Trujillo and in the ‘lost world’ of the Chachapoyas.  Hike the high trails of the Andes, see the mystifying Nazca lines, visit Arequipa, and see the condors fly over the Colca Canyon.

Highlights Include;
Machu Picchu
The Sacred Valley
Cuzco & Sacsayhuaman
Gourmet Cuisine
Amazon Rainforest
Colca Canyon & Nazca Lines
Lake Titicaca

HIGHLIGHTS

OVERVIEW:
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The fabled ‘Lost City of the Incas’ is, unquestionably, the highlight of any visit to Peru. Built at the height of the Inca Empire’s power, then abandoned after Spanish conquest, the citadel lay hidden and untouched for almost five centuries, enshrouded by jungle and protected by its mountainous isolation high above the Urubamba River.

It may have been ‘lost’ to the world before being rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 but the descendants of the Incas had always known its secrets. You can reach this wonderful site either by making the traditional trek along the Inca Trail or by rail from Cuzco to the town of Aguas Calientes.

OVERVIEW:
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Your first view of Machu Picchu will literally take your breath away.  This site is on everybody’s wish list and the most rewarding way to arrive there is on foot.  For this reason, every tour we offer to Machu Picchu includes the possibility of walking in.  The traditional route is along the Inca Trail, although there are a number of equally rewarding alternatives.  And if you’d really love to hike in but can’t spare the time for a full trek, there is a short Inca Trail walk you can do.

For details on all the Inca Trail options call and speak with one of our specialists. to help you decide what will suit you or view them here:

Link through to sample itineraries of Inca Trail and alternative options we offer.

OVERVIEW:
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A beautiful and fertile valley just beyond Cuzco, with scattered villages and stunning views of snow-capped mountains.

Some of the towns in the Sacred Valley are:

Ollantaytambo

An ancient town on the Urubamba River with the most amazing ruins of an Inca fortress.

Pisac

Famed for its traditional Indian market selling local produce, colourful weavings, paintings, pottery and jewellery.

Chinchero

Another lively Indian market town, with fruits and vegetables as well as handicrafts and fine woven textiles.

OVERVIEW:
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The old Inca capital high in the Peruvian Andes is renowned for its extensive Inca ruins, many colonial churches and monasteries built atop ancient Indian stonework.

Today the combination of the Inca and Spanish-colonial architecture has created a truly beautiful city and Cuzco is a busy and vibrant centre that demands several days to fully experience its many restaurants, galleries and fascinating museums filled with Inca and pre-Columbian art and artefacts.

All around Cuzco the hills are dotted with Inca sites, including the massive complex of Sacsayhuaman on the northern edge of the city, an astounding feat of architecture that took 20,000 men and more than seven decades to construct.   Many describe this site as one of the best examples of masonry in all the pre-Columbian Americas.

OVERVIEW:
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As with many wildlife destinations, to have the best chance of some incredible encounters you often need to go a little further off the beaten path to reach places less affected by human presence. The Amazon is no exception to this rule. We offer many ways to discover the Amazon and its incredible wildlife. You can either stay at remote lodges with expert guides and engaging activities or cruise the Amazon River on a luxury river boat. To find out more about exploring the Amazon contact our friendly consultants.

OVERVIEW:
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The highest navigable lake in the world and the legendary birthplace of the Inca civilisation, this sparkling jewel of the altiplano is deep and intensively blue and surrounded by limitless horizons.  Visit the floating reed islands, home to the Uros Indians as well as the larger island of Tequile, renowned for its fine hand-woven textiles and clothing.

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Overview:

The Nazca Lines are hundreds geoglyphs located on a high plateau that stretches between the towns of Nazca and Palpa. The geoglyphs form interesting shapes of birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, monkeys and human figures.  The designs were made by removing reddish pebbles which exposed the white ground beneath. Due to the climate on the plateau the lines have been naturally preserved.

