West Coast you're Wonderful

Drink like a local in Peru
The perfect pisco sour?
Meet some colourful Bolivian babes
Puno - a town four kilometres above sea-level
The potions of 'Witches’ Market'
UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancient Inca capital of Cusco
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cuenca
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Colonial Quito
UNESCO World Heritage-listed colonial city of Sucre
The condors of one of the deepest canyons in the world - Colca Canyon
UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic centre of the Peruvian capital Lima
Uyuni Salt Desert's caves and cacti
Wake up in a room with a view on the Inca Trek
Warminwanusca - 'Dead Woman’s Pass' on the Inca Trail
The floating reed islands of the Uros people on the highest navigable lake in the world - Lake Titicaca
Guinea pig - a Peruvian delicacy
Get close (but not too close) to little nippers in the Amazon
Eat llama in La Paz
Hang out with the locals at Machu Picchu
La Paz - the world's highest 'unofficial' capital city
  • Make ready for a no-stone-unturned road trip from Ecuador down through Peru and into Bolivia. Expect Quito quaintness, Amazonian antics, Banos bliss, Lima liveliness, Nazca’s lines, Colca’s Canyon, the Incas’ Trail, Machu’s Picchu, Lake Titicaca and La Paz.

     

    Your Amazon lodge can only be accessed by boat, so keep hands, feet and objects inside at all times. You're in piranha country now.
     

    Itinerary

    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).

    Day 1

    • 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

    Day 2

    • 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

    We leave Quito early in the morning and travel by local bus to Misahualli (approx. 6 hours) From here we travel by boat to our local community (approx 10 minutes).

    After breakfast we travel by canoe for 45 minutes to the starting point of our hike. The hike is relatively easy and takes approximately 3-4 hours (depending on the group’s pace). During the hike we visit a protected private reserve with sections of secondary and primary forest. Stay alert and try to spot the immense variety of insects and birds that inhabit this precious ecosystem. Your local guide will help understand the importance of the jungle to the local community.

    We dedicate our third day at the jungle to learn about what it takes to leave in this secluded part of the world. A community local leader will explain, demonstrate and encourage you to have a go at some of the skills necessary to survive here, such as fishing  in the Napo river, understanding the use of different medicinal plants, blow pipe hunting as well are more social aspects of life such traditional dances, preparing chicha and other cultural events.

    Accommodation in the community is very basic and it consists of a bed and bed linen. Bathroom facilities are shared.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 6-8 - Banos

    Travel back to Tena by local bus (approx 20 mins).
    From Tena we travel  to Banos by local bus (approx 5 hrs). Half way through the journey we stop in Puyo for a quick toilet stop and to grab some snacks.
    Situated in a valley of waterfalls and hot springs, Banos has become a mecca for international travellers seeking year-round temperate weather, a small-town atmosphere and a base for exploring the great Ecuadorian outdoors.

    Located on the northern foothills of the active Tungurahua volcano, Banos is a sanctuary of peace and tranquility during the week, broken only by the occasional performance of a traditional Andean band, English language movie at the Hood Cinema, or drinks with friends at a local bar. On the weekends and during holidays however, Banos explodes with carnival-like festivities.
    There are plenty of optional activities to get out and get active, and we have two full free days here to take advantage. Go horse riding, mountain biking, hiking or even rafting.
    In Spanish 'banos' means baths and this is exactly what the town is famous for. It's worth rising early to watch dawn creep over the mountains from the cosy comfort of the hot springs - an unforgettable (and very relaxing) experience.
    Your leader will take you on a walking tour visiting important places such as the Cathedral, local market, artisanal market, and the main street where people sell a typical product known as 'Melcocha'.

