Enjoy a night in a converted 16th century residence in Quito’s historical centre.. Explore Cuenca from a different perspective while taking a tour with a true Ceuncano, you will discover parts of Cuenca not many other travellers have the opportunity to see.. Experience the untouched world of the Amazon rainforest. Stroll along jungle trails on the lookout for monkeys, parrots, otters and caymans, and sleep in a nature lodge lit by candles and kerosene lamps.. Enjoy a 2 night feature stay in a restored Hacienda nearby Cotopaxi volcano. Hike through Cotopaxi National Park towards the volcano’s perfectly cone-shaped peak, looking out for wildlife along the way.
A continent of astounding natural beauty, vibrant culture and momentous history, South America never fails to enchant. Commencing the journey in atmospheric Quito, take in the breadth of Ecuador’s landscapes–lake-topped volcanoes, Andean highlands and hamlets hemmed in by forest–before crossing into Peru. Become acquainted with the cultural riches of Lima, then enter the wilds of the Amazon with a two-night stay in Puerto Maldonado. Be awed by the grandeur of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, meet the Uros people of Lake Titicaca and tour the Witches Market regular tourists miss with your expert local leader.
Welcome to Quito, Ecuador! Your tour will begin with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Quito is one of the most beautiful cities in South America, sitting at 2850 metres above sea level, beneath the snow capped Volcan Pichincha. As we don't spend much time in Quito during the trip, why not arrive early and make the most of your time here? You'll be taken on a guided tour of Old Town and some of the famous sites tomorrow, but perhaps you'd like to explore Cotopaxi National Park, home to the country's famous volcano, or visit the Papallacta hot springs just outside of Quito.
Notes: Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit including Quito, Lima and Cusco, some people can suffer altitude sickness regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please see the 'Fitness' sectionin the trip notes for detailed information.
This morning at approximately 9 am you'll set out on a city tour. In addition to your tour leader you'll be accompanied by a specialist Historian guide for the old town tour, who will provide you with an in-depth and unique perspective of this city and its rich colonial history. As well as visiting the popular sites of Quito, our expert guide will point out the otherwise unnoticed features and take you off the standard tourist trail to explore places not easily discoverable. First you'll explore Quito's Old Town with its countless churches, engrossing history and wonderful museums. Along the way you'll see La Compania de Jesus, the most beautiful church in the Americas, and Calle La Ronda, Quito's oldest street. Next, head north of the city for about 45 minutes to reach the Middle of the World monument, which was built by the French in the 17th century at the precise location of the equator. You'll enter the monument and then visit the local Inti Nan museum, where you can see different experiments to prove that you're at the Centre of the Earth. After visiting the Equator line you will make a quick stop at a local sorbet shop. 'Helados de paila’ a sorbet prepared in large copper pans (pailas) kept cool on a bed of straw and ice, into which fruit, sugar and water is stirred. You will observe a demonstration of how the sorbet is made. Following this, you’ll have the opportunity to try some! Later in the afternoon, travel past the Avenue of Volcanoes (approximately 2 hours) to a lodge in the Cotopaxi area. We will arrive around 5 pm and settle in for the night.
Today after breakfast at about 8 am you will travel approximately 2.5 hours (including a stop) to Quilotoa, a lake-filled dormant volcano. Although this stunning lagoon looks like a crater-lake, it's technically a caldera formed by the collapse of a volcano. Quilotoa is located at an altitude of 3900 metres. Be prepared with warm clothes as it can get quite cold! You'll have the option to hike down to the lake. The walk down hill takes approximately 40 minutes. The walk back up to the top can take up to 1.5 hours and is quite strenuous, mainly due to the sandy and steep path. Please speak to your leader if you're concerned about this as you may decide to stay at the top, go for a walk along the crater or simply relax and take in the stunning views. After exploring Quilotoa, drive back to the lodge (approximately 2.5 hours) You will get back to the lodge at about 4 pm, enjoy some free time before dinner.
