South America Explorer

32 Nights / 33 Days

Day 1 Fri Lima

Arrive Lima, Capital of Peru, City of Kings.  Transfer to your hotel in the Miraflores district.

Day 2 Sat Lima (B) 

Lima, City of Kings and capital of Peru.  This was the principal city of Spanish South America from its founding in 1535 until the independence of the South American republics in early 19th century.  It never rains in Lima and only for 2 months of the year are the skies blue – January and February.  You have the whole day to explore Lima A city tour of the Greater Colonial Lima allows you to appreciate the wonderful colonial buildings in downtown Lima such as the Santo Domingo Convent and the Casa Aliaga, one of South America’s oldest Spanish homes.  Drive by the elegant tree-lined avenues of San Isidro and Miraflores. This afternoon an optional  visit to the world famous Gold Museum where you can browse through the unique ceramics gold and weavings. There is also one of the world’s largest collections of armoury and a very extensive display of pre-Columbian textiles.

Day 3 Sun Lima – Paracas (B)

Continue south by bus along the Panamericano Highway through desert countryside alongside the Pacific Ocean to Paracas. This afternoon we have included an excursion into the Paracas Nature Reserve, a marine sanctuary located at the shore of the Pacific Ocean.

Day 4 Mon Paracas- Nasca (B)

This morning visit Ballestas Islands, known as Peru’s mini Galapagos.   An opportunity to watch resident and migratory birds, including flamingos, red-legged cormorants, Inca terns, bobbies, as well as playful sea lions, amusing Humboldt penguins and, we are lucky, we might see marine otters. This afternoon travel by bus to Nasca.  This small oasis town is famous for the mysterious lines etched in the desert pampas.  Are they messages to travellers from outer space that landed here thousands of years ago or the works of an ancient culture depicting a planting calendar?  Cut into the stony desert, like a giant sketching pad, these many lines include geometrical figures, giant animals and birds.  Enjoy a flight over these amazing lines – the only way to appreciate this archaeological mystery.  Come away with your own theories and questions.

Day 5 Tues  Flight over Nasca Lines – then to Arequipa (B)

This morning it is your turn to become airborne and theorise on these mysterious lines etched in the desert.  Wow - up you go to witness this gigantic sketching pad in the desert pampa.  Who drew them?   Why?   Draw your own conclusions or come away with as many questions as answers!   This afternoon visit the Chauchilla cemetery where the hot dry weather has preserved the mummies and clothing they were wrapped in hundreds of years ago.  Rest of the afternoon free to relax and explore before the super comfy late night bus departs for Arequipa.

Day 6 Wed  Explore Arequipa (B)

Arrive early morning to the beautiful city of Arequipa sitting at 2300 metres above sea level and gateway to the Colca Canyon.  Lying at 2880 metres above sea level at the foot of El Misti Volcano (5882m) is the ‘Ciudad Blanca’ – the white city, boasting a delightful climate, plenty of fascinating colonial buildings and gateway to the famous Colca Canyon, home of the condors, one of the world’s deepest canyons.  Must sees here are a visit to the peaceful Santa Catalina Convent, one of the most fascinating religious colonial buildings in Peru. The convent, opened to visitors in 1970, is surrounded by imposing walls and the 450 nuns who lived here led a completely secluded life.  Also here is “Juanita” the mummy of a young girl found in 1995 by an American mountain climber on Mt Ambato.  She is encased in a freezing chamber inside the Museum and open for viewing.

Day 7 Thurs 2 Day Colca Canyon Adventure (B,D)

Drive through the awesome Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest canyons it is only accessible by a dirt road over the Altiplano before dropping to the village of Chivay at 3600 metres above sea level.  The landscape is remarkable for its Inca and pre-Inca terracing which goes on for many kilometres and is the most extensive in Peru.  Life here has changed very little through the centuries where the campesinos still farm the remarkable Inca terracing as their ancestors did before them.  Stay overnight in the small village of Chivay where you can relax in the hot thermal springs and delight in the haunting melodies of the panpipes.

Day 8 Fri Colca Canyon- Cusco (B,L)  

You will get an early morning wakeup call todayAfter breakfast we continue deep into the Canyon to the Cruz de las Condors.  This is a remarkable highlight – you can watch the impressive condors rising with the thermals – your chance to get great photos of these wonderful birds.We then continue our journey of discovery and exploration in the hinterland of the Andes travelling overland to Cusco arriving early evening.

