Day 1 - Quito
Welcome to Quito, Ecuador. Things kick off today when you meet you leader and new travel mates at a welcome meeting at 2pm. Double check with the hotel reception for the exact time and place. Insurance details and next of kin information will be collected at this meeting, so please have this on hand for your leader. If you’re going to be late, please let the hotel reception know. Quito’s a pretty amazing place surrounded by mountainous volcanoes, but it’s not just the view that can take your breath away – Quito is way up at 2,800 metres above sea level and it can be common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude, regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please check out the ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ sections of the trip notes for important information about altitude sickness before and during your trip. There’s plenty of stuff to do in Quito if you get here early – hit up the Old Town, the Plaza Grande and the Plaza San Francisco to get a feel for local life, then head to El Panecillo (The Little Bread Loaf) for awesome views over the city’s white houses and mountains. After the meeting tonight, maybe dine with your new buddies – grab some empanadas for sure.
Day 2 - Otavalo / Quito
How good’s your Spanish? You’ll find out this morning when you catch a local bus to the famous Otavalo Market (approximately 2-3 hours). This is the perfect chance to (try to) chat with the locals and maybe get some tips on the best stuff to pick up. This day trip will give you loads of time to squeeze your way through the streets that surround the Plaza de los Ponchos and check out the rainbow of stalls that make up Ecuador’s largest indigenous market. Once a week it feels like every villager from the surrounding countryside has descended on the town to buy everything from handmade crafts to fruits, vegetables, and even livestock. A bit further out of the city all types of animals are up for trade, from llamas to masses of (edible) guinea pigs. This is the perfect place to stock up on some souvenirs – silver jewellery, a poncho, wooden carvings, a Panama hat (which actually originated in Ecuador) – and practice your bargaining skills. And that’s not to mention the great, colourful photos you’ll get. In the afternoon, hop back on the bus and return to Quito. Maybe grab some dinner and drinks with the group, then try Old Town’s strange ice cream flavours – morocho corn or quinoa anyone?
Day 3 - Banos
Say bye to Quito as you take a private transfer to the bus station. From here you’ll hop a local bus to Banos, the adventure capital of Ecuador (approximately 3 hours). Location, location, location, that’s what Banos is all about. It’s got a subtropical climate and from town you can see waterfalls crashing down green hills and the occasional eruption of the Tungurahua volcano. This is a great place to get into some small town vibes and explore the Ecuadorian great outdoors. The town might seem quiet during the week, but at night and the weekend Banos really kicks off as a party town. The rumbling volcano means hot water bubbles up out of the ground here so, if you have time after you arrive, maybe head to the hot springs of Las Piscinas de la Virgen. This is the perfect way to relax after your bus journey and get your body ready for tomorrow's adventures.
Day 4 - Banos
Hear that? That’s adventure calling! If you didn’t get too into the nightlife yesterday, rise early to catch a sweet sunrise over the mountains before breakfast. Then it’s decision time. How will you explore this outdoor playground? Get on some sturdy shoes and hike through the lush forests visit the near-by Devils Cauldrom waterfall!
If you're feeling cruisey, hit up the hot springs and spas for some chill out me-time. Other stuff to explore in town includes the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Agua Santa (a basilica dedicated to the Virgin of the Holy Water) and the artisan markets. If you didn’t get enough stuff at Otavalo, then negotiate for leather goods, jewellery and carvings. Tonight, swap stories of your adventures while you get into the regular carnival-like atmosphere.
