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

Get set for the ultimate South American odyssey. Covering six countries over 112 amazing days, travel through Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador on this epic adventure. Experience spectacular scenery, magnificent ruins, fascinating culture and some of the friendliest people on the planet. Head south from sun-kissed Rio to amazing Argentina. Sip world-class wines in Chile and marvel at Bolivia's vast salt flats. Follow in the footsteps of the Incas in Peru and discover the irresistible charm of Ecuador. 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.

Start
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Finish
Quito, Ecuador
Countries
Argentina,
Bolivia,
Brazil,
Chile,
Ecuador,
Peru
Themes
Overland
Code
GDOEC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4 Max 22
Carbon offset
3 260kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Revel in Brazil's samba rhythms in Rio de Janeiro
  • Spot wildlife in the Pantanal wetlands
  • Make memories on a visit to Iguazu Falls
  • Travel to Argentina and fall in love with Buenos Aires
  • Hike through Patagonia's spectacular glacial scenery
  • Spot exotic animals in the remote 'land of fire'
  • Travel through Argentina's wine region of Mendoza
  • Haggle for a bargain in La Paz's colourful markets
  • Follow Peru's ancient Inca Trail
  • Experience a homestay near the Colca Canyon
  • Admire Ecuador's ornate buildings in Quito's Old Town

Itinerary

Bem-Vindos! Welcome to Brazil.
The trip begins with a group meeting at 6pm.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are 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 details on hand to provide to your leader.
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.
As there is a great deal to do in Rio we recommend extending your time here to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be able to assist in booking extra nights accommodation.
This morning we will visit a favela and a project we support in Rio, project Morrinho.
Morrinho is a 300m2 model favela created by children living in the local Pereira da Silva community, from recycled materials such as bricks, scrap metal and wood. The model was started in 1998 by Nelcirlan Souza de Oliveira and, when his friends became involved, the ‘play set’ gained considerable size. The reproduction of favela life in their model is so accurate that it has gained a world wide reputation appearing on Brazilian TV and has been the subject of a documentary which is now on sale. Morrinho has even been recognised by many art critics as an expression of contemporary art. The model is now being used to generate money by NGO Morrinho, a charity that provides professional qualifications to the residents of the Pereirão Community through workshops, including audiovisual production; art-education; Brazilian culture; and youth and citizenship. The charity is also involved in utilising the project as a film set, which has raised awareness of how harsh life is for shanty town dwellers.
Please note that for trips starting in Rio straight after Carnaval will not visit the Morrinho Project.
After lunch we'll drive 235 km along the Emerald Coast to Paraty where we spend 3 nights at a beachside campsite with facilities. There is plenty of free time to explore. Perhaps take a boat trip out to a small island to go snorkelling or diving.
Sitting between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Paraty is one of the world's best preserved Portuguese colonial towns. This World Heritage-listed town was originally settled in 1531 on the opposite side of the river but in the 17th century the Indians who lived on the current site were driven away and the town moved. Paraty later became a booming port town, famous for its sugar cane liquor but after the abolition of slavery it was slowly forgotten. With the opening of new roads, the town was 'rediscovered' and declared a national monument.

The patron saint of Paraty is Our Lady of the Medicines. Three hundred years ago a wealthy benefactor donated land for a church in her honour. In return, she asked only for an annual mass. Each year a wooden effigy of the virgin, adorned with silver is carried in a procession through the town during the Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios.

At high tide, some of Paraty's cobblestone streets are partly covered in sea water, adding to the rustic, colonial charm. The water of the bay is always right for swimming and the surrounding national parks are filled with trails, wildlife and waterfalls.
Today we drive 560 km to the remote town of Brotas in south east Brazil. The afternoon is free for adventure activities and we stay in a campsite with facilities
Located in southeast Brazil, in the state of Sao Paulo, the remoteness of Brotas has meant that the forests surrounding this isolated town are teeming with species crucial to the maintenance of global biodiversity. The perfect location in which to experience untouched natural environments, Brotas has subsequently become an important destination in Brazilian eco-tourism. Alongside those visiting to enjoy the remarkable fauna that inhabit this area, Brotas is gradually acquiring a reputation for the quality of the adventure activities that are on offer such as horse riding and canyoning, rafting and kayaking.
The following day is free for adventure activities such as white water rafting.
We overland 650 km towards Bonito, our base for the Pantanal trip. We find somewhere to bush camp for the night along the way.
We spend the next 3 days in Brazil's amazing southern Pantanal. From our ranch base we explore the surrounding area on horseback, from boats and canoes, from farm trucks, and on foot, staying in shared accommodation. The last night is spent at a campsite in Bonito.
About the size of France, the Pantanal is the world's largest wetland area and one of the best wildlife spotting places on the continent. Sixty-five million years ago, the Pantanal was an inland sea that gradually dried out. These days the vast alluvial plain is seasonally flooded by the Paraguay River, giving a home to a wonderfully diverse wildlife. Jabirus and macaws are frequently spotted and with any luck we'll see howler monkeys, giant otters, anteaters, macaws and caiman (although hopefully not too close).

Unfortunately, the area's fantastic wildlife has brought some unwanted attention. Although a portion of the wetlands has been designated as a national park, poachers still kill up to two million animals here annually.
These are non-driving days where you have free time to enjoy the range of activities available in Bonito such as snorkelling, rafting or a jungle trek.
The area around the small town of Bonito really is unique. Its main attractions are its crystal clear rivers, springs and caves, not to mention the abundant wildlife, which includes monkeys, alligators, anaconda, over 30 varieties of fish and tremendous birdlife. Unsurprisingly, the town is often described as the "ecotourism capital of Brazil". There are endless activities on offer, from spectacular walks through the surrounding hills and forest, to caving, horse-riding, abseiling, and snorkelling. Many of the best attractions are on private land and the area is being very carefully managed in order as to protect the wildlife and habitats found here.
Full day 800 km drive to Foz de Iguazu where we stay at an excellent campsite with facilities and a pool.
Close to the borders with Argentina and Paraguay, Foz do Iguacu is Brazil's gateway to the Iguazu Falls.
As well as the magnificent waterfalls, there's also a great bird park in Foz, where you can see many of Brazil's native species, including toucans and macaws. You can also visit the incredible Itaipu Dam, a vast concrete edifice that spans the Rio Parana and has been described as one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.
The following day is a non-driving day. There is free time to enjoy the famous Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side, with a range of activities available.
At over 2 km long, Iguazu Falls are actually a series of cataracts. There are over 270 falls in all, and with some reaching up to 80m in height, they are wider than Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara. 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.

The Brazilian park features a number of cleverly constructed walkways that allow you to get right out over the water up close to the falls themselves - and you will often be able to see fantastic rainbows forming as the sun catches the spray. If you want the ultimate waterfall experience, you can also organise helicopter flights here, where you'll be taken out right over the horseshoe of the falls, giving you a spectacular view of this natural wonder from a totally different perspective.
The next day we drive 60 km across the border to see Iguazu Falls from the Argentinean side before returning back to our camp at Foz for the night.
We drive 270 km drive to the Jesuit Mission of San Ignacio de Mini. We spend the night in a campsite with good facilities.
The small town of San Ignacio Mini was once the centre of a Jesuit mission and its ruins can still be seen today. The buildings are very well preserved and include a church, cemetery and monastery and provide an interesting insight to the history of this area.
Today we have a full day, 560 km drive towards Buenos Aires. En route we find somewhere to bush camp for the night.
We set off early the next morning, driving 415 km into the capital, Buenos Aires, arriving late in the afternoon. Here we stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities. There are many optional activities to enjoy here.
Buenos Aires must be the 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 BA, which is comprised of distinct neighbourhoods, each with their own style.

