South America overland tour, Quito to Rio
Description of South America overland tour, Quito to Rio
|Day 1:||DAY 1-4: QUITO TO AMAZON JUNGLE - Departing the largest city in Ecuador - Quito, we cross the Equator on our way to the town of Otavalo famous for its colourful craft market. Heading east on narrow, tortuous roads to the steamy edge of the Amazon basin and our gateway into the Amazon jungle. Here accompanied by experienced guides, we explore on foot this exotic environment.|
|Day 7:||DAYS 7 - 12: AMAZON JUNGLE TO CUENCA - Further south, perched high in the mountains of Ecuador, lies the outdoor adventure mecca of Banos. This spa town, where Ecuadorians go to relax in the thermal baths, is a favourite amongst those who have undertaken South America travel. With optional activities including rafting, canyoning and treks to waterfalls, you won't be short of things to do! We hit the road again and drive south along the spine of the Andes towards Peru visiting Cuenca on the way.|
|Day 13:||DAYS 13 - 18: CUENCA TO LIMA - A days drive on the Pan-American highway brings us to the border with Peru. You will notice an amazing transition in one day, from the glush farming country of highland Ecuador, through sub-tropical forest and immense banana plantations, to dry barren desert in Peru. We are rewarded with a couple of days chilling by the beach. Our next stops on our South America travel experience are the Chan Chan ruins, imperial citadel of the pre-Inca Chimu kings which the Incas later conquered. It claims to be the largest mud brick city in the world. Continuing with the Andes close to our left and the sea on our right, the capital city of Lima will be our next stop on our South America tour. Here you'll encounter both abundant wealth and grinding poverty, modern skyscrapers next to some of the finest museums and historical monuments in Latin America.|
|Day 19:||DAYS 19 - 25: LIMA TO COLCA CANYON - Departing Lima our next stop is the Ballestas Islands in the Paracas National Reserve. By boat, you have the opportunity to visit the rare and exotic sea birds and mammals that inhabit these islands. An hour's drive inland in the heart of the Ica Desert is the Oasis of Huacachina; if its an adrenaline rush you're after, you have the option to head out on a custom made dune buggy & roar across the desert sands to the top of enormous dunes & then sand board down them - head first on a greased up plank of wood! Then, after an unforgettable desert sunset, we sit around the campfire while our guides cook up a storm, followed by a night sleeping out under the stars. In the morning we make our way to one of the world's great archaeological mysteries The Nazca Lines. These huge figures and shapes, carved into the desert floor are best viewed from the air - South America travel is not complete until you have seen these unbelievable ancient mysteries. Still heading south we visit Chauchilla Cemetery with its well-preserved mummies, on our way to Puerto Inca, at this ancient Inca harbour we camp at the beach and enjoy our last night at sea level before beginning our climb back into the towering Andes. The next two nights are spent in Arequipa at 2325m, giving us time to acclimatise, and enjoy this beautiful colonial city with its impressive El Misti Volcano in the background. Arequipa is also the gateway to one of the deepest canyons in the world. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is an awesome sight. Here, if you get up early, Condors can be seen circling lazily on the thermals rising from the canyon floor.|
|Day 26:||DAYS 26 - 32: COLCA CANYON TO CUSCO - Widely considered to be the most interesting city for South America travel, our next stop Cusco is surrounded by the Sacred Valley of the Incas and offers a wide range of activities to explore the region. We will base ourselves here for 6 days giving us enough time for the Inca Trail trip, which is regarded by many to be the highlight of their South America tour. There are several treks which you can take in Machu Picchu. When permits are still available, we will organise the Classic Trail trek, but great alternative Inca Trail treks, like the Lares or Salkantay can be arranged when the Classic is not available or by your choice (must be pre-arranged at time of booking). These alternatives mean that you still get to visit Machu Picchu. Tours to Machu Picchu are absolutely unbelievable; a trip to this City in the Clouds is an ancient and awe-inspiring part of our South America travel tour. Besides seeing Machu Picchu, you are able to enjoy the architectural uniqueness of Cusco and explore some of the colourful surrounding markets. Please note that for all those visiting Machu Picchu there is now the option to buy a ticket to go up the summit next to Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu. Tickets for this must be requested at the time of your booking with us, and payment made in advance in the UK. You will have the option to add the tickets to go up Huayna Picchu when you make your booking online, be sure to add them if you would like them.|