Day 5 - Cuenca
Let’s be straight – today is a long travel day on local buses. This is your chance to catch up on few Z’s after partying and adventuring in Banos, to get to know your travel buddies better, to write in that journal or read that book, or to just press your face up against the glass and watch Ecuador go by. You’ll take a local bus to Riobamba (approximately 3 hours), where you’ll swap buses and head south to Cuenca (approximately 5 hours). Is Cuenca the best-looking city in Ecuador? Probably, with UNESCO sticking it on their list of things they love. There are loads of impressive 500-year-old churches and colonial buildings, made out of marble and decorated with stunning woodwork and ironwork. It’s the country’s third largest city but still has a small town and Old World air, and it’s great for just wandering around and exploring. Think you can pull off a Panama hat? Well Cuenca is the home of the famous headwear, and if there’s time you could visit a factory and pick up one that fits perfectly. Cuenca is also a university town, so all the students give it a buzzing nightlife, and there are some good bars and restaurants to choose from. Add in an evening stroll around the Plaza and you’ve got the perfect end to your first day in Cuenca.
Day 6 - Cuenca
Meet up with your leader this morning and get to know Cuenca better with an orientation walk. Trundle along cobblestone streets and check out colonial parks, buzzing markets, and stop by the monumental cathedral at the centre. La Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción took 100 years to finish, and its blue and white domes are a real standout. The rest of the day is free to explore Cuenca and the surrounding area. If you’re feeling cultural, maybe head to the Museo Pumapungo, which features an impressive range of artistic, historical, cultural, and ethnological exhibits (including a collection of real shrunken heads from the Shuar civilisation – for the strong stomached only!). Otherwise, maybe get out of town to El Cajas National Park, home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. 70,000 acres shelter everything from cloud forest to rocky lunar landscapes, but it's the lakes (more than 200 of them) scattered among jagged peaks that are its best-known image. Feel the solitude while hiking or trout fishing. Look out for the reintroduced wild llamas that roam around, as well as elusive spectacled bears, pumas and tigrillos. There are also hummingbirds, toucans and Andean condors flying about the park. El Cajas is a simple one-hour bus ride from Cuenca. Once there, pay the entrance fee, hire a native guide and start hiking around the beautiful lakes. Tonight you might want to get to bed early, in preparation for a very early start early tomorrow morning.
Day 7 - Tumbes / Lima
Peru takes a bit of getting to, so strap in once again for a long day of travelling – just look forward to that first sip of Pisco sour this evening. At approximately 3am start off with a taxi to the bus station in Cuenca, then take a public bus south east towards the coast and the town of Huanquillas, which sits on the border of Ecuador and Peru (approximately 5-6 hours). Get all the boring border stuff out the way, then cross into Peru and make your way to Tumbes airport (approximately 30 minutes). Say bye to your Ecuadorian leader, then hop on a plane for an included flight to the Peruvian capital, Lima (approximately 1 hour 45 minutes). Touch down and meet your Peruvian leader, who’ll take you to your hotel in Miraflores, which sits along the coast, offering easy access to beaches and Pacific sunsets. This afternoon your leader will take you on an orientation walk around Miraflores, one of the city's most popular districts and filled with arty markets, shops, restaurants, bars and ‘discotheques’. Get that Pisco sour tonight, washing down some fresh ceviche.
Day 8 - Lima
Today’s all about getting to know Lima like a pro – get ready to walk the walk. Stop one is the Central Market, in Down Town for snack time (we'll travel from Miraflores to Lima Down town in a taxi). Stalls are packed with fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh guinea pig meat, cheese and dried fruits. Here’s where you stock up on local Peruvian fruits and street food. Then it’s on to Chinatown, or Barrio Chino. Two per cent of the population are Chinese immigrants, and their fusion of Chinese and Peruvian flavours is so popular it’s got its own name – Chifa. Walk a couple of blocks to the nearby San Francisco Monastery, where you can pop your head inside and have a look. This almost 400-year-old Spanish Baroque-style church is part of the World Heritage-listed 'Historic Centre of Lima'. The really interesting part of it lies underground though, with a maze of catacombs where the remains of tens of thousands of people are held. This is not for the squeamish or claustrophobic – piles of bones and skulls are arranged in circular designs and stacked in ghostly walls. Back in the world of the living, you’ll take a short walk to the main square of Lima, Plaza Mayor, which is the oldest public place in the city. From here, take a taxi across town to the bohemian district of Barranco. Take a walk around to check out the place that Peru's top artists, musicians, designers and photographers call home. There are loads of options for a tasty dinner here, and if you want to try Lima’s best seafood, this is the place. After dinner head out to one of the many bars in Barranco or take a taxi back to Miraflores.
