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Highlights

  • Quito, Banos (Ecuador) - Lima, Ballestas Islands, Nazca Lines, Arequipa, Cusco (Peru) - Inca Trail - Lake Titicaca - La Paz, Potosi, Salt Flats of Uyuni (Bolivia) - Cafayate vineyards (Argentina) - Santiago, Pucon (Chile) - Barilochi - Patagonia - Marino Glacier (Argentina) - Torres del Paine National Park (Chile) - Ushuaia, Buenos Aires (Argentina) - Iguazu Falls - Parati, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)... and so much more!
    Trip includes 63 nights hotel and hostel accommodation

ITINERARY

This itinerary gives you an idea of the proposed route, outlining some of the sights, attractions and modes of transport on the way. The route is subject to change, mainly due to the unpredictability of political and environmental conditions. Whatever the route, it will be a thrilling trip from Quito to Rio overland.
Days 1-6
Starting our South American tour in Ecuador's capital Quito, we head south to the outdoor mecca of Banos - perched high in the mountains. This spa town, where Ecuadorians go to relax in the thermal baths, is ideal for hiking or mountain biking the various trails to one of the surrounding waterfalls or impressive rocky canyon. It is a favourite stop for those who have travelled in South America.

Hitting the road again, we drive south along the spine of the Andes towards Peru, visiting Cuenca on the way. With its cobblestone streets, cathedrals, parks and rivers, Cuenca is also a cultural centre and well worth a day's exploring.

  • Trip Cost £3499
    Local payment US$1590
Departure Dates:
Departs:
Quito
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Arrives:
Rio
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Departed
Days 7-10
The Pan-American highway brings us to the border with Peru and an amazing transition in the space of one day - from the farming country of highland Ecuador, through sub-tropical forest and immense banana plantations, to dry barren desert.

We are rewarded with a day at Punta Sal, a paradise on the coast, before continuing south with the Andes to our left and the sea on our right as we head to our next stop - the Peruvian capital city Lima. Abundant wealth and grinding poverty exist side by side, while modern skyscrapers stand next to some of the finest museums and historical monuments in Latin America.

Days 11-19
Leaving Lima, our next stop is the Ballestas Islands in the Paracas National Reserve. Travelling by boat, we visit the rare, exotic sea birds and mammals that inhabit these islands.

Back on the mainland, we make our way to one of the world's great archaeological mysteries - The Nazca Lines. Huge figures and shapes carved into the desert floor, they are best viewed from the air and South American travel is not complete until you have seen these unbelievable, ancient mysteries. Continuing south, we visit the well-preserved mummies of Chauchilla Cemetry en route to the ancient Inca harbour of Puerto Inca. We camp at the beach on our last night at sea level before the climb back into the towering Andes - starting with two nights spent in Arequipa at 2325m, giving us time to acclimatise and enjoy this beautiful colonial city and its impressive backdrop of El Misti Volcano.

oz-bus south america
Days 20-25
One of the most arduous and punishing dirt roads on the tour takes us to Cuzco, widely considered the most interesting city for South America travel. Surrounded by the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cuzco offers a wide range of activities to explore the region. We will base ourselves here for six days, giving us enough time for the Inca Trail trip, regarded by many to be the highlight of South America. Several treks take in Machu Picchu, when permits are still available there is the Classic Trail trek, but great alternatives such as the Salkantay or Lares can be arranged (must be pre-arranged at time of booking). Tours to Machu Picchu are absolutely unbelievable, the City in the Clouds providing an ancient and awe-inspiring high point of our tour. Besides seeing Machu Picchu, you're able to enjoy the architectural uniqueness of Cuzco and explore some of the colourful surrounding markets.
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Days 26-30
Bordering Peru and Bolivia at 3800m, Lake Titicaca is the home of the Uros Indians who have made their dwellings on floating reed islands. We visit the floating islands by boat and continue to one of the lesser know islands of Isla Amantani or Taquile. Spending some time in these local communities will provide a unique opportunity to learn more about the traditional lifestyle of the Andean people and their customs. A day's drive takes us to La Paz, capital of Bolivia. This is a great place to visit a 'pena' club, dedicated to Andean folk music, and buy some souvenirs in one of the authentic markets.
Days 31-35
Leaving La Paz we enter the heart of 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 day's drive brings us to Potosi - at more than 4000m the highest city of its size in the world and, 400 years ago, the largest city in all the Americas. Vast amounts of silver were extracted from Potosi and shipped to Spain and the adventurous 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, where it is possible to venture out into the salt lakes for a one-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 and we visit Tupiza before we cross into Argentina towards the colonial city of Salta.

