Welcome to Brazil! Upon arrival at Rio Airport you'll be met and transferred to our joining hotel. The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre tour accommodation. A welcome meeting will be held later this evening.
Overnight: Rio De Janeiro
Curitiba - Foz do Iguacu. After a free day in Curitiba, an overnight bus takes us through the rolling hills of Southern Brazil to the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguacu, our base for visiting the famous Iguazu Falls - the most magnificent waterfalls in the world.
Overnight: Overnight Bus | Breakfast
Arriving into Foz do Iguacu this morning we’ll get to see this impressive waterfall from both the Argentine and Brazilian side. In Brazil, board a speedboat that takes you right under the falls, whilst on the Argentinean side you’ll find the famous ‘Devil’s Throat’. Unlike most other waterfalls that have just one or two cataracts, at Iguazú there are 275 cataracts in a magnificent 3 kilometre long U shape that we will visit from both the Brazil and Argentinean sides.
Overnight: Foz do Iguacu | Breakfast x 1
Foz do Iguacu – Asuncion. Travelling through fertile land we reach Asuncion, Paraguay’s charming capital. Asunción sits on the banks of the Paraguay River and its duty free zone makes it an ideal shopping destination.
Overnight: Asuncion | Breakfast x 2
Asuncion – Ponta Pora. We travel across the Paraguayan pampas, where we might spot the South American rhea bird (a type of emu) as well as the typical cowboys, (gauchos) en route. After sorting out our immigration procedures, at Pedro Juan Caballero, which you'll soon realise is the same town as Ponta Porã in Brazil, there is no border as such! You simply cross the road from one country to the other whenever you like. Only the change of language will give you a hint as to which country you are in!
Overnight: Ponta Pora | Breakfast
Ponta Pora - Bonito. Leaving Paraguay behind us we travel to Bonito in the Sierra do Bodoquena mountains, famous for its caving and river activities. The following day is free to try some of the snorkelling activities in the lakes and rivers (optional). For those who prefer to stay on dry land, spectacular walks though the forest and mountains are on offer.
Overnight: Bonito | Breakfast x 2
Bonito – Pantanal. After a free morning in Bonito we make our way towards the fabulous Pantanal. We enter the Pantanal National Park for sightseeing in this fantastic region. The area is a huge wetland in the centre of South America and is truly a birdwatchers paradise but is also home to a multitude of other animals. Keep your eyes peeled and you may see giant river otters, anacondas, iguanas, jaguars, ocelots, cougars, crocodiles, marsh deer, armadillos, giant and lesser anteaters, black howler monkeys and zebu bulls, to name but a few!
We stay in the Miranda Province, deep in the Pantanal with our ranch being set on over 800 hectares of protected land. Where three different ecosystems meet, the area surrounding the lodge contains many natural water springs which help to sustain and nourish the surrounding flora and fauna. On nature walks, boat rides and 4WD excursions out in to the Pantanal, you might have the chance to see large land mammals like the maned wolf, giant anteater, pampas deer, white-lipped peccary, tapir, puma and more.
Overnight: Pantanal | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
Today in the park, we will go fishing for our lunch or take another walk through the surrounding area before crossing into Bolivia and catching an overnight train from Puerto Suarez to Santa Cruz.
Overnight: Overnight Train | Breakfast
Santa Cruz is Bolivia's most populous city, and produces over a third of the country's gross domestic product. It is an important business centre and is classed as one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Despite the city's rapid growth, Santa Cruz has managed to preserve much of its local traditions, culture and cuisine, and there are many interesting cultural institutions to visit, ranging from the Noel Kempff Mercado Natural History Museum to the Museum of Contemporary Art. The city's main square, Plaza 24 de Septiembre, is surrounded by attractive colonial-style buildings and is a nice play to enjoy a coffee and people-watch.
Overnight: Santa Cruz
From Santa Cruz we take a short flight to, the official capital of Bolivia. By law all buildings are painted white. Founded in 1538 it still has much of its colonial charm intact. The city is also famous for its warm and sunny climate. Don't miss a visit to the cathedral where you can see the jewel encrusted painting of Sucre's patron - the Virgin of Guadalupe. You have the option to visit the bustling Tarabuco market where ‘people watching’ is as interesting as the market itself. Try some of the cooked meals in the food market if you want to sample some of the locally grown hot chillies! Local indigenous people are famous for their multi-coloured textiles.
