Take an in-depth look into Inca history, lush highlands and cosmopolitan cities

Catching the best of a whole continent is a hard task, but with this 43-day Lonely Planet Experience powered by Intrepid, you’ll get the chance to hit all of South America’s hotspots without the hassle of organising all the logistics yourself. Instead, marvel at the lost Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, Andean condors flying high over the Colca Canyon, floating communities on Lake Titicaca and the puzzling lines of Nazca. From Quito through Lima, Cusco, La Paz and to Buenos Aires, get to know a Latin way of life in more detail, with a local leader joining you to point out the best barrios and beverages you can find at each stop.

Click here to see Inca Trail permit availability.


Start
Quito, Ecuador
Finish
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Destinations
Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru
Style
Basix
Theme
Lonely Planet Experience
Code
GGBPC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • Discover the heart of Ecuador’s Amazon as you take a boat to a community lodge deep in the rainforest. Your welcoming hosts will introduce you to their way of life as you get a true insight into local living.

  • Get out and about on a city tour of Lima, visiting Miraflores and downtown, and join the Peruvian nightlife in the neighbourhood of Barranco, perhaps sipping cervezas with your newfound travel pals.

  • Take an unforgettable 4WD adventure across the Salar de Uyuni – some of the largest salt lakes in the world. Pass cactus islands, train cemeteries and mineral lakes teeming with flamingos.

  • The floating islands of Uros on Lake Titicaca are a marvel of concept, construction and history. Head on a boat tour on the lake and spend the night with a local family in a traditional island community.

  • A trip through Peru wouldn't be complete without a visit to Machu Picchu. With three different travel options to choose from, how you experience this lost Inca citadel is up to you.

Is this trip right for you?

  • There are some long travel days and three overnight bus journeys on this trip. Although the buses feature comfortable reclining seats, they are not beds. There’s also usually a toilet on board, and some of the buses make toilet stops. These trips can be tiresome, but an adventure trip around South America wouldn’t be complete without an overnight bus journey.

  • You’ll be staying in some very basic group accommodation with shared facilities, especially along the Inca Trail, in the Amazon and on Lake Titicaca (where there are drop toilets and no showers). This is all part of the adventure of being among nature.

  • There will be a lot of hiking and walking on this trip (especially on the Inca Trail which can be quite challenging), so this requires a moderate level of fitness. There are a few different trail options to suit your interests and physical capabilities. Please bring durable footwear suitable to hiking. See the ‘What to Take’ section of the Essential Trip Information for more details.

  • We’ll be experiencing a mix of hot and cold climates, so pack accordingly and bring layers.

  • Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit, the air is thinner and some people can suffer altitude sickness. Some people aren’t affected at all, but if you are, be sure to drink plenty of water and don’t push yourself too hard. If possible, arrive into Quito a few days early to allow yourself time to acclimatise. The sun is also unusually strong and it’s easy to get burnt, especially when out on the water in Lake Titicaca. It’s important to wear sunscreen and other sun protection, and always drink plenty of water. Please see the important ‘Health’ section of the Essential Trip Information for details.

  • Please note that our leaders are not able to organise a trip to the ‘Death Road’ to Coroico for you, due to safety concerns. Injuries are common along the road and there have been a number of fatal accidents. Our leaders are also unable to organise tours to the Potosi Mines for safety reasons.

  • Making your way across the Andean Desert and salt flats isn’t exactly luxurious. There will be long travel days spent in 4WDs on dusty and bumpy tracks. Temperatures in the area can be very cold, especially at night, so bring warm clothes with you. Meals are simple, toilet facilities are basic, showers can be cold and the multishare accommodation is dormitory-style. This is all part of the adventure. Without a doubt, this amazing experience will be one of the highlights of your trip to South America.

  • Bolivia is the least developed and most challenging country you’ll travel around during this trip. Facilities are basic and food might be simpler than what you’re used to. Transportation between different locations can be slow and isn’t as easy as it might be in developed countries. Yet this is all part of the adventure that makes Bolivia such a great place to visit.

Itinerary

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Quito, Ecuador. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. After the important meeting, join your leader on a walking tour of the historic centre of Quito. Stroll through Plaza Grande (main square) and by the Archbishop's Palace. From here, walk about 800 metres uphill to reach the Basilica del Voto Nacional. Time permitting, you may wish to spend more time exploring this church and its views from the top towers. Finally, walk to La Ronda Street and pass by La Compania de Jesus and San Francisco churches. At the end of the walk, your leader will recommend a local restaurant on La Ronda Street for an optional group dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Quito - Leader Led Orientation Walk
Optional Activities
  • Quito - Sweet & Culinary Experience - Urban Adventures - USD103
  • Quito - Condors and Culture in Otavalo Urban Adventures - USD156
  • Quito - Market Discovery Urban Adventure - USD99
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

Quito is located 2800 metres above sea level, where it’s common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude – regardless of your age, gender or fitness. Please refer to the ‘Health’ section of the Essential Trip Information for important details about altitude sickness.

