From Buenos Aires set out on a wilderness adventure through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, taking in the spectacular landscapes of the Andes mountains, the Atacama Desert and the shimmering Uyuni Salt Flats, culminating at magnificent Machu Picchu.
Location: Buenos Aires
Welcome to Argentina! You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel where you have the rest of the day to relax or explore Argentina's cosmopolitan capital.
Location: Buenos Aires
Today we meet our guide and set off on a tour of Buenos Aires, taking in all of the major sites of this fascinating city. Our first stop is in the Plaza de Mayo, which is enclosed on three sides by the town hall, presidential palace and cathedral before continuing to bohemian La Boca, whose streets are lined with brightly painted houses. Our final stop is to the chic district of Recoleta, home to the famous cemetery where Eva Peron is buried.
Buenos Aires – Salta. We head to north-west Argentina this morning as we fly to the town of Salta which lies in the foothills of the Andes, between two rivers. After checking into our hotel, the rest of the afternoon is at leisure to explore the colonial town centre, with its baroque architecture and palm-lined main plaza. You can also take the cable car up to Cerro San Bernardo, a hilltop with sweeping views of the city and the mountains beyond. This evening consider heading to one of the lively penas (informal folk-music clubs) where you can enjoy a delicious meal and some entertainment.
Today we enjoy a full-day excursion to the sleepy town of Cafayate, which is the centre of the region’s wine industry. The road to Cafayate follows a winding canyon and we make several photo stop en route, where you can walk into the desert valleys and marvel at the views. Spend time exploring the picturesque town and visit one of two of Cafayate’s high-altitude vineyards where there's the opportunity to sample local wines.
Location: San Pedro de Atacama
Salta - San Pedro de Atacama (Chile). We continue our journey through the Andes and into Chile before reaching our base for the next two nights - San Pedro de Atacama. This small picturesque town is famous for the salt-covered lunar landscapes, geysers, salt flats and hot springs of the Moon Valley and looks like it has come straight from a scene of a Western film with its white washed walls and dusty roads. Due to its remote location and dry climate, the Atacama Desert offers some of the clearest skies in the world and as such is used by international space agencies to monitor the skies. If you are lucky enough to have clear nights during your stay in San Pedro de Atacama, the starscape will most likely be the best you'll ever see.
Location: San Pedro de Atacama
Spend the morning at leisure or join an early morning optional excursion to the El Tatio geyser where you have a front row seat for the sun rising above the craggy geyser field and the geysers fumaroles. In the afternoon we visit the famous Moon Valley. Arriving late afternoon we explore the dramatic canyons formed by centuries of erosions from the salt mountains and watch the sun set across the valley from the ridge of a golden sand dune.
Location: Uyuni / Salar De Uyuni Region
San Pedro de Atacama - Uyuni Salt Flats. The next two days will be spent on an exhilarating 4WD tour through one of South America's most spectacular wilderness landscapes. Bidding farewell to Chile we travel into Bolivia, crossing a remote plateau, past strange rock formations and the spectacular opalescent colours of Lagunas Verde and Colorada en route to Salar de Uyuni. The vast, dazzling white Uyuni salt flats are an incredible sight, covering some 10,500 square kilometres, with over 10 billion tons of salt. After rain a thin layer of water covers the surface, turning the salt flat into a huge mirror that reflects an inverted sky. In the middle of the salt flats is Isla del Pescado, a small island which is covered in giant cacti, where we stop to stretch our legs and enjoy the views.
Location: Uyuni / Salar De Uyuni Region
Uyuni Salt Flats - La Paz. We continue our journey along the Salt Flats on our way to the town of Uyuni this morning. Keep your eye out as at certain times of the year flamingos add a striking dash of colour to the white landscape. Upon arrival in Uyuni we board a flight to La Paz, which will be our home for the next three nights.
Location: La Paz
Built in a steep valley that protects the city from the harsh elements of the Altiplano, just about every building in La Paz is built on some sort of hill, so sightseeing will literally take your breath away! On day 10 we explore the city and its colourful indigenous street markets on a walking tour including the fascinating and suitably named "Witches Market'' where local women in traditional 'Cholita' dress sell such items as dead cats and llamas foetuses as offerings to fend off evil spirits. The main square, Plaza Murillo, is also within walking distance. The square still retains its colonial buildings including the Presidential Palace. La Paz is possibly the best place to experience a traditional pena show of Andean music and dance to local bands playing time-honoured instruments such as pipes and the ukulele. <br/><br/> Day 11 is free for you to spend at leisure. Continue to discover the colonial delights of the city or alternatively you may wish to join an optional excursion to the ruins of Tiwanaku, located approximately 2 hours from La Paz. Travel across the Altiplano, past glimmering lakes and herds of alpacas before reaching some of the most important pre-Columbian ruins on the continent. Explore the massive gateways and imposing walls before making your way to the museum housing over 100 artefacts to provide a fascinating insight to the history of the ruins.
