South American Highlights South America

South American Highlights

South America

Hiking
44 days
Hard
Transfer, Meals, Accomodation
For groups, Individuals, Friends
2020

Sat, Oct 17

Sun, Nov 29

€5,755

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Overview

  • This trip takes in the very best of the centre of South America – from trekking the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu to partying in Rio de Janiero.
  • Visit the Iguaza Falls and stroll the streets of Buenos Aires.
  • Snap pictures at the incredible Uyuni Salt Flats, look out over the Nazca Lines and explore the stunning history of this incredible part of the world at a pace that allows you to do as much as you want.
  • Experience the best of South America’s centre on this adventure.

Related Photos & Video

This section may show people, locations, weather conditions, equipments, techniques, and trails that is not part of this trek.

South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db

Age & Group Info

  • Ages: Min 15
  • Group size: Min 1, Max 16

Price Includes

Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (3 nights
  • Dormitory (2 nights)
  • Estancia (3 nights)
  • Homestay (1 night)
  • Hotel (31 nights)
  • Overnight bus (3 nights)
Meals
  • 38 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners
Transportation
  • 4x4, Bus, coach, Ferry, Minibus, Overnight bus, Plane, Taxi, Van
  • Our overnight buses have reclinable seats - usually more comfortable than your average economy plane seats.
  • You may be offered a simple dinner on board or stop at a service station to buy snacks and drinks.
Tour Guide
  • This trip is accompanied by one of our group leaders.
  • The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible.
  • The operator endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
  • Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends.


Included Activities
  • Lima - Leader-led walking tour
  • Colca Canyon - Guided tour
  • Cusco - Orientation Walk
  • Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
  • Lake Titicaca - Boat tour & Homestay
  • Salt flats - Visit to 'Fish Island/Inca Wasi'
  • Uyuni - Colchani Salt Factory Visit
  • Salt flats - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde
  • Welcome Meeting
  • Buenos Aires - Orientation walk
  • 3-night stay on a working estancia including meals and activities
  • Iguazu Falls - Entrance and tour of the Brazilian side of the falls
  • Iguazu Falls - Entrance and tour of the Argentinian side of the falls


Inca Trail Permit
Travel Insurances
  • Travel insurance is a must for this trip.


Inca Quarry

  • Whether you trek the classic Inca Trail, the Inca Quarry Trail or take the scenic train route, the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu are a majestic destination, no matter how you get there

