- Photos & Video
If you've longed to hike the Inca Trail and experience Machu Picchu history firsthand but roughing it isn't your idea of a vacation, you'll appreciate our Inca Trail Mountain Lodges trip. This twelve-day Machu Picchu Peru excursion combines hiking the world's most famous path with relaxing interludes at small mountain lodges set in picturesque surroundings with panoramic views. Travelers in moderate condition will be comfortable on this Inca Trail tour. The itinerary includes time to explore Inca sights in Cusco Peru and the Sacred Valley, many opportunities to acclimatize to the high elevation and four days of Inca Trail hiking plus a day and a half of touring the secret city itself. Of all the Machu Picchu tours to choose from, this one can't be beat, on or off the trail.
- About this Location
- Peru, the third largest country in South America and nineteenth in the world is slightly smaller than Alaska. It is located in the central part of the continent bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, Chile to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Peru claims the 200-mile wide corridor along its 1,544-mile Pacific coast as one of its natural regions. Seventy percent of the people live in urban areas. Peru has a large indigenous population and contains the most famous of the Inca Empire's ruins. English is spoken in all major cities.
OFFICIAL NAME:Republic of Peru
- GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE
Ollanta Humala (2011)
Peruvian Nationalist Party
Retired Army officer who held military attaché posts in Paris and Seoul
Attempted coup near end of Fugimori presidency
Master’s Degree in political science
- 27,968,000 (2005 est.)
Population 8.4 million
- OTHER MAJOR CITIES (ranked by population)
European descent 15%
African descent 2%
- LIFE EXPECTANCY
Roman Catholic 81%
Christian other 3%
- 496,222 square miles
- PROTECTED AREAS (10% of its territory)
National parks 8
National reserves 9
National forests 4
National sanctuaries 28
- NATIONAL FLOWER
- Kantuta (also spelled Cantuta and Qantuta), it is called the Inca Magic Flower. (Cantua buxifolia or Fuchsia buxifolia).
- NATIONAL BIRD
- Andean Cock of the Rock (Rupicola Peruviana)
- NATIONAL ANIMAL
- MAJOR INDUSTRIES
- MAJOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS
1/1 New Year's Day
March-April Holy Week
5/1 May Day, Labor Day
6/29 Saint Peter and Saint Paul's Day
7/28-7/29 Peruvian Independence Day
8/30 Saint Rose of Lima
10/8 Battle of Angamos
10/20 Lord of the Miracles
11/1 All Saints Day
12/8 Day of the Immaculate Conception
- The New York Times calls Peruvian cuisine the best kept secret in South America. Lima has over twenty cooking schools and is at the heart of the new Andean food movement called Novandina, today considered Latin America's most sophisticated cuisine. The diversity of Peru's cuisine naturally lies in its mixture of indigenous and European culture. That blending is enhanced by its many varieties of ahi peppers, some found nowhere else in the world, the abundant species of fish caught off its long coastline, the tropical fruit, lucuma, its wheat staple, quinoa, and over 2,000 varieties of potatoes. Lomo Soltado combines strips of tender steak, sauted with tomatoes, onions, rice and believe it or not, French fries, a divine mixture. Peru's indigenous method of earth pot cooking called Pachamanca is considered a cultural treasure. Staple foods in the highlands include meat dishes, often with a spicy sauce. In jungle areas, fresh fruits, fried plantains, and vegetables are also common. Peruvian vegetarian dishes typically just leave out the meat rather than substituting a vegetarian protein source such as tofu, beans, or nuts. This is the place to experience the pisco sour, a heavenly concoction of lime, whipped egg whites and the country's native grape liquor, pisco.
- Nuevo Sol (PEN)
- INTERNATIONAL DIALING CODE
- TIME ZONE
- Same as US Eastern Standard Time, no daylight savings
- 220 V, 60 Hz
- Traveling to this Location
- Passport and visa requirements
- A valid passport is required to enter and leave Peru. A visa is not required for citizens of the USA, Mexico and most Central American, Asian and European countries if visiting Peru for less than 90 days. It is the passenger's responsibility to check with local immigration offices or the Peruvian consulate prior to departure for current entrance requirements. For more information see www.americanpassport.com or www.peruvianembassy.us
The following vaccinations are recommended when visiting any area of Peru:
- Hepatitis B
- Tetanus-diphtheria and measles (as needed booster doses)
- For travelers to the Amazon, a vaccination for Yellow Fever is required.
- For travelers to certain lower elevations of Peru including the Amazon and rural areas on the coast, the Centers for Disease Control also recommends taking an anti-malarial medication.
