Lima to Santiago - 21 days
Experience a different adventure every day with this unique journey through Peru, Bolivia and Chile. From the high Andes to the world’s driest desert, trekking the Inca Trail, exploring the mighty Amazon, Lake Titicaca and the phenomenal salt flats of Uyuni en route.
Welcome to Peru! Upon arrival at Lima Airport you'll be met and transferred to our joining hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. To get a feel for colonial Lima, take a cab to the Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the Palace Guard at noon. Walk the streets surrounding the Jiron de la Union for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to get a taste for life in a large South American city. Later this evening our group welcome meeting takes place.
Lima - The Amazon. Transfer to the airport for a flight to the jungle community of Puerto Maldonado, gateway to the Amazon. Once settled into our Amazon lodge, we will begin to explore the jungle, enjoying the rich landscapes and the diverse flora and fauna. We visit Monkey Island, home to a great variety of monkeys as well as an array of birdlife. You may spot caiman alligator from the boat and you can observe the abundant birdlife from our lakeside-viewing platform. Trekking through the rainforest our guide will point out the many different species of bird and explain the use of plants in local medicine.
Overnight: The Amazon (jungle lodge) | Breakfast x 1, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
Cuzco - Sacred Valley. Today we explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Firstly we visit the Pisac ruins, perched on a hilltop with incredible views of the surrounding 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.
If you are doing the Inca Trek to Machu Picchu, tonight you will stay in Ollantaytambo. If you are doing the Lares Trek or have opted to take the train to Machu Picchu, this afternoon, you will return to Cuzco where you will spend the night.
Overnight: Ollantaytambo | Breakfast
On day 6 we begin our trek. Spread over four days, the spectacular 44km Inca Trail Trek crosses three stunning high passes and encounters many ancient archaeological sites, culminating at the citadel of Machu Picchu. There are few treks in the world that combine natural beauty, history and mystery with such an awe-inspiring final destination. The trek begins after a short bus journey and the first day is a relatively easy 4½ hour 13 kilometre walk. The following day is the biggest challenge as we reach the highest pass at Warmiwañusca (4,200 metres) which translates to “Dead Woman's Pass”! You will cover approximately 9kms 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. On the third day of our trek we pass the ruins of Runkurakay, Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca, walking approximately 15 kilometres in seven hours.
For information on the Lares Trek including what meals are included see the Trip Notes. 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. Meals are not provided during the time spent in Cuzco.
Overnight: Inca Trail (camping) | Breakfast x 3, Lunch x 3, Dinner x 3
Machu Picchu - Cuzco. On the last morning of the Inca Trail Trek, 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 our guided tour. 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. After spending most of the day at Machu Picchu we have the chance to meander through the markets before enjoying a scenic train ride back to the Sacred Valley where our transfer to Cuzco will be waiting.
Overnight: Cuzco | Breakfast
Cuzco - Puno. On day 11 we take the scenic journey 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.
The next morning we enjoy a full day excursion on Lake Titicaca. We visit the floating Uros islands in the Bay of Puno, which are constructed by the islanders using reeds that grow in the shallow waters of the bay. You will get to meet the families who live on these islands, learning about their way of life before we continue our journey to the island of Taquile. Taquile is well known for its tradition of intricate textiles and clothing knitted by the male locals. There's the option to have a lunch made of local produce before returning to Puno.
Overnight: Puno | Breakfast x 2
Puno - La Paz. On day 13 we leave Peru and travel on to La Paz in Bolivia. Built in a steep valley that protects the city from the harsh elements of the Altiplano, just about every building in La Paz is built on some sort of hill, so sightseeing will literally take your breath away! We have two days to explore La Paz and our hotel is very centrally located, just around the corner from the city's colourful indigenous street markets including the fascinating and suitably named "Witches Market'' where local women in traditional 'Cholita' dress 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.
Overnight: La Paz | Breakfast x 2
La Paz - Uyuni. We fly from La Paz to Uyuni on day 15. The next morning we embark on an exhilarating three day 4WD tour to explore the Salar de Uyuni and the striking landscapes that surround it. First on the agenda is a visit to the Train Cemetery, where you can see the remains of 19th and early 20th century steam locomotives and Colchani, the main plant for the iodisation of salt and the best place to observe the methods of salt extraction from the salar.
From Colchani we drive onto the salt flats themselves. Claimed to be the largest salt flat in the world, the brilliant white vast Salar de Uyuní, which covers some 10,500 square kilometres and is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt. The highlight of the day is Fish Island (seasonal dependent). Located in the centre of the Salar, 100kms from Uyuní, this hilly outpost is covered in giant cacti amid a flat, white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. The island is so named because it has the shape of a fish. The otherworldly views from Fish Island will take your breath away, with the brilliant blue sky (weather permitting of course) contrasting with the pure white of the salt flats.
Overnight: Uyuni (hostel) | Breakfast x 1, Lunch x 1, Dinner x 1
We continue south on our epic 4WD expedition, into some of the most remote areas of the Bolivian Altiplano. You will see a variety of dramatic landscapes including smoking volcanoes, barren deserts and gravity-defying rock formations carved by the wind. In this incredibly empty landscape you'll most likely feel the furthest from civilisation you've ever been. We visit the Laguna Colorada, which offers some truly breathtaking scenery, with several varieties of flamingos gathering in the shallow waters of the beautiful crimson lagoon.
Overnight: Laguna Colorada | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Laguna Colorada – San Pedro de Atacama. Leaving Laguna Colorada we visit the volcanic zone ‘Sol de Manana' (Morning Sun) at 4,850 metres above sea level. Here you'll discover a geyser basin with bubbling mud pots, hellish fumaroles and a thick aroma of sulphur fumes. Inside a small crater we will observe boiling lava and we will also stop at hot springs where you can bathe. Crossing a 5,000 metre pass we come to Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) rich in lead, sulphur and calcium carbonate and shadowed by the cone of the Licancabur Volcano.
Continuing on we will cross into Chile and come to San Pedro de Atacama for the next 3 nights - the world's driest desert. The area is famous for its lunar landscapes, geysers, salt flats and hot springs. There is an excellent archaeological museum at San Pedro de Atacama, housing a good selection of mummies and other ancient artefacts. Here we have the included visit to the eerie eroded salt mountains of the Valley of the Moon.
Overnight: San Pedro de Atacama | Breakfast x 2
San Pedro de Atacama - Santiago. We fly to the sprawling metropolis of Santiago today, where you are free to explore this cosmopolitan city at your own pace. For the best views of the city, take a funicular railway to the top of San Cristobal where the Statue of the Virgin overlooks the capital and the distant Andes. Here you can taste some of Chile's best wines and find some beautifully situated swimming pools. Santiago is a very clean, modern city with many fountains and parks, and is well-renowned for its markets such as the famous Mercado Central, one of the best seafood markets in the world. In the Plaza Constitución at the Palacio de la Moneda you can see the changing of the guard on most days.
Our adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.
Prices & Dates
Depart from Santiago
Extra Tour Info
We had a great time and it helped that the group got along so well. Our Guide Christian was well organised, reliable and liked by everyone. He was super efficient in getting us to our various destinations on time. He also knew lots of excellent restaurants so we were always sure of good meals. He managed to get the balance right between being very much part of the group but also standing back as well.
The various guides (Inca, Uyuni) were all very professional and friendly, in particular Sante (Inca). The drivers were also reliable. The only negative comments are regarding the hotel in La Paz and the dormitory on the last night in the desert before crossing from Bolivia to Chile. These were below the standards of the rest of the accommodation. I can be more forgiving of the dormitory but I think a better hotel could have been chosen in La Paz.”