Quito is an incredible city with loads to see and do, so a few extra days here before the trip starts is highly recommended. If you would like to spend more time in Quito, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Get ready for an an early start, as you’ll be on the move by 7 am. Catch a local bus from Quito Central Station to Tena (approximately 5 hours). From Tena, travel by private vehicle to Misahualli and then by boat to your Amazon Jungle lodge for the next two nights, arriving by approximately 1.30 pm, just in time for lunch. In the afternoon, your local hosts will take you on a walk around the area. Use this opportunity to try some fresh fruit and – if you’re feeling brave – tree worms. Finish the afternoon making an authentic chocolate dessert from scratch. With the help of the host, you’ll roast, grind and conche chocolate beans into your own chocolate sauce. Delicioso!
Accommodation
  • Community Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Note that there is no toilet on board the bus today, but there will be a stop for a toilet break during the journey.

The main focus of this Amazon Jungle stay is to learn about the local indigenous communities and their ways of living. While here, you may be able to see a number of small animals (butterflies, spiders and some monkeys), it's unlikely you will see an abundance of wildlife. Your lodge for the evening lodge is basic and it consists of a bed and linen. Bathroom facilities are shared, and showers are refreshingly cold.
In the morning after breakfast, travel by canoe for 45 minutes to the starting point of today's hike. The hike (approximately 4–5 hours, depending on the group's pace) is relatively easy. During the hike, visit a protected private reserve in the secondary rainforest. This is also a great opportunity to spot insects and birds that call this precious ecosystem home. During the walk, you’ll come to understand the importance of the jungle to the local community as your guide provides in-depth knowledge and history. Afterwards, enjoy a packed lunch on the banks of the Arajuno River, then strap in for the opportunity to go river tubing. The activity will last around an hour, and then you’ll jump back on the canoes and travel back to the Amazon lodge (approximately 1.5 hours). Once you get back to the lodge there will be time to shower and freshen up for dinner. After dinner, head out on a night jungle walk.
Accommodation
  • Community Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
During today’s river tubing activity, while the water currents are not particularly strong, Intrepid’s safety policy states that all travellers must wear a life jacket if they wish to take part.
Enjoy breakfast at around 7 am in the lodge. Bid your hosts farewell, travel back to Tena the same way you arrived, then catch a local bus to Banos (approximately 3 hours). You should arrive in the city of Banos around midday, with the rest of the day free for you to do as you wish. Perhaps use your free time soaking in the city's natural baths or go for a hike into the valley and to the powerful falls of Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Banos - Hot Springs entrance fee - USD6
  • Banos - Steam baths - USD15
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Banos has traditionally been known as the outdoor centre of Ecuador with a number of popular high-risk activities being offered to travellers. The safety of our travellers and staff is our first priority. As such, Intrepid has gone through due processes and assessed local suppliers and their safety standards in Banos. Unfortunately, to date none of the local operators in the area have been able to pass Intrepid's minimum safety standards. As a consequence, we have instructed local leaders to share with you our safety concerns and discourage travellers from taking part in these type of activities at this destination, and strictly forbid them from helping travellers arrange these activities. Fortunately, Banos has plenty more to offer than high-risk activities and we are confident that you will have a great time exploring the area under the guidance of our knowledgeable local leaders.
Enjoy a full day to explore Banos and take advantage of some of the optional activities. Perhaps rise early to watch the sunrise over the mountains near the hot springs. After breakfast, venture to Nuestra Senora del Agua Santa (Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water) and see the intricate murals that depict numerous stories about the virgin. You might also be able to fit in a visit to the Devil’s Cauldron today. If you have time, stroll around the local artisan markets to pick up a memento of the city. If your trip falls on the weekend or during the holidays, be prepared for carnival-like festivities that take place all over town.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Banos - Pailon del Diablo - USD2
  • Banos - The tree house - USD1
  • Pailon del Diablo waterfall (Devil's Cauldron) - Entrance fee - USD2
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take a local bus to Riobamba (approximately 3 hours), where you’ll swap buses and head south to Cuenca (approximately 5 hours). Cuenca may well be Ecuador's best-looking city. There are lots of impressive 500-year-old churches and colonial buildings, many made out of marble and decorated with stunning woodwork and ironwork. Cuenca is the home of the renowned Panama hat, and if there’s time you could visit a factory and pick up one that fits perfectly. There's also a buzzing nightlife here, due in no small part to the university population.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Cuenca - Turi view point - USD10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Meet up with your leader this morning and get to know Cuenca better with an orientation walk. Trundle along cobblestone streets, check out colonial parks and markets and stop by the monumental cathedral at the centre. The rest of the day is free to explore Cuenca and the surrounding area. If you’re feeling cultural, maybe head to the Museo Pumapungo, which features an impressive range of artistic, historical, cultural, and ethnological exhibits, including a collection of real shrunken heads from the Shuar civilisation – if you dare. Otherwise, maybe get out of town to El Cajas National Park, home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Tonight, get some sleep – you have a very early start in the morning.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cuenca - Leader Led Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Cuenca - El Cajas National Park - USD60
  • Cuenca - Historian led tour of old Cuenca - USD20
  • Cuenca - Ingapirca ruins - USD40
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
At approximately 3 am, begin by taking a taxi to the bus station in Cuenca, then a public bus south-east towards the coast and town of Huanquillas (approximately 5–6 hours). After crossing the border into Peru, make your way to the Tumbes Airport before flying to Lima, capital of Peru. Touch down and meet your new leader before heading to your hotel in Miraflores which sits conveniently by the beach. In the afternoon, embark on an orientation walk through Miraflores, passing the arty markets, shops, restaurants and bars before enjoying an evening at your leisure. Enjoy a free evening, perhaps spending it with some of your travel group over a dinner of delicious ceviche alongside some pisco sours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Lima - Archaeological Museum - PEN15
  • Lima - Museo de la Nacion - PEN10
  • Lima - Banco Central de Reserva Museum - PEN5
  • Lima - Museum of the Inquisition - Free
  • Lima - Gold Museum - PEN35
  • Lima Coast Biking Tour - Urban Adventures - USD52
