"You'll need to open this trip to really see just how much you're getting out of it, South American Icons is a trip of a life time"
From Chile to Argentina, Brazil to Ecuador, this comprehensive 33-day tour takes you to some of South America’s most iconic places. Starting in Santiago, you’ll discover both the new and old colonial areas of Chile’s charismatic capital, before heading towards the Pacific Ocean for a visit to the country’s oldest port, Valparaiso. From Chile you’ll fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina’s vibrant and fascinating capital, to explore districts alive with passionate Tango, as well as iconic sites including the balconied Presidential Palace and Eva Peron’s grave. You’ll continue to the spectacular Iguazu Falls, before crossing the border into Brazil, where you’ll have the chance to explore the bohemian neighbourhoods and beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
Continuing into Peru, you’ll marvel at Lima’s magnificent examples of colonial architecture, before heading to Lake Titicaca to visit the floating reed-island homes of the Uros Indians. Journeying across the Altiplano, you’ll pass rampaging rivers, snow-capped mountains and sleepy Andean villages as you make your way to Cusco, the gateway to the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu. See Giant Tortoises in their natural habitat on Darwin’s Galapagos Islands, before ending your tour with a once-in-a-lifetime stay deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest!
Chimu Adventures aims to minimise its impact on the environment and support local communities in any way possible. The company strives to source guides, meals and transport from the communities it operates in rather than importing. Chimu Adventures prides itself on the fact that all operations for this tour are carried out by locally-owned companies, and they select locally-owned hotels which share their values in terms of social and environmental responsibility. The company's guides are highly experienced and qualified, and are paid above the minimum wage; since they are local, travellers are able to gain a more authentic insight into the communities and environments they visit.
Travellers are encouraged to minimise their carbon footprint whilst touring with Chimu Adventures, and are provided with information and advice on responsible waste disposal and how to offset carbon emissions. This ensures that guests are equipped with the knowledge necessary to help them protect the diverse ecosystems they visit. The company also practices what it preaches, with sustainability measures including carbon offsets for company/staff vehicles, and processes to help create paperless offices and reduce waste. Chimu’s ‘Pass it On’ programme empowers local people, providing funding to help Latin American communities develop their own infrastructure. Finally, Chimu Adventures also offers travellers the chance to make a positive impact by visiting community projects.
Upon your arrival in Santiago, you’ll be met before taking a transfer to your hotel.
Take a tour of the new and old areas of the city, with highlights including the Plaza de Armas. The city’s central square, the plaza is home to the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Central Post Office and the 19th century Royal Court Palace. Visit the hill on which the city was founded in the 16th century, Cerro Santa Lucia, and explore its fountains, fort and panoramic viewpoint. Later, discover Barrio Alto, the city’s modern commercial area.
Head out of the capital to the beach resort Vina del Mar, with restaurants, parks and classy hotels offering a ‘French Riviera’ flavour. From here, head towards the Pacific Ocean for a visit to Chile’s oldest port. Valparaiso is notable for its unique funicular elevators connecting the upper and lower parts of town, as well as its historical centre. On your tour of Valparaiso, you’ll also visit the former home of the Nobel Prize-winning poet and left-wing activist Pablo Neruda. After the tour concludes, you’ll return to your hotel in Santiago.
Take a transfer to the airport for your flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival, you’ll be met and transferred to your hotel.
A tour of Buenos Aires gives you a great insight into the city’s incredible history, architecture, culture and people. Explore the bustling centre, with its iconic balconied Casa Rosada Presidential Palace, Eva Peron’s grave in the aristocratic north, and the passionate Tango districts of La Boca and San Telmo in the working-class south.
Take a private tango lesson, or a cycling tour of the city to get a fresh perspective. For art-lovers, there’s the option to learn about the city’s urban art scene with a visit to local galleries and street exhibitions. If you’d like to take a more relaxing option, there’s always the possibility of a leisurely boat cruise on the Tigre Delta.
Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight from Buenos Aires to Iguazu.
Take an early morning excursion to the Iguazu Falls (Argentinian side). Ride the Rainforest Ecological train and enjoy panoramic views from both above and below the falls. Next, visit the spectacular Devil’s Falls, and take an optional boat ride beneath the cascading water.