Day 9 Sat Cusco (B) 

Cusco's heart of the Inca Empire, known by the local Quechua Indians as 'Navel of the Universe'.  Cusco is an amazing experience. Lying in an exceptionally beautiful countryside 3300 metres above sea level, here you will encounter a fine blend of Spanish and Inca cultures, colourful Quechua Indian markets, Inca temples and massive stone walls which form the foundations of Colonial Cusco, originally part of the impressive monument of Sacsayhuaman, situated above the town.   Morning at leisure.  This afternoon enjoy a comprehensive walking tour of this delightful city, including the Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Temple of the Sun. 

Day 10 Sun Cusco - Sacred Valley (B)

Visit Sacsayhuaman - this magnificent Inca fortress, which overlooks the city of Cusco.  Sacsayhuaman can be variously translated as 'speckled falcon' or 'speckled head'.  The last interpretation refers to the belief that the city of Cusco was set out in the form of a puma whose head was the hill of Sacsayhuaman.  The origins are uncertain but the fortress is generally attributed to the period of Inca Pachacuti, the man who essentially founded the Inca empire.  We also visit the ruins of Qenko, an area of well-preserved archaeological ruins and the Red Fortress of Puca Pucara.  Drive through stunning scenery to Chinchero, the most colourful and authentic market in Peru.  Continue on to Maras Salt Pans.   Another fabulous walk today.  Discover these amazing salt pans still mined as they were hundreds of years ago. Also visit Moray – these unusual Inca ruins consist of several enormous terraced circular depressions, the largest of which is about 30 metres deep. Continue   through the Sacred Valley  to our hotel an old monastery (completely restored of course!)

Day 11 Mon  Cusco-Sacred Valley Trekkers in group depart for Inca Trail Day 1 (B) 

Continue through the beautiful Sacred valley of the Incas.  A visit will be made to Latin Link’s aid project run by Peru Challenge.  Next is Pisaq where you will enjoy a panoramic walk along the original Inca pathways and terracing to the ancient town below.  Visit the markets then continue through this lush valley where the towering fortress of Ollantaytambo dominates the surrounding area. 

For the June departure,this is the day of the Inti Raymi – The Quechua name for the Festival of the Sun. It was a time of offerings, sacrifices, dancing and celebration. In the old capital city of the Incas, this festival continues with all its ancient royal pomp and energy.Dances and ceremonies are played out at the worship center of Sacsayhuaman above Cusco.


Day 12 Tues Train to Aguas Calientes or Day 2 Inca Trail (B) 

After breakfast you have an early morning transfer to Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, a small railroad town with tons of character – enjoy a soak in the hot pools under the Andean sky or explore the town.

Day 13 Wed Bus to Machu Picchu- Cusco or  Day 3 – Inca Trail (B) 

It’s an early start today. This is the best time to enjoy the peace and tranquillity not to mention the magic of Machu Picchu is before the trainload’s of visitors arrive.  Machu Picchu, known also as ‘Lost City of the Incas’.  It is undoubtedly the best known and most spectacular archaeological site on the continent and is considered a must for all visitors to Peru.  You will travel by bus up the zig-zag, the Hiram Bingham highway, to the ruins where your first views will take your breath away.  Enjoy a fully guided tour of the ruins, some time to explore on your own, before returning down the mountainside.  Time for a snack and then board the train to Ollantaytambo and transfer to our hotel in Cusco.

Day 14 Thurs Cusco or Day 4 Inca Trail (B)  

Free day to explore this delightful city – everyone’s favourite.  The day is yours to enjoy, all the convents, churches, museums, alpaca and jewellery bargains.

Day 15 Fri Cusco - Puno (B,L)

Bus ride to Puno through the dramatic landscapes of the highland plateau, with occasional views of tiny Andean  villages and  herds of llamas and vicunas.  We will stop at Andahuaylillas, where there is a beautiful baroque church built at the beginning of the XVIIth century.  It is very well known thanks to its beautiful mural paintings.  We will make a second stop at Raqchi, where there is an Inca temple  built  to worship Wiracocha, one of the most important Inca  gods.  Finally, we will stop at the archaeological museum of Pukara  (200BC-AD300) then we will lunch at a restaurant en route.   Arrive in Puno late afternoon.

Day 16 Sat Uros & Taquile Islands  (B,L)

Enjoy a complete day of sailing in Titicaca Lake, the highest navigable lake in the world.  Depart early in the morning for the floating islands of Uros, where the inhabitants still live as they did centuries ago on floating islands they make with the totora reeds that grow on the lake.   Continue sailing towards Taquile  Island for a 30 minute hike towards its small town inhabited by Quechua speaking natives who have, over the generations, developed both an efficient and original social system as well as a refined handweaving technique.  Lunch will be served in a local house that serves as a restaurant.  After lunch we will explore the island and you can appreciate the magnificent views of Lake Titicaca.  After this trek you will embark and return to Puno.

