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Southern Cross

Rating
This is an epic adventure if ever there was one! We'll commence on the coast of Brazil at the world's most famous beach city, then from one coast to another we'll take you to the Pantanal Wetlands, Iguazú Falls and across the Chaco of northern Argentina and through the ancient Inca Empire. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, mountain markets and pristine peaks, you'll be immersed in the Latino way of life every step of the way.
NB : Please note that some excursions also require a non-refundable deposit to be paid in advance. This includes £150 for any client booking the Inca Trail Trek or Lares Trek in Peru and £250 for any client booking the Gorilla Trek in Uganda​.
From
GBP
2,039.15
pp

Day 1: Arrive Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, or more commonly known as Rio, is the second largest city in Brazil and arguably one of the most beautiful cities of the world. In the late 17th century the Portuguese found gold and diamonds in the nearby state of Minas Gerais and thus Rio became the main port for exporting the new found wealth. During the colonial Portuguese period of 1763-1815, Rio was the capital of Brazil.The city has so much to offer from its natural sites to its famous landmarks including Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) and Corcovado with its famous ‘Cristo Redentor’ (Christ the Redeemer statue) - both of which offer great views over the city. You of course have to visit the famous beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. And of course, if you are in Rio around February/March time, get ready for the world's biggest party, the Rio Carnival!

Days 2-3: Parati

On the Costa Verde we arrive at Parati, a preserved Portuguese colonial town (1500-1822). The town is renowned for its historic town centre, the coast and mountains in the region. Parati was also a major port for the exportation of gold and coffee during the 17th and 19th centuries respectively and recommended excursions include a sailing schooner cruise around the bays, rainforest treks and walking the gold trail.Approximate Driving Time: Six Hour Drive

Day 4: En route

We hit the road making our way north in the interior of the continent towards Bonito. It is a long drive and we will stop for one night en route to break up the journey.Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive

Days 5-6: Bonito

Bonito is renowned for the unbelievable blue of its rivers and cave lakes. The waters are filtered through the enormous quantity of limestone in the ground and the impurities are deposited at the bottom of the river bed making the rivers appear some of the clearest in the world.We have time here to take in some great optional activities which include cave and river snorkelling, rainforest walks and wildlife spotting.

Day 7: En route

We hit the road making our way south. It is a long drive and we will stop for one night en route to break up the journey.Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive

Days 8-9: Foz do Iguaçu

We reach the little Brazilian town of Foz do Iguaçu (Iguazu Falls), where some 275 separate waterfalls cascade over a two-and-a-half-kilometre-wide cliff face. We first visit the stunning falls from the Brazilian side which offers panoramic views of the numerous waterfalls on the Argentine side.For a bird's eye view over the entire falls you can take an optional scenic helicopter ride. There is also an excellent bird park nearby and you can visit the world's largest hydroelectric dam at Itaipu where videos show the environmental planning behind the dam project. If you’re keeping a keen eye on your country tally you can pop into neighbouring Paraguay by public bus (you don't even have to get your passport stamped) for a bit of shopping in Ciudad del Esté.Approximate Driving Time:Two Hours

Day 10: Puerto Iguazú

Continuing on we arrive in Puerto Iguazú. Here we visit the falls from the Argentinian side where you can walk through rainforest and along catwalks directly above the falls and you will also find the famous Garganta del Diablo, Spanish for "Devil's Throat", where fourteen waterfalls drop with such force that there is always a massive cloud of spray overhead. If you feel like cooling down, take a zodiac boat ride up the river and under the falls – a fun way to get a different perspective of these impressive falls. Tonight, visit some of the town's bars and clubs close to our hostel.

Day 11: En route

Heading towards Argentina's capital, we drive past scenic landscapes, camping along the way.

Days 12-15: Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with lovely green parks, plazas and wide boulevards. Our hostel is an excellent location, within walking distance to many of the city's highlights and close to transport links to the rest of the city. The balcony of the presidential palace the Casa Rosada (Pink Palace) is where Eva Perón made many of her speeches and is also the place where Madonna sang, “Don't cry for me Argentina” in the film Evita. Across the Plaza de Mayo you will also find the Cabildo (the old town hall) the Palacio Municipal (City Hall) and the cathedral. Every Thursday afternoon in this plaza the "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo" march in remembrance of their family members who disappeared in the 1970s when the country was under military rule. There are many excellent restaurants in the Puerto Madera area and it is well worth a visit to the port of La Boca for its colourful buildings and cultural history. In nearby San Telmo, the bohemian area, there is a fascinating antique market every Sunday. The Recoleta Cemetery, almost like an enclosed city of its own, is where Eva Peron and many other rich and famous Argentines are buried - well worth a visit. The reputation of Buenos Aires' nightlife is not overstated as there are many nightclubs, bars, restaurants and cinemas open until all hours. For a great evening out, you may want to see a tango show in the city where the dance originated, and you shouldn't leave Buenos Aires before trying one of the best steaks you’ll find in the world!Why not get another country under your belt and catch a ferry over to Uruguay for a day trip to the fascinating town Colonia del Sacramento. Visit the historical old quarter-a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