|Day 33:||DAYS 33 - 37: CUSCO TO LA PAZ - Bordering Peru and Bolivia at 3800m lies Lake Titicaca, the home of the Uros Indians who have made their dwellings on floating reed islands. By boat we visit the floating islands during the day and then we go that one step beyond the average tourist and spend the night with one of the Indian families on the lesser known islands Isla Amantani or Taquile. Spending some time during South America travel in these local communities will provide a unique opportunity to learn more about the traditional lifestyle of the Andean people and their customs. From here it is a days drive to the capital of Bolivia - La Paz. This is a great place to visit a 'peña' club, dedicated to Andean folk music, and perhaps buy some souvenirs in one of the authentic markets such as the witches market.|
|Day 38:||DAYS 38 - 43: LA PAZ TO UYUNI - Leaving La Paz we enter real Bolivia, where the Aymara and Quechua Indians scrape a living from their small plots of land in the harsh climate and paved roads are virtually non-existent. A days drive brings us to Potosi. At over 4000m it is the highest city of its size in the world and 400 years ago it was the largest city in all the Americas. Vast amounts of silver were extracted from Potosi and shipped to Spain in years gone by. The adventurous who have undertaken South American travel will appreciate the opportunity to go down one of these mines where mining techniques have remained unchanged for centuries. Visiting the ancient mint or having a tour around the Casa Nacional de Moneda (National Money House) also provides a good look into Potosi's and Bolivia's past. Leaving the bleak Altiplano we arrive at the shimmering white Salt Flats of Uyuni.DAYS 44 - 47UYUNI TO SALTAIt is possible to venture out into the salt lakes for a 1 day excursion. With no roads and only vague tracks to follow it makes for an unforgettable experience. Our descent through the Andean passes is spectacular as we cross into Argentina towards the colonial city of Salta where we have a couple of free days.|
|Day 48:||DAYS 48 - 53: SALTA TO SANTIAGO - After Salta, we head south winding around lakes and weaving through baked cliffs until we reach Cafayate, the first wine region of Argentina. Famous for its white wines, you can explore some of the wineries on foot or by bicycle. Continuing south we join the route 40, the longest route in Argentina, to Mendoza, the biggest wine region in Argentina. Here you can indulge in more wine and good steak! From here we head for Chile as we cross the Andes past the Inca Bridge and San Martin's pass and into the modern capital, Santiago.DAYS 54SANTIAGOWe have a free day to explore Santiago, with famous Chilean Steak houses, Casillero del Diablo winery, Skiing available in the winter, you will find it easy to pass the days away.|
|Day 55:||DAYS 55 - 60: SANTIAGO TO BARILOCHE - If you are travelling on the trip that travels through Patagonia from July to September, please be aware it will get very cold at times with temperatures well below zero, and you can expect snowfall. Please be prepared for cold conditions, with thermal clothing and the correct sleeping bag. On our July to September trips in Patagonia, this section of the trip is subject to change en route. Please see our 'Winter in Patagonia' notes below for further details. Leaving Santiago, we pass small villages and deep blue lakes with mountains towering above us as we wind through Chile's Lake District. Pucon, an outdoors centre in its own right, will be our base for the next few days from where it is possible to organise whitewater rafting, water sports, horse riding and one day hikes up nearby Villarrica Volcano. Ascending the Andes via some spectacular mountain passes we arrive in Bariloche, Argentina. This very popular holiday destination for Argentinians is the top ski resort on the continent and also has several hiking trails and a great nightlife.|
|Day 61:||DAYS 61 - 76: BARILOCHE TO USHUAIA - Heading further down through Argentina into the deep south on a good dirt road we enter the vast wilderness of Patagonia. The perpetual wind makes it difficult for trees and plants to grow, so for a while we are faced with endless grassland. However our long drive will soon be rewarded with the stupendous views that Los Glaciares National Park provides - it also has the largest glacier in the world and here we have the option to take a boat ride up close to Perito Moreno Glacier, almost 200 ft high. Torres del Paine NP is another area of outstanding beauty where huge granite cliffs dominate the landscape. A good way to explore the area is either hiking or by horseback. Here there is the option to complete the famous W-Trek (bookable as an Add on). Please note that spaces on this trek are subject to availability. For those who do not want to complete the W-Trek there are options of shorter day hikes in the park which do not need to be booked ahead and you are free to do as you choose once there. We continue south towards the wild and hauntingly