On this complete panorama of South America we combine the cultural highlights with time in the Amazon jungle and a spectacular day walks in the Andes. Exploring the cultural dimensions of our journey we travel from Buenos Aires, the vibrant Paris of South America, and the magnificent Iguazu Falls to Lima. We continue onto Cusco, with its endearing Inca and Spanish heritage and La Paz with its colourful markets and live music clubs. By contrast, the more active stages of the program will provide further enduring memories. In the rainforest of the Amazon jungle, we undertake gentle canoe trips in search of the prolific birdlife, while in the Andes we trek on ancient pathways. In the company of our experienced guides we follow sections of what were once ancient Inca Trails past traditional villages before finally ascending to the cloud forest to join the last section of the legendary Inca Trail into Machu Picchu.
Experience impressive Buenos Aires – the ‘Paris’ of South America
Marvel at the breathtaking waterfalls of Iguazu Falls
Day Walks a long beautiful Inca pathways in the Sacred Valley
Walk the last day of the classic Inca Trail KM104
Visit the incomparable Machu Picchu on two occasions
Take in the spectacular, historic cities of Cusco and Lima
Explore Lake Titicaca and La Paz
Arrive Buenos Aires (Argentina)
If you are arriving on day one of the trip, you will be met at the airport and transferred to the group hotel in the centre of the city. Otherwise please make your way to the hotel listed on your final itinerary – our pre-departure information provides details on travelling to the city from the airport.
Today we undertake a 4-hour sightseeing tour in Buenos Aires. Dependent on the flight schedule of all group members the sightseeing tour starts in the morning or early afternoon (latest at 1pm). The exact time will be advised in your travel voucher. We will be visiting the main points of interest in the city, such as the 9 de Julio Avenue, the widest on Earth, driving down this avenue past the famous opera house, the Colon Theatre and the Obelisk, a symbol of Buenos Aires, the Plaza de Mayo (May Square), in the historic heart of Buenos Aires which is surrounded by some of the oldest and most important buildings: The Casa Rosada (Pink House), where the government's executive branch is housed, the historical Cabildo and the Metropolitan Cathedral, where inside lies the remains of the General José de San Martín. We will also visit La Boca, a typically Italian neighbourhood, with its colourful houses and the famous Caminito walkway, a museum of Arts in the open air. If time allows, we will continue to the modern Puerto Madero neighbourhood with its former port warehouses, now turned into offices, apartments and restaurants. Our city tour continues to the elegant district of Recoleta to visit Recoleta Cemetery and the tomb of the famous Eva Peron. We return to the hotel along the elegant Alvear Avenue.
Overnight Hotel NH Florida or similar.
Please note: Buenos Aires introduces a new hotel tax for foreign tourist from 1st March 2020. All international travellers aged 12 or above, will need to pay the tax upon arrival at the hotel (approx. US$ 0.50 – 1.50 per person per night).
Fly To Iguazu Falls
Today we leave early for the domestic airport to take the first flight in the morning to Iguazu Falls (Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport, Argentinean side of the Iguazu Falls), set in lush rainforest on the border of Argentina and Brazil. The flight needs to arrive no later than 11am to have sufficient time to enjoy the Argentinean side of the Falls (please ask us which flight to book if we are not organising your flights). Though not the highest or largest falls in the world, they are very spectacular. The area contains more than twenty-five different cataracts – some small, some absolutely massive. The largest of all is the Boca or Garganta del Diablo. In the afternoon we will enjoy a guided tour of the falls on the Argentinean side.
Overnight at Iguazu (Argentinean side of the Falls, Mercure Iguazu or similar).
Please note: Due to the early departure today, breakfast options at the group hotel are limited, however a basic breakfast will be provided (tea/coffee & sandwich).
*All passengers with accommodation in the city of Puerto Iguazu must pay a Municipal Tax. This tax is collected in pesos by your hotel at check-in (approx USD$2 per person per night). The hotel will provide a receipt and this should be carried with you to avoid being charged again if visiting the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls.
