Hike through the Amazon rainforest and sample fruit, chocolate and if you’re brave enough, tree worms in a local indigenous farming community. Whether you trek the classic Inca Trail, the Inca Quarry Trail or take the scenic train route, the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu are a majestic destination, no matter how you get there. Through a vast Andean valley lies the Colca Canyon, home to the mighty Andean condor. See these magnificent beasts go about their morning routines at sunrise. The floating islands of Uros on Lake Titicaca are a marvel of concept, construction and history. Take a boat tour on the lake and spend the night with a local family in a traditional island community
24 April 2018 – Due to an unexpected change on the bus schedule between San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) and Salta (Argentina), from the 5th of May 2018, this trip will spend one less night in San Pedro de Atacama and one extra night in Buenos Aires.
With a continent as huge as South America, and with as many incredible spots and sights to see across so many countries, it can be slightly overwhelming to narrow down the best of the best – but that’s exactly what’s been done for you on this trip leaving you free to focus on the most important part: enjoying yourself! Take in the best of Quito, the lush green of the Amazon Jungle, hike to the Inca splendour of Machu Picchu and puzzle over the Nazca Lines. See centuries-old Inca ruins around Cusco, tango the night away in Buenos Aires and lose yourself in Lima. Even seasoned travellers will find something new on this incredible South American journey that will tantalise and immerse you in the culture, sights and heart of this incredible place.
Welcome to Quito, Ecuador. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where the welcome meeting will take place. After this 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 (Church of the Society of 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.
Quito is an incredible city with loads to see and do, so a few extra days here before the trip is highly recommended. Optional activities and Urban Adventures (best booked ahead of time) include a half-day tour to the Equator Line, a full-day tour to the massive Otavalo Market, a Cotopaxi Volcano adventure, a guided Cloud Forest hike, or a day of relaxing at Papallacta Hot Springs. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.urbanadventures.com for more information and to book.
Amazon Lodge (Amazon Jungle)
Today will be an early start, as the group will be on the move by 7 am. Catch a local bus from Quito Central Station to Tena (approximately 5 hours). There’s no toilet on board, but the bus will stop for one toilet break during the journey. From Tena, travel by private vehicle to Misahualli and then by boat to your 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 chocolate dessert from scratch. With the help of the host, you’ll roast, grind and conch chocolate beans into your own chocolate sauce.
Amazon Lodge (Amazon Jungle)
In the morning after breakfast, travel by canoe for 45 minutes to the starting point of today's hike. The trek (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 inhabit this precious ecosystem. Throughout 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. After the walk, enjoy a packed lunch on the banks of the Arajuno River. Next you’ll have the opportunity to go tubing down the river. The water currents are not particularly strong however it’s part of our safety policy for all passengers to wear a life jacket if you wish to take part in this activity. The activity will last approximately 1 hour, you will then get back on board the Canoe 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!
Enjoy breakfast at around 7 am in the lodge. Afterwards, 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).
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. 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 Banos.
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; indeed UNESCO rate it on their list of things they love. 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 famous 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.
Meet up with your leader this morning and get to know Cuenca better with an orientation walk. Trundle along cobblestone streets and 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 – for the strong stomached only!). Otherwise, maybe get out of town to El Cajas National Park, home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Tonight you might want to get to bed early, in preparation for a very early start early tomorrow morning.
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 Umbes 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 with the group, perhaps saying farewell over a pisco sour and a delicious ceviche.
This morning, set out on a half-day walking tour of Lima's historical centre. Take in the ornate spectacle of the colonial mansions, palaces and churches that line the streets; choose to pay a visit to San Francisco Monastery and its catacombs; 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, perhap head out for dinner with the group.
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). The afternoon is free for you to explore the city on your own. In the evening, perhaps try some ceviche for dinner.
Head off at around 6 am travel by taxi or minivan to Lima's bus station and take 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 necessary. The small fishing town of Paracas is the gateway to the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve. 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 Maritime landscapes and desert. For some local food specialities back in town, head to the boulevard near the beach and try some tejas, which are small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits.
Islas Ballestas makes for a great (optional) day trip today. Here there will be lots of opportunities to see wildlife such as penguins, sea lions and flamingos from a speedboat. Later in the morning continue onto Nazca, which takes around three hours (it's likely there won't be any stops). Arrive in the early afternoon. The Nazca Lines are enormous designs inscribed into the desert. Who drew them, how and why is unknown, but most scientists believe the Nazca people created them about 2,000 years ago. Consider an optional scenic flight to see them from the air – this lasts 30 minutes and covers most of the 26 impressions (planes turn sharply from one side to another to facilitate viewing from both sides of the plane, so this is not for those with a weak stomach!)
Early afternoon, take a transfer to the bus station. Board a local bus to Arequipa, the bus ride is long (approximately 11 hours, with no stops). Lunch will be served on the bus, and later around dinner time there will be a small snack. Don't forget to pack plenty of water, snacks and perhaps a good book! Arrive into Arequipa around midnight and transfer to the hotel. Standing at the foot of El Misti volcano and exuding Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cusco for the title of Peru's most attractive city.