Travel South America on an adventure from Quito to Rio de Janeiro

Get set for the ultimate South American odyssey. Covering six countries over 112 amazing days, travel through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil on an epic adventure. Experience spectacular scenery, magnificent ruins, fascinating culture and some of the friendliest people on the planet. Start among Ecuador's glorious colonial buildings in Quito, then penetrate deep into the Amazon Jungle before heading south to Peru to follow the footsteps of the Incas. Marvel at the majestic citadel of Machu Picchu, visit the fascinating floating islands on Lake Titicaca, gaze in awe at the cascading waters of Iguazu Falls and survey vast Bolivian salt flats. If it's unspoilt nature you're after then this trip has it covered: majestic glaciers, verdant forests, crystal lakes, soaring mountains and more. This unforgettable trip will leave you enchanted by the breathtaking scenery and friendly people of this remarkable continent.

This trip requires an Inca Trail Permit. To view permit availability click here.

Start
Quito, Ecuador
Finish
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Countries
Argentina,
Bolivia,
Brazil,
Chile,
Ecuador,
Peru
Themes
Overland
Code
GDODC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 22
Carbon offset
3 232kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Visit Ecuador and admire the ornate buildings of Quito's Old Town
  • Explore South America's lush Amazon jungle
  • Cruise around Peru's Ballestas Islands
  • Experience a Peruvian homestay near the Colca Canyon
  • Reach dizzying heights on the Inca Trail
  • Travel to Bolivia and marvel at Uyuni's vast salt flats
  • Sip on some of Chile's fine wines
  • Go trekking in the Torres del Paine National Park
  • Be awed by the might of the Iguazu Falls
  • Venture through the world's largest wetlands in Brazil
  • Soak up the energy of magnificent Rio de Janeiro

