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Peru Safari

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Exploring the highlights of Peru including the enigmatic Nazca Lines and Machu Picchu, this is an original 4x4 adventure. We encompass the Desert, the Andes and the Amazon on a southern Peru loop, with 2,900km of some of the worlds most epic roads, taking in the rich culture, Inca history and wildlife of Peru. The incredible route takes in an eclectic mix of historic haciendas, hotels & lodges, with routes spanning the most spectacular mountain ranges, roads and rivers in Peru. Imagine traveling through 3 climate zones, where you will reach off the beaten track locations others can only dream of, driving your own 4x4 self-drive expedition vehicle.

Time at the wheel is variable dependent on road conditions and weather etc. However, for each day you should calculate around 6 hours (except Cusco), and we very strongly recommend you split the driving time to avoid fatigue. The whole trip is around 2,900-3000k of hugely varied roads and climates. We will also enjoy a picnic and coffee stops along the way each day. In Cusco (Jaguar and Inca Tracks Tours) or Cajamarca (Cloud Warrior Tour), you will park your vehicle and collect it 2-4 days later (this can vary according to seasons/weather/road conditions and tour specs). Here then, you will enjoy a good rest from the road and explore the cobbled colonial streets on foot. The roads are some of the most spectacular in the world, and mainly tarmac, although you will be expected to do some off-road driving on some days.

Previous 4x4 experience is not required. It is essential that you have full concentration while driving, and any time you feel tired, wish to stop, would like a 'brew break' (or just want to stretch your legs and take some photos), we would urge you to let us know via the in-car radio. We are happy to oblige. Note: Being overtired can compromise the group's safety and your full enjoyment of the trip. You also need to be aware of the effect of altitude (our route goes to 5000 meters). The areas we visit are extremely remote and have very limited medical facilities. Please ensure to have a good stock of any medications you need, as well as adequate travel insurance.

Peruvian driving standards are not those you would encounter in Europe or the USA/Canada, and anticipation is the best defence, along with following the instructions of our guides, who will be in front throughout, to spot any hazards. Landslides, rock falls, overflowing rivers, and fallen trees can all cause issues and delays, and are an integral part of the Peruvian driving experience. This comes from the breath-taking routes that some of these roads follow. Our guide vehicle will always be at the head of the convoy, and in radio contact at all times. Our guides are always available to take over if you feel tired or are not confident with any small section of the route.

