Day 1: Iquitos & Amazon River
5pm Arrival. Your guides await you, as your flight from Lima glides in for landing at the International Airport in Iquitos. After you’ve claimed your luggage, you will board an air-conditioned bus and transfer to Iquitos’ main wharf. There the M/V Aqua lies at anchor. As you settle into your over-sized suite, your vessel will start on its journey toward the Yanayacu River, deep in the heart of Amazonia. Over the next three days, you will also sail along one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon, the Marañón, as well as on the mighty Amazon itself. You are embarking on a spectacular adventure, to a place visited by only a few of even the most experienced world travelers.
8pm Safety Drill and Briefing on the Top Deck. Before dinner we will perform a routine safety drill. Following that, your Cruise Director and Guides will give a brief orientation talk about life on board, where you will go and what you will see on your Amazon journey.
8:30pm Welcome Dinner. Peruvian cuisine is considered one of the world’s best. Here it is presented with a touch of European flair, and a vegetarian dish is always available. Raise a glass of fine South American wine to toast the beginning of a beautiful journey, then look out the window and watch the river go by as you experience your first wonderful meal aboard the M/V Aqua. Perhaps enjoy a nightcap on the Upper Deck, under the stars, before retiring.
Day 2: Amazon River
6:30am Breakfast - Enjoy the first of our generous breakfast buffets, complete with traditional breakfast egg dishes, plus Peruvian specialties and fresh-squeezed juices.
8am Yanayacu River Exploration - This morning you will board your comfortable excursion skiff to begin our first adventure along the Yanayacu (“black water”) River. Life jackets, ponchos, rubber boots and plenty of cold potable water are always available on the skiffs. As we float along this river, we will pass fishermen paddling in their dug-out canoes and will have the chance to see a great variety of wildlife, including terns, orioles, blackbirds, black collared hawks, monkeys, and sloth. Your guides will provide lots of detail about life along the river as we journey past its banks. Upon arrival at Corrientes Lake, you will have the chance to fish for the fearsome, sharp-toothed piranha, highly valued as a food among the local people. As midday approaches, we will begin our return journey.
11am Return to the M/V Aqua - The staff will await you with icy towels to help you cool off from your time on the river.
1pm Lunch - Enjoy lighter mid-day fare in our air-conditioned dining room.
4pm Yarapa River Exploration and Night Excursion After time for a siesta, we will board the skiffs again to explore the narrow Yarapa River. Here, in the heart of the rainforest, you are likely to spot squirrel monkeys, herons, egrets, and the unusual horned screamer. As the sun sets, you will become aware of the rich and varied sounds of diurnal creatures marking their territories. As soon as it is dark enough, we will turn the spotlight on to search for night wildlife—nighthawks, frogs, opossums, tarantulas, and caimans are easily spotted along this part of the river.
7:30pm Return to the M/V Aqua - The M/V Aqua continues to make its way upstream, toward the birthplace of the Amazon River—the dramatic spot where the Ucayali, Marañón, and Amazon River all unite in a rush of water. Sit under the stars on the Upper Deck and sip a pre-dinner pisco sour.
Day 3: Maranon River & Pacaya
8:30am Guided Jungle Walk at Ranger Station No. 1 This morning your Park Ranger will tell you all about sustainable resource management projects in Amazonia. You will visit one of the projects, where villagers are planting palms to obtain oil.
11am Return to the M/V Aqua
12:30pm Lunch, followed by a Siesta.
4pm Monkey and Dolphin Expedition - On this late afternoon expedition, you are likely to see the two different kinds of freshwater dolphins - including the unusual pink ones—found in the Amazon. Later, keep your eyes directed toward the jungle canopy, where you can spot at least several kinds of primates—among the 13 species of monkeys resident in the National Park. Perhaps you will catch a glimpse of tamarins and howlers, dusky titi monkeys and pigmy marmoet monkeys. Watch for alligators, and keep your binoculars at the ready, as you are likely to see more than 200 species of birds.
6pm Return to the M/V Aqua
8:30pm Optional Night Excursion - This evening we will take the skiffs out in search of caimans, tree boas, tarantulas, and frogs. After this night adventure, the M/V Aqua will start sailing downstream on the Marañón River, toward the headwaters of the Amazon.