If you're in Buenos Aires for a weekend, visit San Telmo for its antiques market and artists displays. La Boca, settled by waves of immigrants who built brightly painted buildings, is home to the world-class Boca Juniors football team. Recoleta is the place to browse museums with Buenos Aires' well-to-do. There are many sights in the heart of the city with churches, cathedrals and historic buildings aplenty.

When you've finished exploring, settle down at one of the many streetside cafes and prepare yourself for a night of tango at one of the many milongas.
We head of BA and drive almost 700 km across the pampas. Tonight we will bush camp along the coast somewhere near Monte Hermoso.
Full day, 750 km drive to Puerto Madryn where we stay at a campsite with facilities.
Puerto Madryn is a port town on the Atlantic coast of Argentina, gateway to the Valdez Peninsula, known for its wildlife. The town is also popular with locals as a beach destination and it can become quite busy in summer months with Argentinian holiday-makers. The original settlers here were Welsh, founding the port and colonising the Chubut River valley. Some of the smaller communities are still fiercely Welsh, retaining many of the original immigrants traditions and customs, and in places like Gaiman you can even go for a Welsh afternoon tea in one of the local tea houses. Whilst the Welsh language was kept alive for over four generations, it is now gradually dying out, although the area still offers an interesting insight into the lives of the people who landed here during the latter part of the last century.
The following day we have a guided day trip to the Valdez Peninsula to see its abundant marine life. There is also the option of a boat trip to see whales and dolphins, if time allows.
The Valdez Peninsula juts out into the Atlantic close to the Argentinian town of Puerto Madryn, at the northern edges of Patagonia. The area is protected as a wildlife sanctuary as it provides an important habitat for whales, penguins, seals and sea lions as well as a lot of land animals such as Patagonian foxes, guanacos and hairy armadillos. Exploring the peninsula there are various spots where the various different animals can be seen. You can also take a boat trip that will get you even closer to some of these magnificent aquatic mammals, often the dolphins and whales you will see will only be a few feet away.
It is a 370 km drive to Camarones with a visit to one of Patagonia's Welsh villages en route. We will stay at a campsite with facilities.
Today we overland through spectacular scenery as we follow the Atlantic coast, bushcamping tonight on our way to El Chalten. There is plenty to see and do as we go, such as a visit to Cabo dos Bahias Magellan penguin colony.
Bahía Camarones and Cabo Dos Bahías are both important nesting sites for large colonies of Magellanic penguins; Camarones alone is home to around 25,000. Between September and April, the penguins come to these sites to incubate their eggs and prepare their offspring for migration. Each couple stand in front of their nests, protecting the eggs from birds and other predators, and occasionally one adult goes to the sea for food.
Today we drive through incredible scenery to El Calafate. We stay in dorm accommodation in a comfortable hostel.
El Calafate is a small town on the southern shore of Lago Argentino in Patagonia. Originally a sheep station and trading outpost, today the town has developed a bustling small town atmosphere thanks to a growing tourist trade. Most people base themselves here whilst visiting the nearby Perito Moreno Glacier, located a short distance away at the southern reaches of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Interestingly the town takes its name from the Calafate berry, and locals claim that if you eat one of these and make a wish, you are guaranteed to return to Patagonia.
The following day we have a guided visit to view the stunning Moreno Glacier.
If Patagonia is synonymous with jaw-droppingly beautiful mountain scenery, then the Perito Moreno Glacier certainly doesn't disappoint. This incredible glacier is the highlight of the southern region of Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park, a spectacular wall of ice over 60 m tall above the water and 5 km wide. One of only three Patagonian glaciers that are not retreating, you can stand on one of the many catwalks and marvel at the glacier, listening to it creak and watching as enormous chunks crash into the water. It's also possible to take a short boat trip out onto the lake in order to get up even closer to the face of the glacier itself.
Today's drive takes us 400 km into Chile and to Torres del Paine National Park. Here we stay at a campsite with facilities.
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is home to what is undoubtedly some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Patagonia, if not all of South America. Rising up high above the Patagonian steppe are the 3 impressive granite towers that give the park its name, surrounded by towering mountain peaks, the most famous of which are Los Cuernos and Paine Grande. The park is a magical natural wonderland full of deep lakes, sparkling glaciers and cascading waterfalls, and it's also an important habitat for a wide variety of wildlife including the Patagonian rhea and guanaco, as well as flamingoes, condors and other birds.
The best way to explore is definitely to get out there on foot or perhaps on horse-back. The park is criss-crossed by a good network of trails, making it possible for you to see all the main sights either by doing a series of day hikes, or by doing a circular hike like the W-walk, taking a few days and stopping off at the parks refugios or camping along the way. Horse-riding and kayaking can also be arranged locally, and boats and catamarans offer trips across Lago Grey and Lago Pehoe in season.
Four days to to explore Torres del Paine National Park. Lots of opportunity for short day walks, or take on the challenging 'W' walk. This is a beautiful part of Patagonia and a highlight for many travellers. We camp at the lake unless you decide to undertake the ‘W’ Walk. If you do decide to do the 'W' walk then tonight will be the first night you will need to book a refugio.
THE W WALK:
The W Walk is an optional activity which we can pre-book for you. Ask your agent for the price.The W involves 4 full days trekking and 3 overnight stays away from the truck. When you are considering whether or not this trek is for you, it is important to bear in mind that you will have to carry your own personal effects for the duration of the trek, e.g. sleeping mat, sleeping bag, clothes for 4 days, toiletries, snacks, water, etc.

