Grand Tour Of South America17 days & 16 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
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Lima, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Puno, La Paz, Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls & Rio De Janeiro
Revealing South America's cultural and scenic diversity, this tour focuses on the continent's cultural and natural highlights. Crossing the Andes through Peru to Lake Titicaca, the journey continues through Bolivia's capital of La Paz and on to cosmopolitan Buenos Aires. Discover the magnificent Iguazu Falls and conclude your trip in the exotic Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
Day 1Arrive Lima
You will be met and taken to your hotel.Casa Andina Private Collection - Miraflores - 2 Nights
This tour begins with an early morning visit to Surquillo local market in Miraflores. Here, you can see many types of fresh fish, as well as a variety of produce from the coast, the highlands and the jungle. You can try different fresh fruit from the coast, highlands and rainforest.
Continue to Lima's colonial center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From its foundation in the 1500s until the 1900s, Lima was the chief city of Spanish South America and known as the 'City of Kings'. You will visit the magnificent 17th-century San Francisco Monastery with its cloisters and catacombs, an architectural masterpiece. A short stroll leads to the heart of the old city and the Plaza Mayor main square, surrounded by yellow edifices, the Government Palace and the imposing and grand cathedral. You will also visit Casa Solariega de Aliaga, a superbly preserved colonial mansion that has been occupied by 16 generations of the same family since 1535. Don Jeronimo De Aliaga was one of the 13 commanders to arrive with Pizarro and was given land around the main square to build his house when Lima was founded. The mansion is decorated with ornate antiques and fine furnishings and it is easy to get a feel of the history of the family.
End your tour with a visit to one of the oldest traditional taverns in the city, Cordano's, where you can taste Peru's famous pisco sour.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or take optional excursions (bookable locally).Casa Andina Private Collection - Miraflores (B)
Day 3To Cuzco - The Sacred Valley
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport for your flight to Cuzco.Casa Andina Private Collection Sacred Valley (B)
Upon arrival, drive to the Sacred Valley visiting Pisac market and Ollantaytambo Fortress en route.
Gateway to the Sacred Valley, the town of Pisac was of supreme importance in Inca times. It was the site of one of the most important fortresses built to guard the capital of the empire. Today the town of Pisac is a sleepy hamlet of brown adobe buildings with faded red tiled roofs and narrow cobblestone streets. A mixture of Inca and colonial influences, parts of the town date from the colonial era and in the church Mass is still said in Quechua. The town has a market in the main square every day and this is renowned for its color and vibrancy. People from the local villages, many of them in traditional dress, travel to the town and the many wares on offer include food items, handicrafts, ponchos and rugs.
The tour continues to Ollantaytambo, a small town built around a superbly preserved Inca fortress. The fortress guarded the entrance to this part of the valley and protected it from possible invasion from the lower jungles. The central part of the ruins is the Intihuatana group of temples and rock outcrops, which reveal the most magnificent Inca masonry. The design and foundations of the majority of the buildings in the town also date from the Inca era, when Ollantaytambo was a strategic military, religious and agricultural center.
After your visit, continue to your hotel, a journey of approximately 30 minutes.
Day 4To Machu Picchu
You will be collected at your hotel and transferred by road to Ollanta railway station, a journey of approximately 40 minutes.Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (B, box lunch, D)
Board the Peru Rail (Vistadome) train from Ollanta to Machu Picchu. Take a spectacular journey by narrow gauge railway through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to Machu Picchu.
All carriages on the Vistadome service feature large panoramic windows, a new suspension system, air conditioning and heating. Large comfortable leather seats with fold away tables allow passengers to relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery along the way. Complimentary snacks and drinks are provided on board.
On arrival at the station in Aguas Calientes, you will transfer by shared bus to Machu Picchu.
Note: When travelling to Machu Picchu it is mandatory to take an overnight bag and leave the bulk of your luggage in Cuzco or the Sacred Valley. This is due to baggage restrictions on the train.