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Lima was Spain’s capital in South America and the buildings around the Plaza de Armas demonstrate the power and wealth of the colonial rulers. Take in the grandeur of the Cathedral and the Government Palace which reflect Peru’s Spanish heritage.  At the famous Gold Museum view the splendid displays which illustrate the craftsmanship of Peru’s many ancient cultures.

Lima is also well renowned for its exceptional cuisine. Peruvian gastronomy is among the most diverse in the world, largely as a result of its three different geographical regions – the coast, the

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Colonial Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, lies in a valley at the foot of the snow-capped El Misti volcano. Known as the ‘white city’ because it is largely constructed from white volcanic rock, Arequipa has many fine Spanish buildings and old and interesting churches including the famous Santa Catalina convent. Journey by road, passing smoking volcanoes, small villages and ancient Inca terraces, to arrive at the incredible Colca Canyon. Deeper than Arizona’s much more famous Grand Canyon, for almost 100km of its length it has an average depth of 3,400 metres! Visit the main viewing point of ‘Cruz del Condor’ (“flight of the condor”) in the early morning to watch these majestic birds soaring high on the canyon’s thermals.

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Hidden in the remote cloud forests of Peru’s northern highlands are some of the most amazing pre-Columbian archaeological ruins.  Discover the immense fortress of Kuelap, one of Peru’s best-kept secrets.  Built by the mysterious ‘Cloud People of Chachapoyas’, this spectacular walled city is perched atop a towering mountain (3,100m).

Kuelap was conquered by the Incas in the 15th century and, although discovered 60 years before Machu Picchu, it is still not as well known to the outside world.  On a 4-day program you can also explore the colourful funeral buildings of Revash, trekking up on foot or on horseback to the site on a long ledge cut high into a cliff.   Visit the Leimebamba Museum with its amazing collection of pre-Inca mummies discovered around the ‘Lake of the Condors’.  And be one of few travellers to see the Gocta Waterfall, one of the highest waterfalls in the world, discovered only in 2006 (by outsiders, that is – the local people have always known of it).

EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCES

Inti Raymi – Cusco, Peru – June
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One of the most important religious festivals of the Incan period took place during the winter solstice (and Inca New Year) when the sun is farthest from the earth; homage was paid to Inti, the Sun God, praising him as the source of all life and pleading for his return. The celebration first occurred in 1412 in Haukaypata, the main plaza of the Inca capital, and lasted for nine days that were filled with dances and colourful processions, as well as animal sacrifices to the Earth Mother, Pachamama. The annual festival continued until 1535 when it was banned by the Spanish conquerors and their Catholic priests.

Based on historical chronicles, a reconstruction of the event was performed in 1944 and since then it has become Cuzco’s most important festival, the ceremony being re-enacted on 24 June each year. It begins in the morning at Koricancha, the ‘Temple of the Sun’, and progresses to Haukaypata where certain rites are carried out, before the procession winds its way through the streets to the fortress of Sacsayhuaman where the main ceremony and rituals are performed, finishing with sounds of great rejoicing from the people.

Inti Raymi attracts thousands of tourists from all over Peru and the world as the city celebrates for a whole week with street dances, parades and performances from sun-up to sundown.

Star Snow Festival (Qoyllur Rit’i) – Ausangate, Peru – May/June
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One of the strangest and coldest festivals on earth, Q’oyllur Rit’i (pronounced ‘KOL-yer REE-chee’, combining the two Quechua words for ‘star’and snow’), takes place in May every year on a remote Peruvian glacier in a high valley at the foot of a mountain. Less well-known than Cuzco’s dazzling Inti Raymi, and more traditionally Andean, it is held to coincide with the first full moon before Corpus Christi in late May or early June. The Star Snow Festival is both a spiritual and religious festival; ostensibly a Catholic commemoration, it is said to have begun in 1780 after the death of a young shepherd when an image of Jesus appeared on the boulder under which he was buried.

