Essential Peru – Inti Raymi Festival
Discover the archaeological wonders of southern Peru and attend a festival in
Reviews 58 Reviews5/5
Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely / Moderate
Group Size Small Group
A spectacular journey through Peru’s varied landscape encompassing coastal desert, snow-capped Andean peaks, the high altiplano and lush cloud forest. The most famous sites are all visited including the mysterious Nazca Lines, awe-inspiring Machu Picchu in its incredible mountaintop setting, Lake Titicaca, where the night is spent in an island homestay, and the remarkable 3000m deep Colca Canyon. On the way we encounter traditional culture, condors, llamas, and a warm welcome from the Peruvian people.
* All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner
* All accommodation
* All transport and listed activities
* Tour leader throughout
* Airport arrival and departure transfers
* Inti Raymi Festival ticket
- Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)
- Attend ‘The Festival of the sun’ (Inti Raymi), when Cuzco is awash with dancing and processions
- Iconic Machu Picchu by train with guided tour
- Homestay on traditional Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca
- Colca Canyon and its soaring condors
- Beautiful colonial city of Arequipa and the Santa Catalina Convent
- Drive deep into the Andean highlands and the Apurimac Valley
- 15 nights hotels, all en suite, 1 night homestay with basic shared facilities
- Travel by train, boat, private minibus/coach and one internal flight
- Time spent at altitude
- Several long drives and early starts
Those travelling on the group flights and those who have booked a transfer through Exodus will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima. There will be a notice board in the hotel reception with details of where and when the group welcome briefing will be held.*Hotel El Tambo 1 *(or similar)
Drive south along the coast and sail to the Ballestas Islands, home to the highest concentration of marine birds in the world; overnight in Ica.
We set off very early this morning (around 5.30am) and drive south from Lima until we reach the port of Paracas (4-5 hours’ drive). The Ballestas Islands lie a short distance off the coast here and are home to one of the highest concentrations of seabirds in the world – we visit them by boat.On the outward journey we pass the curious pre-Inca Candelabra geoglyph, a huge (over 150m high) three-pronged trident shape etched into the sandy hillside, the origin and purpose of which remains unknown (although there are many theories). Upon reaching the islands we explore the caves and rock archways by boat, and observe the Sealion and Fur seal colonies as well as Humboldt penguins and an array of birds such as cormorants, pelicans, tendrils, and Peruvian Blue-footed booby birds.The boats are open-top motorised boats and are shared with other non-Exodus clients (occasionally the sea is too rough and the boats can’t operate). Take heed of seabirds above – it is advisable to wear a hat! The boat trip lasts around two hours.Once back on dry land we drive for an hour or so to Ica, in the heart of Peru’s wine-growing region. At the Huacachina oasis just outside Ica there are high sand dunes where we may have time to try ’sand-surfing’ and ride in dune buggies (optional). *Hotel Vila Jazmin *(or similar)
On to Nazca; see the Nazca lines; optional scenic flight.
We drive towards Nazca, stopping to visit the viewing platforms overlooking the Nazca Lines. These are one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries, consisting of enormous drawings and patterns etched in the desert sand.In the afternoon, for those who wish there is usually time to take a scenic flight over the Nazca Lines (additional cost), weather permitting. Due to the small planes used, this is not suitable for those with a fear of flying or who suffer from travel sickness. Alternatively, your leader can help arrange optional visits to the nearby burial grounds, Antonini Museum, or the Planetarium.*Casa Andina Hotel / Alegria *(or similar)
Turn inland from coastal desert, climbing high into the Andes.
We turn inland from the coastal desert today, climbing high into the Andes on today’s long (9-10 hrs) but spectacular drive. Vicuñas (a smaller wild relative of the llama) can be seen along this road, as this area is Peru’s largest vicuña reserve. This region has only recently become easily accessible to tourists due to an upgrade of the Abancay/Chalhuanca road. The altitude here can make physical exertion difficult (the highest point we reach today is Negro Mayu, a high pass at approx. 4600m). It is recommended to rest in the evening. We overnight a couple of hours before Abancay on the road to Cuzco.*Tampumayu Hotel *(or similar)
Drive to Cuzco (3400m) visiting Inca sites on the way.
