26 Day South American Experience - Geckos

Spend 26 days exploring South America from the bars of Buenos Aires to the soaring heights of Machu Picchu and the Amazon Jungle. See incredible cultures, vibrant cities and spectacular landscapes as you travel through four of the continents most iconic destinations. 

Make a booking with your preferred option.

Highlights: 

  • Roam the Amazon jungle at night while keeping an out for the glaring eyes of jaguars and caimans
  • The floating islands of Uros on Lake Titicaca seem like the sort of thing Pixar would come up with. Spend the night under the stars in a traditional island village
  • Whether you trek the classic Inca Trail, the Inca QuarryTrail or take the scenic train route, trust us, this is going to be one of the highlights of your awesome lives
  • Wicked Witch of the West had her flying monkeys and red shoes. The witches of La Paz have dried llama foetuses and alpaca blankets. Both sound like they're imaginary, but the Witches' Market is a true Bolivian experience
  • Ever dreamt of walking on water? Now’s your chance. Kind of. The sprawling salt lakes of Bolivia serve up some seriously mind-bending photo opps
  • Explore the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires; where Latin America meets Europe

Inclusions: 

  • 24 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 8 dinners 
  • All transportation included on bus, plane, overnight boat, text and 4x4
  • 25 nights accommodation 
  • Camping 3 nights, dorm 2 nights, homestay 1 night, hotel 16 nights, jungle lodge 2 nights and overnight 1 night 
  • Lima - Leader Led orientation walk of Miraflores
  • Amazon Jungle - Activities at the lodge
  • Cusco - Orientation Walk
  • Sacred Valley - Local community visit and lunch
  • Machu Picchu - Guided tour
  • Lake Titicaca - Boat tour & Homestay
  • La Paz - Orientation Walk
  • Uyuni - Salt flats tour
  • Salt flats - Visit to 'Fish Island/Inca Wasi'
  • Uyuni - Orientation Walk
  • Uyuni - Colchani Salt Factory Visit
  • Salt flats - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde
  • Salta - Orientation walk

 

Day 1: Lima 

Welcome to Lima, Peru. 
At around 2 pm there will be a pre-departure meeting. 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 the accommodation as soon as possible. 
Following the meeting your leader will take you on a 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. Nearby is the San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains. There will be time for you to go inside if you wish, however the entrance fee is not included in the tour price. The city tour will finish in time for dinner, you may choose to head out for dinner with the group. Why not head to one of Lima's many seafood restaurants to try one of the nation's favourite dishes, ceviche.


Day 2-3: Puerto Maldonado (Amazon Jungle)

Take a flight to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Jungle, where you'll be staying for two nights. Upon your arrival, the lodge staff will take you to their office in town. Here you can leave most of your luggage in safe storage and continue travelling with a small pack with just the necessary items for your next two nights in the jungle. You’ll then take a motorised canoe upriver to your jungle lodge in the Madre de Dios area. There will be time to unpack and unwind once you get there. The next two days are packed with activities. Your full day in the jungle includes a trek which lasts approximately half a day. At times the paths can get quite muddy and some people can find the trek a little exhausting. Along the way there will be regular stops, and you'll encounter magnificent fauna and flora in their natural habitat. You might spot everything from macaws and monkeys to peccaries, jabirus, otters and thousands of butterflies. The guides can also teach you about the medicinal properties and practical uses of the plants. For lunch you will return to the lodge. For your night-time excursion, you will venture out in the dark in search of caimans on the Tambopata River. The naturalist guide will use a spotlight in order to locate them on the banks of the river, so you can observe them from a respectable distance.

 

Day 4: Cusco 

Say farewell to the jungle today and fly to Cusco, which takes just under an hour. Spend the next day trying to acclimatise to the high altitude of this location (i.e. no strenuous activity).
After dropping your luggage off and having some lunch, your tour leader will take you on a walk around downtown Cusco. 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.
The order of visiting these locations, may vary according to hotel location and your tour leaders preference.

