From Lima to Rio, traverse the beauty, charm and fun of South America

If you have a little more time up your sleeve and are looking for an in-depth journey through South America that doesn't skimp on any creature comforts, then this may well be the trip for you. Travelling from Lima to Rio through the sights and delights of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, see jungle depths, ancient ruins, mountain ranges, high-altitude wineries, sprawling plains, towering waterfalls and electric cities all wrapped up in a cultural experience like no other.

Start
Lima, Peru
Finish
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Countries
Argentina,
Brazil,
Peru
Themes
Explorer
Code
GGKHC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
735kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Stay in an eco lodge in the heart of the Amazon
  • Discover the legends behind Machu Picchu
  • Sip fine wines in Mendoza
  • Discover the eclectic neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires
  • See Iguazu Falls from all angles
  • Get among the rhythm of Rio

Itinerary

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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). 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.
While Peru's capital officially began life in 1535, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city on the Day of the Three Kings, settlements had been scattered through the valley since before the Incas. The city was built on top of an existing palace and temples that belonged to the local chief who had little choice but to move on. Lima was in its prime during the Spanish colonial days and much of the city's attraction now lies in its well-preserved historical centre.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre - so there's no need for you to visit the downtown area prior to the trip. Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro. Tonight you'll enjoy an included dinner.
If you arrive early, we recommend you take a walk around Miraflores. Go from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to LarcoMar via Larco Avenue. Alternatively go to Parque del Amor (Love's Park) for a nice view of Lima's beaches. Other things to see and do include a tour to Pachacamac (approx 30 km from downtown Lima), the Museo de la Nacion and the Gold Museum. Limenos (Lima's residents) are friendly and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to sample ceviche, a local seafood speciality.
Explore the 16th-century monastery of San Francisco which boasts a fresco of the Last Supper that has a distinctly Peruvian flavour: the disciples pictured dine on guinea pig and drink from gold Inca cups. The monastery's catacombs are the real drawcard - they've been Lima's underground cemetery for hundreds of years.
There are many fine museums in and around the city including the Museo del Tribunal de la Santa Inquisicion, which gives a fascinating insight into the Spanish Inquisition.
Visit the Archaeological Museum, which offers a look at Peru's succession of ancient cultures.
ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
This trip visits places that are at high altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.
Fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado (approx 2 hrs).
Upon arrival, the lodge staff will take us to their office in town where you'll leave most of your luggage in a safe storage and continue travelling with a small pack with just the necessary items for our next two nights in the jungle. Then take a motorized canoe up river to our jungle lodge in the Madre de Dios area.

Head into the jungle with our local, multilingual guides and encounter magnificent fauna and flora in their natural habitat. We may spot everything from macaws and monkeys to peccary, jabirus, otters and thousands of butterflies. The guides can also teach us about the medicinal properties and practical uses of the plants.

After exploring the wilds, it's time to jump back in the canoe and return to Puerto Maldonado.

The lodge is eco-friendly and combines low-impact architecture with traditional native style. Rooms are simple, but comfortable with flush toilets (en suite), showers (cold water only), mosquito nets and kerosene lamps for light.
Today we travel back to Puerto Maldonado before taking a short flight to Cuzco (approx. 45 minutes)
The Cuzco region truly is the heart and soul of Peru. The city itself is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today Cuzco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Inca foundations. This is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend and is a perfect base for explorations into the Inca world or to enjoy a range of outdoor activities.

Take the time to acclimatise to the city's 3,450 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour including a visit to the Coca Museum - where you can learn more about this infamous plant which has been an essential part of life in the Andes for centuries - and the local San Pedro market.
The cathedral, built on top of an Inca palace, dominates the Plaza de Armas, Cuzco's picturesque heart. The cathedral is one of the city's greatest repositories of art and houses an elegantly carved choir stall and a silver-covered Neoclassic altar.
There are several impressive Inca ruins within the city. The most easily accessible is Coricancha, which was the Inca empire's richest temple. Once plated in thick gold, the Spanish built a Dominican church atop its sturdy walls.
The Boleto Turistico (Tourism Ticket) is a good option if you want to visit the many museums in Cuzco. This ticket also includes the archaeological around Cuzco such as Saqsaywaman, Q'enqo, Pica Pakara, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Some museums in town, like Contemporary Art Museum, Regional History Museum and Qosqo Native Art Museum can only be accessed by purchasing the Boleto Turistico.

For lunch or mid-morning coffee and cake head to Yanapay restaurant at 415 Ruinas St. This restaurant uses all its profits to support children in Cuzco through Aldea Yanapay and its social projects. For more info on Aldea Yanapay visit: http://yanapay.facipub.com/
ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
Parts of your trip go 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.