In the afternoon, tour the Machu Picchu ruins. The Incas left legends of forgotten cities and treasures, the most incredible of which is Machu Picchu. It lay hidden from the world until its rediscovery by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. The site consists of more than 200 buildings of perfectly chiselled unmortared stone, as well as baths, temples, altars and houses constructed in terraces and connected by stairways carved from solid rock. Enjoy a guided tour of the ruins and have time to explore on your own.
Time permitting, you may wish to hike (unguided) up to Intipunku (Sun Gate), which is located on a flank of the Machu Picchu mountain and offers great views over the site. The hike between the citadel and Intipunku takes about 1 hour in each direction. Please ensure you leave sufficient time to descend the trail, as the exit is through the citadel, which closes at 5:30 pm.
Day 5To Cuzco
Enjoy the morning at leisure. Excursions that can be booked locally include bird watching or a visit to the Aguas Calientes hot springs (payable locally).Casa Andina Private Collection Cuzco - 2 Nights (B)
Additional optional activities can be booked today. These include climbing Huayna Picchu mountain or Machu Picchu mountain. The tickets for these activities must be pre-booked in conjunction with your second entrance ticket to the citadel as visitor numbers are restricted and tickets cannot be purchased locally. Tickets may sell out far in advance, particularly in peak season. Our local agents in Peru will purchase your entrance tickets no later than 15 days prior to your arrival in Machu Picchu, therefore we recommend you book any additional entrance tickets through Cox & Kings as far in advance as possible.
Optional Excursion: Further visit to Machu Picchu.
This morning, you will have time to explore these mysterious ruins on your own (second entrance ticket to Machu Picchu is included).
You may wish to hike to Intipunku (Sun Gate), which is located on a flank of the Machu Picchu mountain and offers great views over the site. The hike between the citadel and Intipunku takes about 1 hour in each direction.
If you revisit the citadel, we advise that you take the bus down from the ruins no later than 1.5 hours before your train departure time.
Optional Excursion: Further visit to Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu.
This morning you will have time to explore these mysterious ruins on your own and hike up Huayna Picchu. The second entrance ticket to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu is included.
Your entrance ticket for Huayna Picchu is for the hike starting at 7am / 10am. Please arrive on time or your ticket will be automatically cancelled and is non-refundable. The hike to the summit of Huayna Picchu (2720m above sea level) takes approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. The main trail is a steep climb up uneven pathways and Inca steps, at times exposed, and is not suitable for persons with a fear of heights. Please take particular care in wet weather as the paths and steps may be slippery.
If you revisit the citadel or hike the surrounding mountains we advise that you take the bus down from the ruins no later than 1.5 hours before your train departure time.
Optional Excursion: Further visit to Machu Picchu with Machu Picchu Mountain.
This morning, you will have time to explore these mysterious ruins on your own and hike up the Machu Picchu mountain, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Machu Picchu citadel. The second entrance ticket to Machu Picchu is included.
The hike between the citadel and the summit of the Machu Picchu mountain (3,000 metres above sea level) takes about 3 hours for a round trip. The hike is regarded as intermediate level and a good level of fitness is recommended. A guide can be prebooked for an additional fee.
If you revisit the citadel or hike the surrounding mountains, we advise that you take the bus down from the ruins no later than 1.5 hours before your train departure time.
This afternoon, board the Peru Rail (Vistadome) train from Machu Picchu to Poroy station.
You will be met at Poroy station on the outskirts of Cuzco and taken to your hotel, a journey of approximately 20 minutes.
Begin your tour with a visit to Loreto Alley, an impressive part of the old town with its remarkable Inca walls. Continue to the Santo Domingo Monastery which was built in the 17th century on the foundations of the Qoricancha Temple of the Sun, using original materials. Excavation is unearthing more of the five chambers of the temple, revealing some of the best Inca stonework to be seen in Cuzco.
