QUITO TO SANTIAGO (The Andes)
14 WEEKS £1950 + US$1800 KITTY
A 13 week voyage through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina to Chile. See ancient civilisations, trek windswept highlands on your way to Maccu Piccu, and savour beautiful vineyards as you follow the Andes south to Santiago.
|DEPART QUITO||ARRIVE SANTIAGO||Trip Code|
|08 SEPTEMBER 2013||14 DECEMBER 2013||QS13|
|24 AUGUST 2014||29 NOVEMBER 2014||QS14|
From Quito down to Santiago this journey is in or close to the Andes mountain range. Not only will you visit the homelands of the Incas but also many other civilisations have left their mark for you to see. Natural beauties include Lake Titicaca, the vast salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni and the Atacama desert's Valle de la Luna. And there are volcanos at every turn and even glaciers. Llamas and bowler-hatted women are commonplace and traditional Andean ways are still very much alive. Contrast this with the style and fine wines of Argentina and Chile and you will begin to understand the spirit of these beautiful mountains.
Quito, Amazon Jungle Lodge, Quilotoa Crater, Lake Banos, Kuelap Fortress, Huaraz, Nazca Lines, Colca Canyon, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Uyuni Salt Lake.
Click for Maps of Main Cities & Attractions
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The following itinerary is our proposed route, because of the nature of our travel, and the counties in which we are travelling it may not be possible to visit all of these places. Also we could find other things to do, so this may not be exactly what we end up doing!
We won’t attempt to fully describe every place in this section as you’d end up with a book. For more information we suggest you try some guide books. Lonely Planet and Footprint give good descriptions and information.
Arrive in Quito with a few days to spare to relax, organise your things and enjoy the marvellous city. Four or five days is enough time unless you want to do some extra excursions.of which there are many from Quito. Our truck and crew will already be there to welcome you.The day before we leave there will be a meeting to meet each other ,finalise paperwork and collect kitty money. We can help you take a trip to the Galapagos Islands, climb mount Cotopaxi, relax or enrol in a Spanish school - we recommend a Spanish language course for a week. This will give you a good grounding in the language you'll be hearing for the next few months and allow you to get more from your meetings with local people. The Simon Bolivar school is a few minutes walk from our hotel and gives good quality one-on-one courses - www.simon-bolivar.com.
Setting off from Quito we head towards the Amazon basin, stopping for the night at the luxurious Papallacta thermal pools, high in the humid cloud forest. Driving down into steamy rainforest we arrive the next day at El Coca. At this rough jungle oil town we suddenly see how much things have changed from Quito. From Coca we take a river boat ride down the Rio Napo, a tributary of the Amazon, to our jungle lodge. We stay in full board cabins with private bathrooms and hammocks. Our local guide will take us hiking, canoeing, fishing, birdwatching and more, the whole time giving commentaries and explanations about what we find. After this we drive on through the jungle to the riverside town of Tena, a welcoming, laid-back town. Here we can eat dinner in the riverside restaurants, visit the wildlife centre and spend a day rafting and exploring.
Arriving next at the town of Banos, very close to the very active Tungurahua volcano. It is often busy with Ecuadorean holidaymakers and we have time to visit the hot pools, horseride, relax and watch the local craft of sweet making. There's also the chance to try canyoning if you fancy a little adrenaline buzz, or a day mountain biking down the Rio Pastaza valley. After Banos we move on to spend a good day hiking to view the amazing volcanic Quilotoa crater lake. A short drive then brings us to Chimborazo, with time to hike up and back to the Chimborazo refuge at an altitude of 5000m. Leaving Chimborazo we have time to stop and enjoy the amazing rooftop views from the train on the Devil's Nose train ride, then continue to arrive in Cuenca. The third largest city in Ecuador is home to beautiful colonial squares, markets and the Panama Hat!
