Your South American voyage begins in one of the continent's most vibrant and bustling metropolises, Lima. The heart of Peru, this capital city is a fascinating blend of ancient Incan tradition and cosmopolitan energy. From here, our travel itinerary will take you on an adventure to the magnificent Machu Picchu and into the depths of the Amazon rainforest.
The Belmond Miraflores Park is your base for exploring this first destination, Lima. A beachfront sanctuary only a short walk away from some of the city’s most cherished cultural sights, the hotel prides itself on its impeccable service and exceptional setting within a lush verdant garden. The luxurious rooms combine traditional Peruvian style and modern comforts, and for a very special experience we can book you the Terrace Suite which offers a large private verandah boasting spectacular ocean views.
For your first dining experience in Lima head to Astrid Y Gastón, a renowned restaurant praised for its role in putting Latin American cuisine on the map. Set in a breathtaking San Isidro hacienda built over 300 years ago, a meal here is the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of your trip. The kitchen is led by world-famous chef Gastón Acurio and serves Peruvian cuisine with an international twist such as the Peking-Style Guinea Pig Bao. To experience the breadth of flavours, we recommend that you opt for the tasting menu. After dinner, have a nightcap at the bar also housed in the mansion before retiring back to the hotel.
After feasting on an indulgent breakfast spread featuring local specialties such as cachangas (Peruvian fried dough) at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, it’s time to explore the city on foot. One of the first things you’ll notice when stepping outside is the high humidity and foggy atmosphere that shrouds the city. Embrace this peculiar climate and take a stroll around Miraflores, a picturesque neighbourhood and one of the most affluent districts in Lima. Be sure to visit the single pre-Incan ruin that remains standing in the area, Huaca Pucllana – a great clay pyramid built from seven staggered platforms dating back to 200 AD. For lunch, go to La Mar for one or two Pisco sours and some fresh seafood dishes. We recommend ordering a selection of small plates such as the tuna ceviché and octopus anticuchos.
Take some time to enjoy the hotel’s rooftop pool and spa before another memorable gastronomical experience at Central Restaurante . A source of great pride to the country, the restaurant is ranked sixth in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Without any of the pretension that one might expect from such an acclaimed establishment, the service is warm and welcoming and the kitchen is open and visible. Some of the delicacies like ‘Spiders on a Rock’ and ‘Marine Soil’ may sound daunting, but trust us, the flavours and textures will delight the palate and give you a sense of Peru’s vast biodiversity that this restaurant is so passionate about communicating through its menu.
It’s your final day in Lima so spend the morning learning about the city’s fascinating history. The Larco Museum is a private museum located in the Pueblo Libre district. Housed in an 18th century vice-royal building, the museum exhibits an incredible collection of ancient ceramics, jewellery, metalwork and textiles. After exploring Pueblo Libre, hop in a taxi to the old historic centre of Lima, originally named ‘The City of the Kings’. Wander around the main square and be sure to visit the Government Palace, the main cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace. Arguably the most fascinating of the sites you’ll find here however, is Casa de Aliaga . This colourful colonial-style mansion was originally built by Francisco Pizarro in 1535 and offers a glimpse into aristocratic life in Peru during the 16th century.
It’s time to board your hour-long flight to Cusco. Known as the ‘Gateway to Machu Picchu’, Cusco was the historic capital of the Incan Empire from the 13th century and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is one of the most beloved cities in South America and here, many mystical sights await you. Your first night is spent at the extraordinary Belmond Monasterio. Housed in a converted monastery, the hotel evokes historical charm while offering all of the luxury amenities you would expect from a five-star hotel. Once settled into your room, head to the tranquil courtyard for a drink. If you’re feeling a bit unsteady from the high altitude, ask for a cup of coca tea – a natural remedy that the locals swear by to soothe the symptoms.