Iguazu Falls And Fly To Lima
During the morning you have free time before we will take a tour of the Brazilian side of the falls in the early afternoon. Following the tour, we will be transferred to the airport on the Brazilian side of the falls for our onward flight to Lima. You will be met at Lima airport and transferred to the hotel which is well located in the suburb of Miraflores.
In Lima - City Tour
This morning we will be taken on a guided tour of the city, founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. It has a superb combination of Spanish Colonial and 19th century European architecture. Explore Lima’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, packed with fascinating historic buildings. The route begins at the traditional Pueblo Libre district, where you visit the Larco Museum, located in a beautifully restored viceregal mansion built on a pre-Columbian pyramid from the seventh century. The museum boasts a complete pre-Hispanic collection of gold and silver objects, as well as pieces of erotic art. Then visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to one of his captains, Jeronimo de Aliaga. This is the only house from that time, still belonging to the same family. Continue with a scenic tour through the colonial downtown. See the Main Square, where you can appreciate the grandiose architecture of the Spanish Empire. Admire Lima’s Cathedral, built during the 16th century. We return to our hotel in the afternoon.The rest of the day will be at leisure giving you time to rest in the hotel or just wander around Miraflores, the area of Lima where our hotel is located. Some of Lima's best galleries, shops and restaurants are found in this area.
NOTE: This evening, please be sure to re-pack your luggage for the jungle. Dependent on your accommodation in the jungle the luggage policy differs. Please see pre-departure information (under 'luggage') for more details. You will also be advised on arrival in Lima on the applicable luggage regulations.
Fly To Puerto Maldonado – Jungle Lodge
We transfer to the airport for a flight to Puerto Maldonado in south-eastern Peru near the border with Bolivia. On arrival you will be met at the airport and taken to the office of the lodge to leave our main bags to be stored for our return. We continue to the river wharf where we board a 30-40 foot open launch for a short river journey to one of our lodges. During this journey which can take between 45 minutes and 2 hours (depending upon the lodge and availability) we can relax and watch the river bank and jungle canopy for the particularly abundant bird life in this region. Among the birds we may expect to see (dependent on weather and river height) are horned screamers, raptors, plovers, terns, macaws, parrots, kingfishers and toucans. Depending on the lodge you are staying at, you may walk for approximately 1 hour to Lake Sandoval and take a canoe for a 25 minute journey on the lake before you arrive at your lodge in the middle of the jungle. The lodges we use are beautifully positioned and apart from being our jungle home, they also serve as a base for naturalists to work from. The rainforest (both pristine primary and secondary growth forest) surrounding the lodges are a naturalist's paradise. During the remainder of the day we go for walks with our naturalist guide along forest trails. After dinner we get a chance to relax and discuss with resident naturalists the research projects taking place in the area. Serenaded by a chorus of jungle noises we go to sleep in our comfortable bedroom.
NOTE: It is important to be aware that the lodges are comfortable but basic - only some of the lodges have electricity or hot water for a few hours a day. Please note that due to demand it is sometimes necessary to use an alternative lodge in this area. While staying at the jungle lodge you may be with other people from other operators worldwide in a group.
The day is spent enjoying jungle walks to find monkeys and capybaras and also taking canoes out on to some of the jungle lagoons in the area. There is a particularly abundant bird life - including anhinga, hoatzin, horned screamers, raptors, plovers, terns, macaws, parrots, kingfishers and toucans. We can almost guarantee we will see lots of monkey including troops of capuchin, dusky titi, spider & howler, plus possibility of seeing large caymans and giant river otter. Before the evening meal we head out for a short river trip using torches to look for caymans - this always proves to be exciting.
PLEASE NOTE: The program may vary according to flight schedules, weather, river height, group sizes, etc and participants should be aware there is no guarantee of seeing specific animals or birds and in general you may not see much wildlife since the rainforest provides such good camouflage for its inhabitants - but you will have a good chance to experience true Amazon rainforest first hand.