Day 9 - Lima
Welcome to Lima, Peru. Your adventure starts with an orientation walk around Peru's capital. You'll be lead around locations such as Miraflores and head from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to the entertainment complex of LarcoMar. At around 2 pm there will be a pre-departure meeting. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform the accommodation as soon as possible. Afterwards, get to know your group with a few pisco sours and a plate of Lima's famous ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice, chilli, onions and tomato).
If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Notes: Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit some people can suffer altitude sickness, regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please see the 'Is This Trip Right For You?' and 'Fitness' sections in the trip notes for detailed information.
Day 10-11 - Puerto Maldonado (Amazon Jungle lodge)
Day 12 - Cuzco
Say farewell to the jungle today and fly to Cuzco, which takes just under an hour. Spend the next day trying to acclimatise to the high altitude of this location (i.e. no strenuous activity).
After dropping your luggage off and having some lunch, your tour leader will take you on a walk around downtown Cuzco. You’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, the local San Pedro market, the main square, past the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square.
The order of visiting these locations, may vary according to hotel location and your tour leaders preference.
In your free time may want to book some of the optional activities available in Cuzco. Please speak with your leader about this.
Day 13 - Sacred Valley / Ollantaytambo
Today takes you a little closer to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Unwind on a private bus for around two hours through the Sacred Valley, which is on the fringes of Cuzco. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the lush, fertile valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. Head to a community in the valley to learn about the local lifestyle and activities, and hopefully your visit will coincide with market day (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday). Comb the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos, and master the local Quechuan language (a few words will be deemed a success). Continuing on, drive 20 minutes to Ollantaytambo. Later in the afternoon, perhaps head out to visit to Ollantaytambo’s awesome Incan ruins. You’ll spend the night at a hotel in Ollantaytambo, ready for your early morning start on the Inca Trail.
Day 14 - Inca Trail, Quarry Trail or Train Option
Depending on your pre-arranged travel arrangements, during the next four days you may: hike the Classic Inca Trail, hike the Inca Quarry Trail or head back to Cuzco for another two nights before taking the train to Aguas Calientes. While away from Cuzco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cuzco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (6 kg maximum).
Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cuzco and only travel with the necessary items for the next few days.
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
Today travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3,100 metres above sea level. On the way you’ll see the ruins of Llactapata, which was burnt to the ground by the last Inca emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail. In the evening, set up camp while the cook makes dinner.
Notes: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 km long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.
Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3,700 meters above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas.
Notes: The Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 km long in total and its highest pass is at 4,450 meters above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.
Route 3 Train:
For those travellers disinterested in hiking the trail or who are unable to, spend two extra nights in Cuzco before travelling by bus back through Ollantaytambo. From here take a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to the town of Aguas Calientes where you’ll spend a third night.
Notes: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Day 15 - Inca Trail, Quarry Trail or Train Option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
This is the most challenging day of the trek, as we ascend a long steep path (approximately five hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4,200 meters above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3,650 metres.
Route 2 Quarry Trail:
This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4,370 meters high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4,450 meters. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo.
Route 3 Train:
Today, perhaps your free day indulging your inner foodie in the eateries of Cuzco. Head to lunch at the arty Fallen Angel restaurant, and if you still have room for dessert, the ChocoMuseo offers tastings and chocolate-marking workshops. All optional activities are at your own cost.
Notes: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Day 16 - Inca Trail, Quarry Trail or Train Option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3,980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending for around 2-3 hours to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3,850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the two-hour descent down the Inca steps to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.
Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Visiting the natural hot springs in town is a soothing way to spend the late afternoon. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.
Route 3 Train:
In the morning take the three-hour train to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is nestled in the hills at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want to, there’s time to visit Machu Picchu independently before the guided tour the next day. If you’d like to do this, please advise your group leader at the welcome meeting at the beginning of the trip. Otherwise, you might like to while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs of Aguas Calientes.
