Unlucky in love? Out for revenge? Need a cure for hayfever? Get your cocoa leaves read, buy a spell or pick up a dried llama fetus (ideal for sacrificing) at the witches market in La Paz.
(Was Gran Aventura)
Day 1-2 - Quito
Home to the only version of the Last Supper where Christ and co. are feasting on cuy (that's roast guinea pig, to you).
- Tour briefing in the evening
- If arriving early, spend some time getting to know the city
- Quito is located 2850 metres above sea level so 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 you drink plenty of fluids, and avoid any strenuous activities
- This is a perfect opportunity to soak up the atmosphere in one of the many bustling cafes
- Take a walking tour through the ‘Centro Historico’ which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978
- Visit the beautiful Church of the Society of Jesus (La Compania de Jesus)
- View the city and surrounding volvanoes from ‘El Panecillo’ (The Little Bread Loaf)
- Visit ‘La Mitad del Mundo’ (The Middle of the World), which was built on what was claimed in 1736 to be the line of the equator
- Also visit the the smaller monument nearby called Museo Solar Inti Nan - supposedly where the equator actually runs through since re-measurements were made
- Enjoy a free evening and perhaps grab some dinner from a local restaurant
Day 3-5 - Amazon Jungle
Keep an eye out for sloths, monkeys, jaguars, toucans, armadillos and caimans. That's when you're not busy checking under your bed for anacondas.
- Learn the secrets of the Amazon rainforest and the medicinal uses of plants on a local-guided tour of the jungle.
- Leave Quito early in the morning and travel by local bus to Misahualli (approx. 6 hours)
- Travel by boat to a local community (approx 10 minutes).
- After breakfast travel by canoe for 45 minutes to the starting point of your hike (hike is approximately 3-4 hours depending on the group’s pace)
- During the hike visit a protected private reserve with sections of secondary and primary forest, maybe see some native insects and birds
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
- Learn jungle survival skills from a local community leader - fish in the Napo river, understand the use of different medicinal plants and learn about blow pipe hunting
- Learn traditional dances and prepare chicha
- Accommodation in the community is very basic and it consists of a bed and bed linen - bathroom facilities are shared
Day 6-8 - Banos
While all your mates are sitting at their desks, you'll be riding horses, trekking, rafting, climbing and mountain biking.
- From Tena travel to Banos by local bus (approx 5 hrs)
- You will have two full free days here to take advantag of the optional activitiese - horse riding, mountain biking, hiking or even rafting
- Perhaps rise early to watch the sun rise over the mountains from Banos' famous the hot springs
- Go on a walking tour, visit the Cathedral, local market, artisanal market, and the main street
Day 9-10 - Riobamba - Cuenca
Take a local bus approx 11hrs to Cuenca (try saying that three times quickly). Wander cobblestone streets and admire the red-tiled roofs, flower markets and plazas of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Travel by local bus to Riobamba (approx 3 hrs), swap buses and head south to Cuenca (approx 8 hrs), a Unesco World Heritage site
- Head to El Cajas National Park to see some of the most varied and spectacular scenery in the country
- You can reach El Cajas by local bus from Cuenca (approx 1 hr and 45 mins), Once there, pay the entrance fee, hire a native guide and start hiking around the beautiful lakes.
Day 11-12 - Zorritos Beach
Long stretches of beach, seafood, local cool cats... More or less awesome.
- Travel by local bus to Huaquillas, on the border of Ecuador and Peru (approx 5 hrs)
- After crossing the border continue to Zorritos on the Pacific coast (approx 30 mins).
- Long stretches of beach and great seafood make the fishing town of Zorrito a popular destination for locals in northern Peru
Day 13-14 - Chiclayo- Trujillo
There's lots of cool stuff near Trujillo, mud cities, old fishing villages, beaches, archaeological sites, 'surfing' fisherman... yes, SURFING fisherman. It's pretty much like hoola hooping on a skate board.
- Perhaps visit the mud city of Chan Chan near Trujillo. It's not an Inca city, but part of the Chimu and Moche civilisations, renowned for their pottery
- Possibly head to Huanchaco, a small fishing village that's now a relaxed beach haven for travellers keen on seeing the nearby ruins
- Another nearby archaeological site is Huaca del Sol y la Luna.
Day 15-16 - Lima
There's a walking tour of Lima. When that's finished, we suggest you take Lima's magical mystery tour. Basically, you just walk around for ages on your own and see where you end up and/or get totally lost. As long as you're smart about it, you'll have a great time.
- Travel by overnight bus to Lima (approx 8-10 hrs).
- Go on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre
Day 17-18 - Paracas- Nazca
The word 'sour' has a bad rep. Sour-faced, sour-grapes, sour milk, the list of negative 'sours' goes on. The pisco sour - Peru's famous alcoholic beverage - however, is nothing if not one of man's finest creations. Drink it up, then go and have a look at the weird Nazca Lines.
Travel by taxi or minivan to Lima's bus station and take a local bus to Pisco (approx 4 hrs)
This small fishing town is the gateway to the Ballestas Islands and the Paracas National Reserve but it's most famous as the birthplace of Peru's national drink, the pisco sour.
