Buenos Aires to Lima Adventure Map
Day 1 Buenos Aires
Arriva at any time.
Cross the Rio de la Plata by ferry to reach the dynamic city of Buenos Aires. There is much to do in this vibrant metropolis, with plenty of museums, theatres, and historical areas. Known as the ‘Paris of the Americas,’ Buenos Aires is a vibrant city full of life. Be sure to visit the districts of La Boca, Recoleta, and San Telmo, or catch a tango show at one of the many famous tanguerías or tango houses. Wander the pedestrian walkways and see some dancing in the streets. Whatever you do, Buenos Aires is sure to leave lasting memories.
The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is the ultimate cosmopolitan city. Travellers find that it has more in common with the cities of Europe than the rest of South America. Nearly 40 per cent of Argentina’s 33 million citizens live in Greater Buenos Aires, and the Porteños are justifiably proud of their home. The city is comprised of a number of distinct neighbourhoods, some of which have become top tourist draws. For many, the highlight of their time in the capital is a visit to San Telmo for the weekend antiques market and street artists’ displays. La Boca was originally settled by the successive waves of immigrants that contribute to the capital’s unique character. Its brightly coloured walls and buildings draw Porteños and tourists alike. Posh Recoleta, with its cafés, museums and cemetery, is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.
During colonial days, Buenos Aires was the seat of the Viceroy of La Plata. Almost completely rebuilt since the turn of the century, the heart of the city is the Plaza de Mayo, with the historic Cabildo (Town Hall), where the Independence movement was first planned, the Casa Rosada (Government Palace) and the Cathedral, where San Martín, the father of Argentine independence, is buried.
When you are done exploring, settle your weary feet and enjoy a drink in one of the many sidewalk cafés and restaurants, and you will begin to understand the contemplative Argentine way of life. Buenos Aires will be your first chance to try the succulent bifé and parrilladas, so dig in and enjoy!
Please note: You should be especially careful when wandering about the capital city on your own, particularly at night. Tourists are easy prey for individual pickpockets or groups of two or more people, working as a team, on the streets. Pay particular attention to anyone who “accidentally” spills anything on your clothes or belongings (mustard, etc.), then apologizes and offers to help clean up. They will clean you out instead! Be safe and leave your passport, credit cards, traveller’s cheques and cash you won’t be using immediately within the hotel’s safety deposit box. Most Porteños are honest and genuinely helpful and friendly, but be safe and enjoy the city!
Day 2-3 Salta
We make our way to Salta, choosing a flight over a long bus ride. Salta, situated in the Lerma Valley of northern Argentina, is home to Empanadas Salteñas - the delicious local specialty, and no visit to the town will be complete without giving them a try. In the evening experience the local celebration at one of the "Peña" folklore shows.
On day 3 you will have some free time to explore the area. The scenic Quebrada de las Conchas, and Cafayate, famed for it´s wine and vineyards, are recommended stops. The multi-coloured valleys in the region of the foothills of the Andes are sure to be a highlight.
Day 4-5 San Pedro de Atacama
A night bus brings us further north to the dry desert regions of the country, where we stop in the little town of San Pedro de Atacama, on the edge of the Atacama desert. There are plenty of optional excursions here, like biking, exploring nearby ruins, horseback riding, and a tour of the Valley of the Moon.
Day 6-8 Salt Flats/Uyuni (2B,2L,2D)
Climbing almost 3000 metres into the Chilean altiplano, we embark on our 3-day desert crossing into Bolivia. We spend three days in the stunning landscapes between the Salar de Uyuni and the Atacama Desert (Chile), exploring by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Driving across the salt flats is a fantastic experience, particularly for the contrast of piercing blue skies and blinding white salt on the flat lakebed. The area’s unusual landscape of mountains, active volcanoes, and geysers is like nowhere on earth.