Yet the Andean people were worshipping the gods of the earth and the mountains at this sacred spot long before, for hundreds if not thousands of years. The festival is known to the local indigenous descendants as a celebration of the stars. It takes place when the Seven Sisters constellation (Pleiades) disappears from view in April and then reappears in the southern hemisphere, signifying a transition from old to new and ushering in the Andean New Year which begins on the winter solstice. So this festival combines worship not only of Jesus but also of the ‘apus’ (mountain gods) in which the population has believed since ancient times, including one of the most important, Pachamama (Earth Mother).

While not many tourists attend Qoyllur Rit’I, in part because of the high altitude and very cold temperatures, around 30,000 pilgrims make the journey to the Sinakara valley at the foot of Mt. Qullqipunku (5,500m) just north of Ausangate.  They come from all over Peru and from as far away as Bolivia, although the majority are from the rural communities in nearby regions. Each group attends with many dancers and musicians, dressed in colourful costumes, and there are three days and nights of intense celebration, culminating in a torch-lit procession over some of the high passes.

Semana Santa – Ayacucho, Peru – Easter
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Ayacucho PeruSemana Santa (Holy Week) is the most important religious festival in Latin America and takes place everywhere, although the most famous events are in Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Colombia.  And in Peru, probably the most renowned are Ayacucho’s spectacularly colourful processions and celebrations – during that period the town overflows although, surprisingly, with comparatively few foreigners.

The small colonial towns in the rugged Central Sierra were long isolated by their geography and are probably the least-visited in Peru; as a result they have remained the least-spoiled.  More than most, Ayacucho has retained its original atmosphere and is filled with colonial buildings, beautiful houses, museums, and 33 ornately decorated stone churches, one for each year in the life of Jesus. Although founded in 1540 and settled by the Spaniards, today it is home to the Morocucho people, a sub-group of the indigenous Quechua.

Ayacucho’s Holy Week ceremonies actually go on for 10 days, beginning the Friday before Palm Sunday and finishing on Easter Sunday. Each day sees religious rituals and sombre yet colourful processions until, following the sorrowful rites of Good Friday, Saturday entirely changes tone. As a traditional belief holds that, since Christ is dead and not yet risen, there is no such thing as a sin on this day, so participants can behave as they please and it becomes an all-night party culminating in fireworks at dawn to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

As well as the religious parades, Ayacucho’s festivities draw huge crowds to open-air markets with handicrafts, traditional food, music concerts, folk-dancing, agricultural fairs and sporting events (particularly equestrian).

The Peruvian Paso
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The Peruvian Paso horse has a history dating back nearly 500 years, having descended largely from the original horses brought from Spain by the Conquistadors when they embarked on their conquest of South America. This beautiful breed is distinguished by its natural, four-beat, lateral gait called the ‘paso llano’ which results in its incredibly smooth ride.  ‘Paso’ means ‘step’ in Spanish and ‘llano’ is an abbreviation of ‘Castellano’, referring to the regions of northern and central Spain from where the horses originated.

Just 20km south of Lima in the coastal district of Chorrillos is Hacienda Santa Rosa. Here you can enjoy a demonstration by the Peruvian Paso horses and learn how these elegant animals are trained and bred. The visit to the hacienda includes a Creole lunch and there will be music and dance accompanying the show. The Peruvian Paso, ridden by a ‘chalan’, is often seen in the traditional courtship dance known as the ‘Marinera’ which you will see during your visit. This is one of Peru’s most popular traditional dances, particularly in the coastal areas; a graceful and romantic couple’s dance that uses handkerchiefs as props, it displays a blend of the different cultures of Peru.

The visit to Hacienda Santa Rosa and seeing the Peruvian Pasos makes for a special afternoon’s outing.