We set off towards Cuzco this morning, stopping to visit the unique Inca Saywiti stone and Tarawasi ruins. The glaciated summits of the Vilcabamba Mountain range and the descent into the Apurimac River valley demonstrate the dramatic contrasts of the Andes Mountains, and we should expect stunning scenery throughout today’s 7-8 hour drive.It is recommended to take it easy upon arrival into Cuzco and to drink plenty of water to allow your body time to acclimatise to the altitude (3400m).*Casa Andina Koricancha (or similar)*
Free day to explore Cuzco.
Today has been left free for exploring Cuzco, one of South America’s most beautiful cities. The Plaza de Armas is a fantastic spot for people watching, and the Koricancha Sun Temple located in the Santo Domingo Church and monastery is worth a visit. The Mercado San Pedro is the place to try some local produce and there are many handicraft markets to shop for souvenirs such as alpaca jumpers and scarves.Outside the town are more Inca ruins, notably the fortress of Sacsayhuaman where the Inca armies made their last stand against the Conquistadores. A combined entrance fee (Tourist Ticket) for these sites and many others is recommended – please see the Optional Excursions section below for prices. Sightseeing excursions to places outside Cuzco, including the Sacred Valley of the Incas, are also available. Please ask your tour leader.*Hotel Casa Andina Koricancha* (or similar)
Attend Inti Raymi Festival in Cuzco.
The ’Festival of the Sun’ is held in Cuzco on 24th June each year. During this time Cuzco is filled with colourful processions and other festivities include traditional dances and even animal sacrifice. In the morning we will walk to Qoricancha Temple (The Sun Temple) to see the beginning of the most important Andean religious festival in the country. Afterwards, we continue on to the Plaza de Armas (main square) to witness the first offerings to the sun while people from the four traditional Inca regions (Suyos) perform ceremonial dances. Around mid-morning we make the short journey by bus to Sacsayhuaman archaeological site, located on a hillside above Cuzco. The atmosphere is particularly evocative here, amidst the Inca ruins, as we see the most traditional Andean worship rituals in honour of Mother Earth. The ceremony finishes in the mid-afternoon, after which we will return to our hotel.There can be quite a bit of waiting around for the festivities to kick off today and you may want to buy a packed lunch to take with you – your leader can help arrange this if you request it the night before. *Hotel Casa Andina Koricancha* (or similar)
Train to Aguas Calientes; tour of Machu Picchu.
For most people, the highlight of the trip is the visit by train to the greatest ruin in the world, the lost city of Machu Picchu. This is one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world, in a mountain setting of staggering immensity. The Spaniards never found it; the Incas left no records of it, so Machu Picchu remains a great enigma, a city lost for centuries in the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.We transfer to Ollantaytambo train station and catch a train to Aguas Calientes (the town below Machu Picchu). The railway line follows a beautiful route through the Urubamba River Valley. In the afternoon we take a short bus ride up the winding road to Machu Picchu for a guided tour of the ruins. Having been trialled in 2017, new regulations for visiting Machu Picchu will be fully enforced for 2018; you will be limited to a maximum of four hours within the site and must be accompanied by a guide. There will also be three set routes to follow around Machu Picchu; Exodus selects the most comprehensive route. Please note that exploring the ruins involves a reasonable amount of walking, including up and down steep and uneven stone steps. Visiting in the afternoon tends to be quieter than the mornings and the mist which shrouds the ruins at dawn has usually dispersed. *Inti Punku El Tambo *(or similar)
Free morning or optional second visit to Machu Picchu; afternoon return to Cuzco by train and by road.
A free morning to enjoy the buzz of this little town in the jungle below the ruins. There are some hot springs nearby, however, they tend to suffer from overcrowding and therefore poor water quality, so are not recommended.Should you wish to visit Machu Picchu again this morning, your leader will help you to purchase a second entrance ticket (subject to availability) which will allow you a further four hours to explore the ’Lost City’ – for the second visit it is not mandatory to have a guide. At the time of writing a morning ticket costs PEN152 (approx. US$47).In the afternoon we board the train back to Ollantaytambo and then continue by minibus to Cuzco, arriving in the late evening.*Hotel Casa Andina Koricancha *(or similar)
Free day for optional excursions.