Twice submerged by a large, high-altitude lake, the salt flats now cover a total area of over 12000 square km (7440 square miles) and are one of the country’s main salt mining centres. The last large lake dried up about 8000 years ago, leaving the small lakes of Poopó and Ururu, as well as the salt flats of Uyuni. Absorb stunning views of the salt-encrusted lakebed surrounded by golden-hued mountains, snow-capped peaks and an endless azure horizon that will forever engrave itself in your memory. The tour takes us through Laguna Colorada, 4278 m/14,031 ft (a large red lagoon, the colour of which is due to algae & plankton growth in the mineral-rich waters), and Laguna Verde, at 5000 m (16,400 ft), a striking blue-green lake (high concentrations of lead, sulphur, copper and other minerals). The numerous geysers, boiling mud pools, and thermal baths, and Licancabúr volcano 5960 m (19,549 ft), which looms just behind the lagoon are clear evidence of the region’s association with volcanic activity. Surprisingly, both wildlife and flora manage to survive and even thrive in the desolate landscape; this includes vizcachas (of the rodent family), flamingos (3 varieties), and assorted varieties of cacti.
Despite its isolation and challenging climate (cold and blustery most of the year), Uyuni has earned the nickname of Hija Predilecta de Bolivia (Bolivia’s Favourite Daughter). Most of its hardy residents are either Public Sector workers or salt miners in the dried out lakebeds, with tour operators a close third. The main attraction in town is the Train Cemetery, a collection of rusting railway relics, just southwest of the present train station. We spend the night of day in Uyuni before continuing north in Bolivia.
Day 9-13 Potosi/Sucre
Situated at 4070m (13,350 ft), Potosí is the highest city of its size on earth. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in1987 in recognition of its tragic history in the mining of silver during the time of Spanish colonization. Potosí provided a large share of the silver mined and shipped back to Spain until the early 1800s, when both the supply of silver and world market prices began to decline.
Working conditions for miners were appalling, and a large portion of the indigenous population was decimated. African slaves were brought in to replace the native workers, and it is estimated that as many as eight million indigenous people and Africans died in the mines during the first three centuries of Spanish colonial rule. There is time for an optional tour to the working mines of the Mountain of Silver, an eye-opening excursion.
On day 11, we travel north to Sucre. Often referred to as Bolivia’s White City, the country’s official capital, Sucre, is situated at nearly 2800m (9184 ft) and offers its visitors and inhabitants a more moderate, comfortable climate than cities at higher elevation. After getting settled from the overnight bus, we tackle the city as there is a lot to offer during our two days here. Optional activities include a visit to dinosaur footprints, a visit to an old tin baron’s mansion, a textile cooperative, mountain biking and hiking.
Before the conquest, military, religious and political leaders of the local indigenous population made their homes on the present day city site. The site became the headquarters for the Spanish Royal Court, which by the late 1700s, ruled over colonial Paraguay, parts of Peru, Argentina, Chile, and most of Bolivia. In 1825, in the wake of the Latin American independence movement, the city was renamed Sucre, after Simon Bolívar’s second-in-command, General Sucre. The city’s fine museums, colonial buildings and ties to the independence movement make it a city of great historical interest.
On the evening of day 13, we board an overnight bus to our final stop, La Paz.
Day 14-15 La Paz
Waking up from our overnight bus, we get settled and have the day to check out the city of La Paz.
Founded by Alonso de Mendoza in 1548, La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (the City of Our Lady of Peace) is the highest capital in the world. Although Sucre is the official capital, La Paz is the Bolivian centre of commerce, finance and industry, and the de facto capital. This is a busy modern city, with its centre at the base of a canyon 5 km (3 miles) wide and sprawling impromptu housing all the way up the surrounding hillsides. The city is at nearly 4000 m (13,120 ft) above sea level, so visitors should be prepared for cool evenings and mornings.
Explore the city’s many fine museums or its historic ecclesiastical structures, such as the Iglesia de San Francisco, whose architectural details reflect the indigenous and mestizo heritage of modern Bolivia. The city is also renowned for its many markets, including the Mercado de Hechicería (Witches’ Market), where Paceños and visitors may purchase potions and incantations made from all sorts of herbs, seeds, and secret ingredients to remedy any number of illnesses (real or imagined) and protect from evil spirits. With streets lined with market stalls and vendors, the pace on the street and the vibrant atmosphere is an incredible experience. There is also a thriving black market and a Carnaval market, where locals purchase carnival costumes. You’ll also find a wealth of shops selling all sorts of handicrafts, mainly alpaca wool products, silver jewellery, woven textiles and leather goods.
