Peru: The Amazon & Culture of Lake Titicaca12 days / Eco Tours, Community & Conservation Tours
About This Experience
Uncover the vibrant wildlife and unwavering culture that define Peru, the country that was once the pulse of the fierce Incan empire. As you explore the exotic flora and fauna of the Amazon Basin, you’ll discover local Peruvians’ commitment to preserving their natural resources. And as you meet the people who inhabit the Sacred Valley and famed floating islands of Lake Titicaca, you’ll partake in colorful cultural traditions that have been lovingly protected and passed down for generations upon generations.
Your Tour Includes
Round-trip airfare & transfers
10 nights in handpicked hotels & eco-lodges
Breakfast daily, 8 lunches, 7 three-course dinners, with beer or wine
Multilingual Tour Director
3 internal flights, private motor coach & boat transfers
Select entrance fees
Why You'll Love It
Navigating the Madre de Dios River by canoe
Tasting local flavors, from ceviche to Pisco Sours
Meeting Lake Titicaca’s indigenous islanders
Learning weaving techniques from Sacred Valley locals
Walking among the treetops of the Amazon jungle
Soaking in lakeside scenery on secluded Suasi Island
Overnight Flight1 night
Lima1 night - hotel info
Get to know Peru’s capital like a true Limeño
Cathedral of Lima, Monastery of San Francisco, Huaca Huallamarca
This afternoon, embark on a guided tour of Lima’s historic center, including the Government Palace, Archbishop’s Palace and City Hall, as well as the colonial mansions and Moorish balconies overlooking the city’s atmospheric old streets. You’ll also discover the 16th-century Santo Domingo Convent, boasting an ancient crypt full of saintly relics. Don’t miss the pre-Incan pyramid of Huaca Huallamarca and the ocean views from the Park of Love. After you finish exploring, get to know your fellow travelers at your welcome dinner.
Puerto Maldonado2 nights - hotel info
Look out from the towering treetops of the Amazon jungle
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After breakfast, catch a flight to Puerto Maldonado and check in to the Inkaterra jungle headquarters. Navigate by motorized canoe along the Madre de Dios River, an Amazonian tributary, to arrive at Hacienda Concepción. Following a late lunch, take a walk on the lodge’s property for a firsthand lesson about the differences between the primary and secondary rainforests. Return to the lodge for dinner, followed by a presentation about the Inkaterra Asociación’s (ITA’s) conservation projects. At dusk, relax at the lodge or choose to climb into a canoe for a twilight river excursion on the Madre de Dios River.
Watch macaws flit through the skies and monkeys play on shore
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Inkaterra Canopy Walkway
This morning, get ready for a walk through terra firma in the Tambopata National Reserve. As you explore, you’ll learn why Madre de Dios is called the biodiversity capital of Peru, how the region’s lake was formed, and how the reserve promotes conservation. Navigate by dugout canoe across the mirror-like Lake Sandoval, home to the endangered giant river otter, blue-and-yellow macaw, red howler monkeys, black caiman and one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, the paiche. After a late lunch at the lodge, take a boat ride to the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway Interpretation Center, where you’ll have the opportunity to climb the tall towers and maneuver across the hanging bridges to see what goes on in the treetops, perhaps sighting local inhabitants, such as white-throated toucans, squirrel monkeys and three-toed sloths. Enjoy dinner at the lodge tonight.
Sacred Valley Region2 nights - hotel info
Walk above Incan palaces and descend into the Sacred Valley
Koricancha, Cuzco Cathedral
After breakfast, cruise back to Puerto Maldonado for your flight to Cuzco. Following lunch in Cuzco, get a glimpse of this colonial city built on the foundation of former Incan palaces. On a guided tour, you’ll delve into Incan sites, including the Koricancha (Temple of the Sun), as well as colonial landmarks, like the Cuzco Cathedral. Afterward, travel to Urubamba, a small town within the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Try your hand at creating famed Peruvian textiles in Umasbamba
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
A representative from Sol & Luna kicks off your day with a presentation about the foundation’s initiatives, followed by a short visit to the nearby school that the foundation supports. Spend the rest of the day in the village of Umasbamba, where you’ll have time to meet the villagers, eat lunch and watch agricultural and weaving demonstrations before trying your hand at these skills. Afterward, you may also get the chance to interact with school children at the village school. Dinner will be served at Sol & Luna, a hotel where 100 percent of profits support the eponymous foundation and school.