A final chance to enjoy the sights and shopping of this beautiful city. If you fancy something more active then there is an array of optional activities available from Cuzco that your leader can organise. These include paddle-boarding on a lake, mountain biking, or a combination of via ferrata and zip-lining in the Sacred Valley.*Hotel Casa Andina Koricancha* (or similar)
Drive to Lake Titicaca (3800m), with stops en route; boat to Amantani Island for homestay.
Today we travel for 8-10 hours along the Vilcanota River and onto the altiplano, the high plains separating the Andes from the jungle. Although it is quite a long drive, it is interesting and often spectacular. There are scheduled stops at interesting sites to help break up the day and we will get to appreciate the immensity of the Andean landscapes. This afternoon we arrive at the shores of Lake Titicaca (3800m) and board a boat for our trip to Amantani Island. Hiking around the island offers great views across the lake, whilst the night spent with a local family offers fantastic cultural insight into lives very different to our own. (A packed lunch is included today).*Amantani Island homestay *(Basic)
Explore the island; afternoon boat to Puno visiting the floating reed islands.
We explore the island in the morning before boarding our boat for the three-hour journey to Puno on the lakeshore. On the way, we visit the Titinos Indians, who live on islands of floating reeds and, save for a few modest concessions to the modern world, still live as their ancestors would have done centuries ago. Most tours visit the Uros islands closer to the shore but we visit the more isolated Titinos Islands for a more authentic experience.*Casona Plaza Hotel *(or similar)
Drive across the altiplano to Colca Canyon.
Today we head off across the altiplano again. This time we cross to the south-west, heading back towards the coast to the high Colca Canyon (5-6 hours’ drive). En route we have opportunities to see vicuñas and possibly flamingos before descending into what is considered to be the second deepest canyon in the Americas (the deepest, the Cotahuasi Canyon, is also in Peru). There is time in the evening for a visit to the hot springs near the main town of Chivay (3635m) – a warming pleasure after the chill of Lake Titicaca.*Hotel Pozo del Cielo *(or similar)
Morning condor viewing; afternoon drive past huge volcanoes to the 'White City' of Arequipa (2350m).
An early start to view condors soaring on the morning drafts rising out of the canyon. Extensive terraces, stunning colonial churches, and burial tombs are viewed before we ascend out of the canyon and cross Patapampa Pass (4910m) on our way to Arequipa, known as the ’White City’ due to the pale volcanic stone used to construct many of its colonial buildings. The picturesque city enjoys a year-round pleasant climate and is surrounded by 6000m volcanoes, including the near-perfect cone of El Misti.*Ensueño Hotel or *Su Majestad Hotel* *(or similar)
Morning visit Santa Catalina Convent; afternoon fly to Lima.
In the morning we visit the huge and serene convent of Santa Catalina. Built in 1580 and only opened to the outside world in the 1970s, it offers a rare insight into the lives led by the nuns and has changed little through the centuries. There are still around 20 nuns living in the northern corner of the complex. In the afternoon or evening we fly to Lima where will transfer to our hotel in Miraflores.*Hotel El Tambo 1 *(or similar)
The group flights usually depart in the afternoon, allowing time for optional sightseeing in Lima in the morning. You may wish to visit the Gold Museum or the historic downtown area. The group flight is an overnight flight to London. For land only clients, the tour ends after breakfast.
Hotels & Homestay
This trip spends 15 nights in hotels, all of which have en-suite facilities.
The hotels normally used are indicated within the itinerary, however, accommodation may differ from those stated depending on your departure date. Throughout this tour we stay in carefully selected 3-star hotels with en suite bathroom facilities throughout, with the exception of one night on Amantani Island. Most hotels have a safety deposit box in the room but if not, there will be one at reception.
In Lima we stay at Hotel El Tambo 1, located in the upmarket Miraflores District – Larco Mar shopping mall is within walking distance as is the trendy Barranco District, where you’ll find a wide variety of restaurants and nightlife. We usually stay in Villa Jazmin in Ica, which offers large rooms and an outdoor swimming pool. Near to Abancay we stay at Tampumayu, which is a hacienda style property – a little rustic but full of character and there’s a pretty little church within its grounds. In Cuzco, we stay at one of the well-known Casa Andina properties, Casa Andina Koricancha, which is ideally located within walking distance of the main square and the Koricancha ‘Sun Temple’. For our Machu Picchu visit we spend a night at Inti Punku El Tambo in Aguas Calientes; a simple yet contemporary hotel. The most basic accommodation is in Chivay and Arequipa but it serves its purpose for a night. Casona Plaza Hotel in Puno has a local 4-star local rating, is centrally located, and has a lovely restaurant area.
