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Essential Colombia and Peru


GPP14B
14 NIGHTS
FROM £2,295
Per person sharing
International flights quoted separately
Combine the highlights of two fascinating Inca countries - Colombia and Peru. Starting from Bogota in the Andes, visit the Gold Museum, Salt Cathedral & pretty colonial Villa de Leyva. Fly to Cusco & the Sacred Valley of the Incas to view the magnificant citadel at Machu Pichhu. Then visit the old walled city of Cartagena & relax on Baru Island. English speaking guides & all specified sightseeing included.
Colombia and Peru
• 
Colombia and Peru
• 
Bogota
• 
Salt Cathedral
• 
Villa de Leyva
• 
Cusco
• 
Sacred Valley of Incas
• 
Vistadome Train
• 
Machu Picchu
• 
Cartagena
• 
Baru Island
• 
Colombia and Peru
• 
Bogota
• 
Salt Cathedral
• 
Villa de Leyva
• 
Cusco
• 
Sacred Valley of Incas
• 
Vistadome Train
• 
Machu Picchu
• 
Cartagena
• 
Baru Island
Day 1
You will be met at Bogota Airport and transferred to your hotel in this sprawling high altitude city.
 
Check in and relax in this capital city of Colombia.
Day 2
Today enjoy a tour of Bogotá, including a walking tour through the cobbled alleys of La Candelaria, the historic Old Town (with lunch included).
 
We start with an early morning visit to Paloquemao Market, one of the largest and most important in the country where you can see a large variety of flowers, exotic fruit, meat, seafood, cheese and medicinal herbs.
 
We then visit the Historic Quarter, starting from the church of El Carmen. Here you will see many beautifully preserved Spanish colonial houses and churches that date back centuries, such as the church of Santa Clara that today contains the Museum of Colonial Art. View the library of Luis Angel Arango as we head for the main square - Plaza Bolívar - where you can see a statue honouring Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan military leader who played a key role in the revolution against Spanish rule.
 
Enjoy views of the Cathedral, Teatro Colón (the neoclassical performance hall) and the 17th-century Church of San Francisco. View the presidential residence, Casa del Nariño, which has an observatory in its gardens, the Congress Palace, the Palace of Justice and the Cardinal's Palace. Continuing eastwards, we then ascend by funicular Cerro Monserrate, the mountain that dominates the city and offers panoramic views.
 
Afterwards we visit the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro), the most important gold museum in the world, with a splendid collection of over 36,000 pre-Colombian gold and emerald pieces. Galleries on three levels display exquisitely crafted pieces dating back nearly 2,500 years. Visit the vault-like room on the top floor where the most treasured pieces are displayed, as well as the Offering Room, where you enter a black circular area that is gradually illuminated, with indigenous music playing in the background.
 
Our tour ends with a visit to the Museo de Botero. Housed in a renovated colonial mansion, this museum showcases the art of Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous contemporary artist renowned for his proportionally exaggerated fat figures. Around 120 pieces of his work are display, including sculptures, paintings and drawings. In addition to his own work, his personal collection by Picasso, Renoir, Dalí, Degas, Chagall, Matisse, Monet and Giacometti are also on show.
 
Note: Bogota is situated at high altitude (8,660 ft / 2,640 m). When visiting churches and monasteries, women must not wear shorts or miniskirts and men must not wear shorts. The Gold Museum is closed Mondays and Museo de Botero is closed Tuesdays.
Day 3
This morning you will be transferred 4-hours from Bogotá to the old colonial town of Villa de Leyva, considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in Colombia.
 
Our first stop is at the small town of Zipaquirá, which was founded in 1600 and still conserves its colonial heritage. Here we visit the amazing Salt Cathedral - a Roman Catholic church built in the tunnels of a salt mine 200 metres underground. Here you will find 14 small chapels that represent the 'Stations of the Cross' and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, a sanctuary and a main cathedral. The icons, ornaments and architectural details are all hand carved in the halite rock, with some marble sculptures.
 
We continue to the colonial town of Ráquira (meaning 'City of Pots'), probably the most colourful town in Colombia with its vividly painted facades and attractive buildings. This town specialises in fine handmade ceramics and here you will find many craft shops and artisans selling their pottery. In the shops around the main square you will find everything from ceramic bowls, vases, pitchers, children’s toys, piggy banks and dwarfs to Christmas decorations. You will also have the opportunity to observe the process of making traditional pottery.  
 
Finally we arrive at Villa de Leyva, one of the most charming colonial villages in all of Colombia and steeped in atmosphere. Declared a national monument in 1954, this photogenic village has been preserved in its entirety, including its cobbled streets and whitewashed buildings with terracotta tiled roofs, pine green doors and balconies decorated with flowers.
 