After a day here we head down from the highlands, through steamy banana plantations and cross into Peru. Immediately the landscape changes from lush forest to dusty desert coastline. We stop to camp for a couple of days on the idyllic, deserted beach of Punta Sal. Relaxing, swimming and a BBQ are a must here. And you can take a horse ride through the surf, or wander in to the sleepy beach town of Mancora for some shopping. After the beach we head back up into the Andean cloudforest to Chachapoyas. Here we can sip coffee overlooking the town from rooftop cafes and go out to visit Kuelap, the huge ruined citadel of the Chachapoyas people.
After this we return to the desert coast, stopping at the Chaparri Reserve. This is one of the few places where it's possible to see active conservation of the rare Spectacled Bear. On the coast we'll stop to explore the surf at lively, scruffy Pacasmayo, a world renowned surf beach. Next we continue on via the Sipan Museum in Lambayeque to the seaside village of Huanchaco, which will be our base for visiting the ancient remains of the mud city of Chan Chan and the fascinating Huaca de la Luna with its bloody history of sacrifices and burials.
Now we head high into to Andes to Huaraz, nestled between the Codilleras Blanca and Negra at an altitude of 4000m. We'll take two days to gradually make the climb, helping us to acclimatise to the altitude more easily. From Huaraz we can take day trips out to nearby towns, lakes and glaciers, or take a guide for a few days serious hiking. From Huaraz it's a day's drive straight back down to sea level and Lima, Peru's capital city. After our short stay in the metropolis we continue south along the coast, stopping for a wild beach camp on the Paracas National Reserve. The next day we can take a boat trip to visit the varied fauna inhabiting the Ballestas Islands, part of the reserve.
From here we head to Huacachina, just outside Ica, to see the huge sand dunes and maybe try sandboarding or a sunset dune buggy ride before spending the night by the hostel pool. A short drive then brings us to the desert town of Nasca where we can take a light aircraft ride for a spectacular view of the mysterious Nasca lines. Stopping along the way for a look at the strangely skeletal Chauchilla Cemetery we then arrive for a quiet stay at the ancient Inca port, Puerto Inca. Here you can explore the many ancient Inca coastal paths and burial chambers or just relax by the pool. Puerto Inca is our last view of the sea for some time as now we begin our ascent into the Andes and reach Arequipa. Second largest city in Peru, Arequipa has many facets. With quiet monasteries, museums of ancient frozen mummies, wonderful food and rocking nightlife, it's a great place to experience modern Peruvian life and culture as well as acclimatise ready for our next journey higher into the mountains. Some people might prefer to leave Arequipa early for some extra trekking and make their own way to meet the truck at Chivay. Others head out from here to climb the nearby 5800m high Mount Misti,
Leaving Arequipa we head to Chivay, a small town high in the mountains with picturesque hot springs. Here shops sell the traditional local dress of finely embroidered hats and waistcoats. From Chivay we head out to hopefully see condors flying in the 3000m deep Colca Canyon. Driving along the canyon affords incredible views of the terraced land and river below. After seeing the canyon we reach Puno on the shore of lake Titicaca. Puno is home to the huge restored steam ship, the Yavari and has some wonderful restaurants and bars with a fun atmosphere. Lake Titicaca is dotted with islands, many are inhabited and we have the chance to sail out and visit some of these islands. spending the night on Amantani Island with local families is a chance to learn about local life and customs. From here we travel deeper into the Andes to the heartland of the Incas and arrive at Cusco. This busy historical town will become our base for the next week or so, giving everyone time to explore all the things the town can offer.
This whole week is for us to spend in Cusco, giving us plenty of time to fully enjoy all there is to do without a big rush. For hikers there are treks all around the beautiful mountains, many arriving at historical sites such as Macchu Picchu and the recently discovered Choquequirao (you'll need 5 days to visit this site, with horses carrying your provisions and equipment).If you're not wanting to walk too far then day trips to the many historical Inca sites and towns are fun. Cusco is home to some good language schools and you might decide to spend a few days learning more Spanish, with the opportunity of some volunteer work in schools or other projects. Horse riding, rafting, motorbike tours and more are here. And then there's the shopping, from plush jewellery stores to bustling local markets. The choice of local crafts and produce is huge.