This morning at about 8 am you'll depart the lodge and drive approximately 1 hour before reaching Cotopaxi National Park. Here you'll visit the highest active volcano on earth, Cotopaxi. Entering the park you are at an altitude of approximately 3600 metres above sea level. You will ascend a further 200 metres by car before reaching your destination, Limpiopungo lagoon. Soak in the incredible scenery of the area under formidable snow-capped peak. Keep an eye out for park wildlife, including condors, foxes, deer, spectacled bears, and more. You will spend approximately 1-2 hours in the National Park.
Your next destination is Banos. From Cotopaxi National Park the drive will take approximately 1.5 hours, including a stop. This town is a traveller's secret delight. It sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by green mountains, filled with waterfalls and hot springs. Arriving at approximately 4 pm you'll have some free time, perhaps head to the hot springs for a soak.
This morning at about 9 am you'll have an included visit to the Devil's Cauldron waterfall. The drive up to the waterfall is approximately 40 minutes. The walk to the waterfall takes approximately one hour each way, is reasonably easy and can be done at your own pace. Once you reach the waterfall, there's a platform that takes you quite close. It's quite popular to have a picture taken here and we do recommend doing so, however please make sure you bring a rain jacket or poncho and a waterproof case or water tight snap-lock bag to keep your camera dry and any valuables dry. Afterwards you will head back to Banos town, just in time for some lunch at your own leisure. Of course your tour leader will recommend some great places to eat. After lunch you'll drive approximately 30 minutes to Casa del Arbol, a treehouse on the edge of a canyon. Here on a clear day you will have views of Mt. Tungurahua, a nearby active volcano from its precarious perch. You'll head back down to Banos Town, arriving around 4 pm. This afternoon you'll have some free time. On weekdays, experience peace and tranquillity as you stroll through the town and its neighbouring hills. For those who like to get active, Banos also has plenty of adventure sports available.
Leaving Banos today at about 9 am, you'll head to Cuenca, widely considered the most beautiful city in Ecuador. The drive takes approximately 7-8 hours, (including stops) arriving in the late afternoon. Cuenca has an old-world ambience with historical streets, 16th- and 17th-century buildings, and a Cathedral erected by the Spanish in 1557. The area was conquered by the Inca well before Spanish times and was said to be so beautiful that it rivalled Peru's Cusco. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This morning starts at about 9 am with a visit to Ingapirca ruins, Located around 40 minutes to an hour away from Cuenca, Ingapirca are the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador. Wander around the site and see the famous Temple of the Sun before returning to Cuenca. Later in the afternoon, set off to discover Cuenca from a different perspective – Genaros! Genaros is a local 'Cuencano' whose passion for Cuenca’s history, art and architecture is contagious. Let him show you some of Cuenca’s main attractions, but also be prepared to witness a side of this town that not many travellers have the opportunity to see. The walking tour will go for around three hours. Later your leader will offer the group an optional visit to Turi viewpoint, where you will see spectacular views of Cuenca city.
Drive through the scenic Andean landscape to the Peruvian border. Catch a flight to Lima.On arrival at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport, you'll be transferred to your hotel in the well-known coastal suburb of Miraflores. Meet your Peruvian leader at 2 pm at the hotel. Make sure you have your details ready to pass on for this leg of the trip. The rest of the afternoon is yours to enjoy as you please. There will be a full city tour with any travellers who join your group tomorrow.
The morning is free for a leisurely breakfast or for you to explore on your own. At 2 pm, meet any newcomers from your group in the hotel lobby, then set off on a walking tour of downtown Lima with your leader. Flanked by streets of ornate mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of the city. 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. The Cathedral is closed on a Sunday, so we'll only see it from the outside. Visit the nearby San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains. Continue onto the Central market where you'll take a walking tour. The market has a huge variety of fresh produce on offer, including fruits, vegetables and even guinea pigs. You'll also have the opportunity to try some local Peruvian fruits and street food. Next head away from the tourist trail and visit ‘Alameda de Chabuca Granda’ an area really only known to locals, it is a place where people go as a treat to enjoy a variety local street food and authentic Peruvian desserts such as ‘Mazamorra Morada’ a sweet porridge made from purple corn or ‘Picarones’ Peruvian donuts made from local squash called Macre and sweet potatoes served with a sweet syrup, these are a must try whilst in Peru! The tour will finish in Lima main square, you may choose to stay in Down Town for dinner or take the included transfer back to Miraflores.