Day 17 Sun  Puno – Copacabana (B)

This morning travel through lovely scenery, which follows this mighty lake to the Bolivian border. After border formalities continue to the sleepy town of Copacabana. This afternoon is free to relax at this lovely hotel or explore the town.

Day 18 Mon I Isla del sol - La Paz (B)

Up early for a boat trip out on the lake to tranquil Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) where legend has it that the first Inca King rose out of the lake.   On this legendary island, visit the Pilkokaina Inca Palace and enjoy a short walk to the Gardens, Sacred Stairs and Fountain of the Inca.  As we ascend to Yumani village, we have a magnificent view of the lake set to the backdrop of Mount Illampu.   Return to Copacabana and continue through even more stunning scenery, with snow-capped peaks and the blue lake, to La Paz, capital of Bolivia and highest capital in the world.  Known as City of Contrasts, here ancient traditions meet the new millennium of chaotic traffic and towering buildings. 

Day 19 Tues City tour and shopping (B) 

 A morning tour takes you down to where the air is thicker and the elite live.  Visit the witches markets, Calle Jaen with its museums, San Francisco Church, Plaza Murillo, National Congress, Cathedral, Presidential Palace, continuing to the very unusual eroded formations of the Moon Valley.  The afternoon is free to enjoy the uniqueness of this colourful bustling city and shop for bargains and gifts.

Day 20 Wed Explore La Paz (B)

Optional tour to Tiwanaku (pre-Columbian) ruins outside the city or a  mountain    bike down the world’s most spectacular road or spend the day with a little more shopping and people watching...a great city to do that!

Day 21 Thurs La Paz (B)

Time to say adios to the Andes.  Transfer to the airport for your flight.

Day 21 Tues La Paz - Sucre (B)

Transfer to the airport for an afternoon flight to Sucre . On arrival transfer to your hotel

Accommodation: Hotel de Su Merced.  The Hotel de Su Merced is set in the old site of the city, two blocks and a half from the 25 de Mayo central square.

Day 22 Wed Sucre (B)

Sucre has some of the finest colonial architecture in the world.  See the Constitutional Capital of Bolivia and the seat of the Supreme Court on our morning tour.  Sucre is called the white city. It's a city of towers, beautiful churches where the architecture reflects the life of the colonial Spanish aristocracy.

Sucre was the birth place of the independence movements of the Americas.  In fact, Sucre was the first to rebel against Spanish rule on 25th May 1809.  Its colonial past is visible in many religious and civil buildings distributed in the center of the city. Narrow streets, churches, fastidious residences, white facades, red roofs allow us to discover a past of art and religion.In 1991 Sucre was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO in light of its Historical and Cultural value.  It is neat to just walk around this safe city and take in the different colonial buildings and wonder what life was like years ago.

Day 23 Thurs Sucre - Potosi (B)

This morning travel by bus into the highlands to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Potosi with its rich history and Spanish architecture.   Potosi is known as the Imperial City and is situated at the foot of Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) famed for its mineral wealth.  The Spanish created one of the most important and populous cities on the continent, after the discovery of the silver-rich mountain in 1545.  Situated at an altitude of more than 13,123ft (4,000m), it is also the highest city in the world although not quite the thriving metropolis that it once was.

Potosi was founded in 1546.  It soon produced enormous wealth, becoming one of the largest cities in the world with a population of more than 200.000 people.  In Spanish there is a saying ´vale un Potosí!´ (´it's worth a Potosí´), which means being worth a fortune.  It is from Potosí that most of the Spanish silver came.  According to official records, 45.000 tons of pure silver were mined from Cerro Rico from 1556 to 1783. Of this total, 7000 tons went to the Spanish monarchy.  The tradition tells that the Spanish conquerours found incredible amounts of silver, enough to build a bridge completely made out of silver from Potosí to Europe.  During the early 19th century, struggles for independence caused many churches to be looted.  Then the city's wealth was removed to Europe or to other parts of the Spanish realm. By then the population dropped to less than 10.000. By the time of independence in 1825, the mines of the Cerro Rico were almost exhausted.  The opportunity to visit the mines this afternoon.