Peruvian gastronomy at its best - Central Restaurant
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Peru, and in particular Lima,  has in recent years earned its title as the ‘gastronomy capital’ of Latin America and when you visit the country and experience some of its sensational restaurants, you will soon understand why it so well deserves this accolade. Peruvian chefs have for many years been making their mark on the international restaurant scene. Peruvian gastronomy is among the most diverse in the world, largely as a result of its three different geographical regions – the coast, the mountains and the jungle. The distinctiveness of the different indigenous and immigrant populations has also helped put Peruvian cuisine well and truly on the world stage.

It is no surprise that this innovative restaurant in the city’s Miraflores district is very highly-ranked in the prestigious Pellegrino survey of ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ – and came in at No. 1 on 2014’s list of  ‘Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants’! If you are a lover of fine food this culinary experience will live long in your memory. It is among our very favourite restaurants, and is said by some to be Lima’s finest dining. The restaurant specialises in presenting the amazing diversity of Peruvian gastronomy and the chef delights in discovering new ways to integrate natural ingredients into the dishes; the cuisine is always exciting, occasionally even a little challenging.

Our recommendation is to try one of the two tasting menus on offer – the ‘Mater Elevations’ menu, in particular, is a fascinating food journey. Starting at ‘sea level’ and working your way up, sampling through 17 different dishes, you will quickly discover the incredible variety of produce from Peru’s three main geographical zones.

“It’s tough to get a reservation, but worth the effort. Inventive, local exotic ingredients and beautifully presented. Very, very sophisticated!”.   A happy customer – Nov. 2014

Open:

Lunch – Mon – Fri from 12:45pm to 3:15pm

Dinner – Mon – Wed from 7:45pm to 11:15pm         Thu – Sat from 7:45pm to 11:45pm

Belmond Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu

Considered one of the most beautiful routes in the world, this luxury train journey takes you from Cuzco to the base of world-famous Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes and vice versa. The journey can be taken as a return trip or perhaps as a special treat for the journey back from Machu Picchu to Cusco and a very fitting end to your time at Machu Picchu.  The route follows the Urabamba river passing through rural communities, farms and is overlooked by snow-capped mountains and closer to Machu Picchu lush forest.   The carriages are beautiful and the 5pm train back to Cusco offers an excellent dinner inclusive of drinks – it really is a perfect way to complete your visit to Machu Picchu.

Belmond Andean Explorer Train

Commencing in May 2017, the Belmond Andean Explorer is a new service offering South America’s first luxury sleeper train, taking guests from Cusco to Lake Titicaca. There are two different options one ending in Puno the other continuing on to the Colca Canyon and the city of Arequipa. Due to the altitude we would only recommend this to guests who’ve acclimatised in Cusco, as the train journey takes you over 4800 metres in altitude before dropping back down to the shores of Lake Titicaca.

A SELECTION OF ACCOMMODATION

Luxury

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Belmond Hotel Monasterio

Cuzco, Peru

Top class design and the finest facilities. Usually located in a spectacular setting it may be an exclusive hotel in a meticulously restored historic building, or recognised as the leading property of an international chain.

Boutique

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Hotel B

Lima, Peru

A perfect alternative to the big brand hotels:
exclusive and independently-owned properties with a smaller number of rooms and highly personalised services.

First Class

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Palacio Del Inka

Cusco, Peru

High quality with an excellent room standard, a full range of facilities and first-rate service; may be a new property or regularly refurbished with attention to ongoing maintenance.

Hacienda

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Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba

Sacred Valley, Peru

Haciendas ‘estates’ are found across much of South America and may have been plantations, cattle or sheep ranches. Most date from the 18th & 19th centuries and offer guests an opportunity to glimpse the world of the land barons and their famed horsemen. These beautiful colonial residences, set in extensive gardens or on wide farmland, retain their original style and ambiance, with high beamed ceilings, open fireplaces, and spacious rooms filled with antique furnishings.

