Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia
Come on a comprehensive tour of the major highlights of these three awesome countries. With your local Gecko’s guide at the helm, you’re guaranteed an amazing cultural experience while getting among the best sights in the region.
Day 1 - QuitoYour trip starts today in Quito. No activities are planned, so you may arrive at any time. Quito is considered one of the world’s most beautifully located capitals, surrounded by towering snow-capped volcanoes. Situated 2850 metres above sea level on the eastern slopes of an active volcano, Mount Pichincha, it is the second highest capital city in the world. This evening there will be a tour briefing at our hotel – around 6 pm. If you are unable to make this meeting, please check at hotel reception for a message from your Gecko’s tour guide. Note: On arrival in Quito, you may experience some of the milder effects of altitude such as dizziness, insomnia and shortness of breath. If this is the case we recommend that you drink plenty of fluids, and avoid any strenuous activity. Perhaps a perfect opportunity to instead soak up the atmosphere in one of the many bustling cafes and watch the colourful street life pass by in the colonial centre.
Day 2 - QuitoQuito is not only the capital of Ecuador, but it also has one of the most impressive and well-preserved ‘old town’ areas in South America. In the morning we embark on a walking tour around the charming and evocative ‘Centro Historico’. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, there is much to discover, meandering through the narrow, cobblestone streets and exploring the lively Plaza Grande and Plaza San Francisco. The city is filled with Baroque art and architecture, as exemplified by magnificent churches, monasteries and public buildings. We visit the beautiful Church of the Society of Jesus (La Compania de Jesus). With its ornate facade and intricately decorated and gold-gilded interior, this is undoubtedly Ecuador’s most impressive church. Exploring further afield we head for one of the many viewpoints over the city. ‘El Panecillo’ (The Little Bread Loaf) offers sensational views of the city’s white houses and surrounding volcanoes. The 30-metre high statue of ‘La Virgen de Quito’ sits atop this small hill and can be seen from all over the city. We then drive north of the city to visit ‘La Mitad del Mundo’ (The Middle of the World). This monument is built on what was claimed in 1736 to be the line of the equator. We also visit another smaller complex nearby called Museo Solar Inti Nan, which is supposedly where the equator actually runs through since re-measurements were made. This is an entertaining little place where experiments are conducted before our very eyes. The evening is free for us to dine out at one of the many great eating spots in Quito (optional).Breakfast
Day 3 - Amazon JungleWe leave Quito early in the morning and head eastwards down the Andes mountains to the jungle town of Tena. Here we travel into jungle terrain and make our way to the banks of the Napo River and on to our rustic jungle lodge. Spanning 5.5 million square kilometres and spreading across nine nations, the Amazon rainforest region is undoubtedly one of the greatest wonders of the natural world. Home to thousands of indigenous inhabitants and more than a third of the world’s plant and animal species, it is the largest and most bio-diverse tropical rainforest on Earth. The jungle canopy shelters monkeys large and small, sloths that hang upside down, countless species of bats, colourful toucans and golden macaws, whilst jaguars, armadillos and spectacled bears prowl the forest floor. The rivers too are teeming with tropical fish, frogs and caimans.Breakfast | Dinner
Day 4 - Amazon JungleAfter breakfast we are joined by our local site guide as we start our exploration of the region by river canoes. The indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest have used the incredible variety of fruits and plants for centuries, not just as a food source, but also for their health, as cures and potions. Today, the world scientists have developed treatments from these plants for everything from anxiety, fatigue and coughs to malaria, cancer and heart disease. Our guide will share with us their immense local knowledge, explaining the various medicinal and practical uses for these plants along with the fascinating customs and traditions of the native people. We have an opportunity to visit a wildlife rehabilitation centre, where if we’re fortunate we can see tapir, toucan, ocelot, monkey, capybara and boa constrictor. You are required to pay a small entrance fee that contributes towards the running and maintenance of the centre.