Bursting with rich and fascinating history, the city centre of Cusco retains the majority of its structures and architecture from pre-Columbian years. Begin your tour at Barrio de San Blas. As you walk along the steep cobblestone streets into the main square, you will see locals donning the famous Peruvian colourful shawls and traditional bowler hats – keep an eye out for the local llamas basking in the sunshine. For lunch, grab a bite at San Pedro Market, a bustling indoor market with a vast selection of traditional street food such as pork sandwiches, choclo con queso (boiled corn on the cob with cheese) or sweet and salty tamales. Then, make your way to Coricancha, a religious complex housing the most sacred site in the Incan religion, “The Temple of the Sun”.
A Gothic-Renaissance style cathedral built by the Spanish conquistadors on the site of a destroyed Incan temple, the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption is a close walk from Coricancha and houses many ancient relics and artefacts. As you explore, notice how the Incans incorporated their own religious symbolism into the building such as the jaguar head carved on the cathedral’s doors. For a meal with a side of entertainment, dinner is at La Cusquenita Tradicional Picnteria. A favourite of locals and tourists for good reason, this restaurant offers authentic Peruvian dishes (including guinea pig and alpaca) along with a live show of traditional performances.
The time has come to begin your journey to Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Wake up early, pack your bags and hop on the Belmond Hiram Bingham – the only way to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu in true style. The journey is three hours long so sit back, enjoy a glass of Peruvian wine and watch the incredible scenery whizz past as you anticipate the magic that awaits.
The only hotel located at the entrance of Machu Picchu, The Belmond Sanctuary Lodge allows you unparalleled proximity to the site. This afternoon, enjoy the serenity of the lodge where several activities are on offer. Centre yourself with a private yoga class, indulge in an outdoor massage with views of the Huayna Picchu or, for a spiritual experience, take part in a Pachamama Tribute Ceremony in which an Andean Shaman will guide you through offerings, asking Mother Earth for health in return.
The dining choices at Machu Picchu are limited so luckily, the Tampu Restaurant at the Belmont Sanctuary Lodge offers flavoursome dishes to tuck into against a surreally beautiful backdrop. Enjoy local plates like creamy Oxapampa cheese, earthy Sacred Valley mushrooms and crisp palm heart. You’ll want to get an early night this evening as a very early start awaits you the next morning. . .
Wake up just before sunrise to see one of the most breathtaking views you will ever experience – sunrise over Machu Picchu. Arrive to the entrance early to avoid the crowds coming in from Cusco and enjoy an hour of exploring the site alone before your guided tour. Your imagination will run wild as you think back to the mysterious civilisation that constructed this extraordinary place. For the adventurous among you, take a thirty minute hike to the original Inca drawbridge that once protected the western entrance to Machu Picchu. After a day of exploring, enjoy a quick late lunch at the hotel before taking the train back to the Sacred Valley and to the town of Urubamba Valley.
Before embarking on your Amazon river adventure, let yourself recharge at the incredible Tambo Del Inka . This idyllic resort is set at the base of Ch'iqun mountain and overlooks the Vilcanota River – you can even spot snow-capped peaks in the distance. Enjoy the world class water-based treatments at the Kallpa Spa after an afternoon of gentle horse riding in the beautiful grounds.
For dinner, go to Wayra Ranch at the Sol y Luna Spa and Lodge, a five-minute drive from the hotel. We will book you a table in the mesmerising blue dining room where you can enjoy a ten course tasting menu followed by a performance of traditional dances and a riding presentation showcasing the ranch’s talented riders and beautiful horses.
It’s a scenic drive back to Cusco, where you will fly out to Puerto Maldonado in south east Peru. Once landed in Padre Aldamiz International Airport, you will be picked up and taken to a half way point where you will transfer your luggage into a soft bag in order to take it on board the boat. Riding in the stable motored canoes, you will feel at one with nature as you embark down the largest river in the world. Everywhere you look, luscious deep green trees surround the river banks. Keep your eyes peeled for macaws, heron, caiman, capybara and small turtles along the way. Enjoy a light lunch of fried rice wrapped in a banana leaf and take in the sights, smells and sounds of jungle wildlife.