Lodges

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Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica

Puerto Maldonado, Peru

In the rainforests and jungles of Peru choose from a wide range of eco-lodges – from a comparatively luxurious retreat among the forest, to a complex of thatched cabañas in a lakeside location on a private reserve, to remote and rustic cottages offering a truly authentic experience. All lodges are eco-conscious and dedicated to conservation management and preservation of their environment.

River Boats

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Delfin I

Amazon River, Peru

Often the best way to observe dramatic scenery or experience the wonders in a world of amazing flora and fauna is by boat. And if you are looking for a voyage that will also offer the comfort of excellent facilities, there are several exclusive and sophisticated vessels that will fulfil your wish.

Tourist-superior and tourist class accommodation is also available. For more information on the accommodation we offer, call 1300 784 794 or email contact@satc.com.au.

Planning Your Trip

The Booking Process

South America Travel Centre can look after all aspects of your holiday, including flights and travel insurance.

We start by asking you what your interests are and where you are interested in, when, for how long, what standard and style of accommodation (it can be a combination – for example you may wish to celebrate a special occasion while you’re away by staying in a very special property or place). Once we have a good understanding of just what you’re looking for, we can begin to create a holiday to meet your time and budget requirements and, most importantly, that will deliver interest and enjoyment in an experience to exceed your expectations.

Please book early.  Many of the hotels, lodges and cruise vessels we recommend are relatively small. For example, the M/V Aqua (Peruvian Amazon cruise) accommodates just 24 guests, while the deluxe Titilaka Lodge (Lake Titicaca) offers only 18 suites.  This exclusivity combined with high demand means they can be booked out up to 6-8 months in advance.

If you’re thinking of travelling during any major holidays like Christmas, New Year and Easter, or during any festivals, our advice is simply to book as early as you can, even 12 months or more, and we can add flights as soon as they become available.

Inca Trail: There are limited permits to start the trek each day and during peak trekking periods (May to October and December), these permits sell out many months ahead.  The best time to hike the trail is from May to October – likely to be more days with clear skies and stunning views.  Inca Trail closed in February.

Visa and Health Information

Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter Peru. You will need to hold a valid passport and have a return ticket when you arrival. Visitors are allowed to stay up to 183 days in Peru.

It is strongly recommended that all travellers to Peru be vaccinated for yellow fever before commencing their trip.

 

Malaria is prevalent in some areas of India. Your Travel Doctor will be able to advise you whether prophylaxis is required. Vaccinations are advised for common diseases like Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid as well as Influenza. Japanese Encephalitis may also be a risk for some travellers. There are no compulsory vaccinations.

 

We advise you to consult a Travel Doctor specialist prior to departure to assess any health risks in relation to your medical history and travel plans.

Flight Information

We have access to a wide range of airfares and have excellent relationships with our key airline partners. Our two main airline partners in Latin America are LATAM Airlines, QANTAS Airlines and Air New Zealand. We can also arrange internal flights for you within Latin America.

Irrespective of whether you book directly with us or with your preferred travel agent, we’ll request the details of all of your fights to ensure if there are any changes your transfers and other arrangements are adjusted accordingly.

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The Best Time to Go

You can travel to Peru year-round.  Given the range of terrain – rainforest, semi-desert and high altitude – temperatures and rainfall vary with each region you travel through.

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Inspiration

  • For a unique way to experience South America consider taking a first class or luxury train ride in Ecuador or Peru. From short trips to 4 day itineraries, travelling by train is comfortable and a great way to see the diversity of these countries....

  • As with many wildlife destinations, to have the best chance of some incredible encounters you often need to go a little further off the beaten path to reach places less affected by human presence. Manu is no exception to this rule....

  • Lares is a small town located to the north of the celebrated ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas’, in a region less visited than other areas. Only recently has the road from Cuzco been paved and new and comfortable lodges built to offer easier access into this area, formerly the almost-exclusive domain of trekkers....

Salkantay Inca Trail

Lares Trail

Client Reviews

We will tailor the perfect holiday to suit your needs.

We will tailor the perfect holiday to suit your needs.