If you do choose to hike the W Walk you spend your first night in the park with your group and the truck at the campsite by the lake. The next day the whole group will take a ferry across Lake Pehoe, walk to Glacier Grey, and then head to the Paine Grande campsite for the night. The following day the trekking group will split from the group and head off on the trek for two nights hiking the French Valley, Los Cuernos, and towards Las Torres campsite, rejoining the group on the last day in the park, where we will all walk up the Torres together.
Today we have a 500 km drive, including ferry crossing of the infamous Magellan Straits, and into Argentina where we bush camp.
Separating Tierra del Fuego from mainland Argentina are the infamous Magellan Straits. This treacherous stretch of water is about 500 km long and takes its name from the explorer Magellan who first navigated these waters in 1520. It was the only ship out of a total of 17 attempting the passage that successfully managed to reach the Pacific. Before the Panama Canal was built, the Straits provided a useful route between Chile, Peru and Europe, and though they are less important as a major shipping route today, they still see a fair amount of traffic.
A 230 km drive takes us to a two night stay in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost town in the world. We stay at a campsite with facilities.
Ushuaia, affectionately known as 'fin del mundo' (end of the world) due to being the southern most city of the world, has a lot to offer. A relatively small city of 42,000 people, it is easy to find your way around. Av. San Martin and the surrounding streets is where you will find most hotels and tourist services. Here you can stroll along and visit the shops, museums and restaurants. From Av. San Martin the streets start to run uphill. From the top of these streets you will have a good view of the Beagle Channel.
The following day we enjoy a half day excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Tierra del Fuego ('Land of Fire') is a large island separated from mainland South America by the Magellan Straits. Most of the island belongs to Chile, but 30% of the archipelago is in Argentina, including Argentina's southernmost town, Ushuaia. This is Patagonia at its most remote,with a landscape of windswept plains, forests and swamplands, home to rheas, condors, buzzard eagles, seals and sea lions, all of which thrive in these conditions. Originally the home of theYamana and Ona Indians, sadly there are not any indigenous communities left here. The people who inhabit Tierra del Fuego today are the descendants of the colonial settlers who came here from Europe in nineteenth and twentieth centuries, mostly from Britain, Spain and Yugoslavia.
We cross the Magellan Straits by ferry and then continue driving up towards El Chalten, stopping to bush camp overnight.
Reaching El Chalten we spend the night at a campsite with facilities.
The clouds that form around the summit of the surrounding mountains were mistaken for smoke, which gave the name "Chalten" which means volcano. The picturesque landscape is a perfect place for hiking, as there is so much to explore and the rewards of constant beautiful sights gives a perfect reason to hike.
The next two days are free to explore the Fitzroy Range in Los Glaciares National Park from El Chalten. A range of activities are available, from hiking and glacier trekking to horse riding.
Los Glaciares National Park is probably home to some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Argentina, if not South America. This is classic picture-book Patagonia, wherever you turn you're surrounded by wide open skies, magnificent mountains, incredible glaciers, glistening lakes and thick verdant forest. By far the best way to explore is to get out on foot. There are plenty of well established trails through the park and maps can be picked up locally, so you can plan a short walk that will just take you a couple of hours, or the more adventurous might choose to hike out for a whole day or even overnight. Los Glaciares covers a massive area and there are two main gateways to the park; to the south, El Calafate provides access to Lago Argentino and the Perito Moreno Glacier and surrounding area, then in the North, the small town of El Chalten can be used as a base to explore the Fitzroy Mountains and Lake Viedma and its glacier.
We continue our overland journey across the Patagonian steppe, spending the night bushcamping.
A morning drive takes us to Rio Pinturas. In the afternoon we visit the Unesco site Cueva de las Manos.
The world heritage site of Cueva de las Manos lies in an isolated spot in the valley of Rio Pinturas. The cave takes its name from the hundreds of paintings of hands made by it's indigenous inhabitants some 9000 years ago - possibly the forefathers of the Tehuelche people. As well as the hand impressions, there are also depictions of of human beings, guanaco, rhea and other animals, as well as representations of the sun, moon and hunting scenes.
Today we travel a full day (650 km) through the Argentinean lake district to Esquel, where we stay at a campsite with facilities. If time allows we will go and visit a Welsh tea house in the nearby village of Trevellin.
Drive 320 km to the mountain resort town of Bariloche, where we stay in dorm rooms in a comfortable hostel.
A year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all types, Bariloche sits on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Outdoor activities range from skiing on the peaks of Cerro Catedral (in season), to hiking or biking around its base.

One of Bariloche's renowned pastimes is dining: find a comfortable café and try the fresh salmon or lake trout, or even a hearty beef parrillada. The town is famous for its handmade chocolates and there are some really spectacular displays in the local chocolate shops.
The next two days are free in Bariloche to get involved in a range of optional activities from mountain biking to horse riding.
We have a 410 km drive across the border and into Chile's Lake District. Tonight we stay in Pucon at a campsite with facilities.
In the heart of the Lake District and set on the foot of the active Volcan Villarrica, Pucon is every outdoors fanatic's dreamland. Mountain biking, whitewater rafting, hiking, climbing, horse riding - you name it, you can do it in Pucon. There's even a casino, inside the luxurious Hotel del Lago, and a busy nightlife.
The next two days are free to explore Pucon and the surrounding area. There are a range of optional activities available, from hiking to hot springs.
After a 320 km drive we reach the wine growing region of Salto de Laja, where we stay at a campsite with facilities.
Salto de Laja is a small resort town named after the four impressive arch-like waterfalls formed here by the cascading Laja river. It is easy to see the waterfalls by crossing a bridge from the main road through town, or if you have time you may be able to experience the spray from below on a river-boat trip during Chilean holiday season. Salto de Laja town is a small place, popular with Chilean tourists during the summer months, so there are lots of campsites, hotels and cabanas here. It's a pleasant place to break the journey between Santiago and Pucon, gateway to the Chilean lake district and Patagonia.
Full day 520 km drive to the capital, Santiago, arriving late in the afternoon. En route we will visit a vineyard for optional wine tasting. We stay the night in a good centrally located hotel allowing for optional activities the following day.
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'.
Today we head out of Santiago and cross the Argentine border to Mendoza, famous for its vineyards. Indulge in a little wine-tasting or perhaps try rafting or mountain biking. We stay here in a centrally located hostel.
Mendoza is Argentina's most important grape growing region, producing 70% of the country's wine. Malbec is the region's signature variety.

The city centre is beautifully landscaped and full of trees, squares and parks. During the day Peatonal Sarmiento (Sarmiento pedestrian street) is the place to be. This coffee shop-lined street joins the busy San Martin St with Plaza Independencia making it a must destination for all mendocinos coming to the city. Near Plaza Independencia is Mercado Central (Central Market) a great destination to try the regional specialities such as empanadas (meat pastries), cheese, ham, marinated olives and local wines. Most commercial activity in Mendoza breaks from 1pm to 4pm to allow for the traditional siesta.

At night, attentions shifts to Av. Aristides Villanueva. The many restaurants, bars and pubs make this area the epicentre of Mendoza's night life. If you're feeling adventurous, try one of the most popular drinks in town: Fernet with Coke - an acquired taste and not for the faint-hearted!
Leaving Mendoza we head east towards Rio Ceballos. We spend the first night bush camping along the way.
The following day we make the 300 km journey to an Anglo-Argentinian estancia. We camp within the grounds of the estancia and spend time with the gauchos learning their skills, hiking and enjoying a traditional asado, an Argentinian barbecue.
The estancia has been in the same family for four generations, and is a working cattle ranch, farming the prized Argentinian Aberdeen Angus cattle. Here we will sample traditional hospitality, with great food straight from the farm. An asado or Argentinian barbecue with local wines will also be enjoyed on one of our nights here.

The visit to the estancia is based on horse riding excursions and daily expeditions will be arranged to ride through the hills to neighbouring estancias. The horses are fabulous and even the most horse-fearing will feel like gauchos in a short time. For those who do not wish to ride, alternative hikes or perhaps cycling trips can be arranged.