Days 16-17: Cordoba

Cordoba is a busy modern industrial city near the geographical centre of Argentina in the foothills of the Sierras Chicas mountains. Established in 1573, Córdoba boasts the country's oldest university and a young, dynamic student population. During the day you can visit an array of richly decorated churches, including Argentina's oldest cathedral and the Manzana Jesuitica (Jesuit Block) which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.From Cordoba we have the chance to visit a traditional estancia, home to real-life cowboys.Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive

Days 18-20: Cafayate

We travel to Cafayate where the stunning multi-coloured sedimentary rock formations offer beautiful photo opportunities. For an adrenaline rush you can hire mountain bikes for a couple of hours of thrilling descents or take a quad bike tour to explore less challenging terrain. For a more peaceful excursion you can stretch your legs on a trek, taking in beautiful local flora and fauna, as well as an impressive series of cascadas (waterfalls).Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive

Days 21-22: Salta

We carry on to the north of Argentina and the striking city of Salta in the Lerma Valley at the foothills of the Andes, established in 1582. Salta has many old colonial buildings, a cathedral with ancient statues of the Cristo del Milagro (Miracle of Christ) and the Virgin Mary, which were brought over from Spain in 1592. A variety of excursions await you here including rafting and mountain biking although the most popular is horseriding through the valley and working up an appetite before enjoying a huge Argentinian barbecue with plenty of local wine to wash it down.

Day 23: Tupiza

Next we arrive in Tupiza where we will take a rest in this Bolivian town. Legend has it that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their end at the hands of the Bolivian army near Tupiza, concluding their notorious string of bank raids.Please note: On arrival in Bolivia you will be required to pay an entry fee of US$10.Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive

Day 24: Potosí

Winding our way along the dusty roads of Bolivia, which are some of the most rugged in South America, we head through the vividly coloured rock formations and giant cacti to our next stop Potosí, the highest city of its size on Earth at 4,070 metres, with a population of 110,000 people. The history of Potosí, its fame and splendour, as well as its tragedy and horror, is closely linked to silver. The city was founded in 1545 soon after the discovery of silver in a nearby hill, the Cerro Rico (or Rich Hill). The veins proved to be so prolific that they quickly became known as the world’s richest source of the precious metal. Silver from Potosí underwrote the Spanish economy, particularly its monarchy's extravagance, for over two centuries. Millions of indigenous people, and later, African slaves, were made to work in the mines where conditions were so appalling and dangerous that miners died in horrific numbers, either in accidents or from silicosis pneumonia. During the three centuries of colonial rule, it is estimated that eight million Africans and locals died in the Potosí mines. Reminders of the grand colonial city are still evident in the narrow streets, formal balconied mansions and ornate churches. We offer you the opportunity to visit one of the mines (optional) where you will learn from first-hand experience some of the hardship that miners still suffer. You soon realise that the mines are worked today in much the same way as they were under Spanish rule.

Days 25-26: Uyuni

Travelling on we head to the desolate town of Uyuní in the south of Bolivia, to visit what is claimed to be the largest salt flat in the world, the brilliantly white and vast Salar de Uyuní. We will stay two nights here and you can enjoy an included excursion onto the salar in four-wheel-drive vehicles. Explore places such as Fish Island, where there are great views of the surrounding lake and giant cacti. The fantastic contrast of the brilliant blue sky (weather permitting of course) and the pure white of the salt flats is surreal. This area proves to be a very popular place for some creative photo opportunities.Approximate Driving Time: Five Hour Drive

Days 27-29: La Paz

We have a vast journey to one of the highest cities in the world, La Paz. It is is built in the basin of a spectacular ancient crater caused by a meteorite, with the snow-capped Illimani in the background. At an altitude of 3,660 metres, the city is said to host the highest football stadium in the world.The city has colourful indigenous street markets including the ‘witches market' where women in flared skirts sell, amongst other things, dead cats and llama foetuses which are placed under new buildings in a bid to keep evil spirits away. The main square, Plaza Murillo, is where many years ago a president of the republic was lynched from a lamppost. La Paz is one of the best places to see a traditional peña show of Andean music and dance where local musicians play their time-honoured instruments such as zampoñas (pipes) and charangos (ukulele).There are plenty of excursions available in La Paz. Check out the Moon Valley with its strange rock formations shaped by the weather. Another fantastic excursion is to Coroico, the gateway to the Bolivian jungle region and a great place to see sub-tropical vegetation and plants. En-route you will cross a 5,000 metre high pass before descending to 1,300 metres on narrow mountain roads bordered by sheer drops. The excursion to Coroico can also be done by mountain bike, as it is downhill nearly all the way and very exhilarating, but beware, colloquially known as ‘Death Road’, it is not at all for the fainthearted and great care must be taken!Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive

Day 30: Puno

Leaving La Paz, we continue across the Altiplano (high plane) and crossing into Peru we stop at the border town of Desaguadero where we will change money. From here we drive around the southern end of Lake Titicaca which, at 3,855 metres above sea level, is the highest navigable lake in the world. Driving into Puno we hope to arrive in time to visit the colourful markets.

