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Southern circuit - Classic Peru Culture and Natural History


Southern Circuit - Inca Culture, Wildlife, Birds and Food

This is a slow pace birding trip that also takes you to archeological sites, splendid scenery, plants, wildlife, Peruvian culinary experience, and more, along the most popular route of Peru. On this trip you do not have to be an expert birdwatcher. In fact you may just have started looking at birds at your feeder back home. On the other hand if you are into seabirds this is the trip for you with several opportunities to do sea watching and a short pelagic where the Humboldt Current is close to the Peruvian mainland. Bring with you your explorer's spirit and the desire to learn more than you thought about Peru.

This is NOT an ordinary birdwatching trip, It has much more that. Still some 300-400 bird species will be seen well by all participants on this trip including most endemics and regional birds. Even if you are not a birder, join this trip for splendid scenery and historical sites, and if you are only a novice, the birds are easy to see and our guides are very patient. You should have a general interest in nature. Some participants will have very little experience of South American birds or may only just have got into birds by watching birds at their feeders back home.

We follow principally the same circuit followed by most visitors to Peru each year. To contemplate the Andes and experience the land of the Incas and their ancestors. Lima, Paracas, Nazca, Arequipa, Colca, Titicaca, Cuzco and Machu Picchu. On this trip we go a bit further; Kolibri Expeditions is unique in offering this trip as a natural history and cultural experience with expert guides. The key ingredient on these trips is the exploratory spirit. "What is the name of the lizard?", "Is that a dragonfly? What possible species are in range?", "An interesting church, is that churrigueresque baroque?", "Do you prefer the pisco made of the Quebranta or the Italia grape?" No question is too strange to ask or to try to find an answer to.

While traveling in the bus there will be briefings on history, archeology, politics such as the Fujimori Phenomenon or The Shining Path, the mating biology of sea-lions, continental drift and the formation of the Andes, wine and pisco making, Peruvian cinema and authors, Peruvian food and much more.

When looking at the birds, the animals and the plants, we will not just tell you what they are, but we will tell you something about them. We will pay attention to behavior.

In general pace is slow, but we do start with early mornings. We try and reach our overnight destinations while it still is daylight. even though we cover more than 2200 km (1370 miles). Lunches may be served on the bus or as roadside picnics not to lose precious daylight time, when we have to cover a lot of ground.

The trip can be started with our Lima Days program, short Lima excursions prior to (or after) the main trip. Check the Santa Eulalia, Ticlio/Marcapomacocha, and Lomas de Lachay itineraries. These trips are also good for plant watching.

The tour is offered in three different comfort levels.

  • Kolibri Flex. So maybe you want to make this trip as cheap as possible and book backpacker hostels and skip the fancy dinners included in the other categories. Or you want some privacy and don't need to be with the group 24/7. You can easily do bookings yourself on Booking or Airbnb - and maybe find some good deals. You will still get the daily checklist via ebird.
  • Kolibri Pro. The mid-range category which most people will choose. Carefully selected hotels that work well without breaking the bank. Instead we spend more money on food giving you many choices and excellent dinners at some of the top restuarants on the tour. We will eat together with MST Premium and do the daily checklist. 
  • MST Premium Service. Excellent hotels throughout, often 4-5 stars. More comfort and perks. 

No Departures for this Tour

If the departure dates don't fit you, please suggest another date.

Day 1: Arrive in Lima

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. Kolibri Pro and MST have transfer included.

Rendezvous for everyone at 19.30 at the MST hotel for briefing and a welcome drink. 

Meals: Not included
Kolibri Flex: Book yourself (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro: Inca Frog Hotel (or similar)
MST: Hotel Dazzler by Wyndham (or similar)

Day 2: Lima Museums, Pantanos de Villa - Paracas

An introduction to the birds of urban Lima at a Miraflores park before breakfast. After breakfast we'll visit the Archeological Museum where Peruvian treasures of pre-Colombian civilizations are displayed. This gives us the necessary framework to put the rest of our journey in Southern Peru. Our first stop is the marshes of Pantanos de Villa. This species-rich wet-land has been proposed to become a private reserve. We continue to Paracas for an overnight stay.