Overnight: Sucre | Breakfast x 3
Sucre – Potosi. A short journey along new roads brings us to the mining town of Potosí. The UNESCO-listed city of Potosi is home to one of the world’s longest continually operated silver mines. An optional excursion will give you the opportunity to descend down a working mine and witness archaic mining methods that are still practised today.
Overnight: Potosi | Breakfast x 1
Potosi – Uyuni. We continue to the world’s largest salt lake, Salar de Uyuni. Explore the stunning landscapes between the salt lake and Chile’s Atacama Desert by four wheel drive vehicle. The area’s unusual landscape of mountains, active volcanoes, colossal cacti and geysers is like nowhere on earth.
Overnight: Uyuni / Salar De Uyuni Region
Leaving this surreal terrain we head back to Uyuni and catch an overnight bus bound for La Paz.
Overnight: Overnight Bus
The highest city in the world, La Paz is built in the basin of a canyon with the snow-capped Mount Illimani in the background. Wander through the vibrant Indian street markets and the fascinating Witches’ Market or visit attractions further afield like the rock formations of Moon Valley or Coroico, the gateway to the Bolivian jungle region.
Overnight: La Paz
Puno – Lake Titicaca. Today we depart Puno for our overnight excursion. We visit the floating reed islands in the Bay of Puno to see the Uros islanders way of life and we will have the option to ride in a traditional reed boat before continuing our boat journey to the island of Amantaní. Unlike other islands in the area, Amantaní Island is not manmade or floating but is at high altitude. On arrival, we will be assigned local families to stay with, enjoying the hospitality of the local Aymara/Quechua families, sleeping in their homes, enjoying their food and learning about their way of life. We recommend you purchase gifts for the families at the port of Puno before leaving to offer to the families – they will greatly appreciate this gesture as it is often difficult and expensive for them to acquire goods from the mainland. There is limited/no electricity in the homestays and very basic bathroom facilities. We recommend charging your cameras in Puno.
Tonight you will have the chance to dress up in local costumes and take part in traditional dances and celebrations put on in your honoour on the island. You can also watch the sunset from the top of Amantaní Island for exceptional views and participate in football matches with the local children.
Overnight: Lake Titicaca | Lunch, Dinner
Lake Titicaca – Puno. Today we visit Taquile Island, where the men stand around knitting distinctive woollen hats while the women work the fields. You can buy some of these unique handicrafts in the local cooperative shops. After lunch we board our boat for the return journey to Puno
Overnight: Puno | Breakfast
Puno– Cuzco. Leaving Puno we first pass through the bustling town of Juliaca, before travelling along roads abundant with herds of llamas, alpacas and vicuñas until we reach the highest point, the La Raya pass at 4,321 metres. From here you can see the research station for high altitude animals, past hot mineral pools, snow capped mountains and through villages where the indigenous locals sell food, fur hats and alpaca sweaters. We arrive in legendary Cuzco, where your tour leader will take you on an orientation walking tour of this ancient Inca capital.
Cuzco – Amazon Jungle. Today we transfer to the airport for your flight to the jungle community of Puerto Maldonado, the starting point for our visit to the Amazon rainforest.
Arriving at the lodge located on the river’s edge, you will be allocated a bungalow all of which are built from local indigenous materials. Each room is sealed by meshed netting to keep out mosquitoes and other insects. All rooms have basic private bathroom facilities and in the evening the lodge and walkways are lit by oil lamps.
After lunch we will set off on a trek through the rainforest along wooden walk ways. On the way our guide will stop to show you various species of bird and explain the medicinal plants and delicate ecological systems of the Amazon Jungle. The scenery is extremely varied incorporating dense jungle as well as marsh areas. You will see incredibly big trees, several metres in diameter and around 450 years old. There is an opportunity to take a canoe ride drifting along one of the small lakes hidden away in the jungle, observing caiman and the abundant bird life. We then return to the lodge for dinner.