Day 31: Lake Titicaca

From Puno we have an included overnight excursion to the islands of Amantaní and Taquile. On Amantaní we arrange home-stay accommodation with local Quechua families and you will have the chance to eat with the family, perhaps enjoy a party and dancing and maybe play football with the local children. The next morning you'll visit Taquile Island where the people live in simple adobe huts. You will also visit the astounding floating reed islands in the Bay of Puno, to see the first-hand the indigenous Uros’ way of life and ride in a traditional reed boat. Continuing back to Puno, you'll arrive in time to visit the colourful markets. That night back in Puno, you can try some of the local dishes; guinea pig, llama or some of the trout or kingfish from the lake and maybe check out some of the nightlife.

Day 32: Puno

After spending the morning on the lake, we return back to Puno for the night

Days 33-41: Cusco

Cusco is our base for the next eight days for some really special optional excursions, including the challenging three night/four-day Inca Trail trek and the two night/three day Amazon Jungle excursion both of which must be requested at the time of booking your group tour. We have plenty of time here to squeeze in both of these excursions and much more, or if you prefer, to relax and absorb the great atmosphere in the cultural and friendly city.As you travel towards Cusco, the landscape gradually becomes greener as we get closer to the former Inca capital. The word Cusco means ‘Navel of the Earth' in the Inca language of Quechua. This enchanting city has a mostly indigenous population of around 275,000 and is centred around the Plaza de Armas, which is dominated by the cathedral and La Compañia de Jesus Church. Nowadays, Cusco is also legendary for its party atmosphere and brilliant nightlife and is jam-packed with narrow streets housing many fine restaurants, bars and shops.Along with the Inca Trail Trek and Amazon Jungle excursion, some of the optional excursions available include full-day trip through the Sacred Valley of the Incas which visits the Pisac ruins perched on a hill high in the mountains and the famous local market of the same name, in the valley below. This is a great place to buy textiles, pottery and jewellery, not to mention the delicious empanadas (pasties) at the famous bakery. After spending time here, on the Sacred Valley tour, we move down the valley to the temple fortress of Ollantaytambo, with its enormous terraces climbing up the hillside.Two night/three day Amazon Jungle Excursion: Covering the greatest area of South America, the Amazon Jungle is a must see part of your trip. If you wish to take part in this 2 night excursion, please inform your Adventure Specialist at the time of booking as this excursion has to be arranged in advance.You will take a quick flight from Cusco, deep in to the jungle to Puerto Maldonado where you will board a small boat to take you further in to the canopy. Checking in to your jungle hut, it is not long before you are out exploring the trails with a trained guide. Your guide will help you identify some species endemic to the jungle with Peru's Amazon Jungle being home to some of the most diverse wildlife. You will journey out to Monkey Island where monkeys are rescued and rehabilitated, cared for by the jungle lodge.Three night/four day Inca Trail Trek: If you have chosen to hike the Inca Trail Trek you will cross spectacular passes and visit more Inca ruins en route to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. A local guide will lead this expedition and there will be cooks and porters to carry the main equipment, leaving you with just a small daypack. The trek begins after a short bus journey and the first day is a relatively easy four-and-a-half hour, 13-kilometre walk which will get you limbered up for the highest pass at Warmiwañusca (4,200 metres) that you will reach before lunchtime on the second day (Warmiwañusca translates as “Dead Woman's Pass”). During the second day you will cover approximately nine kilometres in about five to seven hours and after the high pass it's all down hill as the trail winds its way down old Inca stairs to our campsite. On the third day we pass the ruins of Runkurakay, Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca, walking approximately 15 kilometres in seven hours. On the last morning, after an overnight stop at Wiñay-Wayna, you will rise early for the final walk to Machu Picchu and greet daybreak over the famous “Sun Gate”. There will then be time to explore on your own or simply take in the magnificence of the place after your guided tour. After an action packed few days, return to Cusco for the night and celebrate reaching Machu Picchu.Due to a limited number of people being allowed on the trail a day, permits are limited and can sell out far in advance. If you wish to book the Inca Trail Trek, please provide your Adventure Specialist with your passport details by email as soon as possible so that we can secure your permit. Without your passport details, we are unable to arrange your Inca Trail Trek. Please click here for more information.Should the Inca Trail Trek be unavailable, you have the option to book the three night/four day Lares Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. For more information click here.The porters, cooks and guides work incredibly hard on the Inca Trail Trek and the Lares Trail Trek, carrying food needed for the four days, cooking equipment, tents and your personal items. While it is an optional payment, we recommend a tip of 100 Soles per person to be split between your trek guides, porters and chefs at the end of the route.Alternatively, you can also book the train to Machu Picchu should you not want to hike. This option also needs to be booked before you travel so please let your Adventure Specialist know your preference at the time of booking.A guided tour of Machu Picchu A guided tour of Machu Picchu is included on all three optional excursions to the site. The Lost City of Machu Picchu was originally completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs. Located high above the fast flowing Urubamba River, the cloud shrouded ruins have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all in such a remarkable state of preservation that will simply take your breath away.The ruins were only uncovered by the outside world in 1911, when American explorer Hiram Bingham found them while looking for another ‘lost city’ called Vilcabamba. Due to their isolation many of the buildings are still relatively intact and you can't help but admire Huayna Picchu or ‘Young Mountain’ (Machu Picchu means ‘Old Mountain’), which towers above the ruins. After spending most of the day at Machu Picchu you have the chance to soak your tired muscles in the hot springs at Aguas Calientes or meander through the markets before returning to Cusco by train.