    Breakfast

    Day 9-10 - Riobamba - Cuenca

    Travel by local bus to Riobamba (approx 3 hrs), where we swap buses and head south to Cuenca (approx 8 hrs).
    Possibly the most attractive city in Ecuador, Cuenca has managed to retain its Old World air, despite being the country's third largest city. The city has many 16th and 17th-century buildings, including its cathedral built in 1557, the year the city was founded by the Spanish. However, the city's history stretches back hundreds of years earlier. This was the site of a native Canari village that was later conquered by the Incas and called Tomebamba. The city was said to have rivalled Peru's Cuzco for its beauty, but the glory was short lived and the city was razed during the Inca civil war. The city's history is well preserved, earning Cuenca the honour of being listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.
    Head out to El Cajas National Park, which features some of the most varied and spectacular scenery in the country. Its 70,000 acres shelter everything from cloud forest to rocky lunar landscapes, but it's the lakes (more than 200 of them) scattered among jagged peaks that most characterise the reserve. Despite its proximity to Cuenca, El Cajas is an easy place to find a surprising amount of solitude, whether you are there for the hiking or trout fishing. Visitors stand a good chance of seeing the wild llamas that were reintroduced to the park in the late 1990s. The park's other animal inhabitants, such as the spectacled bear, puma and tigrillo, are more elusive. Hummingbirds, toucans and Andean condors head the list of birds in the park.

    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

    Travel by local bus to Huaquillas, on the border of Ecuador and Peru (approx 5 hrs). After crossing the border we continue travelling 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.

    Breakfast

    Day 13-14 - Chiclayo- Trujillo

    From Trujillo it's possible to visit the mud city of Chan Chan. This vast city has ten walled citadels, carved with intricate designs depicting birds, fish and mammals. Unlike many of Peru's archaeological sites, this was not an Inca city, but part of the Chimu and Moche civilisations, renowned for their pottery.

    Famed for its 'surfing' fishermen, Huanchaco was once a small fishing village but is now a relaxed beach haven for travellers keen on seeing the nearby ruins.
    Another nearby archaeological site is Huaca del Sol y la Luna. Here you can discover a royal pre-Inca society that's still impressing archaeologists with its findings. While here, see if you can spot a Peruvian hairless dog. This breed of dog is originally from this area and has existed since pre-Incan times.

     

     

    Breakfast

    Day 15-16 - Lima


    Travel by overnight bus to Lima (approx 8-10 hrs).

     

    Your leader will take you on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro.

    While Peru's capital officially began life in 1535, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city on the Day of the Three Kings, settlements had been scattered through the valley since before the Incas. The city was built on top of an existing palace and temples that belonged to the local chief who had little choice but to move on. Lima was in its prime during the Spanish colonial days and much of the city's attraction now lies in its well-preserved historical centre.

     

    Breakfast

    Day 17-18 - Paracas- Nazca

    Day 17

     

    Travel by taxi or minivan to Lima's bus station and take a local bus to Pisco (approx 4 hrs). The bus will stop three or four times before reaching our destination.


    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, made from a local brandy of the same name. For some local food specialities, head to the Plaza de Armas where the locals hang out and munch on tejas, small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits.

     

    You will have the option to do a tour to the Ballestas Isalnds (cost not included in tour price).

    The Ballestas Islands are in the Paracas National Reserve. Sometimes called the 'Galapagos of Peru' the islands are a haven for wildlife and hundreds of pelicans, red-footed boobies, flamingos, sea lions and even penguins.

     

    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, which offer endless photography and sandboarding opportunities.
    The entire desert in the Nazca area was once home to the ancient Nazca and Paracas cultures which preceded the Incas by over 500 years. Remains of their cultures are still visible - Nazca is home to the famous and enigmatic Nazca lines, enormous designs inscribed in the desert on the arid high plateau.
     

    Day 18

    The enormous lines have been etched into the ground by scraping away the top darker layer of gravel which then contrasts with the paler one underneath. Animals, insects and birds are depicted, and some of the simpler line formations are up to 10 km (32 miles) in length. Who drew them, how and why, can only be guessed at, but theories range from alien invaders to complex Nazca calendars.
    Visit the desert cemetery of Chauchilla. The Nazca people were buried with colourful textiles and ceramics deep in the desert where the dry, arid climate has naturally mummified the bodies for over 1,500 years.
    These mysterious shapes are better seen from the air. Small four/six seater planes offer 30 minute flights that allow viewing all 26 figures scattered through the desert floor.

    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.