After this, you will visit San Blas with its beautiful colonial church, which houses an impressive pulpit. Stroll through the many handicraft shops and native art galleries in the small square where local crafts can be found, such as earthenware, paintings, ceramics, sculptures, wood carvings and textiles. Roam the old quarter which dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Return to Cuzco's old town, passing through Hatunrumiyoc street with its famous 12-angle stone. The heart of Cuzco, as in Inca days, is the Plaza de Armas. On the northern side of this, a visit will be made to the magnificent cathedral, built in the early 17th century on the site of the Inca Palace of Viracocha. The high altar is made of solid silver and the altar retablo behind it is a masterpiece of native woodcarving. In the sacristy are paintings of all the bishops of Cuzco and a painting of Christ attributed to Van Dyck. Much venerated is the crucifix of El Senor de las Temblores, the object of many pilgrimages and viewed all over Peru as a guardian against earthquakes.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or take optional excursions.Casa Andina Private Collection Cuzco (B)
Excursions that can be booked locally include visits to the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman, the pre-Columbian Art Museum or the Awanakancha llama farm (please note: some optional excursions or museum visits require an additional tourist tax that our local agents must purchase in advance; please enquire with our local agents on arrival in Lima).
Day 7To Puno
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the station.Belmond Andean Explorer (B, L, D)
This morning board the Belmond Andean Explorer train in Cuzco for a 2-day / 1-night journey to Puno.
This scenic journey follows in the footsteps of the Incas, from the ancient city of Cuzco to the shores of Lake Titicaca. The first half of the journey is dominated by magnificent Andean mountains, towering over the deep valleys of the meandering Huatanay river.
After lunch there will be a chance to see the archaeological site of Raqchi and later watch the sun set at La Raya (the highest point of the route), where the snow-capped mountains of the Andes tower over the deep valleys of the Huatanay river. The journey then continues towards the gentle rolling Andean plains, where vicunas and alpacas may be seen.
A three-course dinner will be served in the dining car, and late in the evening the train will arrive into Puno.
Day 8Lake Titicaca - La Paz
An early start to see sunrise over Lake Titicaca followed by breakfast in the dining car. After breakfast you will disembark the train.
You will be collected from the train station and transported by land to Juli or Copacabana, a journey of approximately 2 or 3 hours (subject to hydrofoil operation).
Take a hydrofoil to Moon Island and visit the Inak Uyu Sun Virgins Temple, where the virgins dedicated to the Sun God Inti lived. Continue by hydrofoil to Sun Island, where according to legend, the Inca empire was founded when a golden rod was brought to Earth by Manco Kapac and Mama Ocllo (son and daughter of the Sun God Inti), and buried there. Disembark at Yumani Hydro Harbor and visit the Inca Staircase and the Inca Sacred Springs, said to be a source of eternal youth and happiness. Lunch is at the Uma Kollu archaeological restaurant, which has an authentic Inca Takana as its interior wall. Visit a native handicraft market and see a spectacular panorama of the lake from the Inca Viewpoint.
In the afternoon, travel by hydrofoil to the floating islands of Iruitos (weather conditions and time permitting). Lake Titicaca has many floating islands, which are inhabited by the Uros Indians. For hundreds of years the livelihood of this 'water tribe' has been based on the benefits of the totora reed, which grows densely in the shallower areas of the lake. They use these to build their homes, boats and even the floating islands they live on, compressing them into virtually rigid surfaces, which drift around on the lake currents. The Uros Indians live by fishing and raising domestic fowl and they travel between their islands in tiny reed boats.
Continue by hydrofoil to Huatajata harbor. Visit the Andean Roots Eco Village and Altiplano Museum, which depict the historical development of the area and exhibit artefacts from the civilizations of the Lake Titicaca region.
You will then transfer by road to La Paz, a journey of approximately 2 hours.
- The hydrofoil itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions.
- Please have your passports to hand so that they can be stamped for your arrival into Bolivia.
