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Travel through South America by way of jungle, waterfalls and ancient ruins. This three week trip takes you to the Peruvian Amazon, to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and into the footsteps of an ancient civilisation on the Inca trail. Embrace the country life of Chile and Argentina in local vineyards and traditional estancias, before ending this amazing journey in the cosmopolitan hotspot of Buenos Aires.
Day 1: Lima
Welcome to Lima, Peru. On arrival at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport, you'll be transferred to your hotel in the well-known coastal suburb of Miraflores. In the afternoon around 2 pm, there will be a welcome briefing at the hotel with your Intrepid tour leader. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. Later in the day your leader will take you on a half-day walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city'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. Visit the nearby San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains. Continue onto the Central market where you'll take a walking tour. The market has a huge variety of fresh produce on offer, including fruits, vegetables and even guinea pigs. You'll also have the opportunity to try some local Peruvian fruits and street food. The tour will finish in Lima main square, with your evening then free to do as you wish. Perhaps head out for dinner with the group.
Day 2: Amazon Jungle
Take a flight to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Jungle, where you'll be staying for two nights. A representative from the lodge will welcome you at the airport. You'll then make a quick trip to the lodge's office in town by van. Here you'll be able to pack the gear you'll need for the next few days and leave the rest, securely stored, behind. Travel by bus or motorised canoe to the Amazon lodge (approximately 30–45 minutes). Once you arrive, there will be time to unpack and unwind before a short orientation and briefing. Either tonight or tomorrow night, you’ll venture into the jungle for a night jungle excursion.Notes: We stay at two different lodges in the same area. The activities may vary slightly according to which lodge you are at. As both of our lodges are in the same area of the jungle, you will see the same wildlife and your overall jungle experience will be the same in either lodge.
Day 3: Amazon Jungle
Your full day in the jungle starts with a boat ride (approximately 30 minutes) followed by a short walk (between 25 and 45 minutes). You’ll arrive at an oxbow lake in the middle of the rainforest – the habitat of a family of giant otters. Along the way you’ll see a variety of jungle fauna – perhaps hoatzins, monkeys, macaws, black caimans, flying parrots, and, if you are lucky, a family of endangered giant river otters (pteronoura brasilienses). In the late morning you will head back to the lodge, on the way stopping to see the parrot clay lick. Every morning the macaws and birds come here to feed on the salt in the clay. The macaws begin by ceremoniously circling the cliff area. Usually the feeding frenzy lasts 20 to 25 minutes. The salt from the clay is thought to detoxify the birds’ fruit diet. After lunch back at the lodge, you’ll head back out to the jungle to take a short walk and learn about the medicinal properties and practical uses of the plants. Return to the lodge once again to freshen up, then enjoy some dinner. After dinner there will be an optional night walk through the jungle.
Day 4: Cusco
This morning travel back to Puerto Maldonado before taking the short flight to Cusco (approximately 35 minutes). Take the time to acclimatise to the city's 3,450 m (11,150 ft) altitude and explore the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city. Your tour leader will take you out on an orientation walk. You’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, the local San Pedro market, the main square, past the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. Finally you’ll visit the Chocolate museum where there will be an opportunity to sample a hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. This might be a good opportunity to purchase some gifts or souvenirs. There’s a small store where you’ll find various handicrafts and a variety of artisanal chocolate products. Tonight is free, perhaps head out for dinner your fellow travellers. Your leader will be able to recommend some good places to eat! Notes: Due to the high altitude of many of the places we visit, the air is thinner and some people can suffer from altitude sickness. Some people aren’t affected at all, but if you are, be sure to drink plenty of water and don’t push yourself too hard. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information about altitude sickness.CAFÉ DARIA:In your free time in Cusco why not stop & check out Café Daria? This café & pizzeria which opened in its now permanent home in the tourist area of Cusco city in April 2018, is Cusco’s first vocational training site for young adults with special needs. Manos Unidas core purpose to improve the quality of life for people with developmental & intellectual disabilities though vocational training, education and parent advocacy, leading to successful inclusion within a society in which they had traditionally been ostracised from.The food is all natural and is prepared and baked by the students on site and students are trained across all aspects of hospitality so this is a great way for our travellers to interact with locals and in doing so, give a young adult who would normally be isolated from society the opportunity to meet people from all over the World and hone their skills.
