World Rivers: Peru

World Rivers: Peru


Peru has world-class ruins and some wonderful rivers too.  Strange that no one had thought of combining these two attractions—until now.  Wantok is now offering another first, two superb trips to Peru that in less than two weeks take you not only to Cuzco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Paracas, Arequipa, and Lake Titicaca, but manages to include eight days of rafting on four different rivers, a couple days of easy sea kayaking on the lake, and a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands, Peru’s Galapagos, and offer Machu Picchu as well.  Wow!  Even if you have been to Peru before, this trip justifies another visit on our first, shorter trip which excludes Machu Picchu.

In case all those activities are not enough, the second trip is timed to coincide with Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun, in Cuzco.  The pageantry and ceremonies of this festival are fantastic recreations of ancient Inca customs, and each year draw tens of thousands of visitors from around the world for this event.  This trip also includes a day at Machu Picchu, the crown jewel of the Inca civilizations.

A shorter trip option without the Inti Raymi ceremony and the day at Machu Picchu (which is however available as an extension at the end of this trip), takes just twelve days during which you’ll see a world of aspects of this astounding Andean country.

There are too many details to cover them all in an introduction.  To appreciate the breadth and depth of this trip, you’ll have to read on!





Day 1:  Arrive in Lima, to Canete Valley


It is possible to schedule your arrival in Lima from most places in the US at mid-day.  Those arriving on this day will be met and escorted to a gathering spot to join the group by 2 PM. Please note that you must arrive in time to join the group no later than 2 PM. If you are planning to arrive early we can book your hotel in Miraflores, a suburb of Lima, and arrange a transfer from the airport if you wish.  It is Wantok’s policy to use clean, friendly and well-located 3-star inns rather than the 4/5 star international hotels to give us a better feel for the country and avoid the isolation of chain hotels.  Those arriving early will be picked up at their hotel in mid-afternoon.  We will then drive about 1 ½ hours to our lovely hotel in the Canete River valley.  Once there we check into our hotel, and enjoy a great welcome dinner and have a pre-trip orientation meeting.

Refugio de Santiago or similar, D only

Day 2:  Cañete River

After breakfast, we drive to Catapalla, the put-in for a day of great rafting.  The Canete is has Class III-IV rapids, a good introduction to our trip.  We raft clear water through a green and fertile open valley in the mountains, with pleasant scenery, break for lunch, then set out for another couple hours of excitement.  The trip covers about 8-10 miles in all.  After drying off and changing we drive to our hotel in Paracas, where the dinner is on your own.


Posada Emancipador or similar, B&L

Day 3:  Ballestas Islands and Paracas


After another hour of driving through striking coastal desert scenery, we board speed boats to visit the Ballestas Islands and its colonies of sea lions, seals, Humboldt Penguins, and numerous species of birds such as cormorants, boobies, pelicans, albatross, petrels, terns and gulls. After filling our cameras with gigabytes of great shots, we head back to the coast.  Back in Paracas we feast on the local seafood before visiting the Paracas National Reserve museum.  It’s a small museum located close to the tombs of the Paracas culture found on and around Cerro Colorado. Highlights include the well preserved, bright textiles of these pre-Nazca peoples, and mummified human remains showing the extreme body manipulations (skull elongations, trepanning) they practiced.  After the museum visit we will tour the park and its interesting geological and archeological attractions.

Then it’s a change of pace, an overnight sleeper bus on which the attendants serve you meals and drinks, just like on an airplane.  The big, comfortable seats recline to 160 degrees, not quite flat but great to sleep in.  We have dinner on the bus, and sleep the night away on our journey to Arequipa.

On the bus, all meals

Day 4:  Chili River and Lake Titicaca


We arrive after breakfast in Arequipa, a mile high (8400 feet above sea level) city, and we’ll feel the thinness of the air.  It’s a great transition to the higher elevations of Lake Titicaca.  We check into our hotel and prepare for another great day.

A sight-seeing tour around the White City fills our morning.  Arequipa is a gorgeous colonial city constructed of white volcanic stone with pleasant parks and friendly people.  We’ll walk around the area of the central square, the Plaza de Armas, enjoying the architecture of the well-preserved mansions. We see La Compania, a beautifully restored Jesuit church from the colonial era, and the cathedral, which has been destroyed twice by natural disasters and subsequently impressively rebuilt. There is good shopping too, especially if you’re interested in wool, and several small museums in the churches that you may choose to visit.

That done, we find a nice restaurant for lunch then it’s off to the Chili River put in and an exhilarating half-day of rafting.  The Chili gives us about 2 hours of Class III-IV rapids, swift and highly technical, ratcheting the action up a notch.  With a spectacular backdrop formed by Misti volcano, Chachani mountain and other high Andean peaks, the Chili river canyon is decorated with volcanic rock and some pre-Inca terraces in a small green valley.  From the take out we return to our hotel.  Dinner is on your own.