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 5-6 - Banos /// Puyo (alternative itinerary)PLEASE NOTE - The Tungarahua volcano has become active in recent months. Both DFAT and FCO are currently advising "do not travel" to the nearby town of Banos. Until this warning is lifted, all groups will re-routed via the town of Puya for the two nights. The town of Puyo is found at the juncture of the northern and southern Oriente, and is Ecuador's largest jungle town. During our free time there are numerous optional activities available. These include a visit to Morete Puyo Water Park featuring the tallest waterslides in Ecuador and a wave pool, the Ethno Botanical Park Omaere to learn about the indigenous cultures of the Amazon, or the Orchid and Botanical Gardens. For those looking for something a little active, there is a walking trail along the Puyo River providing excellent bird watching opportunities. Your Gecko’s tour guide will be happy to assist you in arranging any of these activities. Should the travel warning be lifted, the group will take the original route via Banos below: Today we leave the jungle and return to the mountains. Travelling by local bus we climb steeply into the Andes, where the town of Banos is situated in one of the most beautiful areas of Ecuador’s central highlands. Set on the hillside of the Tungurahua Volcano amid lush green peaks, the town of Banos, meaning ‘baths’, is a great place to embrace the outdoors and discover Ecuadorian country life. We have time to wander around the town or venture off and explore the surroundings. There are many optional activities available including mountain bike riding, white-water rafting, hiking and horse riding. Alternatively you may prefer to soak in the thermal baths for which the town is renowned. Your Gecko’s tour guide will be happy to assist you in arranging any of these activities.Breakfast
Day 7 - RiobambaIn the afternoon we catch a local bus for the one-hour journey to Riobamba. Know as ‘the Sultan of the Andes’, the town is located on Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes. Riobamba is a delightfully friendly and old fashioned town and an important commercial centre for the region. Saturday, the main market day, sees the wide streets filled with colourfully dressed people from surrounding communities who flood into town by truck and donkey alike, to trade everything from handicrafts to guinea pigs. You might like to wander down to Parque Maldonado in the afternoon. This large and stately square, bordered by 19th century architecture, is a great place to watch local life unfolding. This evening we can relax in readiness for tomorrow’s rail adventure.Breakfast
Day 8 - Devil's Nose Railway - CuencaToday we take a memorable train journey through the mountains, riding aboard the Devil’s Nose Railway (La Nariz del Diablo). The Nariz del Diablo is the last stretch of track which remains functional, from the famous Ferrocarril Transandino. The historic Trans-Andean Railway, constructed over a century ago, was considered in it’s time an incredible feat of engineering and once ran from Guayaquil to Quito. We begin the day travelling by public bus in the shadow of the volcanic giant Chimborazo (6310m), passing through tiny villages and sprawling countryside, on our way to picturesque Alausi. Here we store our luggage and board the train to Devil's Nose. Our excursion also includes entry to Museum Condor Pununa. We later have time for lunch in Alausi, and then continue by bus to Cuenca.Breakfast
Day 9 - CuencaThe beautiful preserved city of Cuenca is the third largest in Ecuador and the focal point of this region. Founded in 1557 on the banks of the Rio Tomebamba, on the ruins of an Inca settlement, the old part of town is brimming with character and enough old colonial charm to rival Quito. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999 this stunning city is a maze of cobblestone streets, whitewashed red-tiled buildings and towering cathedrals. It has a young and vibrant atmosphere which belies its 18th century origin. Your time is your own in Cuenca and your leader will advise you of the many activities and sights you can enjoy. Not far from the city are the Inca ruins of Ingapirca. These 15th century ruins are the largest in Ecuador and were initially occupied by the Canari people over 500 years ago. The Incas who defeated the Canaris destroyed most of the original structures in favour of their own. These are the first Inca ruins encountered on this journey and they are certainly worth a visit.Breakfast
Day 10-12 - Sechura Desert - TrujilloThis morning we catch the bus down to the Peruvian border at Tumbes, where we say goodbye to our Ecuadorian tour guide and meet their Peruvian counterpart, before continuing our journey south into the Sechura Desert. Our first overnight stop is the fishing village of Zorritos - a great spot to sit under a palm tree and watch the sun go down. Time permitting, Zorritos also offers hiking, horseback riding and nearby mud baths. Heading further down the coast we arrive at beachside Chiclayo. Rice production, sugar cane and cotton are popular in this strong agricultural region, which is also well known for its natural medicines, fine Peruvian cuisine and archaeological sites. From Chiclayo we venture further down the coast to the city of Trujillo on the Moche River, gateway to the magnificent ruins at Chan Chan.Breakfast
Day 13-14 - Chan Chan - LimaJust north of Trujillo, we visit the huge adobe ruins of Chan Chan - the imperial city of the Chimu Kingdom. It is the most extensive Pre-Colombian city in South America and has the largest adobe citadel in the world. Constructed over 700 years ago this city of an estimated 60,000 inhabitants spread over an area of almost 30 square kilometres. The city’s walls and buildings are decorated with detailed friezes and the small museum nearby has fantastic aerial maps of the area. You can also take a short taxi ride to the nearby surf village of Huanchaco, which is famous for its narrow pointed fishing rafts made of reeds. On Day 14 we catch a bus to Lima and arrive there in the early evening.Breakfast