- The Centers for Disease Control provides immunization information for travel in Latin America. www.cdc.gov
Entry During the flight to Lima, a flight attendant distributes a Peru entrance form to all passengers. At Customs, travelers are asked to show the completed form along with their passport and asked how many days they plan to be in Peru. Normally, the passport will be stamped indicating a permissible stay of 60 or 90 days and a copy of the Customs form will be returned to the traveler.
Exit The Customs document must be presented when exiting the country. Passengers leaving on an international flight pay a departure tax of $25US and a $5 airport departure tax on domestic flights. These taxes must be paid in cash in $US.
- Exchanging currency
- Peru's unit of currency is the Nuevo Sol. Current exchange rate information is available on our website under "Traveler Information." Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are the most recognized credit cards in Peru. American Express is not widely accepted. ATM machines (Visa/MasterCard/Cirrus/Plus), with directions in English, are widely available 24 hours a day in all major cities and large towns, providing a convenient and economical way to obtain soles. ATMs are the only reliable method to get money on Sundays. There are no ATMs and no place to cash Traveler's Checks in Aguas Calientes or Ollantaytambo. Travelers going to Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley should obtain cash before leaving Cusco. On trips of two weeks or less, we recommend carrying only US cash in $20 denominations to exchange as needed. Hotels exchange money, and most offer safe-keeping for valuables. Before departure, we send booked passengers a packet of trip information that contains operating hours for money exchange offices (Casas de Cambio) and more money tips.
- Using electricity
- In all of Peru, the electricity is 220 volts and 60 cycles, standard to Great Britain. To use 110-volt American-made electrical appliances in Peru (for a hairdryer or to recharge digital camera batteries, etc.), bring 2-pin plug adapters and a voltage transformer. For video cameras, we suggest packing an extra set of charged batteries. Some hotels have hair dryers for guest use, but most do not.
- Peru is a diverse country. With beaches, mountains, rainforest and desert, there is no off-season. But it does pay to know a bit about where you're going, and what you'll need on your Peru tour:
The Andes - Though officially part of the dry season, April and May are considered the Andean spring, while June through October marks the Andean summer. Mid-day temperatures range from 70 to 80 F in the sun. Nighttime temperatures in Cusco range in the 40s F and can dip into the 30s F. Weather is usually clear in the morning with clouds accumulating in the afternoon. Rain can happen in any season, so quality rain gear is essential.
The Amazon - A rainforest environment, the Peruvian Amazon has varied weather conditions and frequent unpredictable rain showers. It is generally hot and humid during the day with more comfortable temperatures through the night. Daytime high temperatures average between 82° and 93° F, and the average nighttime low is between 62° and 73°. Nevertheless, in some areas cold fronts can sweep into the Amazon and push daytime high temperatures down to 50° F and nighttime lows to 43° F. Any time of year, one should always be prepared for cooler temperatures and rain showers. Around 80% of the annual average 79 inches of rainfall occurs during the rainy season (December through March) when heavy rain may continue for hours or days.
The Desert - the Atacama Desert is nearly rainless all year long. Expect hot days and warm nights.
Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
max air temp. 79 80 80 76 72 69 67 66 67 69 72 76
min air temp. 68 69 69 67 63 61 60 60 60 60 62 64
avg. rainfall 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0 0
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
max air temp. 65 65 66 67 67 66 66 67 68 69 69 69
min air temp. 44 44 43 41 37 33 32 35 39 42 43 44
avg. rainfall 6.3 5.2 4.3 1.8 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.9 1.9 3.1 4.7
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
max air temp. 62 62 62 62 62 61 61 63 64 65 66 64
min air temp. 38 38 38 33 25 19 18 22 29 33 35 37
avg. rainfall 5.2 4.3 3.8 1.5 0.4 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.8 1.5 2.0 3.6
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
max air temp. 88 87 88 87 86 84 85 88 90 90 89 88
min air temp. 71 70 70 69 66 63 62 64 66 69 70 70
avg. rainfall 13.6 12.8 11.9 6.1 4.2 2.3 2.2 2.5 3.9 6.5 9.3 12.1
- When to Visit
