Discover South America

34 Nights / 35 Days

Day 1 Fri Quito

Arrive Quito.  On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel.

Day 2 Sat Otavalo (B,L)

Full day excursion to Otavalo. This excursion heads north, to the land of the Otavaleños and South America's most famous Indian fair.

Day 3 Sun Quito  (B)

Morning at leisure.  Afternoon scenic tour of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, will take you through its wealth of culture, history and tradition.  Ending up at a lookout point with great scenic view.

Day 4 Mon Quito - Patate (B,L,D)

The  Artisans tradition of Quito is present in the visit to the Yanapi Hat Shop, where guests can observe the process of making hats by hand, of wool felt and  fur felt; these high-quality hats are exported to European, Australian and American markets.  Along valleys and mountains, arrive to Cotopaxi National Park, which surrounds the magnificent Cotopaxi Volcano, for an up-close view of the Andean paramo habitat and its unique flora and fauna; a number of high-altitude birds can be observed around Limpiopungo Lagoon, and occasionally, wild horses.  On clear days, the perfect snow-capped cone of the Cotopaxi Volcano is quite a sight!   At the foot of the volcano is a charming hacienda, where lunch is served in a room with Inca walls, perfectly preserved through the centuries - a truly archaeological jewel.

 After lunch, mingle with the llamas of the hacienda and stroll along a rose plantation, many varieties, many colours, ready for exportation.  From here, descend towards the town of Patate, to spend the night at a 300-year old hacienda, hidden among the mountains, a magical ambience, where, as the afternoon mist descends, stories are told about those who left in search of the treasure of the Incas in the nearby Llanganatis - and never returned.

Day 5 Tues Patate - Riobamba (B,L,D)

After breakfast, take a spectacular route along the gorge of the Pastaza River to the town of Baños (Baths), right at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano, from where the thermal waters that gave it its name emerge.  Drive along the Route of the Cascades to El Pailón del Diablo (the Devil's Cauldron) - the most adventurous will descend (medium difficulty) to observe the impressive cascade up close, surrounded by subtropical vegetation and orchids.  The force and sound of the waters can also be appreciated from a lookout point without descending.  Lunch is served at an hacienda / hostel in the surroundings, and in the afternoon a short stroll along Baños -a town with an international pulse, full of people from all over the world as well as many locals who pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Holy Water.  From here, the route to Riobamba is up the mountain, to where the clouds can be touched, alongside the massive Chimborazo, the highest mountain of Ecuador, on the high paramo where vicuñas graze and scamper - this is a protected Faunistic Preserve.  On the hillsides, where the land is worked beneath the plow, one might think the farmer's true objective was to paint the hills in fascinating patterns, not just to till the dark, fertile soil.  Great photo ops on this route!   Arrive to Riobamba in time for dinner

Day 6 Wed Riobamba - Devils Nose Railway - Cuenca (B,L,D)

After an early breakfast depart by road, skirting the flanks of the Andes, an astonishing ride, twisting and turning, along bridging ravines and river gorges.  Ride through Indian villages and cultivated fields; here is where most of the cereals in Ecuador are grown, among them, the quinua, considered the perfect grain for its nutritional value.  After about 2 hours arrive at the small town of Alausí, the beating heart of the rehabilitation of the Ecuadorian Railway Company in the last years.  Great effort has been made to restore the 100 year old train to its old glory and romance.  Stations have been renewed, railways and sleepers replaced, engines and classic coaches renovate, and, most important, the project involves the local communities along the route in the rail operation. 

The highlight is the thrilling 800-metre (2630-foot) descent on the zigzag cuttings on the rock of the Devil's Nose.  At the bottom one finds the newly renovated Station of Sibambe.  Here there is time to visit the local museum "Condor Puñuna" built and run by the Nizag community, see the display of local handcrafts, fruit and medicinal plants and try the local coffee.  The train whistle calls guests back on board for the return to the Station of Alausí, where a light snack is served to regain strength.  Continue exploring the Andean world by motorcoach to the south, visiting the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca en-route. Lunch in the area. Arrival to Cuenca at dusk for dinner and accommodations.