After an early breakfast on day 35 we hike deeper in to the jungle, enjoying the surroundings and exploring the delights and hidden wonders of the Amazon Rainforest. We may also catch a glimpse of the rare giant otter. Afterwards we will enjoy the view of the lake from our viewing point/observation platform, where you can experience the canopy wildlife such as parrots, guacamayos, toucans, camungos, shanshos, herons, turtles and caiman. We will return to the lodge for a well deserved lunch.
After lunch, we take a short boat trip across the Madre de Dios River to Monkey Island. On the way over you may spot caiman from the boat. Once on the island it is possible to see a great variety of monkeys such as the ‘maquisapa’, black and white ‘Martins’, ‘Leoncito de la Selva’ (Little Lions), ‘Frailes’ (Friars), ‘Achuñis’, ‘Ronsocos’ as well as an array of birdlife. In the evenings it is often possible to enjoy the wonderful sunset, one of the most impressive sights of the forest (weather permitting).
Overnight: Amazon | Breakfast x 1, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
On the final day in the Amazon we awake to the sounds of the jungle before departing this jungle haven and returning to Puerto Maldonado for our flight on to Cuzco, where we have the rest of the day free to explore this fascinating ancient capital. Those who are trekking to Machu Picchu either following the traditional Inca Trail Trek or the Lares Trek will have a briefing to prepare for the next few days and an early departure the following morning. More information on the treks can be found on our website under the highlights section.
Overnight: Cuzco | Breakfast x 1
Cuzco - Inca Trail. During your hike of the Inca Trail you will cross spectacular passes and visit more Inca ruins en-route to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. The trek begins after a short bus journey and the first day (day 9) is a relatively easy 4½ hour 13 kilometre walk which will get you limbered up for the highest pass at Warmiwañusca (4,200 metres) which you will reach before lunchtime on day 10 (and which translates to “Dead Woman's Pass”!). On day 11 you will cover approximately nine kilometres in about 5-7 hours and after the high pass it's all down hill as the trail winds its way along old Inca stairs to our campsite for the final night on the Inca Trail.
Overnight: Inca Trail (camping) | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 3, Dinner x 3
This morning, after an overnight stop at Wiñay-Wayna, you will rise early for the final walk to Machu Picchu and greet daybreak over the famous “Sun Gate”. There will then be time to explore on your own or simply take in the magnificence of the place after your guided tour.
The Lost City of Machu Picchu was originally completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs. Located high above the fast flowing Urubamba River, the cloud shrouded ruins have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all in a remarkable state of preservation that will simply take your breath away.
The ruins were only discovered by the outside world in 1911, when American explorer Hiram Bingham found them while looking for another “lost city” called Vilcabamba. Due to their isolation many of the buildings are still quite intact and you can't help but admire Huayna Picchu (“Young Mountain”), which towers above the ruins. After spending most of the day at Machu Picchu you have the chance to soak your tired muscles in the hot springs at Aguas Calientes or meander through the markets before returning to Cuzco by train.
Cuzco, which means ‘navel of the earth' in the Inca language of Quechua, has a mostly indigenous population of around 300,000 and is centred around the Plaza de Armas, which is dominated by the Cathedral and La Compañia de Jesus Church. Its cloistered arcades house many fine restaurants, bars and shops. Make the most of your free days in Cuzco to explore its amazing churches, colonial buildings and picturesque streets, many of which have Inca walls, arches and doorways. On a hill overlooking the city stands the ceremonial fortress of Sacsayhuaman, where some of the most spectacular Inca walls can be found, including a massive 130 ton stone. There are also many optional excursions and activities available such as white water rafting, horse riding, mountain biking and canoeing on offer.
Overnight: Cuzco | Breakfast x 1
Cuzco – Arequipa. After a short flight to Arequipa we have much of the day free to explore this beautiful colonial city. Arequipa has a lovely central plaza dominated by a large cathedral. There are some fantastic restaurants in Arequipa and it is possible to enjoy many Peruvian delicacies here. Besides the stimulating architecture, one of the the main attractions is the Santa Catalina Convent, which is almost a city in itself with its maze of cobbled streets, cloisters and decorative buildings. Don't miss the nuns' café for excellent freshly baked treats! Another popular attraction is the acclaimed Museo Santury (also known as the Museo Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria) which houses many well preserved mummies. The most famous of the mummies is Juanita, a young Inca maiden who was sacrificed around the year AD 1450 atop the Nevado Ampato volcano to appease the gods and ask for a good harvest. Juanita was sacrificed then frozen by snowfall at the top of the mountain, hence her nickname ‘ice princess’. She was rediscovered in the 1990s when ash from the volcano melted the snow around her.