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Peru Safari

Itinerary

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Lima, the 'City of Kings', is a vibrant and bustling metropolis worthy of exploration. On the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Lima is known as the Gateway to Peru and combines colonial splendor, prestigious museums and beautiful parks with lively nightlife and ample opportunities for sampling its world-famous cuisine. Our complimentary private driver service ensures safe and timely transfers to your hotel. Accommodation- Casa Andina Hotel, Miraflores
Lima is a sprawling city with heavy traffic. Follow the guide-vehicle before rush hour, out of the suburbs, south along the busy Pan American Highway. The route follows the Pacific coast and the city gives way to rolling surf and immense desert vistas. We stop at Ica for a lunch break out in the desert, at the charming oasis of Huacachina where you can take a fast and furious dune buggy adventure across the giant dunes for an hour. From here we continue to Nazca. Nazca is no ordinary dusty oasis town. Tucked away on the southern coast of Peru and overlooked by the enormous Cerro Blanco (2,078m) sand dune, this sleepy town was hastily awoken in 1939 due to the discovery of mysterious drawings etched into the nearby rocky desert plains. Vast and mysterious, they must be seen to be believed. As the sun drops, we will head off-road into the desert, to a remote archaeological dig and the recently discovered, perfectly preserved Mummies of Chauchilla. The site was discovered in the 1920s with the first mummies dating back to 200 AD. with bodies remarkably preserved due to the dry desert climate. The bodies were clothed in embroidered cotton and then painted with resin and kept in purpose-built tombs made from mud bricks. The mummification process resulted in thousand-year-old bodies which still have hair and skin and are sitting in the open desert landscape. We then arrive at a hidden colonial hacienda, set in 60 acres of desert scenery. The lush gardens, pool, and peacocks make for a gentle contrast to the hustle and bustle of Lima, and we have a relaxed dinner on the terrace. Max Alt 591m +/- 465km 7hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Accommodation- Desert Hacienda Majoro
Just after dawn, we head towards Nazca and its tiny airstrip. Established over 2000 years ago, its system of valleys was originally inhabited by the Nazca peoples. This culture was responsible for the mysterious lines in the desert, which are best viewed from the air, with our optional dawn Nazca light aircraft flight, for a thrilling start to your Peru experience. It’s a must do experience. From here, we drive towards Puquio and the winding trip just in the first 90 kilometers ascends 4000 meters above sea level. This will be your first encounter with altitude and coca tea. The wool of vicunas is considered the finest in the world; some call it the gold of the Andes. You can see these charming animals as we transit the Pampa Galeras National Wildlife Reserve and at 3650 meters high, it is the main conservation center for Peru's vicuna and alpacas that are adapted to the extreme cold of the Andes. You can also see pink flamingos and the occasional majestic condor on this route, dotted with lakes and snow-capped peaks. We then descend to a lodge for the evening at Tampamayu, located next to the Chalhuanca River in a magnificent gorge, half-way between Nazca and Cusco. Max Alt 4557m +/- 385km 6hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation- Tampamayu Mountain Lodge
From Chalhuanca, we drive ever higher into the Andes and head off-road to the tiny hamlet of Cachora. With stunning views of the snow-capped peaks of Mount Salkantay towering over the nearby Apurimac Gorge (the world's deepest canyon), our accommodation is a traditional private rustic Peruvian lodge. With lush tropical gardens and the buzz of hummingbirds collecting pollen, the peace of this secluded location is quick to charm. The house offers tremendous vistas, with full-length windows and a cozy log fire. Everything served here is freshly produced on the farm from avocados to mangos, and honey to fresh cows milk. This is the gateway to the recently discovered lost city of Choquequirao. The name translates as 'cradle of gold' and its remote location, two days walk from the here, adds to the deserted citadel’s appeal. We offer a remarkable (optional) 4x4 drive and 30 min trek to the peak overlooking the Apurimac gorge and the lost Inca city of Choquequirao in the distance. The view, stretching for 40 miles into the clouds, is truly monumental. Max Alt 4000m +/- 168k 4-5hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation- Casa Cachora Private Lodge
The next morning, we head out towards Cusco via nerve jingling sinuous track hugging the side of the deepest gorge on the planet. Early afternoon, we descend, towards the Imperial City of the Incas, stopping at the Inca ruins of Tarawasi en- route. We are now only a short distance to the sacred valley of Cusco. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 it is designated as the Historical Capital of Peru. Incan majesty and Andean baroque exist side-by-side in Cusco's ancient stone streets, and we will spend three full days in this area for you to take in just some of the many highlights here, with museums, palaces, and incredible Inca ruins. In Cusco you can select from our options list of great activities including the Vista Dome Rail Journey to Machu Picchu, with lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary. In Cusco, we will enjoy a charming 4 star hotel and converted convent close to the main Plaza, among the narrow winding cobbled streets. A five-minute walk takes you to the old Plaza de Armas of the Inca Capital. Max Alt 3,800m +/- 154k 4-5hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch Accommodation- Casa Andina Premium
