Andean Discovery

Andean Discovery information and booking

from
$2399
  • Duration
    21
    Days
  • Service
    Basic
  • Difficulty
    Hard
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Tour description provided by G Adventures

Take the party to new heights in the rarefied air of the Andes. With other young travellers not afraid to try new things, you'll journey from the enigmatic Nazca Lines to the lost city of Machu Picchu and onward to incredible La Paz. You'll commune with the condors in Colca Canyon and feel like a local while crashing at a small village homestay at Lake Titicaca. Think of this as three weeks of climbing higher, going further and pushing boundaries on the roof of South America.

Itinerary

Day 1 Lima
Arrive at any time. There are no planned activities on this day, so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. *Please note: if you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Bundle and the Peru Adrenaline Bundle your CEO will inform you upon arrival when you will see each show throughout your tour, these days are subject to change: Lima cooking class (Day 1) (pre night accommodation is recommended), Cusco cooking class (Day 9), full day rafting (Day 10 - Cuzco) and half-day horseback riding (Day 11 - Cuzco). For more information on the shows see the Optional Activities section. *Please note that hot water shortages and power outages can be fairly common in Latin America (even in upgraded hotels and private homes). We appreciate your patience and understanding that these occurrences are outside of our control. Founded by Francisco Pizarro, on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany) in 1535, Lima is known as the City of Kings. It is Peru’s capital city and as such, deserves a visit. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of old Lima and you’ll find the Cathedral, Government Palace and Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral dates back to the 1700s and houses the remains of the conquistador Pizarro. To get a feel for colonial Lima, take a cab to the Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the Palace Guard in the afternoon. Walk around the streets surrounding the Jirón de la Unión for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to experience life in a large South American city. There are many fine museums in and around the city, including the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which houses an equally impressive collection of pottery, mummies and textiles from the Paracas and Nazca cultures. An optional city tour visits many of the cities highlights. The more affluent coastal districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro offer good nightlife and cafés. The Limeños are friendly and the city’s many interesting museums, churches, markets, restaurants and nightlife will surely entice you. Seafood lovers should be sure and try a ceviche, for which Lima is well known.
Day 2-4 Paracas/Nazca (1B, 1D)
Take the morning to explore more of Lima before hopping on a bus for our short trip down the coast to Paracas. Walk the town’s lively peatonal (pedestrian avenue) and find a café to sample some Peruvian food, such as ceviche or papa a la huancaina (potatoes with a chilli cheese sauce). Paracas is just down the coast from the important port town of Pisco, which gives its name to the white grape brandy produced in the region. If you haven’t tried the national drink, don’t pass up this chance to sip on a tasty and frothy Pisco Sour in the heart of Pisco country. From here, opt to visit the Ballestas Islands, where we observe the sea lion colonies, Humbodlt penguins and a variety of other birds. Further south, the road climbs slightly and we rise above the coastal mist to find one of the world's greatest archaeological mysteries, the Nazca Lines, consisting of patterns and pictures etched in the ground, crisscrossing an area of flat desert. Some of the lines measure up to 10 km (32 miles) in length, and yet remain perfectly straight. The depictions of birds, insects and animals are only recognizable from the air. Who drew the lines, and why, is something that modern archaeologists can only theorize about, but current beliefs suggest that they may be part of complex agricultural calendar. From the ground we can make out very little, and the best view is from a light aircraft, which can easily be arranged. The entire desert area was also once the home for the Paracas and the Nazca cultures, which preceded the Incas by more than half a millennia. Remains of the Nazca culture are still visible during an optional tour of an ancient desert cemetery site, which also includes a visit to a pottery workshop. In the evening we assist in the preparation of a thousand year-old tradition: a "Pachamanca", an ancient ceremony akin to the Polynesian meal of burying a variety of delicious treats wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooking them with pre-heated rocks buried in the ground. Day 2, Lima to Paracas Approximate Distance: 285 km Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours Day 3, Paracas to Nazca Approximate Distance: 175km Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Day 4, Nazca to Arequipa, overnight bus Approximate Distance: 570km Estimated Travel Time: 8-9 hours
Day 5-8 Arequipa/Colca Canyon (2B)
Peru’s second most important city after Lima, Arequipa, maintains a traditional colonial style and more laid back pace in comparison with the capital. Arequipa is built from a very light coloured volcanic rock called sillar, the older buildings dazzle in the sun, thus the nickname, “the White City.” The main plaza with its cafés and nearby cathedral is a top draw for visitors. Those with an interest in history and architecture may take an optional visit to the Convent of Santa Catalina, offering a brief respite from the outside world and a unique view into a by-gone way of life. Spectacular mountains surround Arequipa, the most famous of which is El Misti Volcano, at 5822 m (19096 ft) and with a beautiful snow-capped peak . Our overnight excursion to the Colca Canyon involves a remarkable drive through Inca and pre-Inca terracing. Once at the Canyon we will look for the king of the Andes, the Andean Condor, as well as alpacas, llamas and vicuñas, while enjoying the stunning highland scenery. Take a bus from Arequipa to Cusco on the night of Day 8.
