PERU - LAND OF THE INCAS

October 

Machu Picchu

From the mystical silent ruins of Machu Picchu high in the Andes, to legendary Lake Titicaca on the altiplano, to the strange lines of Nazca on the Pacific Coast, Peru is one of the most fascinating places to travel in South America. This expedition offers an exciting introduction to the land, the people, and the natural and cultural history of Peru, as we visit Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lima, Nazca, and Lake Titicaca.
Our first stop is Lima, set in the narrow desert of Peru’s western coast. Lima is a city that reflects the vibrancy of Latin American culture. As we tour this city, we’ll visit impressive old churches and other buildings that reflect the colonial times as well as the modern one. The creativity of Peru’s early civilizations will come alive as we view examples of jewelry, sculpture and pottery at two of the best museums in the country, the Larco Herrera Museum and the National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.

Dunes south of Lima

From Lima, we travel south to Nazca, through Peru’s coastal desert, one of the driest on earth. Nazca is world famous for the mysterious, gigantic lines and figures scratched into the land surface hundreds of years ago. You may opt to take an unforgettable plane ride to see the wonderfully stylistic shapes that appear to represent a dog, bird, spider, and a monkey. For a remarkable comparison, we’ll view one figure at ground level from a roadside tower. A private visit to a local master potter is another special highlight here.
Next we’ll visit one of the world’s great wildlife refuges on the Paracas Peninsula. Just off the northern point of the peninsula are rocky islands known as the Ballestas, where sea lions and thousands of sea birds such as Inca terns, Peruvian boobies, and Humboldt penguins make their home. On a boat excursion we will enjoy close encounters and fine views of these birds perched on cliffs, or soaring overhead, and thrill to the sound of barking sea lions. Our boat may even conduct us through cave-like channels in the rocks where penguins huddle on narrow ledges.

Chinchero Weavers

Next we fly across the rugged Andes to the former capital of the Inca world, Cusco. This beautiful city still retains evidence of its former grandeur. We will visit the Temple of the Sun and the great fortress Sacsayhuaman, overlooking the city. The stonework here is unbelievable – in one area mammoth boulders of stone are fitted so perfectly together that a knife cannot be pushed between them. From Cusco, we will explore the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas, etched into towering Andes peaks by the Urubamba River. We’ll visit other fascinating archeological sites, colorful markets, and villages in this magnificent valley of steep, terraced slopes.
The greatest adventure, of course, will be the classic train ride along the raging Urubamba River to that most mystical of places, Machu Picchu. We will learn about the fascinating history of this city, and explore the wonderfully preserved palaces, temples, and houses. Nothing can describe the experience of seeing the ghostly ruins of this ancient city perched high on a mountaintop.

Last year's group on a reed boat, Lake Titicaca

Our final destination is Lake Titicaca, mythical birthplace of the ancestors of the Incas. Our base is Puno, located on the shores of the lake, and surrounded by a high desert known as altiplano. We’ll explore some of the altiplano as well, as it is home to a variety of striking birds and plants, as well as interesting archeological remains. We will take a day-long excursion by boat to visit two strikingly different cultural groups that live here. The famous floating islands of the Uros people are astonishing for their ingenuity and simplicity. Constructed only of reeds collected from the lake, these islands are home to several families. On Taquile Island, we’ll meet a people who live by fishing, as well as by selling their excellent weavings and carvings. We will explore this picturesque island, visit a market where their artistry is displayed, and tour some ruins as well.
All lodging is in comfortable, modern hotels chosen for their scenic location or close access to areas of interest. Your leader for this expedition is Peter Debes. Peter is a retired science teacher and a lifelong naturalist. He brings years of study and an intense interest in all things natural, especially birds, botany, astronomy, reptiles and insects. Peter spent several months in Peru while on sabbatical leave, and has led previous trips there as well as to many other interesting destinations worldwide. At each location we’ll have the added assistance of professional guides, drivers, and boatmen, whose expertise will greatly enrich the experience.


OPTIONAL AMAZON EXTENSION

For those who would like to see a very different part of Peru, we are offering a post-trip extension to the Amazon. The Amazon basin is a vast green forest that stretches almost unbroken to the Atlantic, 3000 miles away. Our lodge, Posada Amazonas is on the Tambopata River surrounded by a reserved zone that is world famous for its amazing diversity. Over 500 species of birds, 1200 species of butterflies and 5 species of monkeys have been sighted in an area of only 25 square miles. Our guides will lead us to places where we have the best possibilities of observing such animals as red howler monkeys, saddle-backed tamarinds, capuchins, armadillos, and birds such as scarlet macaws and toucans. On one day, we will be taken on an oxbow lake in search of hoatzins and giant river otters. Our nights in the lodge will be mystical and primeval. Devoid of human sounds, the forest echoes with calls that tell us it is...alive. Our access to the lodge is via the frontier town of Puerto Maldonado in southeastern Peru. Please indicate on the application form if you would like additional information on the extension.

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