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, the travellers in your group and your group leader are likely to change today. There will be a welcome meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and to meet new travellers joining you. It’s important that you attend the meeting as your new leader will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
This morning, set out on a half-day walking tour of Lima's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate 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 of Lima, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro. Nearby is the San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains (entry is optional and at travellers' expense). Then go and browse the fresh produce on offer at Lima's central market, tasting fresh fruit and street food. Your walking tour wraps up in Lima's main square, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Later, perhaps head out for dinner with the group.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lima - Leader-led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Lima - Guided tour of San Francisco Monastery including The Catacombs - PEN20
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Be ready for an early start as you head to Lima’s bus station around 6 am and hop on a local bus to Paracas (approximately 4 hours). During this journey it's unlikely the bus will make any stops, so please ensure you prepare yourself with water, snacks and anything else you need. The small fishing town of Paracas is the gateway to the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve. One you’ve arrived, you'll have the option of visiting Paracas National Reserve today with a local guide. The duration of the tour is around 2–2.5 hours, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and expansive desert. For some local food specialities back in town, head to the boulevard near the beach and try some tejas – small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Paracas - National Reserve guided tour - PEN50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning, there may be the chance to visit Islas Ballestas for an optional day trip. Here there will be lots of opportunities to see wildlife such as penguins, sea lions and flamingos from a speedboat. Speak to your group leader about your options and when the best time to visit would be. Later on this morning, continue on to Nazca, travelling for around 3 hours and arriving in the early afternoon. Nazca is famous for the Nazca Lines – enormous designs inscribed into the desert floor. Who drew them, how and why is unknown, but most scientists believe the Nazca people created them around 2000 years ago. For the best view this afternoon, consider an optional scenic flight to see them from the air – this lasts 30 minutes and covers most of the 26 impressions. Be wary though – the planes turn sharply from side to side for viewing from both sides of the plane, so it’s not for the faint hearted!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Ballestas Islands - Guided tour - PEN57
  • Nazca - Flight Over the Nazca Lines - USD100
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
If you wish to book in a scenic flight today, your group leader can only assist you with companies that Intrepid Travel has risk assessed and have been deemed safe to fly with. Your leader is specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting booking this activity through any other operators, as well as transfers to and from other operators.
Enjoy a lazy morning in Nazca, then in the early afternoon, transfer to the local bus station and board a bus to Arequipa (approximately 11 hours, with no stops). Lunch will be served on board the bus, and later around dinner time there will be a small snack. Don't forget to pack plenty of water, more snacks and a good book! You’ll arrive into Arequipa around midnight and transfer to the hotel. Standing at the foot of El Misti volcano and oozing all that Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cusco for the title of Peru's most attractive city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning, head on a leader-led orientation walk with your group, where you’ll visit the main square and Mercado San Camilo. During your walk around Arequipa, you'll come to understand why it’s referred to as the ‘White City’. Built out of the pale volcanic rock, the old buildings shine brightly in the sunshine. The remainder of the day is free for you to relax and explore Arequipa. Perhaps start at Monasterio de Santa Catalina – this 16th-century convent has a unique history, having once only accepted women from high-class Spanish families. From here, drop by the Juanita Museum and take a look at the ‘Ice Maiden’ – the well-preserved mummified remains of a young Inca girl who died in the 1440s. Otherwise, while away the rest of your day in the cafes and restaurants surrounding the main plaza, tasting a rich Peruvian coffee.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Arequipa - Juanita Museum - PEN20
  • Arequipa - Santa Catalina Monastery - PEN45
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, around 8 am, venture out by private vehicle to Chivay (approximately 5 hours). There’ll be plenty of time to stop and take pictures along the way as you're likely to see llamas, alpacas and vicunas. You'll have the chance to try some coca tea – a local herbal variety made from leaves of the coca plant – from roadside tea stalls. After a third stop at Patapampa (the highest point of your adventure, standing at 4800 metres above sea level), descend into Chivay town for a free evening. Choose to spend it soaking in the local baths, dining on Alpaca steak or listening to live Andean music at a pena (music hall). Your group leader will know all of the best spots to go, so be sure to ask them.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Colca Canyon - Guided tour
Optional Activities
  • Colca Canyon - La Calera hot springs - PEN15
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Accommodation in Chivay is in a very basic hostel. While there are ensuite toilets, there's no heating (you can request extra blankets) and some rooms can be noisy.
Early in the morning, take a short drive from town into the renowned Colca Canyon. This river canyon in southern Peru is sprinkled with traditional villages, terraced agriculture and trekking routes, and is home to the predatory Andean condor. Witness the morning routine of this mighty ruler of the sky, gazing as they circle this extraordinary natural ravine. Depending on weather conditions you’ll head on a short hike around the area (approximately 45 minutes) before returning to Chivay town. In the afternoon, travel back to Arequipa (approximately 5 hours), and on arrival, relax into a free evening with your fellow adventurers.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Another day in Arequipa is a perfect time to get out your Lonely Planet app and see what highlights you can go out and explore today. For a bit of culture, why not stroll down to Casa Museo Villalobos for a look at the extensive art collection. If you’re looking for something a bit more hands-on, there are regular cooking classes in the city – be sure to speak to your group leader for their recommendations. Keep in mind that tonight (around 7.30 pm), you’ll transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Cusco (approximately 11 hours with no stops).
Accommodation
  • Overnight bus (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
With only one road out of Arequipa, please note there may be delays at the beginning of your overnight bus journey. The bus has comfortable reclining seats and a toilet on board. Dinner will be served on board; however, it's recommended to pack some extra water and snacks.