Day 9-16 Cusco/Ollantaytambo/Inca Trail (7B,3L,3D)
Cusco attracts thousands of travellers who come to experience an age-old culture and to delve into its tragic and noble past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations of the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. We spend the next few days relaxing and exploring this fascinating city, while taking time to acclimatize to the higher altitude before our trek. Cusco is the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts thousands of travellers who come not just to visit a unique destination but also to experience an age-old culture very different from their 20th century way of life; one could easily spend a week just in and around the area. Cusco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend. While most ruins are just outside of the city, the main ruin within is that of the Coricancha, once the Inca Empire's richest temple. This ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors this incredible wealth had all been melted down. It is left to the individual imagination to envision the magnificence of the original structure. There are several good museums in Cusco, including the Archaeological Museum, which also houses a small art museum, the Regional History Museum and the Religious Art Museum. The best advice in exploring Cusco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore! Ollantaytambo is a major Inca ruin site and your first taste of what lies ahead on the Inca Trail. This major ruin site is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and engineering. It is admired for its huge steep terraces guarding the Inca Fortress and for being one of the few places where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest. We spend the night in this small town before heading out for the start of the hike the next morning. For those craving more before they head out on the Trail, opt to take a Sacred Valley tour which includes not only Ollantaytambo and ruin site of Pisac, but also a visit to a Planeterra-supported women's weaving co-op. Planeterra has been working with the Ccaccaccollo community since 2005 to develop a viable economic alternative for women by creating a weaving cooperative to sell traditional textiles to travellers. Donations by travelers have helped build a community centre supplied with looms and sewing machines for the women to use to expand their production. This project allows the women of the Ccaccaccollo community to maintain their cultural heritage and benefit from the tourism industry. The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is physically challenging but worthwhile, and the excursion is within the ability of most reasonably fit people. It is a 44km (27 mile) hike, with three high passes to be crossed, one of which reaches an elevation of 4200m (13,776 ft). The trail is often steep, and it may rain even during the dry season. The temperatures at night may fall below freezing, so it is important to come prepared. NOTE: We offer two alternatives to hiking the Inca Trail. If Inca Trail permits are sold out, travellers will be given the option to hike the Lares Trek (details below). Travellers not able to hike or not interested in hiking, can opt to spend two extra days in Cusco (details below) before travelling to Machu Picchu. If you do not want to hike, we need to know at the time of booking in order to obtain train tickets. Once Inca Trail permits are confirmed there will be fee for any changes made. The fee may vary depending on the changes that are made to your itinerary. Please advise your agent or G Adventures. Also note the Inca Trail is closed for general maintenance every February for the entire month. Travellers will be hiking the Lares Trek during this time. Other closures to either trek may occur at anytime throughout the year due to inclement weather or other conditions beyond our control. In these instances, itineraries will be reworked to provide the best and safest possible experience. INCA TRAIL DETAILS Day 1 of the Inca Trail: Depart Ollantaytambo by van to km 82 where the hike begins. This takes about 40 mins. Our crew of local porters, cooks and guides will take care of all the details for the duration of the hike. Porters carry the majority of the gear so you’ll only need to carry a small daypack with water, rain gear, snacks, a camera, etc. You’ll trek through beautiful scenery with a variety of flora, changing with the seasons, passing several smaller ruin sites like Llactapata. Start point Km 82 to Wayllambama Approximate distance: 11km/6.8mi Estimated hiking time: 5-6 hrs Day 2 of the Inca Trail: Start early to climb the long steep path to Warmiwañusca, better known as Dead Woman’s Pass. This is the highest point of the trek at 4198m (13,769ft). Most hikers reach camp by early afternoon, with ample time to rest and relax. Wayllabamba to Paqaymayo Approximate distance: 12km/7.5mi Estimated hiking time: 6-7 hrs Day 3 of the Inca Trail: Today we cross two more passes and more ruins along the way. The first pass is at 3998m (13,113ft) where, on a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba. You’ll hike through cloud forest on the gentle climb to the second pass of the day where you walk