Days 42-44: Arequipa

Arequipa is located 2,380 metres above sea level and dominated by the conical snow-capped El Misti volcano. Although an earthquake in 2001 damaged the cathedral, it has not diminished any of the splendour of this charming square. One of the ‘must see’ attractions here is the vast Santa Catalina Convent (optional), a maze of cobbled streets, cloisters and other decorative buildings, it has only been open to the public since 1970 and it is certainly well worth visiting.Another popular attraction is the acclaimed ‘Museo Santuarios Andinas’, where you can see well preserved mummies including the famous ‘Ice Princess Juanita’ - a young Inca maiden who was sacrificed some 500 years ago atop the Nevado Ampato volcano. You can enjoy a free day in Arequipa to explore these sights, and more, at our own leisure.From Arequipa you have the option for an overnight visit to the Colca Canyon. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, it is the world's second deepest. From the lookout point at Cruz del Condor you can see the river flowing 1,200 metres below and from this vantage point have a good chance of seeing condors as they soar out of the canyon on the hot thermal currents.If you choose not to travel out to the Colca Canyon you can while away your time in Arequipa.

Day 45: Puerto Inca

Heading down from the Andes we make our way to the coast to Puerto Inca, the Inca's original fishing port, which was only rediscovered in the 1950's. Tonight we camp by the beach just down from the actual ruins.

Day 46: Nazca

We head north on the Pan American highway to Nazca, and on our way we will visit the bizarre Chauchilla Cemetery where you'll see ancient mummies that still have skin and hair intact after thousands of years.Nazca is renowned for the mysterious parallel lines and geometrical figures etched into the desert floor. Here you can take a flight in a light aircraft to see the ‘monkey', ‘hummingbird', ‘condor', ‘spider' and even what appears to be a spaceman. There are many more designs to be seen on this 30-minute flight. To this day no one is entirely sure why they are there.

Day 47: Huacachina

Continuing up the coast, we stopover at spectacular Huacachina, a desert oasis surrounded by massive sand-dunes. You’ll have the option to do an overnight excursion into the desert, sleeping under the stars. This also incorporates the chance to take an awesome ride in dune-buggies down the dunes is an unreal way to spend the afternoon and night. This excursion ends with a delicious barbecue and pisco sours, the recipe for a good time on the sand dunes!

Day 48: Lima

Lima was founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, after he eradicated the Incas and made the city his capital. Now the fifth largest city in Latin America, Lima is home to around one-third of the country’s population.The Historic centre of Lima is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the city has many fine colonial buildings and some of the best museums in South America including the Gold Museum, Museum of the Inquisition and the Catacombs below the San Francisco Church. Peru's capital has plenty to offer and many of the sights, including the city's two main squares the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin, are within easy walking distance of your hotel.Lima offers an ample range of restaurants and bars where local as well as international cuisine is served – the city is known as the gastronomic capital of the Americas. A nice spot to head out at night for a meal is Miraflores on the coast.

Day 49: Depart Lima

Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.

What's Included

19 night(s) in hotels, 17 night(s) camping, 11 night(s) in hostels, 1 night(s) in homestays 29 Breakfast(s), 18 Dinner(s), 27 Lunch(es) Iguazú Falls from Brazil & Argentina, Drive through Argentina's wine region, Uyuni Salt Flats day trip, Stay with a local family on Lake Titicaca Overland Truck

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Tour Map - Southern Cross

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