Day 1 Quito
Welcome to Ecuador’s capital, Quito! Meet up with your Contiki Team & group before exploring – we’ll start the trip out right with a tour around the city so you can get your bearings. Our expert guide will teach you all about this city & the history of the Inca & Spanish invasion which happened in the 15th Century and you’ll get the opportunity to check out the colonial-era buildings that still stand in Old Town. This UNESCO World Heritage city is Ecuador’s second largest, with a population over 2 million. Although this city has a rich historical past dating back to the Incas, today it’s a popular & modern city that sprawls across this Andean landscape – and you’ll experience some of the best views 200m above the town at the Panciello lookout, which features La Virgen del Panecillo, a majestic sculpture that stands overlooking the city. Later, visit the Equatorial line & wander between the two hemispheres as you visit the Inti Nan Museum. We’ll have dinner with the group so you can get you know your travel buddies. The city has a great nightlife scene & some great local treats to try. Ecuadorian fresh fruit juice and steaming cafe con leche are amongst some of the must-try delights on offer here. If you feel like doing as the locals do, you could sip on a canelazo, made from hot water, sugarcane alcohol, lemon, sugar, and cinnamon – it’s a typical drink of the Andean region.
Day 2 Quito to Tena
It’s out of the city & into the lush jungle with spectacular views en route. A perfect way to spend the day.
Day 3 Tena
This morning is all about ME Time. This morning, have a lie in or opt to visit an indigenous community. Get your adrenalin pumping this afternoon on a class 3-4 rapids.
Day 4 Tena to Baños
We head to Baños today, the adventure capital of Ecuador, nestled under the still active Tungurahua volcano. Tonight get local as you learn to salsa at our included lesson.
Day 5 Baños
With a free day, explore your way & Baños goes off! Situated in a valley of waterfalls & hot springs, Baños is a hub for travellers who love great weather, small town vibes & the great outdoors. Go horseback riding, canyoneering or abseiling.
Day 6 Baños to Guayaquil
Today we’re off to discover Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city & its economic hub. This cosmopolitan city is one of Ecuador’s new hotspots, a walk down to the Malecón (Cities riverfront) is a must. For a bit of a historic enlightenment why not venture to Las Peñas, one of the most emblematic neighborhoods of Guayaquil, its narrow streets and interesting past makes it a great visit.
Day 7 Guayaquil to Isabela Island
Well good morning paradise. The ocean is calling, and who are we to resist her? Our wildlife kayaking adventure will see us taking to the seas with beady eyes on the lookout for green sea turtles.
Day 8 Isabela Island
This morning we’ll grab some kayaks & get out on the water around Las Tintoreras where we’ll set out in search for the Galapagos Penguin – the only penguin found north of the Equator! On return, spot colourful fish as you snorkel the underground lava tubes. This area is often frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom, so make sure you are on the lookout for these incredible creatures as you snorkel through the clear blue water.
Day 9 Isabela Island to Santa Cruz Island
This morning we’ll head to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center to learn about the island’s natural history on a guided tour, before we take off Santa Cruz Island. Before heading to Santa Cruz Island, you can choose to chill or get active, it's up to you! If you feel like getting out and about, this afternoon’s optional activity is a guided trip to the gorgeous Tortuga Bay. After a half an hour stroll along a path you'll arrive at a stretch of white sandy beach where marine iguanas sunbathe. You also have an opportunity to kayak in the bay in search of sharks, rays, turtles, and great blue herons. This pristine beach is absolute heaven! Not ready to wield a paddle? No worries – this is the perfect opportunity to sun bathe, body surf, surf, or look for marine iguanas, lava gulls and the famous blue- footed boobies. If you aren’t feeling up for the walk, take to the streets and go local or head to town to shop for souvenirs or relax.