Optional activities in La Paz include museums, excursions to Tiahuanaco ruins (cradle of Inca civilization), a tour of the Valley of the Moon, or a visit to the world’s highest ski resort, Chacaltaya (5600 m/18,368 ft). To the south of the city is the Valley of the Moon, with crater-like formations made of sand.
Day 16-18 Puno/Lake Titicaca
The drive around Lake Titicaca and through the altiplano from La Paz to Peru is impressive. Once crossing into Peru we head to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. There is an overnight excursion to the Islands on lake Titicaca. This includes a visit to the Uros floating islands, and an overnight stay with a family on Taquile or Amantani Island. We return to Puno in the late afternoon.
Located 3830 m (12562 ft) above sea level, Puno’s weather can be extreme with very cold nights, and a strong sun during the day. There is not a lot to see in Puno itself, however there are several good spots offering scenic views of Lake Titicaca and the town. Puno is also known for its wealth of traditional dances. There are up to 100 different varieties, usually performed in the street processions celebrating Catholic feast days. You may see these celebrations if you’re fortunate enough to be visiting at the appropriate time.
Lake Titicaca, at 3820 m (12529 ft) above sea level, is touted as the highest navigable lake in the world. This is not entirely true; it is simply the best known. It is, however, the largest lake in South America, over 170 km (106 miles) in length, and the largest lake in the world above 2000m (6560 ft). The horizon appears limitless from the lake, and the water a deep and inviting blue.
Our first stop is the floating reed islands of the Uros people. The Uros began their unusual floating existence centuries ago in an effort to isolate themselves from rival tribes the Collas and the Incas, but due to intermarriage with Aymara speaking people they lost their original language. Today about 300 people live on the islands, however their numbers are slowly declining.
The islands are made up of many layers of reeds. As the layers closest to the water start to rot, they are replaced with fresh reeds on top. They also use the reeds to build their boats, which if constructed well, last up to 6 months. The totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake are used for making everything from the islands themselves to the model boats that the islanders offer for sale.
Taquile is rich in culture, and the people’s unique style of dress and lifestyle will definitely make for a memorable visit. Men of the community do all the knitting, strictly a male domain, while women do the spinning. High quality, locally knitted goods are available for purchase at various cooperatives on the island. Despite the short distance that separates the two islands, Amantaní is quite distinct. Its soil is a rich terra cotta red, due to the high iron deposits, which contrasts brightly with the deep azure blue of the lake and sky, and greenery of the local crops.
Day 19 Cuzco
Today a full days bus journey takes us through the high Altiplano region to get from Puno to Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire
Day 20-27 Cuzco/Ollantaytambo/Inca Trail (3B,3L,3D)
Cuzco attracts thousands of travellers who come to experience an age-old culture and to delve into its tragic and noble past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations of the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. We spend the next few days relaxing and exploring this fascinating city, while taking time to acclimatize to the higher altitude before our trek.
Note: If you have booked the Peru Adrenaline Theme Pack, you will have the opportunity to do the full-day rafting trip and the half-day horseback riding excursion on 2 different days during your free time in Cuzco (days 20, 21, and 27).
Cuzco is the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts thousands of travellers who come not just to visit a unique destination but also to experience an age-old culture very different from their 20th century way of life; one could easily spend a week just in and around the area. Cuzco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend.
Cuzco’s numerous colonial churches are one of the most common sights. The Cathedral was started in 1559 and took 100 years to build. It is also one of the city’s greatest repositories of colonial art. Immediately in front of the entrance is a vault containing the remains of the famous Inca historian, Garcilaso de la Vega. Also worth visiting are the churches of La Compañía, La Merced and San Francisco.