beautiful land at worlds end, the island of Tierra del Fuego. We cross by ferry to the most southerly town in the world Ushuaia, from where you can view the green waters of the Beagle Channel and the snow clad peaks beyond. Winter in Patagonia - Please note that the trips which travel through this part of Patagonia between July and September will coincide with winter in Patagonia. This will give us the opportunity to see the Andes at their most impressive, driving past towering snow-capped peaks and experiencing this rugged wilderness at a time of year that not many other travellers get to see! We will hopefully have the chance to ski or snowboard in Bariloche and Ushuaia, ice-climb across glaciers in El Chalten, and hike in national parks at the most dramatic time of year. However, weather conditions can be unpredictable, and there is a chance that certain roads will not be passable, so we cannot guarantee following our planned itinerary to Tierra del Fuego; changes may have to be made with little or no notice. But if this is required we will make a new plan and find a different route that will be sure to offer its own attractions and experiences, so come prepared for an adventure!|
|Day 77:||DAYS 77 - 85: USHUAIA TO BUENOS AIRES - We now cross to the Atlantic coast of Patagonia and visit one of the marine sanctuaries. Penguins, Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Sea Birds and sometimes Whales can be seen. Following the excellent paved roads north along the coast we pass through some quite affluent towns. One, Puerto Madryn, was the landing place over a century ago for the first group of Welsh settlers that subsequently colonised and now farm the surrounding area. We traverse the vast Pampas grasslands, South America's cowboy country, where gun-toting gauchos on horseback look after vast herds of cattle. Travel to Argentina is not complete without a visit to the country's capital, and so we follow the coast to Buenos Aires.|
|Day 86:||DAYS 86 - 87: BUENOS AIRES - Renowned for it's steaks, fine wines, tango dancing, ice cream and great nightlife! A few days in this smart cosmopolitan city and you could be forgiven for thinking you were back in Europe. From here you will also have the opportunity to travel across the Rio Plata by ferry to Montevideo & Colonia de Sacramento to visit Uruguay.|
|Day 88:||DAYS 88 - 93: BUENOS AIRES TO IGUAZU FALLS - We depart Buenos Aires and start making our way north towards Brazil. Continuing through Argentina, we visit the region between Argentina and Paraguay that is home to many Jesuit Missions built in the 16th century to convert the Guarany Indians. We visit the ruins of San Ignacio before crossing the border into Brazil, where we also cross from Spanish to Portuguese, and it is time to get our tongues around a new linguistic challenge! The Iguazu Falls form the natural border between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, higher than Niagara and wider than Victoria Falls they are an awe-inspiring place to spend the next three days before we continue on with travel to Brazil. The lush tropical forest surrounding the falls has many walking trails leading to smaller hidden falls, ideal to refresh from the steaming heat and abounding with parrots, toucans, woodpeckers and colourful plants. Here you can also undertake a number of optional activities such as rafting, helicopter flights and mountain bike riding.|
|Day 94:||DAYS 94 - 99: IGUAZU FALLS TO PANTANAL - Next stop is Bonito where we can swim and snorkel in some of the clearest rivers and lakes in the world. Spectacular walks in the mountainous forests may reveal wildlife that includes monkeys, alligators and anaconda. We begin our travel to Brazil in earnest as we journey on to the Pantanal region where we organise treks and horserides out into the vast wetlands which is home to over 600 species of birds and 350 kinds of fish, piranha being common, as well as an abundance of reptiles and animals. Try your hand at Piranha fishing too!|
|Day 100:||DAYS 100 - 104: PANTANAL TO PARATI - We now head to the coastal village of Parati. This unspoilt and picturesque town has remained fundamentally unaltered for three centuries. Cars have been banned from its cobbled streets that run down to the seashore, instead mountain bikes are used and are a good way to get around. Another great way to explore the secluded islands of this pristine coastline is taking a sailing trip in one of the traditional schooners.|
|Day 105:||DAYS 105: PARATI TO RIO - Our final drive takes us to the hedonistic playground of Rio de Janeiro, where the folk are raring to party out of their minds and live purely for the moment. Your adventure finishes on arrival into Rio. The Carnival and New Years Eve celebrations are always chaotic, crowded and fun and a must during any stint of travel to Brazil! We have Carnival and New Year packages available if you would like to join us for the celebrations.|
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As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.