Leaving Cusco we head back to Lake Titicaca, but this time we cross to the Bolivian shores and visit Copacobana. This picturesque town is home to the Bolivian Navy and from here you can investigate the Isla del Sol, legendary birthplace of the Incas. Crossing Lake Titicaca by rickety wooden ferry we next get to La Paz, Bolivia',s capital city (or could Sucre be the capital... nobody is sure, not even the Bolivians).A couple of days here leave you reeling the altitude, steep hills and general chaos take it out of you, but it's all worth it, as exploring this city always brings surprises. Then we head into the Bolivian countryside and visit Potosi, home of the Cerro Rico silver mine and the highest city on earth. A visit to the mine helps you understand the history, conditions and myths of the place and leaves one feeling very lucky. You also get the chance to ignite your own dynamite stick to experience what the miners work with every day.
After a day or two in Sucre we head south into Butch and Sundance territory to Tupiza. This dusty old town has a definite wild west feel to it and is a great place to get out into the countryside, whether on foot or by bike or on horseback the stunning valleys nearby must be seen. After a challenging drive along a (hopefully) dry riverbed into the wilderness is the surreal frontier town of Uyuni, which is home to a steam train graveyard and one of the best pizza restaurants in South America.
We can take a day trip in jeeps out to see the immense blinding white salt lake, the Salar de Uyuni. Then we bravely pick our way across rocks and goat tracks through the inhospitable, empty Bolivian Altiplano towards Chile. This journey is tough for both vehicle and passengers and we must be prepared for a rough journey. But the benefits of travelling across a lunar landscape with stops at geysers and hot springs along the way make it worth all the trouble. After the isolation and harsh rockyness of our altiplano crossing, the descent from 5000m down into Chile's San Pedro de Atacama is glorious. The contrast between Bolivia and the far more European Chile is strong. It's most satisfying to sit and drink tasty cold Chilean beer beside the fire in one of the many open-roofed bars after the tough journey across from Bolivia. While here you experience the stifling heat and aridity of the Atacama desert, especially obvious when we take a sunset trip out to the Valley of the Moon. Horses and bicycles are for hire and there are trips out to more hot pools and salt lakes. We may even take a drive out to the massive Tintaya copper mine. Our first taste of Chile is a short hot one as we then head back over the Andes to Argentina, arriving in Tilcara then moving on for a stay in Salta.
A few nights stay in Salta will refresh everyone. With its beautiful square, comfortable bars and some of the best steak restaurants in the world, Salta is a great base for some rafting, horse riding or a ride on the famous Train to the Clouds. The town has a strong culture of music and dance and it is here where most people begin their love affair with Argentinian Tango. Leaving Salta we head down the Quebrada de Cafayate, seeing the impressive rock formations and arriving in the town of Cafayate itself. Here we can visit some of Argentina's famous vineyards and do a walking tour of some of the smaller bodegas - buying from the variety of quality wines on offer here is most satisfying -after a little tasting, of course. Cafayate's plaza comes to life in the evening with open-air restaurants, wandering donkeys and the colonial buildings creating a festive rural atmosphere. A couple of days driving then brings us to Cordoba where we can relax in the warm city before heading out to stay at an Argentinian ranch, or estancia.
A day horse riding about the estancia with the famous gauchos followed by a tasty parilla and wine is a great day. Our next stop is the city of Mendoza, sitting at the foot of the Andes. The province of Mendoza produces most of Argentina's wine and a vineyard tour here is a must. The town boasts some fine restaurants and has a lively and sophisticated bar and club scene. Leaving Mendoza we head directly up into the Andes, passing the Aconagua volcano, highest peak in the Americas at 6959m,and visiting the strange mineral formation known as Puente del Inka. A rapid descent from the mountain pass brings us into Santiago, Chile's modern and comfortable capital city.