Get a different perspective of the falls, from the Brazilian side of the border. You’ll tour through the park on a bus equipped with panoramic windows, maximising your views. There are also walkways and steps designed to allow you to get invigoratingly close to the spray! Here, the views of the Iguazu River, Floriana Falls and the Devil’s Gorge Canyon are truly impressive. After you’re tour, you’ll transfer to the airport, for a flight to Rio de Janeiro.
Rising early, you’ll travel to the bottom of Corcovado Hill before making your ascent through the world’s largest urban National Park, Tijuca Forest. Arriving at the statue of Christ the Redeemer, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the city and take in the sheer immensity of Rio’s colossal guardian. Next, you’ll visit the Marcana Stadium, and pass by the Sambadrome, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the bohemian neighbourhood of Lapa. You’ll enjoy a traditional Brazilian barbeque lunch before visiting the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain. Finally, you’ll be dropped back to your hotel.
Today you’ll visit Santa Marta, a favela situated on Dona Marta Hill. The favela is so-named for the image of Santa Homônima guarding a chapel located on the hill’s highest point. The favela is famous for being featured in Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ music video, and there is a statue of the popstar on the terrace of the community’s House of Culture. After a visit to Santa Marta, the tour continues to the largest urban forest in the world, Tijuca Forest. You can take an optional small walk along a forest trail to the Cascatinha Falls.
Enjoy a free day to explore at your leisure, or relax on one of Rio’s famous beaches such as Copacabana or Ipanema.
Take a private transfer from your hotel to the airport, where you’ll catch your flight to Lima. Transfer to your hotel.
Tour through Lima, the colonial ‘City of Kings’, passing by several famous sites including the Presidential Palace, the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral and the Catacombs beneath the San Francisco Convent. Admire Lima’s magnificent examples of colonial architecture as you explore the city.
Fly from Lima to Juliaca, where you’ll be met and transferred to your hotel in Puno. On the way, you’ll stop at the pre-Inca burial ground of Sillustani, where you can wander through the remarkable volcanic stone tombs. Known as Chulpas, these funerary towers can be up to 12 metres high. Sillustani overlooks the stunning Lake Umayo, and is considered one of the world’s most important necropolises.
Today’s tour starts with a trip to the floating reed-island homes of the Uros people. The original inhabitants of these islands are thought to descend from one of the Americas’ most ancient peoples, and the present-day community continues to practice traditional ways of life. The Uros people use the Totura reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca to make the floating islands as well as boats and homes, and live by fishing on the lake. Returning to Puno, you’ll stop at Taquile Island, where the 350 Quechua-speaking families who live there continue to use a 14th century collective agricultural system. The island’s people are famed for their handicrafts, including woven chumpis (belts), chullos (caps) and ojotas (sandals).
Travelling by either bus or train, today you’ll enjoy a spectacular journey from Puno to Cusco. Crossing the Altiplano, you’ll pass by sleepy Andean villages, rampaging rivers, snow-capped mountains and sheer cliffs, stopping along the way at the pre-Inca ruins of Raqchi. You’ll arrive in the legendary city of Cusco in the early evening. If you prefer, the luxury Andean Explorer train can be booked at extra cost.
Go on a sightseeing tour in Cusco, the heart of the ancient Inca Empire. Visit some of the city’s highlights including the incredible Qorikancha Temple of the Sun, the 12-Angled Rock and the Cathedral, built upon the ruins of an Inca Palace. You’ll then explore the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Qengo (giant rock), the ancient site of Puca Pucara and the Water Temple of Tambomachay.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a fertile valley once home to many important Inca sites. Begin your exploration of the valley at the village of Pisac. This colonial village sits at the base of the fantastic Pisac Ruins – an Inca citadel and fortress with impressive agricultural terracing. Wander through colourful market stalls, where locals in traditional dress sell handicrafts, fruit and vegetables, before enjoying an Andean lunch. Continuing along the River Urubamba, your next stop is Ollantaytambo, a town dominated by a giant Inca fortress. This town is arguably the best surviving example of Inca town planning. At the end of your tour, travel by train to Aguas Calientes and check in to your hotel.
The 15th-century Incas site of Machu Picchu has been named one of the seven New Wonders of the World as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dramatically positioned on a mountain ridge overlooking the Sacred Valley, it is the most famous of all Inca sites, and its ruins are still in fantastic condition. Enjoy a guided tour of the main monuments and ruins including the Main Square, the Circular Tower, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Sacred Solar Clock. After you return to Aguas Calientes, you’ll take a train to Ollantaytambo before transferring to Cusco.