Day 5: Sacred Valley/Ollantaytambo
Travel by private bus for around two hours through the Sacred Valley, on the outskirts of Cusco. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, this fertile valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. At the Sacred Valley, visit the stone fortress of Sacsayhuaman where massive stone blocks that form the walls of this site give you a clear image of how highly developed Inca engineering was. Venture to a community in the valley to learn about the local lifestyle. If your visit coincides with market day (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday), you may get time to browse the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos. Lunch will also be provided by the local community. Continuing on, drive 20 minutes to Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo's archaeological site is located to the east of the Plaza de Armas. The upper terraces of this site offer great photo opportunities of the squared grid town below. Tonight we spend the night in a hotel in Ollantaytambo town .
Day 6: Inca 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. While away from Cusco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cusco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (5 kg maximum).Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cusco and only travel with the necessary items for the next few days.Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: Today travel by minivan to the 82 kilometre marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3,100 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 kilometres 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 3,700 meters 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 kilometres long in total and its highest pass is at 4,450 meters 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.Please note: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca QuarryTrail only.
Day 7: Inca Trail / Inca QuarryTrail 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 five hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4,200 metres above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3,650 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 4,370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4,450 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. For you to make the most of your free time in Cusco, your trip includes a “Full Boleto Turistico”, a tourist pass that gives you access to 16 archaeological sites in and around Cusco, including Qenqo, Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Saqsaywaman, amongst others.Please note: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca Quarry Trail only.
Day 8: Inca Trail / Inca QuarryTrail or Train option
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3,980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending for around two to three hours to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3,850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the two-hour descent down the Inca steps, 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. Visiting the natural hot springs in town is a soothing way to spend the late afternoon. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.Route 3 Train:In the morning take the three-hour train to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is nestled in the hills at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want to, there’s time to visit 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. Otherwise, you might like to while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs of Aguas Calientes.Please note: Included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca Quarry Trail only.
Day 9: Machu Picchu/Cusco
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail:The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 5.30 am. The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes around two-and-a-half hours. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’Route 2 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 hiked the Classic Inca Trail. If skies are clear, enjoy 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 at 5.30 am, take a bus up to Machu Picchu. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan 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 the group returns to Cusco.Notes: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy, our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking trips to the mountaintop ruins of Wayna Picchu.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 10: Cusco
Today enjoy free time to relax, shop or explore more of Cusco's sights. Perhaps head to a cafe on the Plaza de Armas, or for those seeking an active adventure, try mountain biking in the hills surrounding Cusco. A "full boleto turistico" will give you access to the archaeological sites of Qenqo and Tambomachay, on the outskirts of Cusco.
Day 11: Puno
Travel by comfortable public bus (with reclining chairs) for around 6 hours to the tiny but unique town of Puno, which will be more or less a full day's journey. This will take you on decent roads through spectacular mountain scenery, with the chance to stop at several sites along the way, including adobe Inca ruins. Along the way you'll also make a short roadside stop at La Raya, which at 4,335 metres is the highest point of your journey. You will also drive through the large sprawling town of Juliaca on your way to Puno, which is a colourful and lively place renowned for its traditional street dancing, often performed in celebration of Catholic festive days in February each year. You will then arrive in Puno, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture where traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented. The town is known as the folklore capital of Peru and is famous for its traditional dances. Many festivals are celebrated here, especially the Virgen de la Candelaria, so if you're lucky your visit might coincide with one of the colourful evening parades, when the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.
Day 12: Lake Titicaca / Puno
High up in the Peruvian mountains lie the mystical blue waters of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. From the shoreline, the water stretches out almost as far as the eye can see, its expanses just waiting to be explored. Today, sail across Titicaca to the intriguing floating islands of the Uros. The Uros originally built their islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes. The islands are built from many layers of totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. As the reeds closest to the water begin to rot, more layers are added on top. These reeds are used for making everything on the islands, including boats that can last up to 12 months. Here you will set foot on the islands and learn about a unique traditional lifestyle that’s been around since pre-Inca times. You will visit Taquile Island, a place where knitting is strictly the domain of men, with women focusing on spinning. This is the place to get your hands on some beautiful knitwear. You will hike uphill for an hour to reach the main part of the island, and enjoy great views across the lake. There will be an optional lunch here as well, with a simple set menu of quinoa soup and muna tea (Andean mint tea). You will return down 500 steps to the boat that will take you on the three-hour journey back to Puno.Puno is the hometown of Kusimayo, a terrific local organisation that works towards improving the living condition of children and adults affected by poverty and malnutrition in this part of the world you have now come to know so well. Take a look at this short video for more information on this wonderful project: https://vimeo.com/154422813Kusimayo is supported by the Intrepid Foundation which means you can donate to this project and your donation will be match dollar for dollar by the Intrepid Group. Please donate through our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/kusimayo/
Day 13: Lima
You will fly to Lima from Puno today (approximately 1-2 hours). If time permits you will have the opportunity to visit the Sillustani archaeological site, a collection of ruined towers built by a pre-Inca civilisation near Lake Umayo. The ruined 'chullpas' or funeral towers of Sillustani were built by a pre-Inca civilisation centuries ago to house the remains of noble men, and are fitted with offerings to help secure their passage into the next life. Lima has some of the best cuisine in South America and is especially renowned for its seafood. Tonight, perhaps sample Peru's national dish of Ceviche, which is raw fish marinated in lime juice and often served with hot peppers.