Early morning departure after breakfast for the downriver trip to Puerto Maldonado and the short flight back to Cusco 11,200' (3,400m), arriving there around midday. You’ll be met at the airport and transferred from Cusco airport to our hotel located in the historic centre where you will have some time to explore the city and also enjoy a few hours of rest, essential to initiate successful acclimatisation to the altitude. In the evening you will meet with your guide around 6pm at your hotel for an initial trip briefing.
Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Cathedral or similar.
Tour Of Cusco And The Nearby Ruins
Today we have a guided tour of Cusco and its nearby ruins. The city, once capital of the extensive Inca Empire, has seen many changes since Francisco Pizarro's men took the city with such apparent ease in November 1533. The tour starts with a visit to Santo Domingo Convent, a large Renaissance-baroque complex, which was built over the Inca Coricancha temple. It was one of the most important temples dedicated to worshipping of the sun, and its foundations are still prominent at the base of the convent. Ancient chronicles say the temple was covered in gold leaf and filled with golden representations of nature. Then, visit the Cathedral, the most famous monument of the Main Square. Head to the hills above Cusco to visit the remains of the fortress of Sacsayhuaman. The impressive ramparts offer a stunning panoramic view of Cusco, and the ruins of the temple and amphitheatre of Qenqo, where it is believed the Incas practised agricultural rituals. Admire Qenqo and then finally visit Puka Pukara (‘Red fortress’ in Quechua), an Inca military complex located on a prominent hill. Its dwellings, squares, bathrooms, aqueducts, walls, and towers can still be appreciated. Afterwards, we return to our hotel. In the afternoon you may have time to explore some of the central parts of the city and have a chance to look at some of the great varieties of local craft work on sale in open-air artisan markets and shops.
Overnight: Casa Andina Standard Cathedral or similar.
Drive And Walk Down Into The Sacred Valley Of The Incas
We leave Cusco and head to the Chinchero Plateau to explore Chinchero, an important town in Inca times. The most striking remnant of this period is the massive stone wall in the main plaza which has ten trapezoidal niches. There are beautiful views overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with the Cordillera Vilcabamba and the snow-capped peak of Salcantay dominating the western horizon. Chinchero is believed to be the mythical birthplace of the rainbow. Next we visit the mysterious concentric circular terraces of Moray which, according to some scholars, could have been an agricultural research centre. From here we head to the salt mines of Maras. This village is a salt-producing centre that dates back all the way to pre-Inca times. There are thousands of salt pools all carved into the mountain side. Due to a change in regulations, visitors are not allowed to walk through the salt mine anymore to avoid contamination of the salt. We will go to a lookout point from where we have stunning views of the salt pools. From here we will walk for about 1 hour mainly downhill to Pichingoto. Enjoy this rarely walked path and soak up the incredible setting of the Sacred Valley. Our car will be waiting for us in Pichingoto and we drive to our hotel in Ollantaytambo. The rest of the afternoon is free to relax and enjoy the beauty of this famous town.
Overnight: Tika Wasi Hotel or similar.
Second Day In The Sacred Valley Of The Incas
Today we enjoy another day in the beautiful Sacred Valley with a tour of Ollantaytambo. During our time in Ollantaytambo we visit its remarkable temple/fortress set high on a ridge above the village. We also explore the quaint village itself with a fascinating mixture of Inca and Colonial architecture. This afternoon we have a another short briefing with our guide at our hotel and prepare for the day walks ahead.
Overnight: Tika Wasi Hotel or similar.
