Inca Highlands North

Inca Highlands North

From AUD 3,560.00 + LTP: US$ 1180.00
Trip Length 53 Trip Code SA - OO - 2
Tour Group 10 - 24 Age Range 18 - 55+

Inca Highlands North: Tour Information

Starting in Santiago with the snowcapped Andes as the city's backdrop, head north through Argentina's wine country into Bolivia and up into its vast altiplano with the eerir yet majestic Salt Flats and the complex and mysterious indigenous culture of the locals. Cross into Peru and stay with a local family on Lake Titicaca before following in the footsteps of the Incas on the famous trail to Machu Picchu.  Through Lima follow the coast north and check out the surf scene on Peru's northern beaches before delving into the Amazon basin and seeing the rainforest and its wildlife up close at a unique jungle lodge.  Finish in Quito, the 'City of Eternal Spring', surrounded by volcanic peaks.  Throw in a few adrenaline activities, like sandboarding in the Peruvian desert, the wine country of northern Argentina, some bustling colonial towns, and cosmopolitan Santiago and Lima with their great bars and restaurants and you've got a varied and packed adventure that gives you a genuine taste of South America!

Days 1 - 4 (or days 31 - 35) As our tour begins in Chile, travel starts from the modern city of Santiago. On the first day we head for the Pacific coastline and relax at a beach campsite near La Serena for a couple of days. Rejoining the Pan American Highway we enter the Atacama Desert. On our way north we stop off at a number of settlements and we also camp overnight in this barren but beautiful wilderness. Leaving the Pacific Ocean coastline we head towards the oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama.

Days 5 - 10 (25 - 30) We spend a few days here, exploring the fantastic surrounding landscapes of the Valley of the Moon, salt lakes, as well as stone age dwellings. From the desert our ascent through the Andean passes is spectacular, with dozens of volcanic peaks all over 5000m, leading us to the attractive colonial city of Salta, in Argentina. From here we begin true "off the beaten track" adventure travel in Bolivia. You will notice the difference in countries immediately as paved roads become non-existent and locals still follow tradition, wearing bright woollen clothes and bowler hats. Quite a contrast are the shimmering white Uyuni Salt Lakes. Driving on the largest salt flats in the world with no road, and only vague tracks to follow makes for an unforgettable experience and just part and parcel of adventure travel in Bolivia.

Day 11 - 15 (20 - 24) Continuing north we arrive in 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. There are tours to the mines and it is still clear to see that unfortunately, working conditions here have hardly improved over the centuries. The adventurous among us will appreciate the opportunity to go down one of these mines with a local guide. 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. Its history and past colonial splendour make Potosi a fascinating place to visit. A tortuous drive across the Altiplano, where the Aymara and Quechua Indians scrape a living from their small plots of land in the harsh climate, brings us to La Paz.
The highest capital city in the world, it is built on a steep slope that falls away from the Altiplano. The top of the city is about 2000ft above the bottom part. Unusually, all the rich suburbs are in the lower city area. This is because the air is thicker with oxygen lower down. La Paz is a great place to visit a 'pena' club, where live bands entertain us with Andean folk music.

Day 16 - 18 (17 - 19) Leaving La Paz we head to Puno for the start of our Peru travel leg. Nestling on the shores of Lake Titicaca it is a friendly, well-kept place and much calmer than the hustle and bustle of La Paz. Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake at 3800m, it is also the original place of the Uros Indians who have made their homes on floating reed islands.
By boat we visit the floating islands during the day and then we go that one step beyond the average and overnight with one of the Indian families on the lesser known islands 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.

Days 19 - 25 (10 - 16) From Lake Titicaca we now have to face some fairly arduous roads as we make our way to Cuzco, Peru's travel adventure and outdoors capital , as well as our base for the next 6 days.
This gives us enough time to hike the 2 or 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, enjoy the architectural uniqueness of Cuzco and explore some of the colourful surrounding markets. This trail is highly recommended as a highlight of Peru and of this South America tour. Many believe that Machu Picchu itself cannot be understood without following the steps of the Incas on the Inca Trail. Or if you wish you can try a different trek to Machu Picchu such as the Salkantay, Multi Sport or Vilcabamba.

