Alpine Garden Society

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Machu Picchu Dates:  around March 9th to April 1st, 2014 (21 days in Peru)

Leader:  Harry Jans

Cost:  In the region of £4,800 per person including flights

Nototriche argylloides Sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of South America, Peru has become increasingly popular with tourists over the past decade, largely on account of World Heritage sites such as Machu Picchu and the old cities of Lima, Cuzco and Arequipa.  But it is also a land of seemingly non-stop vibrant fiestas, often held against a backdrop of majestic scenery.  And on the innumerable high peaks, snow capped volcanoes and table top mountains can be found a fascinating alpine flora.  Expect to see       Gentianellas         in almost every colour imaginable and often in great abundance, Mniodes that imitate New Zealand's vegetable sheep, nototriches that figure amongst the world's highest growing and most beautiful alpines with their generally crocus like flowers.and Puya raimondii whose 10-12m flowering spike, visited by the Giant Hummingbird, makes it the tallest of all alpine plants.  There are even rosulate violas, some of them growing on the same hillsides as cacti.

Patagonia is nowadays well-established as a wildflower destination, but this is the first venture of its sort to Peru and is a first for the AGS. Some areas are remote and little-visited, but a good standard of hotel /hostel accommodation is available. And the roads, occasionally rough but usually very well-engineered, enable you to be driven to within a few strides of high alpines such as the recently named, bright red Nototriche that featured on the front cover of The Alpine Gardener last June. Therefore a normal level of fitness will be sufficient to enjoy this tour.

The route will be based upon Robert Rolfe’s visit to the south of the country last March (see the December 2012 issue of The Alpine Gardener),  However we shall allow far more time for acclimatisation.  The provisional itinerary outlined below has been drawn up with the local botanist, Daniel Montesinos, who will accompany the tour and is an expert on the alpine flora of this part of Peru.

*Upgraded botanical itinerary by Harry Jans now shown below*



Peru costume Day 1: LIMA

Flight to Jorge Chavez airport in Lima and transfer to hotel, followed by city tour.


Early transfer to the airport for flight to Arequipa (one hour fifteen minutes). Arrival in Arequipa and transfer to the hotel. Free morning to become acclimatized. In the afternoon we enjoy a guided tour in the ´white city´ of Arequipa (2320 m).


We visit Sogay or Yumina (districts of Yarabamba and Sabandia), where there are beautiful slopes with an ecosystem represented by the dry shrublands incl. plants like: Gochnatia arequipensis, Dunalia spinosa, Polyachyrus sphaerocephalus, Senecio spp., Puya cylindrica and Escallonia angustifolia. Tall columnar cacti (Corryocactus brevistylus, Opuntia subulata, Cumulopuntia sphaerica) are also to be found here. During March these areas are completely green and over 150 different species occur here.  Overnight stay in Arequipa.


We will explore the volcanic mountains passes of Arequipa by El Misti and Chachani volcanoes at 4000 meters, in this survey we will find a beautiful landscape of Arequipa city and the Chili rover. We will also find various plant species from different ecological ecosystems, from the dry scrublands to the Puna. Among species to be expected are Cantua candelilla, Lupinus misticola, Tarasa operculata, Ambrosia artemisioides and Chuquiraga rotundifolia. In the alpine parts we will find communities dominated by Festuca with shrubs like Parastrephia lepidophylla, Tetraglochin cristatum and some cushion of Azorella compacta and Pycnophyllum molle.  Overnight stay in Arequipa.