Itinerary

Travel to Ecuador and wander the cobbled streets and colourful Old Town of Quito. Perhaps stop by one of its many churches such as La Compania de Jesus, whose ornate interior is often said to be the most beautiful in all the Americas.
Enjoy some time exploring the upper Amazon Basin, one of the world's foremost hot spots of biological diversity. Trek deep into the jungle, witness caiman lounging on the shores and fall asleep to the nocturnal stirrings of the forest.
Camp in the lush Tungurahua Province and explore nearby Banos, famous for its hot springs and mountainous surrounds. In this stunning environment, optional activities abound - from horse riding to mountain biking and even whitewater rafting.
Witness spectacular views while driving along the winding Quilotoa Loop. Stretch the legs on a guided trek through stunning wilderness, before bunking down at the town of Chugchilan.
Travel to the beautifully preserved colonial city of Cuenca. Perhaps pick up an original version of the Panama hat on a visit to the local factory or just meander about the Old Town, admiring its quaint streets and shady plazas.
Nestled in a long bay on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Punta Sal is a haven of sun, surf and sand. Why not try your hand at some deep-sea fishing, saddle-up for a horse ride or book in for a salsa lesson.
Visit the Royal Tombs Museum to discover the amazing artefacts from the nearby archaeological site at Sipan. Pitch a tent at Huanchaco, home to the surfing fishermen, and watch these skilfull men bobbing among the waves while balancing on their narrow reed canoes. Spend a full day exploring the ruins of Chan Chan - the largest pre-Colombian city in South America - and stop by the temples of the Sun and the Moon.
Discover the colonial heart of downtown Lima or perhaps head to scenic Miraflores for a walk along the seafront boardwalks.
Leave the city behind and travel south along the coast of Peru. Pitch a tent in Paracas, which spans over 335,000 hectares and is one of the world's most important marine reserves. Take a walk along the coastline and spot the vibrant birdlife Paracas is famous for.
Spot penguins, sea lions and boobies during a boat tour through the Ballestas Islands. Learn about the mysterious sand images on a Nazca Lines tour and perhaps take an overhead flight to fully appreciate the scale of this puzzling creation.
The windswept graves at the Chauchilla Cemetery display the eerie skeletons and mummified bodies of the Nazca people, some of which date from 1,000 AD. Camp overnight near Puerto Inca.
Explore the scenic city of Arequipa and perhaps stop by the Museo Santury to view Juanita, the ice princess. The body of this frozen Inca maiden is thought to be more than 500 years old, and was found at a sacrificial site on the summit of Nevado Ampato.
Try to spot the mighty Andean condors as they silently take to the sky thousands of metres above the floor of the breathtaking Colca Canyon.
Get to know a local family as guests at a homestay in Raqchi. Spend the evening huddled around a crackling fire, sharing a meal, and discovering traditional Peruvian song and dance.
Arrive in the city set high city in the mountains of Peru, Cuzco. Wander through cobblestone streets lined with massive Inca stone walls and Spanish-colonial architecture. Perhaps enjoy a traditional dance performance or sign up for one of the many adventure activities on offer in Cuzco, including quad-biking and whitewater rafting.
Follow ancient footpaths through the Andes on a four-day alternative Inca trail trek that winds through traditional Quechua communities. Pass soaring mountain peaks, trek amid grazing herds of llamas and camp beside ancient forests. Meet the locals and discover lesser-known Inca pathways before descending into the Sacred Valley to explore the massive Inca fortress at Ollantaytambo.
Rise early to discover the ruins of Machu Picchu bathed in the golden morning light. Spend a memorable day in the 'lost Inca city', perhaps hiking to the Sun Gate for the breathtaking views. For those wishing to unwind post-trek, seek out bustling markets and cosmopolitan Cuzco cafes.
Spot the ancient funerary towers of Sillustani rising from the windswept antiplano. Spend the night in Puno, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Sailing across the glassy surface of Lake Titicaca is a memorable experience. Hike around the car-free Island of the Sun and discover its scenic heart. This island is widely believed to be the birthplace of Inca culture - there are plenty of ancient ruins and traditional villages to explore here.
Arrive in La Paz and set off on foot to explore the myriad of winding streets. La Paz is a colourful, enigmatic city, packed full of markets, restaurants and cultural attractions.
Soak up the barren but impressive Andean landscapes en route to Bolivia's colonial mining town, Potosi. An optional tour of a working mine provides a fascinating, if somewhat hair-raising, insight into life in the region.
Gaze in awe at the seemingly endless expanse of Bolivia's largest salt flats before admiring the remarkable red waters of Laguna Colorada.
Journey towards the Argentine border, camping among scenery as spectacular as it is sparse.
Visit the extraordinary Moon Valley, home to stunning sunsets, other-worldly rock formations and awesome stargazing opportunities. Stay in the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama, where low-lying buildings hug narrow streets, surrounded on all sides by the huge dunes and salt-lake lagoons of the world's driest desert.
Settle in to the laidback atmosphere of Salta, Argentina's elegant colonial city. Relax in the main plaza, discover the pumping nightlife, or head out of town to Quebrada de Humahuaca – a narrow valley flanked by spectacularly colourful mountains and giant cacti clusters.
Learn about Argentina's wine production on a guided vineyard tour, perhaps taking the opportunity to sample some renowned regional blends.
Stop by the Quilmes ruins, ancient homes of a tribe that resisted the Incas, and even the Spanish, over the centuries. In its heyday, the city would have housed almost 5,000 people.
Experience Argentine hospitality while staying on a working cattle ranch. Perhaps explore the Pampas on horseback before savouring the mouth-watering aromas and succulent flavours of a traditional barbecue.
Traverse the steep peaks and winding passes of the Andes on the road to Mendoza. Visit the city's local art galleries, take to the rapids for some whitewater rafting and – come evening – steam it up in the buzzing local nightlife.
Arrive in Chile's cosmopolitan capital, Santiago, and perhaps get a bird's-eye view of the city on a cable car ride up Cerro San Cristobal.
Drive through Chile's winelands to Salto de Laja Camp, setting up camp amid spectacular scenery. Perhaps head to the nearby waterfalls.
Journey to the small town of Pucon and make the most of the beautiful landscapes that this part of the world is famous for. Try hiking, horse riding or rafting during the day, and then relax back at camp by night.