- Q: When is the best time to go on a Peru tour?A: Peru is a diverse country with beaches, mountains, rainforest and desert. For this reason, there is no off-season in Peru. One can travel to Peru any time of year and find good weather in certain areasQ: How far in advance should I book a Peru tour?A: When booking a Inca Trail Trek, we recommend that you book your tour 6 to 9 months in advance. For other Peru tours, we recommend 3 to 6 We recommend booking your tour before your international flight.Q: Are these Peru tours suitable for children?A: It depends on the trip. Our Peru tours have received rave reviews from families visiting the Amazon, Machu Picchu and even hiking the Inca trail. If children enjoy wildlife, learning about other cultures and meeting new people, Peru may be a great choice. To make family tours more flexible, we often recommend putting together a private group instead of booking one of our pre-set group trips. This works especially well with younger children. We are happy to answer all of your questions to give you the most accurate impression we can of what to expect.Q: Can I extend my stay?A: Yes. We offer many exciting extensions to suit the individual needs and interests of our passengers both in Lima and other areas from paragliding in the Sacred Valley to archeological tours. These trip extensions are described on our website. If you would like to discuss the options or arrange a trip extension on either end of your trip, please contact us.Q: What airport do your passengers fly to?A: Passengers fly into Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport. Our Peru tours all begin in CuscoQ: How do passengers get from one tour destination to another?A: In Peru, we use a mix of private and public transportation to get travelers to their destinations safely and efficiently. This includes local air carriers, trains, private vans/cars, comfortable tourist buses and canoes, etc. For short distances, we may get around in unusual ways such as rickshaw, bicycle taxi, "chicken bus" etc. to give travelers the local flavor.Q: What are the accommodations like in Peru?A: All of our Peru accommodations have private baths and hot water. They are located within walking distance of the town center, and most of the reception staff speaks English. Our standard adventures feature 3-star accommodations. If desired, 4 and 5-star accommodations are available upon request. We personally inspect the rooms and amenities of all potential hotels and lodges in each tour location and select only those that meet our rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort, convenient location, safety, customer service and ambiance. We support lodges and hotels that employ sustainability practices and are owned and operated locally.Q: What are the meals like?A: Meals served during all of our Peru adventures are nutritious and plentiful. Hotel breakfasts usually include fresh fruit, breads and eggs, as well as coffee, tea and juices. On the hiking portion of our trekking tours, our guests are awakened with a fresh cup brought to the tent and are served breakfast, lunch and dinner daily prepared by expert trail cooks with years of experience. Dinners usually consist of fresh vegetables and beef or chicken. During our Amazon adventures, the lodge menus generally include a variety of seafood, fish, beef, fresh salads and soups, as well as dessert and hot drinksQ: How concerned should I be about the altitude?A: Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and much of the Inca Trail are at high altitudes (at 11,600 ft, 6,000 ft, 12,600 ft and an average of 10,000 ft respectively). The highest altitude reached on the Inca Trail is the pass at (13,780 ft/4200 m). We sleep at approximately (11,811 ft/3600 m) for one or two nights. In planning trips to these destinations, we include sufficient days at the outset to allow the body to begin acclimatizing. We start with mild activities prior to hiking to give travelers a good indication of how they will feel on the hike since symptoms usually subside. We have never had a traveler who had to be evacuated to low altitude. Please see the "Safety Tips for South and Central America" article on our Home Page for more information about altitude.Q: Is it possible to leave the Inca Trail in case of an emergency?A: Any exiting of the Inca Trail due to emergency is by foot or horse (if available). No airlift options are available. In the event of a debilitating injury, two porters would carry the injured person to the nearest train station where they would then board the train to Ollantaytambo. A vehicle would be waiting to drive the injured person to the Cusco Hospital or other location. Please note that throughout the Inca Trail there are park rangers with walkie-talkies. Also, all Southern Explorations will have satellite phones with them while on the Inca Trail.Q: How much should I budget for a Peru trip beyond the tour fee and international airfare?A: Meals/beverages not included in trip price $20US - $25US per day Airport taxes $30US Tips, depending on activities and length of trip $60US - $150US The markets can be a shopper's paradise. Budget according to your tastesQ: What bathing and toilet facilities are there at the Inca Trail camp sites?A: There are some toilet facilities, depending on the campsite. Where there are no facilities, a toilet tent is set up for temporary use. Bowls of warm water are often provided for a quick wash in the morning and evening, but no showers are available while on the trek. The first warm shower comes on day four upon the arrival at your hotel in Aguas Calientes day four of the trek.