Please note that the estancia impose a weight restriction of 95kg for the horse riding activities. If you weigh more than this you may not be able to participate in this activity.
Today we drive 335 km to a campsite via the National Jesuit Museum. We also visit the Quilmes ruins en route.
The ruins of Quilmes are located in Tucaman province in north west Argentina. The people of Quilmes were an indigenous tribe who inhabited this area as far back as AD 1000, resisting Inca invasions in the 15th and 16th centuries, and even holding out against the Spanish for over one hundred years before finally succumbing to a siege in 1667. After the siege the Spanish took the area over, deporting the few surviving indigenous people to a reservation near Buenos Aires. The 2000 remaining Quilmes people were forced to make this 1500 km journey on foot, which meant that many died along the way. At its height, the city we see the ruins of here would have housed nearly 5000 people. Today there are only a handful of Quilmes descendants left in Tucaman. It is interesting to wander among the ruins here today and imagine the city that once would have been.
We head 370 km to Cafayate, lying at the centre of Argentina's principal wine producing region. Here we will visit a vineyard, before spending the night at a campsite with good facilities.
Cafayate is a small town in north west Argentina, and an important wine growing area. The surrounding vineyards produce some of the best quality wine in South America, and you should look out for the torrontes in particular - a distinctive white wine that is typically Argentinian and similar in style to a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. Cafayate itself is small with a sleep laidback feel, although it can become busy during Argentinian holiday periods. Many of the local bodegas offer tastings and tours of their wine cellars and this is easily organised while you are here. Also worth seeking out is the local ice cream parlour which, together with the more usual flavours, offers red and white wine ice cream. If wine is not your thing, the area's gently undulating terrain makes for pleasant hiking and cycling.
Driving 175 km we head to the fine Spanish colonial city of Salta, where we stay in a simple hotel in the centre of town.
Salta's rich history, colonial architecture, surrounding natural attractions and friendly locals make this town of half a million people one of Argentina's main attractions. The central square, Plaza 9 de Julio, has been called the nicest plaza in all of Argentina, with its lush gardens, fountains, statues and beautiful white buildings including the Cabildo, Cathedral and Casa del Gobierno (Government House).
The next two days are free for you to explore Salta. There are plenty of optional activities available.
A full day's drive of 550 km takes us across the Chilean border to the town of San Pedro de Atacama where we will spend the night at a campsite. We will visit the extraordinary Moon Valley, hopeful of a stunning sunset. In the evening there is also the chance to go stargazing (not possible when there is a full moon).
San Pedro is a small oasis town in the Atacama desert. It is a quirky little place with low-lying adobe buildings lining narrow streets which lead to a sleepy tree-lined plaza that is home of a pretty white-washed church and a fascinating small museum, home to some interesting mummies and various other Indian artefacts.
Pleasant though the town is, the real attraction here is the surrounding landscape. This part of the Atacama has become well-known as a tourist destination because of the spectacular scenery. Perhaps most well known is the unusual desert landscape of Moon Valley, just a short distance outside San Pedro, where other-worldly rock formations, unusual layer-cake landscapes and huge dunes combine to create some incredible views.
Today's drive takes us 150 km towards Uyuni, seeing Laguna Colorado and Verde along the way. We spend the night in a basic hostel on the Bolivian Altiplano.
The high Bolivian altiplano stretches hundreds of kilometres from the small town of Uyuni out across to the borders with Argentina and Chile. This is real wilderness, there are no roads up here, just a few tracks to follow, and you are more likely to see a flamingo or llama than another human being. The only way to cross the altiplano is by travelling in a specialist expedition vehicle like one of our trucks, or local jeeps. The crossing is an adventurous one, with no roads to speak of. It is rough travelling and the trip from Uyuni to the border normally takes a couple of days, but it is without a doubt one of the most unforgettable journeys you'll ever make.

The altitude here is considerable and it can be very cold and windy. When travelling here you should be prepared for very cold temperatures and it is worth making sure you have a really good quality sleeping bag.
We drive 320 km to Uyuni, the gateway to the salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni. We spend the night in a friendly hotel serving the highest pizzas in the world.
Arriving in Uyuni feels a bit like you've reached the end of the road, which in many ways is true. This remote small town sits on the edge of the high altiplano, a wilderness that extends for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. So it's hardly surprising that the town has a bit of a wild west feel about it. Uyuni is best known for its proximity to the Bolivian salt flats known locally as the Salar de Uyuni.
The following day is spent out on a jeep tour on the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni.
The Bolivian salt flats are a truly unforgettable sight. This is a landscape unlike anything you're likely to have ever seen before. The Salar de Uyuni is a dry lake of over 12,000 sq km, made of blinding white interlocking salt crystals. It is Bolviia's largest salt pan and when there's a little water on the flats, it reflects the bright blue sky of the altiplano perfectly, acting like a mirror and making the horizon disappear. When dry, the Salar becomes a blinding white expanse that stretches for miles and miles, as far as the eye can see. Great for all those perspective-bending photographs.
An early morning drive of some 190 km brings us to the colonial mining town of Potosi, where we stay in a local friendly hotel.
While in Potosi you can arrange to visit a mine that is still being worked, which offers a challenging and fascinating insight into how mining has shaped the history and culture of this town. Entering a dark maze of tunnels, you will descend to four levels below, down to the work face where miners use hammers, chisels and dynamite, more reminiscent of the 1800s than the 21st century, to dig out the remaining metal. Most of the silver here is long gone - it's tin the miners are looking for now.

If you do choose to head down into the mines it has become a custom to take the miners gifts of dynamite, fuses and coca leaves in exchange for their stories. Life is harsh for all who work here but the mines have now all been organised into a cooperative so at least today the men have a say in their own future. You should be aware that visiting these primitive mines is not for everybody as it is pretty tiring, you will be in enclosed spaces, and it can be dangerous.

If you would rather stay above ground, Potosi has a wealth of colonial art and architecture to explore. You can also visit the Casa de la Moneda (the mint) which is a great place to learn more about Potosi's history and the mines.
We leave the Livichuco community after breakfast and drive through the Andes and wild altiplano to the fascinating city of La Paz, arriving late afternoon. We stay in a good quality hotel in central La Paz.
At around 3,600 metres, La Paz is one of the highest cities 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.
The old town is full of markets and winding cobbled streets full of people selling anything and everything you could ever think of. Different areas of the city have established markets selling things you'd expect like food and flowers, and also things you've probably never seen before - check out the dried llama foetuses on sale in the Witches' Market!

