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. 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. The landscapes of Salar de Uyuni are so unique they’re almost extra-terrestrial. Embark on a three-day adventure via 4WD across the rocky Atacama Desert and the largest salt lakes in the world – passing cactus islands, train cemeteries and mineral lakes teeming with flamingos
2018 TRIP ITINERARY CHANGE – From January next year, the trip code and itinerary of this trip will change. Please see Grand South America (GGBWC) on our website
Get ready for the ultimate South American adventure on this journey from the Andean heights of Ecuador through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay until finally arriving in the vibrancy of Brazil. Explore the Amazon Jungle, trek the Inca Trail, take a 4×4 through the Salar de Uyuni, experience life on a working estancia and witness the mighty Iguazu Falls. Discover the rhythm of the samba, salsa and tango, get off the beaten track, visit diverse and amazing natural wonders and collect a lifetime of memories on this truly epic adventure. With plenty of free time and a do-it-yourself approach, this is the perfect way to explore South America.
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 it 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.
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 located 2,800 metres above sea level, where it’s common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender or fitness. Please refer to the ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ sections of the trip notes for important information about altitude sickness before and during your trip.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Shiripuno 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, which will take around five 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 introduce you to the local community and take you on a walk around the farm. 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.
Notes: Accommodation at the lodge is basic and it consists of a bed and linen. Bathroom facilities are shared and showers are refreshingly cold.
Shiripuno Lodge (Amazon Jungle)
In the morning after breakfast, travel by canoe for 45 minutes to the starting point of today's hike. The trek is relatively easy and, depending on the group’s pace, should take around three to four hours. 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 we'll eat 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, we will then get back on board the Canoe and travel back to the Amazon lodge (approximately 1.5 hrs ) Once we get back to the lodge we have time to shower and freshen up for dinner. After dinner we’ll head out on a night jungle walk!
Breakfast will be served at around 7 am today in the lodge. Afterwards, travel back to Tena the same way you arrived and then catch a local bus to Banos (approximately three hours). You should arrive into the city of Banos around midday, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Situated in a valley of waterfalls and hot springs, perhaps use your free time soaking in the city's natural baths or go for a hike to the powerful falls of Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron).
Today, you'll have 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 to 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.
Use your last morning in Banos to see anything you think you may have missed. In the afternoon venture back to Quito by local bus, which usually takes around five hours. You should expect to arrive at the hotel around 6 pm, with your evening then free. Freshen up and possibly head out for dinner in the city. Ceviche is the speciality in most seafood restaurants or you could even try the Ecuadorian street food star of roasted guinea pig.
Visit to Otavalo / Quito
Early this morning, head north out of Quito by local bus to the famous Otavalo Market (approximately 2-3 hours). This day trip will give you ample amounts of time to peruse Ecuador’s most important Indian markets. Villagers from the surrounding countryside descend on the town once a week to sell everything from handmade goods to livestock, fruit and vegetables. Pick up some souvenirs, practice your bargaining skills (halve the price then work your way up) and take plenty of colourful photos (ask for permission when necessary). Head back to Quito in the late afternoon for one last night in town. Perhaps venture out for a final dinner with the group and share your stories of the trip.
You'll need to book a flight from Quito to Lima for today (not included in the tour price). There will be a meeting at 6pm, so please allow enough time for this.
Welcome to Lima, Peru.
If you arrive early, perhaps take a walk around Miraflores and head from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to the entertainment complex of LarcoMar. Alternatively, stroll along to Parque del Amor (Love Park) for a great view of Lima's beaches.
This morning at around 9am your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre. 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. There will be time for you to go inside if you wish, however the entrance fee is not included in the tour price. The city tour will finish at around midday, you may choose to head out for lunch with the group. The afternoon is free to explore the city on your own. In the evening, possibly head to one of Lima's many seafood restaurants to try one of the nation's favourite dishes, ceviche.
This morning at around 6am travel by taxi or minivan to Lima's bus station and take a local bus to Paracas (approximately four 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. The tour also includes a visit to the Pre-Incan museum.
The area is also the birthplace of Peru's national drink, the Pisco Sour. For some local food specialities head to the boulevard near the beach and try some tejas, which are small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits. In the evening, experience the nightlife of Paracas.
This morning you can choose to visit the Islas Ballestas, which will be at an additional cost. There will be lots of opportunities to see wildlife such as penguins, sea lions and flamingos from a speedboat. The Ballestas are part of the Paracas National Reserve and sometimes known as the 'Galapagos of Peru' – so expect unspoiled coastlines, flourishing vegetation and wildlife such as pelicans and red-footed boobies.
Late 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. These enigmatic wonders are best seen from the air, as the area and inscriptions are so vast. For an additional cost, head up in a small four/six seat plane for a 30-minute flight over all 26 impressions. Planes turn sharply from one side to another to facilitate viewing from both sides of the plane. While plastic bags are provided on board, this flight is not recommended for those with a weak stomach. In the early evening, drive to your hotel for the night.
Notes: While it's impossible to guarantee the safety of air operations, your leader can only assist you to book this activity through companies Intrepid assesses are safer to fly with. Your leader is specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting booking this activity through any other operators.
Early afternoon, take a transfer to the bus station. Board a local bus to Arequipa, the bus ride is long (approximately 10 hours and there wont be any stops) Lunch will be served on the bus, later on around dinner time you'll be given 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 Cuzco for the title of Peru's most attractive city.