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro: Zarcillo Paradise (Dinner at Hotel Paracas)
MST: Hotel Paracas. (Dinner at Hotel Paracas)

Day 3: Paracas Peninsula-Ica-Nazca

In the morning we take a short boat trip to the Ballestas Islands, later exploring the Paracas Peninsula. On the islets we shall encounter Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, perhaps a few overwintering Blue-footed Boobies and Humboldt Penguin. We should also spot the small passerine Peruvian Seaside (Surf) Cinclodes and Blackish Oystercatcher. On the southern shores of the peninsula there are pelagic species, as well as South American Fur Seals. The Paracas desert is a play with sunlight on the different colored sand formations. Flocks of Gray Gulls are often seen roosting in the desert.

The north side of the Bay of Paracas attracts hundreds of Chilean Flamingos and Black Skimmers. There is a small museum on the site that we can visit.

On the way to Ica about an hour away, we will visit a vineyard 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 civilizations of Ica department. We will be shown the art of trepanation and skull deformation (elongation) practiced by the ancient cultures in this region. There is a small model of the Nazca Lines that gives an idea of what the lines will look like from the air.

We continue to Nazca. We stay at a nice hotel where it is possible to relax by the pool in the afternoon or take an excursion to the interesting pre-Inca aqueducts outside of town. Always a good chance to do some birdwatching. Birds possible include Pacific Parrotlet, Mountain Parakeet, Drab, Chestnut-throated, and Parrot-billed Seedeaters.  Slender-billed Finch and Peruvian Pygmy-Owls have been seen here.

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro: Hotel Agucho (Dinner at Hotel Casa Andina or Rest Gula)
MST: Hotel Casa Andina (Dinner at Hotel Casa Andina or Rest Gula)

Day 4: Nazca lines - Puerto Lomas

We shall do some bird-watching in the early morning looking for Slender-billed Finch, Collared Warbling Finch, and Peruvian Pygmy-Owl. Back to the hotel for breakfast and check-out. You may fly over the Nazca lines (cost not included). While waiting for our turn to fly, we'll visit a nearby pottery, where we are shown how the Nazca ancestors made their polychromatic ceramics. After the morning activities we continue to Puerto Lomas, where we stay at a beautiful hotel overlooking the sea at Puerto Lomas. We can look at shorebirds such as: Blackish Oystercatchers and Guanay Cormorants, from the hotel.

Kolibri Flex:  Hard to make deals on the internet. Our office will help with the booking on an inexpensive hostel - the same as for our driver. 
Kolibri Pro: Lomas Beach or similar (Dinner at hotel).
Marvelous: Lomas Beach or similar (Dinner at hotel).

Day 5: Puerto Lomas - Arequipa.

The next stop will be to bird the Lomas de Atequipa an area with lomas vegetation and the possibility 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 today is a travel day. In the afternoon we will arrive in Arequipa. The Santa Catalina cloisters are 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. 

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro: Hotel Casa de mi Abuela. (Dinner at Rest Hantunpa)
MST: Hotel Casa Andina Private Collection. (Dinner at Rest Hantunpa)

Day 6: Day at leisure or Full Day birding Laguna Salinas and Chiguata areas

Today is a rest day for an easy day in Arequipa visiting the Cathedral and the Compania church of the Jesuit order. Arequipa also gives an excellent opportunity for shopping for high-quality alpaca goods.

Should you want to spend the time birding however there is an optional excursion to Lake Salinas. (Cost $190/person - minimum two people - field breakfast and lunch snacks included).

Above Chiguata there is Polylepis scrub that holds the local White-throated Earthcreeper, Tamarugo Conebill, and Dark-winged Canastero. Continuing to the backside of the Misti Vulcano the high plains of the altiplano unfold onto an immense area stretching towards Lake Titicaca and south through Bolivia. Here we find the Salinas salt lake - a good site for the three species of Flamingos of the Peruvian highlands. Andean Avocet, Red-backed Sierra-Finch, and Puna Plover are other specialties in this area. Flocks of alpacas gives a characteristic touch to the scenery.

At night we pay a visit to star chef Gaston Acurio's renowned restaurant, Chichas. This is Peruvian Cuisine at its best (included in Kolibri Pro and MST).

