Enquire About This Tour Code PDL Peaks to Desert
Duration: 26 Days Route: Lima to Santiago Style: Adventure Tours Price: US$3,629.00
From the high Andes to the world's driest desert, this trip is a different experience every day. You'll discover the ancient Inca Empire, visit the Amazon jungle, stay overnight on Lake Titicaca, drive across Bolivia's great salt lake and travel down the Pacific coast of Chile to Santiago.
The tour that we operate in the reverse direction is Peaks to Desert (PDS).
Tour Dossier Introduction
- Dossier Last Updated: 26-03-2014
- Tour Code: PDL
- Duration: 25 nights / 26 days
- Joining City: Lima
- Departure City: Santiago
- Nearest Joining International Airport: Lima Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM)
- Nearest Departing International Airport: Santiago A Merino Benitez Intl Airport (SCL)
Please check this document just before departing in case of last minute changes to your tour.
Guided tour of Machu Picchu
Guided tour of Sacred Valley of the Incas
Two nights in the Amazon Jungle in Peru
Overnight excursion & homestay on Lake Titicaca
Drive on the Salar de Uyuní salt flats
Entry to Laguna Colorada National Park
Guided tour of the Valley of the Moon
21 nights in hotels, hostels & guesthouses, 2 nights in a Jungle Lodge, 1 nights in homestays, 1 nights on overnight buses
10 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners
Travel by local public bus, boat, taxi, on foot, 4WD, 3 flight(s)
Tucan Travel Tour Leader, English-speaking local guide(s) on excursions
What's not Included
International flights and departure taxes
Domestic flight taxes if applicable
Tips on included excursions, visas, travel insurance, personal items and single rooms.
Airport transfers and pre and post tour accommodation
Spending money – budget for meals, snacks, drinks, limited souvenirs, laundry, tips and any extras
Optional excursions - Please see our optional excursions guide on the dossier page for a comprehensive list of optional activities and excursions available on this tour.
Day 1 to 1 - Arrive Lima
The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre tour accommodation. On arrival please ask at the reception for information on when the pre departure meeting will be held.
Lima was founded by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535 after he eradicated the Incas and made the city his capital. Lima has many fine colonial buildings and some of the best museums in South America including the Gold Museum, Museum of the Inquisition and the Catacombs below the San Francisco Church. Peru's capital has much to offer and many of the sights, including the city's two main squares the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin, are within easy walking distance The Plaza de Armas houses the Cathedral, Municipal Palace and Presidential Palace where the changing of the guard can be seen every day at 12 noon. There are also many markets in Lima, possibly the best being in the central district.
Day 2 to 4 - Cuzco
Our Tucan Travel rep will transfer you to Lima airport from where you'll take a 60 minute flight up into the high Andes over spectacular scenery to the former Inca capital of Cuzco, which means ‘navel of the earth' in the Inca language of Quechua. This enchanting city has a mostly indigenous population of around 300,000 people, and you will be taken on an orientation walk of the city.
The lost city of Machu Picchu (Old Mountain) was originally completely self -contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs. Located high above the fast flowing Urubamba River, the cloud shrouded ruins have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all in a remarkable state of preservation that will simply take your breath away. The ruins were only discovered by the outside world in 1911, when American explorer Hiram Bingham found them while looking for another “lost city” called Vilcabamba. Due to their isolation many of the buildings are still quite intact and you can't help but admire Huayna Picchu (Young Mountain), which towers above the ruins.
A full day is spent visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Firstly we visit the Pisac ruins, perched on a hilltop with incredible views of the snow -capped mountains. We then go down to the famous traditional market of the same name, which is full of colour and atmosphere. A great place for souvenirs! After lunch, we continue along the valley to the temple/fortress of Ollantaytambo with its enormous Inca terracing constructed on the side of a steep mountain.
Included Excursion Guided tour of Sacred Valley of the Incas
Day 5 to 6 - Amazon Jungle
Our Tucan Travel rep will transfer you to the airport for your flight to the jungle community of Puerto Maldonado, the starting point for our visit to the Amazon rainforest.
In Puerto Maldonado you can pick up any last minute drinks or snacks in the busy markets and shops. The first leg of our journey is by bus followed by motorised canoe, a 35 kilometre journey along the river (approx two hours total). The canoes are very safe.