There are plenty of other activities to do in La Paz, from playing a round of golf at the highest golf course in the Americas or trekking through the Yungas. You can also arrange excursions to Mount Chacaltaya and Moon Valley to take in the superlative mountain views. Another option is to visit the Tihuanacu ruins which are a short journey away. The city is also full of impressive churches and museums, including one dedicated to the history of the coca plant.
This morning there is a chance to explore La Paz before a 200 km drive brings us to the town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We spend the night in a hotel near the lake.
A picturesque town on the shores of Lake Titicaca with an amazing Moorish-style cathedral, Copacabana is a great place to people watch especially if you're there over a weekend or on one of the many festivals. On Sundays the town fills with the faithful believers who walk up Cerro Calvario (the hill guarding the town) to make their dreams come true. At the top of the hill numerous stalls sell all manner of miniature material goods from cars and buses through to houses and graduation certificates. The selected items are taken to a small alter where they are blessed, decorated with flowers and petals, incense is burnt and finally beer is sprayed over the whole ensemble. A fascinating insight into local beliefs, as is the blessing of the vehicles in front of the cathedral.
Today is a non-driving day with an all day visit to Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca. We return in the evening to Copacabana to overnight in the same hotel.
Take a local boat to Isla del Sol and spend a day exploring this historic island, famous for being the birthplace of the whole Inca civilisation. The modern day Aymara and Quechua peoples of Bolivia and Peru still accept the legend of the sun being born on this island as their creation story even today. There are a host of ancient ruins to discover, tiny traditional villages and beautiful walking routes. You can wander through the stone ruins, exploring the islands dry slopes covered with sweet smelling incense brush, or hike over the ancient pampas which are still cultivated by the island families.
A 200 km drive takes us across the Peruvian border to the lakeside town of Puno.
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.
In the afternoon we enjoy a boat trip out to the floating reed islands of Uros on Lake Titicaca. We spend the night in a hotel in Puno.
In the morning we visit the Sillustani ruins and museum
Tucked away in between the many small villages around Puno are the ruins of Sillustani . These ruined towers are set on a beautiful peninsula near Lake Umayo, built by a pre-Inca civilisation hundreds of years ago. The Sillustani Indians built several "Chullpas", funeral towers whose construction is far more complex than anything the Inca ever built. Each tower would have contained the remains of noble men, buried together with offerings to secure their comfortable passage into the next life.
Following this we drive 440 km to Cuzco, where we stay in a colonial hotel.
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.
The following day we have a trekking briefing in the morning, followed by free time to explore Cuzco.
The next 4 days are spent trekking in the Andes. We will begin with a tour of the Sacred Valley before beginning either the Community Trek or the Classic Inca Trail to the world heritage site of Machu Picchu. Please see below for the itineraries of each of these options.
We will typically leave Cuzco first thing in the morning and drive to Sacsayhuaman ruins which are just 15 minutess from our hotel. These ruins are best known for the gigantic blocks that make up the zigzag frontal of this fort like construction. There are many theories as to why Sacsayhuaman was originally built and what it was used for but the most likely is that it was a temple complex where offerings were made to appease the gods. Sacsayhuaman is an amazing place and the early morning light makes the great view of the Cuzco rooftops that we get here even more beautiful. We then head further on into the Sacred Valley proper, stopping high on the mountainside to explore the ruins of Pisac. We will walk downhill along small pathways, through ancient arches, storage buildings and houses, learning about the history of the site from our local guide. When we have finished exploring we head down to Pisac town where we have time for lunch and can do a bit of shopping in the extensive handicrafts market that the town is famous for.

Here our groups split, and those doing the Community Inca Trek drive up into the highlands of the Cordillera Urubamba. The drive itself is amazing with stunning views as we wind up towards the trailhead. On this trek you return to the Sacred Valley, arriving in Ollantaytambo at the end of your trek, where you are joined by any of your group who prefer not to trek at all for a guided tour of this Inca site, before leaving next morning on the early train for Machu Picchu. Those who choose to trek the Classic Inca Trail will head straight to Ollantaytambo from Pisac, exploring the ruins here that afternoon and camping overnight, heading to the Classic Inca Trail start point early the next morning.

PLEASE NOTE THAT IF YOU WISH TO BOOK THE CLASSIC INCA TRAIL THIS MUST BE ADVISED AT TIME OF BOOKING, OTHERWISE YOU WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE BOOKED ON THE COMMUNITY TREK. Full details of the trekking options are below.
INCA TRAIL:
When people talk about "The Inca Trail", they are usually referring to a particular trekking route that follows a ancient pathway that leads to Machu Picchu. What many people don't realise is that there are a actually a huge number of Inca Trails that criss cross the Urubamba Valley and surrounding mountain ranges, many of which are genuinely remote, rarely used by western tourists, offering a chance to experience the real unspoilt Andes. On all Dragoman overland tours that travel via Cuzco we offer you the choice to trek either the "Classic" Inca Trail or our unique alternative, the Community Inca Trek, which is exclusive to Dragoman (and by the way, it's not the Lares trail that many other operators use!)
THE COMMUNITY INCA TREK:
Dragoman's Community Inca Trek is a unique trekking route where you'll hike through pristine unspoilt Andean scenery, walking ancient Inca Trails and staying as guests of the local communities as part of our pioneering community-based tourism project, Tarpuy Yachay. This trek is all about getting away from the overcrowded thoroughfares of the Classic Inca Trail and getting out into the real Andes - not to mention being part of a project with provides a genuine, direct benefit to the host communities we travel through, by supporting education, income generation and environmental sustainability projects. The trek itself is about the same as the Classic Inca Trail in terms of length and difficulty, taking three to three and a half days and ascending to about 4800m when you cross the highest pass. The scenery out here is truly magnificent, spectacular mountain peaks, verdant hillsides dotted by isolated villages and the odd llama and alpaca, you are unlikely to see another tourist here.

The itinerary:
Day 1: Cuzco - Zurite
We leave Cuzco first thing in the morning by bus and proceed to Sacsayhuaman for a tour of the ruins. These ruins are best remembered for the gigantic blocks that make up the zigzag frontal of this fort-like construction. There are many theories as to why Sacsayhuaman was originally built and what it was used for, but the most likely is as a temple complex for offerings to appease the gods. It is an amazing place and the early morning light makes the view of Cuzco rooftops even more beautiful as it helps to define the stonework detail.

From here we head to Chinchero, a small village in the Sacred Pampa where the locals speak mostly Quechua, the language of the Incas. We will observe a traditional weaving demonstration and tour the archaeological ruins. From here we drive to Waypu Lake where we have an energising picnic lunch. We will then drive to Quillarumpiqoc, the Moon Temple, from which we will hike to Zurite. Here we stay in a homestay with a local family, enjoying a traditional home-cooked meal and gaining an insight into the lifestyle of the locals.

Approximate walking time: 5 hours (8 km)

Day 2: Zurite to Amaruwatana
After breakfast we leave Zurite and head towards Amaruwatana camp. The walk will take us through
Qenteqentiyoc (the hummingbird temple), where we can visit and admire this archaeological Inca site. Following the
ancient path all the way to the top of our first pass at 4,500 metres, where we will have a dramatic view of both
mountain ranges, Vilcabamba and Vilcanota. From here we start walking down on the way to our first camp in the
Sambor valley where we will spend the night.

Approximate walking time: 8 hours (13 km)

Day 3: Amaruwatana to Ancascocha
Early in the morning after breakfast we trek for 2 hours to get to our second pass at 4,700 metres; from there we have
fantastic views of the rock formations below us. Sometimes it is possible to see Andean ibis, herons, torrent ducks,
caracaras, eagles and foxes. After another 2 hours we arrive to a nice highland valley, a place named Kenqo Mayu, or
zig-zag river, where glacier water flows through the valley. Our lunch will be at the end of the river, and after lunch we
will continue downhill and follow the ancient trail, which goes on a little uphill section which leads us to our campsite
in a community called Ancascocha. We will arrive to our campsite in the late afternoon near to a large glacier mountain
and glacier stream. If we arrive on time there is an optional hike to the lake, a one hour round trip.

