WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
Day 1-4: Quito
Arrive in Quito. This beautiful city has flourished from the ruins of an Incan stronghold and is a focal point of South American culture, providing a heady mix of cosmopolitan contemporary and ancient influences. Steeped in the pervasive history of the region, the city is diverse and complex; fiesta bars oozing Latin spirit rub shoulders with 500-year-old cathedrals and the elaborate Basilica, an ancient church studded with gargoyles, stained glass and intricately carved doors.
During your four days in Quito, you will also have the opportunity to take day trips into the surrounding region, including the market town of Otovalo, home to many Otovalo Indians who proudly maintain the handicrafts and traditional cuisine of their indigenous ancestors. Stand on the middle of the world with a visit to Mitad del Mundo, another favourite on the backpacker's map, where you can watch circus performers, street entertainers and enjoy a delicious ice cream as you admire the stunning views.
Day 4-8: Riobamba
Next, travel by train down to Riobamba, either in the comfort of your seat or braving a moment perched on the roof with the locals, bathing in the sun as you see Ecuador's beautiful countryside skip past you. Riobamba itself is evocative of an old magical land, with its countryside abundant in cactus and an arid beauty, and the town a wealth of Indian markets and pre-colonial architecture. A day spent trekking and absorbing the breathtaking scenery of the mountains of the region also awaits you here, as well as a visit to lovely Banos where you can chill out surrounded by pastel coloured tree lined avenues, swim in the waterfalls there and soak up the Ecuadorian vibe.
Day 9-10: Cuenca & Montenita
Cuenca provides the perfect chance to drink in the ambience of a bustling South American town. Here you will find cathedrals, museums, sulphur baths where you can enjoy an outdoor spa experience, a myriad of unique souvenirs and colourful daily markets where you can see textiles, pottery, clothes and animals. After Cuenca, relax and soak up the luscious sunshine on Montenitas perfect, unspoilt beach as you enjoy the staggering scenery all around you. Having enjoyed the enchanting atmosphere of these typical Ecuadorian towns, you bid Ecuador farewell as you venture deeper into Inca territory, visiting first the Podocarpus National Park for a spot of waterfall swimming before crossing the border into neighbouring Peru.
Day 11-14: Lima
After travelling past huge tracts of gorgeous scenery by bus, arrive in Lima, the Peruvian hub. Explore the city by local bus, visiting the palace, museums, bars, cafes and even the beach! Next you will head to the charming town of Cusco, to begin your adventure into the ancient Incan heartland – Machu Picchu.
Day 14-18: Machu Picchu
Drive though amazing valleys filled with lush green vegetation, passing occasional ancient stone ruins as you appreciate the overwhelming majesty of your surroundings. Transfer on to your bikes and cycle along the ancient paved roads absorbing spectacular vistas. Ride beneath waterfalls and past small villages; take an occasional ride in the support truck which brings up the luggage. The climb is hard but the scenery is extraordinary. At Santa Maria transfer back on to the bus for the final leg to the hostel in Santa Teresa.
The following morning set out on a walk through the valley en route to the charming hot spring town of Agua Caliente. In the evening relax and unwind in the thermal baths before settling down for an early night in preparation for the 4am rise the next morning.
Before dawn you will begin the tough but awe inspiring ascent up the hillside steps towards Machu Picchu, finally arriving at dawn to discover this perfectly preserved Inca city from thousands of years ago – the crowning glory of a proud people. Experience a guided tour that will give you a new perspective on all you see. The final climb is exhausting but gives an amazing sense of achievement.
After Machu Picchu you will head to Bolivia, a country which provides a window into ancient South American culture having the highest proportion of indigenous people anywhere on the continent. En route you will stop off at Puno, where you can soak up the city’s thriving traditional arts scene – particularly the dramatic and unique dancing performances that have persisted for generations.
Day 20-23: Copacabana, Coroico & La Paz
Next you will travel on to the Bolivian border, where you will discover Lake Titicaca, a vast dreamlike lake surrounded by a ring of mountains that seem to reach the sky. Travel from Copacabana into the lake where you will visit the floating islands, one of which is home to a community who has existed there for a thousand years. A day excursion to Coroico, a picturesque mountain village known for being a traveller's mecca and hippy magnet thanks to the chilled out vibe and the legendary reggae bar! After this you travel on to La Paz, the highest city in the world and a must-see destination.
Day 24-25: Uyuni & Salt Flats
Basing yourselves in Uyuni, you will explore the otherworldly expanses of the salt flats, which have to be seen to be believed. The landscape appears to melt into the sky, and is punctuated only by strange weathered and deserted churches and vegetation that has evolved to endure the extremely salty conditions! You will traverse the salt pans in a jeep – stopping to take some very memorable photos.
Day 26-28: Uyuni & La Paz
Pick up some last minute souvenirs in Uyuni, then travel to La Paz, where you can explore this fascinating city before flying home.*
*This itinerary is subject to change and is intended as a guide only.