During your trip: While our leaders have basic first aid training and 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:

http://d3oxn90f3yphmd.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/file_attach/52735_product_altitude-sickness.pdf
Visit a local community on route to Ollantaytambo
The town of Ollantaytambo has been built over an ancient Inca town, which is a magnificent example of Inca urban planning. This is one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish.
Ollantaytambo's archaeological site is located to the east of the Plaza de Armas. The upper terraces of this site offer great photo opportunities of the squared grid town below.
While in town, why not have a meal at Hearts Cafe, part of a project supported by the Intrepid Foundation.
Today we travel by train along the Urubamba river to Aguas Calientes.
Sitting at the base of Machu Picchu in a picturesque valley, Aguas Calientes takes its name from the numerous hot springs that are dotted throughout the area.
Tonight you'll enjoy an included dinner.
Take a very early (5:30am) bus along the winding road to Machu Picchu (approx. 30 minutes) where we are joined by a guide who will take us through the ruins. Looking at Machu Picchu for the first time, as it sits against a backdrop of forested mountains, is a truly breathtaking experience. No matter how many photos you've seen, it is hard to prepare for its awesome beauty.
MACHU PICCHU: While it's thought Machu Picchu was built around 1440 as a country retreat for Incan nobility, there is evidence this had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Another school of thought is that this was an astronomical observatory. There's plenty of time for you to decide for yourself as you wander around the many temples, palaces and living quarters. You will have a guided visit (approx 1.5-2 hrs) with plenty of free time afterwards.

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.
WAYNA PICCHU: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking this activity.
We return by local bus to Cuzco (90 mins approx.) The rest of today and tomorrow are free for you to continue exploring Cuzco. Your included "half boleto turistico" will give you access to archaeological sites of Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo and Tambomachay, in the outskirts of Cuzco.
Travel by local bus through the dramatic scenery of the high altiplano to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approx 6 hrs). There will be a couple of stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers.
Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture and traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented here. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. Many festivals are celebrated here, so if you're lucky your visit might coincide with one of the colourful evening parades, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, sitting at 3,820 m above sea level. From the shoreline, the water stretches out almost as far as the eye can see, its expanses just waiting to be explored.
Travel by minivan to Desaguadero, where we cross the border into Bolivia. The first stop is the Peruvian migration office where you'll be asked to leave the bus and proceed through Peruvian migration. Then walk via a bridge to the Bolivian side, submit your passport at the Bolivian migration office and reboard the bus, which will continue to La Paz. About 30 minutes after crossing the border there's another stop where the army will again check your documents.

Bolivia's timezone is 1-2 hours ahead of Peru.

On route to La Paz we stop at Tiwanaku for a guided visit.
Tiwanaku archaeological site was where the Incas learned about building systems and agricultural practices.

At around 3,600 m, La Paz feels like the top of the world. It's not far from it and vies with Tibet for the title of highest capital in the world. Although Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, La Paz is the centre of commerce, finance and industry. Despite the abundance of colonial architecture, La Paz's indigenous roots run deep, and the atmosphere in the market-filled streets is both modern and traditional.
Today is free for you to make your own way to La Paz Airport and fly to Santiago de Chile. This international flight between La Paz and Santiago de Chile is not included in the price of this trip. Please speak with your travel agent to find out the preferred flight time.

An airport arrival transfer is included in Santiago.
Although Santiago covers a large area, the city centre is quite compact and easy to get around. The city's centre is roughly triangular in shape with the Plaza de Armas, the main plaza and home to the Cathedral, sitting in the centre. Panning out from here are wall-to-wall shops, restaurants and parks. For a more serene look at Chilean life, head out to Barrio Bella Vista, Santiago's 'Paris Quarter'.
You have a free day to continue exploring Santiago or perhaps take an optional trip to Valparaiso by the Pacific coast.
Travel across the Andes by local bus (6-7 hours). On a clear day you may be able to spot Mt. Aconcagua, the highest mountain in America at 6,962 meters above sea level.

The time spent at the border crossing can vary from 1 to 3 hours depending on local traffic. Please make sure you have snacks and water for today and note that fresh fruit and deli products (cheese, ham, etc) have to be consumed before crossing to Argentina or disposed off at the border.

From June to August the border crossing between Chile and Argentina may be closed due to snowfalls. In that event the emergency fund may be needed to purchase a flight between Santiago and Mendoza.

Once in Mendoza there is no better way to spend the afternoon than going for a gentle stroll around Mendoza's tree lined streets. Choose a cafe along Sarmiento pedestrian street and watch life pass by sipping a coffee. The city centre is beautifully landscaped and full of trees, squares and parks.

On our free day here you will take an included winery tour. Mendoza is Argentina's most important grape growing region, producing 70% of the country's wine. Its exceptional climate produces excellent grapes, the region's signature variety is the Malbec.

At night head out to Aristides Villanueva Street which has lately become on the starting point of Mendoza's night life. Tonight why not try the most popular drink in town: Fernet with Coke, a bitter (very) alcoholic cocktail.

