Haven't you always wanted to enjoy a wonderful tour of the Andes on a Peru Rail Tour? This new Peru Rail vacation is a mixture of standard and narrow gauge lines. This railway network repeatedly crosses the high ridges and plateaus of the Andes Mountains on some of the most spectacular routes in the world. Since its 1999 privatization, passenger operations have been upgraded under the management of the Venice Simplon Orient Express; so this service includes remarkably luxurious accommodations for such a remote region. These great rail journeys create an intriguing tour of the Incan wonders of Peru.
The program begins with a complete tour of Lima, capital city of Peru. You view the city and its colonial era treasures, then visit the Larco Herrera Museum, which explains both the 3000-year pre-Columbian history of Peru and the glorious Incan Empire. From Lima you fly to Puno, located over two miles high on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
During your stay at Puno, you cruise to the unique floating islands of the Uros by lake boat and explore the Sillustani Ruins (burial ground). You also ride the magnificent regularly-scheduled Andean Explorer train from Puno back over the Andes to Cuzco. Here you tour the “City of Gold” and discover its mix of Spanish colonial grandeur and Incan culture. You then board the deluxe new Hiram Bingham train for the run north to explore Machu Picchu, the legendary “Lost City of the Incas”.
The elegant narrow-gauge Hiram Bingham train has full on-board dining car service. It arrives at the ruins at 12:30 p.m. (after the crush of morning visitors has departed) allowing for uncrowded viewing. New for 2009 is an overnight at the base of the mountains at the lovely Pueblo Hotel at Machu Picchu. You also visit the remarkable “Sacred Valley” region and the mighty Incan Fortress of Ollantaytambo.
The group is escorted by a tour managers and English-speaking local guides throughout the tour. The program uses elegant Four and Five-Star hotels at all points. This is the most practical deluxe tour nto a remote region of high peaks and ancient cities. You travel from sea-level at Lima to over 14,000 feet, yet enjoy luxurious hotels and exceptionally comfortable trains throughout. You have sought to maximize comfort and convenience everywhere, but participants should be prepared for bumpy roads and possible delays. This tour is the quintessential soft adventure!
- All air, rail and coach fares within Peru
- Ride on the Hiram Bingham train (Orient Express)
- Ride the Andean Explorere to Cuzco
- Visit the once lost city of Machu Picchu
- Excursion to the floating Uros Islands
- Tour manager services and local English-speaking Peruvian staff
- All hotels, sightseeing, admissions
- 20 Meals
- Roundtrip first-class train to Machu Picchu
- Locally guided sightseeing in Lima, Cusco and Sacred Valley
Optional Pretour Day, Friday, November 6 (D on the flight)
Flights leave North America. Flight options with this tour depart this evening for Lima. Quotes are also available for special airfare add-ons from most U.S. cities in conjunction with the tour, or you are welcome to book through your own agent.
Day One, Saturday, November 7 (B,D)
Arrive in Lima. Flights arrive in Lima early this morning. You transfer to the comfortable J. W. Marriott Hotel to rest after the flight. Rooms have been booked for the previous evening and therefore are available on arrival. The day is at leisure, but the Mirflores neighborhood around the hotel is the main upscale shopping district of Lima. Directly across the street from your hotel is an ocean-front promenade and a unique shopping center built into the cliffs!
Day Two, Sunday, November 8 (B,L)
Tour Lima. You enjoy a special private brunch today at the 1535 Casa Aliaga and tour this historic capital city. A special stop is at the remarkable Larco Herrera Museum, which displays 3000 years of Pre-Columbian art including a stunning display of gold jewelry.
Day Three, Monday, November 9 (B,D)
Flight to Puno; visit Sillustani Burial Complex; view Lake Titicaca. After breakfast at the hotel, you take a short flight (included in the tour price) to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Here you visit the remarkable Sillustani Burial Complex, a pre-Incan burial ground on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The tombs, which are built above ground in tower-like structures called chullpas, are the vestiges of the Colla people (also known as the Aymara) who were conquered by the Incas in the 1400s. The burial structures house the remains of complete family groups, although they probably were limited to the nobility. You have a two-night stay at the Five Star Hotel Libertador Isla Esteves in Puno. Dinner tonight is in the hotel’s unique “Gastronomic Restaurant”, which specializes in serving traditional Andean ingredients with an international flair.
Day Four, Tuesday, November 10 (B,L)
Excursion to the floating Uros Islands; lunch on the steamboat SS Yavari; visit Lampa. You sail today on Lake Titicaca. This vast lake has a surface elevation of over 12,000 feet and extends into Bolivia from Peru. (You remain in Peruvian waters). Your stop is at the remarkable floating islands of Uros, 40 islets constructed from reeds tightly lashed together and floating on the waters of Lake Titicaca. The Uros people originally created these artificial islands to escape the Incas, who dominated the mainland at the time. Today they are noted as a major tourist destination. About 3,000 descendants of the Uros are alive today, although only a few hundred still live on the islands.
You enjoy lunch on the restored lake-steamer SS Yavari, which was built in England in 1862, cut in pieces, and transported by mule train overland before being reassembled on the lake. This afternoon you visit the village of Lampa and the magnificent Church of Santiago the Apostle, which contains an exact copy of Michelangelo’s “Pieta”.