Today we head to nearby Colca Canyon, the second deepest in the world. En route we travel into the high, barren Andean landscape, passing through ghost towns destroyed by earthquakes while learning about the local fauna and flora of the region. After checking in to our hotel in Chivay, we can go for a walk to the entrance of the canyon. Later in the day we may possibly visit the nearby hot springs for a relaxing soak.
Overnight: Colca Canyon
This morning we travel to the Cruz del Condor (Condor's Cross) lookout point in search of the giant condors soaring out of the canyon on thermal currents. Afterwards we walk along the canyon's edge and then stop for lunch on the way back to Arequipa. Later that day we travel by overnight bus to Nazca.
Overnight: Overnight Bus
Nazca, an oasis town is famous for the strange parallel lines and geometrical figures etched into the desert floor. Although there is a viewing tower, these strange designs can only be fully appreciated from the air. You can take a fascinating flight (optional) over the lines and shapes, which include a monkey, hummingbird, condor, spider and even a spaceman. The designs are thought to have been made by three different groups of people: the Paracas (900 -200 BC), the Nazca (200BC -600AD) and then new migrants from Ayacucho around 630AD. You can also take optional tours to visit the underground aqueducts, gold mines and ceramic shops. We'll have a chance to visit the extraordinary Chauchilla Cemetery where you can see the ancient mummies which still have skin and hair intact.
Next we head deep into the desert towards the Huacachina oasis where you have the chance to try your hand sand boarding down the enormous sand dunes, which is a lot of fun, but be careful, they are very steep! The brave can go for a dip in the murky lagoon, which is said to contain therapeutic properties.
We then travel to the Atlantic coast to the town of Pisco, from where the Peruvian national drink, the pisco sour gets its name. The following morning we move along the coast to neighbouring Paracas where we take a motorboat out to explore the Ballestas Islands. The islands, sometimes known as the ‘poor man's Galapagos', are teeming with over 150 species of bird life (including penguins, cormorants, boobies and pelicans). The islands are also home to thousands of sea lions and boast some amazing rock formations. Although it is not possible to set foot on the islands, you will experience the magnificent sight and sounds of the vast array of wildlife and maybe even spot seals and dolphins playing around the boat. Our boat trip also takes us past the mysterious Candelabra figure etched on the side of a mountain. Best viewed from the sea, many believe the Candelabra is linked to the Nazca Lines.
Departing Pisco - we head for our final stop, Lima. Lima was founded by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535 after he eradicated the Incas and made the city his capital. Lima has many fine colonial buildings and some of the best museums in South America including the Gold Museum, Museum of the Inquisition and the Catacombs below the San Francisco Church. Peru's capital has much to offer and many of the sights, including the city's two main squares the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin, are within easy walking distance The Plaza de Armas houses the Cathedral, Municipal Palace and Presidential Palace where the changing of the guard can be seen every day at 12 noon. There are also many markets in Lima, possibly the best being in the central district.
Our amazing cross continent holiday comes to an end today. Spend the day relaxing or hunting for souvenirs before taking your flight home.
Inca Trail , Lares Trek or Machu Picchu by Train
If you have always dreamed of trekking the Inca Trail you will need to book your trip in advance (4 months is ideal) as the number of Inca Trail permits is limited to 500 per day. Booking early gives us the best opportunity for securing one of these permits.
When booking your tour with us we'll need your full name as it appears in your passport, date of birth, nationality and passport number. With this information we can then apply for a permit.
If the Inca Trail is unavailable, you can opt to hike the Lares Trek. With its breathtaking passes, glacial lakes and hot springs, this less crowded option, which also ends with a full day’s visit to Machu Picchu, is thought to be equally if not more spectacular than the Inca Trail. Alternatively you could also choose to spend your time in Cuzco and take a day trip to Machu Pichhu by train.