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro: Hotel Casa de mi Abuela. (Dinner at Chichas)
MST: Hotel Casa Andina Private Collection. (Dinner at Chichas)

Day 7: Colca Canyon

Early morning start to Chivay at Colca Canyon. We will pass beautiful scenery with wild vicuñas and plenty of birds.

There are spots where we can search for Flamingos and the enigmatic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. If 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 take off from their night roost, we would like to experience the mighty Colca Canyon in complete serenity without crowds. 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 at Hotel Kuntur Wasi in Cabanaconde. This hotel option places us just below 3300m rather than at 3700m of Chivay and is much closer to the Condor lookout point. A 3-star hotel, the service has been excellent in past tours here why we use the same for both Kolibri Pro and MST.

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself in Cabanaconde (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro: Hotel Kuntur Wasi (Dinner at Hotel Kuntur Wasi)
MST: Hotel Kuntur Wasi (Dinner at Hotel Kuntur Wasi)

Day 8: Colca - Altiplano - Lake Titicaca

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 taken pride in conserving their traditional ways. Here terraces are prepared by the whole community and the women dress in traditional clothing. The scenery is awe-inspiring. Birds and Andean plants are plentiful and there is lots to explore.   

After an early start with some additional exploring of the Colca region we will set off for LakeTiticaca. 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 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 overlook the bird rich Umayo lagoon. Some interesting plants can also be seen here including the beautifull red Loasa.

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro:  Hotel Tierra Viva, Plaza, Puno. (Dinner at Restaurante Mojsa)
MST: Hotel Tierra Viva, Plaza, Puno (Dinner at Restaurante Mojsa)

Day 9: Lake Titicaca

We shall explore birdwatch the shore of Titicaca Lake in the early morning before breakfast and after breakfast make a visit to the famous floating islands of the Uros. The star bird to look out for today is the Titicaca Flightless Grebe. There is time to do an additional excursion in the afternoon after lunch.

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro:  Hotel Tierra Viva, Plaza, Puno (Dinner at Rest La Casona or Mojsa)
MST: Hotel Tierra Viva, Plaza, Puno (Dinner at Rest La Casona or Mojsa)

Day 10: Puno-Cuzco

Despite being a travel day, there are several interesting stops and the route is very scenic. The main attractions are historical and cultural sites. We will stop at Raqchi, where the remains of a grandiose temple are attributed to the creator god Viracocha. In Andahuaylillas, the small St Peter's church has a pretty unique interior and is often called "the Sistine Chapel of South America." Closeby, just before reaching Cusco, there is also good bird-watching at Huacarpay Lake. The star bird is the endemic Bearded Mountaineer, but many waterbirds can also be seen here. 
At night Pro and MST passengers will enjoy an abundant Peruvian dinner buffet and a show with Peruvian dances at nearby El Truco. 

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel, or similar).
Kolibri Pro:  Selina Plaza Boutique Hotel or similar (Dinner buffet and Peruvian Danses Show at El Truco).
MST:  Wyndham Costa del Sol or similar (Dinner buffet and Show at El Truco).


Day 11: Cusco City Tour - Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu.

After an early breakfast and passing the main plaza of Cuzco to reach the area in the vicinity of the Sacsayhuaman fortress that overlooks Cuzco, we shall do some birding.  at Cusco before we leave for Urubamba and the sacred valley. On the way to Urubamba we pass Laguna Huaypo for some marshland birding including Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Puna Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Andean Flicker, and Andean Duck. Above Urumbamba there is a new resource with feeders that attract Sword-billed Hummingbird, as well as the endemics White-tufted Sunbeam and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch and other birds. We shall have a picnic lunch here and afterward descend to Ollanta to board the train to Machu Picchu. From the train, we will look out for Torrent Duck, often be seen along the Urubamba River. Both Kolibri Pro and MST categories will stay at the exclusive and comfortable Pueblo Hotel, which has a fantastic garden with hummingbird feeders, fruit feeders for Tanagers and Euphonias, and sometimes an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock may be seen, There is also a collection of orchids in the garden. Birdwatching here is very rewarding.