     

    Breakfast

    Day 19-20 - Arequipa

    Early in the afternoon we travel from Nazca to Arequipa by local bus (approx 9hrs)
    Standing at the foot of El Misti Volcano and oozing the best of Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cuzco for the title of Peru's most attractive city. Built out of a pale volcanic rock called sillar, the old buildings dazzle in the sun, giving the city its nickname - the 'White City'. The main plaza, with its cafes and nearby cathedral, is a lovely place to while away the day.
    For a glimpse into a bygone way of life, visit the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. When the convent was built in the 16th century it was traditional for the second son or daughter of a family to enter the religious service. The Santa Catalina accepted only women from high-class Spanish families, with each family paying a hefty dowry for her acceptance. But life inside the convent was far from modest - each nun had between one and four servants, many brought rugs, fine china and silk curtains, and they often held parties.

    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 discovered in 1995.

    Breakfast

    Day 21 - Colca Canyon- Arequipa

    We travel by minivan to Chivay (approx 5 hrs). Along the way you'll see llamas, alpacas and vicunas and discover the differences between these similar creatures. There will also be the opportunity to stop for pictures. At our second stop (after approx 2 hrs) you'll have the chance to try some coca tea. After a third stop at Patapampa (the highest place on our tour at 4800 m above sea level), we descend to Chivay town.

    More than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon provides some breathtaking views. The Incan and pre-Incan terraces that are carved into the walls are still cultivated and traditional Indian villages are dotted throughout the canyon. In the afternoon, your local guide will organise a short trek, finishing at the local hot thermal baths. You may choose to 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, however there's no heating (you can request extra blankets) and some rooms can be noisy.

    The main star of the canyon is not the amazing scenery but the magnificent Andean condor, the world's largest flying bird. Wake up very early and drive to a viewpoint where condors can normally be seen in their morning routine. Following this stop there will be a short walk of about 45 minutes, before returning to Chivay. Travel back to Arequipa in the afternoon.

    Breakfast

    Day 22-24 - Arequipa- Cusco- Sacred Valley

    Day 23

    We farewell Arequipa and travel by local bus to Cuzco (10 hrs).
    Your leader will take you on a walking tour including a visit to the Coca Musuem - where you can learn more about this infamous plant which has been an essential part of life in the Andes for centuries - and the local San Pedro market.
    The Cuzco region truly is the heart and soul of Peru. The city itself is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today Cuzco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Inca foundations. This is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend and is a perfect base for explorations into the Inca world or to enjoy a range of outdoor activities.

     

    Day 24

    Whilst in Cusco, 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.
    The cathedral, built on top of an Inca palace, dominates the Plaza de Armas, Cuzco's picturesque heart. The cathedral is one of the city's greatest repositories of art and houses an elegantly carved choir stall and a silver-covered Neoclassic altar.
    There are several impressive Inca ruins within the city. The most easily accessible is Coricancha, which was the Inca empire's richest temple. Once plated in thick gold, the Spanish built a Dominican church atop its sturdy walls.
    For lunch or mid-morning coffee and cake head to Yanapay restaurant at 415 Ruinas St. This restaurant uses all its profits to support children in Cuzco through Aldea Yanapay and its social projects. For more info on Aldea Yanapay visit: http://yanapay.facipub.com/

     

    Travel by private bus through the Sacred Valley (approx 2 hours total drive), on the outskirts of Cuzco. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the lush, fertile valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. Maize crops can be seen surrounding the river and covering the terraces carved high into the valley walls. We will head to a community in the Valley to learn about local lifestyle and activities and if our visit coincides with market day we can spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos and maybe practising some of the local language, Quechua.
    Ollantaytambo's steep terraces cling to the mountainside, supposedly in the shape of a llama, with a large rock outcrop forming the pack baggage. Right on the ridge, with commanding views of the valley, the temple area appears to have never been completed and it is possible to gain a fantastic insight into how these incredible structures were built.
    Breakfast

    Day 25-28 - Inca Trail

    There will be a few tough days. Dead Woman's pass on Day 2 will test you, but it's worth all the sweat and tears when you watch the sunrise at Machu Picchu's Gateway of the Sun. Pretty apt name.

     

    Day 25

    • Gaze upon massive Inca fortifications in Ollantaytambo 
    • 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

    Day 26

    • 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

    Day 27

    • 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

    Day 28

    • 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 & Bus.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 29 - Cusco

    Enjoy free time to relax, shop and explore more of Cuzco's sights. Rest weary legs at a cafe on Plaza de Armas.