Enjoy a free morning to relax, explore the city, its churches, museums, and palaces. An optional guided city tour allows you to experience greatest and nearest to Cusco of the Inca ruins. Sacsayhuamán reveals some of the Incas’ most extraordinary architecture and monumental stonework. This easy-going hippy-chic town with its rich colonial and Inca heritage is ideal to explore on foot. Along with its narrow cobbled streets, you will find artisan craft stalls, colorful marketplaces, and peaceful plazas to relax with a coffee. Dinners are not included in Cusco, to give you a chance to sample the great range of Peruvian cuisine and street life around Cusco, without any timetable. We can recommend a range of great eateries where you can sample the best of Peruvian cuisine. No Driving. Accommodation- Casa Andina Premium, Breakfast
Take our option to see Machu Picchu via the fabulous Vista Dome train, as it’s an unmissable part of Peru. On the Vista Dome package, we catch the early train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, possibly the most iconic site of the whole trip. Machu Picchu is a majestic 15th-century Inca site, and the view will take your breath away. Located on a ridge between the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains it sits 7,970 feet above sea level and overlooks the Urubamba River hundreds of feet below. Machu Picchu lay hidden from the world for such a long time because its location is so remote. The nearest town is Aguas Calientes which is located down in the valley. There are no roads that connect to the outside world, so the only way in is by train. This is no ordinary rail journey. The Vista Dome service has large panoramic windows in the roof allowing you to enjoy the deep forested gorge that flows towards the Amazon basin, and take in spectacular mountain scenery on one of the world’s classic railway journeys. The site’s excellent preservation, the quality of its architecture, and the breath-taking mountain vista have made Machu Picchu one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world today. Covering 80,000 acres, the buildings you will see were made without mortar (typical of the Inca), their granite stones quarried and precisely cut. We return to Cusco via rail early evening. No Driving. Accommodation- Casa Andina Premium, Breakfast.
You can choose to relax around Cusco or leave early for one of our pre-booked optional tours into the highlands North of Cusco and the Sacred Valley. A full list of add-on tour options can be found below. The Rio Urabamba valley is simply beautiful and is known as the scared valley due to its Inca heritage. Dotted by attractive colonial towns and isolated weaving villages, the area is home to many Inca sites of importance and some stunning scenery. You can head to Pisac market, a world-famous cacophony of sounds and colors making this the most vibrant of the Andean market towns, with a nice walk up to the archaeological site. You can also head to the unique and somewhat “offbeat” Inca sites of Maras and Moray. Alternatively, if you need an adrenaline fix, you could opt to take our popular full-day River Rafting a thrilling experience that offers 2 unforgettable hours running the rapids on the upper Urabamba river. No Driving. Accommodation- Casa Andina Premium, Breakfast.
We bid farewell to Cusco and take the road north towards what Peruvians call the eyebrow of the jungle. It’s an isolated area of subtropical forest and huge mountains and serves up some truly spectacular roads. Home to endangered species such as the Spectacled Bear, and the Andean Condor, bromeliads and orchids abound around this little-explored region and we will picnic at the ancient stone of Saywite, an intriguing secluded Inca sacred site, in lovely surroundings. The route then takes us on precipitous dirt/mud roads via Piramide Sondor, and its remarkable views, along Lake Pacucha, to simple hotel accommodation in the small town of Andahuaylas. Max Alt 4,700m +/- 343k 6hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Accommodation- Hotel La Mansion (simple and basic)
We now head into some of the most awesome scenery and roads in Peru, as we traverse the Andes ridge heading North, high above the Amazon jungle to the east, and the Pacific coast to the West. We pass through Andean Indian villages located on the windswept plains with breath-taking views overlooking the snow-capped peaks beyond. Locals still go about their business in traditional dress and frequently travel by horseback. Following a steep descent into Ayacucho we find richly decorated churches dominating the vivid cityscape & houses are hung with wooden balconies. Ayacucho has authenticity and history, dating back several centuries to its colonial heyday. We will stay in this attractive town at a lively cafe-hotel, overlooking the Plaza and Cathedral. It has a great restaurant that serves some excellent local dishes and the town has 32 churches, cobbled streets, so is a delight to stroll around and enjoy the atmosphere and culture. Max Alt 4,300 +/- 242k 7hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Accommodation- Via Via Cafe situated in the main old plaza