Day 4: Puerto Miguel Village & Marayali River
5:30am - Birthplace of the Amazon -This morning, the M/V Aqua skirts the edges of the vast Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, a flooded forest covering five million acres at the headwaters of the Amazon basin. Rise early and be on your skiffs at 5:30 a.m. to view one of the great spectacles of the Southern Hemisphere: the sun rising over the birthplace of the Amazon River. Here—where the union of two major tributaries, the Ucayali and the Marañón, form the world’s greatest waterway—nature is at its most dramatic. Your dawn excursion will be accompanied by abundant bird song, as you glide in small boats past river banks populated by large-billed terns, laughing falcons, gray tanagers, sandpipers, five kinds of parakeets, the exotic short-tailed parrot, and dozens of other birds.
8:30am Puerto Miguel Village - We will travel by skiff to Puerto Miguel native village, where you can meet and interact with local villagers from this most remote part of the world, and can learn a bit more about their culture, traditions, and folklore. You will also have the chance to trade items for local handicrafts.
11am Return to the M/V Aqua.
12:30pm Lunch - Share a last lunch with your fellow passengers.
1:30pm Disembark/Depart for Nauta Board an air-conditioned bus in the historic town of Nauta, for the 1 1/2-hour ride through the Peruvian countryside to Iquitos International Airport. Your guides will help you check in and will stay with you until it is time for you to board you flight.
4pm Check-in at Iquitos International Airport, flight departs for Lima. Arrive Lima, private transfer to hotel, overnight in Lima.
Day 5: Lima
Lima is located in the central coastal area with a population of over 8 million people. Lima is well known as a culinary center of Peru has great local seafood and trying the saviche is a must! It is a bustling metropolis with a mix of colonial mansions and modern buildings, art galleries and baroque churches, restaurants, beautiful parks, bohemian bars and discotheques. In the morning we will tour both the Colonial and Modern Lima, with visits to the 17th century San Francisco Convent, passing by outstanding monuments such as the Government Palace, the City Hall and the Cathedral at the Plaza Mayor. Take a short tour of the modern districts of San Isidro and Miraflores where there is a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. After lunch, visit the Larco Herrera Museum- Since 1926 the world’s largest private collection of pre-Columbian art with a unique assortment of erotic pottery, genuine and rich jewels in gold, silver and semi-precious stones. The museum holds 45,000 pieces of ceramics plus genuine mummies and textiles. Overnight in Lima.
Days 6-7: Cuzco & Urubamba
Check out of hotel, private transfer to Lima airport & flight to Cuzco, pick up at Cuzco airport, tour with private guide and drop off at Monasterio Hotel. The Sacred Valley of the Incas offers a glorious beginning to a visit to Cuzco. The Valley’s climate, overwhelmingly beautiful scenery, picture postcard villages, and warm, friendly local people all reflect the Peru that visitors travel thousands of miles to see. The Sacred Valley is home to some of the finest Inca sites in all of Peru, to local markets packed with colorful folk art and crafts, and to villages unchanged for centuries. The Valley is fed by numerous rivers which descend through adjoining valleys and gorges, and contains numerous archaeological remains and villages. The valley was appreciated by the Incas due to its special geographical and climatic qualities. It was one of the empire's main points for the extraction of natural wealth, and the best place for maize production in Peru. The Sacred Valley is generally understood to include everything between Písac and Ollantaytambo, parallel to the Urubamba River, or Vilcanota River or Wilcamayu, as this Sacred river is called when passing through the valley. We take a trip to the Urubamba valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, to visit the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo. The site was built just as the Spaniards arrived, and evidence of how it was constructed is still visible. After admiring the site's magnificent past stroll through the quaint streets of today’s town. Continue to Pisac for an opportunity to haggle with vendors at its handicraft market. You will be able to observe a magnificent view of the Urubamba valley along the way. Overnight in Cuzco.
