Tonight it's time to meet your tour leader, driver and fellow Trekkers, but why not arrive early to see the sights, or add some extra hotel nights before the start of your tour to really explore all the city has to offer. Lima is a large bustling city, but many of the sights including the city's two main squares, the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin, are within easy walking distance from your hotel and great for a spot of people watching! Explore the historic centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and full of beautiful colonial buildings and museums, including the Museum of the Inquisition and the catacombs below the Church and Convent of San Francisco. Check out Lima's art galleries for edgy art and be sure to sample the local food; Lima is known as the gastronomic capital of the Americas after all! Nearby Miraflores on the coast is well worth a visit for a meal or a few cheeky drinks.
Hit the road heading south along the Pacific Coast to Paracas, where you'll have the option to travel by zodiac boat to the Ballestas Islands. It's sometimes called a `poor man's Galapagos' and it's a unique experience to see thousands of sea lions basking on and around the islands and a whole host of birdlife that calls the area home. Next up we make the journey to Huacachina, a spectacular desert oasis surrounded by giant wind-sculpted dunes - perfect for a spot of sand boarding. Jump aboard an awesome dune buggy ride and sleep under the desert stars on an optional overnight trip. Tonight could be the perfect opportunity to try your first Pisco Sour. Salud!
Continue south on the Pan-American Highway towards Nazca, famous for its parallel lines and hundreds of geometrical figures and animals etched into the desert floor, you'll never have seen anything quite like it. Is it historic art, an agricultural calendar or the work of aliens? To this day no one really knows how and why they were created, but see them for yourself and come up with your own theory! So many of the designs can only be appreciated from the air, so opt for a 30 minute light aircraft flight for a striking view of the `monkey', `hummingbird', `condor', `spider', and what appears to be a spaceman!
Visit the bizarre Chauchilla Cemetery where you'll find ancient mummies, some still with hair and even their skin intact after thousands of years. Then for something a little less chilling, head back along the coast towards Puerto Inca, the original Inca fishing port which was only rediscovered in the 1950s. Tonight you'll camp by the beach, just down from the coastal ruins.
Arequipa enjoys a pretty impressive setting, surrounded by three volcanoes and with snow-capped El Misti looming large over its giant cathedral and beautiful baroque buildings. Make sure you have your camera on standby. Delve into the city's history at the Monastery of Santa Catalina, a vast complex of cobbled streets and cloisters, or head to the Museo Santuarios Andinos to see the frozen Inca ice princess `Juanita', a young maiden sacrificed to the gods over 500 years ago from on top of Nevado Ampato volcano. From Arequipa you can take an overnight excursion to the stunning Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and just as epic! Head to the lookout point at Cruz del Condor for views of the river flowing a dizzying 1200 metres below. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for magnificent condors as they soar out of the canyon on the hot thermal currents. If you choose not to travel to the Colca Canyon you'll have some free time to explore Arequipa; there's a thriving foodie scene here so be sure to check out classic spicy dishes like rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy red peppers) in the city's communal `picanteria' restaurants, yum!
Cusco (or Cuzco) means `navel of the earth' in the Inca language of Quechua, and on the journey towards the former Inca capital, the landscape just keeps on getting better. It's a gem of a city centred around the Plaza de Armas, which is dominated by its cathedral and La Compania de Jesus Church. But nowadays Cusco is also legendary for its party atmosphere and buzzing nightlife and it's jam-packed with narrow streets and some of the best restaurants, bars and shops around!Cusco is a fun town to explore in its own right but it's also a great base for some really special (and highly recommended) optional excursions, including an Amazon Jungle excursion and the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu (if you prefer not to trek, you can also book the train to Machu Picchu). These optional excursions must be booked in advance; please request at the time of booking your tour to avoid missing out!You'll have time to fit in both of these exciting optional excursions and more! But if you're happier to simply spend time exploring Cusco and the nearby Sacred Valley, there are plenty of other optional activities available here. Buy a `Completo' visitor ticket locally to get yourself two days of access to all the Inca ruin sites around Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Alternatively you could join an awesome full-day excursion from Cusco through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, visiting the Pisac ruins perched in the mountains and the famous Pisac local market in the valley below for local crafts, pottery, jewellery and delicious empanadas; before making your way down the valley to the temple fortress of Ollantaytambo, and witnessing its enormous terraces climbing up the hillside.