Route

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Itinerary

Day 1Lima
Bievenidos! Welcome to Peru's coastal capital. Your Lonely Planet Experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. With no activities planned until then, why not take a walk around the vibrant Miraflores area. Alternatively, stroll along to Parque del Amor (Love Park) for a great view of Lima's beaches. After your important briefing, get to know each other better over dinner. Whether you dine with the group or sample the city's renowned food scene on your own, don't miss Peru's national dish: ceviche. If you're not a fan of seafood, there are plenty of other excellent options on offer – be sure to ask your local leader of their favourite dishes. If you arrive early, perhaps take a walk around the vibrant Miraflores area. Alternatively, stroll along to Parque del Amor (Love Park) for a great view of Lima's beaches.
Day 2Lima
This morning, set out on a half-day walking tour of Lima's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate 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 of Lima, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro. Nearby is the San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains (entry is optional and at travellers' expense). Then go and browse the fresh produce on offer at Lima's central market, tasting fresh fruit and street food. Your walking tour wraps up in Lima's main square, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Later, perhaps head out for dinner with the group.
Day 3Paracas
Be ready for an early start as you head to Lima’s bus station around 6 am and hop on a local bus to Paracas (approximately 4 hours). During this journey it's unlikely the bus will make any stops, so please ensure you prepare yourself with water, snacks and anything else you need. The small fishing town of Paracas is the gateway to the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve. One you’ve arrived, you'll have the option of visiting Paracas National Reserve today with a local guide. The duration of the tour is around 2–2.5 hours, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and expansive desert. For some local food specialities back in town, head to the boulevard near the beach and try some tejas – small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits.
Day 4Nazca
This morning, there may be the chance to visit Islas Ballestas for an optional day trip. Here there will be lots of opportunities to see wildlife such as penguins, sea lions and flamingos from a speedboat. Speak to your group leader about your options and when the best time to visit would be. Later on this morning, continue on to Nazca, travelling for around 3 hours and arriving in the early afternoon. Nazca is famous for the Nazca Lines – enormous designs inscribed into the desert floor. Who drew them, how and why is unknown, but most scientists believe the Nazca people created them around 2000 years ago. For the best view this afternoon, consider an optional scenic flight to see them from the air – this lasts 30 minutes and covers most of the 26 impressions. Be wary though – the planes turn sharply from side to side for viewing from both sides of the plane, so it’s not for the faint hearted!
Day 5Arequipa
Enjoy a lazy morning in Nazca, then in the early afternoon, transfer to the local bus station and board a bus to Arequipa (approximately 11 hours, with no stops). Lunch will be served on board the bus, and later around dinner time there will be a small snack. Don't forget to pack plenty of water, more snacks and a good book! You’ll arrive into Arequipa around midnight and transfer to the hotel. Standing at the foot of El Misti volcano and oozing all that Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cusco for the title of Peru's most attractive city.
Day 6Arequipa
This morning, head on a leader-led orientation walk with your group, where you’ll visit the main square and Mercado San Camilo. During your walk around Arequipa, you'll come to understand why it’s referred to as the ‘White City’. Built out of the pale volcanic rock, the old buildings shine brightly in the sunshine. The remainder of the day is free for you to relax and explore Arequipa. Perhaps start at Monasterio de Santa Catalina – this 16th-century convent has a unique history, having once only accepted women from high-class Spanish families. From here, drop by the Juanita Museum and take a look at the ‘Ice Maiden’ – the well-preserved mummified remains of a young Inca girl who died in the 1440s. Otherwise, while away the rest of your day in the cafes and restaurants surrounding the main plaza, tasting a rich Peruvian coffee.
Day 7Colca Canyon
In the morning, around 8 am, venture out by private vehicle to Chivay (approximately 5 hours). There’ll be plenty of time to stop and take pictures along the way as you're likely to see llamas, alpacas and vicunas. You'll have the chance to try some coca tea – a local herbal variety made from leaves of the coca plant – from roadside tea stalls. After a third stop at Patapampa (the highest point of your adventure, standing at 4800 metres above sea level), descend into Chivay town for a free evening. Choose to spend it soaking in the local baths, dining on Alpaca steak or listening to live Andean music at a pena (music hall). Your group leader will know all of the best spots to go, so be sure to ask them.
Day 8Arequipa
Early in the morning, take a short drive from town into the renowned Colca Canyon. This river canyon in southern Peru is sprinkled with traditional villages, terraced agriculture and trekking routes, and is home to the predatory Andean condor. Witness the morning routine of this mighty ruler of the sky, gazing as they circle this extraordinary natural ravine. Depending on weather conditions you’ll head on a short hike around the area (approximately 45 minutes) before returning to Chivay town. In the afternoon, travel back to Arequipa (approximately 5 hours), and on arrival, relax into a free evening with your fellow adventurers.
Day 9Arequipa/ Overnight Bus to Cusco
Another day in Arequipa is a perfect time to get out your Lonely Planet app and see what highlights you can go out and explore today. For a bit of culture, why not stroll down to Casa Museo Villalobos for a look at the extensive art collection. If you’re looking for something a bit more hands-on, there are regular cooking classes in the city – be sure to speak to your group leader for their recommendations. Keep in mind that tonight (around 7.30 pm), you’ll transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Cusco (approximately 11 hours with no stops).
Day 10Cusco
Arrive in Cusco on your overnight bus sometime between 6.30 and 7.30 am. On arrival, transfer to your hotel to drop your bags and head into town for breakfast. Afterwards, your leader will give you the choice of heading straight out for an orientation walk or resting in the hotel for a few hours before a stroll in the afternoon. On your leader-led tour you’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, local San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. This afternoon, enjoy some more time at your leisure to explore Cusco. In the evening, join your group leader and fellow travellers for an Inca Trail and Machu Picchu briefing.
Day 11Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Depending on your pre-arranged travel arrangements, during the next four days you may: hike the Classic Inca Trail, hike the Inca Quarry Trail or stay in Cusco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes. Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: Travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3100 metres above sea level. On the way you’ll see the ruins of Llactapata, which was burnt to the ground by the last Inca emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail. In the evening, set up camp while the cook makes dinner. Notes: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 km long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3700 metres above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas. Notes: The Inca Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 km long in total and its highest pass is at 4450 metres above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals. Route 3 Train: For those travellers disinterested in hiking the trail or who are unable to, spend two extra nights in Cusco before travelling by bus to Ollantaytambo. From here take a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to the town of Aguas Calientes where you’ll spend a third night.
Day 12Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: This is the most challenging day of the trek, as we ascend a long steep path (approximately 5 hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4200 metres above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 metres. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the hike to Kuychicassa (approximately 2 hours); this is the highest pass of the trek at 4450 metres. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, which is only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo. Route 3 Train: Today, perhaps use your free day indulging your inner foodie in the eateries of Cusco. Head to lunch at the arty Fallen Angel restaurant, and if you still have room for dessert, the ChocoMuseo offers tastings and chocolate-marking workshops.