Overnight buses in South America can often get quite cold due to the air conditioning being left on. Often, a movie is played on a central screen and through the bus speakers; however, it’s recommended to have a book or charged device to use along the journey. If you’re looking at getting some sleep, we recommend packing a few layers to keep warm and a pair of earplugs to block out any unwanted noise.
Arrive in Cusco on your overnight bus sometime between 6.30 and 7.30 am. On arrival, transfer to your hotel to drop your bags and head into town for breakfast. Afterwards, your leader will give you the choice of heading straight out for an orientation walk or resting in the hotel for a few hours before a stroll in the afternoon. On your leader-led tour you’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, local San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. This afternoon, enjoy some more time at your leisure to explore Cusco. In the evening, join your group leader and fellow travellers for an Inca Trail and Machu Picchu briefing.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cusco - Leader-led orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Cusco - Full Boleto Turistico Pass (access to 16 archaeological sites, transport & guides not included) - PEN135
  • Cusco - Cathedral Entrance Fee - PEN25
  • Cusco - Coricancha Temple entrance fee - PEN15
  • Cusco - Half Boleto Turistico Pass (access to selected archaeological sites, transport & guides not included) - PEN75
  • Cusco - City tour - USD15
  • Cusco - Pre-Colombian Museum - PEN20
  • Cusco - Inca Museum - PEN10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
On the leader-led walking tour, the order of visiting locations may vary according to hotel location and your leader’s preference.
Depending on your pre-arranged travel arrangements, during the next four days you may: hike the Classic Inca Trail, hike the Inca Quarry Trail or stay in Cusco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes.

Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
Travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3100 metres above sea level. On the way you’ll see the ruins of Llactapata, which was burnt to the ground by the last Inca emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail. In the evening, set up camp while the cook makes dinner.

Notes: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 km long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3700 metres above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas.

Notes: The Inca Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 km long in total and its highest pass is at 4450 metres above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Route 3 Train:
For those travellers disinterested in hiking the trail or who are unable to, spend two extra nights in Cusco before travelling by bus to Ollantaytambo. From here take a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to the town of Aguas Calientes where you’ll spend a third night.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) or Hotel (for Train option) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
While away from Cusco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cusco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (5 kg maximum).

Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cusco and only travel with the necessary items for the next few days.

Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca Quarry Trail only.
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
This is the most challenging day of the trek, as we ascend a long steep path (approximately 5 hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4200 metres above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 metres.

Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the hike to Kuychicassa (approximately 2 hours); this is the highest pass of the trek at 4450 metres. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, which is only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo.

Route 3 Train:
Today, perhaps use your free day indulging your inner foodie in the eateries of Cusco. Head to lunch at the arty Fallen Angel restaurant, and if you still have room for dessert, the ChocoMuseo offers tastings and chocolate-marking workshops.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) or Hotel (for Train option) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca Quarry Trail only.
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending (approximately 2–3 hours) to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the descent down the Inca steps (approximately 2 hours), which takes you to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.

Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.

Route 3 Train:
In the morning we are transferred by car to Ollantaytambo town where we will take the afternoon train to the town of Aguas Calientes (approximately 1:30 hours) For those who want to, there’s time to see Machu Picchu independently before the guided tour the next day. If you’d like to do this, please advise your group leader at the welcome meeting at the start of the trip.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) or Hotel (for Train option) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca Quarry Trail only.
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:
The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 4.30 am (the final checkpoint opens at 5 am). The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes approximately 2.5 hours meaning arrival time is not until approximately 7.30 am. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as you enter Machu Picchu through the Sungate.

Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5.30 am along the winding road to Machu Picchu (30 minutes). At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who took the train. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular views over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins.

Route 3 Train:
In the morning, usually between 5.30 and 6.30 am, we take one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Inca nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy some free time afterwards to wander around on your own before heading to Ollantaytambo for the night.

Visiting Machu Picchu:
According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Sunrise at Machu Picchu:
Inca Trail trekkers: Due to safety reasons the final checkpoint for all trekkers does not open until 5am therefore the estimated arrival time to Machu Picchu Sungate is approximately 7.30am.

Quarry trekkers and Train travellers: The first bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu departs at 5.30am. The estimated arrival time is between 6- 6.30am

The sun rises at Machu Picchu at approximately 530am, therefore it's not possible to be there in time for sunrise. 