Day 15-16 - LimaWe have two free days to explore Peru's capital, and our hotel is well located in the centre of town, near the Plaza de Armas (Plaza Major) in Lima Centro. The desert city of Lima, once deemed ‘La Ciudad de los Reyes’ or ‘The City of Kings’, is a vast buzzing metropolis of over 8 million people. The heart of the city is full with Spanish colonial splendour, fine art and baroque architecture. Highly recommended is a visit to the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which houses impressive collections of ceramics, traditional weaving and remarkable illustrations of pre-Columbian erotic pots. If you are keen to soak up the history of Peru’s ancient civilisations, then you should not miss the Museo de La Nacion which is home to priceless artefacts from the ancient Inca and coastal civilisations. In the evening be sure to indulge in the local seafood; Lima has some of the finest dining in South America and the city is alive with music and dancing. The lively Barranco Quarter has many bars, discos and clubs where traditional Afro-Peruvian music and Creole food can be enjoyed. Your tour guide is on hand to help you arrange any optional sightseeing tours required.Breakfast
Day 17-18 - CuscoA short flight over the mountains brings us to Cusco, where we spend the next two days exploring this amazing colonial city. Established on the foundations of the original Inca town, Cusco is a city of contrasts, both modern and ancient. Known the world over for the incredible archaeological ruins of nearby Machu Picchu, travellers flock to this trekkers haven to soak up its awesome culture and beautiful surroundings. At an altitude of over 3300 metres Cusco is also a great place to acclimatise in preparation for the hike to Machu Picchu. There is so much to see in and around Cusco. Your tour guide takes you on a walking tour of the central part of town, which includes the impressive Plaza de Armas, the cathedral and the Koricancha Museum. You also have time to make your own discoveries including travelling out to the great Inca sites of Sacsayhuaman, Quenca and Tambo Machay. You may also wish to explore further afield into the beautiful Sacred Valley and visit the market town of Pisac. Utilising these two days and your spare day at the end of your trek to Machu Picchu, there is time to take in all these great sites.Breakfast
Day 19-22 - Important Note
We trek the ‘Classic’ and the ‘Quarry’ routes, both of which culminate in a visit to the incredible ruins of Machu Picchu. Although we normally trek the 'Classic' route, it is restricted by the number of trekkers permitted on the trail each day and unless you have booked early, it maybe difficult or impossible for us to secure the necessary group permits (especially during the peak season). It is also closed during the month of February for cleaning and rejuvenation. If we are unable to confirm your permit for the 'Classic' route we will use the ‘Quarry’ trail. This is an exceptional alternative. Venturing further off the beaten path, this trek winds its way through remote rural villages and provides stunning views across the Andes Mountains. Along the way you can mingle with local families, llama herders and weavers, renowned for their brightly coloured hats and ponchos. The trek is of similar altitude and level of difficulty as the Classic route and also culminates in a visit to the village of Aguas Calientes and the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu, recently voted one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’. The following description refers to the 'Classic' route. Please refer below to the 'Itinerary Variation' section of this trip note for details of the Quarry route.
Day 19 - Inca Trail to Yuncachimpa (13km)We leave Cusco by bus and travel over the mountain range and down into the Urubamba Valley to the picturesque town of Ollantaytambo. Built on a steep mountainside this grand citadel served as both a temple and fortress and is one of the few sites where the Incas were able to defeat the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. Their success was however short lived, with the Spaniards returning with force to claim victory. Here we have time to gaze upon the massive Inca fortifications before continuing to Kilometre 82 - the starting point of our trek. Today is a relatively easy hike past the ancient hilltop fort of Huillca Raccay and the beautiful archaeological site of Llactapata. Along the way there are stunning views of snow-capped Veronica Peak (5860m). Our first camp is just past the village of Wayllabamba at 3000 metres.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 20 - Inca Trail to Pacaymayo (11km)Today is the most difficult part of the trek as we climb to Warminwanusca, or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ (4200m). This is the first of three Andean high passes we traverse and the highest point on the Inca trail. Stopping to catch our breath we take in the superb panorama of the Vilcanota and Vilcabama mountain ranges, the ruins of Runkuracay ahead and Rio Pacamayo (Sunrise River) in the valley below. Here the trail changes from dirt to steps and stone pathways. Although not difficult we still need to make a steep descent to the valley below and our camp at Pacamayo (3600m). Located in a basin beneath the cliff tops, the campsite faces down the valley with a view over the cloud forest.