Notes: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Quarry Trail only.
Day 17 - Inca Trail, Quarry Trail or Train Option and Machu Picchu
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4.30 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and begin hiking by 5.30 am. The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes around two-and-a-half hours. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as the sun rises (and before it’s crawling with tourists).
Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5:30 am this morning along the winding road to Machu Picchu. The journey takes around 30 minutes. At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who hiked the Classic Inca Trail. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular sunrise over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins.
Route 3 Train:
In the morning at 5.30 am, take a bus up to Machu Picchu. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy free time afterwards to wander around on your own before the group returns to Cuzco.
For all trails - after taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cuzco for a well deserved shower and a pisco sour. Your evening is then free for the last night of your adventure.
Notes: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy, our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking trips to the mountaintop ruins of Wayna Picchu.
Day 18 - Cuzco
Today enjoy free time to relax, shop for souvenirs or see more of Cuzco's sights. Perhaps head to a cafe on the Plaza de Armas, or if you're a thrill-seeker, try mountain biking in the hills surrounding Cuzco. In the evening, you might want to chew the fat with the group over dinner.
Day 19 - Puno
In the morning travel by local bus for six hours through the Altiplano plateau to Puno. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. If you're lucky, your visit might coincide with an evening parade, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians. Once you're settled, head out in town and shake your tailfeather.
Day 20 - Lake Titicaca (Homestay)
Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. Today you'll take a tour of the lake by slow motorboat, stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. The Uros people built these islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes in ancient times. They're built completely from multiple layers of totora reeds, which grow in the shallows of the lake. In the evening, enjoy a homestay in a local community on Llachon. Your homestay is in a mud-brick house, with shared drop-toilets but no shower. It can get quite cold here. The homestay will provide plenty of blankets, but remember to pack thermals and plenty of layers. Help your host family with their daily activities or maybe play a game of soccer in the village.
Day 21 - Puno
Enjoy a home-cooked breakfast by your host family this morning, taking the time to explore the rest of the island afterwards. In the afternoon, take the boat back to Puno where the rest of your day is free to explore.
Puno is the hometown of Kusimayo, a terrific local organisation that works towards improving the living condition of children and adults affected by poverty and malnutrition in this part of the world you have now come to know so well. Take a look at this short video for more information on this wonderful project: https://vimeo.com/154422813
Kusimayo is supported by the Intrepid Foundation which means you can donate to this project and your donation will be match dollar for dollar by the Intrepid Group. Please donate through our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/kusimayo/
Day 22 - La Paz
Travel by comfortable local bus to Desaguadero (just over seven hours) and cross the border into Bolivia. You'll be asked to leave the bus to proceed through Peruvian migration. The group will then walk across a bridge, submit passports at the Bolivian migration office and reboard the bus for La Paz. Approximately 30 minutes after crossing the border, there's another stop where the army will check your documents again. The journey to La Paz takes around eight hours in total. In the evening, perhaps head out for an optional group dinner.
Day 23 - La Paz
Welcome to La Paz, Bolivia. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
As La Paz is 3,600 metres above sea level, please ensure you take the necessary measurements in regards to altitude sickness (refer to ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ sections for important information).
Your trip takes you above 2800 metres/9200 feet, where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!
Before your trip: some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition(s) with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.
On arrival in La Paz: while our local representatives and hotel staff are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly. Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience: https://www.geckosadventures.com/sites/default/files/geckos_altitude-sickness.pdf
Day 24 - La Paz / Overnight Bus
Your second day in La Paz is free to explore. The city is renowned for its markets, especially the Mercado de Hechiceria (Witches' Market), which sells potions, incantations, stones and artefacts. Ask a local about their significance - most people are happy to explain. Perhaps visit the Coca Museum, which isn’t too far from your hotel in the Rosario district. You might like to take part in one of our Urban Adventure day trips, such as the Food With Altitude or To 3,600 Metres, and Beyond tours.