 

Day 5: Sacred Valley 

Today takes you a little closer to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Unwind on a private bus for around two hours through the Sacred Valley, which is on the fringes of Cusco. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the lush, fertile valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. Head to a community in the valley to learn about the local lifestyle and activities, and hopefully your visit will coincide with market day (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday). Comb the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos, and master the local Quechuan language (a few words will be deemed a success). Continuing on, drive 20 minutes to Ollantaytambo. Later in the afternoon, perhaps head out to visit to Ollantaytambo’s awesome Incan ruins. You’ll spend the night at a hotel in Ollantaytambo, ready for your early morning start on the Inca Trail.

 

Day 6: Inca Trail, 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 head back to Cusco for another two nights 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 km 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 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 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 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 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 back through 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 7:  Inca Trail, 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 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 meters 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 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 meters 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 meters. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo.

Route 3 Train:
Today, perhaps 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. All optional activities are at your own cost.

 

Day 8: Inca Trail, Quarry Trail 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 2-3 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 to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.

Route 2 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 beginning of the trip. Otherwise, you might like to while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs of Aguas Calientes.

 

Day 9: Machu Picchu 

Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: 
The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4.30 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and 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 this morning along the winding road to Machu Picchu. The journey takes around 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 free time afterwards to wander around on your own before the group returns to Cusco.

For all trails - after taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cusco for a well deserved shower and a pisco sour. Your evening is then free for the last night of your adventure.

 

Day 10: Cusco 

Today enjoy free time to relax, shop for souvenirs or see more of Cusco's sights. Perhaps head to a cafe on the Plaza de Armas, or if you're a thrill-seeker, try mountain biking in the hills surrounding Cuzco. In the evening, you might want to chew the fat with the group over dinner.

 

Day 11: Puno 

In the morning travel by local bus for six hours through the Altiplano plateau to Puno. The town 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. Once you're settled, head out in town and shake your tailfeather.

 

Day 12: Lake Titicaca (Homestay) 

Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. Today you'll take a tour of the lake by slow motorboat, stopping off to visit the Uros floating islands. The Uros people built these islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes in ancient times. They're built completely from multiple layers of totora reeds, which grow in the shallows of the lake. In the evening, enjoy a homestay in a local community on Llachon. Your homestay is in a mud-brick house, with shared drop-toilets but no shower. It can get quite cold here. The homestay will provide plenty of blankets, but remember to pack thermals and plenty of layers. Help your host family with their daily activities or maybe play a game of soccer in the village.

 

Day 13:  Puno 

Enjoy a home-cooked breakfast by your host family this morning, taking the time to explore the rest of the island afterwards. In the afternoon, take the boat back to Puno where the rest of your day is free to explore.

 

Day 14: La Paz 

Travel by comfortable local bus to Desaguadero (just over seven hours) and cross the border into Bolivia. 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, there's another stop where the army will check your documents again. The journey to La Paz takes around eight hours in total. In the evening, perhaps head out for an optional group dinner.

 

Day 15: La Paz 

Today is a free day in La Paz. The city is renowned for its markets, especially the Mercado de Hechiceria (Witches' Market), which sells potions, incantations, stones and artefacts. Ask a local about their significance - most people are happy to explain. Perhaps visit the Coca Museum, which isn’t too far from your hotel in the Rosario district.

 

Day 16: La Paz 

Your second day in La Paz is free to explore. The city is renowned for its markets, especially the Mercado de Hechiceria (Witches' Market), which sells potions, incantations, stones and artefacts. Ask a local about their significance - most people are happy to explain. Perhaps visit the Coca Museum, which isn’t too far from your hotel in the Rosario district. You might like to take part in one of our Urban Adventure day trips, such as the Food With Altitude or To 3,600 Metres, and Beyond tours.

 

Day 17:  La Paz / Uyuni (Overnight Bus) 

Late in the afternoon, leave La Paz on an overnight bus to Uyuni (approximately 11-12 hours). There are comfortable recliner seats on the bus, but it can be cold on-board so it’s important to bring warm clothing and wear base layers. There’s usually a toilet on the bus and the driver will also make a couple of stops along the way.