Day 9La Paz
Your tour will take you through the city, to see its colorful street markets such as the Witches' market, the Open Air Museum of Tiwanaku, the Parliament and Government's Palace at the Plaza Murillo, and San Francisco church.
You will then drive out of the city to the eerie Valle de Luna or Moon Valley. Millions of years of geological evolution have created this strangely beautiful area. The rocks, rifts and mounds have weird shapes and rise in peaks into the horizon, creating an almost lunar landscape.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure, or take an optional excursion to Tiwanaku (bookable locally).Hotel Europa (B)
Day 10To Buenos Aires
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport to board your flight to Buenos Aires.Brick Hotel Buenos Aires - 3 Nights (B)
Upon arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel.
Day 11Buenos Aires
Explore the elegant and cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires. Firstly you visit the 9 de Julio Avenue, the widest in the world, passing the famous Colon Opera house and the Obelisk commemorating the founding of the city in 1536, and continue to the Plaza de Mayo and the buildings surrounding it, which include the Government House, Metropolitan Cathedral and Town Hall. Then you visit La Boca, a typically Italian district, where you visit the 'Caminito' street. The tour continues to Buenos Aires port area towards Palermo Chico residential district and Palermo Park and ends in the elegant district of Recoleta where you visit the Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron was buried.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or take an optional excursion.Brick Hotel Buenos Aires (B)
Day 12Buenos Aires
Enjoy the day at leisure or take an optional excursion, such as a visit to an estancia in the Pampas or an evening tango show with dinner at Esquina Carlos Gardel or similar. Should you wish to book any optional excursions locally, please enquire with our local agent on arrival in Buenos Aires.Brick Hotel Buenos Aires (B)
Day 13To Iguazu Falls
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport for your flight to Iguazu.
On arrival, enjoy a tour of the Brazilian side of the falls. The Parque Nacional Foz do Iguacu in Brazil was founded in 1939 and offers the best views of the full scale of the Iguacu Falls, in addition to protecting a vast array of wildlife. You will be met at the airport and transferred across the border to the Brazilian side of the Falls. Here, walk along a paved walkway, which leads from beside the Hotel Das Cataratas through sub-tropical forest for 1 mile until it reaches the bottom of the Floriana Falls. Along the way there are excellent views over to the Argentinian side of the Falls. At Floriana either a lift or a path will lead you to the top of the Falls from where there are further stunning views.
Following your visit, transfer to your hotel on the Argentine side of the falls.
- The Iguacu/Iguazu National Park fees are not included and are payable locally.
- Please dress in light clothing and have sun protection to hand. Waterproofs are recommended for some parts of the walkway.
- Please ensure you have your passport ready for the border crossing between Argentina and Brazil.
Day 14Iguazu Falls
Enjoy the day at leisure to explore the Argentinian side of the Falls.Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa (B)
Day 15To Rio de Janeiro
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport on the Brazilian side of the Falls for your flight to Rio de Janeiro.Windsor Excelsior Hotel / Miramar Hotel by Windsor - 2 Nights (B)
Upon arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel.
Day 16Rio de Janeiro
You will set off this morning on a panoramic tour of Rio's main beaches, including Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. You will then continue to the cable car station on Praia Vermelha. From here, a succession of two cable cars will take you to the 1,312-foot summit of the world famous Sugar Loaf Mountain. The view from the glass enclosed cars and the two summits is magnificent. You look out on to the city's sweeping coastline with its tall buildings curling around forested mountains and bays and the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Hill.Windsor Excelsior Hotel / Miramar Hotel by Windsor (B)
Continue with a beautifully scenic drive past Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon to the foot of Corcovado Hill. The summit is reached from Rua Cosme Velho, via a cog railway, which, at the time of its inauguration in 1884, was hailed as a great achievement of engineering. The hunch-backed Corcovado Hill is famous for the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer that stands arms stretched on the mountain's summit. The view from here is as stunning as that from Sugar Loaf, but it takes in different perspectives. You will see the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, the exclusive Jockey Club racecourse, the mountains rising in the background and the spectacular Niteroi Bridge in the distance. Return to your hotel. The tour will take approximately six hours.