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In order to keep the initial trip cost low we leave most activities as optional. This gives you the flexibility to choose and only pay for exactly what you do.
Included in the TRIP COST are:
- All travel in the truck and use of truck equipment (eg kitchen)
- Services of trip leader
- Truck costs - Diesel, repairs, road tolls, permits, etc
Included in the KITTY are:
- Basic accommodation costs ie: camping or basic shared rooms in hotels/hostels
- Most meals when camping and lunches on driving days
- Ferry costs as a passenger when travelling with the truck
- Amazon jungle lodge stay, El Coca
- Kuelap fortress entry
- Chaparri Wildlife Reserve entry
- Chan Chan city ruins entry
- Temple of the Moon, Trujillo entry
- Wildlife speedboat trip, Ballestas Islands
- Paracas National Reserve entrance
- Colca Canyon entrance, Chivay
- Uros Islands boat visit and Amantani Island family stay
- Laguna Colorada Reserve entry
- Estancia visit, Cordoba
- Guides for group visits
WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED
- Any visas you might need
- Your personal travel insurance
- Your own spending money
- Any medicines and vaccinations
- Most meals when not camping (i.e. restaurant meals)
- Costs of optional activities and visits
- Any flights or other transport
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Here is a list of some of the extra things to do along the way. This list isn't exhaustive, and the prices are the equivalent cost in US dollars last time we were there, so they may change. But this list is still a useful guide for you to use when budgeting for your spending money.
|Thermal baths Papallacta||6|
|White water rafting, Tena||55|
|Wildlife park, Tena||6|
|Climbing Mount Cotopaxi||2500|
|Cotopaxi basecamp walk||free|
|Quilatoa crater walk||free|
|Devil's Nose train ride||18|
|Cuenca panama hat factory visit||free|
|Normal taxi ride (10 mins)||3|
|Punta Sal beach horseriding||10|
|Huaraz - day trip to glacier||15|
|Huacachina dune buggy ride||12|
|Nasca lines flight||50|
|Arequipa climb mount Misti||250|
|Juanita mummy museum Arequipa||18|
|Chivay thermal pools||3|
|Cusco tourist ticket||20|
|Taxi ride 10 mins||2|
|Isla del Sol day trip, Copacobana||9|
|Valle de la Luna trip, La Paz||10|
|Downhill mountainbiking, La Paz||70|
|Cerro Rico mine tour, Potosi||15|
|National Mint tour, Potosi||free|
|Dinosaur Valley, Sucre||7|
|Jeep/Horse/Bike combo day, Tupiza||25|
|Salt Lake day trip, Uyuni||20|
|Train graveyard, Uyuni||free|
|Desert Horseriding, San Pedro||25|
|Swimming Pool (v.nice in baking desert!)||4|
|Mountainbike hire, San Pedro||12|
|Copper Mine Visit||free|
|Villarica Volcano climb, Pucon||75|
|Rafting Pucon (grade 3)||40|
|Jetski hire per hour||40|
|Villarica Park Entrance, Pucon||15|
|Thermal pools entrance, Pucon||8|
|Rafting, Futalefu (grade 4&5)||100|
|Horseriding, Futalefu, half day||20|
|Walk to view hanging glacier, Puyuguapi||free|
|Horseriding, 3 hour Torres del Paine||25|
|Refugio B&B along hiking trails (book in advance)||20|
|Hiking, Torres del Paine||free|
|Vinyard visit, Cafayate||free|
|Vineyard tour, Mendoza||5|
Due to the unpredictable political and environmental conditions in many of the countries we visit it may be necessary to alter the route taken by the trip. In such case we will arrange an alternative route as best possible and cover costs to relocate the truck if necessary, but passengers will be liable for any personal travel costs incurred when away from the truck.
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