Days 26 - 30 (5 - 9) From Cuzco we head west, passing herds of llama, alpacas and unspoilt Andean villages as we head towards one of the worlds deepest canyons. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is an awesome spectacle. Here you have the option, accompanied by a local guide, of a one day
excursion to view Condors circling lazily on the thermals rising from the canyon floor. From here we begin dropping down out of the Andes as we head to Arequipa, a beautiful colonial city set at the foot of the impressive El Misti Volcano.

Days 31 - 35 (1 - 4) Puerto Inca, the ancient Inca port for Cuzco is our next destination and an interesting place to camp on the beach and relax for a couple of days. We now travel to one of the world's great archeological mysteries - The Nazca Lines.
These huge figures and shapes, carved into the stony desert are best viewed from the air. Thought to have been made by three different groups of people going back more than 2000 years, there are many different theories and books about what they signify and why they are there. Following the Coastal Highway the Ballestas Islands in the Paracas National Reserve is our next stop.
Here we take a boat trip to view one of the most important marine reserves in the world with one of the highest concentrations of rare and exotic sea birds and sea mammals.

Our final days drive takes us to our destination of Lima the vibrant capital city of Peru. Theres is loads to do and see here from old colonial churches and buildings, amazing restaurants selling great food (especially seafood) at very reasonable prices and it is well worth while spending a day or two relaxing in these pleasant surroundings before flying out.

Inca Highlands North - South America

Please note that our itineraries are not set in stone and can be subject to change.
Day 1 – 4
APRIL TO OCTOBER TRIPS ONLY - Leaving Chiles capital, Santiago, which is a very modern, well-run city we head for the Pacific coastline and relax at a – beach campsite near to La Serena for a day.  Then rejoining the Pan American highway we enter the Atacama Desert.  The oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama is our next destination. Surrounded by the Valley of the Moon, salt lakes, volcanoes, geysers as well as stoneage dwellings, its a great place to explore. From the desert our ascent through the Andean passes is spectacular, with dozens of volcanic peaks all over 5000m, leading us to the attractive colonial city of Salta in Argentina. Founded over 400 years ago Salta is a good place for live folk music venues and is also a great area for horse riding, mountain biking, mountain trekking and river rafting.
OCTOBER TO APRIL ONLY - Leaving Chiles capital, Santiago, we head for Argentina and cross the Andes past the Inca Bridge and San Martin’s pass. Continuing north we join Route 40, the longest route in Argentina, to Mendoza, the biggest wine region in Argentina. Here you can indulge in wine and good steak, paraglide or try a host of other outdoor sports. We then continue north winding around lakes and weaving through baked cliffs until we reach Cafayate, another renowned wine region of Argentina. You can explore some of the wineries on foot or by bicycle. Our journey then takes us to the attractive colonial city of Salta where we have couple of days to go horse riding, mountain biking, mountain trekking or river rafting.

Day 5 - 10  From here we venture into Bolivia where you will notice the difference as paved roads become non-existent and locals still follow tradition, wearing bright woollen clothes and bowler hats.
Quite a contrast is the shimmering white Uyuni Salt Lake. It 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.

Day 11 – 15 Continuing north we arrive in 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.  There are tours to the mines and it is still clear to see that unfortunately, working conditions here have hardly improved over the centuries.  The adventurous among us will appreciate the opportunity to go down one of these mines with a local guide.  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.  The history and past colonial splendour make Potosi a fascinating place to visit. 
A tortuous drive across the Altiplano, where Aymara and Quechua Indians scrape a sparse living from their small plots of land in this harsh climate, brings us to La Paz.  The highest capital city in the world, it is built on a steep slope that falls away from the Altiplano. La Paz is a great place to visit a ‘pena’ club, where live bands entertain us with Andean folk music.