- Inca Trail Lodge to Lodge Hiking Tour
- Day 1 ARRIVE LIMAAfter arriving in Lima Peru, you'll be transported from the airport to your hotel. If you have extra time to spend in the capital, optional Peru tours of the city, museums and other sights of interest may be arranged.Day 2 LIMA - CUSCOIn the morning, you'll be taken to the airport for your flight to Cusco, center of the Inca Empire. Between the Cusco airport and your hotel, our guide will take you on a quick tour of the colonial Plaza de Armas. You'll be free the rest of the day to explore this fascinating city on your own and begin acclimatizing to the altitude of 10,856 feet. (B)Day 3 CUSCOThis morning you'll see more of Cusco on a guided walking tour of the city's top sights, visiting the colorful markets, the colonial cathedral and Koricancha, the impressive Temple of the Sun, before lunch. After a tasty meal of regional cuisine, you'll spend the afternoon touring prominent Inca sites in and around the city. You'll see the fortress of Sacsayhuman, famous for its mammoth proportions and stone terraces, Kenko's carved stone surfaces and subterranean alters, the Puka Pukara, a small fortress strategically placed to protect the royal capital from attack, and finally the water temple of Tambo Machay. In the late afternoon, you'll be returned to your hotel to relax or take in more of the sights of Cusco. (B)Day 4 CUSCO - SACRED VALLEY - CUSCOToday you'll take a day-long guided excursion through the legendary Sacred Valley of the Incas. You'll glimpse Inca architectural practices, passing by terracing on the steep valley walls, visit the ruins of the temples at Pisac, affording panoramic views, and explore a famed Andean textile market, offering an opportunity to learn about the local culture and find unique souvenirs. After lunch, you'll stop in Ollantaytambo, a charming town at 9,185 feet with an imposing Inca fortress, before returning to Cusco. In the evening, you'll receive a briefing about your upcoming Machu Picchu trek. Spend another relaxing night at your hotel. (B)Day 5 CUSCO - SORAYPAMPA - SALKANTAY LODGE & ADVENTURE RESORTAfter an early breakfast, you'll check out of the hotel and join your bilingual guide who will accompany you to Soraypampa where your next lodgings are located. The first part of the trip is by vehicle. You'll stop at the Inca ruins of Tarawasi near the town of Limatombo, have coffee in the mountain village of Mollepata and ascend a winding mountain road to Marcoccasa. At this juncture, you'll have the choice of continuing on by vehicle or hiking the rest of the way. The easy hike takes three to four hours and travels along the old scenic Camino Real (Royal Path), a good way to begin acclimatizing to the increasing elevation. Upon reaching the Salkantay Lodge and Adventure Resort, you'll be welcomed warmly. At 12,690 feet, this twelve-room mountain-view lodge is named for the highest mountain in the region, a sacred 20,600-ft Andean peak in Inca mythology. You'll spend the rest of the day relaxing to get accustomed to the elevation. Around the fireplace, you'll have a briefing about the upcoming trek followed by an aperitif and dinner. (B, L, D)Day 6 SORAYPAMPAYour second day in Soraypampa provides additional time to adjust to the elevation while enjoying the great outdoors. Popular activities here include a half-day hike to a glacial lake, giving your lungs an introduction to high-mountain trekking and a soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi. (B, L, D)Day 7 SORAYPAMPA - HUAYRACCMACHAY - WAYRA LODGEYour four-day trek to Machu Picchu at last begins. Today's four to six hour hike starts early after a hearty breakfast, along the Rio Blanco Valley circling the Humantay peak. When you reach the highest point of today's trek, a 15,213 feet pass, you'll stop for breathtaking views of the snowcapped Vilcabamba Range and the south face of Mt. Salkantay where the Andean condor is a common sight. A hot lunch is provided en route. From the pass, you'll descend to your welcoming destination, the Wayra Lodge at Huayraccmachay, elevation 12,812 feet. In the Quechua language, "wayra" means the place where the wind lives. You'll enjoy dinner and overnight at the lodge. (B, L, D)Day 8 HUAYRACCMACHAY - COLLPAPAMPA - COLPA LODGEToday's schedule is a leisurely one. You'll have breakfast at Huayraccmachay before descending into forested terrain with the Salkantay River below to reach Collpa Lodge at Collpapampa. The six-room lodge is set on a 9,414 feet promontory that offers views of three rivers at their confluence. After getting settled, you'll enjoy a delicious lunch, either prepared in the lodge's kitchen or a traditional "Pachamanca," the indigenous underground stone cooking method. One of the lodge's much-appreciated-amenities for visitors on Peru tours is its outdoor Jacuzzi with mountain vistas. You'll have dinner and spend the night at the lodge. (B, L, D)Day 9 COLLPAPAMPA - LUCMABAMBA - LUCMA LODGEToday's four to six hour hike starts after breakfast. You will continue your descent into the