Day 8: Machu Picchu
Check out of Monasterio Hotel, Transfer to Cuzco. We will begin our tour visiting Awanakancha, where South American camelidae are bred. Learn about the llamas, alpacas and vicunas superb fibres, as well as the ancient weaving techniques which are still in use. We continue to San Blas to visit its beautiful colonial church, which houses an impressive pulpit and a filigree woodcarving celebrating the fruits of the region. The church is dedicated to the Virgin of the Blessed Event. Stroll through the many handicraft and native art galleries in the little square. Roam the older quarters of the city, which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. In the afternoon we take a tour of the city, starting out at the Santo Domingo convent monastery. This former Colonial monastery was previously the Koricancha temple, one of the most important temples devoted to worship of the sun. According to the chronicles, it was covered in gold Leaf and filled with golden representations of nature. Also included in the tour are stops at the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral. After touring the most interesting sites of the city, you will be driven to the countryside outside Cuzco to visit some of the remarkable Inca ruins in the area. Included are the cult centre of Sacsayhuaman, the temple and amphitheatre of Kenko, and the Red Fortress of Puca Pucara.
Private transfer from Cuzco to Poroy train station (about 30 min). Board the luxury Hiram Bingham train. Depart Poroy Station at 9:00am. This spectacular train journey crosses the Anta plateau and follows the Urubamba River down the impressive Canyon of the Vilcanota. Enjoy a gourmet brunch before disembarking at 12.30pm at Aguas Calientes, located at the foot of Machu Picchu. (3h30min train ride). Machu Picchu was built around the year 1450, but abandoned a hundred years later, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Forgotten for centuries, the site was brought to worldwide attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. It has recently come to light that the site may have been discovered and raided several years previously, in 1867 by a German businessman, Augusto Berns. It was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, run by the prestigious Orient Express group, is just steps from the entrance to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most important heritage sites. The hotel’s privileged location allows guests to enjoy magical sunrises and sunsets in relative solitude at the ruins before and after the majority of other visitors have arrived or departed. For relaxing there is an interior garden with a variety of flowers and orchids and stunning panoramic views.
Day 9: Machu Picchu
Open day at leisure – Adventure at your own pace, enjoy great hiking/climbing, the uneven paths make these hikes a bit demanding, but the unique and incredible views make the effort more than worthwhile! If you are looking at traditional postcard pictures of Machu Picchu in Peru, you will surely come across at least a few that show a distinct mountain rising above the ruins. This most recognizable peak is known as Huayna Picchu. It soars almost 1,200 feet above the Machu Picchu ruins, and climbing Huayna Picchu is among the top pursuits for Machu Picchu visitors. If you don't have a severe fear of heights, it is a highly recommend trail for unparalleled views and experiences. You should only consider climbing Huayna Picchu if you think that you can handle the sometimes precarious hike up. You can always turn back at any time, and there are frequently cable hand railings to guide you up the steps. There is never a place where you are actually "climbing", it's all stairs. The gates to Huayna Picchu, and the smaller Huchuypicchu, open at 7 am and close at 1 pm. Only 400 people a day are allowed the chance to summit this magical peak. So arrive early. The Incas built terraces here, and the airy summit offers a perfect view of the entire complex, which spreads out before the summit like a map. See Intipunku, it consists of two large stones that correspond to the winter and summer solstices, and on these dates the gates are illuminated by laser-like beams of light. In addition to their symbolic importance, the gates also provide remarkable views of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. If you look up at Machu Picchu Mountain and then let your eyes follow the ridge down to the first notch, you will see tiny structures in the notch. That is Intipunku. See Putukusi Mountain base, which is located one mile from Aguas Calientes/ elevation 8504 ft. Putukusi is a shear cliffed, jungle coated mountain. Because of its prime locations it offers one of the best view of the site while providing unsurpassed solitude, something which none of the other two climbable peaks in the area can provide. On a clear day it's possible to see Machu Picchu with snow-capped Salkantay behind it. Putukusi is the best and almost only other thing to do in the Aguas Calientes area that doesn't involve Machu Picchu.
Day 10: Departure from Lima
Check out Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, train transfer on the Vistadome train to Ollanta station (1h30min), private transfer Cuzco, flight to Lima. Int'l flight home.