Day 13Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending (approximately 2–3 hours) to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the descent down the Inca steps (approximately 2 hours), which takes you to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu. Route 3 Train: In the morning we are transferred by car to Ollantaytambo town where we will take the afternoon train to the town of Aguas Calientes (approximately 1:30 hours) For those who want to, there’s time to see Machu Picchu independently before the guided tour the next day. If you’d like to do this, please advise your group leader at the welcome meeting at the start of the trip.
Day 14Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option and Machu Picchu / Ollantaytambo
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 4.30 am (the final checkpoint opens at 5 am). The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes approximately 2.5 hours meaning arrival time is not until approximately 7.30 am. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as you enter Machu Picchu through the Sungate. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5.30 am along the winding road to Machu Picchu (30 minutes). At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who took the train. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular views over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins. Route 3 Train: In the morning, usually between 5.30 and 6.30 am, we take one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Inca nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy some free time afterwards to wander around on your own before heading to Ollantaytambo for the night. Visiting Machu Picchu: According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted.
Day 15Sacred Valley / Cusco
Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the fertile Sacred Valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. This morning, venture to a community in the valley to learn about the local lifestyle and visit a few businesses, which may include a pottery workshop, a chocolate making demonstration or a local chicha brewery where you will learn about the traditional techniques that are still used to this day. During your community visit, enjoy an included lunch, prepared and cooked by local community members. If your visit coincides with market day, you could spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos. In the afternoon, take a bus back to Cusco for a free evening.
Day 16Cusco
Enjoy some free time to delve a little deeper into Cusco. Those with weary legs might want to simply grab a coffee from a cafe at Plaza de Armas and do some people-watching. For those still seeking an active adventure, the hills that surround Cusco are well-suited for some mountain biking. Ask your group leader for advice on optional activities and how to make the most of your day. When you’re hungry, Manos Unidas Cafe is a great choice for a meal. In addition to serving up delicious food, this central pizzeria also provides vocational training to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Day 17Puno/Lake Titicaca
In the morning, travel by local bus through the Altiplano plateau to Puno (approximately 7 hours). There will be one brief stop along the way at La Raya mountain range where there will be opportunities for photos. Here you'll also have the chance to buy some snacks and take a toilet break. Puno is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. If you're lucky, your visit might coincide with an evening parade, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Day 18Puno
Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. Enjoy a tour of the lake by slow motorboat (8 knots per hour), stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. Local Uros people built these islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes in ancient times. They're built completely from layers of totora reeds, which grow in the shallows of the lake. After your boat trip, transfer to the Llachon Peninsula to enjoy a local community homestay tonight. You’ll have the chance to help your host family with their daily activities or perhaps join a game of soccer or volleyball in the village with the local kids.
Day 19Puno
In the morning, board a boat for a visit to Taquile Island – a great place to pick up some locally knitted goods. On the island knitting is strictly a male domain, while women do the spinning. An hour’s uphill trek brings you to the main area of the island. Explore the local markets before descending the 500 steps back to the boat. Afterwards, return to Puno (approximately 3 hours) arriving around 3 pm. The remainder of the day is free.
Day 20La Paz
At around 7 am, travel by local bus to Desaguadero (approximately 3 hours) and cross the border into Bolivia. You’ll say goodbye to your Peruvian leader and meet your Bolivian leader. You'll be asked to leave the bus to proceed through Peruvian migration. The group will then walk across a bridge, submit passports at the Bolivian migration office, and reboard the bus for La Paz. Approximately 30 minutes after crossing the border into Bolivia, there's another stop where the army will check your documents again. The journey to La Paz takes 6–9 hours (depending on the border crossing time). You made it! In the evening, chill out with an optional dinner with your travel group.
Day 21La Paz
With a day free for you to explore La Paz at your own pace, enjoy a lazy morning before checking out the sights. Today is an ideal time to refer to your Lonely Planet app and see what recommendations they've got for one of Bolivia's largest cities. This evening, there will be another meeting at 6 pm to meet with some new adventurers joining you on this stage of the trip.
Day 22La Paz
Today, you’re free to discover La Paz at your own pace. Perhaps visit the Museo de la Coca, which isn’t too far from your hotel. This unusual museum delves into the history of the coca plant that grows in the region – a plant that’s played a huge role in the rise and fall of governments, and was one of the original ingredients in one of the world’s favourite soft drinks. You may also like to check out the cuisine scene in La Paz on a food tour – taste fish fresh from Lake Titicaca as well as a variety of intense flavours on a chocolate stop. Late in the afternoon, leave La Paz on an overnight bus to Sucre (approximately 9–10 hours).
Day 23Sucre
On arrival in Sucre, drop off your luggage at the hotel before heading out to explore in your own time. Bolivia’s World Heritage-listed capital is a hub of local cultures and Spanish colonial architecture. You might like to visit the Museo de la Recoleta – a 400-year-old convent which provides great views over the city and is home to a fascinating collection of sculptures and paintings. If you have time, head to the Plaza 25 de Mayo to rub shoulders with Sucre's affluent residents and check out the extravagant interior of the Senora de la Merced.
Day 24Sucre
Enjoy another free day to see the sights of Sucre. Resting in a mountainous valley and overflowing with white-washed buildings and well-preserved architecture, Sucre is not only Bolivia’s official capital city, but also the most beautiful. Wander the pretty streets and snap photos of the quaint houses and medieval churches, or for something more active, hike along the pre-Inca path known as the Chataquila trek – which is mostly downhill and offers stunning views of the surrounding Andes. For something completely different, discover a prehistoric landscape and compare shoe sizes with a dinosaur at Cal Orcko, where footprints millions of years old have been preserved. This is the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world, with over 12,000 of them. There’s also a food culture in Sucre, so enjoy some delicious empanadas at a restaurant or a fresh juice at the Central Market.
Day 25Potosi
This morning, take a local bus to the colonial mining town of Potosi (approximately 3–4 hours) – once the wealthiest city in the Americas thanks to its location at the base of silver ore-rich Cerro Rico (Rich Hill). The discovery and extraction of the silver led to a financial boom for the Spanish empire; however, the city’s riches quickly diminished and its citizens soon slipped into poverty once the silver dried up. A tour and brief history of Cerro Rico is definitely a highlight to consider here. Another place of interest is the Santa Teresa Convent Museum, where you can observe the art and treasures on display inside the convent’s original walls.
Day 26Uyuni