Santa Teresa River Valley, known worldwide for its organic coffee, said by some to be the best in the world. You'll stop for a delicious hot picnic lunch on the shore before being taken by vehicle to the start of the "Llactapata Inca Trail." The afternoon trek consists of a thirty-minute climb to the night's lodgings. The Lacuma Lodge is located in an avocado orchard near the trail at an elevation of 7,003 feet in a picturesque farming area where passion fruit, coffee and avocados grow. Before dinner, there will be time to explore the nearby village of Lucmabamba where it may be possible to meet members of the community. (B, L, D)Day 10 LUCMABAMBA - AGUAS CALIENTESYou'll get an early start after breakfast on this last day of your Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. The first two hours are an ascent to Llactapata pass, elevation 8,900 feet, where you'll get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu from the southwest, a perspective seen by few tourists. Along the way, you'll stop at the recently restored Llactapata ruins. With lunch at the observatory you'll get your next tantalizing view of Machu Picchu. The final two to three hour descent takes you through lush bamboo forests, orchards and plantations to the Aobamba River. Arrive at the hydroelectric train station where you’ll board the train for the short ride to Aguas Calientes. You'll spend the night at a local hotel in the town of Aguas Calientes, gateway to the Inca city of Machu Picchu. (B, L, D)Day 11 MACHU PICCHUThis magical day of Peru travel begins with an early breakfast at the hotel before the thirty-minute bus trip to begin your Machu Picchu tours. With an expert bilingual guide, you'll spend around four hours among the ruins, for an unforgettable day of fascinating sights and vistas. Afterwards, you have various opportunities for your own exploration, including a climb to the sacred peak of Huayna Picchu or a walk through the lush cloud forest to the Temple of the Moon. For those looking for the picture perfect view of the ruins, getting up early is essential as sunrise is not to be missed! returning to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon for a relaxing soak in the hot springs followed by dinner at one of the town's many dining establishments. Another relaxing night at your Aguas Calientes hotel. (B, L, D)Day 12 MACHU PICCHU - CUSCOAfter breakfast, you will again enjoy one last morning to explore Machu Picchu with an expert bilingual guide. You will have the option to hike to the sacred peak of Machu Picchu Mountain or relax in your hotel before returning to Cusco. You'll travel by train back to Ollantaytambo in the early afternoon then travel by van to Cusco where you will spend the rest of the afternoon and a final night on your own in the Inca Empire. Overnight at a Cusco hotel. (B)Day 13 CUSCO - LIMA - HOMEIn the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel and taken to the airport for your return flight to Lima and your connecting international flight which ends Southern Explorations' services. If you have more time to spend in Peru, trip extensions to other regions or extra days in Lima or Cusco may be arranged. (B)
Inca Trail Lodge to Lodge Hiking Tour
- Per Person$4,940Per Person$5,350$5350 2+ Travelers (High Season: Apr 01 – Oct 31 | Dec 15-31)
$4940 2+ Travelers (Low Season: Mar 01-31 | Nov 01- Dec 14)
$375 (Lima/Cusco/Lima) – Subject to change
Low Season: $1,800
High Season: $2,010
*Single Supplement is the additional cost of a single traveler not sharing a room in double occupancy. We will match you with another same gender traveler unless you request single accommodations.
- Trip Dates
- Private departures for the Inca Trail Lodge to Lodge trip may be arranged. Please Contact Us about the details and costs involved.Available
- Included in tour cost
- All airport/hotel transfers
- All hotel accommodations
- All listed activities
- English-speaking certified guides
- Entrance fees for all scheduled tours, national parks & archaeological sites
- International and domestic transfers
- Meals as indicated
- Southern Explorations pre-departure services
- Domestic airfare in South America
- First aid and oxygen bottle
- Excluded from tour cost
- Airport taxes, international and local
- International airfare to and from Central & South America
- Tips and gratuities
- Medical & travel insurance (highly recommended)
- Hiking boots and other necessary sports gear
- Bucket List
- “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn." (Dr. Seuss)
At age 15, adventurer John Goddard penned a list of 127 things he wanted to do before he died. It included 16 mountains he planned to climb, 13 cultures he wished to study, 5 lakes in which he hoped to swim, and an eclectic assortment of other experiences, from playing the viola to catching a 10-lb lobster. By age 47, he had accomplished 103 of them. It is the magic of list-making, dramatically increasing our chances of accomplishing what it contains. It is the starting point for turning dreams into working plans.
