South America Discovery
26 Nights / 27 Days
Day 1: Friday - Quito
On arrival you'll be transferred to your hotel.
Day 2: Saturday - Otavalo (B/D)
A full day excursion to Otavalo. This excursion goes north, to the land of the Otavaleños and South America's most famous Indian fair.
Day 3: Sunday - Quito (B)
A morning at your leisure.
In the afternoon we take a scenic tour of Quito - the capital of Ecuador. You'll be taken through its wealth of culture, history and tradition, before ending up at a lookout point with great scenic view.
Day 4: Monday - Quito-Patate (B/L/D)
The artisans tradition of Quito is present in a 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, we arrive at the Cotopaxi National Park. The park surrounds the magnificent Cotopaxi Volcano, where an up-close view of the Andean paramo habitat and its unique flora and fauna exists. 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, where many varieties of many colours, are ready for exportation. From here, we descend towards the town of Patate to spend the night at a 300-year old hacienda, hidden among the mountains. This hacienda has a magical ambience, whereas 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: Tuesday - Patate- Riobamba (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we take the 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. We drive along the Route of the Cascades to El Pailón del Diablo (the Devil's Cauldron), where the most adventurous of us 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 having to descend.
Lunch is served at a 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 opportunities on this route! We arrive in Riobamba for dinner and lodging.
Day 6: Wednesday - Riobamba-Devils Nose Railway-Cuenca (B/L/D)
After an early breakfast we depart by road, skirting the flanks of the Andes, on an astonishing ride, twisting and turning, along bridging ravines and river gorges. We 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 we 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 800m (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.
After disemabrking the train, we continue exploring the Andean world by motorcoach to the south, visiting the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca en-route. Lunch will be had in the area. Finally we arrive in Cuenca at dusk for dinner and accommodation.
Day 7: Thursday - Cuenca-Lima (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, we 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. Lastly before lunch, we 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, we drive for a short visit to a ceramics handcraft shop. Our last stop sees us observe the whole process of making the famous Panama Hats of high-quality toquilla straw.
In the evening we fly to Quito and connect by air to Lima. On arrival we transfer to the hotel.
Day 8: Friday - Lima (B)
We take in what Lima has to offer today with a tour of the "City of the Kings". We start in the Huaca Pucllana archeological center that operated between the 5th and 8th centuries, before proceeding to the historical center to see the Plaza Mayor surrounded by the Government Palace, the City Hall, the Cathedral and the archbishop's Palace. We'll also experience the San Francisco Monastery, a masterpiece of Colonial architecture. We drive through the residential districts of Miraflores and San Isidro where a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean is present.
Afternoon is at your leisure.
Day 9: Saturday - Lima-Cusco (B)
We fly into the Andes and beautiful Cusco, lying in an exceptionally beautiful countryside, 3400m above sea level. Here you will encounter a fine blend of Spanish and Inca cultures, colourful Quechua Indian markets, Inca temples and Spanish cathedrals.
Most of the central streets are lined with massive stonewalls built by the Incas and now form the foundations of Colonial Cusco. The city's Cathedral drips with magnificent colonial art and the Koricancha displays the best example of Inca stonework in Cusco. In the afternoon enjoy a leisurely walking tour of the city followed by the impressive temple of Sacsayhuaman, the spring-shrine of Tambo Machay.
Day 10: Sunday - Chinchero Market & Ollantaytambo (B/L)
The next stop is Chinchero Market, the most authentic and colourful market in Peru, at over 4000m above sea level set in fabulous scenery. This is the real Andes! After plenty of time to browse, bargain and take great photos, we continue to the Sacred Valley of the Incas for lunch at a local restaurant – try their delicious local fruit ice cream.
After lunch we visit the impressive Inca site of Ollantaytambo with its ancient village lying below - just as it was back in Inca times. We stay overnight in this beautiful valley.
Day 11: Monday - Ollantaytambo-Machu Picchu (B/L)
We start this week with travelling towards one of the world's great wonders. It’s up early for one of the world’s great train journeys from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Passing through fabulous scenery we travel towards the jungle before arriving at Aguas Calientes, and then catching the bus up to Machu Picchu.
Suddenly it is spread out before you like a giant picture postcard. Enjoy a 2 hour guided tour or explore on your own and discover the mysteries of this lost civilisation and admire their workmanship and the unique location of this magical citadel.
We return by bus down the zigzag mountain road to Agua Calientes to our accommodation overnight.
Day 12: Tuesday - Machu Picchu-Cusco (B)
Take advantage on this morning for an optional return visit to Machu Picchu for the opportunity to see the sunrise over this magical place. Or alternatively, take the morning to explore the markets and/or soak in the hot mineral pools.
In the afternoon we return by the train to Cusco, before transferring to the hotel for the night.
Day 13: Wednesday - Cusco- Arequipa (B)
Spend the morning at your leisure before we transfer from the hotel to the airport and connect by air to Arequipa. We transfer to the hotel where the rest of day's itinerary is up to you!
Day 14: Thursday - Arequipa (B)
On this morning a city tour of Arequipa, also known as 'the White City' because of the white volcanic rock, sillar, used in its constructions, ensues. You will visit the beautiful Santa Catalina convent, founded in 1580. This convent is an almost self-sustained village, made up of houses for the nuns and their servants, cloisters, plazas and narrow streets, kitchens, refectory and laundry.