- Perhaps try some local food specialities at the Plaza de Armas
- Travel on to Nazca (approx 3 hrs), stopping en route at the oasis of Huacachina.
- The town of Huacachina is built around a small natural lake surrounded by dramatic sand dunes
- Visit the Nazca Lines.
- Visit the desert cemetery of Chauchilla
- Perhaps take a 30 minute flight (on a small 4-6 seater plane) for a better view of the cemetery
- Warning! Planes turn sharply from one side to another to facilitate viewing from both sides of the plane. Plastic bags are provided on board but needless to say, this flight is not recommended for those with a weak stomach.
Day 19-20 - Arequipa
The bus to Arequipa takes nine hours, but it's worth it. Unless you get to Arequipa and realise you don't like it, in which case it probably won't have been worth it. The chances of that are slim to none, but don't ruin it for the others, yeah?!
- Early in the afternoon travel from Nazca to Arequipa by local bus (approx 9hrs)
- Perhaps while away a day at the main plaza, with its cafes and nearby cathedral
- Maybe visit the Monasterio de Santa Catalina
- Visit the Juanita Museum, home to the 'Ice Maiden' - the Incan mummy of a 12-14-year-old girl who died in the 1440s, and was discovered in 1995
Day 21 - Colca Canyon- Arequipa
Andean condors have gross-looking faces. We know that sounds shallow, but wait until you see one. They look absolutely unreal when they're flying about though - a seven-foot wingspan is no joke. You'll see loads of them at Colca Canyon.
- Travel by minivan to Chivay (approx 5 hrs), along the way you'll see llamas, alpacas and vicunas and try some coca tea
- Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon provides breathtaking views
- In the afternoon go on a short trek, finishing at the local hot thermal baths
- Perhaps spend your evening soaking in the baths, dining on llama steak or listening to live Andean music at a pena
- Accommodation in Chivay is in a very basic hostel - there are en suite toilets, but no heating (you can request extra blankets) and some rooms can be noisy
- Wake up very early and drive to a viewpoint to see if you can spy a condor
- Go on a short walk of about 45 minutes, before returning to Chivay
- Travel back to Arequipa in the afternoon.
Day 22-24 - Arequipa- Cusco
Our fave bit of Cusco is the markets. Start with the artisan market at the corner of Avenida del Sol and Tullumayo, the market town of Pisac and then San Pedro food market, near Plaza San Francisco.
- Farewell Arequipa and travel by local bus to Cusco (10 hrs).
- Go on a walking tour including a visit to the Coca Musuem and the local San Pedro market
- Take the time to acclimatise to the city's 3,450 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city
- Perhaps visit the cathedral, built on top of an Inca palace
- Maybe visit the impressive Inca ruins within the city
- For lunch or mid-morning coffee and cake head to Yanapay restaurant at 415 Ruinas St - all its profits go towards supporting children in Cusco through Aldea Yanapay and its social projects. For more info on Aldea Yanapay visit: http://yanapay.facipub.com/
Day 25-29 - Inca Trail
Imagine the look on Hiram Bingham's face when he stumbled across Machu Picchu in 1911. Old Hiram was an academic and senator from America so it was probably the single most exciting thing that happened in his life.
- Day 25
- Begin the Inca trek
- Hike past the ancient hilltop fort of Huillca Raccay and the archaeological site of Llactapata
- Stunning views of snow-capped Veronica Peak
- Camp near the village of Wayllabamba
- The most difficult part of the trek - Dead Woman’s Pass
- Panoramas of the Vilcanota and Vilcabama mountain ranges, and ruins in the valley below
- Camp with a view over the cloud forest
- Climb up to the ruins of Runkuracay
- Continue up the Inca staircase
- Spectacular views of Pumasillo and the entire Vilcabamba range
- Enter the beautiful cloud forest
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
- The final, and most spectacular, leg of the trek to Machu Picchu
- Arrive at Inti Punku, the Gateway of the Sun
- Experience a panoramic view of Machu Picchu at sunrise
- Explore Machu Picchu on a guided tour
- Return to Cusco by train
Day 30 - Cusco
Just relax and rest your weary legs, which should be looking quite svelte by this stage of the trip. Bonus.
- Relax or spend free time exploring Cusco's many markets, museums, eateries and local sights
Day 31-33 - Puno- Lake Titicaca
Take a bus to Puno on the shoes of Lake Titicaca. Stay with a local family on the island of Amantani. This is one of the more remote islands so prepare yourself for a 'real' house with a lot of mod-cons (ie no hairdryer).
- Take a bus to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, arrive early afternoon
- Take a boat across Lake Titicaca to the Uros' floating reed islands
- Enjoy a homestay on Amantani Island
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
- Indulge in a breakfast with your host family
- Board an afternoon boat back to Puno
Day 34-37 - La Paz
La Paz basically sits in a giant bowl so the bus ride down into the city is hairy but awesome. You've go free time to roam the cobblestone streets, shop for kitsch souvenirs at Calle Linares (pan pipes anyone?) and dried llama foetuses at the Witches' Market.