Day 24 Sun Potosi - Uyuni (B)

Visit to Casa de la Moneda, Convento de Santa Teresa and San Francisco.  Tour throught the old colonial center with its old narrow streets and mine neighbourhoods.  This afternoon we continue across the altiplano to Uyuni then transfer  to your hotel on the edge of the salt flats.  This hotel is one of the most extraordinary in the world, constructed out of blocks of salt.

Day 25 Mon Salt Flats (B)

The Uyuni Salt lakes area area of impressive beauty.  10am full day visit to the Uyuni Salt Lake.  Start your day visiting the huge Uyuni Salt Lake, the cold water springs, the Colchani Salt Factory and Isla Pescado famous for its giant cactus.  After lunch continue to Coquesa Mummys and then back to  Uyuni.  We have arranged use of a hotel room at Hotel Tambo Aymara until late evening when you will be transferred to the railway station.

Day 26 Tues  Uyuni - Humahuaca (B)

Depart Uyuni on the Wara Wara Train – executive class.  Arrive Villazon midday. You will be met and transferred  to the border immigration control where you will cross into Argentina and  transfer you the short distance to the bus station.  Continue by bus to Humahuaca, arriving late afternoon.

Day 27 Wed Humuhuaca - Salta (B)

Visit Tilcara with its archaelogical museum and Indian Fortress (entrance fee to be paid direct) visiting Leon, Tumbaya, and the Seven Colours Mountain, Uquia Church to Purmamarca.Travel past La Cienaga Dam, Campo Alegre Dam and La Caldera. Travel through Jujuy on the way to Salta.

Located in the northwest of the Argentine Republic, the province of Salta amazes the tourist with its geographical and cultural heterogeneity.   Surrounded by three countries (Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay) and six provinces (Jujuy, Formosa, Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Tucumán and Catamarca), its vast territory covers all kinds of landscapes, from the arid desert of La Puna, to the lush green forest.This region  is also the centre of the fruit production, lemons,olives, tobacco for Argentina and has a very pleasant climate at this time of year.

Day 28 Thurs Salta (B)

Salta is known not only for its inhabitant’s warmth but also for its cultural heritage. It inherited the diaguita-calchaquí nation of the Inca Empire, a result of the spanish colonial past and the native spirit that fought for national independence.  Morning  tour of Salta.

Day 29 Fri Salta - Train to the Clouds (B)

It leaves from the train station at the city of Salta and ends its route at La Polvorilla Viaduct.  The railways reach a height of 4,200 meters above sea level, turning this train into one of the highest in the world.  The train offers meals onboard, translator services, and medical assistant for any passenger that may be affected by the lack of oxygen caused by the height.  The trip lasts approximately sixteen hours, from seven am until midnight or later.  The train runs 217 km. and passes through 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts, 2 spirals, and 2 zigzags.  There are two stops throughout the trip: one at San Antonio de los Cobres station, and the other one at La Polvorilla viaduct.

It leaves from the city of Salta, the lowest point, and from there it begins the upward route until it reaches the final point at La Polvorilla Viaduct, the highest in the trip.  As you reach the different stations, local villagers at picturesque stands sell craftwork, clothes, and regional products as interesting souvenirs of the trip. 

The train services include dining car, medical practice, audio, video, and bilingual guides.

Day 30 Sat Salta - Cafayate (B)

Leaving from the City of Salta,tour around one of the most impressive circuits in the Republic of Argentina as you visit the legendary Calchaquí Valley.  In order to visit the Calchaquí Valleys and appreciate their beautiful sceneries and the quaint villages from the early XVIII century nestled in their geography,travel a total distance of 520 kilometers through three main roads, namely Provincial Route 33 and National Routes 40 and 68.

From the very beginning, fascination takes hold of travelers as they enter the San Fernando de Escoipe Ravine.  Surrounded by mountains and bordered by Provincial Route 33, it sets the start of adventure.  The local vegetation is typical of the mountain rain forest, with the presence of hydrophile and xerofile plants.  Ancient laurels, willows, walnuts, peachtrees, poplars and some conifers are always present in the area.   At the end of the Escoipe Ravine, the winding “Cuesta del Obispo” (Bishop's Slope) begins.  It got its name from Monsignor Cortázar, the maximum ecclesiastical authority in Salta, who was traveling from Salta to Cachi back in 1622 and spent the night at this spot lying at 3,400 m.

At the top of the slope, known as “Piedra del Molino” (Millstone), lies a chapel raised to honor the Archangel Raphael, "Patron Saint of Travelers”. T his spot features an unforgettable view of the endless slope, which gets mingled with the granite formation of feldspar, mica and quartz contained in the area.