Day 7 Thurs Cuenca (B,L)

Cuenca is Ecuador's third largest city; yet it still retains its pleasant provincial air.  Its red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums make it very special.  This comprehensive visit includes the Plaza of San Sebastian, a colorful artisans market, where handicrafts are sold.  Then, visit the Museum of Modern Art, featuring an excellent collection of contemporary fine art.  Next is a visit to the flower market at the small plaza in front of the carved stone entrance to the church of El Carmen de la Asunción.  From here, a stroll to the main square, surrounded by the imposing blue-domed Cathedral, the Court of Justice, the Municipal Palace, the Governor's Palace and the Church of El Sagrario.  Then, a drive along the Tomebamba river to admire the city's overhanging houses.  Lunch is at one of the excellent restaurants in Cuenca, and in the afternoon, drive for a short visit to a ceramics handcraft shop.  Then, observe the whole process of making the famous Panama Hats of high-quality toquilla straw. 

Day 8 Fri Cuenca - Quito - Lima (B)

Morning at leisure to further explore Cuenca.  This afternoon transfer to the airport for your flight to Quito to connect on LAN international flights to Lima.

On arrival transfer to our hotel.

Day 9 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, except for 2 months of the year when the skies are blue, in January and February. 

You have the morning to explore Lima.  A city tour of the Greater Colonial Lima this morning 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.

Afternoon at leisure or we suggest a visit to the Gold Museum

Day 10 Sun Lima - Paracas (B)

This morning we travel south by bus along the Panamericano Highway through desert countryside alongside the Pacific Ocean.

Visit the Paracas Nature Reserve, a marine sanctuary located at the shore of the Pacific Ocean.

Day 11 Mon Paracas - Nazca (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, boobies, as well as playful sea lions, amusing Humboldt penguins and, if we are lucky, we might see marine otters.

This afternoon travel by bus to Nazca.

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.

Day 12 Tues Flight over Nazca Lines - 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 13 Wed Explore Arequipa (B)

Arrive early morning to the beautiful city of Arequipa sitting at 2880 metres above sea level and gateway to the Colca Canyon.  Transfer to our hotel for breakfast then a chance to rest.

Arequipa, situated 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 is on display.

Day 14 Thurs Arequipa - Colca Canyon (B,D)

Drive through the awesome Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest canyons which 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.  Dinner will be at a local restaurant.

Day 15 Fri Colca Canyon - Arequipa (B,L)

You will get an early morning wakeup call today.  After 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 16 Sat Arequipa - Cusco (B)

An early start today, transfer to the airport for a short flight to Cuzco.

Cusco, 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 17 Sun Cusco (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.

Afternoon at leisure

For the June departure ,this is the day of the Inti Raymi – The Quechua name for the Festival of the Sun. I t 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 18 Mon Cusco - Sacred Valley/Day 1 Inca Trail (B)

Leaving Cusco. Continue into the beautiful Sacred valley of the Incas.

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.  Stay overnight in an old monastery (completely restored of course!)

Day 19 Tues Sacred Valley/Day 2 Inca Trail (B)

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, then a beautiful walk back down to the Sacred Valley.  

In the afternoon relax and enjoy the countryside and visit the Semanario Pottery – it’s hard to resist!  A visit will also be made to Latin Link’s aid project run by Peru Challenge.

Day 20 Wed Train to Aguas Calientes/Day 3 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 21 Thurs Bus to Machu Picchu/Day 4 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 22 Fri Cusco (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 23 Sat 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 24 Sun Floating Reed Island, Lake Titicaca, into Bolivia (B)

What an experience!  By boat visit the curious floating reed islands and the Uros Indians who live there.  Everything is made of these reeds, houses, schools, boats, churches etc.  Once you reach the reed islands, you can experience gliding across Lake Titicaca in an authentic reed boat - you can't beat it!  Return to Puno. 

This afternoon continue through lovely scenery, which follows this mighty lake to the Bolivian border.

After border formalities continue to the sleepy town of Copacabana.

Day 25 Mon 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 26 Tues La Paz City Tour (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 27 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 28 Thurs La Paz - Buenos Aires (B)

An early start as we say "adios" to the Andes and transfer to the  airport for our LAN Airlines flight via Santiago to Buenos Aires.

You will be transferred to our hotel.

Day 29 Fri Buenos Aires (B)

A leisurely start today with a walk to a few of your guide’s  favourite areas of the city close to the hotel.

This afternoon our tour will allow us to discover the city of Buenos Aires.  We will visit its Civic Centre, the impressive National Congress and May Square (Plaza de Mayo) surrounded by Government House (Casa Rosada), the Metropolitan Cathedral and City Hall from colonial days (Cabildo).  We will visit the Colon Theatre (Teatro Colón), one of the world’s best known opera houses and the cultural pride of the “Porteños” (Buenos Aires natives).  Next, we will tour the traditional barrio of San Telmo where the magical atmosphere of the district will take you back in time. We will then stop at La Boca, home of the first Italian immigrants and you will observe its picturesque and colourful architecture.  We will then continue to the residential neighborhood of Palermo and many parks. Finally, we will go to Recoleta, the city’s most exclusive district, with its famous cemetery where Evita Peron is buried, elegant boutiques, gourmet restaurants and side walk cafés under ficus trees (gomeros).

