Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under View Departures & Book tab)
We depart from London our direct British Airways flight to Lima. On arrival we transfer to the Lima hotel where we stay for one night. Dinner is not included tonight but the leader will point out options to those
that wish to eat.
After breakfast we will have a day’s sightseeing in Lima including the Plaza de Armas and the Church of San Francisco. We will visit the Larco Museum and take lunch at the museum restaurant. Late afternoon we fly to Arequipa (two nights) situated 2,335m above sea level, the most "colonial" city in Peru. It is a good place to begin our acclimatisation to high altitude. Please note dinner is not included this evening but the town square, a short walk from the hotel, has plenty of eating options. Your tour leader will advise.
This is the desert or arid region, some 600 miles south of Lima. Arequipa is known as the ‘White City’ because many of its buildings have been made from sillar, the white volcanic rock quarried locally. Our tour might start at the viewpoints for El Misti, the volcano that stands over the city and Yanahuara. We will visit the monastery of Santa Catalina to see the architecture, art and furniture of a world that has stood still since 1570, our guided tour here takes about an hour. Finally we will reach the earthquake damaged cathedral & Plaza de Armas square. Our hotel is within walking
distance of the square so we can return to the hotel on foot. There will be free time at the end of the day to relax or explore further.
This morning we depart by coach on the road through the
magnificent scenery of the high pampa and over the 4,900m Patapampa Pass. This
will be the highest altitude we reach on our holiday. This is the place the
affects of altitude are most likely to be felt so we will not stop at the pass
for long but descend to Puno and our hotel for an afternoon of rest
and relaxation. On the journey herds of vicuna, lama and alpaca are often seen
along with Andean bird life.
Puno lies on a bay of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,827m and the first of many superlatives we come across on this holiday. It sits amidst bleak, almost treeless countryside,
with the peaks of the Cordillera Real in the far distance. The local people have retained many ancient customs, which with the existence of pre-Hispanic and colonial monuments make the area another fascinating region to visit. We will visit the Island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca the home of skilled weavers and knitting men. The walk across Taquile Island for many will be the most spectacular walk of the holiday. It takes about an hour to walk up from the jetty to the town where we can take lunch is a local cafe, we then descend back down to the boat. We also stop to see some of the ‘floating’ islands of the Uros Indians in the lake. We also have a chance to visit the Yavari project where local labour is involved in restoring a steam ship made in Victorian Britain and transported over the Andes to Lake Titicaca in pieces by mule. Contributions to this charitable foundation are most welcome.
We leave Puno and drive around the shores of Lake Titicaca in a private bus to Desaguadero, the land border between Peru and Bolivia. After the border formalities to the archaeological site of Tiahuanaco. the site must rival Machu Picchu as one of the most impressive pre-hispanic sites in South America. The ruins belong to one of the oldest and longest running civilizations in the Americas. Highlights include the Sun Gate, the Temple of Kalasasaya and the Pyramid of Akapana. Our expert local guide will bring everything to life for us. We will have a picnic lunch at the site. It is another 70km on to La Paz. We arrive at the suburb of El Alto and soon arrive at a stunning vista for the city of La Paz, the highest capital city in the world and another superlative. The view across the city with Mt Illimani in the background is as memorable city view as you will find.
Looking at the topography of La Paz it is easy to see why they haven't built an underground transport system. For the tourist La Paz's solution to urban public transport is far better. They have built a series of cable cars to take people around. These offer panoramic views over this beautifully situated city. We will start out the day with views from above. Later we get back down to street level to explore the city. The Indigenous Market and Witch Doctor's market are fascinating with all manner of produce one would not normally find for sale in a market in the UK. We will also venture out of the city to visit Moon Valley, the visit will make it obvious as to where it got the name.
We fly a short distance to Uyuni. Anybody with a window seat can get a great feel of the highlands of Bolivia. Those sat on the right might even pick out our hotel on the salt plain. Uyuni is the largest salt plain on earth and hence the 3rd of our superlatives. It was caused by the collision of tectonic plates which induced the uplift which formed the Andes mountains. The sea water trapped by the uplift evaporated leaving the salt. On the way to our hotel we drive by a train cemetery with all manner of rusting hulks formerly used to take the salt down to markets. Later we will drive out across the plains to Isla Inkawasi surreally placed in the middle of the salt plain. It is fascinating to explore. It is here that all the bizarre photos which play tricks with prospective are taken. Have a look on the internet for inspiration. Don't forget to step outside to see the night sky tonight. Few people get a better view of the night sky than those that see it from Uyuni.
Today we have another excursion across the plain to the village of Tahua at the foot of Thunupa volcano. Here we can walk through the village perhaps wondering why anybody might chose to life in a place where life is evidently so challenging. We will continue passed rocky fields to reach the cave of the Coquesa Mummies, a fascinating if somewhat macabre experience.
We drive from Uyuni to Potosi to see the 4th and 5th of our superlatives. Potosi is reputedly the highest city in the world. The silver mines in Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain), which stands above the own were the most productive in the world. They produced the silver that funded the Spanish Empire for a 100 years. The history of the mines is fascinating and tragic in equal measure. Our guide will give us the full story.
We continue our exploration of the mines and the city. There was time when Potosi was amongst the richest cities in the world rivalling London, Paris and Seville. Evidently this is no longer the case but it remains an essential part of any visit to Bolivia.
Today is predominantly a travel day but because this is Bolivia we are travelling through it offers some fascinating experiences. We are descending slightly from the highest altitude. Tupiza lies at 2,850m. On
the way we have various things to see. We will stop to see an indigenous community, visit the charming village of Cotagaita. You will notice a change from the barren land around Uyuni. the climate is relatively gentle here and fruit and vegetables are grown in abundance.
We drive down to the border and cross over into Argentina. The border formalities will involve changing coaches at the border but we complete everything as quickly as possible. To drive form Tupiza to Tilcara takes about 4 hours. With the border crossing and various stops at points of interest we are looking at most of the day. However we should have time for a walk around the street of Tilcara on arrival. It a lively little town with plenty of cafes and bars to celebrate arrival in Argentina.
We will start the day with a walk up to Garganta del Diablo from the hotel. It is a great if challenging walk at 9.5 km and 350m ascent & descent. However, it is a safe if rocky path. The names means ‘Devils Throat’ in English. We climb up to viewpoint above a river gorge where we can descend down to the river bed and walk through a narrow canyon. It is one of the walking highlights of the holiday. having enjoyed the walk we descend back to Tilcara to see Pucara de Tilcara. The Pucara ruins were inhabited from around 1000 – 1594 AD. As well as the historic interest there are great views of the Rio Grande Valley.
We have an early start to drive about 3hrs to Salta Airport for our flight to Buenos Aires. On arrival in Buenos Aires, depending on flight times we will enjoy a brief guided tour of the city with a local guide. Our final dinner in Argentina will take in a tango show. It is a fitting way to end such a holiday.
We should have time to take in a little more of Buenos Aires before transferring to the airport for our flight back to the UK.
We arrive back in the UK.