MATCHING THE REALITY TO THE DREAM
Bucket lists are idealized versions of the experiences we desire. Some, like visiting the Amazon, we dream up in childhood. Others, like Machu Picchu, make the list after seeing extraordinary aerial photos. We envision these places without a tourist in sight. Though that won’t happen, there are ways to make the reality more closely resemble the dream. Traveling in small groups helps. So does choosing a tour that puts you at the destination when the crowds aren’t. Some of our Machu Picchu tours for instance arrive at dawn, allowing you to photograph the citadel at its most photogenic, before everyone else arrives. Sometimes it’s a matter of where you stay. The lodgings for our Argentina tours to Iguazu Falls are located right in Iguazu National Park so while most tourists are eating breakfast, packing up and driving to the falls, you’ll be gazing at rainbow mists.
DESTINATIONS OBVIOUS AND OBSCURE
When it comes to an area as varied and vast as Costa Rica to Antarctica, the possibilities for trips of a lifetime are limitless. Our bucket list category of trips of course contains destinations that appear on many people’s lists such as Machu Picchu. For cruises to the popular Galapagos Islands and the much less visited Antarctica, we’ve included some of the vessels that passengers seem to love. It’s at least a starting place for what can be an extensive search when contemplating a trip to either of these locations. Some trips on our list are there because we travel many roads less traveled. Though they are places you may not have considered visiting, they could end up on your list of “Best Trips Ever Taken.”
Some of our bucket list trips give you the best bang for the buck, fitting in one, two or three of South America’s top attractions. Of course, a bucket list is in the mind of the beholder. If you tell us a bit about your interests and dreams, we can suggest which of our trips you may wish to consider. We can also customize a trip that enables you to visit more of your bucket list destinations in one trip than you thought possible. Are the Galapagos and Machu Picchu on your list? We offer several itineraries that include both. What about walking among penguins and learning to tango in Buenos Aires? Easy-peasy. And perhaps in this life we should plan for a second visit to one or two of the places that left an indelible impression the first time. We’d be happy to help you arrange that trip too.
- The countries of South and Central America are filled with art, crafts and historical artifacts. Here are a few examples to whet your appetite, some of which are included in our itineraries. We also build in free time so our passengers can explore on their own according to their interests.
HISTORYGold In colonial times, gold mostly left the New World for the old, but that which remained and is today housed in South America’s gold museums reflects the craftsmanship of the continent’s indigenous populations. The two most famous are located in Bogota and Lima. The Cuzco School Visitors on Peru tours will be able to view representative works of the Cuzco School, paintings from the 300-year colonial period that incorporated Roman Catholic themes, European painting styles and an indigenous slant, with bright colors and gold leaf plus native flora and fauna. The largest collections are housed in Cusco and Lima museums.
QUIRKYChile Chileans call Pablo Neruda “the people’s poet” because they understood what he had to say about love and life. The Nobel Prize winner filled his three charming homes between Santiago and the coast with items he collected in his travels as writer, diplomat and rebel-on-the-run that today are popular museums. Uruguay Begun before paved roads, built over decades and today a prominent landmark on the Uruguayan Riviera, Casapueblo is the studio, gallery and guest lodgings of abstract painter, Paez Vilaro. It is also a divine spot for cocktails at sunset.
MODERNBrazil After a decade of prominence in the contemporary international art scene, Brazil’s distinctive grafite has begun to flourish at home, since the decriminalization of street art on buildings with the consent of the owner. To see the city’s largest street art collection, visit Rio de Janeiro’s upscale Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico) north of Ipanema Beach. Street art walls may also be seen in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. Another arresting street mural that has made international headlines is by French street artist, JR, and consists of realistic-looking eyes painted on many hillside buildings in the Providencia favela, a Rio slum. Another favela, Santa Marta, contains Tudo de cor para voce, a brilliant block-long recoloring of facades, painted by neighborhood residents with donated paint. Colombia: Travel to Colombia and you are bound to see renowned Colombian artist, Fernando Botero’s mammoth rounded human and animal sculptures. The best place is Medellin, Botero’s home town, where his works are everywhere. One spot is Botero Plaza in front of the Museum Antioquia where 23 of his bronze pieces are located. Uruguay: Dramatic 15-ft tall concrete Los Dedos, by Chilean sculptor, Mario Irarrazabal, resembles a partially buried human hand, fingers extended in the sand. It is located on the La Brava beach peninsula that divides Punta del Este’s calm waters on the Rio de la Plata side from the rough Atlantic waters.