PlanetOn this trip we stay at small, locally run campsites or hostels and buy our food locally, thereby directly supporting local communities. We use local companies to run all our excursions. They, in turn, employ local drivers and guides-supporting the local economy. Camping, in itself, helps to conserve natural resources. There is no option to leave the lights, heating or aircon on!
In terms of water consumption our trucks carry a large supply of treated drinking water. We encourage our clients to bring reusable water bottles on their trip with them and to refill these from our truck water supply. Thus, eliminating the need to buy bottled water. We also offer a discount scheme for our clients to purchase water filtration bottles. This means that they can obtain drinking water when they are away from the truck too.
Before the trip commences clients are sent detailed pre-departure information which includes advice on responsible travel. This information is re-emphasised by the tour leader at the start of the trip-clients, for example, are advised about respecting local customs, conservation of natural habitats and wildlife, litter disposal etc.
We try to select campsites or hostels that share our environmental concerns. In Ecuador we stay at the Arajuno Jungle Lodge and Forest Reserve. This project not only runs its accommodation on sustainable principles but supports the local community in a variety of ways, including the development of small-scale fishponds in remote indigenous villages partly to stop villagers from fishing with dynamite in the rivers. They have also trained local people to become licensed guides. The forest reserve has a native species reproduction project for guatusas and capybara and are currently involved in trying to re-introduce turtles to the Arajuno River.
We spend one night of the trip as guests in the homes of a community of Uros Indian families on the islands of Amantani or Taquile. This gives our clients an opportunity to learn more about their hosts traditional lifestyles and also provides the families with an additional source of income.
One of the highlights of this trip is obviously trekking the Inca Trails to Machu Picchu. This trek offers opportunities of employment to large numbers of the local community. Porters, cooks and guides are required. However, much of this employment is poorly paid and working conditions are not good. The local company we use to organise our trails has a commitment to the welfare of their porters providing them with a professional wage and health insurance. They are also in the process of completing a house for the porters so that they have somewhere comfortable to stay the night before they start the trail, as many of them travel in from rural areas.
The numbers of clients we take on this tour are limited, to a maximum of twenty-four, thus reducing the environmental and cultural impact of a large group.
PeopleWe spend one night of the trip as guests, in the homes of a community of Uros Indian families on the islands of Amantani or Taquile on Lake Titicaca in Peru. This gives our clients an opportunity to learn more about their hosts traditional lifestyles and also provides the families with an additional source of income.
There are plenty of opportunities on this trip to support local businesses and guides. In Tena, in the Amazon Jungle, for example, we use experienced, knowledgeable guides to explore on foot and by motorised canoes this exotic environment for two days. We encourage our travelers to try local restaurants and local food sellers. Similarly, there are numerous options to take local guides on treks, horse riding treks - for example, in Patagonia.
On this trip we have plenty of opportunities to visit local markets and artisans. Otovalo, in Ecuador, for example is a popular destination, with it's colourful craft markets.
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