Note that you will most likely not be able to bird the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel unless you stay there. 

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself  (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro:  Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. (Exclusive dinner included at Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel)
 Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. (Exclusive dinner included at Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel)

Day 12: Machu Picchu

Birdwatching in the morning and then a visit to the citadel of Machu Picchu. The setting on a saddle between two mountains with the Urubamba river running in a half circle about 500 meters below and with many peaks all around make Machu Picchu a magical place. It is obvious that the site has been carefully selected for ancient astronomical observation and the surrounding mountain peaks that the Incas considered sacred.

The bird-watching can be rewarding with species like Inca Wren (endemic), Masked Fruiteater (endemic), White-eared Solitaire, Black-streaked Puffbird, Highland Motmot, Gould´s Inca, and others. In the late afternoon, we return to Ollantaytambo for an overnight stay.

Kolibri Flex: Book yourself  (Airbnb, Booking or Hostel or similar)
Kolibri Pro:  Hotel Munay Tika
MST: Hotel Pakaritampu

Day 13: Optional day trip to endemic rich Abra Malaga

You can have a rest day if you like to explore the wonderful little village of Ollantaytambo or visit the impressive Inca fortress overlooking the town. The gardens of the hotels are very good for photographing hummingbirds, including the endemic Bearded Mountaineer.  

Those taking the optional birding excursion (Cost $240 including trail fee - minimum two people) to Abra Malaga along the road to Quillabamba shall leave predawn to have breakfast on the moist slope where one may see flocks with tanagers such as Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager and Golden-collared Tanager, and other birds such as Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Tit-like Dacnis, Cuzco Brushfinch, Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant, Marcapata Spinetail, Diademed Tapaculo and Parodi's Hemispingus. Sword-billed Hummingbird is also seen in this area.

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.

Many interesting plants may be seen on the walk. The people here preserve 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 Cuzco, picking up the people at who remained in Ollantaytambo on the way and arriving just after sunset. 
After a light dinner, we will take a comfortable sleeper night bus (with 180° inclinable seats) to Puerto Maldonado (since the pandemic, the direct flights to Puerto Maldonado from Cuzco, have been suspended)

Day 14: Amigos birding lodge

If time permits and the bus arrives before dawn, we shall start the morning at La Cachuela to look at a Macaw clay lick with Blue-headed Macaw, continue to Laberinto by road, and later with a motorized canoe on the Madre de Dios upriver to the mouth of Rio Amigos for 4-5 hours where our lodge is.
This is an outstanding place in the Peruvian rainforest with a 7m Anaconda staked out at Pozo Don Pedro and recent sightings of Tapir and Jaguar on the trails. Rio Los Amigos Research Station is a vey modern set-up in the rain forest with good trails, electric light and even internet and it has all the specialities of SE Peru even such rare species as Long-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-faced Cotinga, Rufous-fronted Ant-thrush and Peruvian Recurvebill. There are 10 species of monkeys regularly seen including Emperor Tamarin and Monk Saki Monkey

Kolibri Flex and Kolibri Pro. Private rooms with cold shower.
MST. Private cabins with fan and hot water. 

Day 15 - Birdwatching at Amigos Birding Lodge:

We hike to an Oxbow lake and with some luck try to locate the resident group of Giant Otters. At the lake, we also look out for Sungrebe, Snail Kite and Hoatzin. Other trails are excellent for bamboo specialists. Large-headed Flatbill, Goeldi's Antbird, Black-spotted Bare-eye, and many more.  

During the last hours before sunset we may climb the 40m tower to see the forest from above. It is a magical experience to see parrot and macaw flocks flying at eye-level. 

Kolibri Flex and Kolibri Pro. Private rooms with cold shower. (not a major problem in the tropics)
MST. Private cabins with fan and hot water. 

Day 16:  Flight to Lima

The following morning, we continue birding until 10 or so and then take the boat back to Puerto Maldonado. Depending on what time we arrive, we may be able to do some additional birding along the road in savanna-like habitat before reaching the airport to fly back to Lima. Here we may spot Point-tailed Palmcreeper, and Red-bellied Macaw.  Flight to Lima at 17:10, arriving at 18:45, and end of service. 