 

Day 18: Salar De Uyuni 

Arrive in Uyuni Town. 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. The area is notorious for being extremely cold, so it’s important to pack warm clothing and base layers. This morning and venture out on a three-day 4WD excursion. Be prepared for a busy few days ahead. The first stop will be at a rusty Train Cemetery, before you continue on to Salar de Uyuni - the world’s largest salt flats. While this may be a typical stop for many travellers, it’s also often a highlight. Make the most of your time on the salt flats taking lots of photos and explore Inka Wasi Isla, which is a rocky island covered in cacti and coral-like structures.

 

Day 19: Bolivian Altiplano 

Today will be spent driving through the spectacular landscape of the Andean (Atacama) Desert, which is sprinkled with volcanoes and lakes. During this drive you’ll reach an altitude of approximately 4,900 metres above sea level, so it’s important to revisit the notes on altitude sickness (please see the ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ sections of the trip notes). Stop by the red lake of Laguna Colorada, where you’ll be able to spot wildlife such llamas, flamingos, viscachas and foxes feasting in the nutrient-rich waters.

 

Day 20: San Pedro De Atacama 

This morning stop by the desert’s natural thermal baths for a soak and then head to the Bolivia/Chile border, where the Bolivian part of your trip comes to an end. Pass by geysers, salt flats and snow-capped volcanoes on your way to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. As a small oasis town, San Pedro is surrounded by extraordinary scenery. Use your free time to wander around, perhaps checking out the quaint Church of San Pedro de Atacama, the Museo Gustavo Le Paige (archaeological museum) or the town’s central plaza.

 

Day 21: San Pedro de Atacama 

Use today to get under the skin of this burgeoning tourist destination. San Pedro’s cafe and restaurant scene has grown considerably over the last couple of years. With a mix of Chilean, French and Italian influences, you’ll be sure to find a great spot for lunch and dinner. Perhaps head out on an optional tour to the Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) or join an astronomical tour once the stars come out.

 

Day 22: Salta

Today will be a long day of travel (approximately 12 hours), as you leave San Pedro and head for Salta, Argentina. Salta's rich history, colonial architecture, friendly locals and surrounding natural attractions make it one Argentina's main attractions. If you have time on arrival, spend some time getting to know the area in the vicinity of the hotel. The gardens, fountains and historic buildings in Plaza 9 de Julio are a great place to start.

 

Day 23: Salta

The next two days are free to explore Salta and its attractions. If you’re after something active, hike up the 1,070 steps to the summit of Cerro San Bernardo; the mountain that looms over Salta. You can take a gondola (cable car) to the top if you’d prefer. Either way, the view from the top is magnificent.

 

 

Day 24: Buenos Aires

Take an included flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. On arrival, perhaps explore the cobblestone streets of San Telmo and browse its antique markets, then continue to the Plaza de Mayo to see the presidential palace of the Casa Rosada. In the evening, you might like to enjoy a tango show, a football match or a steak and glass of Malbec in one of the city’s fashionable restaurants.

 

 

Day 25: Buenos Aires

The next two days are free to Explore Buenos Aires. Join the tourists and walk among the tombs at the La Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of Eva Peron. There are also some great museums to check out in the Recoleta district. Visit the neighbourhood of La Boca, home to the colourful Caminito artists’ street and world-renowned soccer team, Boca Juniors. Perhaps take part in an Urban Adventure centred on the city’s love of food, such as the Malbec Trail of Palermo or the Gourmet Buenos Aires Food tour (contact us for more information). If you need to rest your feet, settle down at one of the many street side cafes to watch the world go by with the locals.

 

 

Day 26: Buenos Aires

After breakfast, your adventure around Bolivia and Argentina comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day so you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time.

 

Start: Lima, Peru 

Finish: Buenos Aires, Argentina 

Countries Visited: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru 

  • It’s important to wear sunscreen and other sun protection, and always drink plenty of water.
  • Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit some people can suffer 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. If possible, arrive a few days early to allow yourself time to acclimatise. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information about altitude sickness.
  • While hiking the 4 Day Inca Trail or 3 Day Inca Quarry trail portion of this trip you may be joined by some non-Geckos travellers, who might be over the age of 29 years old.
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