Casa de Mi Abuela or similar, B&L


Day 5: Lake Titicaca and the floating islands

We take a morning flight from Arequipa to Juliaca, the airport at Lake Titicaca, then drive to the nearest pier to catch a motorboat across the lake to our village accommodations.  Along the way, we stop to visit the famous reed islands. These islands are made and re-made from the totora reeds (cat-tail type reeds growing in the lake) which provide home, sustenance and transportation for their residents.  The Uros residents of the islands create their homes from the reeds. The roofs are waterproof but not humidity resistant. Cooking fires are built on a layer of stones to protect the reeds. Residents wear layers of clothing, mostly woolen, to protect themselves from the cold, the wind, and the sun which at this altitude can burn fiercely. Many women still wear the distinctive derby type hat and full skirts.  It’s a fun stop, though fairly heavily touristed now.  You may even choose to float around the islands on one of the reed crafts made by turning two canoes into a catamaran with a sitting platform between the canoes.

At mid-day the motorboats take us to the village of Llachon, a Quechua Indian community on the shores of the lake.  Our rooms are in a modest locally-run inn, with nice rooms with private bath but without heating and erratic hot water.  The magnificent location and friendly hosts more than make up for these inconveniences.  The meals they serve us are home-made, hearty and delicious.


Casa de Valentin or similar, all meals

Day 6:  Kayak to Taquile Island


From Llachon we set out kayaking on the lake after a briefing and safety talk—no previous sea kayaking experience is necessary.  We paddle at a comfortable pace for 2-3 hours (depending on the wind and waves and the group), first along the coast of the peninsula for an hour then across the lake towards the island of Taquile. On arrival there we disembark, store our kayaks on shore, walk to lunch in one of the villages and spend the rest of the day exploring the island.  Taquile offers beautiful views over the lake to the Cordillera Real.

Taquile is an emerald gem nestled on Lake Titicaca and surrounded by shifting shades of blue. It is a fascinating place where the community still comes before anything else and its collective organization seems to function in perfect harmony.  During the 1980’s, local weavers formed two community-run artisan stores, to sell their diverse and sophisticated products. Most men, women and children over the age of seven now earn money by producing handicrafts. Prices are fixed to avoid harmful competition with a small percentage retained for cooperative maintenance. Most Taquileno textiles can only be purchased on the island.

Then it’s back to our inn overlooking the lake for another nice dinner.

Casa de Valentin or similar, all meals


Day 7:  Cuzco


Drive back to the airport at Juliaca, then board a morning flight to Cuzco, a city filled with colonial and Incan wonders.  The balance of the day is free to rest and explore the cathedrals and museums of Cuzco on your own.  There are so many excellent restaurants that you may have trouble choosing the best places for your lunch and dinner.  Your guides will be happy to give you some tips on eating places if you want them.


Tierra del Sol or similar, BF only


Day 8:  Upper Urubamba Rafting, Pisac and Ollantaytambo


This is a big day.   By now everyone should be acclimatized to the elevation, over any jet lag, and ready for a full schedule.  We start with a 2 hour drive through high Andean landscapes that brings us to the headwaters of the Urubamba River at Chuquicahuana.  We raft Class III+ rapids on a beautiful and fun stretch of water.  Two hours of rafting breaks the day up nicely before we board our van for about 2 more hours of driving to the village of Pisac, site of one of the most spectacular Incan ruins.  We eat our box lunches on the vans, so we are ready to spend an hour or two checking the place out when we get there.  Pisac is famous for its extensive agricultural terracing and its ceremonial center and temples as well as its spectacular setting and views.

The day isn’t over yet.  We drive on to Ollantaytambo and check into a pleasant and modern country inn near the Urubamaba, then make an evening visit to the nearby ruin.

Because of its strategic location in the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo became a prime center within the Inca Empire. It was generally reserved for the elite, and the Ollantaytambo fortress was first a place of worship, as well as a location for studying astronomy. The Ollantaytambo fortress is just on the outskirts of the old town, and though its primary intention was rather benign, it has an overwhelmingly forbidding air about it. Among the Ollantaytambo ruins that are the most visually spectacular are the rising terrace walls, that served as an integral means of defense.

