Showcasing Peru’s Inca and Colonial wonders and its captivating Andean scenery, our journey is highlighted by a luxury rail journey aboard the Belmond Andean Explorer from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa.
Day 1 - Welcome to Lima, Peru
On arrival, you’ll be warmly greeted and chauffeured to the exclusive Belmond Miraflores Park. Our luxury hotel offers a privileged setting in one of the capital’s most vibrant and exclusive districts. Settle in to your elegant oceanview junior suite and enjoy the rest of this day at your leisure.
Day 2 - Discover Lima
After breakfast, you’ll join your private guide, an in-the-know city native, to explore the historic highlights and vibrant spirit of the Peruvian capital #WHS# – recognized by UNESCO as a World heritage Site. Starting with the handsome Colonial architecture of downtown Lima, you’ll stand in Plaza Mayor, still a popular gathering place, and tour the Cathedral; built in the 1700’s on the site of an earlier 16th-century church, this handsome landmark is the oldest on the Square. Right next door, the Archbishop’s Palace is easily recognized by its grand wooden balcony. You’ll also tour the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, a sprawling complex with lovely courtyards and Baroque paintings.
Then delve into 3,000 years of Peruvian culture and achievement at the highly-regarded Lima Art Museum. Tonight, you’ll sit down to a wonderful welcome dinner with dramatic views overlooking the night-lit archaeological site at Huaca Pucllana, a sacred pyramid of the 4th century. Meals B+D
Day 3 - To Cuzco + Into the Sacred Valley of the Inca
After an early breakfast, you’ll be chauffeured to the airport for your included flight to Cuzco, the ancient capital of the once vast and mighty Inca Empire. Descend into the picturesque Sacred Valley to visit the Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary where you will see endangered Andean species and learn about their work to preserve these creatures – including condors, macaws, parrots and even wild cats like the puma.
Then visit Awanacancha, a pioneering initiative encompassing more than 400 resident families in 14 Andean communities. With a mission to preserve the traditional textile arts of the region, you’ll see native weavers from these different communities as they create beautiful textiles using techniques that have been passed down for generations. You’ll also see the indigenous cameloids that are the source for the wool that is used for weaving: Alpacas have thick wool that is ideal for sweaters and blankets while vicunas are small and delicate creatures with very fine wool; Llamas and guanacos also roam around Awanacancha.
For lunch, we’ve arranged for you to dine at Hacienda Huayoccari, a 17th-century garden estate that’s been home to the Orihuela family for over 100 years. Enjoy a delightful farm-to-table luncheon of hearty and traditional Andean fare featuring fresh produce from the estate and nearby farms. Afterwards, you’ll have time to explore the owner’s private collection of pre-Columbian, Inca and Colonial artifacts including a rare ensemble of Qeros; these traditional drinking vessels were made of wood, ceramic or even gold and date back to Inca times. Then continue to the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado and settle in to your Deluxe Terrace Room. Amidst verdant fields and soaring mountains, our luxury resort evokes the timeless ambience of an Andean village. Meals B+L
Day 4 - Exploring Andean History + Culture
This morning, you’ll ascend to the monumental fortress of Ollantaytambo, Inca-built with enormous stones and so strategically positioned that it was successfully defended against the Spanish in 1537. This is one of the most significant Inca sites in Peru, and its location in a narrow mountain valley framed by rugged peaks is truly breathtaking. In the shadow of the ancient fortress, the ancient community of Ollantaytambo provides vivid illustration of Inca urban planning. Laid out in a simple grid with cobblestone streets, perfectly constructed stone walls and canals, many of the buildings and residences date back 600 years or more.
You’ll also visit the Maras salt mines; worked for generations by the same families, these remarkable terraced pools cascade down the mountainside and across the valley, offering a look into a timeless way of life that still endures in this remote region. Then journey across the highlands to ponder the circular terraces of Moray, perhaps one of Peru’s most fascinating and enigmatic sights. Scholars speculate that the ancient Inca may have used these terraces a type of agricultural testing station to study the effects of temperature and wind upon their crops.
Today’s lunch on the Wayra Ranch includes a lively demonstration featuring Peruvian Paso horses. Dressed in the traditional garb of the Qoriilazos (Peruvian cowboys), these skilled riders will demonstrate extraordinary passion, discipline and training. Meals B+L
Day 5 - To Machu Picchu on the Luxury Hiram Bingham Train
A two-day visit to Machu Picchu begins in style aboard the luxury Hiram Bingham Train. Sit down to a congenial onboard brunch with wine as you make this unforgettable journey through the scenic Urubamba River Valley, a timeless region of snow-capped Andean peaks, quiet villages and terraced fields that have been cultivated for centuries.
On arrival in the beguiling town of Aguas Calientes, you’ll board a coach for the 30-minute ride up the switchback mountain road that brings you to the entrance to Machu Picchu. The fabled Lost City is certainly the single greatest landmark in Peru – and perhaps all of South America. Indeed, little can be written here that would do justice to the breathtaking grandeur of its mountain setting, the enigmatic power and aura that so permeate this ancient citadel, and the unforgettable experience of standing among these ancient stones. And with our guide’s illuminating expertise, your visit will bring to life the ancient Inca civilization that built Machu Picchu.
Tonight, you’ll be one of the privileged few to stay at the singular Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel here on the mountaintop adjacent to the Lost City of the Inca. Meals B+L+D
Day 6 - Morning at Machu Picchu + Back to Cuzco by Luxury Rail
You’ll want to arise early today to take advantage of our lodge’s one-of-a-kind setting. As the only hotel next to Machu Picchu, you’ll be among the first to enter the site this morning. At this early hour, the day-visitors from Cuzco and the Sacred Valley have yet to arrive and even those who spent the night in the town below will still be making the 20-minute ascent. With fewer people and the softer light of morning just breaking over the mountain peaks, this early-morning visit to Machu Picchu is one of the most memorable travel experiences you will ever have.