You will arrive at Posada Amazonas Lodge, an oasis in the jungle and the perfect base from which to explore the Amazon rainforest. It’s several steps from the river bank up to the lodge itself so be prepared for a bit of a hike. After being welcomed by the friendly hotel staff, settle into your room. All rooms are decorated with authentic Ese-Eja décor and furnishings crafted by local artisans. As sunset draws in, walk around the beautiful hotel grounds and climb up the canopy tower where you can watch the breathtaking skies transform from day to night from above the rainforest canopy.
Wake before sunrise to get back on the water – this time for piranha fishing. After a quick breakfast with your fellow lodgers, follow your guide down the steps back to the river bank and hop on the canoe to get up close and personal with these infamous razor-toothed fish. Using fresh meat as bait, the locals will teach you to catch these feisty creatures – be sure to keep your arms and legs in the boat at all times. A thrilling experience to tick off your bucket list!
In the afternoon your guide will take you on a trek through the jungle where you will learn about the jaw-droppingly diverse fauna and flora of the area. From bizarre insects on the ground to spider monkeys jumping through the trees and colourful macaws soaring in the skies, you will be fully immersed in the rich nature of this unknown territory. In the evening, experience this landscape by night. Follow your guide and venture into darkness with torches at the ready. While you will see alien-like creepy crawlies and tree-snakes, it is the symphony of animal noises you’ll hear around you that will hint to the incredible life residing in the depths of the jungle.
The call of howler monkeys will be your alarm clock, waking you up to start your day with a leisurely coffee on your veranda while overlooking the canopy bathed in morning light. Today, you will head to the Chunco Macaw Clay Lick where you’ll be overwhelmed by the incredible movement and bright colours of the hundreds of macaws gathering to lick the clays of the stone. Your guide will explain how the birds come here for the alkaline stones that help to soothe their stomachs agitated by the highly acidic nature of their berry-rich diets.
While many visitors come to the Amazon to witness the incredible fauna, your meeting with a local botanist will leave you with a newfound appreciation of the beauty and power of the rainforest’s flora. The knowledgeable botanist will explain how the different plants have been used as medicines, some of these even containing hallucinogenic properties. You will be invited to touch, smell and even taste some of these plants and berries while learning about how civilisations have depended on these plants for centuries.
For your last evening at the lodge, go back to the canopy tower to take in a spectacular final sunset before dinner and drinks. You can choose to end your adventure here and depart for home tomorrow, or continue your Amazon exploration by heading to Iquitos to continue your journey aboard the Aria Amazon boat.
The following days are written to give you a flavour of the incredible Aria Amazon tour. All itineraries are subject to change depending on weather or time of year. The length of the trip can be tailored according to your preferences.
For those intrepid explorers who desire to travel deeper into the Amazon rainforest, it’s time to pack up your bags, fly north to Iquitos and hop aboard the Aria Amazon. The spectacular 147 foot long boat was designed by famed Peruvian architect Jordi Puig and embodies exquisite yet low-key luxury. Boasting floor to ceiling windows to showcase in the breathtaking views of the riverbanks, an outdoor jacuzzi on the deck and beautiful dining and lounging areas, the Aria Amazon allows guests an experience on the Amazon river unlike any other.
Throughout your stay aboard, the crew and expert naturalist guides will introduce and educate you about this majestic river. Wake up to spectacular multi-coloured sunrises over the dense jungle canopies and spend your days exploring the river’s wonders such as the Samiria National Reserve, the Nauta Cano, also known as the forest of mirrors and the glorious Ceiba Tree, the tallest in the Amazon. On your journey, you will encounter many of the regions rich wildlife such as toucans, macaws, iguanas, pink and grey dolphins and many other rainforest creatures in their natural habitat. You will even visit villages along the river banks to get a sense of local life along the Amazon.
As your adventure comes to an end, take a moment to reflect on the incredible experience you’ve had over the past two weeks. From discovering the mysteries of ancient civilisations in Machu Picchu to being one with nature in the depths of the Amazon rainforest, you’ll feel humbled by the extraordinary human and natural wonders you have witnessed. It’s time to say goodbye to the magic of Peru or better yet, “Huq p’unchaykama” – “until another day” . .