through original Incan constructions. The highest point of this pass is 3700m (12,136ft). On a clear day, enjoy the views of the Urubamba Valley. At 3650m (11,972ft) you’ll reach the ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the ‘Town Above the Clouds’. We either camp here or an hour and half further along, near the Wiñay Wayna ruins (Forever Young). Paqaymayo to Wiñaywayna Approximate distance: 16km/10mi Estimated hiking time: 8 hrs Day 4 of the Inca Trail: The final day of the hike starts pre-dawn to reach the Sun Gate before the sun rises. When the morning is clear, you soak in your first views of the breathtaking ruins of Machu Picchu as the mist rises off the mountains and the sun begins to illuminate the site. Hike down to Machu Picchu about 45 minutes more where you’ll have a guided tour of the site and free time to explore. Travellers can opt to visit the Inca Bridge (15 min walk) for no additional charge, if time allows. After your visit, catch the bus from outside the Machu Picchu gate and take it 15 mins downhill to Aguas Calientes where you’ll meet your CEO and any non-hiking members of your group. Eat and relax before your train back to Cusco this evening. Wiñaywayna to Intipunku (Sun Gate) Approximate distance: 4km/2.5mi Estimated hiking time: 1.5 hrs Aguas Calientes to Cusco Approximate Distance: 118km/73mi Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hrs LARES TREK DETAILS: The Lares Trek is one day shorter than the Inca Trail, but higher in elevation (33km/20.5 miles, with a high point of 4600m/14,928ft). Travellers hiking the Lares Trek will start the same day as those hiking the Inca Trail. The 3-day hike starts with a van ride from Ollantaytambo to the trekking start point and returns back to Ollantaytambo by van from the trekking end point. From there, hikers will take a scenic train to Aguas Calientes for one overnight stay. In most cases, your CEO will hike the Lares Trek with you. From Aguas Calientes you will take the bus (15 mins) to Machu Picchu early the next morning for a guided tour of Machu Picchu. After the tour and some free time, catch the bus down to Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Cusco with the rest of the group. NOTE: The locations and distances may change on this hike as we will camp in different locations depending on pace, ability and weather. Starting in 2014 travellers will stay in a newly established community-owned and managed campsite in an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry. Details on this IDB/MIF and Planeterra project can be found in the Associated Planeterra Project section of our “Before You Go”. Day 1 of the Lares Trek: Start early and take a van (3 hrs) to Lares town where the hike will start with a leisurely pace through the valley of Cuncani. Hike 4km (2.5mi) to Chancachaca where we stop for lunch. Altitude here is around 3480m (11,417ft). Continue on to Wacawasi where we camp for the night at 3825m (12,549ft). Lares town to Wacawasi Approximate distance: 11km/6.85mi Estimated hiking time: 4 hrs Highest point: 4200m/13,780ft Day 2 of the Lares Trek: Start early and hike for about 4 hrs from Wacawasi to Wacawasi-Ccassa for a total of 7.5km (4.6mi). Head downhill another hour or so before stopping for lunch in Auroracocha. Continue down for another 2.5 hrs to Mantanay where we stay the night (3200m/10,499ft). Wacawasi to Mantanay Approximate distance: 11km/6.8mi Estimated hiking time: 6.5hrs Highest point: 4600m/15092ft Day 3 of the Lares Trek: Today we hike about 2.5 hrs (9km/5.6mi) to Punta Carretera where we stop for lunch. Take a bus about 30 mins back to Ollantaytambo were we catch the train for a relaxing, scenic ride to Aguas Calientes. Mantanay to Punta Carretera Approximate distance: 9km/5.6mi Estimated hiking time: 3.5 hrs Highest point: 4100m/13451ft Punta Carretera to Ollantaytambo Estimated travel time (bus): 30 mins Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes Estimated travel time (train): 2 hrs Day 4 of the Lares Trek: Rise early to catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu with your guide. Enjoy a guided visit to the ruins followed by free time to explore. When you’re ready, head back down by bus to Aguas where you’ll meet up with the rest of the group and take a train back to Cusco. Aguas Calientes to Cusco: Approximate distance: 118km/73mi Estimated travel time: 3.15 hours CUSCO STAY DETAILS: Anyone electing to do the Cusco Stay will have two extra days to explore this ancient Inca capital city. When hikers leave Ollantaytambo, travellers doing the Cusco Stay will return to Cusco with their CEO. Enjoy the afternoon and the next day in Cusco with options to visit ruins round the city, enjoy activities in the area or spend time shopping, eating and exploring. The next day, travel by van to Ollantaytambo where you catch the scenic train to Aguas Calientes. The next morning, rise early to catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu with your guide. Enjoy a guided visit to the ruins followed by free time to explore. When you’re ready, head back down by bus to Aguas where you’ll meet up with the rest of your group and take a train back to Cusco. Please note, on these days breakfast will be the only meal included.