Cuzco1 night - hotel info
Uncover Cuzco’s colonial charm or make your way to Machu Picchu
Optional Excursion - Machu Picchu
Spend a morning as you like in Urubamba before traveling back to Cuzco, where you’ll have the rest of the day to discover this UNESCO World Heritage site at your own pace. If you like, you can join our optional excursion and board the Vistadome Train for a scenic ride to Aguas Calientes. From here, you’ll visit the mountaintop citadel at Machu Picchu, including a guided tour of the Incan ruins and lunch at a local restaurant, before returning to Cuzco by train.
Must be booked 45 days before departure
Machu Picchu $399* pp
Journey by train through the lush valleys leading to the mysterious Lost City of the Incas. Surrounded by the emerald green Andes Mountains, shrouded in mist and totally hidden from ground level, Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most unforgettable sites. During a guided tour, explore the Temple of the Sun, Royal Sector, Temple of the Three Windows, Temple of the Condor and the mysterious calendar of Intihuatana. Lunch is included in Aguas Calientes today.
Puno1 night - hotel info
Take in classic Andean scenery, from the Pass to Puno
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Wake up early for a ride through stunning Andean landscapes. Take a break to walk through the Incan ruins at Raqchi and make a photo stop at La Raya Pass, which—at 4,300 meters—offers an incredible panorama of the snow-capped peaks. Have lunch on the road before arriving in Puno, a small port town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and checking in to your lakefront hotel.
Lake Titicaca2 nights - hotel info
Hop from island to island and meet the “People of the Lake”
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Lake Titicaca boating trip
Embark on a half-day boating trip on Lake Titicaca, where you’ll visit two local communities. Your first stop is the floating island of Uros, where the “People of the Lake” build their homes and rafts from totora, a reedy plant that grows on the lake. Continue to Taquile Island, where islanders will show off their traditional weaving techniques. Arrive at Suasi Island for a barbecue lunch, and then spend a free afternoon exploring the island on your own or joining a guided walk to discover the incredible landscapes and panoramic views of the lake.
Paddle along the reeds, hike up the mount or just sit back on shore
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
You have a day to play on Suasi Island. Consider a canoe ride during your free time and float through the totora reeds as you observe the local bird life. After lunch, you might visit the on-site “cultural cabin” to learn about the ecosystem, or walk to Mount Itapilluni to witness the sunset. After a farewell dinner, end your adventure stargazing and relaxing by the fireplace.
Overnight Flight1 night
Passport & Visa Requirements
In order to enter Peru, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport. The expiration date must extend at least six months beyond the date of your return home. No visa is required for U.S. or Canadian citizens. If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact the Peruvian consulate for your specific entry requirements. Upon arrival in Peru, you’ll be given an Andean immigration card. Please keep this with you. You’ll need it for the optional excursion to Machu Picchu.
Airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage; be advised that you are responsible for any such costs. Contact your airline for detailed information regarding luggage size and weight restrictions for your flight, but please note that Go Ahead travelers are restricted to one checked bag per person due to storage limitations on motor coaches and other internal transfers, which may include train connections or flights. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 total inches (length + width + height). Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on bag.
Clothing & Packing Tips
To ensure you’re comfortable while out exploring, we recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. For sightseeing, we suggest bringing a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers, sunscreen, a flashlight and a lightweight sports jacket or rainwear. You may also want binoculars for observing wildlife in the Amazon jungle and Peruvian highlands, as well as insect repellent and longer clothing for the jungle and visits to the local communities and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Please remember that it’s preferable to avoid showing bare legs or shoulders during visits to small villages and churches or other religious sites (entrance may be denied on this basis). Those seeking to swim in the cold waters of Lake Titicaca or in the hotel pools should also bring a bathing suit. We recommend that you bring a second, smaller bag for your two nights in Puerto Maldonado.