While most ruins are just outside of the city, the main ruin within is that of the Coricancha, once the Inca Empire's richest temple. This ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors this incredible wealth had all been melted down. It is left to the individual imagination to envision the magnificence of the original structure.
There are several good museums in Cuzco, including the Archaeological Museum, which also houses a small art museum, the Regional History Museum and the Religious Art Museum. The best advice in exploring Cuzco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore!
Ollantaytambo is a major Inca ruin site and your first taste of what lies ahead on the Inca Trail. This major ruin site is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and engineering. It is admired for its huge steep terraces guarding the Inca Fortress and for being one of the few places where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest. We spend the night in this small town before heading out for the start of the hike the next morning. For those craving more before they head out on the Trail you can take a Sacred Valley tour which includes not only Ollantaytambo but also the ruin site of Pisac.
The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is physically challenging but worthwhile, and the excursion is within the ability of most reasonably fit. It is a 44-km (27 mile) hike, with 3 high passes to be crossed, one of which reaches an elevation of 4200m (13776 ft). The trail is often steep, and it may rain even during the dry season. The temperatures at night may fall below zero, so it is important to come prepared.
Depart Ollantaytambo for km 82 where we begin our walk in the footsteps of the Incas. Our local crew of porters, cook and guide look after us well for the duration of the hike. Porters carry the majority of the gear for the hike, so those passengers doing the hike only carry a small daypack with water, rain gear, snacks, a camera, etc. As you walk the trail that linked this ancient empire, admire breathtaking views at every step as we move from high plateau areas to dense cloud forest. Depending on the season, you may see a great variety of flora, including miniature and large orchids, and fiery rhododendron bushes.
You pass several smaller ruin sites, the first of which is Llactapata. The second day climb the long steep path to Warmiwañusca, or Dead Woman’s Pass. At 4198 m (13769 ft) above sea level, this pass is the highest point of the trek. The second pass of the hike is at 3998 m (13113 ft) where on clear days, we enjoy superb views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba. The trail goes through some beautiful cloud forest on the gentle climb to the third pass, where you will walk through a causeway and a tunnel, both original Inca constructions. The highest point of the third pass is at 3700m (12136 ft). On clear days you are rewarded for all this work with beautiful views of the Urubamba Valley below. Soon you reach the serene ruins of Phuyupatamarca, or the 'Town above the Clouds', at about 3650 m (11972 ft) above sea level. We will camp either here or an hour and a half further along close to Wiñay Wayna (Forever Young) ruins, a grandiose terraced hillside site, with panoramic views of the valley below and just a short hike from Machu Picchu.
On the final day of the hike we climb the steps to the Sun Gate overlooking the peaks that surround Machu Picchu. When the morning is clear, there is no way to describe the feeling of the first views of Machu Picchu, as the mist rises off the mountains early in the morning and the famous site appears in front of you. Following the visit to Machu Picchu, time allowing, travellers can opt to visit the Inca Bridge (15 min walk away) for no additional charge.
Machu Picchu is both the best and the least known of the Inca ruins. It is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors and archaeologists today can do no more than speculate on its function. The local Quechua farmers in the area knew of Machu Picchu for centuries, but it was not until an 11-year-old boy led the American historian Hiram Bingham (who was in search of Vilcabamba) to the site on July 24, 1911, that the rest of the world became aware of its existence. At that time the site was covered in thick vegetation, and Bingham and his team returned in 1912 and 1915 to clear the growth. Over the years, much work has been done on excavating and studying the site. Despite these efforts, many unanswered questions remain.
NOTE: Those passengers not able or interested in the hike spend 2 days in Cuzco, then travel by train to Aguas Calientes, where they overnight. Next morning they take the bus to the Machu Picchu entrance and rendezvous with the hikers at the ruins. If you decide not to do the hike we need to know prior to your departure in order to obtain train tickets. Please advise your agent or G Adventures.
Also note that portions of the Inca Trail will be closed for general maintenance during the month of February each year. Also, closures may occur at various times throughout the year due to inclement weather or other conditions beyond our control. During these periods, any tour affected will hike the Lares Trek.