This optional activity must be booked in advance; please request at the time of booking your tour. Feel like a real life Tarzan with a visit to the Amazon rainforest, this is an absolute must do! From Cusco, head deep into the jungle on a quick flight to Puerto Maldonado, and board a small boat waiting to take you further into the canopy to your jungle hut, for a night like no other! This is a truly unique ecosystem on an incredible scale with such an array of wildlife; if you're looking for somewhere with the `wow factor' then this is it, trust us! Hit the jungle trails with a trained guide to really help you get the most out of your experience. You'll soon be able to identify some of the native species around you, David Attenborough eat your heart out! End this truly special experience with a visit to Monkey Island to see where monkeys are rescued and rehabilitated (and no, you can't take one home with you).
This optional activity must be booked in advance; please request at the time of booking your tour. If you opt to hike the trail you'll cross spectacular passes and visit more incredible Inca ruins en route to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. Along the way a local guide will share their expertise with you, plus there are cooks and porters to carry the main equipment, leaving you with just a small daypack so you can focus on putting one foot in front of the other. On day one, your trek begins with a relatively easy four-and-a-half hour, 13 km walk which will get you limbered up. On day two, you'll cover roughly 9 km in about five to seven hours, and after the highest pass at Warmiwanusca or `Dead Woman's Pass' (4,200 metres), it's all downhill as the trail winds its way down old Inca stairs to your campsite. Day three takes you past the interesting ruins of Runkurakay, Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca, walking approximately 15 km in seven hours. However, your big day starts early after an overnight at Winay-Wayna, where you make your final walk towards Machu Picchu in time for the sun rising over the famous Sun Gate. Incredible! After an included guided tour of Machu Picchu, there's time to explore on your own and your brain will be in overload with all the fascinating history to discover about the Inca Empire and Quechua people. But all good things come to an end as you make your way back to modern civilisation in Cusco. Wash off the trail dirt and why not take time to celebrate reaching Machu Picchu with a pisco sour or two. Please note: Due to a restricted number of people being allowed on the trail each day, permits can sell out up many months in advance. If you wish to book the Inca Trail trek, please provide your sales consultant with your passport details as soon as possible to secure your permit. Without your passport details, we aren't able to arrange your Inca Trail trek. Please be aware that once your permit has been issued it is non-refundable and non-transferable. Should an Inca Trail permit not be available, you will have the option to book a two night/three day Lares Trail trek. A guided tour of Machu Picchu is included. The porters, cooks and guides work incredibly hard on the Inca Trail and the Lares Trail, carrying food needed for the four days, cooking equipment, tents and your personal items. While it is an optional payment, we recommend a tip of 100 Soles per person at the end of the route, to be split between your trail guides, porters and chefs.
This optional activity must be booked in advance; please request at the time of booking your tour. Waking early in Ollantaytambo, a train ride to 2100m will take you to the start of your hike. Head towards the ruins of Chachabamba to link up with the Inca Trail where you will continue to the foot of the Wiñay-Wayna ruins (2700m). You'll continue hiking until you reach Sun Gate and Machu Picchu in the late afternoon. Enjoy a guided tour of the famed Incan citadel before getting the train back to Ollantaytambo and arriving back in Cusco at approximately 10pm.If you're keen to do this day hike, please be aware it needs to be booked at least three months in advance with a member of our sales team, as it is a popular option that can sell out. This is a long day and can be quite challenging, the rewarding views and Instagram glory make it definitely worth the effort.
Head to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake. Try some trout and kingfish from the lake or why not sample some of the local delicacies like guinea pig or llama if you're feeling a bit more adventurous! After your first night in Puno, cruise across Lake Titicaca to the island of Amantani for an awesome overnight homestay with a local Quechua family. You might even get the opportunity to play a little football with the local children. Visit Taquile Island where the people live in simple adobe huts, then hop aboard a traditional reed boat to see the famous floating reed islands in the Bay of Puno and appreciate how the indigenous Uros lived. Back on dry land in Puno, you'll have time to visit the colourful local markets, so don't forget a few souvenirs for the folks back home.