Approximate walking time: 6.5 hours (10 km)

Day 4: Ancascocha to Ollantaytambo
After eating breakfast and breaking camp we start hiking down the Silque Canyon. We will descend by way of the
narrow canyon, following a stream that will gradually get bigger. We can observe tall granite walls on the sides of the
canyon, populated by a large variety of orchids and bromeliads, filling the environment with magnificent colours when
they bloom. We continue on the trail making zig-zags. After crossing many little bridges we will reach the community
of Camicancha, where we stop in a nice volcanic rock area, with magnificent views of mount Veronica, a snow capped
mountain. From here we are very close to the Chilca community where we finish our trek. A vehicle will transfer us
to Ollantaytambo and our hotel. After showers and a little rest, we get ready for the cultural tour of this incredible
archaeological site, which is very well known as the Temple of the Sun.

Approximate walking time: 5 hours (12 km)

Day 5: Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu
After a great nights sleep in our beds we have another early start but this time to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. The early train allows us to get to Machu Picchu before the trains from Cusco arrive. At Aguas Calientes we jump straight on the bus and up to the citadel itself, where we meet the rest of the group.
THE CLASSIC INCA TRAIL
The "Classic" Inca Trail route usually starts at Kilometre 82 of the Cusco –Machu Picchu railtrack, taking in Abra Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman's Pass, 4200m) and the ruins of Phuyupatamarca and Wiñay Wayna en route, eventually arriving at the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu early in the morning after 3 days of trekking. This route is still extremely popular as it is seen by many as the "original" Inca Trail. It's also probably the best trek to choose if you're really interested in history and archaeology, because of all the other Inca sites it passes along the way.

Unfortunately, in recent years the classic trail has almost become a bit of a victim of it's own popularity. It is important to realise that the trail is now very busy, with 500 people starting the trek every day. There are only a certain number of places where it is feasible to camp, so your group will be camped alongside others, and you will meet a lot of other trekkers along the through way. Nevertheless, it is still an awesome trek, passing some stunning scenery from snow-capped peaks to abundant cloud forest, and the sense of achievement you'll have when you catch your first sight of the Lost City of the Incas is something you'll never forget.

The itinerary:
Day 1
We join the community trekkers for a tour of the sacred valley and enjoy lunch at Pisac. We then head to Ollantaytambo to view more Inca ruins and camp the night. Meals provided:Lunch, Dinner, Snacks

Day 2
The following morning after breakfast at the campsite, we catch a bus to the 82 km marker and are joined by a crew of local porters, cook, etc. As we hike from high plateau to dense forest, you will see some remains of ancient villages and temples, the first of which is Llactapata. The starting point of the trek (the 82 km marker) is located at 2,850m above sea level. The trek includes some uphill trekking to the campsite (over 3,000m above sea level). Take advantage during the 4 days of the trek to get to know your porters. You will realise they work the hardest on the team and are gentle people willing to share with you their culture, language and trek experiences.

Day 3
This is the most challenging of the trek as we ascend a long steep path (approx 4 hrs) to reach the highest point of our trek, Warmiwañusca, or Dead Woman's Pass, at a height of 4,200 m (13,779 ft), before descending to the Pacaymayo Valley (3650m above sea level. This is 2 hrs downhill). Depending upon on local conditions, you might camp here today, or may need to continue further up and down. We might cross the first and second passes on this day. From the second pass, Runkuracay (3,980m above sea level - 90min uphill) we can enjoy views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending to the ruins of Sayacmarca (2 hours downhill). From here it is only a few more minutes to the Chaquicocha campsite (3,620m above sea level).

Day 4
On day 3 of the trek, we continue over the third pass and soon reach the beautiful ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the 'Town above the Clouds' (3,850m above sea level/90min uphill). Start descending real Inca Steps (2 hrs) to reach our final night's camp by the Wiñay Wayna, or 'Forever Young' ruins (2,750m above sea level), with panoramic views of the valley below.

Day 5
Machu Picchu – Cuzco. Today is only a short final hike (90 min) to Machu Picchu and we climb the steps to the Sun Gate to watch the ruins emerge from the mist below. As with the community trek our guide will show us the most important constructions as well as explain the history and the mythology of this magnificent place. There is some free time to explore the ruins further at your own pace or you can just chill out and watch the hummingbirds or vizcachua. Late afternoon we head back down to Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Ollantaytambo and return to Cuzco for a well-deserved rest.
NON-TREKKING PACKAGE:
There is also a non trekking option. If you do not want to trek at all but want to take part in the Sacred Valley Tour and guided tour of Machu Picchu, this can be organised however you MUST inform us at time of booking.

You will leave Cuzco with your fellow passengers and your tour leader who will be trekking the Community or Classic Inca Trail. You will visit the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, followed by a beautiful scenic drive over mountains and through valleys, via the ancient city of Pisac and on to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Continuing along the valley, you will pass through the village of Urubamba where you will have lunch with your fellow passengers before heading back to Cuzco. In Cuzco you will stay at our nice, centrally located hotel for a further 3 nights and this will be booked for you by your tour leader. There are no activities booked or organised for you during your time in Cuzco. You will re join some of your fellow travellers and your tour leader on the fourth day in Ollantaytambo, and stay in a hotel in Ollantaytambo overnight.

On the fifth day, after an early breakfast we walk to the train station for the 2-hour journey to Aguas Calientes, from where we take a local bus up to Machu Picchu. After a guided tour of the site, there is free time to explore before returning by bus to Aguas Calientes. In the afternoon we catch the train from Aguas Calientes to Poroy, and then a private transfer takes us back to Cuzco.

Please also note that there is a possibility that you may be the only person booked on to the non trekking package, however this package will offer you plenty of time in Cuzco to explore the town and surrounding sites (in total 4 or 5 nights depending on your trip).
WHICH TREK TO CHOOSE?
The Community trek goes through unspoilt mountain scenery and you are unlikely to see any other tourists. Along the way we camp as guests of the villages and get to meet local families and get involved in local community chores and activities. The staff and pack animals that we use on this trek are also all from the local villages so the communities directly benefit from your trekking. In addition, a financial donation is made from the kitty, and matched by Dragoman, for every person who does this trek.

It is important however to realise that whilst both treks finish at Machu Picchu on their final day, the Community Trek does not trek right through to the Sun Gate as you do on the Classic Inca Trail. You still arrive before the crowds however, and it is possible to walk up from Machu Picchu to the Sun Gate to take in the famous view. The Classic Inca Trail route is also much better preserved than the trails on the Community Trek. The Classic Inca Trail also sees more ruins along the way than the Community Trek.
The Community Trek option is automatically included as part of your trip unless you advise us otherwise. So if you want to take the Community Inca Trek, no further action is required. If you would prefer to trek the Classic Inca Trail, or choose not to trek at all, you must inform us at time of booking.

In order to secure Inca Trail permits, it is vital that you provide the correct and most up to date passport information at the time of booking (DOB, passport number, expiry date and name spelling exactly as it appears in the passport that you will be travel with) Any inconsistency between the information provided and the passport you travel with may result in you not being granted access to the Inca Trail.

Please note that permits for the Classic Inca Trail are limited and cannot be guaranteed. If they are unavailable you will be booked onto the Community Inca Trek instead.
Today the trekkers and non-trekkers will all meet up for a guided tour of Machu Picchu with a local expert. Following the tour there will be free time to explore the site before catching the train back to Cuzco.
Machu Picchu is one of those genuinely magical places, and catching your first glimpse of the lost city of the Incas through the early morning mist is definitely a moment you’ll never forget.