Arriving at the lodge located on the river’s edge, you will be allocated a bungalow all of which are built from local indigenous materials. Each room is sealed by meshed netting to keep out mosquitoes and other insects. All rooms have basic private bathroom facilities. Due to the remoteness of the lodge there is no hot water and drinking water should be purchased. There is also limited electricity so please charge any electrical equipment prior to your arrival. In the evening the lodge and walkways are lit by oil lamps. Other facilities include a welcoming reception area, dining room and bar facilities. All excursions are led by English speaking local guides providing plenty of opportunity to enjoy marvelous jungle landscapes and rich diversity of flora and fauna.
After lunch we will set off on a trek through the rainforest along wooden walk ways. On the way our guide will stop to show you various species of bird and explain the medicinal plants and delicate ecological systems of the Amazon Jungle. The scenery is extremely varied incorporating dense jungle as well as marsh areas. You will see incredibly big trees, several metres in diameter and around 450 years old. There is an opportunity to take a canoe ride drifting along one of the small lakes hidden away in the jungle, observing caiman and the abundant bird life. We then return to the lodge for dinner.
After an early breakfast we hike deeper in to the jungle, enjoying the surroundings and exploring the delights and hidden wonders of the Amazon Rainforest. We may also catch a glimpse of the rare giant otter. Afterwards we will enjoy the view of the lake from our viewing point/observation platform, where you can experience the canopy wildlife such as parrots, guacamayos, toucans, camungos, shanshos, herons, turtles and caiman. We will return to the lodge for a well deserved lunch.
After lunch, we take a short boat trip across the Madre de Dios River to Monkey Island. On the way over you may spot caiman from the boat. Once on the island it is possible to see a great variety of monkeys such as the ‘maquisapa’, black and white ‘Martins’, ‘Leoncito de la Selva’ (Little Lions), ‘Frailes’ (Friars), ‘Achuñis’, ‘Ronsocos’ as well as an array of birdlife. In the evenings it is often possible to enjoy the wonderful sunset, one of the most impressive sights of the forest (weather permitting).
Included Excursion Excursions in to the Amazon Jungle on foot and by boat
Day 7 to 7 - Cuzco
Day 8 to 10 - Puno & Lake Titicaca
Leaving Cuzco, we'll drive along roads abundant with herds of llamas, alpacas and vicuñas before reaching the Altiplano (high plain) where our journey takes us past hot mineral pools, snow capped mountains and through villages where the locals sell food, fur hats and alpaca sweaters. At the highest point, the La Raya pass at 4,321 metres, you can see the research station for high altitude animals.
The beautiful scenery is continual all the way to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which at 3,855 metres above sea level, is the highest navigable lake in the world. We'll arrive in time so you can visit the colourful local market.
The next morning departing Puno for our overnight excursion we visit the floating reed islands in the Bay of Puno to see the Uros islanders way of life and we will have the option to ride in a traditional reed boat before continuing our boat journey to the island of Amantaní. Unlike other islands in the area, Amantaní Island is not manmade or floating but is at high altitude. On arrival, we will be assigned local families to stay with, enjoying the hospitality of the local Aymara/Quechua families, sleeping in their homes, enjoying their food and learning about their way of life. We recommend you purchase gifts for the families at the port of Puno before leaving to offer to the families – they will greatly appreciate this gesture as it is often difficult and expensive for them to acquire goods from the mainland. There is limited/no electricity in the homestays and very basic bathroom facilities. We recommend charging your cameras in Puno.
Tonight you will have the chance to dress up in local costumes and take part in traditional dances and celebrations put on in your honoour on the island. You can also watch the sunset from the top of Amantaní Island for exceptional views and participate in football matches with the local children.
The next morning we visit Taquile Island, where the men stand around knitting distinctive woollen hats while the women work the fields. You can buy some of these unique handicrafts in the local cooperative shops. After lunch we board our boat for the return journey to Puno.
Included Excursion Overnight excursion & homestay on Lake Titicaca
Day 11 to 13 - La Paz
We travel around Lake Titicaca as we make our way towards Bolivia. After crossing the border, we continue to travel across the scenic Altiplano (high plateau) following the shores of Lake Titicaca. As we continue our journey we have breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains as the road winds its way into La Paz, the highest capital city in the world at 3,636 metres.
Built on a series of hills and considered one of the world's most beautiful cities, La Paz was established in the basin of a canyon with the snow -capped Mount Illimani in the background. Our hotel is very centrally located and is just around the corner from the city's colourful indigenous street markets including the fascinating and suitably named "witches market'' where bowler hat wearing women in their flared skirts sell such items as dead cats and llamas foetuses said to ward off evil spirits. The main square, Plaza Murillo, is also within walking distance. The square still retains its colonial buildings including the Presidential Palace. La Paz is possibly the best place to experience a traditional peña show of Andean music and dance where local bands play time -honoured instruments such as zampoñas (pipes) and charangos (ukulele).