Patacancha, Huilloq, Pumamarca Hike To Ollantaytambo
An early morning departure awaits us for a beautiful 90 minute drive to the trailhead at Patacancha (3750m) from where we start our trek. If it’s market day, we will have a chance to try the local produce before we commence our walk. We follow the course of the small Patacancha River to Huilloq (3520m), a traditional Andean Village that keeps its original way of living. People in this village wear their traditional clothes every day and not just for special occasions, they live in their original houses and their traditions are still part of the everyday life in this community. Here we will have the opportunity to attend a weaving demonstration and to learn more about the technique, preparation of the materials and how natural dye and raw materials are used. We will also visit some of the classrooms at the local high school built by the World Expeditions Foundation almost 10 years ago. We then continue our hike down through steep fields offering us the chance to see how traditional methods of farming still continue to this day. After a 2 hour walk we will arrive at Pumamarca, an archaeological site in the Sacred Valley. We have time to explore this impressive Inca site made of many well built stone and adobe-brick walls and extensive terracing. The nature around us is beautiful and the views are superb. This is also a great place for our box lunch and we enjoy the mountain scenery and pure air of the Andes. After lunch we continue our hike down to Ollantaytambo, passing more Incas terraces and agricultural fields. This hike will take as approximately 2 hours until we arrive back in Ollantaytambo town.
Overnight: Tika Wasi Hotel or similar. Walking time approximately 4 hours.
PLEASE NOTE: This trail is beautiful and should not be mixed up with the Classic Inca Trail. This ancient and classic Inca pathway is less arduous and at a lower altitude than the traditional Inca Trail.
Ollantaytambo To Cachiccata Quarry Hike
Early in the morning you will be picked up from your hotel for your spectacular day hike to the lytic workshop and quarry of Ollantaytambo. Our hike will begin at the Inca Bridge at the Vilcanota River. We are going up an old Inca path through terraces and tombs until we reach the base of one of the most important mountains of the area, the Apu Buena Negra, a granite geological formation. After a couple of hours of fairly gentle hiking with terrific views across to the great Inca fortress and citadel of Ollantaytambo, we end up at the quarry of Cachiccata (2700m). It was this quarry from where the Incas used to get material to build the Ollantaytambo fortress. On our way up, we will follow the very same path that was used by the Incas to move massive rocks of several tons down to the fortress of Ollantaytambo. From the quarry we will have an impressive view of Veronica Mountain, one of the most important in the Urubamba range, the Pakaritampu Pyramid and the town of Ollantaytambo and its fortress. We will enjoy our packed lunch here before following another Inca path down to the community of Cachiccata. On our descent we can admire breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley and its beautiful typical little houses, corn fields and rivers. The houses in the community of Chachiccata were built on stone foundations, using adobes (mud bricks) and all have roofs made of straw. From here we will be transferred back by car to our comfortable hotel in Ollantaytambo.
Overnight: Tika Wasi Hotel or similar. Walking time approximately 5-6 hours.
Cachiccata To Piscacucho Hike
Today we will have another early start. After breakfast we will drive to Rumira from where we start our hike. Our spectacular walk follows the left bank of the Urubamba River as we descent further into the Sacred Valley. During the day we get some of the best views of snow peaks in this part of southern Peru, including views of the classic peak of Veronica at 5990 metres. After enjoying our packed lunch along the way, we continue our walk to Piscacucho where the traditional Classic Inca Trail starts. We won’t join other trekkers on the Classic Inca Trail today but we can feel the excitement for our next day when we hike the last section of this iconic trek. Form Piscacucho we will be transferred back to our hotel in Ollantaytambo.
Overnight: Tika Wasi Hotel or similar. Walking time approximately 4-5 hours.
Train To Km 104 Inca Trail, Arrive At Aguas Calientes
After an early breakfast we will take the train from Ollantaytambo to KM104 (2150m). This is an impressive one hour train journey with stunning views of the Sacred Valley and surrounding mountains. At KM104 we will join the very popular last section of the legendary Inca Trail - an opportunity to exchange tales with lots of other trekkers! Below us are laid out the great forest-covered peaks and deep dark valleys - the setting of our goal, Machu Picchu (2430m). On the way we'll take time out to explore the recently cleared extensive ruins of Wiñay Wayna (2600m), before covering the last few miles to finally reach Inti Punku (The Gateway to the Sun) awe-inspiringly set above the 'lost city' of Machu Picchu. Your first view of the ruins really does take your breath away! After a brief 'first look' at the ruins, we take a 30 minute bus journey down to our hotel in Aguas Calientes (2350m) for a well deserved soak in the nearby hot springs (optional).