Wayna Picchu: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy, our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking trips to the mountaintop ruins of Wayna Picchu.
Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the fertile Sacred Valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. This morning, venture to a community in the valley to learn about the local lifestyle and visit a few businesses, which may include a pottery workshop, a chocolate making demonstration or a local chicha brewery where you will learn about the traditional techniques that are still used to this day. During your community visit, enjoy an included lunch, prepared and cooked by local community members. If your visit coincides with market day, you could spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos. In the afternoon, take a bus back to Cusco for a free evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
Optional Activities
  • Ollantaytambo - Archeological site - PEN70
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Enjoy some free time to delve a little deeper into Cusco. Those with weary legs might want to simply grab a coffee from a cafe at Plaza de Armas and do some people-watching. For those still seeking an active adventure, the hills that surround Cusco are well-suited for some mountain biking. Ask your group leader for advice on optional activities and how to make the most of your day. When you’re hungry, Manos Unidas Cafe is a great choice for a meal. In addition to serving up delicious food, this central pizzeria also provides vocational training to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Sacred Valley - Mountain Biking - USD120
  • Sacred Valley - Via Ferrata & Zipline - PEN265
  • Cusco - Stand Up Paddle Boarding - USD75
  • Cusco - Totem painting workshop - USD59
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, travel by local bus through the Altiplano plateau to Puno (approximately 7 hours). There will be one brief stop along the way at La Raya mountain range where there will be opportunities for photos. Here you'll also have the chance to buy some snacks and take a toilet break. Puno is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. If you're lucky, your visit might coincide with an evening parade, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. Enjoy a tour of the lake by slow motorboat (8 knots per hour), stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. Local Uros people built these islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes in ancient times. They're built completely from layers of totora reeds, which grow in the shallows of the lake. After your boat trip, transfer to the Llachon Peninsula to enjoy a local community homestay tonight. You’ll have the chance to help your host family with their daily activities or perhaps join a game of soccer or volleyball in the village with the local kids.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lake Titicaca - Boat tour & Homestay
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Your homestay tonight is in a mudbrick house, with shared drop toilets but no shower. It can get quite cold here. The homestay will provide plenty of blankets, but remember to pack thermals and ample layers.
In the morning, board a boat for a visit to Taquile Island – a great place to pick up some locally knitted goods. On the island knitting is strictly a male domain, while women do the spinning. An hour’s uphill trek brings you to the main area of the island. Explore the local markets before descending the 500 steps back to the boat. Afterwards, return to Puno (approximately 3 hours) arriving around 3 pm. The remainder of the day is free.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
At around 7 am, travel by local bus to Desaguadero (approximately 3 hours) and cross the border into Bolivia. You’ll say goodbye to your Peruvian leader and meet your Bolivian leader. You'll be asked to leave the bus to proceed through Peruvian migration. The group will then walk across a bridge, submit passports at the Bolivian migration office, and reboard the bus for La Paz. Approximately 30 minutes after crossing the border into Bolivia, there's another stop where the army will check your documents again. The journey to La Paz takes 6–9 hours (depending on the border crossing time). You made it! In the evening, chill out with an optional dinner with your travel group.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • La Paz - Visit to the 'Witches Market' - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today is a long travel day, and keep in mind that Bolivia's time zone is 1–2 hours ahead of Peru. Check with your group leader when adjusting your watch.
Bid some of your travel crew farewell as you enjoy a free day to do as you please in La Paz. For recommendations today, why not open up your Lonely Planet app for their picks on what to do in the city? Better yet, you could consider booking into an Urban Adventures tour, such as Food with Altitude, where you’ll taste all the freshest, hottest and tastiest Bolivian specialities going ‘round. Visit urbanadventures.com and search ‘La Paz’ for more options and to book.
Optional Activities
  • La Paz - To 3,600 Metres, and Beyond Urban Adventure - USD41
  • La Paz - Food With Altitude Urban Adventure - USD57
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Another free day in La Paz? Yes please! Consider your options to explore more of this city, or instead, grab a book and head to a nearby park for a read. Keep an eye out for a saltena – Bolivia’s take on an empanada – on your travels today. Tonight, your adventure continues with another meeting at 6 pm where you’ll meet a new group of travellers joining you.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, the travellers in your group and your group leader are likely to change today. There will be a welcome meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and to meet new travellers joining you. It’s important that you attend the meeting as your new leader will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Today, you’re free to discover La Paz at your own pace. Perhaps visit the Museo de la Coca, which isn’t too far from your hotel. This unusual museum delves into the history of the coca plant that grows in the region – a plant that’s played a huge role in the rise and fall of governments, and was one of the original ingredients in one of the world’s favourite soft drinks. You may also like to check out the cuisine scene in La Paz on a food tour – taste fish fresh from Lake Titicaca as well as a variety of intense flavours on a chocolate stop. Late in the afternoon, leave La Paz on an overnight bus to Sucre (approximately 9–10 hours).
Accommodation
  • Overnight bus (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • La Paz - Visit to the 'Witches Market' - Free
  • La Paz - Coca Museum - BOB12
  • La Paz - Food With Altitude Urban Adventure - USD57
  • La Paz - To 3,600 Metres, and Beyond Urban Adventure - USD41
  • La Paz - City Tour & Moon Valley - USD25
  • La Paz - Chacaltaya & Moon Valley Tour - USD16
  • La Paz - Tiawanaku tour - USD39
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
For your overnight bus journey, you will travel in comfortable recliner seats, locally known as ‘coche cama’ or ‘bed seats’. There’s usually a toilet on the bus and the driver will also make a stop along the way. Before departing La Paz, it’s highly recommended to stock up on water and snacks for the trip.
On arrival in Sucre, drop off your luggage at the hotel before heading out to explore in your own time. Bolivia’s World Heritage-listed capital is a hub of local cultures and Spanish colonial architecture. You might like to visit the Museo de la Recoleta – a 400-year-old convent which provides great views over the city and is home to a fascinating collection of sculptures and paintings. If you have time, head to the Plaza 25 de Mayo to rub shoulders with Sucre's affluent residents and check out the extravagant interior of the Senora de la Merced.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Sucre - Dinosaur footprints at Cal Orcko - BOB70
  • Sucre - Casa de la Libertad - BOB21
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy another free day to see the sights of Sucre. Resting in a mountainous valley and overflowing with white-washed buildings and well-preserved architecture, Sucre is not only Bolivia’s official capital city, but also the most beautiful. Wander the pretty streets and snap photos of the quaint houses and medieval churches, or for something more active, hike along the pre-Inca path known as the Chataquila trek – which is mostly downhill and offers stunning views of the surrounding Andes. For something completely different, discover a prehistoric landscape and compare shoe sizes with a dinosaur at Cal Orcko, where footprints millions of years old have been preserved. This is the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world, with over 12,000 of them. There’s also a food culture in Sucre, so enjoy some delicious empanadas at a restaurant or a fresh juice at the Central Market.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning, take a local bus to the colonial mining town of Potosi (approximately 3–4 hours) – once the wealthiest city in the Americas thanks to its location at the base of silver ore-rich Cerro Rico (Rich Hill). The discovery and extraction of the silver led to a financial boom for the Spanish empire; however, the city’s riches quickly diminished and its citizens soon slipped into poverty once the silver dried up. A tour and brief history of Cerro Rico is definitely a highlight to consider here. Another place of interest is the Santa Teresa Convent Museum, where you can observe the art and treasures on display inside the convent’s original walls.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Potosi - Santa Teresa Convent Museum - BOB33
  • Potosi - National Mint of Bolivia - BOB48
  • Potosi - Cerro Rico mine tour - BOB150
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Visiting the mines in Potosi can be a thrilling yet a dangerous experience. Intrepid has partnered with a local operator to offer travellers what has been assessed to be a safer and more rewarding option. This tour involves visiting the miners’ market and a minerals distillery as well as entering the first 150–200 metres into the Grito de Piedra mine. We believe this experience offers a great understanding of the social, cultural and economic importance of the mine to Potosi and the region while avoiding the risks associated with entering deeper sections of the mine. This activity is not for the faint hearted or those that suffer claustrophobia. Please note that your group leader is strictly prohibited from recommending or assisting travellers in booking other mine tours that Intrepid has not deemed safe.
Today, leave Potosi behind and travel to the city of Uyuni (driving time approximately 3–4 hours). This remote town sits on the edge of the high Altiplano – a wilderness area extending for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. Apart from being a gateway to the Salt Flats, Uyuni also happens to sit above the world’s largest lithium reserve of about 100 million tons! While it won’t help you if you’ve arrived with a flat battery, Uyuni’s lithium, once extracted, could potentially provide enough fuel for the entire planet’s smart phones and electric cars for the next century. Enjoy free time on arrival – perhaps take the opportunity to rest up before you kick off your exciting excursion to Salar de Uyuni tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Uyuni is known to be being extremely cold at any time of the year, so it’s important to pack warm clothing and base layers.