Day 10 Santa Cruz Island to San Cristobal Island
This morning we’ll pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, once home to one of the island’s most famous residents, the world-famous Lonesome George – who was 100 years old when he died. Here you’ll observe many species of tortoises and land iguanas brought back from the brink of extinction and learn about this centre and research facility. Later we're back on the boat as we head to our next island, San Cristobal. - keep an eye out for bathing sea lions that the island is known for! This island is made up of four volcanoes – all extinct – and later, we’ll head up into the highlands for a scenic downhill bike ride. Starting at a panoramic viewpoint called La Soledad, we’ll bike through the tiny town of El Progreso and five different and varied vegetation zones until we reach a beach La Loberia beach. From there you can check out some of the other locals - we’ll be able to watch cute sea lions sun bathing, playing and vying for our attention. Tonight, it’s all about relaxing over drinks at one of our favourite local spots while watching the sunset.
Day 11 San Cristobal Island
Today we take to the water to get our last glimpse of the famous and equally incredible underwater world of Galapagos. First we’ll cruise along the coast in our boat where our Local Guide will point out the species of shore birds like the Great Frigatebird and other native species. We begin our stay in search of wildlife and then we are off to Kicker Rock (or Leon Dormido as it’s known by the locals) the remains of a tuff cone - Kicker Rock rising a massive over 143m out of the ocean (that's about 50 floors in building terms). We’ll check out the underwater landscape as we head along the edge and through a channel of this drastic compact ash formation. Your Local Guide will keep you in the know as we look out for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, and, with any luck, a Galapagos Shark or two. Don’t worry, they won’t be as interested in you as you are in them, so it's perfectly safe. Later we’ll head to Puerto Grande, a beautiful beach which is our final stop for the day. After lunch on board, spend your time swimming in the turquoise water or snapping photos of Kicker Rock in the distance. We’ll head back to town late afternoon where we'll be treated to one of the best BBQ’s in the Galapagos at one of the local’s favorite spots to celebrate a great Galapagos trip.
Day 12 San Cristobal Island to Lima
Our included flight will land us in the seaside Peruvian capital of Lima. Arriving late, we’ll nevertheless be pumped at the prospect of what tomorrow brings – namely more Contiki peeps joining our squad as we take on Peru over the next few days. That’s right, we’ve still got 1 more week of South American adventuring to go, and yet more awesome people to enjoy the journey with. Life is pretty sweet right now.
Day 13 Lima
Made up of 43 different districts, almost all with their own flare and vibe, Lima is a bustling metropolis. The opulence of the Spanish colonial era is visible everywhere in the city, from the detailed wood-work of the historic centre’s balconies, doors and architecture to the the lavishly decorated churches. Ideas of places to explore include a visit to the Basillica Cathedral for a glimpse of the city’s former glory or, for something different you could head to the Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of San Francisco) and take a look at its famous catacombs. As the city's first cemetery, these underground tunnels (catacombs) contain the bones of over 70,000 people, many of which are set in cool geometric patterns. If you’re into art, then make tracks to the Barranco district – its bohemian energy will make you feel right at home. Wander past the beautiful colonial mansions of the neighborhood, many of them recently restored. Take a walk on the beachside boardwalk, cross the Lima’s Bridge of Sighs or just sit in one of the cafés that overlooks the ocean and spend the afternoon relaxing with a Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink. If you want to check out the city’s more modern aspects, the Miraflores district is the place for you. If shopping, gourmet restaurants, great cafes and bars is what you’re after (or spending the day looking out over the ocean while watching the many surfers ripping it up), this is the perfect spot. Looking to check out Lima by night? There are loads of places to head to. From chilled-out lounges, to bars with live music, or dance clubs that run late into the night, just let your Trip Manager know what you feel like and they’ll give you some tips on where to head.