We continue from Ayacucho and follow the spectacular narrow pass along the Rio Mantaro Gorge for some exciting on and off-road adventure. This road requires concentration and a steady nerve, before a steep ascent on an equally challenging track (peaking at 5000m) before a descent to the Casa Hacienda San Juan, owned by our family, situated near to Pampas. This historic colonial building and hacienda sits in beautiful countryside and is only accessible by 4x4. With its own church in grounds and elegant terraces, this is very different from a normal hotel or lodge and has been in our family for centuries. It offers a great optional horseback ride into the mountains the next morning. Comfortable accommodations and a wood-fired oven dinner in the evening, followed by drinks around a roaring log fire ensure wonderful ambiance. Max Alt 4,875m +/- 230k 6-7hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation- Private Hacienda San Juan, Pampas
Next morning, we leave for Tarma, a 17th Century Hacienda in the mountains, which has also been in the family since the late 1600s. Again, we enjoy spectacular scenery and roads, arriving mid-afternoon into bustling Tarma. This area is the center for flower growing in Peru, set in a lush valley between the high Andean mountains with lovely views on all sides. An overnight stay at this rustic hacienda, with its own chapel in the courtyard, includes a hearty BBQ dinner on the terrace. A log fire and local Pisco liquor make the ideal nightcap before our descent to the jungle the next morning. Max Alt 4,200 +/- 190k 5hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation- Hacienda Santa Maria, Tarma
We descend steeply into the jungle on a spectacular road from Tarma towards the Amazon and La Merced . As the heat rises and the scenery changes, we continue downriver and then, dependent on the season and road conditions, we either take a steep and challenging 4×4 route up into the Pampa Hermosa National Sanctuary (subject to frequent road closures) or further into the interior to Oxapampa. We experience the Central Highland Jungles of Peru and the beautiful Altares Lodge, set in the hills above Oxapampa. This area is a mecca for birdwatchers. Among many vibrantly colorful species found here is the wonderful Peruvian cock-of-the-rock bird, as well as macaws, parrots and toucans. Peppered with jungle waterfalls, the river gorge makes for a delightful drive with its lush tropical scenery, giving a real taste of the steamy rainforest with its rare bird life, occasional river otters, monkeys, and deer. Crossing the river, with its sheer cliff sides and waterfalls, this 'Jurrasic Park' like route contrasts remarkably with the high Andes earlier in the same day. Weather permitting, we will offer a trek and exciting jungle zip line next morning in the jungle around Oxapampa (optional) Max Alt 3067m +/- 150k 5hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Accommodation- Altares Jungle Lodge Oxapampa or Rio Grande Jungle Lodge San Ramon (road/weather dependent)
Late morning, we start our ascent back into the Andes after lunch by the river at a great local restaurant. We stop at Sugar Loaf Bridge leaving our vehicles to follow a hidden trail into the jungle to a secluded waterfall, surrounded by butterflies and tropical birds (optional). We then continue back into the Andes to Tarma. Pisco is to Peru, what Whisky is to Scotland, and you can sample this fiery spirit by the log fire after dinner, with some travelers tales of your Peru adventure to round off your day. The family Hacienda of Tarma has a rich history within its adobe walls and even its own tiny museum. Max Alt 3090m +/- 150k 4-5hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation- Hacienda Santa Maria, Tarma
We return to Lima, descending across the world’s highest railway pass at 4,818 meters and down towards the coastal plain and the chaotic entrance to the city outskirts. This is a tough final drive. The last night is spent in the upmarket Miraflores district of Lima, close to the Pacific Ocean. Lima has some wonderful craft markets and some of the worlds finest restaurants. We will be happy to recommend and arrange transport for you to sample some of the wonderful cuisines of this bustling city for your last evening, and an option is to round off the trip at Huacapuyana restaurant, set in backlit pre-Inca ruins. Max Alt 5000m +/- 230k 7hrs Drive Time. Breakfast, Light Lunch. Accommodation- Casa Andina Hotel, Miraflores
Breakfast and check out late morning (with shower/luggage storage facilities) from our Miraflores hotel. Nearby, you will find shopping and lunch options overlooking the ocean at Larcomar, a smart cliff top development of designer shops and restaurants, that offers opportunities to purchase silver, ceramics, and Alpaca garments. Transfers are provided to the Airport for outward flights. (Breakfast/Airport Transfers)
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