Location: Lake Titicaca
La Paz - Copacabana. Today we drive to the deep sapphire lake that sits in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia – Lake Titicaca. On arrival to the pretty little Bolivian town of Copacabana we have free time to walk through the streets of white-washed buildings to the Moorish-style basilica which attracts pilgrims from all over the world who bring offerings to the 16th century Dark Virgin of the lake, to be blessed by her. The rest of the day is at leisure. Should you wish to continue exploring climb the stations of the cross for wonderful views of Lake Titicaca and the snow-capped mountains beyond, or there is an optional excursion to the Isla del Sol, a small island that marked the beginning of the Inca civilisation. Legend has it the children of the sun god emerged here from the lake’s depths to establish the empire in Cuzco.
Lake Titicaca - Puno (Peru). This morning we cross the Peruvian border and travel on to the port of Puno. We have some free time in Puno before an afternoon boat trip on the blue glacial waters of Lake Titicaca to visit the unique Uros Islands. These are floating islands, which are made entirely out of totora reeds, were built by the Uros people in an effort to isolate themselves from other civilisations. We explore one of the islands with its reed buildings and boats, and meet the islanders, who sell tortora reed handicrafts.
Puno - Cuzco. Today we have a scenic journey by public bus from Puno to Cuzco crossing the Altiplano, passing indigenous women tending to herds of llamas and alpacas. We then continue across the altiplano until we climb to the la Raya Pass, and descend past fields of corn and potatoes until we reach the city of Cuzco. We arrive into Cuzco early in the evening. <br/><br/> On day 15 we have a walking tour of the enchanting city of Cuzco, which was the capital of the Inca Empire. We visit several Inca remains including Q’oricancha, the principal Inca Sun Temple, with its spectacular intricate stonework. Later, we discover the colossal zigzag walls of Sacsayhuaman, brooding on a hillside above Cuzco before retreating to our hotel for an evening at leisure.
Location: Sacred Valley
Cuzco - Sacred Valley. We enjoy a full day tour of the Sacred Valley today. Our first stop is the popular Pisac ruins, an ancient hilltop Inca citadel high above the village, before descending to the bustling market where artisans from the region get together and exchange or buy and sell their products. There's plenty of time to explore the market, see the variety of colourful handicrafts and textiles on offer, and barter for souvenirs. This afternoon we continue crossing the valley until we reach Ollantaytambo, whose fortress was constructed to guard the entrance to this part of the valley and protect it from possible invasions of tribes from the jungle lowlands.
Location: Machu Picchu
Sacred Valley - Machu Picchu. Our day begins with an incredibly scenic 2-hour train journey from Ollantaytambo to the iconic lost city of Machu Picchu. Situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba River and surrounded by tropical forest, the Inca city enjoys a truly spectacular setting and it's one of the most fascinating ancient sites in the world. Believed to have been built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti, the site was abandoned at the time of the Spanish Conquest and lay buried beneath tropical cloud forest until 1911 when it was discovered by the American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham, who brought it to the world’s attention. Following a guided tour of the ruins we spend the night in the spa village of Aguas Calientes, a couple of kilometres upstream. <br/><br/> Fancy hiking some of the Inca Trail without interrupting your tour? We can organise for you to walk the mini Inca Trail on this day, but still, have a guided tour of the ruins and stay with the group in the evening. Please ask us for more details.
Machu Picchu - Cuzco. We have the morning at leisure to relax in Aguas Calientes or there is the option to return to Machu Picchu for an early morning visit to the ruins and continue to explore some of the main trails within the site; climb up the steep steps to the top of Huayna Picchu for spectacular views of over the ruins, or hike to the Inca bridge carved into the cliff edge before we return to Cuzco on the train in the afternoon. <br/><br/> Please note those wanting to climb Huayna Picchu need to enquire with the office and pre-book as availability is limited.
Cuzco - Lima. After breakfast we board a short flight to the city of Lima. This bustling capital growth is a contrast from the glorious colonial past and can be seen in the faded beauty in the churches and wooden balconies. On arrival we set out on a walking tour of the centre exploring the capitals highlights including the Plaza de Armas, as we watch the guards in front of the Baroque Revival Government Palace. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Our tour comes to an end today with an included transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Alternatively we can arrange post tour accommodation if you'd like to extend your stay.
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