Today, leave Potosi behind and travel to the city of Uyuni (driving time approximately 3–4 hours). This remote town sits on the edge of the high Altiplano – a wilderness area extending for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. Apart from being a gateway to the Salt Flats, Uyuni also happens to sit above the world’s largest lithium reserve of about 100 million tons! While it won’t help you if you’ve arrived with a flat battery, Uyuni’s lithium, once extracted, could potentially provide enough fuel for the entire planet’s smart phones and electric cars for the next century. Enjoy free time on arrival – perhaps take the opportunity to rest up before you kick off your exciting excursion to Salar de Uyuni tomorrow.
Day 27Salar de Uyuni
Depart Uyuni this morning and venture out on a three-day 4WD excursion – be prepared for a busy few days ahead. The first stop will be Cementerio de Trenes (the Train Cemetery) for an eerie look at abandoned locomotives that have been engulfed by the desert. Then, continue on to the highlight of Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flats. This vast desert-like landscape of blinding white salt and cactus-studded islands is the remains of a dried-up prehistoric lake. The desolate and dehydrated eco-system hosts very little wildlife, however it is home to pink flamingos. Make the most of your time on the salt flats, pose for some snaps and explore Inca Wasi – an island covered in cacti and coral-like structures.
Day 28Salar de Uyuni
Continue driving through the spectacular landscape of the Bolivian Salt Flats with another day to explore this natural phenomenon. Depending on the time of year, the reflections themselves are nothing short of extraordinary, and you and your travel pals can take some seriously cool images. Your local leaders will stage your poses to ensure you capture the best optical illusions. Tonight (weather depending), consider booking into a stargazing experience, where you’ll go spotting shooting stars deep in the Bolivian wilderness. The skies are so clear, and with no light or smoke pollution out here, the constellations will shine bright.
Day 29Uyuni
Venture out of Bolivia’s wilds and back to Uyuni town today. Once arrived and settled back into your accommodation, you’ll have a free day to check out the town or just simply relax and check out your photos after an action-packed couple of days in the desert. If you’re still up for adventure, be sure to ask your local leader for their recommendations on what to do here – there’s the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum as well as other mining towns that you may have bypassed on your way to the salt flats. After recharging your batteries (as well as your devices), why not head out to stock up on supplies and have a bite to eat with your travel group – keep it low-key tonight as you’ve got a full day worth of travel tomorrow.
Day 30Uyuni – Tilcara
Rise and shine and prepare for a long travel day as you cross the border into Argentina. Set off at 6 am from Uyuni town on a public bus to La Quiaca. Arriving around 1.30 pm, cross into Argentina by foot and then jump in a taxi to the bus station. You’ll have a chance to stop briefly for lunch with your group, before jumping on another bus to Tilcara, arriving at approximately 6 pm. Nothing is planned on arrival, but if you’re not too exhausted from today’s journey, perhaps head out for dinner – your group leader will be able to point you in the right direction for a feed.
Day 31Tilcara – Buenos Aires
Today is a free day to explore this dusty and enchanting town. Nestled in the mountain valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca, Tilcara is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Argentina with an indigenous culture dating back more than 10,000 years – and the influx of tourists hasn’t stopped the age-old customs and rituals from flourishing. You might like to marvel at the pre-Inca ruins at Pucara de Tilcara, or perhaps venture out of town and check out the colourful hills of Purmamarca. If you’re keen for an authentic lunch, visit the vibrant local market, Mercado Municipal de Tilcara, to try some local street food favourites, like the traditional empanada. Keep in mind that tonight you’ll be taking a two-hour flight bound for Buenos Aires, so be sure to check in with your group leader who’ll provide all the details on where you need to be, and at what time, to catch your transfer to the airport.
Day 32Buenos Aires
Fiery Latin passion, European elegance and superb cuisine combine to make Buenos Aires one of the world's most enthralling cities. You’ve got the next few days to choose your own adventure – nibble on alfajores, wander San Telmo's cobblestone streets, talk football with Portenos (people from Buenos Aires) in a cafe or get a history lesson at the quirky Museo Evita. Alternatively, you might like to walk among the tombs at the La Recoleta Cemetery – the final resting place of Eva Peron – or check out some of the great museums in the Recoleta district. Visit the neighbourhood of La Boca, home to the colourful Caminito artists’ street and world-renowned soccer team, Boca Juniors. The hottest spot in town is Palermo's Plaza Serrano, so why not head out in the evening for a tango with the locals. There are so many things to see and do in Buenos Aires, it's simply a matter of trying to fit them all in.
Day 35Buenos Aires
Continue your explorations of Buenos Aires at your own pace today. Have you tried yerba mate yet? It's Argentina's national drink of caffeine-rich herbal 'mate' that is ground, brewed and drunk through a silver straw called a bombilla. Keep in mind that, today, there's the option to join your new Argentinian group leader at 1 pm for a walk around town. Plus, there's another briefing this evening to chat about your next adventures, which we recommend you attend. 
Day 36Colonia del Sacramento
Today cross the Rio de la Plata (River Plate) to Colonia del Sacramento by ferry (approximately 1.5 hours). On arrival, enjoy free time to explore this charming colonial city, known as the oldest in Uruguay. The World Heritage-listed Barrio Historico (Old Quarter) is a great place to start. Stroll down the cobblestone streets and rub shoulders with locals as they sip their yerba mate (tea). Listen to the noisy parakeets in the Plaza Mayor, or comb Colonia’s small museums. For great views over the city, climb to the top of a 19th-century lighthouse that’s still in operation.
Day 37Estancia Stay
Today is a long travel day. Take a comfortable local bus from Colonia to Montevideo (approximately 2.5 hours). From Montevideo it's a further 5-hour journey to Tacuarembo by bus. The bus has reclining seats and you'll be provided with a typical Uruguayan snack, but as the bus doesn’t stop it's also recommended that you bring some extra snacks at your own expense. From Tacuarembo, take a 1-hour truck and 4WD journey to the ranch, where you can get to know your hosts.
Day 38Estancia Stay
Spend a few days experiencing life on a working Uruguayan farm. Although you’re welcome to relax and explore your surroundings at your leisure, you can also get involved wirh day-to-day jobs around the ranch. As a working farm, the digs aren’t fancy, but the incredible surroundings and hospitality are something special. Enjoy three home-cooked meals a day and the chance to ride horses, in true gaucho (cowboy) style.
Day 40Overnight Bus
In the afternoon, bid farewell to your hosts and cross the border to Concordia in Argentina. Board a 12-hour overnight bus to Puerto Iguazu.
Day 41Foz do Iguazu (Brazilian side)
As soon as you arrive at Puerto Iguazu bus station this morning, take a minivan across the border into Brazil and head straight to the national park to witness the majestic Foz do Iguacu/Iguazu Falls. After some time spent admiring this force of nature, head to your hotel in Foz do Iguacu. Enjoy free time for the rest of the day.
Day 42Iguazu Falls (Argentinian side)
Return to Argentina today to see Iguazu Falls from a different angle. Following a series of boardwalks, it’s possible to get so close to the thundering waters that you can almost touch them. At over two-kilometres long, Iguazu Falls are made up of over 270 separate cascades, with some reaching up to 80 metres in height. For a more exhilarating experience, take an optional Zodiac boat ride to the base of the falls! In the afternoon return to your accommodation in Foz do Iguacu in Brazil.
Day 43Rio de Janeiro
Take an included flight to Rio de Janeiro. Settle into your hotel room then head out with your leader for an orientation walk. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore at your own pace. Maybe head to Copacabana or Ipanema Beach or, if the time of year is right, check out a soccer game at the famous Maracana Stadium. You might like to take the tramcar up to the hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa or head up Corcovado Mountain, where you’ll find sweeping views over Rio from the foot of the Christ the Redeemer statue.
Day 44Rio de Janeiro
Your Lonely Planet Experience comes to an end after breakfast.