Day 14 Lima to Arequipa
This morning it’s an early start as we fly to Peru’s second largest city, the “White City” of Arequipa, or La Ciudad Blanca. Lying in the shadow of three volcanoes, including the perfectly-symmetrical El Misti, the city was built using white volcanic rock called Sillar which gives the city its name. Upon arrival, get your bearings on an orientation tour of the city. After we arrive at the hotel, there’s time to freshen up before free time for lunch. With many great restaurants and cafés, there are loads of places to indulge in some great local food. Arequipa is one of Peru’s main dairy regions and chocolate is a must-have whilst you’re here. The La Iberica factory and shop produces and sells some of the country’s finest chocolate, so keep your eyes peeled. This afternoon, we’ll delve into the city’s history for an-in depth look into its past with a walking tour. A city within the city – the nuns, often wealthy young Peruvians, once lived in silence and were not allowed to leave the premises. Today, it is still a working monastery, with most of the premises open to the public. From here we walk through our first UNESCO World Heritage site on the trip and one of the country’s most beautiful plazas – the Plaza de Armas. The hub of urban city life here, it’s filled with palm trees and flanked by a 17th century Cathedral. Tonight you’ll really get to know your tour buddies over dinner at one of the city’s great restaurants. You’ll have the choice of some of Peru’s famous cuisine like Recoto Relleno (stuffed hot peppers) or Chupe de Camerones (crayfish chowder). Later, take it up a notch – you can visit the bars on the Plaza de Armas and take in the beauty of the illuminated square and cathedral while savoring a Pisco Sour.
Day 15 Arequipa to Colca Canyon
This morning, we travel to one of the world’s deepest canyons – Colca Canyon. We’ll drive through through Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve where the elusive Vicuña, the smallest of the South American camelid family roams wild. We’ll stop for a break at “the crossroads” where the routes to Colca Canyon and Puno separate. We’ll enjoy a steaming cup of coca tea at a local shop and awesome views of the windswept landscapes of the sandstone cliffs found here. We’ll continue on to the highest point of our entire journey which at 4910 metres/16,108ft above sea level is the same height as Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak. Stop for some pics at the top, before our descent into Chivay, one of the largest towns in the Colca Valley and capital of the Caylloma province in the Arequipa region. Later on, spend your evening hanging with the group. Cards and board games or drinks and conversation by the hotel’s enormous fireplace are a must.
Day 16 Colca Canyon to Puno
We’ll set out early this morning and head to Cruz del Condor, a platform 3800m above sea level for a chance to spot the King of the Andes, the Andean Condor. With a wingspan of up to 3 metres/10 feet, this regal bird uses the warm air currents to float effortlessly through the canyon searching for food. It’s a pretty incredible sight, so keep your camera ready in case they buzz close overhead. We’ll return to Chivay for lunch via the small, picturesque villages that dot the road along the way. We’ll also stop for a visit the beautiful colonial church of Yanque which helps to illustrate the history of the area. In the afternoon, we travel through Peru’s altiplano (high plain) to Puno on the edge of Lake Titicaca. Located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is the gateway to the surrounding islands and unique cultures. On arrival, we’ll check-in to our hotel where you can freshen up or chill out before heading out to find a local spot for dinner. Enjoy a night of drinking and dancing at one of the bars on the main pedestrian street but be careful, you might have to catch your breath as dancing at over 3657metres/12 000 ft above sea level is a challenge!
Day 17 Puno
This morning, it’s time to check out the area from a different angle! First up, we’ll make our way to the town’s port by a classic means of transport, the triciclo or three-wheeled bike taxi. We’ll then jump on board our boat for a two and a half hour trip across Lake Titicaca to Taquile Island. The boat trip is the perfect way to chill as you learn about the history, culture and ecology of the lake and its communities while taking in the views of the distant Cordillera Blanca (the White Mountain range) located on the Bolivian side of the lake. Although there are many travellers that come to this area every year, Taquile still remains one of the most culturally intact communities in Peru. From the quality of their famous weaving and the use of their woollen hats, to the terracing and traditional means of government, the people of Taquile Island continue to live in a manner not far off from that of their ancestors, the Incas. On arrival at the island, there’s the opportunity to visit some weaving groups and to savor a tasty local meal before jumping back on the boat for our cruise to our next stop – the famous floating Uros Islands. Uros Islands are fascinating to visit and you’ll love experiencing the entrepreneurial spirit of the locals here. You’ll get a glimpse at the local lifestyle as you visit small fish farms, a natural history museum, a local’s home and check out the variety of wares for sale by the women of the community, including local textiles and mini totora reed boats. You can opt to take a ride on one of the larger reed boats which were formally the only means of transportation that the islanders had.