Late in the afternoon, leave La Paz on an overnight bus to Sucre (approximately 12-13 hours). There are comfortable recliner seats on the bus, but it can be cold on-board so it’s important to bring warm clothing and wear base layers. There’s usually a toilet on the bus and the driver will also make a couple of stops along the way.
Day 25 - Sucre
On arrival into Sucre, drop off your luggage at the hotel before heading out to explore in your own time. Bolivia’s World Heritage-listed capital is a hub of progressive culture and Spanish colonial architecture. You might like to visit the Museo de la Recoleta. This 400-year-old convent provides great views over the city and is home to a fascinating collection of sculptures and paintings. If you have time, head to the Plaza 25 de Mayo to rub shoulders with Sucre's affluent residents and investigate the extravagant interior of the Senora de la Merced.
Day 26 - Sucre
Today is a free day in Sucre.
For something completely different, discover the prehistoric landscape of Cal Orko and tread in 60-million-year-old dinosaur footprints. There’s also proud food culture in Sucre, so enjoy some delicious empanadas at a restaurant or fresh juice at the Central Market.
Day 27 - Sucre
Another free day in Sucre; ask your leader about the optional activities offered in this city.
Day 28 - Potosi
In the morning take a local bus to Potosi, which should take around 3-4 hours. This colonial mining city sits at the base of Cerro Rico, a mountain rich in silver ore. A tour and brief history of Cerro Rico could be a highlight of your trip here, but due to safety concerns we strongly advise you not to enter the mines (please see notes below). Perhaps visit the Santa Teresa Convent Museum to observe the art and treasures on display inside the convent’s original walls.
Notes: We strongly recommend against doing a Potosi Mine Tour, which actually enters the mine. Should you decide to go against our advice, you will do so at your own risk. Please note that our leaders are not able to organise this activity for you due to safety concerns.
Day 29 - Uyuni Town
Today, leave Potosi behind and travel to the city of Uyuni (approximately 5-7 hours). This remote town sits on the edge of the high Altiplano, a wilderness area extending for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. The area is notorious for being extremely cold, so it’s important to pack warm clothing and base layers. Tonight, stay at a hotel in Uyuni Town. The hotel is fairly basic, but it’s clean, comfortable and has hot water. As you’ll be heading out into the desert and salt flats over the next few days, make the most of the structured bathroom facilities tonight.
Day 30 - Salar de Uyuni
Depart Uyuni this morning and venture out on a three-day 4WD excursion. Be prepared for a busy few days ahead. The first stop will be at a rusty Train Cemetery, before you continue on to Salar de Uyuni - the world’s largest salt flats. While this may be a typical stop for many travellers, it’s also often a highlight. Make the most of your time on the salt flats taking lots of photos and explore Inka Wasi Isla, which is a rocky island covered in cacti and coral-like structures.
Notes: Please be aware that from December to March, there’s a risk of the salt lake being flooded. If this is the case, the itinerary will be adapted to accommodate this.
Day 31 - Bolivian Altiplano
Today will be spent driving through the spectacular landscape of the Andean (Atacama) Desert, which is sprinkled with volcanoes and lakes. During this drive you’ll reach an altitude of approximately 4,900 metres above sea level, so it’s important to revisit the notes on altitude sickness (please see the ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ sections of the trip notes). Stop by the red lake of Laguna Colorada, where you’ll be able to spot wildlife such llamas, flamingos, viscachas and foxes feasting in the nutrient-rich waters.
Notes: Accommodation in the desert is basic. Shower facilities can be unreliable and cold, as the pipes often freeze in the winter months. Electricity is generated by solar panels, so there won’t be enough power to charge electronic devices. In the rainy season, the itinerary may need to be altered depending on the accessibility of roads.