Cross the border into Bolivia and make your way to La Paz. The city is nestled in an ancient crater left by a meteorite, with the snow-capped Illimani Mountain providing a dramatic backdrop. You'll be staying near to the colourful street markets so be sure to check out the `witches market' where local women sell the weird and the wonderful. La Paz is also one of the best places to hear local bands play their traditional instruments such as zampoñas and charangos (pipes and ukuleles). For more adventure just outside of town, catch a bus or taxi and check out the obscure lunar-like pinnacles and canyons of Moon Valley. Guides are available on site or through travel agencies in town. If you really want to kick the adventure up a gear, make your way by mountain bike to Coroico, the gateway to the Bolivian jungle region. It's a little bit hairy getting there as you cross a 5,000-metre-high pass before descending to 1,300 metres on narrow, winding mountain roads carved into the mountainside and bordered by sheer drops. It's downhill nearly all the way and very exhilarating, but it's been nicknamed `Death Road', so it's definitely not for the faint-hearted!
Travel to the town of Uyuni, where you'll stay overnight before a full day included excursion to the largest salt flat in the world - the Salar de Uyuni. It's an awesome sight, stretching over an amazing 12,000 sq km. The contrast of blinding pure white salt against a brilliant blue sky is stunning (weather permitting of course!). Head out onto the vast salt flats in 4WD vehicles, stopping off at Fish Island (season dependent) where there are fantastic views of the surrounding lake. Giant cacti provide those classic photo opportunities and travellers have been known to get extremely creative with their quirky perspective shots out here!
Head to the city of Potosi, the highest city of its size on earth, with a history closely linked to silver. Incredibly this was once the largest and wealthiest city in the Americas, and you'll see reminders of the grand colonial city it used to be in ornate churches and balconied mansions. Potosi became famous in the late 1500s as the world's richest source of silver and helped bankroll the Spanish empire for centuries. Unfortunately, behind the shiny surface of wealth there were huge amounts of tragedy. Learn about the forced labour of indigenous people and African slaves. A shocking eight million miners are estimated to have died here. It's well worth visiting one of the mines to learn first-hand about the daily lives of today's miners.
Pass through landscapes with brilliantly coloured rock formations and giant cacti. Keep out of trouble as legend has it that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their end at the hands of the Bolivian army near Tupiza, concluding their notorious string of bank raids.
While some border crossings in Latin America can be easy, this is a notoriously difficult one, so sit back and relax as it might take a few hours! Cross the border into Argentina and take a drive through wine country towards the beautiful city of Salta, in the Lerma Valley at the foothills of the Andes. One thing you'll notice instantly is the cathedral and old colonial buildings, and you could simply spend your time wandering the city and people watching. If you want to ramp up the adventure, there are awesome activities available here like rafting, horse riding or mountain biking. One thing's for sure, you're going to fall in love with Salta.
Take a memorable drive to Cafayate, past the canyons and richly coloured, twisted rock formations carved by the Rio de las Conchas. Cafayate is famous for aromatic dry and sweet white wines, so grab a glass at one of the local bodegas for a taste. If you're feeling more active, find a trail then visit the cascadas (waterfalls) to cool off from the heat.
One thing about South America is its massive and there's a heck of a lot of ground to cover. Today is a long drive day so make sure you've got a good book, a pack of playing cards and some tunes lined up on your iPod.
Cordoba's centre is full of charming churches, plazas, museums and colonial buildings, with traditional Jesuit heritage sites sitting side by side with a buzzing nightlife, due to a huge student population. Cordoba is another Argentinian city known for its wine so treat yourself to a glass of vino, or round up your fellow Trekkers and join a tasting at a local winery. Head out of the city if you like the sound of a full day visiting an estancia (ranch), with a traditional lunch, folk music and the chance to just relax in the grounds or enjoy a leisurely cycle ride. This is the life!
