Day 1. Arrival.
Most people will use this day for arrival (especially those coming from Europe), but if you arrive early check out the excursions available from Lima. Rendevous at 19.30 at hotel San Antonio de Abad for briefing and welcome drink. Dinner on your own (not included).
Day 2. Lima museums, Puerto Viejo lagoons and drive to Pisco. An introduction to birds in urban Lima in El Olivar park in San Isidro for those that want before breakfast. After breakfast we'll visit the large National Museum where Peruvian archeological treasures of civilizations prior to the arrival of the Spaniards are displayed. This gives us the necessary framework to put the rest of our exploring journey in Southern Peru in its right context. Soon we are on our way south on the Pan American Highway. First stop is the marshes of Puerto Viejo. This species rich wet-land has been proposed to become a private reserve. We continue to Paracas for an overnight stay at the charming Hotel Gran Palma. B.L.D.
Day 3. Paracas Peninsula- Ica-Ocucaje.
In the morning we will explore the Paracas Peninsula. On the south shores there are chances to spot pelagic species, as well as South American Fur Seals. The Paracas dessert is a play with sunlight on the different colored sand formations. Flocks of gray gulls are often seen roosting in the dessert.
On the north side the Bay of Paracas attracts hundreds of Chilean Flamingos and Black Skimmers. There is a nice small museum on the site that will be visited.
On the way to Ica about an hour away, we will visit a wineyard where we learn about the wine and Pisco industry, which in many cases are still artisanal. In Ica we visit the small, but excellent municipal museum, which has nice displays of the Paracas, Nazca and Wari cultures that were important cultures of Ica department. We will be shown the art of trepanation and deform sculls practiced by the ancient cultures in this region. There is a small model of the Nazca Lines that gives an idea what the lines will look up from the air.
We continue to Nazca and our charming hotel Don Agucho. The rest of the afternoon resting by the pool or bird watching in the garden. Slender-billed Finch and Peruvian Pygmy-Owls have been seen here. B.L.D.
Day 4. Ocucaje-Nazca lines.
You may fly over the Nazca lines (cost 80$).
We shall visit a nearby pottery, where Sr.Tobi is showing how the Nazca ancestors made their polychromatic pottery. We stay at a nice hotel where it is possible to relax by the pool in the afternoon or make an excursion to the interesting pre-inca aquaducts outside of town. Always good chance to do some birdwatching. Birds possible include Pacific Parrotlet, Mountain Parakeet, Drab, Chestnut-throated and Parrot-billed Seedeaters, Collared Warbling Finch and of course more sightings of the uncommon Slender-billed Finch. B.L.D.
Day 5. San Fernando de Marcona.
Maybe the most exiting day of the trip. We will traverse the dessert and the lomas vegetation. Strangely enough, part of the year the dessert is green here, due to the almost permanent fog banks that gives enough moisture. Least Seedsnipe, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Common (Lomas form) and Coastal Miner as well as Sechura Fox and Guanacos may be seen.
As we approach the sea, we have a good chance of spotting condors at close range. The condors come down to the sea here at Marcona, because nowhere in Peru does the Humboldt current come as close to the shore. This results in extremely rich marine life and there will always be a surplus in carrion washed up on the beaches. There are immense sea lion and Humboldt penguin colonies nearby from which the casualties in the colonies will naturally attract the condors. The San Fernando de Marcona nature area is little known and is only recently attracting attention by conservationists and nature lovers.
On the return we shall visit Chauchilla cemetary, where it is possible to see remarkably well conserved mummies, dating back to AD 1000-1300. Close of the cemetery, it's often possible to see burrowing owls.
Day 6. Nazca-Puerto Lomas.
Continuing south on the Panamerican Highway for few hours, we will detour to Punta San Juan reserve. Administrated by ProAbono, a firm exploiting the bird guano, this reserve is the home of thousands Guanay Cormorants, Peruvian Pelican, and Humboldt Penguin (we saw more than 40 penguins during our last visit in December). The two species of Peruvian sea-lions are also present there, as thousands of Southern Sea-lions and South American Fur-seals are breeding in the Punta San Juan reserve.
The picnic will be served close to a little museum exposing a fossilized whale. As the coastal Peruvian desert was underwater few millions years ago, it's possible to find lot's of fossils there and the owner of the museum will also show you the Megalodon (giant - 17 meters prehistoric shark) teeth he found close to his house.