In Mendoza we stay in a centrally located hotel.
Today we fly from Mendoza to Buenos Aires (approx. 1.5hrs). Upon arrival we transfer to a minivan for a 2hr drive to our Estancia stay in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

The time at the Estancia is free for you to do as much or as little as you want. You will be encouraged to participate on the Estancia daily chorus, however you are also welcomed to sit back and relax in the serene surroundings.

All meals at the estancia are included.
Today we transfer back to Buenos Aires, perhaps South America's ultimate cosmopolitan city. With Latin passion, European elegance and a distinctive style all of its own, this is a city that will steal your heart. The Portenos (the local residents) are justifiably proud of their city which is comprised of distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own style.

The following day your leader will take you on an orientation walk, perhaps visiting San Telmo and its weekend antiques market and artists' displays, La Boca home to the world-class football team Boca Juniors, Recoleta or the Casa Rosada (Pink House) among other attractions.

In Buenos Aires we stay in a centrally located 3 star standard hotel.
Fly to Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, our gateway to the mighty Iguazu Falls.

Over next two day we will visit both the Argentinian and Brazilian side of the falls. We travel into Brazil to visit the falls on Day 23 before returning to spend the night at our hotel in Puerto Iguazu.

Legend has it that a serpent god intended to marry a beautiful girl called Naipi. She escaped in a canoe with her mortal lover Caroba and in a jealous rage the god chased them, collapsing the river before them so that Naipi plunged over the falls to become a rock, while Caroba became a tree, forever unable to touch his love. A more scientific explanation is that the Rio Iguazu flows over a riverbed of basalt that ends where the lava cooled, leaving the water to fall. The falls were 'discovered' in the modern day by the Spaniard Juan Alvar Nunez, who named them Saltos de Santa Maria. The name we know them by today means 'Great Waters' in the Tupi-Guarani tongue.

At over 2 km long the falls are a series of cataracts. There are 275 falls in all, and with some reaching up to 80 m in height, they are wider than Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara. For two different perspectives of the falls, we see them from the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. The Brazilian side offer grand panoramas while the Argentinian side is equipped with boardwalks that get so close to the thundering waters we are almost able to touch them. For a more adrenaline pumping falls experience, see them from below on a zodiac boat or take a helicopter ride, right over the top.
While in Iguazu our leader will take us on a visit to one of the few remaining Guarani communities - original inhabitants of this region.
We cross the border into Brazil on the morning on Day 25 and take a flight from Foz do Iguacu to Rio de Janeiro.
In Rio we are joined by a local guide for a tour of this marvelous city. Kick off with a birds-eye-view of the city at the base of the Statue of Christ. This enormous white statue keeps constant watch over Rio, offering sweeping 360 degree views of the city’s natural wonders: beaches, lagoons, forests, bays and mountains that seem to rise from the ocean.

Next, it’s time to trade in this tourist icon for something less visited, and step into a favela. Accompanied by our local guide we stroll the narrow alleys, meet some of the locals, learn about local life and dispel some of the myths about these vibrant communities.
The locals like to say that 'God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio'. In this heaving metropolis, set against the luminescent green of Guanabara Bay and surrounded by the slopes of Sugarloaf and Corcovado, it's hard not to be caught up in the passion of the city's residents (known as Cariocas).

The French were the first to settle here as they logged wood along the Brazilian coast, but they were soon driven out by the Portuguese, who built a fortified town named Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro and quickly amassed wealth during the gold rush of Minas Gerais. In the 19th century, the Portuguese monarchy fled from the threat of Napoleon in Europe and took up residence in Rio, where they built grand buildings that still stand today.

These days Rio is a fascinating and diverse city best known for its contrasting images of favelas (shanty towns) and the glitz and glamour of Carnaval.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
26 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners
Transport
Boat, Bus, Minibus, Plane
Accommodation
Estancia (2 nights), Hotel (16 nights)
Included activities
  • Catacombs - Lima
  • Coca Museum
  • Orientation Walk - Cuzco
  • Full Boleto Turistico Pass, which gives you access to 16 archaeological sites in/around Cuzco (Transport & guides are not included)
  • Private bus to Sacred Valley and local community visit
  • Machu Picchu entrance and Guided Tour
  • Tiawanaku archaeological site and museum tour
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Full-day winery tour including lunch
  • Guided tour of both Argentina and Brazil side of Iguazu Falls
  • Iguazu Falls - Brazilian side visit
  • Guarani community visit
  • Rio de Janeiro city tour inc. Santa Teresa, Selaron Steps, Christ the Redeemer and Santa Marta favela

Dates

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Important notes

NON-INCLUDED FLIGHT
The international flight between La Paz and Santiago on day 14 of this itinerary is not included in the price of this trip.

PASSPORT DETAILS
Name and passport number are required at time of booking.

Departures after May 2016
The last departure for this trip is the 8th of May 2016. Please refer to GGCRC - Highlights of South America which is the new replacement trip.

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

Reviews

Our South America Traverse trips score an average of 4.01 out of 5 based on 86 reviews in the last year.

South America Traverse , November 2015

South America Traverse , November 2015

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