- Travel by comfortable local bus to Desaguadero and cross the border into Bolivia
- The journey to La Paz takes about 5 hours - don't forget that Bolivia's timezone is 1-2 hours ahead of Peru
- At around 3,600 m, La Paz feels like the top of the world
- La Paz is renowned for its many markets, including the Mercado de Hechiceria or Witches' Market
- Browse the stalls which sell everything from potions to incantations made from herbs, seeds and unidentified bits and pieces to cure any ailment
- Perhaps check out the other markets for ponchos, gloves, hats and other products made of alpaca wool and leather
Day 38-39 - Sucre
There's a lot of history to take in here so we'll do some guided tours of Old Sucre's monasteries and chapels, then you're free to do what you like. Why not jump on a horse or and head into the countryside?
- Leave La Paz for Sucre
- Perhaps head to Recoleta, an old convent on top of the hill with a great view
- Spend some time in Plaza 25 de Mayo
- Maybe visit the 60 million-year-old dinosaur footprints at Cal Orcko
Day 40-41 - Potosi
In Potosi you can take a trip into one of Bolivia's old tin mines. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but those who squeeze through the tunnels will surely be in for an unforgettable (read: dark, dirty and scary) experience.
- Travel by local bus to Potosi (approx 3-4 hours)
- Perhaps tour the tin mines and meet the miners - this can be distressing, the conditions are poor and small
- Alternatively spend time exploring colonial art and architecture in the town
Day 42-44 - Uyuni- Salar de Uyuni
Everybody knows that too much salt is bad for you. The Uyuni salt flats, however, aren't bad for you. Jump into some 4WD vehicles and spend three days taking in the multicoloured lakes, wildlife and islands of Salar de Uyuni.
Travel by local bus to Uyuni (between 5 and 7 hours)
- Explore the salt lake (between December and March the lake can be flooded, the itinerary will be adapted accordingly)
- Drive through amazing landscapes, stopping at Laguna Colorado, a rich red lake
- Awake early and continue driving
- This trip can be tough going with long travel days in 4WDs on dusty tracks, freezing temperatures, basic toilet facilities and multishare accommodation - it is also amazing and well worth the challenge
Day 45-46 - San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama isn't the kind of town you'll forget in a hurry. Surrounded by the kind of scenery that makes you happy to be alive, it's a good place to have a look at some Indian artifacts. It's also renowed for being a stargazing hotspot, which is nice.
- The 4x4 adventure through the Salt Flat region ends in San Pedro de Atacama - Chile, a small town in the Atacama desert
- Explore tree lined streets, the sleepy plaza, and the fascinating museum with mummies and other Indian artefacts
Day 47-49 - Salta
Take a 12-hour bus ride (yeah, we're sorry) to Salta. Showcasing some of the finest pre-Columbian and colonial history, Salta's a damn fine place to spend a couple of days. Go bungee jumping or horse riding, if you fancy it, or just spend your time wandering the streets of 'Salta the Pretty'.
- Drive on to Salta, Argentina (approx 12 hrs)
- Explore the colonial architecture and central square, Plaza 9 de Julio - home to the Cabildo, Cathedral and Casa del Gobierno (Government House)
- Perhaps hike to the top of Cerro San Bernardo, there are 1070 steps in total, for the less active, there's also a gondola - this is a great place to watch the sunset
- Choose from a number of optional adventure activities including rafting, bungee jumping and horse riding
- Maybe take a paddle boat on the lake, visit the museums or walk the streets
- On Day 49, travel by overnight bus to Mendoza (approx 18 hours)
Day 50-52 - Mendoza
Tour some of Mendoza's wineries and learn about the region's wine making history. If you can remember any of the history when you wake up the following morning, there's a chance you didn't sample enough wine.
- Spend a day touring the wineries, especially Malbec the region's signature variety
- Explore Mendoza itself, there are a number of parks, squares and parks
- Perhaps visit San Martin St with Plaza Independencia
- Perhaps visit the Mercado Central (Central Market) and try local treats - empanadas (meat pastries), cheese, ham, marinated olives and local wines
- Av. Aristides Villanueva is the place to be at night, try Fernet with Coke - a bitter alcoholic cocktail
Day 53-56 - Santiago
Another long drive, but arriving in Santiago will make you forget about your numb bum. With more galleries, cafes and bars than you can shake a chacarero (Chile's signature sandwich) at.
Travel by local bus across the Andes to Chile and its capital, Santiago (approx 7-9 hours depending on border crossing conditions)
Go on a walking tour of the city with your tour leader, visit the Plaza de Armas, the Central Market and Palacio de la Moneda Perhaps take a cable car up to Cerro San Cristobal, and enjoy impressive views on a clear day
You could visit the Paris Quarter for a look at local life
The trip ends on day 56, flights out can be at any time
What to Know
An experienced tour guide in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and in Brazil, and there will be the services of local guides at some sites. All transportation, sightseeing, accommodation 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, Geckos 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 Geckos.
Trip Dates and Prices
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