Difficulty

  • There are some long travel days and five overnight bus journeys on this trip.
  • Although the buses feature comfortable reclining seats, they are not beds.
  • There’s also usually a toilet on-board, and some of the buses make toilet stops.
  • These trips can be tiresome, but an adventure trip around South America wouldn’t be complete without an overnight bus journey.
  • You’ll be staying in some very basic group accommodation with shared facilities.

Map

Related Photos & Video

This section may show people, locations, weather conditions, equipments, techniques, and trails that is not part of this trek.

South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db
South American Highlights South America #f72adbff-a700-4333-a5cc-97f5aa0dc0db

Age & Group Info

  • Ages: Min 15
  • Group size: Min 1, Max 16

Price Includes

Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (3 nights
  • Dormitory (2 nights)
  • Estancia (3 nights)
  • Homestay (1 night)
  • Hotel (31 nights)
  • Overnight bus (3 nights)
Meals
  • 38 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners
Transportation
  • 4x4, Bus, coach, Ferry, Minibus, Overnight bus, Plane, Taxi, Van
  • Our overnight buses have reclinable seats - usually more comfortable than your average economy plane seats.
  • You may be offered a simple dinner on board or stop at a service station to buy snacks and drinks.
Tour Guide
  • This trip is accompanied by one of our group leaders.
  • The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible.
  • The operator endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
  • Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends.


Included Activities
  • Lima - Leader-led walking tour
  • Colca Canyon - Guided tour
  • Cusco - Orientation Walk
  • Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
  • Lake Titicaca - Boat tour & Homestay
  • Salt flats - Visit to 'Fish Island/Inca Wasi'
  • Uyuni - Colchani Salt Factory Visit
  • Salt flats - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde
  • Welcome Meeting
  • Buenos Aires - Orientation walk
  • 3-night stay on a working estancia including meals and activities
  • Iguazu Falls - Entrance and tour of the Brazilian side of the falls
  • Iguazu Falls - Entrance and tour of the Argentinian side of the falls


Inca Trail Permit
Travel Insurances
  • Travel insurance is a must for this trip.


Inca Quarry

  • Whether you trek the classic Inca Trail, the Inca Quarry Trail or take the scenic train route, the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu are a majestic destination, no matter how you get there