Day 18 Puno to Cusco
Our first stop outside of Puno is the village of Pukara, named after a pre-Inca civilization. We‘ll visit a small museum where you’ll see the Pukara archeological site (500bc-200ad). The village is locally renowned for artistic ceramic bulls which are symbols of protection and prosperity and if you take a look above, you’ll see them on the roofs of houses throughout the highlands. Take one home for yourself when we visit a local ceramics shop. Next up is La Raya, the highest point of our journey, marking the border between the regions of Puno and Cusco. Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Andes we’ll stop to stretch our legs and take in the stunning beauty of the Peruvian altiplano (the widest point of the Andes). We will continue on to town of Sicuani for a lunch stop before reaching Raqchi. Raqchi was an important ceremonial site for the Inca’s and is famous for being the home to the only remaining two-storey Inca walls. It also possesses one of the largest single structures of the ancient Incan empire, the Temple of Wiracocha. You will have the opportunity for an up-close visit to the site before completing the final stretch of today’s journey to the hub of ancient Incan culture, Cusco. Tonight the evening is free to check out the sights, smells and sounds of Cusco. There are loads of places in town to try out some local cuisine, or maybe try some delicious street food and head out for a taste of how to party, Cusco-style.
Day 19 Cusco
Another day, another incredible Latin American destination to uncover; today it's sun up 'til sun down in Cusco. Shop for artisan jewellery and woodworks, roam the cobble-stone streets or just stroll the Plaza de Armas, eating cacao buds and sipping on coca leaf tea. Today you're in control of your adventures... except for dinner with the crew tonight, on us. Bolivia is on the horizon tomorrow."
Day 20 Cusco to Sacred Valley
Say farewell to Cusco this morning as we make our way to the Sacred Valley of the ancient Incas. The Sacred Valley was the heart of the Inca’s agricultural setting and an important ceremonial region, with the sacred sites of Cuzco at one end and Machu Picchu at the other and countless ceremonial sites in between. Our first stop is to one of these sites, Pisac. On our guided tour we will see two of the most important aspects of the Inca culture – terracing – a farming technique created by the Inca’s and their religion. We’ll take a walk before descending in the village below for a quick visit to the market. This will be great practice for those who have chosen the one-day hike to Machu Picchu tomorrow. Don’t miss the town’s huge wood-oven bakery! After a stop for lunch in Urubamba we’ll make our way to one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns of South America – Ollantaytambo. On our way, we can see the ‘salineras’ or salt mines of the area from a distance. For hundreds of years these pools, constructed by the Inca’s, have provided salt to the surrounding communities. We’ll also make a quick stop to try the local brew “Chicha de Jora” (traditional beverage made from fermented maize) and play a traditional Peruvia game of “Sapo” (Frog) if you’re up for it. We soon arrive to the town and archaeological site of the same name, Ollantaytambo, the last fully-functioning Inca town. We’ll wander around the site or visit the still inhabited Inca buildings before checking into the hotel.
Day 21 Train to Aguas Calientes or trek the Inca Trail
For those not embarking on the Inca Trail, the morning is yours to enjoy the surrounding lush mountains of Aguas Calientes.
Day 22 Machu Picchu to Cusco
Wake up early and enter Machu Picchu for sunrise. Learn more about Machu Picchu on a tour, then explore before returning to base.
Day 23 Cusco
Today it’s your chance to totally chill. Laze around town enjoying a cappuccino while overlooking the Plaza de Armas, or you can pick it up a notch and try one of the adrenaline filled options here. Spend a half-day horseback riding through the X-zone just north of the city, white water raft down the sacred Urubamba River or do some mountain biking. Tonight, ask your Trip Manager for some tips on where to head for a meal and have a good time on your last night out in Cusco. Try a salsa lesson or go to a peña to listen to live Peruvian music and to dance the night away.