Explore the ancient Inca capital of Cusco at your leisure, discovering cobbled streets, vibrant markets and fine Inca and Spanish colonial architecture. The UNESCO World Heritage city is jam-packed with ancient monuments and alive with history; there are treasures around every corner.
Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight from Cusco to Quito.
You’ll be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport, where you’ll take an onward flight from Quito. Upon your arrival at Baltra Airport, you’ll be met by a guide who will escort you by land and water to Puerto Ayora. Here, you’ll board your first-class yacht, Yolita II. Prior to setting sail, travel to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a scenic drive that passes by rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones. See the Twin Craters before continuing on to a local ranch where you’ll observe Giant Tortoise species in their natural habitat on Santa Cruz Island.
Visit the Galapagos Islands’ largest and best flamingo lagoon, Punta Cormorant. As well as flamingos, you can see common stilts, white-checked pintail ducks and a variety of other migratory birds. Continue aboard the yacht, sailing to the nearby ‘Devil’s Crown’ islet to enjoy some fantastic snorkelling. Later, in the afternoon, visit Post Office Bay and Baroness Lookout for some incredible views.
So-named for its shape, ‘Chinese Hat’ is a small islet just off Santiago Island’s south-eastern tip. The landscape is covered by sea lion colonies, Galapagos penguins and marine iguanas, and you might observe lava formations on the islet’s west side. In the northwest of Santa Cruz sits Dragon Hill, where you can see salt lagoons frequented by pintail ducks, flamingos and other species of birds. The site has also been re-populated by land iguanas from Isabela, Seymour and Santa Cruz Islands. A short walk to the top of Dragon Hill provides a beautiful view of the bay.
Head to Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island’s norther side, travelling by zodiac boat. The calm and quiet red mangrove lagoon provides a perfect nursey for many rays and sharks. You can observe large groups of white-tip reef, black-tipped reef and hammerhead sharks in the crystal-clear waters, as well as golden and eagle rays. You might even spot sea turtles mating in the mangrove-fringed waters! Finishing your Galapagos cruise, you’ll transfer to Baltra airport for your flight back to Quito.
Explore the streets and squares of the biggest historical old town in the Americas on today’s colonial city tour of Quito. Visit the iconic churches of La Compañía and San Francisco, with their rich cultural heritage and beautiful multi-ethnic designs. You’ll also visit the Equatorial Monument marking the world’s exact middle (Latitude 0º) – stand with a foot in each hemisphere, and receive a certificate stating that you’ve crossed the Equator! Appreciate the spectacular surrounding volcanic scenery and take the opportunity to visit the Ethnographic Museum.
Leave Quito after an early breakfast, travelling south through the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ to arrive at the National Park. One of the most important landmarks in Ecuador, the Cotopaxi Volcano is the world’s highest active volcano. You will see lush endemic flora and fauna in the area, including the Chuquiragua (also known as the mountaineer’s flower), deer, llamas and wild horses.
Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight from Quito to Coca. You’ll then be met and transfer by motorised canoe to Yarina Eco Lodge. Located on the Napo River in the Amazon Basin, the lodge is situated in privately-owned rainforest near the Yasuni National Park, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. In the afternoon, you’ll walk through a variety of different rainforest areas along the Socali Path, learning more about the flora and fauna of the forest. Returning to the lodge for dinner, you’ll spend the rest of the evening at your leisure.
After breakfast, you’ll walk the Capibara Path, an adventure trail with numerous swamps, as well as palm trees that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. After lunch at the lodge, you’ll learn how to use a blowpipe before heading out on a canoe. Returning once again for dinner, the rest of the evening is free.
Get geared up in rubber boots and jungle dress before canoeing up-river. Along the way, observe birds, butterflies, amphibians and orchids, before reaching the ‘Dos Ramas’ trail. Here, you’ll take a short educational hike, learning about medicinal plants and wildlife. In the afternoon, you’ll walk the Tucan Trail, notable for its fantastic bird-watching (over 350 species of birds have been observed in the area).
After breakfast, you’ll transfer to the airport for your flight to Quito.
Take a transfer from your hotel to the airport for your onward flight from Quito, full of memories from this amazing month long trip!