In the evening enjoy a short walking tour of the town. We start at the Plaza San Agustín and continue to the house of Antonio Nariño, a famous journalist, political and military leader who played an important role in Colombia's independence. The tour ends at Plaza Mayor, the largest town plaza in all of Colombia.
Day 4
Today we leave Villa de Leyva and transfer 4-hours to Bogotá.
 
Along the way we visit the El Fósil paleontological museum, where you can view the ancient remains of a marine reptile called Kronosaurus Boyecensis, which resembled a giant alligator and lived on earth over 120 million years.
 
We also visit the Santo Ecce Homo Convent, founded by Dominican monks in 1620. This large stone-and-adobe building has a lovely courtyard and floors, paved with local stones that contain ammonites (extinct marine molluscs) and other fossils.
 
Our last brief stop is at Tunja, the site of the Battle of Boyaca Bridge, where Simon Bolivar decisively defeated the Spanish forces and assured the independence of Colombia in 1819.
 
Afterwards we continue to Bogotá, where you will be dropped off at your hotel.
Day 5
Transfer to Bogota Airport for your onward flight.
 
Airport departure tax of $8 (local) or $38 (international) per person is payable locally.

You will be met at Cusco Airport and transferred 2-hours to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
 
Check into your hotel in this region that is renowned for its many ancient Inca ruins, including the amazing citadel of Machu Picchu. Balance of the day is at leisure to rest and acclimatise to the altitude.
Day 6
Today enjoy a full day tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
 
Our first stop is at the citadel of Ollantaytambo, built to protect the northern entrance to the Sacred Valley from invasion and later the centre of Incan resistance against the Spanish. The fortress and walled terraces of this town provide some of the finest examples of Incan architecture, with the six rose-coloured monoliths of the Temple of the Sun being particularly outstanding. The village itself is the best surviving example of Inca urban planning, with stone-paved streets that have been used since the 12th Century.
 
We then drive to the archaeological site at Moray, where the Incas built enormous circular agricultural terraces on steep hills by hauling topsoil up by hand from the lower land, thereby generating much higher crop yields than would have been possible at such high altitude. This site is believed to be a former agricultural laboratory, an astronomical observatory or a place of worship - or maybe all three. We also stop at the Racchi viewpoint, for one of the best views of the Sacred Valley.
 
After an included lunch in a local restaurant, we continue to the Maras Salt Pans, a complex network of nearly 5,000 pre-Inca salt pans that have been hand-harvested by local families for thousands of years. The salt is formed when water from a spring that permeates these pools is evaporated by the intense sun, forming thick crystals in a variety of colours. The naturally pink ‘Sal de Maras’ is one of the finest salts in the world, getting its beautiful hue from trace elements in the spring water.
Day 7
Today transfer to Ollantaytambo Station for the air-conditioned Vistadome train to the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu - an amazing 1.5-hour journey to this magnificent mountain top city situated in a beautiful cloud forest, that was abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1911.
 
This legendary "Lost City of the Incas" is without a doubt one of the world's most impressive archaeological sites. Built on the summit of Machu Picchu (meaning "Old Peak"), on a natural saddle between steep forested mountains, it overlooks the deep canyon of the Urubamba River some 3,400 m above sea level. With its giant walls, terraces and ramps that appear to have been cut naturally out of the rock escarpments, Machu Picchu's history remains shrouded in mystery as the Incas did not leave any written records.
 
At the gateway town of Aguas Calientes, leave the train and board the bus for the 40-minute zig-zag ride up to this 14th century citadel for a guided tour (please expect queues for the bus). Here we visit the Main Plaza, Circular Tower, the Sacred Sun Dial, Royal Quarters, Temple of the Three Windows and various burial grounds. We suggest you take a packed lunch (to avoid queues at the restaurant). In the afternoon return by bus to Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Ollantaytambo Station, where you will be met and transferred back to your hotel.
 
Note: You must take your passport with you today, as this will be needed to gain entrance, which is restricted to 4-hours (based on either a morning or afternoon schedule). It is mandatory to enter with a guide and you cannot take selfie sticks, tripods, umbrellas, food or alcohol onto the site. You may not wear high heels or hard soled shoes and smoking is prohibited. If you leave the sanctuary for any reason (eg for lunch), re-entry will not be permitted. Only one bag not exceeding 11 lb (5 kg) is allowed as hand luggage on the train, so your main bags need to be left in luggage store at either your Cusco or Sacred Valley hotel, for later collection by yourself or our ground handler. From January to June parts of the rail track may be impassable at times due to mud slides, when a bus transfer will be substituted.
Day 8
Today transfer 2-hours from the Sacred Valley to the city of Cusco.
 