Hopefully, we will be able to do a short pelagic tour in the afternoon - if the only boat in the area has been able to get all the operational permits in order for our visit. We hope to see albatrosses and other seabirds at close range. We shall not have to venture far into sea to see tubenoses like storm-petrels, Peruvian Diving Petrel and others.
We stay at a marvelous hotel overlooking the sea at Puerto Lomas. We can scope Blackish Oystercatchers and Guanay Cormorants from the hotel. B.L.D.
Day 7. Puerto Lomas to Arequipa.
The next stop will be to bird the Lomas de Atequipa yet another area with Lomas vegetation with possibilities to see Least Seedsnipe, Common (Lomas form) and Coastal Miner, Raimondi's Yellow-finch as well as Sechura Fox.
It is a long travel day to Arequipa along the wild Peruvian desert coast. But sometimes we make rare encounters. In 2012 we spotted a Marine Otter playing near the coast.
Most of the day to day is a travelday. In the afternoon we will arrive to Arequipa. The Santa Catalina cloisters is one of Arequipa's finest tourist attractions. Serenity and calmness reigns here and it makes a fine afternoon stroll with volcano Misti in the background. Often the hummingbird Peruvian Sheertail is seen in the gardens. Hotel Inkari. B.L.D.
Day 8. Full day excursion to Chiguata and Laguna Salinas or city tour and shopping.
Above Chiguata there is Polylepis scrub that holds the local White-throated Earthcreeper, Tamarugo Conebill and Dark-winged Canastero. Continuing to the back side of the Misti Vulcano the high plains of the altiplano unfold covering an immense area towards Titicaca lake and south through Bolivia and we find the Salinas salt lake - a good site for three species of Flamingos of the Peruvian highlands. Andean Avocet and Puna Plover are other specialties in this area. Flocks of alpacas gives a characteristic touch to the scenery.
Those that want may instead have an easy day in Arequipa visiting the Cathedral and the fine Compania church of the Jesuit order. Arequipa city gives excellent opportunity for shopping of high quality Alpaca goods. At night we pay a visit at Gaston Acutio's fine restaurant Chichas. This is Peruvian Cusine at its best. B.L.D.
Day 9. Colca Canyon.
Early morning start to Chivay at Colca Canyon. We will pass beautiful scenery with roaming wild vicuñas (lama-relative) and plenty of birds.
There are for example places where one can search for Flamingoes and the mythical Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. It time permits we will do a trip to the Condor lookout in the afternoon. Since most tour groups come here in the morning to catch the short window when the condors lift from their night roost, we would like to experience the mighty Colca Canyon in complete serenity without crowds. And it is quite likely with some perseverance that we will also get fantastic views of Condors. Should we not, then we could always come back the next day. Night in Cabanaconde. B.L.D.
Day 10. Additional full day at Colca Canyon.
Colca Canyon is not only one of the best places in Peru to observe Condors, but it is also an area of exceptional beauty and an area where the locals have taking pride in conserving their traditional ways. Here terraces are prepared by neighbors helping one another. The women dress in traditional clothing. The scenery is awe-inspiring. Birds and Andean plants are plentiful and there are lots to explore.
Day 11. Colca-Altiplano-Titicaca lake.
After an early start with some additional exploring of the Colca region we will set off for the Titicaca lake. We will make many stops en route. It is in part a rough road, but the scenery is breathtaking. We should see herds of Vicuñas (wild ancestors of the alpacas) and possibly Viscachas (rabbit like rodents with long tails) that live in rocky areas. In the early afternoon we will reach the Colla burial site of Sillustani with the tall chullpa burial towers that overlooks the bird rich Umayo lagoon. Some interesting plants can also be seen here including a beautifully red Loasa. Don't pick it up, it is a sort of nettle!! The night will be spent in a country side hotel in Chucuito village on the shore of the Titicaca lake. B.L.D.
Day 12. Titicaca lake and altiplano excursion in search of Puna Rhea.
After breakfast we will do some kayaking (or take a boat trip) in the Chucuito lagoon to spot the threatened Titicaca Flightless Grebe. In the afternoon you may do birdwatching on the altiplano - the target is to find the rare Puna Rhea - or take a trip to the floating islands of the Uros (cost 25$ for the Uros). B.L.D.