Tonight’s hotel is fairly basic, but it’s clean, comfortable and has hot water. As you’ll be heading out into the desert and salt flats over the next few days with limited amenities, make the most of your facilities tonight.
Depart Uyuni this morning and venture out on a three-day 4WD excursion – be prepared for a busy few days ahead. The first stop will be Cementerio de Trenes (the Train Cemetery) for an eerie look at abandoned locomotives that have been engulfed by the desert. Then, continue on to the highlight of Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flats. This vast desert-like landscape of blinding white salt and cactus-studded islands is the remains of a dried-up prehistoric lake. The desolate and dehydrated eco-system hosts very little wildlife, however it is home to pink flamingos. Make the most of your time on the salt flats, pose for some snaps and explore Inca Wasi – an island covered in cacti and coral-like structures.
Accommodation
  • Dormitory (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Salt flats - Visit to 'Fish Island/Inca Wasi'
  • Uyuni - Colchani Salt Factory Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Please be aware that from December to March, there’s a risk of the Salt Lake being flooded. If this is the case, the itinerary will be adapted to accommodate.
Continue driving through the spectacular landscape of the Bolivian Salt Flats with another day to explore this natural phenomenon. Depending on the time of year, the reflections themselves are nothing short of extraordinary, and you and your travel pals can take some seriously cool images. Your local leaders will stage your poses to ensure you capture the best optical illusions. Tonight (weather depending), consider booking into a stargazing experience, where you’ll go spotting shooting stars deep in the Bolivian wilderness. The skies are so clear, and with no light or smoke pollution out here, the constellations will shine bright.
Accommodation
  • Dormitory (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada & Laguna Verde
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Accommodation in the desert is basic. Shower facilities can be unreliable and cold, as the pipes often freeze in the winter months. Electricity is generated by solar panels, so there won’t be enough power to charge electronic devices. In the rainy season, the itinerary may need to be altered depending on the accessibility of roads.