Route

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Lima

Paracas

+20 more

Rio de Janeiro

Itinerary

Day 1Lima
Bievenidos! Welcome to Peru's coastal capital. Your Lonely Planet Experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. With no activities planned until then, why not take a walk around the vibrant Miraflores area. Alternatively, stroll along to Parque del Amor (Love Park) for a great view of Lima's beaches. After your important briefing, get to know each other better over dinner. Whether you dine with the group or sample the city's renowned food scene on your own, don't miss Peru's national dish: ceviche. If you're not a fan of seafood, there are plenty of other excellent options on offer – be sure to ask your local leader of their favourite dishes. If you arrive early, perhaps take a walk around the vibrant Miraflores area. Alternatively, stroll along to Parque del Amor (Love Park) for a great view of Lima's beaches.
Day 2Lima
This morning, set out on a half-day walking tour of Lima's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate 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 of Lima, which houses the remains of Lima's founder, Francisco Pizarro. Nearby is the San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains (entry is optional and at travellers' expense). Then go and browse the fresh produce on offer at Lima's central market, tasting fresh fruit and street food. Your walking tour wraps up in Lima's main square, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Later, perhaps head out for dinner with the group.
Day 3Paracas
Be ready for an early start as you head to Lima’s bus station around 6 am and hop on a local bus to Paracas (approximately 4 hours). During this journey it's unlikely the bus will make any stops, so please ensure you prepare yourself with water, snacks and anything else you need. The small fishing town of Paracas is the gateway to the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve. One you’ve arrived, you'll have the option of visiting Paracas National Reserve today with a local guide. The duration of the tour is around 2–2.5 hours, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and expansive desert. For some local food specialities back in town, head to the boulevard near the beach and try some tejas – small sweets made from nuts and dried fruits.
Day 4Nazca
This morning, there may be the chance to visit Islas Ballestas for an optional day trip. Here there will be lots of opportunities to see wildlife such as penguins, sea lions and flamingos from a speedboat. Speak to your group leader about your options and when the best time to visit would be. Later on this morning, continue on to Nazca, travelling for around 3 hours and arriving in the early afternoon. Nazca is famous for the Nazca Lines – enormous designs inscribed into the desert floor. Who drew them, how and why is unknown, but most scientists believe the Nazca people created them around 2000 years ago. For the best view this afternoon, consider an optional scenic flight to see them from the air – this lasts 30 minutes and covers most of the 26 impressions. Be wary though – the planes turn sharply from side to side for viewing from both sides of the plane, so it’s not for the faint hearted!
Day 5Arequipa
Enjoy a lazy morning in Nazca, then in the early afternoon, transfer to the local bus station and board a bus to Arequipa (approximately 11 hours, with no stops). Lunch will be served on board the bus, and later around dinner time there will be a small snack. Don't forget to pack plenty of water, more snacks and a good book! You’ll arrive into Arequipa around midnight and transfer to the hotel. Standing at the foot of El Misti volcano and oozing all that Spanish colonial charm, Arequipa vies with Cusco for the title of Peru's most attractive city.
Day 6Arequipa
This morning, head on a leader-led orientation walk with your group, where you’ll visit the main square and Mercado San Camilo. During your walk around Arequipa, you'll come to understand why it’s referred to as the ‘White City’. Built out of the pale volcanic rock, the old buildings shine brightly in the sunshine. The remainder of the day is free for you to relax and explore Arequipa. Perhaps start at Monasterio de Santa Catalina – this 16th-century convent has a unique history, having once only accepted women from high-class Spanish families. From here, drop by the Juanita Museum and take a look at the ‘Ice Maiden’ – the well-preserved mummified remains of a young Inca girl who died in the 1440s. Otherwise, while away the rest of your day in the cafes and restaurants surrounding the main plaza, tasting a rich Peruvian coffee.
Day 7Colca Canyon
In the morning, around 8 am, venture out by private vehicle to Chivay (approximately 5 hours). There’ll be plenty of time to stop and take pictures along the way as you're likely to see llamas, alpacas and vicunas. You'll have the chance to try some coca tea – a local herbal variety made from leaves of the coca plant – from roadside tea stalls. After a third stop at Patapampa (the highest point of your adventure, standing at 4800 metres above sea level), descend into Chivay town for a free evening. Choose to spend it soaking in the local baths, dining on Alpaca steak or listening to live Andean music at a pena (music hall). Your group leader will know all of the best spots to go, so be sure to ask them.
Day 8Arequipa
Early in the morning, take a short drive from town into the renowned Colca Canyon. This river canyon in southern Peru is sprinkled with traditional villages, terraced agriculture and trekking routes, and is home to the predatory Andean condor. Witness the morning routine of this mighty ruler of the sky, gazing as they circle this extraordinary natural ravine. Depending on weather conditions you’ll head on a short hike around the area (approximately 45 minutes) before returning to Chivay town. In the afternoon, travel back to Arequipa (approximately 5 hours), and on arrival, relax into a free evening with your fellow adventurers.
Day 9Arequipa/ Overnight Bus to Cusco
Another day in Arequipa is a perfect time to get out your Lonely Planet app and see what highlights you can go out and explore today. For a bit of culture, why not stroll down to Casa Museo Villalobos for a look at the extensive art collection. If you’re looking for something a bit more hands-on, there are regular cooking classes in the city – be sure to speak to your group leader for their recommendations. Keep in mind that tonight (around 7.30 pm), you’ll transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Cusco (approximately 11 hours with no stops).
Day 10Cusco
Arrive in Cusco on your overnight bus sometime between 6.30 and 7.30 am. On arrival, transfer to your hotel to drop your bags and head into town for breakfast. Afterwards, your leader will give you the choice of heading straight out for an orientation walk or resting in the hotel for a few hours before a stroll in the afternoon. On your leader-led tour you’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, local San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. This afternoon, enjoy some more time at your leisure to explore Cusco. In the evening, join your group leader and fellow travellers for an Inca Trail and Machu Picchu briefing.
Day 11Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Depending on your pre-arranged travel arrangements, during the next four days you may: hike the Classic Inca Trail, hike the Inca Quarry Trail or stay in Cusco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes. Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: Travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3100 metres above sea level. On the way you’ll see the ruins of Llactapata, which was burnt to the ground by the last Inca emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail. In the evening, set up camp while the cook makes dinner. Notes: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 km long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3700 metres above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas. Notes: The Inca Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 km long in total and its highest pass is at 4450 metres above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals. Route 3 Train: For those travellers disinterested in hiking the trail or who are unable to, spend two extra nights in Cusco before travelling by bus to Ollantaytambo. From here take a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to the town of Aguas Calientes where you’ll spend a third night.
Day 12Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: This is the most challenging day of the trek, as we ascend a long steep path (approximately 5 hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4200 metres above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 metres. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the hike to Kuychicassa (approximately 2 hours); this is the highest pass of the trek at 4450 metres. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, which is only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo. Route 3 Train: Today, perhaps use your free day indulging your inner foodie in the eateries of Cusco. Head to lunch at the arty Fallen Angel restaurant, and if you still have room for dessert, the ChocoMuseo offers tastings and chocolate-marking workshops.