Tunupa Lodge or similar, BF & L


Day 9:  Machu Picchu & Cuzco (second trip only)

NOTE:  For trip one jump to day 10


We walk to the train station to board the train to Machu Picchu. It seems superfluous to sing the praises of one of the world’s best-known archeological sites.  We enjoy a half- day guided tour of the ancient city and its less-visited environs followed by a sumptuous buffet lunch that will stretch your belly and help you appreciate the quality and diversity of Peruvian cuisine.  We have a few more hours to hike to Gate of the Sun or explore the ruins in more depth before we take an evening train back to Cuzco, saturated with the wonder that was the Inca Empire.


Tierra del Sol or similar, BF & L


Day 10:  Inti Raymi Festival, Cuzco  (second trip only)


Cuzco is always great, but on the day of Inti Raymi it is an even more special experience.

The traditional festival of Inti Raymi is now the second largest festival in South America. Hundreds of thousands of people converge on Cuzco from other parts of the nation, South America and the world for a week long celebration marking the beginning of a new year, the Festival of the Sun.  The celebration centers on June 24 every year, and the main event is held in the ruins of Sacsayhuaman near Cuzco, with side events in the main Plaze of Cuzco and in Qoricancha.  Colorful pageantry, golden thrones, emperors in full feathered headdresses, singing masses, and throngs of celebrants make up this day of revelry.  A good place to read about it is


Tierra del Sol Hotel or similar, B&L (box lunch at the festival)

Day 9 (first trip) or Day 11 (second trip):  Begin Apurimac River trip


From Cuzco (second trip) or Ollantaytambo (first trip) we drive 4-5 hours through the Andes to our put-in at the Rocoto bridge (8600 ft), where our boats should be waiting for us.  Lunch is by the river, then we receive our equipment, safety talk and instructions. We raft about two hours to our first camp, with a few nice rapids keeping us alert.   Having gradually gained experience in lower volume rapids, we are ready for the power and excitement of the Apuriumac!  The gradual decrease in elevation that started when we left Lake Titicaca should have us feeling strong too.

Camp, all meals


Day 10 (first trip) or Day 12 (second trip):  Black Canyon of the Apurimac

Our day on the river is leisurely with possibilities for stops and walks and time to relax. We raft through many Class III-IV rapids, eat lunch on a river beach, then run more great rapids in an amazing whitewater-filled granite canyon, the Black Canyon which gives this stretch of river its name. We may see river otters, deer, foxes, torrent ducks and tropical Andean birds. In the afternoon we pass many suspended bridges along the river and will meet the Santo Tomas River. We camp on a sandy beach under the night sky exhausted but satisfied after a great day of rafting.

Camp, all meals

Day 11 (first trip) or 13 (second trip):  Finish Apurimac & Cuzco


After breakfast we will run more Class III-IV pool drop rapids. We reach take-out at mid-day, and enjoy lunch while the crew prepares the equipment.  It is a 5 hour drive in our private bus back to Cuzco, through some eye-catching mountains and interesting villages.  Tonight we enjoy a farewell dinner at a traditional restaurant, swapping tales of our adventures.

Tierra del Sol Hotel, all meals

Day 12 (first trip) or Day 14 (second trip):  Depart


We provide transfers to the Cuzco airport for your flight to Lima and on the US.

Breakfast only


EXTEND YOUR STAY:  There are many exciting adventures in the Cuzco area, including treks of differing lengths, difficulties, and comfort levels into Machu Picchu, and visits to other outlying Incan ruins.  Just let us know if you’d like to spend a few extra days there. Please ask your agent for available options.




• Wantok leadership on the trip and planning assistance before it
• accommodations in hotels or inns in cities and one night village stay
• all arrangements in the field, including camp meals, cook staffs, group gear and rafting equipment
• meals as noted (4 dinners and 1 lunch on own on Trip One; 6 dinners and 1 lunch on own on Trip Two)
• sightseeing and activities as noted in the itinerary
• ground transportation


• international airfare
• domestic flights within Peru as listed above (Arequipa/Juliaca/Cuzco)
• insurance
• optional tipping off-river and to leader, guides and river staff
• excess baggage charges
• airport taxes
• any meals not specifically included in the daily itinerary
• personal items like drinks, laundry, souvenirs, etc.


The first, shorter departure of our World Rivers: Peru trip is designed for folks who have already visited Machu Picchu or who prefer a shorter, lower-priced trip.  If you choose this trip for other reasons, you may still want to see Machu Picchu, one of the most renowned archeological sites in the world, so we offer an option to add one day on to your trip at the end of the first itinerary to visit Machu Picchu.  Our prices include an English-speaking, very knowledgeable private guide, entry fees, a sumptuous buffet lunch, hotel with breakfast the next morning for the extra night you will spend in Cuzco, and all transport round-trip (transport to/from train station in Cuzco and at Machu Picchu).   The airport transfer in Cuzco on the final morning is also included.


Mail:  1678 16th St, Ste B, Oakland CA 94607