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Days 36-42
After Salta, we wind our way south around lakes and weave 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 country's biggest wine region. Here you can indulge in more wine and good steak before we head for Chile, crossing the Andes past the Inca Bridge and San Martin's pass and into the modern capital, Santiago. We may even get a glimpse of Aconcagua if we are lucky- the largest massif outside the Himalayas and the highest mountain in the Americas.
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Day 43
We have a free day to explore Santiago with its famous Chilean steakhouses and Cassilero del Diablo (Concho y Toro) winery, while a day's skiing is an option in winter. There will be no problem finding ways of passing the day.
Days 44-48
Leaving Santiago, we pass small villages and deep blue lakes with mountains towering above us as we wind through Chile's Lake District to outdoor centre Pucon - our base for the next few days. There's the chance to organise whitewater rafting, skiing, water sports, horse riding and day hikes up Villarrica Volcano. Ascending the Andes via some spectacular mountain passes we arrive in Bariloche, Argentina. A very popular holiday destination for Argentineans, it is the top ski resort on the continent and boasts several hiking trails and a great nightlife.
Days 49-56
Heading into the deep south of Argentina 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 be rewarded with the stupendous views that Los Glaciares NP provides - including the largest glacier. We have the option to take a boat ride up close to Moreno Glacier, almost 200ft high. Torres del Paine NP is another area of outstanding beauty where hiking or on horseback provide great ways to explore the huge granite cliffs which dominate the landscape.
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Days 57-63
The route south finally takes us to the wild and hauntingly beautiful land at world's end, the island of Tierra del Fuego. A ferry takes us to Ushuaia - the most southerly town in the world - from where we can view the green waters of the Beagle Channel and the snow-clad peaks beyond. Crossing to the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, we visit one of the marine sanctuaries with penguins, sea lions, sea elephants, sea birds and, sometimes, whales among the wildlife that can be seen. Following the excellent paved roads north along the coast we pass through some quite affluent towns, among them Puerto Madryn - the landing place more than a century ago for the first group of Welsh settlers that 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. From Puerto Madryn there is the opportunity to visit the marine sanctuary of Peninsula Valdes with Penguins, sea lions, sea elephants, sea birds and sometimes whales.
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Days 64-68
Travel to Argentina is not complete without a visit to the country's capital and so we follow the coast to Buenos Aires. A few days in this smart cosmopolitan city and you could be forgiven for thinking you were back in Europe. There is plenty to do with museums, horse racing, football, shopping, tango dancing for the confident, restaurants that serve the best steak in the world, and plazas to sit at a cafe and observe Argentinean life go by. From here you will also have the opportunity to travel across the Rio Plata by ferry to Uruguay and visit Montevideo and Colonia de Sacramento.
Days 69-72
Continuing through Argentina, we visit the region between Argentina and Paraguay that is home to Jesuit Missions, built in the 16th century to convert the Guarany Indians. We visit the ruins of San Ignacio before reaching Puerto Iguazu 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. The lush tropical forest surrounding the falls has walking trails leading to smaller hidden falls, ideal to refresh from the steaming heat and abounding with parrots, toucans, woodpeckers and colourful plants. You can also undertake a number of optional activities such as rafting, helicopter flights and mountain bike riding. We cross the border into Brazil where we also cange from Spanish to Portuguese and its time to get our tongues around a new linguistic challange!
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Days 73-78
Moving East we come to Curitiba, and have a free day for those who that wish to take quite possibly the most scenic and exciting train route into Brazil, crossing the Serra Do Mar mountains down to Parangua. 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, replaced by mountain bikes which provide 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.
Days 79-84
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. The Carnival celebrations are always chaotic, crowded and fun and a must during any stint of travel to Brazil!