Overnight: El Mapi or similar. Walking approx 6 hours.
*Important: Please be aware that, because of the Peruvian authorities' new rules on the Inca Trail, there may be changes in the actual trek itinerary. Peruvian authorities have implemented entry restrictions to protect Machu Picchu from the impact of its immense popularity. As of 1st July 2017 there are three time slots in which patrons can enter Machu Picchu for a maximum of four hours and must follow one of three predetermined routes. Admission is not allowed after 4pm. Additionally, all visitors must be accompanied by a guide at all times. These changes have been made to improve the visitor experience and in an effort to deal with overcrowding. World Expeditions endeavours to ensure you get the most of your Machu Picchu experience regardless of these restrictions.
Explore Machu Picchu And Return To Cusco
Today we start early to explore these remarkable and truly enigmatic ruins. In the afternoon or early evening we depart from Machu Picchu for the train ride back to Ollantaytambo where we transfer to our vehicle for the drive back to Cusco. Here we transfer to our hotel for two nights. NB - depending on train schedules, we may arrive into Cusco very late at night.
OPTIONAL HUAYNA PICCHU CLIMB OR MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN CLIMB - For the adventurous, you can purchase a permit for Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain climb (ask for costs) and forego the guided tour of Machu Picchu, which is non-refundable and non-transferable. Both climbs are steep, slippery, and exposed with vertiginous drops. Huayna Picchu has narrow trails and reaches 2,963m, while Machu Picchu Mountain has a wider path and reaches 3,082m. The climbs are not guided and takes a minimum of 3 hours return. Before purchasing the non-refundable and non-transferable permit, passengers must sign a waiver form. There are limited Huayna Picchu permits available and they sell out quickly, so contact us as soon as possible if interested.
Cusco - Free Day
A good day to relax, do your washing and re pack after the time in the Sacred Valley and perhaps a chance to do some 'tourist shopping', selecting from a great variety of expertly made craft work - including alpaca sweaters and hats, ceramics, weavings and traditional Andean instruments. In the evening we prepare for the next stage of our journey through the Andes.
Overnight: Casa Andina Standard or similar.
To Puno And Lake Titicaca
We depart early in the morning for the 8 to 10 hour journey by first class public bus to Puno, set on the shores of Lake Titicaca at 12,630' (3,820m). The road takes us through the wonderful Andes scenery. First, we stop in Andahuaylillas, a town located 40 kilometres from Cusco with the Church of Andahuaylillas as the main attraction. The church is nicknamed the ‘Sistine Chapel of America’, due to its impressive art inside. After this, we stop in Checacupe, a beautiful town known for its hanging bridges and rock bridges. We continue the route to Racchi, where the Wiracocha Temple is located, a surprising 30-meters wide by 20-meters high construction of rectangular shape. Enjoy a tasty box lunch in Sicuani, followed by a brief stop in La Raya, the highest point between Puno and Cusco, over 4,313 metres above sea level. In the afternoon we arrive at the town of Pucara, where the Pucara Lithic Museum is located. Developed between the years 100 and 300 AC, this town was the first proper urban settlement of the lacustrine highlands. Finally, arrive in the city of Puno. Our first glimpses of lake Titicaca reminds us that this is hardly a lake - its more like a vast inland sea that also happens to be the highest navigable lake in the world! We spend our night at our hotel in Puno.
Overnight: Hotel in Puno.
Lake Titicaca - The Uros Islands
Puno is a typical high Andean town, set on the shores of the lake and located on the great altiplano that stretches all the way to La Paz. There will be an opportunity to cruise Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world – and visit some of the unique floating 'tortora' reed islands of the Uros Indians. We will share the boat cruise with other travellers but have our own guide on board. The afternoon is free to relax in Puno and explore its streets and markets.