Day 17-19 Puno/Lake Titicaca
Today we travel through the high Altiplano region to get from Cusco to Puno, on Lake Titicaca. After spending one night in Puno, we board a boat and head to Taquile Island for lunch in a local restaurant and the chance for some shopping in the local weaving cooperatives. From there we head to Amantani where overnight with a local family and enjoy typical music of the area. The following morning we will visit the floating islands of Uros en route to Puno. Titicaca is the largest lake in the world above 2000m, and the views from both Amantaní and Taquile Islands are stunning. On our way to Taquile Island we pass the floating islands of the Uros people. The Uros began their unusual floating existence centuries ago in an effort to isolate themselves from the Colla and Inca tribes. Sadly, the Uros language has died out, and today they speak Aymara due to intermarriage with Aymara-speakers. Today about 300 families live on the islands, however their numbers are slowly declining. The Totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake are used for making everything from the islands themselves to the model boats that the islanders sell. The islands are made up of layers upon layers of reeds; as the layers closest to the water start to rot, they are replaced with fresh reeds on top. The reeds are also used to build their boats, which if constructed well will last up to 6 months. The people of Taquile Island's unique culture, style of dress and lifestyle make for a memorable visit. The men of the community do all the knitting, as this is strictly a male domain, while the women do the spinning. High quality, locally knitted goods are available for purchase at various cooperatives on the island. After visiting these islands we will head to the Lluquina Peninsula where we will spend the evening in a small, local community, mostly unaffected by tourism. Unlike the neighbouring islands the communities of Lluquina have only recently started to accept visitors and have a less commercial and more authentic feel. Spend a night with a local family and get a true feel of life on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Accommodatin in Islands may be multishare.
Day 20 La Paz (1B)
The drive along the shores of Lake Titicaca and through the altiplano to La Paz, the capital city of the impressive nation of Bolivia. Founded by Alonso de Mendoza in 1548, La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (the City of Our Lady of Peace) is a great place to explore on foot. Although Sucre is the official capital, La Paz is the Bolivian centre of commerce, finance and industry, and the de facto capital. This is a busy modern city, with its centre at the base of a canyon 5 km (3 miles) wide, with sprawling impromptu housing all the way up the surrounding hillsides. The city is at nearly 4000 m (13,120 ft) above sea level, so visitors should be prepared for cool evenings and mornings. Explore the city’s many fine museums or its historic ecclesiastical structures, such as the Iglesia de San Francisco, whose architectural details reflect the indigenous and mestizo heritage of modern Bolivia. The city is also renowned for its many markets, including the Mercado de Hechicería (Witches’ Market), where Paceños and visitors may purchase potions and incantations made from all sorts of herbs, seeds, and secret ingredients to remedy any number of illnesses (real or imagined) and protect from evil spirits. There is also a thriving black market and a Carnaval market, where locals purchase carnival costumes. You’ll also find a wealth of shops selling all sorts of handicrafts, mainly alpaca wool products, silver jewellery, woven textiles and leather goods. Optional activities in La Paz include museums, excursions to Tiahuanaco ruins (cradle of Inca civilization), a tour of the Valley of the Moon, or a visit to the world’s highest ski resort, Chacaltaya (5600 m/18,368 ft). To the south of the city is the Valley of the Moon, with crater-like formations made of sand.
Day 21 La Paz (1B)
Depart at any time.