During this drive you’ll reach an altitude of approximately 4900 metres above sea level, so it’s important to be aware of altitude sickness. Please see the ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ section of the Essential Trip Information for more details.
Venture out of Bolivia’s wilds and back to Uyuni town today. Once arrived and settled back into your accommodation, you’ll have a free day to check out the town or just simply relax and check out your photos after an action-packed couple of days in the desert. If you’re still up for adventure, be sure to ask your local leader for their recommendations on what to do here – there’s the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum as well as other mining towns that you may have bypassed on your way to the salt flats. After recharging your batteries (as well as your devices), why not head out to stock up on supplies and have a bite to eat with your travel group – keep it low-key tonight as you’ve got a full day worth of travel tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Rise and shine and prepare for a long travel day as you cross the border into Argentina. Set off at 6 am from Uyuni town on a public bus to La Quiaca. Arriving around 1.30 pm, cross into Argentina by foot and then jump in a taxi to the bus station. You’ll have a chance to stop briefly for lunch with your group, before jumping on another bus to Tilcara, arriving at approximately 6 pm. Nothing is planned on arrival, but if you’re not too exhausted from today’s journey, perhaps head out for dinner – your group leader will be able to point you in the right direction for a feed.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today's total travel time is about 12 hours. You will be jumping on and off different buses so there will be plenty of opportunities to get out for some fresh air and to stretch your legs, but it’s advised to stock up on snacks and drinks for the bus journeys. In addition, make sure you have a good book and that your devices are fully charged if you want to bring your own entertainment.
Today is a free day to explore this dusty and enchanting town. Nestled in the mountain valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca, Tilcara is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Argentina with an indigenous culture dating back more than 10,000 years – and the influx of tourists hasn’t stopped the age-old customs and rituals from flourishing. You might like to marvel at the pre-Inca ruins at Pucara de Tilcara, or perhaps venture out of town and check out the colourful hills of Purmamarca. If you’re keen for an authentic lunch, visit the vibrant local market, Mercado Municipal de Tilcara, to try some local street food favourites, like the traditional empanada. Keep in mind that tonight you’ll be taking a two-hour flight bound for Buenos Aires, so be sure to check in with your group leader who’ll provide all the details on where you need to be, and at what time, to catch your transfer to the airport.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Fiery Latin passion, European elegance and superb cuisine combine to make Buenos Aires one of the world's most enthralling cities. You’ve got the next few days to choose your own adventure – nibble on alfajores, wander San Telmo's cobblestone streets, talk football with Portenos (people from Buenos Aires) in a cafe or get a history lesson at the quirky Museo Evita. Alternatively, you might like to walk among the tombs at the La Recoleta Cemetery – the final resting place of Eva Peron – or check out some of the great museums in the Recoleta district. Visit the neighbourhood of La Boca, home to the colourful Caminito artists’ street and world-renowned soccer team, Boca Juniors. The hottest spot in town is Palermo's Plaza Serrano, so why not head out in the evening for a tango with the locals. There are so many things to see and do in Buenos Aires, it's simply a matter of trying to fit them all in.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Buenos Aires - Malbec Trail of Palermo Urban Adventure - USD113
  • Buenos Aires - Gourmet Buenos Aires Food Urban Adventure - USD113
  • Buenos Aires - Polo day - USD185
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
With no activities planned after breakfast, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out policies. If you would like to spend more time in Buenos Aires, be sure to ask your leader for recommendations on activities and sights in this exciting city. We’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

Meals

38 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 8 dinners

Transport

4x4, Bus, coach, Minibus, Overnight bus, Plane, Taxi, Van

Accommodation

Camping (with basic facilities) (3 nights), Dormitory (2 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (31 nights), Jungle Lodge (2 nights), Overnight bus (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Quito - Leader Led Orientation Walk
  • Cuenca - Leader Led Orientation walk
  • Lima - Leader-led walking tour
  • Colca Canyon - Guided tour
  • Cusco - Leader-led orientation walk
  • Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
  • Lake Titicaca - Boat tour & Homestay
  • Salt flats - Visit to 'Fish Island/Inca Wasi'
  • Uyuni - Colchani Salt Factory Visit
  • Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada & Laguna Verde

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our South America Explorer trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

Prices may go up, so secure your trip today!
Jump to a departure month

Important notes

START TIME:
This trip starts with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. If you are unable to find a suitable flight it is possible to book additional nights at the joining accommodation.

INCA TRAIL PERMITS
Inca Trail permits are sold on request basis only. Once deposit is paid and passport details provided, Intrepid will endeavour to secure a permit for you.
If Inca Trail permits are unavailable by the time you book, you can opt to hike the Inca Quarry Trail instead https://www.intrepidtravel.com/machu-picchu-peru/quarry-trail
The 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 Inca Quarry Trail.
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.

COMBINATION TRIP:
This trip is a combination of three of our most popular departures. As such the make up of your group and your tour leader may change on Day 9 & 29

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip however excludes nights 17,26,30,35,36 & 40

BOLIVIAN VISA FOR U.S AND SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZENS
Nationals from the United States and South Africa need a visa to enter Bolivia and we highly recommend you obtain this visa in advance from your nearest Bolivian consulate or embassy. Not obtaining the visa in advance is likely to cause long delays at the border. Please see the 'Passport and Visa' section of the Essential Trip Information for details. 

PASSPORT DETAILS REQUIRED
Full passport details are required at the time of booking in order to purchase Entrance fees to certain sites. Additionally on certain trips it's needed to book bus, train or flight tickets. Delays to provide this information may result in booking fees or changes to your itinerary.

INCA TRAIL OR INCA QUARRY TRAIL
While hiking the 4 Day Inca Trail or the 3 Day Inca Quarry trail portion of this trip you may be joined by other Intrepid and/or non-Intrepid travellers.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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 Essential Trip Information

Reviews