We leave early for our full day excursion to Salinas ´Salt´ Lagoon and the Colca Valley.  We will go through the traditional town of Chiguata (3000 m), with a spectacular vision of the City of Arequipa with the Misti and Pichu Pichu Volcanoes.  Here there are plants such as Baccharis spp., Polylepis rugulosa, Caiohora andina and Calceolaria spp. We continue to San Juan de Tarucani (4200 m), Imata (4500 m) and finally the Colca Valley. On the way we will see the Pampa the Tocra, bofedales (altitudinal boglands with species like Distichia muscoides, Gentianella spp., Werneria pygmaea, Hypochaeris spp. and Aciachne pulvinata), migratory birds such as Chloephaga melanoptera, among others; vicugnas in their natural habitat, llamas and alpacas and then we will go through the famous ´Mirador de los Andes´ at 4930 m (from this point can be seen around 7 peaks and extinct volcanoes). Overnight stay in Cabanaconde


We depart at 8:00 hrs for the Queñua forests (Polylepis spp) in Cabanaconde, located in the lower slopes of the extinct volcano ´Hualca-Hualca´ where we will have the opportunity to observe a great diversity of native and endemic plants, which inhabit the unique ecosystems that enhance the growth of the Polylepis trees. In these forests we will observe the water currents from the thaws of the extinct volcano. This is a real botanical paradise with over 400 species of plants. Some examples are Chuquiraga spinosa, Muhlenbeckia volcanica, Cantua buxifolia, Mutisia hastata and Parastrephia lepidophylla.  Overnight stay in Cabanaconde.


Today we explore the higher areas of Cabanaconde near the pass, in these areas we will find some alpine and scrubland plants such as Satureja boliviana, Mustisia acuminata, Gochantia and Junellia shrubs, Viola micranthella, Geranium sessiliflorum among others. Overnight stay in Cabanaconde.


At 7:30 hrs we start a full day excursion to the Andean town of Yunga (3500 m) in Moquegua. We will follow the road via Imata and San Juan de Tarucani. On our way we will see some of the most representative highland plant communities which include Azorella compacta cushion together with Pycnophyllum molle.  Overnight stay in Yunga local hostel.

Day 9: YUNGA

We will drive to Choco-Choco, at 4800 m where beautiful Andean landscapes will be seen, among the high Puna plant species and many geological strange formations. On the road to Choco-Choco we will see from distance the Puya raimondii forests located in Ccasullama which are characterized to inhabit scree terrains with shadow by large rock formations. We continue the road to the highest points in Choco-Choco area between 4600 and 4900 m, here we will find several plant species like cushions, dwarf shrubs and even plants that are undescribed in science. We will find plants such as: Azorella compacta, Pycnophyllum molle, Mniodes spp., Tetraglochin cristatum, Senecio spp., Nototriche spp (more than 5 species) and Xenophyllum spp.  Overnight stay in Yunga local hostel.


We drive to the local town of Pampilla (3520 m) and continue the journey to Exchaje (3480 m) and Toreqaqa canyon. Here we will observe the canyon, the cross of two major rivers, thermomedicinal ponds, caverns and caves. The ecosystems are very rich in species, specially cacti and shrubs and we will be able to see the following plants: Opuntia subulata, Echinopsis schoenii, Echinopsis pampana, Neowerdermannia peruviana (Cactaceae), and other plants such as Calceolaria pisacomensis, Proustvia spp., Senecio tovari and Tarasa operculata, among many others. More than 150 species can be found on these areas. The natural landscape is spectacular and broad for taking many pictures, a botanical field expedition.  Overnight stay in Yunga local hostel.


Drive to the Pirhuani peak and the lakes of Cochapata and Orccococha. This will be one of the highlights of the tour since we will visit the high peak and Puna where many endemic alpines can be found such as Azorella compacta, Pycnophyllum molle, Mniodes pulvinata, Aciachne pulvinata, Werneria spp. among other (cushions), and acaulescent species such as Nototriche spp. (Nototriche sp. red, N. pedicularifolia, N. turritella and N. mandoniana), Perezia multiflora, new Senecios and several other undescribed pulvinate alpine species. All this we will find close to the road!  Overnight stay in Yunga local hostel.


We drive to the local town of Tassa (3830 m). We will see huge caverns and caves, extensive forests of Puya raimondii a giant rosette of 10-12 meters tall which produces a large inflorescence with over 10,000 flowers and its considered a unique plant for Peru. A true mega-alpine!.  Next to the Puya we can expect to find other plants such as Loricaria graveolens, Satureja boliviana, Hypochaeris mucida, Bomarea involucrosa, Escallonia myrtilloides and Plantago sericea. We will observe also rock formations and colors of rock plates that vary from bright blue, to red, pink and orange. Overnight stay in Yunga local hostel.