In the afternoon, you’ll make the return rail journey through the Sacred Valley. Enjoy the attentive service onboard the luxury Hiram Bingham Train and delight in cocktails and dinner on the rails as you share congenial conversation with your fellow travelers. On arrival in Cuzco, you’ll be escorted to the luxurious and intimate Belmond Palacio Nazarenas. Here in a restored Colonial mansion in the historic heart of town, you’ll find that your junior suite is oxygenated to help ensure your comfort at the city’s high-mountain altitude. Meals B+L+D
Day 7 - History + Culture in Cuzco
Ascend this morning into the rugged hills outside of town to explore the magnificent ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Built in the 1400’s by the Inca Emperor Pachacútec, the massive limestone blocks of this venerated complex were cut with such precision that they fit together without mortar like the interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle! With some individual stones towering more than 10 feet tall and weighing several hundreds of tons, Sacsayhuaman is a monumental achievement of architecture and masonry.
Back in town, the Almudena Cemetery and San Pedro Market offer both a fascinating contrast and complement to the ancient Inca sites you’ve explored. Here at these seemingly quotidian places, your personal guide will offer thoughtful cultural perspectives and personal insights into how ancient traditions – some dating back to Inca times – still endure in the life of local residents. Continue your sightseeing with the Cathedral and the other handsome Colonial-era landmarks that line the Plaza de Armas. At the Temple of the Sun and Convent of Santo Domingo, you’ll discover one of Peru’s most architecturally fascinating sites. It also demonstrates the rich layering of history here in Cuzco, where a sacred structure of one culture, the Convent, literally sits atop and practically encloses another, the Inca-built Temple of the Sun! Meals B
Day 8 - Board the Luxurious Belmond Andean Explorer
We include this morning’s chauffeured transfer from your hotel to the rail station in Cuzco for the start of your luxury rail adventure. Board the Belmond Andean Explorer and settle in to your private cabin. Freshen up in your en suite bathroom and take in the views outside your picture window as we depart the ancient Inca capital and begin our journey through the magnificent Andes Range towards Puno and Lake Titicaca.
Around midday, you’ll sit down in one of the elegant dining cars for an attentively served lunch featuring freshly-sourced Andean ingredients. This afternoon’s guided excursion visits the remote archaeological site of Raqch’i. There is still much scholarly debate regarding many of the ancient structures here, but there is much speculation that this Inca site served as a control point on the main road that traveled south from Cuzco to other points of the Empire. As you explore with our expert guide, you might draw your own conclusions about these ancient structures – whether they served as barracks or some other religious or administrative function.
Return to the train for Afternoon Tea and enjoy the passing Andean scenery including the rugged landscapes of Abra la Raya, a spectacular mountain pass that marks the highest point on the journey between Cuzco and Lake Titicaca. Your evening onboard our luxury train is highlighted by dinner and the opportunity to enjoy the congenial camaraderie of your fellow passengers – perhaps as you sip a Pisco Sour at the bar or while listening to music in the Lounge Car. The Andean Explorer will stop for the night at a scenic spot overlooking Lake Titicaca.
Our overnight stop allows you to enjoy the romance of sleeping “on the rails” – without the noise and movement of a traveling train car. Meals B+L+D
Day 9 - Lake Titicaca + Onward to Arequipa
You may wish to arise this morning to experience the breathtaking sight of the sun casting its first golden rays across the sacred waters of Lake Titicaca. After a delightful breakfast, you’ll step off the train to explore the myriad wonders of this high mountain lake. Setting out in a traditional boat, your guided excursion begins with the remarkable floating islands, home to Uros communities that are built on layers upon layers of hand-woven Totora reeds.
Continue to Taquile Island where residents still speak Aymara, the ancient language of the high Andean plateau, and craft colorful textiles using techniques that have come down across the generations. A specially arranged al fresco lunch on a pristine island beach is accompanied by traditional dance and a chance to watch the island’s weavers and artisans at work.
Return to the train for Afternoon Tea as your luxury journey continues toward the Colonial-era town of Arequipa. You can take in the passing scenery from the privacy of your cabin or suite, or join your fellow travelers in the inviting Lounge or Observation Car. This evening, you’ll sit down to another elegant dinner in the Dining Car. Afterwards, you can enjoy some live piano music and the collegial company of your fellow rail passengers before retiring to your cabin for the night.
Again, the Andean Explorer will stop for the night in a quiet mountain spot so that you can sleep tranquilly onboard without any disruption from the noise and movement of a traveling train car. Meals B+L+D
Day 10 - Sumbay Caves + Disembark in Arequipa
Enjoy a hearty breakfast onboard before stepping off for an early-morning guided excursion. Behold the breathtaking panorama of Lake Lagunillas, cradled amidst the peaks of the Peruvian Altiplano and home to a seasonal colony of pink flamingos. Continue to the high-mountain Sumbay Caves to see their remarkable collection of ancient cave paintings, believed to be the legacy of a nomadic people who hunted in the area 6,000 to 8,000 years ago.
Return to the Belmond Andean Explorer for lunch as we make the final leg of our journey to Arequipa, a Baroque gem surrounded by three majestic snow-capped volcanoes that soar to nearly 20,000 feet! On arrival and disembarkation, well transfer you to the airport to meet your included flight back to Lima. Meals B+L