From here we proceed to the Jesuit Church, where you will be impressed by the beauty of its facade, considered the best example of the mestizo baroque stylein Arequipa. The ancient vestry is particularly beautiful with its cupola and walls covered in murals that recall the jungle. The ancient Jesuit seminary is famous for its beautiful principal cloister.
After visiting the Main Plaza we continue to the residential districts of Yanahuara and Chilina, where you will have a magificent view of Arequipa's countryside and the Misti volcano.
Day 15: Thursday - Arequipa-Colca (B)
An early morning departure for a 2 day overland trip to the Colca Valley. We drive across Pampa Canahuas within the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, the habitat of herds of vicunas. Here you can admire beautiful pre-Columbian terraces where native Collaguas still work.
Day 16: Friday - Colca-Puno (B/L)
Another early departure, this time to 'Condors Cross', an observation point from where you can view these great Andean birds. An impressive panorama of the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world (3,000 mts/9,800 ft), awaits. Then it’s a departure overland across the altiplano to Puno.
Day 17: Saturday - Uros Islands (B/L)
Forget the bus today, enjoy a complete day of sailing in Titicaca Lake, the highest navigable lake in the world. We 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. We 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 hand weaving 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 18: Sunday - Puno – La Paz (B/L)
We travel from Puno by bus crossing the border into Bolivia, before continuing on to Copacabana where you visit the magnificent church and the Patron Virgin Mary of Bolivia. We'll depart Copacabana by motor boat to visit the sacred island of the Incas- Sun Island wheer we'll enjoy a picnic box lunch. Heer we visit some of the most important archaeological sites at the Sun Island - Pilkocaina, the Fountain and the Inca Staircase before our return to Copacabana.
From Copacabana, we continue by bus to the city of La Paz. On the way to La Paz, you will cross the strait of Tiquina, which is the narrowest part of the Titicaca Lake, dividing the small side (Wiñaymarka) and the big side (Chucuito). The drive goes though the high plateau reaching the first most important city of Bolivia, La Paz, in late afternoon.
Day 19: Monday - La Paz (B)
After a good night’s sleep, this morning you will get your bearings on a city tour, which includes the weird landscapes of the Moon Valley. You'll learn about the dubious history of Bolivia and enjoy the complete contrast of this busy city where ancient cultures sit side by side with modern skyscrapers and chaotic traffic of the new millennium. This afternoon you are free to browse through the many colourful markets near your hotel.
Day 20: Tuesday - La Paz-Buenos Aires (B)
An early start as we say ‘adios’ to the Andes and fly to Buenos Aires. On arrival we transfer to the hotel.
Day 21: Wednesday - Buenos Aires (B)
Our morning tour visits the most outstanding sites of Buenos Aires. Departing from the Hotel to get to 9 de Julio Ave. the widest in the world, we pass the famous Colon Opera house and the Obelisk commemorating the first founding of the city in 1536, to get to Plaza de Mayo (May Square), and the buildings surrounding it. Thes include: 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 it’s on to La Boca, a typical Italian district, where the first italian immigrants settled and ‘Caminito’ street. The tour continues to the Buenos Aires port area, past San Martín Square and towards the 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 Cementary where the famous are laid to rest (including Eva Peron) before returning to the hotel along the stylish Alvear Ave.
The afternoon is all yours to explore and/or relax.
Day 22: Thursday - Buenos Aires (B)
A day at your leisure to explore the city or perhaps visit a local estancia or a day trip across to Colonia, Uruguay.
Day 23: Friday - Buenos Aires-Iguazu (B)
First thing you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight to Iguazu.
Our first transfer is to the Argentine side of the falls. These falls defy description! Gasp at 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 multi coloured mist is natural beauty at its best. It is undoubtedly one of the world's most impressive sights – see the mighty Devils Throat.
We transfer across to the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguacu where you stay overnight.
Day 24: Saturday - Iguacu Falls – Rio de Janeiro (B)
This morning we visit the Brazil side of the falls for an amazing and very photogenic panoramic view of these magical falls before connecting to the airport for your flight to Rio de Janeiro.
On arrival we transfer to your hotel in Copacabana.
Day 25: Sunday - Rio de Janeiro (B)
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”. Stunning views from famous Sugar Loaf Mountain as we begin our sightseeing by local bus and gondola.
In the afternoon enjoy the cogwheel train straight up the mountainside to the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer (Corcovado) for even more stunning views.
Day 26: Monday - Rio de Janeiro (B)
A day to explore Rio in your own time. Today enjoy the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, and a ride on the local bus is not to be missed. Enjoy the scenery, the people, and the atmosphere. Browse through the famous Ipanema Hippie Fair and admire the Brazilian arts and crafts – maybe buy a bargain or two.
Day 27: Tuesday - Rio de Janeiro (B)
Time has flown by! Day 27 see you being transferred to the airport for your onward flight.
Dates & Prices:
Departures: Fridays - weekly
Prices Per Person US$ 3 Star 4 Star 5 Star
Double/twin $6995 $7700 $9100
Single room supplement $1950 $2575 $3500