Day 24 Cusco to Jungle Lodge
We’ll catch a flight over the Andes to the city of Puerto Maldonado in Peru’s southern jungle. We’ll have lunch on the river as we travel upstream by a traditional Peruvian boat to our Contiki Special Stay Rainforest Lodge, where we’ll try to spot toucans, macaws and capybaras along the way. Our lodge is a special experience in itself! Located in then luscious rainforest and made from wood and clay, its open walls leave you sleeping virtually amongst the rainforest! After you settle in, we’ll get a different take on the jungle as we take a hike to the canopy tower. After climbing the 100ft of stairs you will be provided with a birds-eye view of the rainforest! Home to monkeys, birds, bromeliads and other jungle life, this is the ultimate way to see the jungle. After dinner you can experience something really different, heading out to look for caiman, a member of the alligator family native to the Amazon. Scan the shores with flashlights and see if you can catch the red gleam of the light as it reflects off of the caiman’s eyes.
Day 25 Jungle Lodge to Puerto Maldonado
We’ll wake early for best view of some the wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled as we travel further downstream to Tres Chimadas, an oxbow lake. We’ll board a simple catamaran with a jungle guide to learn about the flora and fauna of the area while looking out for the prehistoric hoatzin bird, the giant river otter, or try your luck fishing for piranha. After our cruise, we’ll head to the native community of Infierno, where we will visit a local fish farm to see some of the species that are native to the Peruvian Amazon. After lunch, time is yours to do what you wish. For those keen on footy (soccer), spend the afternoon playing soccer, volleyball or take a dip. There are other options for your free time too. You can take an optional kayaking trip, try a 30 metre Canopy Climb with a rope, harness and jumar (a mechanical device used for ascending on a rope. After a long day exploring, we head to Puerto Maldonado our home for the night.
Day 26 Puerto Maldonado to Lima
Our local guide will accompany us to the airport for our flight back into Lima. The rest of the day is yours to explore and you’ll have a night to relax before we start the next stage of our adventure. Tonight you can explore Miraflores, Larcomar mall or Parque Kennedy where you can grab a bite to eat, have your last Pisco Sour and practice your Spanish before switching gears and heading into the land where wine is king.
Day 27 Lima to Buenos Aires
It’s so long Peru, and hello to Argentina. Known as the Country of Seven Continents, the diversity of landscapes here is super cool. You’ll find rainforest, plains and deltas, red sand desert, the southern Lakes District of Patagonia including Ushuaia the world’s most southern city. You’ll also find the Andes and Aconcagua (the western hemisphere’s highest peak) let’s not forget Iguassu Falls. We’ll arrive in the capital city, Buenos Aires, known as South America’s most cosmopolitan city and paradise for the urbanite. As a refuge for many Europeans after the Second World War, its diversity is reflected in its people, an awesome melting pot of Spanish, Italian, German, Slavic and Syrian descent.
Day 28 Buenos Aires
Today we will dive into the heart of the city with a coach tour. We’ll visit the city’s historic center, San Telmo and the renowned neighborhoods of colourful La Boca, including Maradona’s Statue at Boca Juniors stadium, Caminito and other areas such as Puerto Madero with it’s trendy shops and cafes. You’ll also get a an in-depth look at the history and modern-day Buenos Aires as you visit parks, pass by colonial mansions and learn about the historic figures that made the city and the country what it is today. During our tour we will also visit the neighborhoods of Recoleta, Palermo Chico and Palermo Lagos y Bosques. Buenos Aires is perfect for unleashing the culture vulture within! It is the birthplace of Tango and there is a love of music, art, dance and of course football! The Argentines also love to dine and no visit to the capital would be complete without trying their world-renowned beef and of course, their delicious red wine. To bring all of the best of the Portenos (people of Buenos Aires) together any visit to Buenos Aires wouldn’t be complete without a night of Tango, on us! We’ll take you to a Tango show and dinner where you’ll be able to get down and learn this intense dance for yourself. At dinner you’ll have the chance to taste some Argentine wine, food and of course experience an authentic tango show that originated in Buenos Aires. After the show, your Tour Manager can recommend one of the many bars, lounges or clubs for those looking to experience Buenos Aires’ pumping nightlife.