Puerto Maldonado (Amazon Jungle)
This morning starts nice an early with a transfer to Lima airport at approximately 5.30 am. Fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado today, which should take around three hours, including a 30-45 minute stop in Cusco (During this stop you will not disembark the plane). The flight will arrive into Puerto Maldonado airport just before midday. Take a short drive to the Lodge's office in town. Upon arrival at the Jungle lodge office you will be provided with a small duffle bag to pack your personal items required for the duration of your jungle stay. The remainder of your items will be stored securely in the office. From the office it's about an hour drive to the Port of Inferno. Leave civilisation behind and venture deep into the Amazon rainforest by motorised canoe, up river to your jungle lodge in the Madre de Dios region. During the boat journey you will be given a packed lunch provided by the lodge. Upon arrival at the lodge it's a 15-20 minute walk, you won't be required to carry your bags. Once you arrive there is time to unpack and unwind before a short orientation and briefing. After dinner your local jungle guide will take you out into the jungle on a night walk.
Puerto Maldonado (Amazon Jungle)
This morning starts nice and early. At about 4.30 am you will visit the Oxbow Lake. The activity begins with a walk through the jungle. It will take you approximately 30-40 minutes to reach the Lake. Once at the Lake you’ll board a catamaran to take a slow ride around. Keep your eyes peeled for Squirrel Monkey troops that sometimes forage in bushes at the edge of the lake. Overhead, spectacular Scarlet and Red and Green Macaws and parrots are a regularly seen as they fly over the Lake. After the boat ride you’ll take the same path back to the lodge, arriving late morning at approximately 11 am depending on the groups pace. Soon after you’ll head back out on a 20 minute walk through the rainforest to a clay lick frequented by 7 to 10 species of parrots and parakeets. While watching from a blind, you’ll be able to get very close to view the Dusky-headed and Cobalt-winged Parakeets, Chestnut-fronted Macaws with Mealy, Yellow-crowned, Blue-headed, and Orange-cheeked Parrots. After this you’ll walk back to the lodge for lunch. There will some free time until mid-afternoon when you’ll head out for the final activity of the day. A twenty minute boat ride downriver from the lodge brings you to Centro Nape, a traditional community clinic that produces medicines from rainforest plants and administers them to patients who either cannot afford to receive treatment in town or prefer traditional medicines An Eseeja nativa from the Community of Infierno will take you on a unique tour of Centro Nape to explain the uses of various medicinal plants. Head back to the lodge around 6 pm and enjoy some free time before dinner. After dinner head out on an optional night jungle walk.
This morning at about 8 am travel back to Puerto Maldonado before taking a short flight (approximately 35 minutes) to Cusco. The flight will arrive into Cusco at approximately 1.30 pm. After settling in at the hotel, embark on a casual walking tour around the hotel and Plaza de Armas with your tour leader. This tour will also include a visit to the Cusco Cathedral with specialist guide, Professor Alfredo Hinojoza Galvez. Alfredo was born and raised in the city of Cusco. He studied at the National College of Sciences of Cusco and later studied Administration and Tourism at National University San Antonio Abad del Cusco (NUSAAC), where he graduated in 1983. He then pursued a Masters in Colonial Art at NUSAAC. Alfredo has served as Dean of the College of Tourism and he has published eight books, including a guidebook for the Touristic Tour of the East Valley. Alfredo is considered an icon among colonial art and tourism students for his impressive career spanning 30 years. Alfredo will be uniquely placed to offer special insight into Cusco Cathedral, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Notes: Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit some people can suffer altitude sickness, regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please see the 'Is This Trip Right For You?' and 'Fitness' sections in the trip notes for detailed information.