CRAFTSMEN WORKING CRAFTSMEN SELLINGCrafts are a way of life in some villages. To name a few, in some places, whole villages make their livelihood from crafts. From the Andes, you’ll find camelid fleece apparel, shigra totes and plenty of exquisite silver and gold jewelry; from the Amazon, carved tagua nut jewelry; from Panama’s Kuna Yala, one-of a kind molas; and from Ecuador, Panama hats for as much as you want to spend. In addition to stopping at craft markets in Ecuador, Peru and elsewhere, our tours also get you into studios where crafts are being made, continuing centuries-old traditions of indigenous cultures. The challenge will be how much you can pack into that suitcase.
- Luxury Tours
- Not everyone can afford to travel in high style but if you can, what creature comforts await in Central and South America. If it’s just the lodgings you want to make sure are first-class, know that on most all of our standard trips, passengers may select 5-star hotel upgrades at any destination where such accommodations exist. For passengers who want to go all the way, we offer luxury trips to some of our most popular destinations such as the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Patagonia and Costa Rica as well as the least traveled places we go such as Panama and Antarctica. The following gives you an idea of our available luxury trips.
LUXURY ON LANDPanama
Our 8-day Luxury Panama trip spends time on the little visited Azuero Peninsula of the Pacific coast. Costa Rica Active travelers will appreciate our 9-day Luxury Costa Rica trip that includes two days of exhilarating whitewater rafting on the Pascuare and plenty of pampering off the river. Peru This is travel too good to be true—a rigorous hike by day followed by a massage topped off by a gourmet dinner accompanied by premium wines. You will still exert yourself some getting to Machu Picchu but with plenty to make up for it on both our 8-day Luxury Peru tour and our 10-day version that adds the Peru Amazon into the itinerary with top of the line eco-lodge accommodations in a sublime setting.
Here we offer two luxury trips. On the mainland, our 11-day Andean luxury trip includes hiking in two national parks, visits to some of the world’s most famous craft markets, and relaxing, one-of-a-kind accommodations. If you are planning to travel to the Galapagos Islands and would prefer land-based lodgings instead of a cruise, you can glamp at a 7-day Safari Camp.
Peru and Ecuador Amazon
Check out our boutique lodgings at La Selva Lodge or Peru’s Reserva Amazonica, both set in paradise with many comforts of home.
We offer two luxury trips to Patagonia, our 11-day Luxury Patagonia tour that includes hiking in both Argentina and Chile Patagonia, starting in Buenos Aires and ending in Santiago, and a 14-day Luxury Patagonia and Wineries trip that visits Northern and Southern Patagonia plus the top wine region of Argentina, in and around Mendoza.
LUXURY ON WATERAmazon
You have a choice of two luxury Peru Amazon river boat cruises, with fine dining, fine service, fine views. Having a massage on your private deck is about as exotic as it gets.
We offer eight luxury class vessel options for your Galapagos cruise, accommodating between 16 and 32 passengers with a variety of itineraries. Staterooms are finely-appointed, and meals are prepared by excellent chefs. Spaces are generally larger than on the less expensive vessels. Windows are bigger and decks, both inside and out, more expansive. The same goes for the Galapagos Cruise Ship vessels which tend to be high-end and offer similar amenities and level of service.
Except for the outside temperatures that tell you you’re in Antarctica, the amenities, services and accommodations a passenger receives aboard these luxury class cruise vessels could be anywhere. The vessels are spacious, with 5-star accommodations, some with private verandas. They offer gourmet cuisine with full service bar plus such amenities as a library, Jacuzzi, spa and fitness center.
- Trekking and Hiking
- Some hiking routes are famous because of what you see along the way, like the famed Patagonia treks in Chile’s Torres del Paine Park, the many orchid species in Ecuador’s misty cloud forests, the monkeys swinging through the trees of Costa Rica and Panama’s rainforests. Others are famous for what you see when you arrive, like Machu Picchu. Of the seven South American countries that share the Andes, we arrange hiking trips to five, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. South America’s landscapes are so varied that you can hike in both the Andes and the Amazon in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Although we arrange for passengers to hike famous trails, many itineraries include ones you’ve never heard of but will be telling everyone about when you get home. Los Nevados National Park in Colombia, for instance, is located in an area of eight volcanoes and Andean forests with 100-ft trees. Our two trips to Argentina’s northern canyon country hike among red variegated cliffs where geology is the star attraction and in an exotic landscape comprised of thousands of huge Cardon cacti. Two of our new Ecuador trips hike into Pululahua, a dormant volcano so large people live and farm there, though active volcanoes such as Costa Rica’s Arenal as well as Ecuador’s Cotopaxi are also among our destinations.
