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Andes Homestay and the Desert South
Have you already seen Machu Picchu and done the Amazon? Are you looking to take your Peruvian explorations off the beaten path, to places less known and rarely visited? This trip is for you.
In one program, we bring together two of our favorite community-based program: a homestay in the remote mountain village of Vicos, and desert explorations with Julio on the Majes in the Colca Canyon deep in the desert south.
In Vicos, you will stay with a Quechua family, hiking the mountains and sharing in their lives. This homestay is off-the-grid and takes you deep into a traditional culture with stunning high mountain backdrops. After Vicos, travel to the southern city of Arequipa (known as the "white city" from its many buildings formed from white volcanic stone) to see the Catalina Convent and stay in a gorgeous 18th-century renovated 'gentlemen's home'. From there, travel over the Atacama Desert deep into Colca Canyon to visit our partner and friend Julio, who will take you river rafting and on archaeological explorations, as well as share some fascinating stories over BBQs.
This trip is a great add-on to the Sacred Valley if you have time, or as a stand-alone adventure if you are just wanting to get away from the crowds and do something different. You can also add on the Galapagos.
Arrive in Lima, Peru
Upon your arrival, you will be welcomed and brought to your Lima guesthouse, in the heart of Miraflores near the ocean. Get settled in and relax.
Lima - Huaraz
After breakfast at the hotel you will head out on a short historical tour through the streets of Lima, visiting such sites as the catacombs of the famous San Francisco cathedral, perhaps watching the changing of the guard outside the presidential palace and visiting some of Lima’s neighborhoods. In the late evening, you will board the traditional High Andes Mountain bus on an overnight trip to Huaraz in the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountains). These busses are first-class and the seats recline almost completely.
DAY 3 - 6
Vicos - Homestay & Service Project
Arrive in Huaraz early. Settle into rooms and enjoy the morning free time to rest and explore the small town. In the afternoon, you will travel for one hour to the Quechua village of Vicos, near Huascaran National Park, where you will be met by your host family and escorted to your homestay.
The villagers of Vicos have constructed simple rustic adobe guest houses with running cold water and composting toilets. Each family takes care of their guests, providing meals and acting as guides. This allows you to have an intimate cultural experience while still having some privacy.
After getting settled in, your host will prepare a traditional Andean lunch for you. In the afternoon your hosts/guides will take you on a walk around the village and community. Over the next 4 days you will be involved in being with the community, exploring the area and learning what a traditional agricultural Quechua village is all about. There will also be time for meeting with local musicians, beekeepers, farmers, artisans and making bread with host families. During this time there is the option to volunteer your time building a smokeless oven for a family in need. Evenings will be set aside for fireside chats, dancing, music and hanging out with your host family.
On the final day in the village there is an optional hike to a lake in Huascaran National Park which sites at 15, 800 ft. elevation. After the hike you will have a final dinner with your family.
This morning after breakfast and goodbyes with your host family, you will be transported back to Huaraz. Get checked in at the hostel to relax, take a hot shower, do your laundry, and explore Huaraz which is the adventure capitol of the area. You will take the overnight bus to Lima.
Lima - Arequipa
The overnight bus from Huaraz arrives in Lima very early in the morning. From there you will take a taxi to the airport for your morning flight to Arequipa.
Upon arrival in Arequipa, grab a taxi to your hotel which is a beautifully refurbished colonial gentlemen’s home built in 1702. It’s both elegant and modern. Relax and explore the plaza and city on your own.
Arequipa - Aplao / El Castillo exploration
Today your journey begins with a bus ride on an overland expedition across the northern reaches of the Atacama Desert to the small town of Aplao. The road passes through a timeless landscape of sacred peaks and the world's deepest canyon, majestic condors and delicate vicuña, ancient agricultural terraces and pueblos all but forgotten since colonial times. The three-hour ride leads to the Majes River Lodge and your host, Julio Zuniga. After an opportunity to freshen up and store gear in your bungalows, it’s off to stretch the legs to see a rarely visited sacred site known as El Castillo. As you walk across the desert, Julio explains different plants and introduces the histories and mysteries of this enchanting area. After sunset you return to the lodge for a BBQ dinner and a campfire under the stars intertwined with entertaining stories by Julio.
Majes river rafting & distillery tour
Up early for breakfast with the sounds of the local mourning doves and the anticipation of a swift ride down the river. The put in is at a spot where the Majes and the Colca rivers join to form one mighty river. We are in the heart of the Majes Desert. The river drops continuously and is graded class III-IV. The thrill is exhilarating and the water is amazingly warm. The sun always shines.
In the afternoon there will be a tour of the area seeing centuries-old Spanish wineries and visit the Pisco distillery- a specialty of Julio’s. This evening Julio will throw local shrimp on the BBQ.
Today you will be exploring the desert and its archeological wonders. At midday there is a visit to an area of petroglyphs known as Toro Muerte. Julio has done extensive research on the glyphs and has his own self-published guide to them.
Late in the day Julio will arrange to take you back to the bus station to catch your transport back to Arequipa where you check in to your hotel.
Today is a free day to visit the Convent of Santa Catalina, whose cloisters and painting gallery are open to the public after four-hundred years of being sequestered. Also, consider a visit the archeological/history museum to see an exhibition of the mummy 'Juanita', a virgin of the Sun that was offered in sacrifice to the Apus or mountain spirits. She was recently discovered on the Ampato Glacier. You can spend one more night in Arequipa, or catch a flight to Cusco, Puno or Lima from here.
12D / 11N
Custom departures available year-round
Lima - Huaraz - Vicos - Huaraz - Lima - Arequipa - Aplao - Arequipa - Lima
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