Arrival in the evening of your international flight in Lima. Welcome to the Peruvian capital! After customs and baggage claim, meet your English-speaking driver and transfer to your hotel in the stylish neighborhood of Miraflores. Modern, fashionable, and nestled along the Pacific coast, here are many of the city’s upscale restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries. Peppered with flower filled parks, gardens, and surfers taking to its blond sand beaches, breathe in and feel that ocean air. Check into one of the suites with an Ocean View at the exquisite Orient Express where stellar service is the norm. The hotel boasts what is so lovely bout this city: the ocean, amazing food, and friendly people. Settle into your suite and decompress.
The evening is yours to recover from your journey. (Orient Express Miraflores Park)
Meet your local host after breakfast to embark on a city tour in the historic quarter of the city,. For 300 years, during Spanish colonization, Lima was the prized gem of the colonies, and the richest city on the entire continent. Start on the Plaza Mayor, the official center of Lima on which Lima was founded. Visit the historic Cathedral, built in 1534, an architectural masterpiece. From the Cathedral, enjoy a guided visit at the Casa de Pizarro (Presidential Palace named after conquistador Francisco Pizarro), now open to the public to marvel at its magnificent colonial architecture. Walk the charming side streets and be sure to look up to appreciate the stunningly beautiful Balcones de Lima, balconies, hand-carved from wood and a testament to Peru’s colonial wealth.
Head to the capital’s Chinatown with the huge arch over Capón Street. With a strong Chinese immigration in Peru of over two million immigrants, they have brought their own unique take to Peruvian ingredients in a special cuisine called chifa, meaning, “to eat” in Chinese. Chifas are a way of daily eating for many limeños from garlic duck to wonton soup to arroz chaufa, fried rice. Explore the streets and sit down in one of the favorite joints to have a snack of this delicious food.
For lunch, head for a local’s favorite belonging to Chef Acurio, one of the driving forces behind the renaissance of Peruvian cuisine. Part Jamie Oliver, part Che Guevara, he’s seen here as a foodie folk hero, seeking not just to raise the status of his native cuisine but to improve the farmers, fishermen, and cooks who create it. A minor cult figure in Peru, this restaurant is dedicated to a limeña passion: skewers. Sit down in the casual yet sophisticated restaurant and order some chicha morada, corn drink, or a cocktail made with Pisco. Try the steamed tamales to start and then dive into the zesty, marinated antecuchos, skewers, with sides of roasted native potatoes and corn.
After lunch, drive through the funky, bohemian neighborhood of Barranco with its typical Victorian mansions and art galleries. Return via the circuito de playas, the coastal route hugging the shore below the steep cliffs where the city sits. Here Limeños love to sun worship, jog, and catch some rays. After all, this is Latin America’s only capital on the Pacific coast!
Tonight, head to the hottest new address in town where a young chef trained in European technique pumps out Peruvian modernist cuisine from the glass-walled kitchen with marvels like cold-poached tuna confit and octopus over purple corn charcoal. (Orient Express Miraflores Park)
This morning after breakfast, meet in the hotel and start the day’s activities with a chocolate tasting. Peru is producing premium, sustainable cacao. Meet with this owner and chocolatier in her San Isidro shop to walk you through the delicate process of chocolate making, from cocoa to pure dark bonbons using the purest cacao from the northern province of Piura. Taste one of her creations and be dazzled as this wonderful chocolate smoothly melts on your taste buds. An all around mouth-watering experience.
Continue to the colorful Surquillo market, a typical local market. Here, understand the foodstuffs that are the drivers of Peruvian cuisine that make it so exotic, novel, and balanced. Stacks of produce burst with color from the rainbow-colored limo peppers to orange huancaína chilies, vibrant Green key limes (for those Pisco sours), a potpourri of native potatoes, coca leaves, buckets of quinoa, pulses, and colored corn. Taste “island bananas,” a delicate, fragrant pink plantain, then camu camu, a tart acidic fruit from the Amazon. Savor aguaymanto, golden berries, or juicy chirimoyas (custard apples) and even favorite local snacks like amaranth puffs and cancha, toasted salty corn kernels. And more.
Ready for lunch? Head for one of Lima’s favorite restaurants specializing in Chiclayo cuisine from the northwestern coast of Peru. While you order, the waiter fixes your pisco sour “a la carte”. This is an ideal place to dive into traditional Peruvian cuisine, at the heart of everyone. Zesty omelettes made with duck, a causa (spicy mashed potato terrine) with cured grouper in a shallot sauce, the famous tacutacu (bean tamale) and baby goat ribs. Return to the afternoon and the afternoon is free.