Day 13Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending (approximately 2–3 hours) to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the descent down the Inca steps (approximately 2 hours), which takes you to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu. Route 3 Train: In the morning we are transferred by car to Ollantaytambo town where we will take the afternoon train to the town of Aguas Calientes (approximately 1:30 hours) For those who want to, there’s time to see Machu Picchu independently before the guided tour the next day. If you’d like to do this, please advise your group leader at the welcome meeting at the start of the trip.
Day 14Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or Train option and Machu Picchu / Ollantaytambo
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 4.30 am (the final checkpoint opens at 5 am). The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes approximately 2.5 hours meaning arrival time is not until approximately 7.30 am. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as you enter Machu Picchu through the Sungate. Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5.30 am along the winding road to Machu Picchu (30 minutes). At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who took the train. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular views over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins. Route 3 Train: In the morning, usually between 5.30 and 6.30 am, we take one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Inca nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy some free time afterwards to wander around on your own before heading to Ollantaytambo for the night. Visiting Machu Picchu: According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted.
Day 15Sacred Valley / Cusco
Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the fertile Sacred Valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. This morning, venture to a community in the valley to learn about the local lifestyle and visit a few businesses, which may include a pottery workshop, a chocolate making demonstration or a local chicha brewery where you will learn about the traditional techniques that are still used to this day. During your community visit, enjoy an included lunch, prepared and cooked by local community members. If your visit coincides with market day, you could spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos. In the afternoon, take a bus back to Cusco for a free evening.
Day 16Cusco
Enjoy some free time to delve a little deeper into Cusco. Those with weary legs might want to simply grab a coffee from a cafe at Plaza de Armas and do some people-watching. For those still seeking an active adventure, the hills that surround Cusco are well-suited for some mountain biking. Ask your group leader for advice on optional activities and how to make the most of your day. When you’re hungry, Manos Unidas Cafe is a great choice for a meal. In addition to serving up delicious food, this central pizzeria also provides vocational training to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Day 17Puno/Lake Titicaca
In the morning, travel by local bus through the Altiplano plateau to Puno (approximately 7 hours). There will be one brief stop along the way at La Raya mountain range where there will be opportunities for photos. Here you'll also have the chance to buy some snacks and take a toilet break. Puno is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. If you're lucky, your visit might coincide with an evening parade, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Day 18Puno
Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. Enjoy a tour of the lake by slow motorboat (8 knots per hour), stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. Local Uros people built these islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes in ancient times. They're built completely from layers of totora reeds, which grow in the shallows of the lake. After your boat trip, transfer to the Llachon Peninsula to enjoy a local community homestay tonight. You’ll have the chance to help your host family with their daily activities or perhaps join a game of soccer or volleyball in the village with the local kids.
Day 19Puno
In the morning, board a boat for a visit to Taquile Island – a great place to pick up some locally knitted goods. On the island knitting is strictly a male domain, while women do the spinning. An hour’s uphill trek brings you to the main area of the island. Explore the local markets before descending the 500 steps back to the boat. Afterwards, return to Puno (approximately 3 hours) arriving around 3 pm. The remainder of the day is free.
Day 20La Paz
At around 7 am, travel by local bus to Desaguadero (approximately 3 hours) and cross the border into Bolivia. You’ll say goodbye to your Peruvian leader and meet your Bolivian leader. You'll be asked to leave the bus to proceed through Peruvian migration. The group will then walk across a bridge, submit passports at the Bolivian migration office, and reboard the bus for La Paz. Approximately 30 minutes after crossing the border into Bolivia, there's another stop where the army will check your documents again. The journey to La Paz takes 6–9 hours (depending on the border crossing time). You made it! In the evening, chill out with an optional dinner with your travel group.
Day 21La Paz
With a day free for you to explore La Paz at your own pace, enjoy a lazy morning before checking out the sights. Today is an ideal time to refer to your Lonely Planet app and see what recommendations they've got for one of Bolivia's largest cities. This evening, there will be another meeting at 6 pm to meet with some new adventurers joining you on this stage of the trip.
Day 22La Paz
Today, you’re free to discover La Paz at your own pace. Perhaps visit the Museo de la Coca, which isn’t too far from your hotel. This unusual museum delves into the history of the coca plant that grows in the region – a plant that’s played a huge role in the rise and fall of governments, and was one of the original ingredients in one of the world’s favourite soft drinks. You may also like to check out the cuisine scene in La Paz on a food tour – taste fish fresh from Lake Titicaca as well as a variety of intense flavours on a chocolate stop. Late in the afternoon, leave La Paz on an overnight bus to Sucre (approximately 9–10 hours).
Day 23Sucre
On arrival in Sucre, drop off your luggage at the hotel before heading out to explore in your own time. Bolivia’s World Heritage-listed capital is a hub of local cultures and Spanish colonial architecture. You might like to visit the Museo de la Recoleta – a 400-year-old convent which provides great views over the city and is home to a fascinating collection of sculptures and paintings. If you have time, head to the Plaza 25 de Mayo to rub shoulders with Sucre's affluent residents and check out the extravagant interior of the Senora de la Merced.
Day 24Sucre
Enjoy another free day to see the sights of Sucre. Resting in a mountainous valley and overflowing with white-washed buildings and well-preserved architecture, Sucre is not only Bolivia’s official capital city, but also the most beautiful. Wander the pretty streets and snap photos of the quaint houses and medieval churches, or for something more active, hike along the pre-Inca path known as the Chataquila trek – which is mostly downhill and offers stunning views of the surrounding Andes. For something completely different, discover a prehistoric landscape and compare shoe sizes with a dinosaur at Cal Orcko, where footprints millions of years old have been preserved. This is the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world, with over 12,000 of them. There’s also a food culture in Sucre, so enjoy some delicious empanadas at a restaurant or a fresh juice at the Central Market.
Day 25Potosi
This morning, take a local bus to the colonial mining town of Potosi (approximately 3–4 hours) – once the wealthiest city in the Americas thanks to its location at the base of silver ore-rich Cerro Rico (Rich Hill). The discovery and extraction of the silver led to a financial boom for the Spanish empire; however, the city’s riches quickly diminished and its citizens soon slipped into poverty once the silver dried up. A tour and brief history of Cerro Rico is definitely a highlight to consider here. Another place of interest is the Santa Teresa Convent Museum, where you can observe the art and treasures on display inside the convent’s original walls.
Day 26Uyuni
Today, leave Potosi behind and travel to the city of Uyuni (driving time approximately 3–4 hours). This remote town sits on the edge of the high Altiplano – a wilderness area extending for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. Apart from being a gateway to the Salt Flats, Uyuni also happens to sit above the world’s largest lithium reserve of about 100 million tons! While it won’t help you if you’ve arrived with a flat battery, Uyuni’s lithium, once extracted, could potentially provide enough fuel for the entire planet’s smart phones and electric cars for the next century. Enjoy free time on arrival – perhaps take the opportunity to rest up before you kick off your exciting excursion to Salar de Uyuni tomorrow.