Travelers should be aware of high-altitude conditions in Peru. The altitude of Cuzco is 11,000 feet, and Isla Suasi and Lake Titicaca are at 12,500 feet. Travelers (especially those with heart or lung conditions) are encouraged to take precautions and consult with their personal healthcare providers before undertaking high-altitude travel. The best way to prevent “altitude sickness,” which sometimes results in headaches and nausea, is to make sure that you are well-hydrated throughout your stay. Additionally, there is risk of contracting malaria in Puerto Maldonado, so be sure to check with your doctor at least eight weeks prior to departure about possible preventive measures. Your healthcare provider can also advise you about high-altitude medications and other health requirements.
Important Health Tips
In order to stay healthy throughout your tour, we recommend the following: * Drink bottled water. (Refrain from drinking tap water, including when brushing teeth.) * Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables, unless they are cooked or washed in clean water and peeled. * Bring a small first-aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication and any prescription medications.
Walking on Tour
Sightseeing on your tour will be conducted on foot or by private motor coach or boat. Travelers who choose to explore Machu Picchu and the Incan ruins should be in reasonable shape and prepared for some uneven terrain.
Peru’s seasons are reversed, but the climate varies dramatically by region. While the Lima coast tends to be temperate, the high-altitude highlands of Cuzco and Machu Picchu typically experience warm days and cool nights. Meanwhile, the Amazon jungle can be very hot and humid. The rainy season is generally from December to April.
Peruvian dishes are rich and varied, from the light seafood of the coast to the substantial meals of the highlands. The cuisine features a blend of indigenous and European (mainly Spanish) tastes. Typical dishes on the coast include cebiche: shellfish, sea bass and scallops, often marinated in lemon juice, chili peppers and onion, and served with potato or corn. Highland dishes are heartier, featuring corn, potatoes and roasted meat. A popular favorite is lomo saltado, strips of beef fried with onions, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes and served with rice. Social drinking is less popular in Peru, and local beers and wines don’t have the same reputation as those of Chile, Argentina and Brazil. However, you might sample the native pisco, a delicious (but sour) white-grape brandy.
Round-trip flights arrive in and depart from Lima. Internal flights to Puerto Maldonado, Cuzco and Lima are also included in your trip cost. Transfers to and from the jungle lodge and Isla Suasi will be on a small motor boat. Round-trip train travel is included for those who take the optional excursion to Machu Picchu. All other transportation is by private motor coach.
Peru operates on 220 volts.
Despite having reversed seasons, Peru actually falls on a similar time zone to Eastern Standard Time (EST), except Peru doesn’t observe daylight-saving time. Therefore, Peru has the same time as New York from October to April, and is one hour behind New York from April to October.
The Peruvian sol is the currency you will be using on your tour. Better rates of exchange are usually available at your destination, although it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive. The most efficient and cost effective method is using ATMs, which are widely available in both Lima and Cuzco (mostly on the Visa and Plus international networks). In the jungle, at Lake Titicaca and in the Sacred Valley, ATMs can be scarce, so you should plan on stocking up on soles in advance, especially if you plan on purchasing local handicrafts. We also recommend that you take credit cards, although direct credit card transactions (at hotels, shops and restaurants) sometimes attract an 8 percent commission in Peru. We suggest informing your bank and credit card company of your travel plans, so they don’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.
At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. We recommend tipping in the local currency, the equivalent of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director. We also recommend tipping your local guide in Lima and Cusco $2 USD/CAD per inclusion and your wildife guides in Puerto Maldonado and Isla Suaasi $3-5 per day. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.