(We regret that the Uros are not known to be very sustainable in their use of the lake and their offerings to tourists. Too often one find stuffed birds for sale - in spite it being illegal. So far the Uros have shown little interest in cooperating with the Peruvian conservation agency and give little thought to the fact that the area they occupy is considered a wetland of international importance listed by the RAMSAR convention. We will however try to be proactive and initiate visits to any one island that proves to set an example in sustainability and move away from the damaging prevalent practices. Hopefully, we can find a good candidate even if there is none we know of today). B.L.D.
Day 13. Puno-Cusco travel.
In spite this day is mainly a travel day, there are several interesting stops en route and the route is very scenic. The main attractions are cultural however. We will stop at Rachi where there are the remains of a grandiose temple attributed to the creator god Viracocha and in Andahuaylillas there is the small St Peter's church, whose interior often is called "the Sistine chapel of South America". It is quite unique. Not far away and just before reaching Cusco there is also good birdwatching to do at the Huacarpay lake. The star bird is the endemic Bearded Mountaineer, but many waterbirds can also be seen. Hotel Rey Antares B.L.D.
Day 14. Cusco city tour and travel to Ollantaytambo and on to Machu Picchu.
We will visit the main square of Cusco and Sacsayhuaman fortress in Cusco before we leave for Urubamba and the sacred valley. In Urubamba we will enjoy a buffet lunch and in Ollantaytambo we will make a visit at the ruins overhanging the village, before we board the train to Machu Picchu. We will look out for Torrent Duck which can often be seen from the train as we pass the raging Urubamba river. The comfortable Pueblo Hotel which has a fantastic garden with Hummingbird feeders and a collection of orchids, is our home when we arrive. Birdwatching here is very rewarding.
Day 15. Machu Picchu.
Birdwatching in the morning and then a visit at the citadel of Machu Picchu. The setting on a saddle between to mountains with Urubamba river doing a half circle around 500 meters underneath and many protruding peaks all around makes Machu Picchu a magic place even if there would not have been any ruins there. It is obvious that the site is carefully selected for observations of the heavenly bodies and the surrounding mountain peaks that the Incas considered deities. The birdwatching can be rewarding with species like Inca Wren (endemic), Masked Fruiteater (endemic), White-eared Solitaire, Black-streaked Puffbird, Highland Motmot, Gouldâ€™s Inca and others. In the late afternoon we return to Ollantaytambo for an overnight stay. Hotel Muñay Tika. B.L.D.
Day 16. Abra Malaga.
A full day excursion along the road to Quillabamba. We will have breakfast on the wet slope where flocks contain Marcapata Spinetail, Diademed Tapaculo and Parodi's Hemispingus. Often the spectacular Sword-billed Hummingbird is seen in this area. In midmorning we move up to the pass where a patch of Polylepis woodland can be visited holding some of the rarest birds of Peru including Royal Cinclodes, White-browed Tit-Spinetail and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant. We may walk down the valley to be picked up at the other side. The walk is strenuous but it is downhill.
Lots of interesting plants may be seen and the people of the area conserve their ways and traditional customs cultivating potato and taking care of Alpaca herds.
On the bushy dry slope as we continue back to Ollantaytambo the endemic White-tufted Sunbeam and Creamy-crested Spinetail can often be seen. We will travel back to Cusco to arrive around dusk. Hotel Rey Antares. B.L.
Day 17. Cusco-Lima.
Travel back to Lima and connect with your international flight. We can make individual arrangements to fit in your traveling details. Maybe you like to visit the famous gold-museum B.
For some this program may seem to contain far more culture than birds and nature, as it follows the classical route for southern Peru. However, a birdier alternative can be made by cutting out the Colca part of the program (since Condor will be seen at San Fernando) and then add days in the lowlands of Manu or Tambopata. Here is an alternative shorter program
Day 1. Arrival.
Day 2. Lima museums, Puerto Viejo lagoons and drive to Pisco.
Day 3. Paracas Peninsula- Ica-Nazca.
Day 4. Nazca lines.
Day 5. San Fernando to Puerto Lomas.
Day 6. Puerto Lomas a to Arequipa.
Day 7. Full day excursion to Chiguata and Laguna Salinas
Day 8. Travel to Puno
Day 9. Titicaca lake and altiplano excursion in search of Puna Rhea.
Day 10. Puno-Cusco travel.
Day 11. Cusco city tour and travel to Ollantaytambo and on to Machu Picchu.
Day 12. Machu Picchu.
Day 13. Abra Malaga.
Add on with Manu, Manu road or Tambopata.