Day 30 Sat Buenos Aires (B,D)

Day at leisure.  There is still time to explore the city further or perhaps enjoy an optional trip across to Colonia in Uruguay.

Tonight get into the Argentine mood with a juicy steak and Tango show.

Day 31 Sun Buenos Aires - Iguacu (B)

Transfer to the airport for our morning flight to Iguazu

Travel to the Argentine side of the falls, these falls defy description!   Enjoy the majesty of the world's most spectacular waterfalls.  Set in pristine rainforest with countless birds and butterflies, situated on the borders of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, they plunge in a series of gigantic waterfalls over 3kms long and more than 80 metres high.  The thunderous roar of crashing water and the multicoloured mist is natural beauty at its best.  It is undoubtedly one of the world's most impressive sights. Later see the mighty Devils Throat Cataract. We then transfer across the border to the Brazil town of Foz do Iguacu.

Day 32 Mon Iguacu Falls (B)

Morning tour to the Brazilian side of the falls followed by a visit to the Bird Park , an opportunity to enter the huge 8-meter high forest aviaries to study and photograph birds in their natural habitat without the restrictions of netting and cages.  There are over 160 species, both indigenous and from other continents.

Day 33 Tues Iguacu - Rio de Janeiro (B)

Transfer to the airport for your am Depart Iguacu on TAM Brazil Airlines flight to Rio.

Welcome to Rio de Janeiro –‘River of January’ – is a beautiful city full of vibrant people.  Brazilians say “God made the world in 6 days – the 7th day he devoted to Rio”.  

This afternoon starts with a panoramic tour of downtown Rio where you'll pass by the infamous Sambadrome, the exhibition area for the renowned Samba schools in Rio.  A brief stop is made at the Metropolitan Cathedral, made famous for its unusual pyramid shape.  Admire its beauty and rareness from both the outside and the inside! Your panoramic city tour continues with a visit to the traditional Cinelandia Square where you'll tour the various historic buildings such as the Municipal Theatre, the National Library and the National Museum of Fine Arts. Head towards the Urca neighborhood, where one of Rio's most iconic symbols is located, Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Travelling up Sugar Loaf mountain in a cable car, you will make a brief stop at a vantage point approximately 700 feet (215 meters) above sea level.  Capture unparalleled panoramic views of the city, Guanabara Bay, the Rio-Niteroi Bridge and Corcovado Mountain.  You'll then ascend to the peak of Sugar Loaf for breathtaking views of Copacabana Beach, the Santa Cruz Fortress and the beaches of Niteroi.

Day 34 Wed Rio de Janeiro (B)

This morning travel to the Cosme Velho Train Cog Station at the bottom of the Corcovado Mountain, you will stop by Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.  Once at the mountain, you will take the ride up to the top, through the dense Tijuca rain forest to the 38m tall Christ the Redeemer Statue.   From the top, you will enjoy the spectacular views of Rio and the surrounding countryside.

Afternoon at leisure.  Options available to explore Petropolis or the quaint Santa Teresa district.

Day 35 Thurs Depart Rio (B)

You will be transferred to the airport for your onwards flight.

Dates & Prices:

Departures:  Fridays:   2014     02 May 13 Jun, 25 Jul & 29 Aug

Prices Per Person USD

2014                                                           Double / Twin             Single Supplement

02 May, 13 Jun, 25 Jul, 29 Aug                       $9015                        $1445          

Friday Independant Departures                     $9235                        $1445

Inclusions:

ALL travel as per itinerary – buses, boats, flights, transfers, and taxis

ALL transfers as per itinerary     

ALL accommodation twin share with private facilities in comfortable 4 star hotels

ALL entrance fees and sightseeing as detailed in the itinerary

Breakfasts daily,7 Lunches & 4 Dinners

Services of Professional Tour Manager (subject to a minimum of 10 people travelling)

Services of local English speaking guides

Exclusions:

Meals not specified as above.  It is necessary to allow USD$35-45 per day to cover this.

Insurance, visa fees, medical expenses, tips & airport taxes ( allow US$200)

Optional sightseeing and personal expenses,