During your trip, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Sol y Luna School. The school is supported by the profits from the Sol & Luna hotel, where you’ll be staying, but also welcomes donations in the form of school supplies, such as textbooks, notebooks and pencils. You may also have the chance to visit a local school in Umasbamba, which also welcomes such supplies. While most gifts are welcome, bringing candy is considered somewhat controversial because the availability of dental care for these children may be negligible.
Getting Down to Grass Roots in Peru
If you are adventurous, try this eco tour to Macchu Pichu, Lake Titicaca and the Amazon. You'll enter some truly sacred places that will take your breath away, from a gold-leaf covered cathedral, to the depths and mystery of the Amazon jungle, to the expanse of Lake Titicaca and the people who live there on their floating island homes, to the soaring heights of Macchu Pichu. Yes, you need to be in pretty good shape, as there is a bit of hiking involved and it can be muddy in the jungle and the altitude makes for effortful steps– and many of them. The hotels were wonderful, the most outstanding were those out of the cities and off the beaten track. Food was superb. We especially loved visiting local indigenous people, seeing them at their crafts and timeless, unaltered culture. Juxtapose that with the children's schools. The kids are computer savvy and working in some subjects at levels beyond our own children. These are a gentle and sweet people, open, bright, curious and friendly. We felt warmly welcomed and learned so much. Our guide, Saul, was fun, easy, organized, knowledgeable and articulate.
MAKE AN IMPACT
Get to know some of the communities and organizations you'll meet that are helping to make a difference in Peru.
In 1975, Inkaterra opened a lodge for ecologists who were doing research in the Peruvian rainforest. This simple act of logistical support blossomed into a model for conservation funded by sustainable tourism, which would become the Inkaterra Asociación (ITA). ITA continues to support scientific research in a very active way—sponsoring researchers to conduct ecosystem studies and species status reports. The Inkaterra Canopy Walkway is a valuable research tool, and through income generated by visitors to the walkway, Inkaterra is able to maintain the walkway and fund further scientific work. This scientific research goes hand-in-hand with Inkaterra’s conservation efforts: Inkaterra protects more than 42 acres of rainforest, where scientists are constantly monitoring the ecosystem and its inhabitants. To generate sustainable local incomes and provide additional funding for its research initiatives, Inkaterra has opened eco-lodges within Peru and the Amazon rainforest. In all of its endeavors, Inkaterra implements water and energy conservation and waste management measures, and in 2007, Inkaterra became Peru’s first carbon-neutral travel organization.
ASOCIACIÓN SOL & LUNA
Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru
The Swiss and French couple Franz and Petit came to the Sacred Valley of the Incas in 1996 with the goal of doing “something useful” for the local community. They started by trying to make improvements in the local schools, but soon realized that their efforts would be hampered by a serious shortage of funding. They opened the luxurious Sol & Luna spa and hotel to raise money to support their efforts in the community, with 100 percent of profits being redirected into schools and other programs. Some years down the line, the most visible example of their efforts is the Colegio Intercultural, a private school that draws children from all walks of life, from the very poor to the very wealthy. The curriculum is expressly designed to promote dialogue between different cultures. In addition to healthcare and meals, the school offers students a chance to learn in a comfortable, modern environment. Now that the school is a reality, other projects are in the works, including a rest home for children from remote communities, a youth cultural center and a hotel training school.
Isla Suasi is a mere speck in the midst of Lake Titicaca. When Puno native Martha Giraldo acquired the tiny private island, it had been deforested, denigrated and depleted of natural resources. The sociologist set out to return the island to a place of abundance and beauty. She built a small, solar-powered ecological refuge and got to work planting trees and gardens, replenishing the vicuña and alpaca population and recreating the paradise that you see today. The lodge has since expanded, but it’s still powered by solar energy and constructed from native materials. There are still no automobiles, no electricity and no permanent inhabitants. Ms. Giraldo’s original refuge still stands, and she maintains a Cultural Hut & Library, where visitors can learn about the island’s history, flora and fauna.