    Breakfast

    Day 30-33 - Puno- Lake Titicaca

    Travel by local bus through the dramatic scenery of the high altiplano to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approx 6 hrs). There will be a couple of stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers.
    Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture and traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented here. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. Many festivals are celebrated here, so if you're lucky your visit might coincide with one of the colourful evening parades, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
    Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, sitting at 3,820 m above sea level. From the shoreline, the water stretches out almost as far as the eye can see, its expanses just waiting to be explored.
    Take a tour of the lake by slow motor boat, stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. The Uros originally built their islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes. The islands are built from many layers of totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. As the reeds closest to the water begin to rot, more layers are added on top. These reeds are used for making everything on the islands, including the boats which can last up to 12 months.

    To get a closer look at daily life in the Lake Titicaca region, we'll be welcomed into local homes for an overnight stay on a local community. Make the most of your visit by helping your host family with their daily activities or trying to chat in the local language, Quechua. A game of soccer is also a great way to make local friends.

    Our homestay is a mudbrick house. Rooms have beds and many blankets, there are shared drop toilets but no showers.

    After breakfast the next day, board the boat again for a visit to Taquile Island (approx 1 hour), where knitting is strictly a male domain and women do the spinning. This is a great place to pick up some high quality, locally knitted goods. An uphill trek of about an hour brings us to the main area of the island and after the visit we descend about 500 steps back to our boat.

    Transfer back to Puno by boat (approx 3 hrs).

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 34-36 - La Paz

    Travel by comfortable local bus to Desaguadero, where we cross the border into Bolivia. The first stop is the Peruvian migration office where you'll be asked to leave the bus and proceed through Peruvian migration. Then walk via a bridge to the Bolivian side, submit your passport at the Bolivian migration office and reboard the bus, which will continue to La Paz. About 30 minutes after crossing the border there's another stop where the army will again check your documents. 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. It's not far from it and vies with Tibet for the title of highest capital in the world. Although Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, La Paz is the centre of commerce, finance and industry. Despite the abundance of colonial architecture, La Paz's indigenous roots run deep, and the atmosphere in the market-filled streets is both modern and traditional. La Paz is renowned for its many markets, including the Mercado de Hechiceria or Witches' Market. Browse through the weird and wonderful stalls which sell everything from potions to incantations made from herbs, seeds and unidentified bits and pieces to cure any ailment. If this is all too much for you, try the more conventional markets where you'll find ponchos, gloves, hats and many other products made of alpaca wool, leather and other traditional materials. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.

    Breakfast
  • What's Included

    • Experienced local leaders plus there will be the services of local guides at some sites. All transportation, accommodation, sightseeing and meals as indicated.

      Please note that the meals included are 26 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 6 dinners. Unfortunately there was a print error in our brochure.

    Not Included

    • 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.

    Safety Information

    Active Volcanoes
    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.
     

  • Map Itinerary

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  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    West Coast you're Wonderful

    Annette and kim - Australia, 16 Sep, 2012
    5
    Overall Rating

    A fantastic, well organised trip. Without the local guides with their knowledge and experience we would have been very frustrated and lost a lot of valuable time because of the language barrier.

    West Coast you're Wonderful

    Dimity - Australia, 19 Aug, 2012
    5
    Overall Rating

    An wonderful trip extensively covering Ecuador and Peru, but only a taste of Bolivia. Highlights include Inca Trail, Macchu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Nazca Lines, Chan Chan, and Banos, Cusco, Quito and Lima. Was good to see a wide area of Peru, not just the tourist mecca's. The Amazon trip wasn't enough for my tastes and I would recommend doing Amazon from another locale (like Peru)and for a longer duration. Colca Canyon was another highlight, but not included in the trip cost.

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36 days
$2505
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Nuts+Bolts

#GSCQ
- 16
Boat, Bus, Taxi
3 nights Full service camping, 4 nights Homestay, 3 nights Hostel, 24 nights Hotels/guesthouses, 1 night Overnight coach
Quito
La Paz

What to know

 

A good level of fitness and pre-trip training is essential for the Inca Trek. You will trek on hilly terrain or mountainous terrain at altitudes of up to 4200 metres, for up to 7 hours per day.

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