Day 14: Santiago
Welcome to Santiago, Chile. Once you’ve arrived, transfer from the airport to the hotel (transfer is included). Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive early into Santiago, perhaps head out on a short walk to get your bearings of the city.
Day 15: Santiago
Today at 10am you will get to grips with Santiago on a walking tour with a local leader (approximately 4hrs) – the city centre itself is quite small and simple to get around. You’ll discover more about this city, which was founded in 1541 by the Spaniard Pedro de Valdivia, and has experienced a turbulent history that has included native wars, floods and earthquakes. Head to the Plaza de Armas, the heart of the city and home to the cathedral. The cathedral has recently undergone renovations, so now is the ideal time to visit. Walk through the central market to try some local specialities. Next, you'll take the cable car to the top of Cerro San Cristobal for the best view of the city. Finishing the tour in the bohemian Bellavista neighbourhood. Perhaps continue yourselves to explore the modern parts of Santiago to see elegant residential neighbourhoods, shopping and financial districts. Later, take the chance to dine out at one of the city's famous restaurants.
Day 16: Mendoza
In the morning around 9am, travel through the Andes and across the Argentinean border by local bus to Mendoza (approximately 6 hours on the bus). It’s a good idea to bring plenty of water and snacks, as the trip may incur delays. On a clear day it may be possible to see Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas at 6,962 meters above sea level. Please note that crossing the border can take up to three hours depending on local traffic. Once in Mendoza, get to know the city with a gentle stroll around its tree-lined streets, or visit the local cafes and restaurants for some Argentinean fare.
Day 17: Mendoza
This morning around 8:45am head out on a winery tour. Mendoza is Argentina's most prolific and significant grape-growing region, producing nearly three-quarters of the country's wine. The climate produces an excellent variety of grapes, with the region's signature being Malbec. Visit several wineries and cellar doors, tasting Malbec, Torrontes and other local varietals along the way. Lunch around 1pm and return to the city by 3:30pm. In the evening, perhaps test how refined your palate is by attempting to pair the perfect wine with an authentic Argentine asado (barbecue-style food).
Day 18: Estancia Stay
This afternoon fly from Mendoza to Buenos Aires, which only takes around one and a half hours. On arrival, travel in a minivan for just over an hour to a traditional estancia (ranch). This is where the group will be staying for the next couple of days. Upon arrival, freshen up after a long day and get ready for dinner.
Day 19: Estancia Stay
During your time on the estancia you can do as much or as little as you desire. Activities may also vary depending on the day. You could go horse riding, take a cooking class or learn more about the sport of polo. Alternatively you could laze by the pool and read or have a barbecue. Estancias are ideal for relaxation and provide a great base for activities. Please remember that activities vary depending on the days that you are there. If in doubt, ask your trip leader for more information.
Day 20: Buenos Aires
After breakfast head back to the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires (approximately 2.5 hours). The Portenos (local residents) are justifiably proud of their city, which is comprised of distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own style. After checking in to the hotel enjoy an orientation walk of the city. Visit the antique markets and artist displays of San Telmo, and the presidential palace of the Casa Rosada (Pink House) in the Plaza de Mayo.
Day 21: Buenos Aires
After breakfast your 'Best of Chile and Argentina' adventure comes to an end. Check out from the hotel is at noon, but you can arrange to store your luggage with the front desk.
- Lima - Guided tour of San Francisco Monastery including The Catacombs
- Cusco - Orientation Walk
- Cusco - Full Boleto Turistico Pass (access to 16 archaeological sites, transport & guides not included)
- Cusco - Chocolate Museum Visit & Hot Chocolate
- Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
- Santiago - Half-day guided walking tour
- Mendoza - Full-day winery tour - Includes lunch
- Buenos Aires - Orientation walk
19 Breakfast(s) Included
8 Lunch(es) Included
7 Dinner(s) Included