The ruins of this forgotten city are stunningly located, perched high in the Andes surrounded by verdant cloud forest, with the river Urambamba running through the gorge far below. Hidden away on a ridge between the mountains, Machu Picchu is invisible from below, so it's no surprise it's ruins remained a secret for so many years. Historians believe the city was probably completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed all it's inhabitants and watered by natural springs. It's thought that the city was the location of a royal palace and estate, home to the Inca emperors, or possibly a sacred religious and ceremonial sight.

Discovered in 1911 by the explorer Hiram Bingham, although the ruins were heavily covered by dense jungle foliage, many of the buildings were well preserved and in excellent condition. The city consists of more than 200 buildings, from houses to temples, storage buildings and public spaces. It's fascinating to be able to gaze down on the city from above and imagine how it would have looked during the height of the Inca empire.

WAYNA PICCHU: Please note, due to Intrepid's internal safety policy our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking this activity.
We drive to Raqchi and visit the ruins and local artisan centre. We stay overnight in local homestay. Our accommodation is in traditional family houses with clean but basic facilities. Whilst we are there we enjoy some of the ceremonial aspects of village life as well as much singing and dancing. This is a great local experience.
A small village situated a short distance outside of Cuzco, Raqchi is well known for its talented craftspeople and the beautiful handmade and intricately decorated pottery that is made here.
We stay in Raqchi as guests of the local families in their traditional houses, a fantastic way to get a real insight into how people live here and to learn about their culture and customs. If we are lucky there may be the chance to participate in some of the ceremonial and spiritual aspects of village life - and there is always plenty of singing and dancing as we get to know our new Peruvian families.
Today we drive the 440 km to Chivay, with an optional visit to the thermal springs. We spend the night in a hotel.
Chivay is home to some natural hot springs that provide a welcome relief from the cold night air high up here in the Andes. The springs are known as "La Calera" and are located just a short distance outside the town.
The following day is a short driving day as we visit the spectacular Colca Canyon to view condors and also visit local communities. We return to Chivay for the night.
The River Colca runs from high in the Andes right down to the Pacific, and between Chivay and Cabanaconde it flows through the bottom of a deep gorge, often claimed to be the deepest in the world. It is certainly spectacularly beautiful, the vast Andean terraces tower up over the canyon, dotted by tiny villages that haven't changed in centuries. The canyon is also renowned as a haven for condors and they can often be seen here at quite close range as they float on the rising thermals and scan for carrion far below. Catching a glimpse of these magnificent birds as they rise from their nests, gliding high above you is a truly magical experience and one you will never forget.
A short drive of 160 km takes us to the 'white city' of Arequipa, where we stay in a good quality hotel.
Standing at the foot of El Misti Volcano and oozing the best of Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cuzco for the title of Peru's most attractive city. Built out of a pale volcanic rock called sillar, the old buildings dazzle in the sun, giving the city its nickname - the 'White City'. The main plaza, with its cafes and nearby cathedral, is a lovely place to while away the day.
The following day is free to explore Arequipa.
No trip to Arequipa would be complete without paying a visit to Juanita, the "Ice Maiden." This mummy of a young Inca girl has been described as one of the 10 most important historical discoveries of recent times by Time Magazine. Because the body was frozen at such low temperatures and high altitude, a really extensive study into the physical health of ancient Peruvian civilisations has been possible, with fascinating results. You should also try to visit the Santa Catalina Convent, which is almost a city within a city in the centre of the town. Not only are the buildings of the convent stunningly beautiful, with brightly painted walls and shady courtyards, it also has a fascinating history which you can learn about on a guided tour.
A 380 km driving day takes us to Puerto Inca, where we stay at a beach side campsite.
Situated in a beautiful bay on the Peruvian coast, Puerto Inca was once the Inca port that supplied the city of Cusco with fish. There are a number of Inca ruins here - including a cemetery and a temple of reincarnation - and part of the road that set out from the coast to Cusco is still clearly visible.
A 270 km morning drive takes us to Nazca where we can see the Nazca Lines, and also visit Chauchilla cemetery. We spend the night at a campsite with a pool.
The entire desert in the Nazca area was once home to the ancient Nazca and Paracas cultures which preceded the Incas by over 500 years. Remains of their cultures are still visible - Nazca is home to the famous and enigmatic Nazca lines, enormous designs inscribed in the desert on the arid high plateau.

The enormous lines have been etched into the ground by scraping away the top darker layer of gravel which then contrasts with the paler one underneath. Animals, insects and birds are depicted, and some of the simpler line formations are up to 10 km (32 miles) in length. Who drew them, how and why, can only be guessed at, but theories range from alien invaders to complex Nazca calendars.
Close to Nazca is the Chauchilla Indian Cemetery, where you can see the tombs of people of the ancient Nazca civilisation, dating from 100AD to 700AD. It is something of an eerie sight to see the skulls, bones and even hair of the dead, preserved in a remarkable state thanks to the dry desert air.
These mysterious shapes are better seen from the air. Small four/six seater planes offer 30 minute flights that allow viewing all 26 figures scattered through the desert floor.

Warning! Planes turn sharply from one side to another to facilitate viewing from both sides of the plane. Plastic bags are provided on board but needless to say, this flight is not recommended for those with a weak stomach.