Drive From Puno To Copacabana
Drive around the lake and across the border into Bolivia to the town of Copacabana - beautifully situated on the shores of the lake. We have an opportunity to savour the delicious Lake Titicaca trout. We have the rest of the day at leisure to explore this small interesting lakeside town or to walk to the top of the great hill above the city that is the destination of many pilgrims from all over Bolivia. We spend the night in an hotel that has great views across the lake.
Drive From Copacabana To La Paz
After breakfast we take a 4 to 5 hours drive via the straits of Tiquina - the narrowest and also by coincidence the deepest part of Lake Titicaca - and on across the immense Bolivian altiplano to its biggest city, La Paz - at 12,800' (3,900m) the highest 'capital' city in the world.
Overnight: Hotel La Paz
Morning Walking Tour Of The City Of La Paz
We spend the morning in this fascinating city visiting its many local and tourist markets and one of its museums. The City of La Paz and its surroundings can transport you to a mysterious past where any corner, any street, is a hidden treasure where adventure begins; a living history which treasures the Pre-Hispanic times with all their traditions and magic rites on its streets. The indigenous, colonial and modern areas, Indian Market, Witch Doctor's Market & breathtaking panoramas are all framed by the majestic "Illimani" mountain. We will also visit the museum of Gold. The afternoon is free for you to explore the city. On the last evening we suggest visiting one of the superb 'peñas', live music clubs to watch a variety of excellent bands and soloists playing the magical traditional Andean instruments. La Paz has a reputation as the centre of Andean traditional music.
Overnight: Hotel La Paz
Drive To La Paz Airport, Trip Concludes
After checking out of your hotel you will be transferred to La Paz airport where our services end.
21 nights hotel/lodge
Most of the hotels and lodges we use can be described as 3 star accommodation, some of them are categorised as 4 stars. In smaller towns and villages hotel options are often limited and we might have to use more basic accommodation with a lower or without star rating. Please note that the star rating in South America is very fluid and can’t be compared to a western standard star rating, however you can be assured of clean, comfortable and well located lodgings.
While in Lima or Cusco, you will typically stay at a Casa Andina hotel, or another property of a similar style. The Casa Andinas specialise in integrating the characteristics of each destination such as architecture, decoration, gastronomy and music to create an authentic experience for our travellers. They are centrally located and come with good service and comfort.
While in the jungle the lodges we stay at are basic though comfortable and they beautifully blend into the natural surroundings. At times, electricity can be sporadic or limited however most of our travellers attest to the joy in being unplugged and in the inky darkness of the Amazon basin (albeit with a torch or candle!). Expect mosquito nets and at times rooms which are partially open to the outdoors.
Introductory adventures are designed with the first time trekker in mind. They are challenging enough to make it a real adventure holiday, however the daily physical exercise is limited to around six hours and altitudes generally less than 4200m. Introductory adventures are not necessarily easy. There will be some long steep ascents and some rough ground to cover. Remember trekking rarely involves flat terrain.
Two to three months prior to departure you should spend thirty minutes to one hour exercising, three or four times per week eg. Hard walking, jogging or cycling. To prepare for a walking holiday we recommend you take every opportunity to walk up and down stairs and/or hills, for leg strengthening and aerobic fitness. Please remember the fitter you are the more you will enjoy your holiday.
What You Carry
In your daypack you will need to carry extra warm clothing (depending on the altitude, location and weather), a rainjacket, water bottle, camera gear, valuables and personal items such as sunscreen, lip balm etc.
Please note, the following items are prohibited in Machu Picchu: drones, selfie sticks, tripod for cameras, walking stick without rubber tip, backpack that exceeds 40cm x 35cm x 20cm, aerosol spray, heals, sharp objects, banners or posters. As of December 2018, single-use plastic bottles and any other single-use plastics (bags, cups, straws, etc) are prohibited in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, on the Inca Trail and all other protected natural areas in Peru. This regulation was established by the Ministry of Environment, following the Sustainable Tourism Regulation which aims to conserve these protected natural areas. Please ensure to bring your reusable water bottle on all our Peru trips. Water refill stations have been installed in areas near Machu Picchu and other national parks. Your guide will brief you where you can refill your water bottles with drinking water.