Day 27Salar de Uyuni
Depart Uyuni this morning and venture out on a three-day 4WD excursion – be prepared for a busy few days ahead. The first stop will be Cementerio de Trenes (the Train Cemetery) for an eerie look at abandoned locomotives that have been engulfed by the desert. Then, continue on to the highlight of Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flats. This vast desert-like landscape of blinding white salt and cactus-studded islands is the remains of a dried-up prehistoric lake. The desolate and dehydrated eco-system hosts very little wildlife, however it is home to pink flamingos. Make the most of your time on the salt flats, pose for some snaps and explore Inca Wasi – an island covered in cacti and coral-like structures.
Day 28Salar de Uyuni
Continue driving through the spectacular landscape of the Bolivian Salt Flats with another day to explore this natural phenomenon. Depending on the time of year, the reflections themselves are nothing short of extraordinary, and you and your travel pals can take some seriously cool images. Your local leaders will stage your poses to ensure you capture the best optical illusions. Tonight (weather depending), consider booking into a stargazing experience, where you’ll go spotting shooting stars deep in the Bolivian wilderness. The skies are so clear, and with no light or smoke pollution out here, the constellations will shine bright.
Day 29Uyuni
Venture out of Bolivia’s wilds and back to Uyuni town today. Once arrived and settled back into your accommodation, you’ll have a free day to check out the town or just simply relax and check out your photos after an action-packed couple of days in the desert. If you’re still up for adventure, be sure to ask your local leader for their recommendations on what to do here – there’s the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum as well as other mining towns that you may have bypassed on your way to the salt flats. After recharging your batteries (as well as your devices), why not head out to stock up on supplies and have a bite to eat with your travel group – keep it low-key tonight as you’ve got a full day worth of travel tomorrow.
Day 30Uyuni – Tilcara
Rise and shine and prepare for a long travel day as you cross the border into Argentina. Set off at 6 am from Uyuni town on a public bus to La Quiaca. Arriving around 1.30 pm, cross into Argentina by foot and then jump in a taxi to the bus station. You’ll have a chance to stop briefly for lunch with your group, before jumping on another bus to Tilcara, arriving at approximately 6 pm. Nothing is planned on arrival, but if you’re not too exhausted from today’s journey, perhaps head out for dinner – your group leader will be able to point you in the right direction for a feed.
Day 31Tilcara – Buenos Aires
Today is a free day to explore this dusty and enchanting town. Nestled in the mountain valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca, Tilcara is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Argentina with an indigenous culture dating back more than 10,000 years – and the influx of tourists hasn’t stopped the age-old customs and rituals from flourishing. You might like to marvel at the pre-Inca ruins at Pucara de Tilcara, or perhaps venture out of town and check out the colourful hills of Purmamarca. If you’re keen for an authentic lunch, visit the vibrant local market, Mercado Municipal de Tilcara, to try some local street food favourites, like the traditional empanada. Keep in mind that tonight you’ll be taking a two-hour flight bound for Buenos Aires, so be sure to check in with your group leader who’ll provide all the details on where you need to be, and at what time, to catch your transfer to the airport.
Day 32Buenos Aires
Fiery Latin passion, European elegance and superb cuisine combine to make Buenos Aires one of the world's most enthralling cities. You’ve got the next few days to choose your own adventure – nibble on alfajores, wander San Telmo's cobblestone streets, talk football with Portenos (people from Buenos Aires) in a cafe or get a history lesson at the quirky Museo Evita. Alternatively, you might like to walk among the tombs at the La Recoleta Cemetery – the final resting place of Eva Peron – or check out some of the great museums in the Recoleta district. Visit the neighbourhood of La Boca, home to the colourful Caminito artists’ street and world-renowned soccer team, Boca Juniors. The hottest spot in town is Palermo's Plaza Serrano, so why not head out in the evening for a tango with the locals. There are so many things to see and do in Buenos Aires, it's simply a matter of trying to fit them all in.
Day 35Buenos Aires
Continue your explorations of Buenos Aires at your own pace today. Have you tried yerba mate yet? It's Argentina's national drink of caffeine-rich herbal 'mate' that is ground, brewed and drunk through a silver straw called a bombilla. Keep in mind that, today, there's the option to join your new Argentinian group leader at 1 pm for a walk around town. Plus, there's another briefing this evening to chat about your next adventures, which we recommend you attend. 
Day 36Colonia del Sacramento
Today cross the Rio de la Plata (River Plate) to Colonia del Sacramento by ferry (approximately 1.5 hours). On arrival, enjoy free time to explore this charming colonial city, known as the oldest in Uruguay. The World Heritage-listed Barrio Historico (Old Quarter) is a great place to start. Stroll down the cobblestone streets and rub shoulders with locals as they sip their yerba mate (tea). Listen to the noisy parakeets in the Plaza Mayor, or comb Colonia’s small museums. For great views over the city, climb to the top of a 19th-century lighthouse that’s still in operation.
Day 37Estancia Stay
Today is a long travel day. Take a comfortable local bus from Colonia to Montevideo (approximately 2.5 hours). From Montevideo it's a further 5-hour journey to Tacuarembo by bus. The bus has reclining seats and you'll be provided with a typical Uruguayan snack, but as the bus doesn’t stop it's also recommended that you bring some extra snacks at your own expense. From Tacuarembo, take a 1-hour truck and 4WD journey to the ranch, where you can get to know your hosts.
Day 38Estancia Stay
Spend a few days experiencing life on a working Uruguayan farm. Although you’re welcome to relax and explore your surroundings at your leisure, you can also get involved wirh day-to-day jobs around the ranch. As a working farm, the digs aren’t fancy, but the incredible surroundings and hospitality are something special. Enjoy three home-cooked meals a day and the chance to ride horses, in true gaucho (cowboy) style.
Day 40Overnight Bus
In the afternoon, bid farewell to your hosts and cross the border to Concordia in Argentina. Board a 12-hour overnight bus to Puerto Iguazu.
Day 41Foz do Iguazu (Brazilian side)
As soon as you arrive at Puerto Iguazu bus station this morning, take a minivan across the border into Brazil and head straight to the national park to witness the majestic Foz do Iguacu/Iguazu Falls. After some time spent admiring this force of nature, head to your hotel in Foz do Iguacu. Enjoy free time for the rest of the day.
Day 42Iguazu Falls (Argentinian side)
Return to Argentina today to see Iguazu Falls from a different angle. Following a series of boardwalks, it’s possible to get so close to the thundering waters that you can almost touch them. At over two-kilometres long, Iguazu Falls are made up of over 270 separate cascades, with some reaching up to 80 metres in height. For a more exhilarating experience, take an optional Zodiac boat ride to the base of the falls! In the afternoon return to your accommodation in Foz do Iguacu in Brazil.
Day 43Rio de Janeiro
Take an included flight to Rio de Janeiro. Settle into your hotel room then head out with your leader for an orientation walk. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore at your own pace. Maybe head to Copacabana or Ipanema Beach or, if the time of year is right, check out a soccer game at the famous Maracana Stadium. You might like to take the tramcar up to the hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa or head up Corcovado Mountain, where you’ll find sweeping views over Rio from the foot of the Christ the Redeemer statue.
Day 44Rio de Janeiro
Your Lonely Planet Experience comes to an end after breakfast.

Difficulty

  • There are some long travel days and five overnight bus journeys on this trip.
  • Although the buses feature comfortable reclining seats, they are not beds.
  • There’s also usually a toilet on-board, and some of the buses make toilet stops.
  • These trips can be tiresome, but an adventure trip around South America wouldn’t be complete without an overnight bus journey.
  • You’ll be staying in some very basic group accommodation with shared facilities.

Map

All prices are indicative only and subject to availability and changes without obligation.

Time until next start
101
days
00
hours
:
48
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:
17
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Price

€5,755

Duration

44 days
2020

Sat, Oct 17

Sun, Nov 29

€5,755

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