There are also many optional excursions available. You might like to visit the Moon Valley with its strange rock formations shaped by the weather. Another fantastic excursion is to the emerald green area of Coroico, the gateway to the Bolivian jungle region and a great place to see sub -tropical vegetation and plants. En route you will cross a 5,000 metre high pass before descending to 1,300 metres on narrow mountain roads bordered by sheer drops. The excursion to Coroico can also be done by mountain bike, as it is downhill nearly all the way and very exhilarating, but not for the fainthearted!
Optional Excursions: City tour • Moon Valley • Death Road mountain biking • Urban Rush
Day 14 to 15 - Potosí
Travelling along scenic passes by public bus we come to the mining town of Potosí. The city was established by the Spanish in 1545 soon after the discovery of a rich vein of silver in a nearby hill, the Cerro Rico (or “rich hill”). It soon became the world's largest silver producer and silver from Potosí underwrote the Spanish economy, particularly the monarchy's extravagance, for over two centuries. In Spanish there is still a saying ‘valer un potosí’ (to be worth a fortune).
Millions of the indigenous population, and later, African slaves, worked in the mines in appalling conditions. You have the option to visit the mines, stopping first at the miners market to buy gifts such as coca leaves, dynamite and cigarettes. In the mines we will experience the difficult conditions in which the miners work - including 50°C heat. We'll pass several of the shrines they have made to the “Tios” which they hope will protect them while they are working in what they believe is the devil's territory. If you'd like to learn more of the historic silver industry you can take a tour of the Moneda, a museum exhibiting coins, artwork, mummies and many other interesting artefacts from Potosí's history
Optional Excursions: Silver Mines • City tour • Hot Springs • The Museo de la Moneda • The Mint
Day 16 to 18 - Uyuní
Moving on we reach the desolate town of Uyuní in the south of Bolivia. After a night in the town, we visit what is claimed to be the largest salt flat in the world, the brilliant white vast Salar de Uyuní. Travelling by 4WD vehicles we will spend two days exploring the salt lake and surrounds. First on the agenda is a visit to the Train Cemetery, where you can see the remains of 19th and early 20th century steam locomotives - a good place for artistic photographs. We will then come to Colchani, the main plant for the iodisation of salt and the best place to observe the methods of salt extraction from the salar. Here ovens are used to dry the salt, which is then formed into cakes. The highlight of the day is Fish Island (seasonal). Located in the centre of the salar, 100 kilometres from Uyuní, this hilly outpost is covered in giant cacti amid a flat, white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. The island is so named because it has the shape of a fish. Visiting Fish Island is quite otherworldly and the fantastic contrast of the brilliant blue sky (weather permitting of course) and the pure white of the salt flats will take your breath away. We spent the first night in a hotel made of salt.
Following breakfast we head for the Red Lagoon (Laguna Colorada). We pass through the Siloli Desert where we encounter spectacular landscapes with multicoloured volcanic rock formations and stop at other lagoons en route. Covering an area of 60 square kilometres, the lagoon has a rich red colouration derived from algae and plankton which thrive in its minerals. The shoreline is fringed with brilliant white deposits of sodium, magnesium, borax and gypsum and the lagoon is inhabited by numerous flamingos, three unique species of which breed there.
The following day we drive through the desert to see some spectacular mountains and lagoons filled with pink flamingos, ducks and other birds. We'll have plenty of stops for photos and our driver and guide will provide a wealth of knowledge about the wildlife, geology and history of the flats. The night is spent in basic accommodation. It can get very cold at night so wrap up warm.
Please Note: Occasionally in the rainy season the salt flats become overly flooded and we may have to alter the itinerary if the salt flats are not safe to traverse.
Day 19 to 22 - San Pedro de Atacama
Travelling by 4WD vehicles we head up into the high Andes and come to Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) rich in lead, sulphur and calcium carbonate and shadowed by the cone of the Licancabur Volcano. After crossing a 5,000 metre pass there lays a geyser basin with bubbling mud pots, hellish fumaroles and a thick aroma of sulphur fumes. Inside a small crater we observe boiling lava and we also stop at hot springs where you can bathe. We visit the volcanic zone ‘Sol de Mañana' (Morning Sun) at 4,850 metres above sea level, followed by the Red Lagoon (Laguna Colorada), covering an area of 60 square kilometres, the lagoon has a rich red colouration derived from algae and plankton which thrive in its mineral waters. The shoreline is fringed with brilliant white deposits of sodium, magnesium, borax and gypsum and the lagoon is inhabited by numerous flamingos, three unique species of which breed there.