Along the way we stop at Chinchero, a small picturesque Andean village that was an important Inca outpost at the end of the 15th Century. The villagers here have preserved their traditional Andean spinning and weaving techniques, so you can see textile artisans at work and learn about their techniques. You can buy handcrafts at the market in the town square, visit their small traditional church and see their Inca ruins.
 
On arrival in Cusco you will be dropped off at your hotel, with balance of day at leisure.
Day 9
Today enjoy a half day shared tour of the magnificent colonial city of Cusco, built on Inca foundations and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Comprising a fascinating mix of colonial churches, monasteries and extensive pre-Columbian ruins, almost every central street in this city has remnants of Inca walls.
 
We start with a visit to the impressive Temple of the Sun (Koricancha) whose walls and floors were once covered in sheets of solid gold. On the site of this ancient Inca palace and centre of worship of the Sun God, the Dominicans ordered a church to be built, which survives to this day (Note: not open on Sunday mornings & religious holidays).  
 
We walk along the cobbled streets to the Plaza de Armas, the central plaza around which you will see many magnificent colonial buildings - including the Cathedral and the Church of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Walking down well-preserved Loreto Street you can see the remains of Incan palaces, as well as old colonial buildings. If you walk down Hatun Rumiyoc, a cobbled street near the Archbishop's Palace, keep an eye out for the famous 12-sided stone that fits so perfectly you can't even insert a coin.
 
We then leave the city and visit the impressive walled fortress of Sacsayhuaman (meaning 'speckled falcon') on the northern outskirts, believed to have been both a military and ceremonial centre. This enormous Inca structure has massive walls of hewn stone and is strategically located on a hill overlooking the city. We also visit Qenko (meaning 'zigzag') where the sun, moon and stars were worshipped and Puca Pucara (the Red Fortress), which may have been a "tambo" or rest and lodgings for the Inca. Finally we visit an art workshop, where you will be able to see artists working in silver, paint and wood - the perfect place to see Andean art.
 
After your tour, if you are feeling adventurous you can try guinea pig - a local speciality.
 
Note: Cusco is situated at high altitude (11,150 ft / 3,400 m). You will need to carry your passport to gain access to the site at Sacsayhuaman.
Day 10
Transfer to Cusco Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Cartagena Airport and transferred to this tropical port city, situated on the Caribbean coast.
 
Check into your hotel in this colourful city, whose magnificent 16th century walled Old Town is a World Heritage Site.
Day 11
Enjoy a half day private walking tour of beautiful Cartagena today, starting with a visit to the Convento de la Popa, the highest point in the city with spectacular views over Cartagena Bay. This 17th century Augustinian monastery served as a fortress during colonial times.
 
We then visit the Castle of San Felipe located on San Lazaro Hill, the largest Spanish military building in the New World dating back to 1536. It was built to guard the city’s landward side from invasion and has a complex system of tunnels connected with strategic points, used to distribute provisions and for a possible evacuation. The tunnels were built so that any noise would echo along them, making internal communications easier and allowing the citizens to hear even the slightest sound of an enemy advance.
 
Afterwards we walk through Las Bóvedas, a series of 23 vaults built in the 18th century and considered the last major military colonial construction within the city walls. The vaults were used as storerooms for munitions and provisions by the Spaniards and later they became jail cells. Nowadays they are used as crafts markets where you can find handicrafts, antiques, galleries, jewellery, clothing and souvenirs.
 
Our last stop is the church and monastery of San Pedro Claver, built in the early 17th century by the Jesuits. Pedro Claver, a Jesuit priest, was a defender and protector of slaves and lived in this monastery until his death. Your afternoon is at leisure.
 
Note: Shorts and short skirts should not be worn when visiting churches, monasteries and religious shrines.
Day 12
This morning transfer 1.5-hours to Baru Island.
 
Baru was originally a peninsula jutting out southwest from Cartagena towards the Rosario Islands, but is now cut off from the mainland by the Canal del Dique. Check into your hotel in this holiday paradise.
Days 13 To 14
At leisure to relax on the white sun-kissed beaches of Baru Island, with its warm turquoise Caribbean  waters.
 
The island is approximately 15 miles (25 km) long and in some places only half a mile (1 km) wide. The spectacular Playa Blanca is its most famous beach.
Day 15
Transfer 1.5-hours to Cartagena Airport for your flight home.

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