We start the journey to Puno (3830 m), with stops on the route at Ichuña  and Antajahua. On the way  we will observe a variety of Andean ecosystems and native fauna. We will make few botanical stops enroute to see more Azorella compacta, Pycnophyllum molle and P. glomeratum, Mniodes spp., Nototriche spp., several Senecio species and other interesting annuals. Overnight in Puno.


Today we leave for the port where a boat awaits for the visit to one of the highest lakes in the world (3800 meters / 9000 feet). We will explore the floating island of Uros inhabited by traditional fisherman. We continue with a tour of the island of Taquile where the local people are experts in traditional weaving techniques. Overnight in Puno.


We will take the flight from Juliaca to Cuzco (55 min). The morning will be free and you have the options to visit the city or rest.  In the afternoon we will take a tour of Cusco city where you will visit the Cathedral, Qorichancha (the temple of the sun) and the four nearby archaeological sites: Qénko, Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara and Sacsayhuaman. Sacsayhuaman ruins are characterized for having several plant species that grow within the rocks and on edges, botanically very interesting. We will find plants such as: Arenaria sp., Bomarea dulcis, Achyrocline ramosissima, Peperomia peruviana, Lobelia sp. and Senecio sp. Overnight in Cusco.


Full day excursion to the Sacred Valley. During the morning we will visit the colorful indigenous market of Pisac, then in the afternoon, the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo. In Ollantaytambo we will find various plants such as Tillandsia usneioides and Tillandsia capillaris, Puya cylindrica, Salvia species, Fuertesimalva peruviana, Orchids, Ferns and many others. At the end of the day we will meet at the train station and leave for Aguas Calientes in the Vista-Dome train from RAILPERU. During this trip you will enjoy the beautiful sight of the mixture of Andean ecosystems and the jungle through the Urubamba River. Overnight stay in Aguas Calientes.


We will take a bus (30 minutes) to the Sanctuary of the Incas ´Machu Picchu´ (2400 m) with the private guide for 3 hours. After the tour you will have the option to explore for yourselves the magnificent sanctuary. Later we will take the bus to Aguas Calientes, where you have the option to go to the thermal waters. Overnight stay in Aguas Calientes.


Trekking to the garden of “Machu Picchu” named MANDORPAMPA.  Daniel will offer a botanical guide and will answer any of your questions. We will find several plants and trees, among also some orchids and tree ferns. The species include Cyathea and Nephelea, Orchids such as Cymbidium, Cattleya and Altensteinia. Among flowers we will see Verbesina, Asclepiadacea species, many bromeliads and different terrestrial and epiphytic ferns. Later we will take the Vista-Dome train back to Cusco. Overnight stay in Cusco.


A full day excursion to the sacred valley of the Incas in CHINCHERO where you will find a beautiful landscape and enjoy the beauty of the agricultural lands that seem like prairies. We will visit the genetic laboratory of the Incas named MORAY, where they used to domesticate different plants. In CHINCHERO we will observe the landscapes where fruits used to be cropped for the Incas. Lunch in the Sacred Valley of Urubamba. Overnight stay in Cusco.

Day 20: CUSCO

Free day to visit the sights of Cusco and for shopping. Overnight stay in Cusco.


To the airport for the flight to Lima. Transfer to the hotel, rest and after lunch we will have a guided city tour. Overnight stay in Lima.

Day 22: LIMA

Morning transfer to Lima airport three hours prior to your departure back home. 


Azorella compacta

Peru species


The Tour is limited to 20 participants plus 2 leaders and bookings will be processed in order of receipt. If you intend to book your own flights, please do not do so until we have confirmed there are sufficient participants for the tour to go ahead.


For further information please contact:

AGS Centre, Avon Bank, Pershore WR10 3JP.

phone - 01386 554790 or email


Chris Barber
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