Day 29 - 30 Buenos Aires
We’ll start day 2 with a coach tour to see the rest of the city & then you can experience BA your way. Get into the cuisine of Argentina on our culinary experience: try empanadas or the ubiquitous Argentine steak and learn to make the traditional sweet – alfajores. You might catch a football game, drink wine at a polo match or perhaps learn to play yourself, hit the shops or pay a visit to the historic Café Tortoni for a café con leche & a spot of people watching.
Day 31 Buenos Aires to Iguassu Falls
Today we depart Argentina to stay on the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls. Iguassu Falls lies along the border of Argentina and Brazil, with awesome views from both sides, and you’ll experience them both! From the airport in Puerto Iguazu we’ll cross the border into Brazil and head to the Foz do Iguacu. You could get things started with a different perspective of the falls on an optional helicopter flight, providing you with awesome panoramic views and photo ops. Although the parks on both sides are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there is often debate about who has the better side of the Falls. We’ll leave it up to you, but it’s widely believed that that the view from the Brazilian side is second to none. Take in all 275 individual waterfalls that make up the falls and get an up-close view of the Devil’s Throat (the largest of the 275 falls). This evening we’ll check into our hotel and enjoy the Brazilian national drink, a caipirinha.
Day 32 Iguassu Falls
Get ready for an awesome day at Iguassu. First up, we’ll cross back into Argentina and visit their side of the falls. You could feel the spray of the falls on a speed boat ride, or if you feel like a wander, there’s a short hike to the edge of the Devil’s Throat. We have all day, so you can do it all if you want to. Later, we’ll say farewell Argentina and it’s back to Brazil for another night of wining, dining and dancing. Tonight join us for a an authentic Brazilian BBQ and chill night in Iguassu.
Day 33 Iguassu Falls to Rio de Janeiro
Hello, Rio! We head to the city for our last 2 days on tour. Home to the world’s largest Carnival celebration, the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the Brazilian bikini and of course some of the world’s best football (soccer) players, Rio goes off! First up, we will head to Rio’s old Cathedral, one of the city’s most important historical buildings before visiting the Lapa district and its 150 year-old aqueduct, the Arches of Lapa and Passeio Publico, the first public park in the city. After the orientation tour of the city, we’ll check–in to our hotel with time to rest up before a night out on the town. From evening football games, to bars and clubs, Rio’s nightlife will not disappoint. Just ask your Trip Manager for some cool places to head.
Day 34 Rio de Janeiro
This morning we'll visit the Christ the Redeemer statue located atop ‘Corcovado’ and recently designated as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Not only will you be amazed by the sheer size of the monument, but also by the incredible view of Rio in its entirety. Next up you may want to ascend Sugarloaf Mountain. Climb 1299ft (396m) in glass-paneled cable cars to the summit for more astounding views of the city and its beaches. The trip is broken in two and if you take a break after the first car on Morro de Acucar you might meet some of the mountain’s naughtier residents, tiny monkeys who will be more than happy to steal your food. This afternoon you can visit the markets and shops throughout the city or just relax on the beach and watch the Cariocas, (residents of Rio), do what they do best, play football and practice Capoeira a martial art mixed with dance from the northeast of the country. You could also learn some tricks yourself if you’re keen.
Day 35 Rio de Janeiro
Today is yours to explore this amazing city. Try hang gliding and hang on the beach. Tonight, end the trip as we head out for a meal & our last night out in this amazing city!
Day 36 Depart Rio de Janeiro
Don’t forget to swap addresses with your mates and Trip Manager, as our South American adventure ends this morning after breakfast.