Your flight descends onto the Andean Highlands and the city of Juliaca. From the window, you can see the urban design spreading across the plateau and fading into the distance where Peruvian villages and popular Sunday markets thrive. Spanish Colonial churches punctuate the skyline around Plaza Bolognesi, and the aroma of grilled corn and meat roasting over an open flame drifts through the streets. Your flight lands at Inca Manco Cápac International Airport, where your private transfer greets you upon your early arrival. At over 12,500 feet above sea level, the thinner atmosphere here provides an interesting introduction to the Altiplano, the high-altitude plain of the Andes.
Your guide offers you the first taste of Peru with a sample of the coca leaves the Quechua people have used for more than two millennia to help with the altitude. You chew the leaves and find a slightly bitter, but pleasant flavor and learn that you can also use the leaves to brew a popular, soothing tea. Your scenic drive takes you out of Juliaca, passing the Andean pasture where herds of alpaca graze on farmland. You ascend the mountain pass at nearly 15,000 feet above sea level, stopping along the way to view the vicunas in their natural habitat. The wild vicuna is a relative of the llama, and they live in groups consisting of a single male and up to 50 females. The territorial male protects his herd, keeping a keen eye on you as you return to the car to continue your journey down the mountain pass.
The cold air and thin atmosphere bites at your cheeks. The rugged landscape of the high altitude plain reminds you of the craggy landscape of another planet, filled with loose rocks and sporadic mounds. As you descend into the rainforest basin, the trees return as a cloud forest, offering unique biodiversity and lush greenery contrasting the Andean Highlands, and marking your arrival into the Tambopata National Reserve.
Peru is a region unlike any other; learn more by seeing how our partner Peru tour operators can personalize the experience for you.