Day 32 - San Pedro de Atacama
This morning stop by the desert’s natural thermal baths for a soak and then head to the Bolivia/Chile border, where the Bolivian part of your trip comes to an end. Pass by geysers, salt flats and snow-capped volcanoes on your way to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. As a small oasis town, San Pedro is surrounded by extraordinary scenery. Use your free time to wander around, perhaps checking out the quaint Church of San Pedro de Atacama, the Museo Gustavo Le Paige (archaeological museum) or the town’s central plaza.
Day 33 - San Pedro de Atacama
Use today to get under the skin of this burgeoning tourist destination. San Pedro’s cafe and restaurant scene has grown considerably over the last couple of years. With a mix of Chilean, French and Italian influences, you’ll be sure to find a great spot for lunch and dinner. Perhaps head out on an optional tour to the Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) or join an astronomical tour once the stars come out.
Day 34 - Salta
Today will be a long day of travel (approximately 12 hours), as you leave San Pedro and head for Salta, Argentina. Salta's rich history, colonial architecture, friendly locals and surrounding natural attractions make it one Argentina's main attractions. If you have time on arrival, spend some time getting to know the area in the vicinity of the hotel. The gardens, fountains and historic buildings in Plaza 9 de Julio are a great place to start.
Day 35 - Salta
The next two days are free to explore Salta and its attractions. If you’re after something active, hike up the 1,070 steps to the summit of Cerro San Bernardo; the mountain that looms over Salta. You can take a gondola (cable car) to the top if you’d prefer. Either way, the view from the top is magnificent.
Day 36 - Salta / Overnight bus
Today is a free day in Salta. Perhaps stroll the streets, take a paddleboat on the lake or pop into one of the many museums. In the afternoon or early evening of your last day in Salta, travel by overnight bus to Mendoza (approximately 18 hours). The bus is quite comfortable, with reclining seats and a toilet on board.
Day 37 - Mendoza
Arriving at around midday on Day 15, spend the next few days in the heart of Argentinian wine country, Mendoza. Use the first day to get your bearings: the Plaza Independencia is a good place to start. The city centre is precisely landscaped and filled with trees, squares and parks. Please note that most commercial activity in Mendoza takes a break from 1 pm until 4 pm to allow for the traditional siesta. As this is Argentina's most important grape growing region, you may like to head out on a winery tour. Making up 70% of the country's wine, malbec is the region's signature variety.
Day 38 - Mendoza
Today is a free day in Mendoza. If you’re a thrill seeker, you can zipline high above Mendoza’s lakes along a series of canopy wires. Various city and mountain tours are also available if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground. At night, the city’s attention shifts to the many restaurants, bars and pubs along the Avenida Aristides Villanueva.
Day 39 - Mendoza / Buenos Aires
In the afternoon, take a short flight to Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. On arrival, perhaps explore the cobblestone streets of San Telmo and browse its antiques markets, then continue to the Plaza de Mayo to see the presidential palace of the Casa Rosada. In the evening, you might like to enjoy a tango show, a football match or a steak and glass of Malbec in one of the city’s fashionable restaurants.
Day 40-41 - Buenos Aires
Day 42 - Buenos Aires
Bienvenidos. Welcome to Argentina. Your adventure begins with an orientation walk around Buenos Aires’ Microcentro district at 1pm. Your leader will be waiting in the lobby of your joining point hotel. Pass by historic buildings along the Avenida de Mayo, including the Casa Rosada (Argentina's government house) and maybe have a coffee in the traditional Café Tortoni. Stroll around the picturesque streets of San Telmo and its antique markets. In the evening, attend a group welcome meeting at 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. Head out tonight and be swept away by the dance of love at an optional tango show. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. Head out tonight and be swept away by the dance of love at an optional tango show.
Day 43 - Buenos Aires
Today is a free day in Buenos Aires. We recommend heading to San Telmo Market as today is the main market day!
Join the tourists and walk among the tombs at the La Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of Eva Peron. There are also some great museums to check out in the Recoleta district. Visit the neighbourhood of La Boca, home to the colourful Caminito artists’ street and world-renowned soccer team, Boca Juniors.