A safety note. A number of local operators offer flights over the Nazca lines. It should be noted that there have been numerous safety issues over Nazca in the past – as such Intrepid has used its best endeavors to assess the safety of the operation of some of these companies. While it is impossible to guarantee the safety of air operations, your leader can only assist you to book this activity through companies Intrepid assesses are safer to fly with. Your leader is specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting booking this activity through any other operators.
Our first stop today is Huacachina, where there are the options to go sandboarding and sand buggying.
In the afternoon we press on to Paracas National Park where we bush camp overnight.
Spanning 335,000 hectares of land and sea, Paracas National Park is widely regarded as one of the most important marine reserves in the world. This coastal and marine national park is located on a peninsula in the Pacific Ocean and is home to one of the highest concentration of marine birds in the world. Providing a vital habitat for sea lions and dolphins, Paracas is without doubt one of the most biologically diverse coastal areas in the Americas.
In the morning we take a boat trip around the Ballestas Islands to view wildlife.
The Ballestas Islands are in the Paracas National Reserve. Sometimes called the 'Galapagos of Peru' the islands are a haven for wildlife and hundreds of pelicans, red-footed boobies, flamingos, sea lions and even penguins.
We then head 270 km to Lima, arriving late in the afternoon. We stay in a good quality hotel in central Lima.
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.
While you are here there are many museums you can visit such as the Museo de la Nacion and the Gold Museum, which showcase the finest artefacts from the country's many ancient civilisations. You can also visit the finely preserved catacombs at the Church of San Francisco, and take in a bit of local culture at an evening folklore show.
Today we have a long drive to Huanchaco, visiting Lambayeque for the Lord of Sipan Museum visit en route. We stay at a campsite with good facilities.
The resort town of Huanchaco is home to the surfing fishermen. Balancing on canoes constructed of buoyant reeds, the fishermen cruise through the surf with their catch.
Huanchaco is an ideal location from which to explore the numerous archaeological ruins the surround nearby Trujillo, such as the enormous pre-Columbian complex of Chan Chan, a vast adobe city constructed by the emperor of the Chimu people, as well as the world famous Moche pyramids the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna.
The following day we visit some of the ruins in and around Huanchaco including Chan Chan, and the pyramids Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna.
The vast mud city of Chan Chan has ten walled citadels, carved with intricate designs depicting birds, fish and mammals. Unlike many of Peru's archaeological sites, this was not an Inca city, but part of the Chimu and Moche civilisations, renowned for their pottery.
We have a full day's drive today. En route we will visit the Lord of Sipan museum in Lambayeque (except if it is a Monday, when the museum is closed). We camp for three nights outside of Punta Sal on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
Situated on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in a long, curvy bay, Punta Sal is a haven for sun and sand. The warm and tranquil waters are a pleasure to swim in, and there is also the opportunity to set out on fishing trips and boat trips along the coast. For those who prefer to stay on dry land, horse riding along the beach, or salsa lessons can be arranged. Alternatively, just kick back in a hammock and laze the day away, enjoying the peace and quiet of this beautiful spot.
The next two days are free to enjoy the beach and activities at Punta Sal.
Today's drive of 285 km takes us across the border into Ecuador and to the beautiful colonial town of Cuenca, Ecuador's third-largest city. We stay in a local guesthouse.
Possibly the most attractive city in Ecuador, Cuenca has managed to retain its Old World air, despite being the country's third largest city. The city has many 16th and 17th-century buildings, including its cathedral built in 1557, the year the city was founded by the Spanish. However, the city's history stretches back hundreds of years earlier. This was the site of a native Canari village that was later conquered by the Incas and called Tomebamba. The city was said to have rivalled Peru's Cuzco for its beauty, but the glory was short lived and the city was razed during the Inca civil war. The city's history is well preserved, earning Cuenca the honour of being listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.
The next day we have free time to explore Cuenca and visit the famous Panama Hat factory.
An early start this morning before a 350 km drive along the northern section of the spectacular Quilotoa Loop to the town of Chugchilan. We stay the night in a hostel.
Quilotoa Loop is a name given to the winding circuit of spectacular dirt roads that connect Lake Quilotoa to Latacunga and the Pan-American Highway. The roads that lead away from Latacunga are unpaved, winding and have spectacular views of the mountains, rivers and verdant landscape. We will head to the town of Chugchilán on the northern section of the loop and after a 2 night stay head out on the southern section of the loop allowing you to see some of the more remote people and culture of the central Andes of Ecuador.
An hour's drive the following day brings us to the town of Quilotoa to see the stunning Crater Lake and begin one of Ecuador's best day hikes back to Chugchilan.
We will trek with a local guide, and the mostly downhill trek takes 4-6 hours. A moderate level of fitness is required as the trek is at altitude, but the walking itself is not too strenuous.
In the morning we drive the southern section of the Quilotoa loop before heading to the beautiful town of Rio Verde, where we stay at a campsite with great facilities.
Situated in a valley of waterfalls and hot springs, the region around Rio Verde has year-round temperate weather, a small-town atmosphere and heaps of activities that can get you out and exploring the great Ecuadorian outdoors.
Whilst staying here, you will have the opportunity to take part in optional adventure activities such as canyoning, mountain biking and rafting. We will also make the short trip into Banos where you can visit the thermal springs.
Today is a driving day to Coca.
Coca is the more commonly known name for Puerto Francisco de Orellana. The city is located at the confluence of the Napo River and the Coca River, which gives the city its nickname. The city is named after Francisco de Orellana, the famous explorer. History says he set off from the current location of the city and made his way deep into the Amazon Jungle, eventually making it to the Atlantic. He later died on a second attempt to cross the jungle, not being able to find his way through.
We'll spend the night in a comfortable hotel and get ready for our 3 days in the wilderness.
From Coca we board a boat for a 2 hour journey along the Rio Napo, and deep into the heart of the Amazon Rainforest for a 3 night stay camping by a lodge run by the local Kichwa community.
The next 3 days will be spent sampling life in the jungle. We'll take trips out into the rainforest on foot and by boat to explore for wildlife as well as getting involved with the local community in this truly magical place.
On our last day here we have a half day sail back up the river, spotting wildlife on the way, as we return to Coca for the night.
Today we head 120 km to Quito.
Sitting at an altitude of 2,850 m under the gaze of Volcan Pichincha, Quito is one of the most attractive cities in South America. Long and incredibly thin, the city stretches along a central valley formed by the east and west ranges of the Andes. Although compact, Quito's Old Town is full of historic buildings - there are more than 30 churches to explore, not to mention the fascinating museums.
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
n/a
Transport
Boat, Ferry, Jeep, Overland vehicle, Train
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (9 nights), Camping (with facilities) (46 nights), Guesthouse (1 night), Hacienda (2 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hostel (11 nights), Hotel (38 nights), Lodge (3 nights)
Included activities
  • Boat trip
  • Two night Pantanal adventure
  • Visit Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls (entrance fee included)
  • Visit Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls (entrance fee included)
  • Jesuit Mission ruins and museum, San Ignacio de Mini
  • Quilmes Ruins
  • Vineyard Tour
  • Valle de la Luna Excursion
  • Jeep tour of Uyuni Salt Flats
  • Isla del Sol boat trip
  • Uros Island boat trip on Lake Titicaca
  • Cuzco Visitor Ticket
  • Sillustani Ruins and Museum w/Guide
  • Alternative Inca Trail and Quechua Community trek
  • Tour of the Sacred Valley, Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo
  • Machu Picchu guided tour
  • Raqchi Artisan Centre and ruins
  • Colca Canyon Tour
  • Chauchilla cemetery
  • Paracas National Park
  • Ballestas Islands boat trip
  • Chan Chan Archaeological Site
  • Pyramids of Sun and Moon
  • Lord of Sipan Museum
  • Hat Factory Tour
  • Trek from Quilotoa to Chugchilan
  • 3 night/3 day Amazon Adventure

Dates

There are currently no departures for this trip.

{{departure_day.departure_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}} {{departure_day.arrival_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}}

Style: {{departure.style}}

Boat/Ship: {{departure.vehicle_name}}
On sale Hot deal Departure guaranteed On request
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.base_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.discount_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
Fully booked Bookings closed

Total price per person {{room.room_type | lowercase}}
Includes {{departure.kitty_currency_code}} {{departure.kitty | noFractionCurrency:departure.kitty_currency_symbol}} kitty
Includes {{extra.extras_code}} {{extra.extras_symbol}}{{extra.extras_value}} in local payments Single supplement available from {{product.currency_code}} {{departure.single_supp | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}

Contact us to arrange an alternative departure for you

Book {{departure.places_left}} spaces left! space left!

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 Quechua Community Trek (http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/inca-advisory/community_trek_peru.pdf) at the time of booking. If you do not indicate a preference, the Quechua Community Trek (http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/inca-advisory/community_trek_peru.pdf) 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 Quechua Community Trek (http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/inca-advisory/community_trek_peru.pdf) 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 Quechua Community Trek (http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/inca-advisory/community_trek_peru.pdf).

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

Was this page helpful?