Welcome to Ecuador! Upon arrival at Quito airport you will be met and transferred to our joining hotel. After arriving at our hotel consider heading out to explore the city on foot before our group welcome meeting later this evening. On arrival please ask at the reception for information on when the pre departure meeting will be held.
Quito - Otavalo. From the Amazon Jungle we head north to visit the famous market town of Otavalo and its surrounding area. Here you can visit Laguna Cuicocha, an extinct volcano famous for the deep lake in its crater. At certain times of the year you may be able to go for a short boat ride on the lake (optional). There are also nice walking trails around the lake. On the return from Cuicocha you could visit Cotacachi, where you can buy inexpensive leather goods. The market in Otavalo is a great place to stock up on souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. The local people of Otavalo, who come from their villages to sell livestock, produce and textiles are distinct in appearance. The men wear calf-length white trousers and sandals and have their long hair braided, while the women wear white frilly blouses, black skirts and have gold coloured jewellery twirled around their necks. It's a wonderful place to shop for all kinds of handicrafts.
Otavalo - Amazon. Descending into the steaming Amazon Jungle, the next three nights will be in thatch-roofed bungalows on the shoreline of the Arajuno River. The grounds surrounding the cabins have lots of native trees and flowers attracting hummingbirds and toucans.
Your local guide will take you trekking in the jungle, explaining the different birds and the incredible variety of plants and trees and their medicinal value. The terrain is dense jungle and marsh with giant ferns and flowers – a true wilderness.
You’ll also have a chance to meet and learn about the communities that live in the jungle which may include a visit to a local shaman, learning about the local crafts such as pottery and weaving, shooting arrows from a blow pipe and learning how they catch animals and fish. For a spot of relaxation enjoy the sounds of the jungle from a hammock back at lodge, or float down the river in an inflatable tube and take a swim to cool off.
Overnight: Amazon | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 3
Amazon - Banos. We continue by bus through spectacular scenery to Baños, a spa town famous for its hot thermal springs. Besides soaking in the pools, there are pathways to walk into the surrounding mountains and the chance to go horseback riding in the hills (optional). The less energetic can spend their time relaxing in cafés and shopping for souvenirs. Baños is the best place to buy beautifully painted balsa wood animals and try taffy, a local sweet.
Overnight: Banos | Breakfast x 1
Banos - Cuenca. We travel onto the old colonial market town of Cuenca (kwen -ca) - Ecuador's third largest city. Cuenca is the home of the Panama hat and you will have the chance to visit a factory. Cuenca's beautiful colonial air of cobblestone streets, open plazas and whitewashed buildings with ironwork balconies has earned it the UNESCO World Heritage Site status. You have the option to visit the celebrated Inca ruins of Ingapirca, the country's most important archaeological site. The fortress complex has a central platform where the Incas worshipped the sun. The Cañari people built the original structures and you can still see the place where these pre-Inca folk worshipped the moon.
Overnight: Cuenca | Breakfast x 1
Cuenca - Mancora. Departing Cuenca we head south, crossing into Peru at Tumbes where the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro first landed in 1532. You will have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the attractive coastal town of Máncora. This resort town has the unique characteristic to seem private and empty when relaxing on the beach, while brimming with people late into the night at the many nightclubs in town.
Overnight: Mancora | Breakfast x 1
Mancora - Huanchaco. Our next destination is Huanchaco where fishermen still ride the surf in reed boats. You have the opportunity to rent one of these boats for a paddle or race through the waves. From here we will visit the largest mud city in the world at Chan Chán, which was built by Chimú Kings, and we will also explore the Moche-built pyramids known as Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna (temples of the sun and moon). Don't miss the excellent Cassinelli Museum in Trujillo which houses one of the best private collections of pottery (including some interesting erotic pottery) as well as a mummified baby in a bell jar.
Welcome to Lima. The Peruvian capital boasts 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. Spend today and tomorrow exploring this exciting city on foot.
Lima - Pisco. After a leisurely morning in Lima, we travel down the coast to Pisco, from where the Peruvian national drink, the pisco sour gets its name. After a quick orientation walk we will relax with a drink in hand.
Pisco - Nazca. This morning we move along the coast to neighbouring Paracas where we take a motorboat out to explore the Ballestas Islands. The islands are teeming with over 150 species of bird life (including penguins, cormorants, boobies and pelicans), are 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 thousands of sea lions and birds and maybe even spot seals and dolphins playing around the boat. Our boat tour 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.
We head deep into the desert towards the Huacachina oasis where you have the chance to ride dune buggies down the enormous sand dunes or relax by the pool. It's a lot of fun, but be careful, the dunes are very steep! The brave can go for a dip in the murky lagoon which is said to have therapeutic properties.