Perhaps take part in an Urban Adventure centred on the city’s love of food, such as the Malbec Trail of Palermo or the Gourmet Buenos Aires Food tour (contact us for more information). If you need to rest your feet, settle down at one of the many street side cafes to watch the world go by with the locals.
Day 44 - Colonia / Buenos Aires
Today cross the Rio de la Plata (River Plate) for the day to Colonia del Sacramento by ferry (approximately three hours). On arrival, enjoy free time to explore this charming colonial city, which is the oldest in Uruguay. The World Heritage-listed Barrio Historico is a great place to start. Stroll down the cobblestone streets and rub shoulders with locals, as they sip their yerba mate (tea). Listen to the noisy parakeets in the Plaza Mayor, or comb Colonia’s small museums. For great views over the city, climb to the top of a 19th-century lighthouse that’s still in operation. In the evening you'll be taking an overnight bus to Foz do Iguazu.
Day 45 - Foz do Iguacu
As soon as you arrive at Puerto Iguazu bus station this morning, take a minivan across the border into Brazil and continue onto your hotel in Foz do Iguacu. Depending on traffic, this should take about an hour.
Close to the borders with Argentina and Paraguay, Foz do Iguacu is Brazil's gateway to the famous Iguazu Falls. Uppon arrival If hotel rooms are ready you will be able to check in before heading out to explore the Brazilian side of the falls. Soon after take a short transfer to the falls. From here, panoramic views can be enjoyed. For unforgettable views, take an optional helicopter flight over the falls (at your own expense).
Depending on time, you can also visit the local bird park while you’re here.
Day 46 - Iguazu Falls - Argentinian Side
Travel back into Argentina today to visit the falls. Following a series of boardwalks, it’s possible to get so enough to the thundering waters that you can almost touch them. At over 2 km long, Iguazu Falls are actually a series of cataracts. There are over 270 falls in total, with some reaching up to 80 metres in height. For a more exhilarating experience, take an optional Zodiac boat ride to the base of the falls and feel the water in your skin! In the afternoon return to Foz do Iguacu, where you’ll spend a second night.
Day 47 - Iguazu Falls - Brazilian Side - Paraty
Take an included flight from Foz de Iguazu to Sao Paulo (the flight will usually be early in the morning, however the it may vary across departure dates) From Sao Paulo take a bus (approximately 6 hours) to Paraty. Head to the hotel in Paraty and check-in to the rooms. Shorlty after your Tour Leader will take you on an orientation walk around Paraty.
Day 48-49 - Paraty
Day 50 - Ilha Grande
Today, travel by local bus and ferry to the island getaway of Ilha Grande (approximately five hours). This island paradise of pristine beaches and rainforest has been largely untouched by development. There are no private cars or banks on the island, so make sure you bring cash with you. Previously a pirate's lair, a leper colony and a prison for violent criminals, the island has a fascinating history to uncover. The ruins of the prison can still be seen today.
Day 51-52 - Ilha Grande
Enjoy more free time in Ilha Grande
Day 53 - Rio de Janeiro
Board a boat to the small port of Mangaratiba today, and from here take a minivan to Rio de Janeiro. The total journey should take about three-and-a-half hours. The day is yours to explore. People-watch on Copacabana or Ipanema beach, take a tour of a favela or, if the time of year is right, check out a soccer game at the famous Maracana Stadium. You might like to take the tramcar up to the hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa or head up Corcovado Mountain, where you’ll find sweeping views over Rio from the foot of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Taking part in one of our Urban Adventure day tours, such as the Total Rio Tour, the Santa Teresa Discovery or the Corcovado, Christ Statue and Favela tour are also great ways to see this exciting city. As evening approaches, perhaps take the cable car up to Sugarloaf Mountain to watch the sunset before partying in the samba clubs of Lapa.
Day 54 - Rio de Janerio
Enjoy a full free day in Rio de Janerio
Day 55 - Rio de Janeiro
Today your South American adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 40 Lunches: 9 Dinners: 8
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