In the evening, dine at one of Lima’s great chefs restaurants, an expert in Amazonian cuisine. Actively involved in pushing local producers to create premium products, sit down to be taken away to the jungle through each course of your meal, paired with South American wines or clever house cocktails. (Orient Express Miraflores Park)
Today, your journey turns inland towards the Andes. Check out and early morning transfer to Lima’s airport for the short flight to Cusco, the storied capital of the Inca Empire and gateway to the imperial city of Machu Picchu. Surrounded by the towering Andes, transfer immediately from the airport into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. At a lower altitude than Cusco, acclimatization to the high altitude is much easier in the Sacred Valley. Journey into this area densely scattered with Inca ruins and terraces and surrounded by breathtaking steep mountains.
On the way out of Cusco, stop at the Exhibition Center of Textiles and South American Camels, to see traditional weavings typical of this region. Here, alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas are raised ethnically and their wool is used for the exquisite textiles and clothing. Walk through the process from animal to final weaver.
Continue the stunning drive into the emerald Sacred Valley with terraced farmland climbing the steep hillsides. Words don’t do the gorgeous scenery justice. Stop in the quaint colonial town of Pisac to visit its picturesque market on the central square. On the weekends, the Quechua people trade among themselves along with a section for gorgeous, colorful hand-woven textiles and handicrafts. Take some time to explore with your guide.
Snake along the valley floor, encased by the towering mountains and small farms clinging to the hillsides. Stop to visit Urubamba’s pulsating market where vendors journey in from surrounding villages to sell their crop. A bustling food emporium, sturdy women in serapes and bowler hats hawk every color and size of potato and corn kernels, chilies, and artisan products. Wander past the stacks of foodstuffs to learn about the bases of Peru’s Andean cuisine. After, meet one of the Sacred Valley’s top chefs in his restaurant in the heart of the Sacred Valley. Participate in this interactive cooking class to learn to make Peru’s beloved dishes like ceviche, quinoa soup, alpaca saltado, a twist on the traditional lomo saltado (sautéed beef with a rich wine sauce and vegetables). Afterwards, sit down to savor your meal with Pisco sours.
Check into your hotel in the Sacred Valley, nestled among the hills. This lovely hotel has individual casitas, houses set among the exquisite gardens. Incredibly spacious with high ceilings and impeccable taste, settle into your room and let them build a fire in the chimney as the sunsets and temperature dips. Perfect for sipping an artisan Pisco. Luxurious but understated, friendly and authentic, more than a hotel it feels like your own private refuge. Dinner is on your own. (Sol y Luna)
This morning, join the hotel chef as your guide on a unique experience to visit local growers to understand their methods of cultivation in the Sacred Valley, dating back to Incan times from the calendar system to irrigation and crop rotation On this on-site tour, visit the farms to get to know the native ingredients, herbs, grains, tubers, and fruit.
After, lunch on your own at the hotel. Saddle up with the chalán, horseman, on the exquisite Peruvian Paso horses, a different (smooth) way of riding using your fingers to guide the horse. Journey outside of Urubamba on horseback into the verdant canyon for views of the surrounding mountains and town below.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon and relax in your ample bathtub or with an in-room massage. Tonight, dine at the chef’s table with a five-course private dinner with South American wine pairings at a wonderful restaurant in the heart of Sacred Valley specializing in Andean nouveau cuisine with a playful twist on traditional cuisine. (Sol y Luna)
Early breakfast at the hotel and transfer to Ollantaytambo with your private guide to take the Vistadome Train to Aguas Calientes, the rail station serving Machu Picchu. This scenic train-ride snakes through wonderful cloud forest scenery with the jagged peaks of the Andes in the distance.
Serpentine up 2,000 vertical feet towards the ruins for spectacular panoramas of the valley. Arrive at the summit and at the entrance to the famed Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most celebrated archaeological sites. Never found by the Spanish Conquistadores and only rediscovered in 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu was a stunning archaeological discovery–it was the only major Inca site that escaped 400 years of looting and destruction.
Its location is simply spectacular. Perched atop a mountain and hidden in the Andean cloud forest on a high ridge straddling between two mountains, the Urubamba River curls like a snake below. Sprawled across the mountainside are staircases, terraces, temples, palaces, towers, fountains and the famous Intihuatana, or “Hitching Post to the Sun”, possibly a center-point between cardinal alignments of nearby sacred peaks. Your private guide will take you to the major sites and most likely, raise more questions than it will answer.
Break for lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge, a private hotel secluded by the entrance to the ruins with a hearty buffet lunch. After lunch, have time to re-enter the ruins briefly transferring to the rail station and returning to the hotel. (Sol y Luna)
This morning check out and climb out the road to Cusco to nearly 4,000 meters above sea level (13,000 feet). Turn down a winding road headed deep into the hills with the jagged, snow-capped Andes at your back with views of the whole valley. Pass shepherds herding their flocks with donkeys transporting cargo. Stop briefly in the beautiful colonial village of Maras, built from sun-dried mud bricks and granite. Many of its houses still hold Spanish Nobility coats of arms on their doorways dating back to the 1600s.