Leaving Laguna Colorada we visit the volcanic zone ‘Sol de Mañana' (Morning Sun) at 4,850 metres above sea level. Here you'll discover a geyser basin with bubbling mud pots, hellish fumaroles and a thick aroma of sulphur fumes. Inside a small crater we will observe boiling lava and we will also stop at hot springs where you can bathe. Crossing a 5,000 metre pass we come to Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) rich in lead, sulphur and calcium carbonate and shadowed by the cone of the Licancabur Volcano. Continuing on we will cross into Chile and come to San Pedro de Atacama in the world's driest desert. The area is famous for its lunar landscapes, geysers, salt flats and hot springs. There is an excellent archaeological museum at San Pedro de Atacama, housing a good selection of mummies and other ancient artefacts. Here we have the included visit to the eerie eroded salt mountains of the Valley of the Moon.
Day 23 to 24 - La Serena
We catch an overnight bus to La Serena, a pleasant little coastal town and important astronomical centre. Here you can laze around on the long beach, visit the interesting town or stroll to neighbouring Coquimbo along the bay. There are also optional excursions to the Elqui Valley the home of Chilean Pisco and also an optional excursion to one of the many Observatories to get a bird’s eye view of the night sky.
Day 25 to 25 - Santiago
Entering the fertile region of the Chilean heartlands we pass farmlands and vineyards on the way to our final stop, the European-style capital Santiago.
Pedro de Valdivia established the city in 1541 but not much remains of its original glory. At Santa Lucia Hill where the original fortress was constructed, there are excellent views of the city below. However, for even better photo opportunities, take a funicular railway to the top of San Cristobal where the Statue of the Virgin overlooks the capital and the distant Andes. At this very pleasant viewing area you'll find wine -tasting facilities and a couple of beautifully situated swimming pools. Santiago is a very clean modern city with fountains, parks and imposing buildings. In the Plaza Constitución at the Palacio de la Moneda you can see the changing of the guard on most days or you can take an optional excursion to the port of Valparaiso and the resort of Viña del Mar.
Day 26 to 26 - Depart Santiago
Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.
This itinerary is a guide. Changes may be made before or during your tour to improve the running or due to unforseen circumstances.
This is an Adventure Tour. We see a destination from the locals' perspective using a variety of transport and staying in small locally owned accommodation. There is a maximum of 16 travellers with an average group size of 8-12.
We have a detailed packing list for all of our Adventure Tours here.
On all of our Adventure Tours, you will be required to carry your luggage long distances down unpaved and uneven roads or up flights of stairs when elevators are not available. It is important that you choose a durable and lightweight soft bag that you can carry comfortably on your back.
You will also need a small daypack, large enough to carry everything you might need on overnight excursions.
Add-ons & Extras
On many of our Group Tours, we spend one night in our arrival and departure cities. If you want to explore these cities more we can book pre and post tour accommodation, city tours and airport transfers for you. Price information can be found on the price page of each tour. We also have Add-ons - short packages that can be booked alongside a tour or on their own and have been carefully designed to ensure you don't miss out on popular highlights.
All our Adventure Tours are priced per person on a shared room basis meaning there is no compulsory extra payment for those travelling on their own.
I'd like my own room
If you are a solo traveller, a single room is available on most occasions at an extra cost. Price information can be found on the price page of each tour.
Day by Day Itinerary
|Day 5||Amazon Jungle||LD|
|Day 6||Amazon Jungle||BLD|
|Day 9||Lake Titicaca||LD|
|Day 11||La Paz||Bolivia||✓|
|Day 12||La Paz||✓|
|Day 13||La Paz||✓|
|Day 17||Salar de Uyuní||LD|
|Day 18||Entry to Laguna Colorada National Park||BLD|
|Day 19||San Pedro de Atacama||Chile||B||✓|
|Day 20||San Pedro de Atacama||B||✓|
|Day 21||San Pedro de Atacama||B||✓|
|Day 22||Overnight Bus to La Serena||B|
|Day 23||La Serena||✓|
|Day 24||La Serena||B||✓|
(B - Breakfast, L - Lunch, D - Dinner included)
Please note the day to day itinerary above is given as a GUIDELINE ONLY.
For tours that include the option of a single supplement, a ✔ will indicate in which destinations single rooms are available.