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 21 - Inca Trail to Winaywayna (15km)We climb up to the unusual, round ruin of Runcuracay which is believed to have been an Inca tambo or post house. Forging on we continue to climb the Inca staircase and sighting the small mountain lake of Cochapata on the way to our second pass at 4000m, from where we are rewarded with spectacular views of Pumasillo (6245m) and the entire snow-capped Vilcabamba range From here it is a steep descent to our third pass and the ruins of Sayacmarca, where we enter the beautiful cloud forest full of orchids, ferns, flowers and hanging moss. The scenery will blow you away! Butterflies flutter across the trail and the air is pure and clean as we head to the breathtaking Winaywayna, (2450m).Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 22 - Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (5 km) - CuscoThe final leg of the trek to Machu Picchu is the most spectacular of all. We arrive at sunrise at Inti Punku, the Gateway of the Sun, where through a rectangular doorway we experience a panoramic view of Machu Picchu. After taking a short path down, it’s time for us to explore! The secrets of the Incas are slowly revealed to us on a guided tour. We depart by catching a bus down to the hot springs at Aguas Calientes and returning to Cusco on a late-afternoon train.Breakfast
Day 23 - CuscoA free day in Cusco can be spent shopping for handicrafts or taking in some further sightseeing. Cusco is a maze of markets, artisan shops lining the streets and many museums filled with the rich history of Inca art. You might like to try some traditional cuisine- perhaps guinea pig, alpaca steak or ceviche, a raw seafood delicacy marinated in lime. If you haven't yet visited the Sacred Valley, this is your best chance to do so. Your tour guide can advise you on how to get there and show you where the bus to Pisac leaves from. Alternatively, you may just wish to relax and absorb the incredible experiences of the last few days whilst resting in one of the many cafes that line the streets of this quaint and fascinating townBreakfast
Day 24 - Cusco - PunoAfter breakfast we transfer to the bus station, where we catch our bus for the magnificent drive over the mountains to Puno. We travel over the Le Raya Pass and make our way across the Altiplano (Spanish for ‘high plain’) to the shores of Lake Titicaca. Puno lies at an altitude of 3860 metres above sea level and the people of this region are descendants of the Aymara, a strong looking people who once ruled the high plateaus. According to legend, Puno was the cradle of Inca civilization. Manco Capac, the first Inca, is said to have risen from the waters of Lake Titicaca and under instructions from the Sun God, founded the Inca Empire. Lake Titicaca at 3815 metres is the world's highest navigable lake and the second largest lake in South America, covering an area of 8400 square kilometres.Breakfast
Day 25 - Lake Titicaca (Amantani Island Homestay)This morning we board our boat and travel across the waters of Lake Titicaca to the floating reed islands inhabited by Uros Indians. We make a brief stop at one of these unusual islands and then continue across the lake to our homestay on beautiful Amantani Island. This island is more remote than most and not as spoilt as the popular island of Tequile, which has unfortunately felt the heavy impact of tourism. After arriving in Amantani, our tour guide divides our party up into smaller groups and we move into various family homes for our overnight stay. Please be warned that the facilities are quite basic. Many homes have no electricity and the bathroom and toilet facilities are not the best! Despite this, the homestay experience is sure to be a highlight of our trip to the region and offers great opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 26 - PunoWe enjoy breakfast with our host family and then have time to explore the island before boarding our boat back to the Puno on the mainland.Breakfast
Day 27 - Puno - La PazOur bus trip to La Paz initially follows the shores of Lake Titicaca to the lakeside town of Copacabana, in Bolivia. A beach resort, Copacabana offers small town charm to go with its proud Indian heritage. We have time to stop for lunch here and enjoy its quaint atmosphere, as well as visit the 17th-century cathedral that houses the famous statue of the Virgin of Copacabana. In the afternoon we continue our journey across the Altiplano farmland towards La Paz. On approach, the earth seems to drop away to reveal a giant bowl from which this extraordinary city unfolds beneath you; the view on descent into La Paz is nothing short of ‘jaw-dropping’!Breakfast
Day 28 - La PazThe highest city in the world, La Paz lies nestled in a steep canyon on the Altiplano, with the towering Mount Illimani forming an impressive backdrop over the city. La Paz is the country’s largest city and home to over half of the country’s Indian heritage. It was founded in 1548 following the discovery of gold and although that boom didn’t last long, the city’s location on the main silver route ensured its continued prosperity. We enjoy free time in La Paz to wander around the cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways that are features of this charming city. You can also explore the colourful markets, including the famous 'Witches Market', or simply relax in one of the many cafes.Breakfast