Day 17Depart Rio de Janeiro
Enjoy the day at leisure or embark on optional excursions, including a visit to the Tijuca rainforest, the botanical gardens or Rio's old center.(B)
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.
Generally, road travel in Latin America is reasonably good, however conditions vary greatly between the modern capital cities and the more remote areas. When traveling off the beaten track, roads are frequently narrow, bumpy, pot-holed and have stretches which are not paved, or which are under reconstruction. In Costa Rica, northern Chile and Bolivia particularly, conditions are very dusty and / or bumpy, and the road journeys tend to be quite strenuous. Road conditions change throughout the year and heavy rain and extreme weather patterns can affect journey times. Types of vehicles vary according to the country visited and the numbers on a tour: on escorted groups, transport will usually be in the form of a European-style coach or, for smaller groups, may be by mini-bus. On individual journeys, transport will generally be by sedan car. In destinations where conditions require it, off road driving will be in 4 x 4 vehicles.
Internal Flights / Delays / Insurance: Many countries within Latin America have their own air pass and, wherever possible, our tours will be constructed with the appropriate air pass, which will minimize the costs of the internal flight. Please note that the majority of air passes have restrictions; therefore if you require an itinerary with full flexibility, please contact your tour consultant who will advise the additional cost to provide you with a more flexible ticket. Please also note that in certain cases we may not be able to book internal flights under an airpass. In this event a supplement may be payable.
Because of increased air traffic, government restrictions and/or changing weather conditions, flight delays have become more commonplace. These delays can cause problems with your holiday arrangements, and additional costs may well be involved. This may be in the form of added accommodation costs, transfers and/or onward tickets. If this should occur, everything possible will be done to minimize the inconvenience. Cox & Kings will endeavor to ensure that arrangements go as smoothly as possible. As services are paid for in advance any services missed due to delays and/or schedule changes are non-refundable. Please also bear in mind that many international flight tickets are non-changeable and non-refundable. The insurance policy offered by Cox & Kings is designed to mitigate the costs and effects of such delays in certain circumstances and we strongly advise that you are insured against such eventualities.
Flight Amendments: Flights on these tours are in general quoted separately and use special airfare. These have certain conditions, which normally restrict changes of date, route and airline. Any such change made after a ticket has been issued will normally necessitate the purchase of a new ticket at the passenger’s expense.
Airport Departure Taxes: Most cities in Latin America levy a departure tax for passengers departing on international flights, which have to be paid in local currency or the equivalent in US dollars. Other cities within a country may also levy a small charge for departures on domestic flights. Occasionally, taxes may be included on your ticket and we will advise you accordingly. Since there is no standard charge between countries, and taxes are subject to change, it is not possible to list the taxes in this brochure. We will advise you of the current charge with your final documents, and our local agents will confirm the amount payable on arrival. Please ensure you keep enough local currency or US dollars to cover these taxes.
During some itineraries, it may be necessary to depart for excursions or transfers to the airport very early in the morning, sometimes before dawn. This is normally either due to the flight schedules within Latin America, or in order for us to maximize the opportunities for sightseeing during your tour. A number of flights to Latin America arrive / depart early in the morning and, while we will endeavor to schedule your tour with a flight which arrives / departs at a reasonable time, sometimes there is little or no alternative and early check-in / check-out times may be required.
Accommodation standards vary dramatically throughout Latin America. In the larger cities, the hotels we use are fully modernized and have excellent facilities, unless you choose to opt for the more colonial style property, where facilities may be limited. In some smaller cities and more remote areas, we try to offer the best hotels available. However, these may be quite simple - sometimes small colonial-style properties, in which rooms may vary in size - and often have relatively basic facilities. Please note, all rooms reserved on your tour are standard; however, if you wish to upgrade your room (e.g. to a lake or falls view, deluxe or suite etc.), please speak to your tour consultant, who will be able to advise you about the options and the applicable supplements.