Visit Moray, an impressive archaeological site with concentric terraces created by the Incas for the cultivation of crops with over 20 microclimates. Northwest of Maras are the famous “salt pans”, or about 3,000 salt pools tumbling down the mountainside like a staircase, filled by a subterranean hot spring that pumps 53.8 cubic feet of water every day from the Qaqawiñay mountain. Dating back to Incan times, the salt solidifies over a month’s time and is “racked” and sold throughout the valley (and abroad as a gourmet product). Briefly visit the area to see the pools up close and take home some of this special salt.
Back on the main road to Cusco, continue the limb up to the iconic colonial town of Chinchero, meaning “brave man” in Quechua. Its white facade, tiled roofs, and cobblestone streets town are a blending of Spanish colonial architecture on old Incan Stone walls. At nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, the valley opens up before you with jagged snow-capped peaks in the distance and here, locals still don the colorful, traditional dress. Stop to visit friends at a co-op of traditional highland weavers who are conserving textile traditions. Join with them for a demo as they show you first hand how alpaca or sheep’s wool is made into the gorgeous textiles, the significance of the designs that are the “shield” of their town.
Arrive in Cusco high in the Andes, at nearly 11,000 feet above sea level. Famed for its unique blend of Spanish and Incan cultures, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Cusco was the capital of the ancient Inca Empire and is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere, founded around 1100 A.D.
Lunch at a beautiful restaurant next to the historic Plaza de Armas focusing on a blend of classic Andean, Criolla, and Nikkei dishes. A Pisco bar with over forty types of Pisco, dig into a tasting of Pisco cocktails with your lunch and a view of the cathedral, main square, and verdant hills. Idyllic.
After lunch, check in into your hotel, a 16th-century mansion on the whitewashed historic Las Nazarenas Plaza. La Casona is one of Cusco’s most luxurious places to stay with suites framed around a grassy courtyard with stone arches, recreating the illusion of the grandeur of the period. Colonial décor and art are tastefully mixed with contemporary touches. Only a block from the cultural heart of Cusco, the Plaza de Armas, nearly the whole city is walkable from here. (Inkaterra La Casona)
This morning, discover the colonial gem of Cusco, Peru, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Cusco was the capital of the ancient Inca Empire and is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere, founded around 1100 A.D. Thought to be a Holy City for the Incas, its a must pilgrimage for any ranking citizen of the empire. Meet your local guide for a half-day historic city tour to better under the city’s fascinating history and culture along with visiting the Inca archaeological sites around Cusco.
Spend the morning on a guided walking foodie of Cuzco. Start in the Main Square, observing the juxtaposition of Inca and Colonial architecture. Visit our favorite señora selling tamales tucked away in a corner. The locals line up to savor the freshest, most melt-in-your-mouth sweet tamales with cinnamon raisin. Walk through the City’s main streets with Incan stonework and observe the finest of Spanish Colonial architecture with churches built over ancient Incan temples.
Arrive at Mercado San Pedro, Cusco’s bustling central market, a study in local folks and what they eat. Learn about the cuisine from La Sierra, the mountains. Cusqueños love hearty breakfast and even in the early hours, crowds down bowls of caldo de gallina, chicken soup; lechón, suckling pig. Walk past vendors selling chicharrón, a favorite snack, dozens of potatoes, and more.
Continue your saunter to Cusco’s most atmospheric and picturesque neighborhood, San Blas, a short but increasingly steep walk from the Plaza de Armas, lined with cobblestone streets, artists’ studios and artisans’ workshops, many streets are pedestrian-only. As you climb high into the hills, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular panoramic vistas in the city. In the small plaza at the top and to the right of Cuesta San Blas is the little white Iglesia de San Blas, said to be the oldest parish church in Cusco.
Stop at Cusco’s oldest quinta dating back to 1941. From a lovely colonial courtyard (only a 5-min. walk from the Plaza de Armas), there are views of the San Cristóbal district to the surrounding hills from the upper eating area. It’s a great place to dine on a sunny day, and far, far from the tourist trail. Here, Cusco families join to savor Andean specialties, the local lager Cusqueño, and good company. Authentic.
The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore the local markets, shops, wandering cobblestone alleys, and historical site. Dine on your own this evening.
The morning is yours to explore Cusco on your own. Checkout at noon and meet and transfer to the Cusco airport for your afternoon flight to Lima. Upon arrival in Lima, pick-up your baggage and check-in for your late evening international departure. Tchau amigos!