Driving on, there appears a place which faithfully honors its name: the "Enchanted Valley", a dreamed-of place with red soil and green grass where the huge rocks and the uneven terrain astonish the most daring visitors, who are used to being delighted by natural wonders.

Continue on to  Los Cardones National Park .  The road leads to Cachi Pampa – "salt pampa” in the Cacán tongue.   After a few kilometers, the Tin Tin Straight is entered. Fully paved, this 12-kilometer-long stretch displays the impressive snow-capped Curacatao summits in the distance.   The tour always features the characteristics of the scenery, totally worth beholding. A little further, the town of Cachi opens its gates to show its simple beauty.  It is a good moment to make a stop, rest for a while and tour around the purely colonial district.

Cachi means “salt” in the Quechua or Cacán tongue, and it was given such a name by the local natives, who had mistaken the summit of Nevado for a big salt deposit. When touring around the village, visitors can appreciate the politeness of the people, who appear to be in tune with the architectural surroundings.  Continue through Molinos to the wine growing region of Cafayate

Day 31 Sun Cafayate - Salta - Buenos Aires (B)

Cafayate, dunes and vineyards in a fertile valley surrounded by colourful mountains are the best setting to taste delicious wines from an ancient cellar,  Return through  the "Quebrada de las Conchas"(Shells Ravine) where traces of prehistoric times still remain in the many aeolic formations such as The Theatre, The Devil's Throat, The Toad and some others. As we get closer to Salta, the vegetation becomes more lush as we descend down towards the city. Transfer to the airport for your evening flight to Buenos Aires.

Day 32 Mon Buenos Aires (B,D)

This morning  a three and a half hour sightseeing tour visiting the most outstanding sites.  Departing from the Hotel to get to 9 de Julio Ave;the widest in the world, past the famous Colon Opera house, the Obelisk commemorating the first founding of the city in 1536 to get to Plaza de Mayo (May Square), and the buildings surrounding it: Government House, Metropolitan Cathedral with the Mausoleum of General San Martin, Argentina’s greatest national hero and the Cabildo, the colonia town hall built in 1751. Then on to La Boca, typically Italian district, where first italian immigrants settled and ‘Caminito’ street. The tour continues to Buenos Aires port area, past San Martín Square towards Palermo Chico residential district and Palermo Park with its jacaranda and palo borracho trees which flower in the spring and late summer.  The ride continues to Recoleta elegant district to visit Recoleta Cementery where the famous are laid to rest (including Eva Peron).  Return to the hotel along the stylish Alvear Ave.

This evening we have included a typical Argentine steak dinner followed by a Tango show.

Day 33 Tues Depart Buenos Aires (B)

Day at leisure until being transferred to the airport for your onward flight.

Departures: Fridays  2014:  09 May, 20 Jun, 01 Aug, 05 Sep

Prices Per Person USD:                                Double / Twin                 

2014

09 May, 20 Jun, 01 Aug, 05 Sep                           $7375

 

Independant departures: Friday weekly USD $7705

Inca Trail option: USD$405  surcharge

Cost is subject to airfare increases and currency fluctuations – there are no hidden costs.  So no unpleasant surprises once you are in South America - you know before you leave exactly what this trip will cost and is such a bonus not having to dip into your money belt all the time to pay for 'EXTRAS' like some companies do.  We pride ourselves on being totally upfront before you leave. Compare our inclusions for yourself – detailed on our Trip Dossier.

We want your adventure to be as hassle-free as possible – so you can expect the following on the ‘Inca Explorer’. 

NOTE ON FLIGHTS

All flights are with economy scheduled airlines, Lan Chile, Lan Peru, Lan Argentina.

All flights are booked by South America Journeys and all LAN flights are eligible for Qantas Frequent Flyer Points.

All flights are subject to airline increases, fuel surcharges and change.

Inclusions:

All flights between Lima & Buenos Aires                

ALL transport (boats, buses, taxis, trains etc)            Breakfast daily plus 3 Lunches, 1 dinner 

ALL accommodation with breakfasts (twin share)    ALL transfers as per itinerary

ALL entrance fees as per itinerary                                ALL national park entrance fees      

ALL sightseeing as per itinerary                                   Services of English speaking local guides               

Farewell dinner & Tango show in Buenos Aires       Latin Link Tour Manager

Exclusions:

Local Airport taxes & tips allowUS$150, Insurance - Laundry - Personal Spending - Medical Expenses