Day Five, Wednesday, November 11 (B,L)
High mountain Andean Explorer train journey to Cuzco. Peru Rail’s main line takes us north to Cuzco, the “City of Gold”. On this journey, you climb to a summit of 14,166 feet at Santa Rosa with a stunning photo stop at La Roya Raya. As noted, the Venice Simplon Orient Express Company now operates the Peru Rail passenger services. This train, the Andean Explorer, carries a new observation car. An excellent three-course luncheon is included with full dining car table service, fine linens and china. The line crosses high mountain plains, where vicuna and alpaca often are seen, before descending through towering peaks to Cuzco. The hotel for three nights is the unique Five Star Hotel Monasterio, created from a restored 16th century monastery. This elegant hotel is owned and operated by the Orient Express group. A remarkable feature is the former Monastery Chapel, which contains fabulous paintings and sculptures from the peak era of the “Cusco School” of art, many embossed in gold!
Day Six, Thursday, November 12 (B)
Tour Cuzco and nearby Incan ruins. Cuzco was the richest city in Spain’s vast South American empire. You discover its treasures today as you tour the city, seeing the Plaza de Armas, the cathedral and grand mansions. A spectacular stop is at the Koricancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun. As Cuzco was the center of the Incan Empire, this is one of the most important Inca temples. Originally a temple of the Killki culture, its walls served as the foundation for the construction of the Convento de Santo Domingo. Close to the Main Square you find the district of San Blas, the home of famous artists. The pulpit of San Blas is one of the most perfect creations of colonial art.
Day Seven, Friday, November 13 (B,L)
Tour the Sacred Valley and the Ollantaytambo Ruins. You discover the twelve traditional Andean communities of Chinchero, visit the Center for Traditional Textiles and view Maras, an area of ancient salt mines. A private gourmet picnic lunch is enjoyed while watching a recreation of the “Tribute to the Earth” Incan religious ritual.
This afternoon you discover the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Ollantaytambo Fortress. Ollantaytambo means "storehouse of my lord" and is thought to be the only remaining example of pre-Columbian urban planning. A number of beautiful colonial-era houses are constructed on finely-worked Incan walls of dark pink rock. The original Incan settlement was an administrative, religious, agricultural and military complex.
Day Eight, Saturday, November 14 (B,L,D)
Ride the Hiram Bingham to tour Machu Picchu. The distinctive blue and gold carriages of the narrow gauge Hiram Bingham train are warm and inviting, with elegant interior upholstery. This diminutive luxury train offers two dining cars, a bar car and a kitchen car, and can carry up to 84 passengers. The general style of the carriages reflects the luxury of the 1920s Pullman era. The train departs Cuzco at 9 a.m., which provides a more leisurely start to the day than the traditional 6 a.m. departures of other services.
Brunch is served on board the train while you view the spectacular scenery unfolding before us through the train’s large windows. The line drops from the heights of Cuzco via a set of switchbacks as it descends steeply into a deep canyon enroute to Machu Picchu. Your 12:30 p.m. arrival gives us the advantage of entering the Sanctuary at an hour when the majority of visitors are leaving for their journey back to Cuzco. This provides both the opportunity to experience the ancient citadel at Machu Picchu in relative solitude and to enjoy a longer visit than on the regular trains. You stay overnight at the base of the Sacred Mountain at the unique Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel. Waterfalls cascade down through the hotel gardens, which are filled with wild orchids. Your accommodations are in whitewashed casitas. You enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Notes about Machu Picchu: It is believed that Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas”, was built for the native royalty, starting about 1440 A.D., and was inhabited until the Spanish conquest of Peru in 1532 A.D. Archeological evidence shows that Machu Picchu was not a conventional city, but instead served as a country retreat for the Incan nobility. The site has a large palace and temples to Incan deities situated around a central courtyard, with other buildings originally built for support staff. It is estimated only about 750 people resided in Machu Picchu at any one time. The mountain top setting is a place of incredible beauty!
Day Nine, Sunday, November 15 (B,D)
Free-time at Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel for birding and nature walks or viewing other ancient sites; Vista Dome train back to Cusco. After breakfast you have a morning at leisure, with the opportunity to visit ruins or join ecological activities at the Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel. One option is a nature walk with a visit to the Rocotal Observatory (which has sacred pre-Inca pictographs); an enchanting waterfall; and fabulous native orchids, ferns and bromeliads. Another option is the birding tour starting at 6:30 a.m. for optimum cloud-forest bird watching. Sightings of the golden-headed quetzal and as many as 16 different varieties of hummingbirds are possible. Whatever your choice of activity, the transport costs, entrance fees and guides are included in the tour price.
You continue on the afternoon Vista Dome train back to Cusco. This service features glass-topped single-level dome coaches, which provide particularly sweeping views of the awesome depths of the canyons as the train ascends over 4,000 feet to Cusco. You transfer from Poroy station back to the Monasterio Hotel for a final night. Your “Farewell Dinner” is a special experience at the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art.
Day Ten, Monday, November 16 (B,L)
Flight to Lima; city touring; Peruvian Paso horse show; evening flights to North America. You fly back to Lima this morning (flight included in the tour price), where you are transferred to the Hacienda Mamacona for a “Pachamanca” lunch and a private horse show featuring magnificent Peruvian Paso horses. Additional touring in Lima includes the beautiful carvings in Lima Cathedral, the tomb of the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizzaro, and the 17th century St. Francis Monastery and its ancient catacombs. Flights to North America depart late this evening, and airport transfers are included. Depending on your flight departure time, you may wish to book a room at an airport hotel.