DAY 1 Lima museums, Pantanos de Villa lagoons and drive to Pisco.
DAY 2 Paracas Peninsula-Ica-Nazca
DAY 3 Nazca lines-Puerto Lomas
DAY 4 Puerto Lomas-Arequipa
DAY 5 Free day in Arequipa or Full day excursion to Chiguata and Laguna Salinas.
DAY 6 Colca Canyon.
DAY 7 Colca-Altiplano-Titicaca lake.
DAY 8 Titicaca lake
DAY 9 Puno-Cusco travel.
DAY 10 Cusco city tour and travel to Ollantaytambo and on to Machu Picchu.
DAY 11 Machu Picchu.
DAY 12 Free day in Ollantaytambo or excursion to Abra Malaga. Travel back to Cusco
DAY 13 Fly to Puerto Maldonado. Birding La Cachuela
DAY 14 Birding Rio Amigos Lodge
DAY 15 Birding Rio Amigos Lodge
DAY 16 Flight to Lima.

Option: Southern circuit 17 days Days: 16
Price: US$ 5680 (Minimum 5 people).
Less than 5 people: (see pricing)
Single supplement: 650 US$

This tour is tiered in three categories.

  • Kolibri Backpacker (Flights, hotels and dinners, except in the Amazon are not included in this option). Cost. $4000 You save $1360 compared to list price!!! You can do your own reservataions of flight online and lodging via Booking and AirBnB for hotels, hostels, dorms near the hotels we are using. We can also give you rates individually to stay at the same hotels we use if you want to upgrade any specific days of the tour. 
  • Kolibri Pro. This is the category most of our clients will chose as best value. The list price $5360 reflects the price of the mid category - Kolibri Pro. Domestic flights are included. Hotels are carefully selected budget hotels which we have used for years. They work great for birders. The rooms are clean, with private bath with hot water, except in the Amazon (cold water shower in the rain forest when hot is quite refreshing). The only hotel that is off from the normal category is that of the luxurious Machu Pueblo Hotel. Both the Kolibri Pro and MST categories stay here. This is very comfortable hotel with great gardens with feeders for birdwatching. You have to stay here to have access to the gardens. Domestic Flights are included in the price.
  • Marvelous Spatuletail Premium Service (MST). If you want top comfort you should choose this category. Carefully selected premium lodging. In a few cases the same as Kolibri Pro, but often with superior rooms. A number of perks such as water bootle, coffee mug and other merch. Also including a unit of bottled non-alcoholic or beer/glass of wine for lunch and dinner except on Day 6. Domestic Flights are included in the price. Cost: $6470.

For both Kolibri Pro and Marvelous Spatuletail we make a thing of sampling the best Peruvian foods visiting many great restaurants for our dinners.  Hence the price of these categories are somewhat higher than our average tours. Also the fact that the premium Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel and the domestic flights are included in these categories raises the price.  For these categories we will also do a nightly log for those who wish with a recap of the best birds and other things we have seen. 

For all comfort tiers the following is included:

  • transport
  • guiding
  • excursions as indicated in the text
  • breakfasts and lunch troughout, except for lunches in Arequipa and Ollantaytambo during the free days. 
  • train to Machu Picchu
  • entrance fees when indicated in the text
  • bus to ruins at Machu Picchu
  • safe drinking water (bring water bottle to fill up)
  • bird and mammal checklist
  • Daily eBird lists

Not included:

  • Flights over Nazca lines (Approximately $120/person)
  • dinner in Lima day 1
  • Lunch on day 6 and 13 for those not doing the excursions
  • Excursion to Lake Salinas from Arequipa on Day 6 and excursion to Abra Malaga on Day 13 (cost: $220/person/day)
  • drinks with meals
  • personal expenses
  • tips

Single supplements are.

  • Kolibri Flex! $50 for the Amazon
  • Kolibri Pro $569
  • MST Premium $1315


Copyright © 2012 Kolibri Expeditions. All rights reserved.
Telephone: +51-1- 652 76 89. From the US: 011-51-1- 652 76 89. Cell: 988 555 938 (Gunnar) or 999 007 886 (Elia Gallo) - Email: kolibriexp@gmail.com