Day 16 – 18 Leaving La Paz after picking up people on our 37 day trip we head to Puno in Peru.  Nestling on the shores of Lake Titicaca it is a friendly, well-kept place and much calmer than the hustle and bustle of La Paz.  Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake at 3800m, it is also the original place of the Uros Indians who have made their homes on floating reed islands.  By boat we visit the floating islands during the day and then we go that one step beyond the average and spend the night with one of the Indian families on the lesser known islands 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.

Day 19 - 25 From Lake Titicaca we now drive on very good sealed roads through some spectacular scenery as we make our way to Cuzco, the outdoors capital of Peru and our base for the next 6 days.  This gives us enough time to hike the 2 or 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, enjoy the architectural uniqueness of Cuzco and explore some of the colourful surrounding markets.  Many believe that Machu Picchu itself cannot be understood without following the steps of the Incas on the Inca Trail. If you want to try a different route to Machu Picchu, we can organise alternative treks such as the Salkantay, Lares or Vilcabamba for those who like to get off the tourist highway.

Day 26 – 30 From Cuzco we head west, passing herds of llama, alpacas and unspoilt Andean villages as we head towards the world’s deepest canyon.  Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is an awesome spectacle.  Here you have the option, accompanied by a local guide, of a one day excursion to view Condors circling lazily on the thermals rising from the canyon floor.  On your trip into the canyon you can overnight in the town of Chivay. Because it was isolated for so many years, customs and dress have changed relatively little, which gives a rare glimpse of what life in the andes would have been like during colonial times. From here we begin dropping down out of the Andes as we head to Arequipa, a beautiful colonial city set at the foot of the impressive El Misti Volcano.

Day 31 – 41 We then camp on the beach on our way to one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries – The Nazca Lines.  These huge figures and shapes, carved into the stony desert are best viewed from the air. Following the Coastal Highway, the Ballestas Islands in the Paracas National Reserve is our next stop.  Here we take a boat trip to view one of the most important marine reserves in the world with one of the highest concentrations of rare and exotic sea birds and sea mammals.
Further up the coast is Peru’s capital city, Lima where we spend a few days. Continuing north along the coast we reach the Chan Chan ruins, the 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.  Nearing the border with Ecuador we have a couple of relaxing days camping on the beach at Punta Sal before leaving Peru. 

Day 42 – 46 You will see an almost immediate change from the dry, barren desert of Peru through sub-tropical forest to the fertile farming country of highland Ecuador.  We reach the outdoors mecca of Banos, a spa town nestled at the foot of a volcano, where Ecuadorians go to relax in the thermal baths and where you can hike, mountain bike or horse-ride to one of the surrounding waterfalls including El Pailon del Diablo. For the more adventurous there is the option to go canyoning down one of the many rivers in the area.

Day 47 – 53 Descending to the lowlands and the steamy edge of the Amazon basin, we arrive in the town of Tena, gateway to the Amazon jungle.  Here, accompanied by experienced guides, we explore on foot this exotic environment for two days and you also have the chance to go whitewater rafting on the rapids of the Rio Napo. 
Returning to higher altitudes and mountain scenery, we visit the town of Otavalo, famous for its colourful crafts market.  Finally we cross the Equator, just 25km’s south of Quito and discover how Quito got its name before ending our journey in the capital of Ecuador, Quito.

SINGLE TRAVELLERS:

Local Tour Payments (LTP) or a Kitty payment, if stated is paid direct to your tour leader / crew on day 1.

DATES, PRICES & AVAILABILITY:

Availability Trip Date Price Local Payment Click to book
Availability Feb 25, 2018 - Apr 18, 2018 AUD 3,560.00 US$ 1180.00 Book
Availability Apr 08, 2018 - May 30, 2018 AUD 3,560.00 US$ 1180.00 Book
Prices: All prices Charged in Australian Dollars
Key: Availability Guaranteed Availability Available Availability Limited Availability Closed
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