Please note that central heating is very rare in Peru, even in good standard hotels. Most hotels provide plug-in heaters and spare blankets. Additionally whilst all of the hotels have a hot water supply, it can be temperamental when there is high demand.
A railway line runs straight through the centre of Aguas Calientes and whilst we try to allocate rooms away from it whenever possible, the trains might be heard from some rooms.
On Amantani Island on Lake Titicaca, the group will split up overnight to stay with local families. There will generally be a few of us in each house and we may have to share rooms en masse – single supplements do not apply for this night. The rooms are basic but clean and your beds will have sheets and plenty of blankets. There are outside toilets and washbasins. The lack of electricity or road noise (there are no roads!) and the starlit sky on clear nights makes for a truly peaceful and serene experience.
Single rooms can be booked for single supplement, subject to availability, at the time of booking. This supplement covers single rooms throughout the trip, with the exception of the homestay on Amantani Island. We recommend the early booking of single supplements and of pre/post tour accommodation.
All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner are included in the price of the tour.
The tap water in Peru is not safe to drink. Drinking water will be provided in large containers free of charge; please bring a refillable bottle with you.
Hotel breakfasts are normally simple buffet-style affairs, usually including bread/toast and jam, cereal, sometimes eggs or a cooked dish, sometimes fruit, tea/coffee and fruit juice. Regrettably, we can not guarantee that wheat/gluten-free products will be available for breakfast in all locations – if you have an intolerance you may wish to bring your own breakfast food from home.
Where lunch and dinner are not included we’ll visit a variety of local cafes and restaurants.
Peruvian cuisine has developed a reputation for its flavours and originality and it’s well worth trying out a few of the local delicacies. Amongst these are ceviche (a spicy dish of seafood or fish marinated in lime juice), lomo saltado (a Peruvian take on a beef stir-fry) and various hearty soups such as the delicious quinoa soup. Other dishes include roasted cuy (guinea pig), Alpaca steak, and to drink, the national beverage: Pisco Sour.
These departures have been scheduled to coincide with Inti Raymi in Cuzco. Translated as ‘Festival of the Sun’ it is the most important of all Andean festivals. During this time Cuzco is filled with colourful processions and other festivities include traditional dances and even animal sacrifice. Cuzco itself will be very busy during the festival season.
This is a busy itinerary encompassing the main highlights of southern Peru. You should be aware that the size of Peru means that this holiday involves some long drives and early morning starts. The longest drive is between Nazca and Abancay and takes in the region of 9-10 hours. The private buses used are comfortable and the scenery is outstanding. There will be several stops along the way to help break up the long journeys. The road between Nazca and Cuzco becomes increasingly winding as we climb higher into the mountains, and this, combined with the increase in altitude, may affect you if you are prone to travel sickness.
Although graded Leisurely/Moderate (level 2), the altitude can make physical activity feel more tiring than at sea level. As this trip spends considerable time at altitude we ask you to refer to the Altitude Warning within the Trip Notes for more information and advice on how to limit the effects of altitude sickness. The tour allows for gradual acclimatisation, visiting Abancay (2,400m) before moving on to Cuzco (3,400m), then Lake Titicaca (3,800m) and Colca Canyon (3,635m). Although we do not linger there, the maximum altitude visited on this trip is 4,910m (Patapampa Pass) which we drive over near Chivay, Colca Canyon – please ensure your travel insurance covers you up to this altitude.
It can be cold at these altitudes, particularly from May until August (although these months benefit from lower rainfall), and you will need to bring appropriate clothing.
Cuzco, Arequipa, and many of the Inca sites (including Machu Picchu) are built on hillsides and sightseeing often involves walking up and down steep streets or on uneven steps or terraces. As such, you should have a good level of mobility and a reasonable level of fitness.
Strikes are not uncommon in Peru and while these are generally peaceful protests, they can result in roadblocks and disruption to travel. In this event, your leader will amend your itinerary if necessary to minimize the impact.