Nazca - Arequipa. We continue to Nazca, an oasis town 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. In the evening we travel by luxury overnight bus to Arequipa.
Overnight: Overnight Bus
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, the main attraction 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!
Arequipa - Colca Canyon. Today we travel to Colca Canyon, said to be the 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 possibly visit the nearby hot springs for a relaxing soak.
Overnight: Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon - Arequipa. Early this morning 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.
Arequipa - Cuzco. After a short flight from Arequipa we arrive in legendary Cuzco, where you will be taken on an orientation walking tour of this ancient Inca capital. Before embarking on the Inca Trail Trek we will have a briefing to prepare for the next few days and an early departure today.
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
Inca Trail - Cuzco. After an overnight stop at Wiñay-Wayna, we 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.
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. If you are not participating in either trek then you will visit Machu Picchu by train and have plenty of free time to enjoy the activities available in and around Cuzco.
Due to a limited number of people being allowed on the trail a day, permits are limited and can sell out far in advance. If you wish to book the Inca Trail, please provide your Reservations Agent with your passport details by email as soon as possible so that we can secure your permit. Without your passport details, we are unable to arrange your Inca Trail Trek. Please click here for more information. For information on the Lares Trek, click here. If you are not participating in either trek then you will visit Machu Picchu by train and have plenty of free time to enjoy the activities available in and around Cuzco.
On day 13 a full day is spent visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Firstly we visit the Pisac ruins, perched on a hilltop with incredible views of the snow -capped mountains. We then go down to the famous traditional market of the same name, which is full of colour and atmosphere. A great place for souvenirs! After lunch, we continue along the valley to the temple/fortress of Ollantaytambo with its enormous Inca terracing constructed on the side of a steep mountain.
Overnight: Cuzco | Breakfast x 1
Cuzco - Amazon. On day 14 we are transferred to the airport for your flight to the jungle community of Puerto Maldonado, the starting point for our visit to the Amazon rainforest.
In Puerto Maldonado you can pick up any last minute drinks or snacks in the busy markets and shops. The first leg of our journey is by bus followed by motorised canoe, a 35 kilometre journey along the river (approx two hours total). The canoes are very safe and lifejackets are supplied.
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. Due to the remoteness of the lodge there is no hot water and drinking water should be purchased. There is also limited electricity so please charge any electrical equipment prior to your arrival. In the evening the lodge and walkways are lit by oil lamps. Other facilities include a welcoming reception area, dining room and bar facilities. All excursions are led by English speaking local guides providing plenty of opportunity to enjoy marvelous jungle landscapes and rich diversity of flora and fauna.
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). We then return to the lodge for dinner.
After an early breakfast 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 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. In the afternoon we visit the Gamitana River where you can try fishing or take a dip. (All excursions are weather permitting and itineraries may be changed slightly due to local conditions).
Overnight: Amazon | Breakfast x 1, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
Cuzco - Puno. Leaving Cuzco, we'll drive along roads abundant with herds of llamas, alpacas and vicuñas before reaching the Altiplano (high plain) where our journey takes us past hot mineral pools, snow capped mountains and through villages where the locals sell food, fur hats and alpaca sweaters. At the highest point, the La Raya pass at 4,321 metres, you can see the research station for high altitude animals.
The beautiful scenery is continual all the way to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which at 3,855 metres above sea level, is the highest navigable lake in the world. We'll arrive in time so you can visit the colourful local market.
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
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 - La Paz. Built on a series of hills and considered one of the world's most beautiful cities, La Paz was established in the basin of a canyon with the snow -capped Mount Illimani in the background. Our hotel is very centrally located and is just around the corner from the city's colourful indigenous street markets including the fascinating and suitably named "witches market'' where bowler hat wearing women in their flared skirts sell such items as dead cats and llamas foetuses said to ward off evil spirits. The main square, Plaza Murillo, is also within walking distance. The square still retains its colonial buildings including the Presidential Palace. La Paz is possibly the best place to experience a traditional peña show of Andean music and dance where local bands play time -honoured instruments such as zampoñas (pipes) and charangos (ukulele).
There are also many optional excursions available. You might like to visit the Moon Valley with its strange rock formations shaped by the weather. Another fantastic excursion is to the emerald green area of Coroico, the gateway to the Bolivian jungle region and a great place to see sub -tropical vegetation and plants. En route you will cross a 5,000 metre high pass before descending to 1,300 metres on narrow mountain roads bordered by sheer drops. The excursion to Coroico can also be done by mountain bike, as it is downhill nearly all the way and very exhilarating, but not for the fainthearted!
Overnight: La Paz
Our tour concludes today. Opt to extend your stay to further explore Bolivia's delightful capital.
Inca Trail , Lares Trek or Machu Pichhu 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.