Check-in & Check-out Times: For all group and individual tours, hotel check-in / out time is normally 3:00 pm, but this does vary between hotels.
Jungle Lodges & Remote Areas: Accommodation in some wildlife lodges in the Amazon rainforest, are not comparable to the better properties found in parts of Africa and Asia. Accommodation is often reached via narrow and unpaved roads, or by boat, and can be a long way from other civilization. Even when you travel off the beaten track with Cox & Kings, you can be sure that your accommodation is the best available; however sometimes the best hotel may be the only hotel, which may be very modest. In these cases, we feel that the inconvenience of such accommodation is outweighed by the experience of staying in these more remote areas.
Capital: Buenos Aires
Official Language(s): Spanish
Visa or Fees: No Visa required. A $140 reciprocity fee is due upon arrival to the Ezezia International Airport in Buenos Aires. This fee is paid once and is valid for the life of the passport.
Argentina is a land of stunning natural beauty, from the wild windswept fjords of Tierra del Fuego to the high plateau landscapes of the north. As well as lively cities and fantastic food and wine, Argentina offers two of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders in Iguazú Falls and the Perito Moreno Glacier.
What To See
The energetic capital of Buenos Aires is a fantastic place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere, catch an impromptu tango session, enjoy superb steaks in some of its many fine restaurants and sample the lively nightlife.
The plains of Patagonia can be divided into coastal Patagonia and inland Patagonia. In Inland Patagonia, at the foot of the Andes, lies Los Glacieres National Park with the Perito Moreno Glacier, an inspiring sight. Coastal Patagonia’s Peninsula Valdes offers excellent wildlife viewing, including the world’s largest penguin colony at Punta Tombo Reserve, and opportunities to see southern right whales, sea lions, elephant seals, guanacos and maras (Patagonian hares).
Further north around the town of Bariloche, lies the Lake District, a region of beautiful forests, lakes and mountains and a great place for outdoor activities.
The wine-producing town of Mendoza is a stylish city which enjoys a stunning location in the foothills of the Andes. It is possible to visit a number of the city’s world-class vineyards.
When To Go
Argentina’s seasons are reversed from the northern hemisphere’s. The best times to visit Buenos Aires are in spring and autumn. Mendoza and the Lake District are spectacular in autumn, when the leaves on the trees turn red and brown. For Patagonia, the best time to go is during the summer months (winter in US), as many services are unavailable in the winter.
Currency: Peruvian Sol
Official Language(s): Spanish
Peru offers a superb combination of stunning scenery, fascinating history and colorful local culture. It is a place where the Inca culture feels very much alive, in the wonderfully preserved remains and in the Quechan language and colorful weavings of the Andean people. It also has more than its fair share of unforgettable sights, from the mysterious Nazca lines to colonial cities and pre-Colombian sites.
What To See
First on the list for any visitor to Peru must be the magical Machu Picchu, high up in the Andes and a scenic train journey from Cusco. The industry of the Incas amazes elsewhere as well, with the precise masonry at Sacsayhuaman near Cusco, and the agricultural terraces in the Sacred Valley. Cusco retains a magical atmosphere with its clash of Incan and Spanish colonial architecture. The whole of this region is set against a backdrop of lush green mountains, and is what sets Peru apart from any other Latin America country.
When To Go
In the Andes region, the green season lasts from November to March, though January and February are the wettest months. The rain is not constant or regular but there can be heavy downpours. In the dry season, between April and September, days can be sunny and warm while spring and autumn can be quite mixed, with plenty of sunny days but chance of rain. Nights are cold year round, due to the altitudes. The coast has a dry climate all year round. Cool winds from the coast produce an almost ever present mist, called 'Garua'. Temperatures remain warm throughout the year, although the low cloud can often give the feeling of light drizzle.