Distances of the Inca trail:
Day 1 Km 82 to Wayllambama
Approximate distance: 11 km
Estimated hiking time: 5-6 hrs
Day 2 Wayllabamba to Paqaymayo
Approximate distance: 12 km
Estimated hiking time: 6-7 hrs
Day 3 Paqaymayo to Wiñaywayna
Approximate distance: 16 km
Estimated hiking time: 8 hrs
Wiñaywayna to Intipunku (Sun Gate)
Approximate distance: 4 km
Estimated hiking time: 1.5 hrs
Intipunku to Machu Picchu
Approximate distance: 1.5 km
Estimated hiking time: 45 mins
Day 28-31 Arequipa/Colca Canyon
Peru’s second most important city after Lima, Arequipa maintains a traditional colonial style and more laid back pace in comparison with the capital. Arequipa was built from a very light coloured volcanic rock called sillar, so older buildings dazzle in the sun, thus giving the city its nickname, “the White City.” The main plaza with its cafés and nearby cathedral is a top draw for visitors.
Those with an interest in history and architecture may take an optional visit to the Convent of Santa Catalina, offering a brief respite from the outside world and a unique view into a by-gone way of life. Spectacular mountains surround Arequipa, the most famous of which is El Misti Volcano, at 5822 m (19096 ft) and with a beautiful snow-capped peak. Our overnight excursion to the Colca Canyon—the deepest canyon in the world—involves a remarkable drive through Inca and pre-Inca terracing. Once at the Canyon look for the king of the Andes, the Andean Condor, as well as alpacas, llamas and vicuñas, while enjoying the stunning highland scenery.
Day 32-33 Nazca/Paracas (1D)
Travel north to one of the world's greatest archaeological mysteries, the Nazca Lines. The lines consist of patterns and pictures etched in the ground, crisscrossing a wide area of flat desert. Some of the lines measure up to 10 km (32 miles) in length, and yet remain perfectly straight. The depictions of birds, insects and animals are only recognizable from the air. Who drew the lines, and why, is something that modern archaeologists can only theorize about, but current beliefs suggest that they may be part of complex agricultural calendar. From the ground we can make out very little, and the best view is from a light aircraft, which can easily be arranged.
The entire desert area was also once the home for the Paracas and the Nazca cultures, which preceded the Incas by more than half a millennia. Remains of the Nazca culture are still visible during an optional tour of an ancient desert cemetery site, which also includes a visit to a pottery workshop.
In the evening we assist in the preparation of a thousand year-old tradition: a "Pachamanca", an ancient ceremony akin to the Polynesian meal of burying a variety of delicious treats wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooking them with pre-heated rocks buried in the ground.
Continuing north arrive in Paracas, close to Pisco. Pisco derives its name from the white grape brandy produced in the region. If you haven’t yet tried the national drink, the Pisco Sour, then this is the place to do it. While the town itself is of considerable historical and archaeological interest, we also use it as a starting point for an optional visit to the Ballestas Islands, where we observe the sea lion colonies, penguins and a variety of other birds.
Day 34 Lima
Founded by Francisco Pizarro, on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany) in 1535, Peru’s capital city Lima is known as the City of Kings. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of old Lima and here you’ll find the Cathedral, Government Palace and Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral dates back to the 1700s and houses the remains of the conquistador Pizarro.
To get a feel for colonial Lima, take a cab to the Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the Palace Guard in the afternoon. Walk around the streets surrounding the Jirón de la Unión for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to experience life in a large South American city. There are many fine museums in and around the city, including the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which houses an equally impressive collection of pottery, mummies and textiles from the Paracas and Nazca cultures. An optional city tour visits many of the cities highlights.
The more affluent coastal districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro offer good nightlife and cafés. The Limeños are friendly and the city’s many interesting museums, churches, markets, restaurants and nightlife will surely entice you. Seafood lovers should be sure and try a ceviche, for which Lima is well known.
NOTE: Care should be taken when wandering around on your own in central Lima as, some areas can be dangerous and pickpockets are daring.
Day 35 Lima
Depart at any time.