Buenos Aires is a stunning city and often a Trekkers favourite, and with four nights here you'll have loads of time to explore the different neighbourhoods. There are lots of options on offer and your hostel is right in the middle of it all, within walking distance of many of the city's highlights and transport links, so there's no excuse not to get out and explore. Across the Plaza de Mayo you'll find the Cabildo (old town hall), Palacio Municipal (City Hall) and cathedral, or stop by the balcony of the Casa Rosada (Pink Palace or presidential palace) made famous by Eva Peron and where Madonna sang `Don't Cry for me Argentina' in the film Evita. See the famous Recoleta Cemetery, almost like an enclosed city of its own, where Eva Peron and many other rich and famous Argentines are buried. Be sure to visit La Boca for its colourful buildings and culture, and the nearby bohemian area of San Telmo for the fascinating antique market held every Sunday. It's worth checking out a foot-stomping tango show when you're in town or a football game to see true Argentine passion! You'll definitely want to visit an asado (BBQ) for one of the best steaks you're ever likely to eat. Then when the sun goes down you'll find that Buenos Aires' nightlife will keep you out until the small hours.
Today is a ful day to the historical town of Yapeyú. Founded on December 4, 1626 by the Jesuit Pedro Romero, the town was one of the 30 missions established at the beginning of the 17th century that were destroyed in 1817 by the Portuguese army. Later in the 18th century the town was rebuilt and General San Martín, the liberator of Argentina, Chile and Peru was famously born here. Tonight camp on the river separating Argentina and Uruguay.
To truly appreciate how epic the Iguazu Falls are, you have to witness them from both the Argentinian and Brazilian side, so naturally we've included both! Get your first view with a stroll through rainforests and along boardwalks directly above the falls, and gaze down at the famous Garganta del Diablo (`Devil's Throat'), where fourteen waterfalls drop with such force that there's always a massive cloud of spray overhead. For a totally different perspective, take a zodiac boat ride up the river and under the falls. Tonight, visit some of the town's bars and clubs close to your hostel.Eco Tourism Tax: the Argentinian government has introduced an Eco Tourism Tax of ARG20pp (approx. US$2) to be paid on arrival when visiting the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls.
Cross the border to the little Brazilian town of Foz do Iguacu (Iguazu Falls), where 275 separate waterfalls cascade over a 2.5 km wide cliff face. Visiting the falls from the Brazilian side gives you amazing panoramic views of the waterfalls on the Argentine side too. For a bird's-eye view over the entire falls, you can opt for a stunning scenic helicopter ride. For something a little different, there's an excellent bird park nearby and you can visit the world's largest hydroelectric dam at Itaipu and learn about the environmental planning behind the project.
After a long drive day travelling east across Brazils scenic landscape, enjoy an adventurous free day in Vila Velha State Park. Explore incredible sandstone formations and impressive sinkholes. You have the option to take a short hike to nearby mariquinha waterfall or head to Buraco do Padre park and see a waterfall of different kind. Homw to the 30m cave waterfall titled “Hole of the Father” after it is believed to have been used by Jesuit priests for meditation. If you’re not up to travelling far, fear not, there is a beautiful sandy river beach within walking distance from campsite.
Continue on to Brazil’s scenic southeast coast. The laid back surfers will signal your arrival into Bertigo, a relaxed beach town and popular beach destination for those looking to escape the hussle and bustle of infamous Sao Paulo.
Enjoy a drive along the "Costa Verde" of Brazil on the way to Parati. Enjoy the breath-taking views of rainforest jungles and simmering aqua blue waters before we arrive in the charming historic beach town of Parati where you have three days of ultimate relaxation. Parati was once a major port for the export of gold and coffee and is a beautifully preserved Portuguese colonial town, known for its historic centre of cobblestone streets, its backdrop of steep jungled mountains and coastline of secluded beaches. Choose to relax on a sailing schooner cruise around the bays, walk the gold trail or venture into the rainforest for an awesome hike!
You've arrived in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautiful cities in the world! In Portuguese colonial times Rio was the Brazilian capital and the main port for exporting gold and diamonds, and it's still sparkling today! Rio has so much to offer with famous landmarks including Sugarloaf Mountain and the famous `Cristo Redentor' (Christ the Redeemer) statue both offering great views over the city. You can't visit Rio without hitting the golden sandy beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, for the perfect end to what's been the adventure of a lifetime.Your tour finishes after breakfast on day 49 and you are free to fly out at any time today.Please note: If your tour ends in Rio in time for Rio Carnival or New Year and you wish to stay on in the city after your tour, there is a minimum 4 night stay and you can book one of our extension packages.