Day 29-30 - Uyuni (Great Salt Desert)We have an early morning departure by bus from La Paz to Oruro, where we catch the train for a spectacular journey around the edge of Lake Poopo and past the villages of Popp, Challapata and Huari. We ascend into the highlands, where we are greeted with superb views over the mineral rich mountains that characterise this part of Bolivia, as well as enjoy our first glimpse of llamas, alpacas and even the graceful vicunas. The town of Uyuni is our base for two nights for exploring the Uyuni Desert, an immense saltpan stretching over an area of 12,000 square kilometres. It was once part of a pre-historic salt lake called Lago Minchin, which covered most of southwestern Bolivia. The sunsets here can be quite incredible. On Day 30 we enjoy a full day excursion across this strange and fascinating desert. We start by visiting the local village of Jiria, which lies at the foot of the Tunupa Volcano. There is time to explore the natural caves on the volcano, where we can also enjoy outstanding views over the desert. Our next stop is Isla Pescado - a small, volcanic island, situated 80 kilometres in the desert and home to enormous cactus, Here, there is plenty of time to do some of our own exploring. In the late afternoon we return to Uyuni, where we can enjoy some local cuisine at one of the restaurants close to our hotel.Breakfast | Lunch
Day 31-32 - PotosiToday we travel by road to the silver-mining town of Potosi. This six-hour, picturesque journey takes us across the high Bolivian plateau, passing through dry deserts and occasional oasis towns inhabited by shepherds. After arriving in Potosi, we check into our hotel before taking a stroll in the strrets lined by colonial architecture - a feature of this old city. The immense Cerro Rico Mountain (4824m) forms a backdrop over the city. Potosi itself is situated at 4070m and in its heyday was considered home to the richest silver mines in the world. Founded in 1545 following the discovery of silver in Cerro Rico, the town quickly flourished into one of the wealthiest in Latin America. This abundance of silver ensured that it became the backbone of the Spanish economy for over two centuries, resulting in some extravagant behaviour by its rulers. Millions of miners worked in the mines in horrible conditions resulting in a incredible number of deaths, either by disease or preventable accidents. However, at the turn of 19th century, the reserves began to dwindle and the city declined. Evidence of Potosi’s rich colonial past can be seen in the form of its grand colonial architecture, narrow streets and ornate churches. We enjoy a guided tour of the city and visit many of its highlights, including the San Lorenzo church, the Cobija Arch, the main square, the cathedral, the Jesuit Tower and the magnificent museum in the Casa Real de la Moneda, which has a fascinating section dedicated to art and historical artefacts. The afternoon is free to further explore the city and there are many optional activities available. You could indulge in a thermal bath or visit the historic, colonial farm at the Marquise de Ottavi, situated in a picturesque valley.Breakfast
Day 33-34 - SucreJust a three-hour drive away on a paved road is the beautiful colonial city of Sucre, the judicial capital of Bolivia. The road we take descends more than 1000 metres to the temperate valleys of Chuquisacra, which are full of small rivers, cactus fields, fruit and vegetable gardens, gentle, local people and their mud huts. Sucre is a pleasant city set in a valley surrounded by low mountains and has retained its colonial heritage as exemplified by its churches, museums and ancient mansions. It was founded in 1538 as the Spanish capital of the vast region of Charcas. In 1776 with new territorial division created by the Spaniards, the city's name was changed to Chuquisaca. This region played an important role during the long colonial period and influenced much of Bolivia’s history. It was actually here that Bolivian independence was declared on 6 August 1825. Several years later the name of the city was changed to Sucre, in honour of a general who promoted the independence movement. On arrival we transfer to our charming colonial guesthouse before enjoying a guided tour of the old part of town including the Recoleta Church and Monastery, the chapel of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the cathedral and museum of La Casa de la Libertad. We also have Day 34 as a free day to enjoy this historic town and absorb its colonial ambience. You may want to visit the local markets or textile museum, take a walk around the city or a horse ride out in the surrounding countryside.Breakfast
Day 35 - La PazToday we have a mid-morning flight back to La Paz, where our adventure comes to an end. Our flight arrives at La Paz Airport around 12 noon. If you are departing La Paz today, please do not book to depart until 8PM (20:00 hrs) or after.Breakfast
What to Know
An experienced tour leader in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, and there will be the services of local guides at some sites. All transportation, accommodation, entrance fees and meals as indicated.
- International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
This tour passes through volcanic areas. In the instance, a volcano becomes potentially dangerous and authorities declare nearby towns unsafe for travel, the itinerary will be re-routed. Where possible, Gecko’s will provide advance notice of such changes. At short notice, when this is not possible, your tour leader will provide up to date information on behalf of Gecko’s.
Trip Dates and Prices
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