SERIOUS HIKINGOur itineraries that require stamina and conditioning all contain the word “hike” in the trip name. Five of our Patagonia tours, ranging from 11 to 15 days are hiking adventures. The most famous of the Patagonia routes, Torres del Paine’s W hike takes four days and the Paine Circuit six days, both with refugio camping along the way. Age restrictions also apply on some of our glacier hiking excursions. The same is true for those who choose to travel the longest segment of the Inca Trail. Machu Picchu isn’t the only place to hike in the Peruvian Andes. Huascaran National Park in the Cordillera Blanca attracts trekkers from throughout the world where we offer a 10-day hiking trip. Some Antarctica trips provide an optional 3 to 4-day tour (depending on the weather) for those who wish to trek across South Georgia Island as British explorer, Ernest Shackleton did.
DAY HIKESSouth America’s most famous hiking regions aren’t just for the intrepid. Some of the most memorable Patagonia hikes are day-hikes such as those in the northerly Mt. Fitz Roy sector of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park or are divided into day-long segments, with stays in scenic estancias. Several of our Patagonia tours are lodge-based. We tuck day-hikes of various lengths into many of our itineraries as one of several activities. Though we don’t call it a hiking or multisport tour, our 13-day Bahia Rhythms, Canyon and Beaches Brazil tour hikes virtually every day to one destination or another, including Salvador’s Pelourinho neighborhood where South America’s largest complex of colonial architecture is located, deserted white sand beaches surrounded by coconut plantations along the Coconut Coast and waterfalls in Chapada Diamantina National Park. On some routes in Florianopolis, Brazil, a delicious seafood lunch on a pier is the destination. All Rio de Janeiro itineraries include an option to hike in the Tijuca rainforest, a national park within the city limits and climb instead of travel by conveyance to the city’s two famous monuments, Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain. We even offer day-hike excursions on the Western Hemisphere’s highest peak, Mt. Aconcagua in the central Andes of Argentina.
- Virtually every trip Southern Exploration arranges includes wildlife sure to awe travelers from the most experienced birder to ten-year olds seeing their first monkey outside of a zoo. These are some of the species and destinations that our passengers have in store.
THE MAJOR WILDLIFE MECCASSouthern Explorations goes where the wildlife goes. To be awed by the most exotic of wildlife, the jaguars, the ocelots, the primates, the tapirs and all those other rainforest species one sees in books, most everyone wants to travel to the Amazon. We offer many Amazon tours to get them there. South America’s other top wildlife destination is the extraordinary Galapagos Islands, and we offer countless options for making that dream come true too. And then there is Antarctica, home to a multitude of species, including a preponderance of penguins. One place we don’t send many people but would if they knew what they were missing is the little-visited Pantanal, an area of Brazil’s interior the size of France where wildlife is just as diverse, profuse and unafraid of humans as in the Galapagos. Our 13-day Brazil Water Paradises trip goes there.
AND OTHER POPULAR SPECIESWe get asked about several animals more than others. Turtles Southern Explorations travels to several locations where turtles nest. Three top locations to have the once in a lifetime experience of watching this nighttime phenomenon are Panama, Costa Rica and Brazil’s Praia do Forte. In all of these places, poaching has been replaced by eco-tourism in local projects that are helping to bring back these mostly endangered species. Whales From Costa Rica to Antarctica, whales are in our itineraries. The baleens and many toothed species inhabit these waters at certain times of year.
BIRDS OF MANY PARADISESBirds together Seeing large groups of birds all in one place is an unforgettable experience. There are clay licks in the Amazon that attract hundreds of macaws, with hidden nearby places for humans to watch. Visitors who travel with Southern Explorations will probably see more penguins together than any other bird species where in places they number into the millions. Big birds South America is home to many large species. You’ll find three different species of flamingos in some places such as the National Flamingo Reserve Chile’s Atacama Desert and elsewhere in the Atacama Desert where vicunas, the tiny, soft wild camelids congregate too. If flamingoes are on your bird bucket list, the Atacama is the place to go. We offer several short trips to this region of Chile that may be added on to Patagonia tours. Fortunate is the traveler to South America who gets to see the largest of the vultures, the Andean condor. Two most likely spots are Colca Canyon where parents teach their wee ones to fly, and Colombia’s Los Nevados National Park where the government is working with the San Diego Zoo to reintroduce the species. To see the world’s largest population of black-necked swans, the Uruguayan coast, east of Punta del Este is the place. The signature bird of Brazil’s Pantanal is the jabiru. The ibis may be seen in many parts of Argentina. Pretty birds The world’s most beautiful bird, the Resplendent Quetzal, resides almost exclusively in Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Panama’s Volcan Baru National Park.
We go all these places. You just tell us what wildlife you want to see and we’ll tell you where to go.