Cross the border into Argentina and kick back in the resort town of Bariloche. For a dose of adventure try mountain biking or horse riding. Feeling a little indulgent? Then why not relax in a cafe and sample the decadent chocolate delicacies for which this town is renowned.
Relax in easy-going Esquel, the traditional southern terminal of La Trochita. Admire the epic scenery at the foothills of the surrounding mountains from the chilled out basecamp.
Travel to Rio Pinturas for a night of camping and then explore the vast cave network of Cueva de las Manos. Literally translating to 'Cave of Hands', the rock walls feature hundreds of well-preserved hand-paintings believed to date back 9,000 years.
Enter the sublime winter landscapes of El Chalten. Hike past vast crystal lakes amid stunning glacial scenery.
Sail through the treacherous Magellan Straits and experience the inhospitable winds and currents that the frontier explorers braved to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Travel to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, then venture into windswept Tierra del Fuego to see a diverse array of wildlife, from colonies of seals to majestic condors taking wing.
Traverse the Magellan Straits and head back to Chile to arrive in the remote Punta Delgada. Spend the night in a bush camp, stargazing under clear South American skies.
Trek through pristine wilderness and marvel at the park's granite cliffs, barren plains, clear lakes and dramatic waterfalls.
Be amazed by the blue beauty of the breathtaking Perito Moreno Glacier. Watch as chunks of ice break off and fall into the lake below.
Head out on a guided tour of the Magellan penguin colony, before setting up camp in the quaint coastal town of Camarones.
Keep watch for a wide range of aquatic creatures while exploring the Valdes Peninsula with a local guide. Whales, penguins and sea lions all call this area home as do a host of land animals and birds.
Enjoy vistas of desolate coastal plains en route to Monte Hermoso.
Delight in the rich culture of Buenos Aires. Wander grand boulevards, admire the city's splendid buildings or enjoy its heaving night-life.
Drive towards the western shore of the Uruguayan River and settle in for a night under the stars at a bush camp on the border town of Concordia.
Journey on for another night's camping at the Jesuit mission town of San Ignacio Mini. There'll be time to explore the town's ruins and cemetery to learn something of its history.
The series of cataracts comprising the mighty Iguazu Falls, are a breathtaking spectacle to behold. To gain a full appreciation of their size and power, take in the cascades from both the Argentine and Brazilian banks. Or, for the ultimate vantage point, splash out on a helicopter ride over the top.
The ecotourism capital of Brazil awaits at Bonito, where the list of optional activities include hiking scenic forest trails and snorkelling among colourful river fish. For even more exhilarating adventures, why not try caving, horse riding, abseiling or white-water rafting.
The Panatanal wetlands are the largest in the world – and one of the most incredible places to spot some truly exotic wildlife. Keep on the lookout for macaws, giant otters, anteaters and caiman.
The tiny town of Brotas serves as Brazil's very own adventure sports hub. Why not explore the region's staggering natural wonders, canyoning, white-water rafting, or on a horseback ride.
Sitting between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Paraty is one of the world's best preserved Portuguese colonial towns. While away the hours here on a walk along its beautiful secluded beaches, island hopping by boat or scuba diving the depths of its crystal clear waters.
Be prepared for the frivolities of a city that needs very little of an introduction – rollicking Rio. Brazil's former capital is a staggering city that thumps, grooves and grinds around the clock. Get your booty shaking to samba, your body baking on its famous sands, or head up to Christ the Redeemer for a lordly view of earthy splendour.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Boat, Ferry, Overland vehicle, Train
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (10 nights), Camping (with facilities) (52 nights), Guesthouse (1 night), Hacienda (2 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hostel (9 nights), Hotel (33 nights), Lodge (3 nights)
Included activities
  • 3 night/3 day Amazon Adventure
  • Alternative Inca Trail and Quechua Community trek
  • Ballestas Island tour
  • Boat trip
  • Chan Chan Archaeological Site
  • Chauchilla cemetery
  • Colca Canyon Tour
  • Cueva de las Manos
  • Isla del Sol boat trip
  • Jeep tour of Uyuni Salt Flats
  • Jesuit Mission ruins and museum, San Ignacio de Mini
  • Lord of Sipan Museum
  • Los Glaciares National Park
  • Paracas National Park
  • Penguin Colony
  • Pyramids of Sun and Moon
  • Quilmes Ruins
  • Raqchi Artisan Centre and ruins
  • Sillustani Ruins and Museum w/Guide
  • Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • Torres del Paine National Park
  • Tour of the Sacred Valley, Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo
  • Trek from Quilotoa to Chugchilan
  • Uros Island boat trip on Lake Titicaca
  • Valdez Peninsula
  • Vineyard Tour
  • Visit Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls (entrance fee included)
  • Visit Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls (entrance fee included)
  • Visit to Banos

Dates

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This trip requires an Inca Trail Permit. To view permit availability click here.

For information about altitude sickness click here


Important notes

1. This trip is run by our experienced overland partner Dragoman.
2. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.
3. You need to choose whether you wish to hike the Classic Inca Trail or the http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/inca-advisory/Community_Trek_Peru.pdf">; Quechua Community Trek at the time of booking. If you do not indicate a preference, the http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/inca-advisory/Community_Trek_Peru.pdf">; Quechua Community Trek will be confirmed automatically.

Classic Inca Trail permits are sold on a request basis only. Once deposit is paid and passport details provided, Intrepid will endeavour to secure a permit for you. If Classic Inca Trail permits are unavailable by the time you book, you will be booked on the http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/inca-advisory/Community_Trek_Peru.pdf">; Quechua Community Trek instead.

The Classic Inca Trail closes in February to allow cleaning and restoration works. If the trek portion of your trip starts in February you will be automatically booked to hike the http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/inca-advisory/Community_Trek_Peru.pdf">; Quechua Community Trek .

Should you choose not to hike at all, please let us know in writing at the time of booking so alternative arrangements can be made. Without this prior warning, local fees may apply.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes