Enquire About This Tour Code COS Conquistador
Duration: 35 Days Route: Santiago to Lima Style: Adventure Tours Price: US$5,689.00
Following the footsteps of the Spanish conquerors we travel through bountiful winelands and parched deserts of Chile, see the striking landscapes of Bolivia and finish up in the Inca heart of Peru. Never straying far from the mighty Andes, there are many highlights including breathtaking canyons, magnificent Inca ruins, the intensity of the Amazon jungle, one of the world's most arid deserts and the hospitality of the local people.
The tour that we operate in the reverse direction is Conquistador (COL).
Day 1 to 1 - Arrive Santiago
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.
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.
Optional Excursions: Museo Histórico Nacional – US$1 • Teatro Municipal, with daily shows ranging from opera, ballet, orchestras and concerts – from US$3-12 • Maipo region winery tours – US$18-50
Day 2 to 4 - La Serena
The drive north takes us to La Serena, a pleasant coastal town founded in 1544. The surrounding district is one of the most important astronomical centres on earth, with observatories dotted among the hills. While in La Serena you can laze around on the long beach, visit the interesting town or stroll to neighbouring Coquimbo along the bay. There is also an optional excursion to the Elqui Valley the home of Chilean Pisco. In the evening enjoy a barbeque and visit the nearby casino (optional). From La Serena we take an overnight bus to San Pedro de Atacama.
Optional Excursions: Archaeological Museum – US$1 • Parque Jardín El Corazón – US$1 • Museo Mineralógico Ignacio Domeyko – US$1
Day 5 to 7 - San Pedro de Atacama
We cross over the Tropic of Capricorn as we make our way to Calama in the heart of arid Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world (it hasn't rained for over 250 years). The modern town of Calama is a former staging post on the silver route from Potosí and now Chile's major copper mining base.
A short drive further into the desert to San Pedro de Atacama, where 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 ancient artefacts. Here we have the included visit to the eerie eroded salt mountains of the Valley of the Moon.
Included Excursions: Entry to Laguna Colorada National Park • Guided tour of the Valley of the Moon
Day 8 to 10 - Uyuni
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.
We now pass through the Siloli Desert, encountering spectacular landscapes with multicoloured volcanic rock formations and stop at other lagoons en route. In the afternoon we continue to San Juan near the Bolivian border where we will spend the night.
Crossing into Bolivia we visit what is claimed to be the largest salt flat in the world, the brilliant white vast Salar de Uyuní. We spend the day exploring the salt lake and surrounds. Firstly we will visit Fish Island (seasonal dependent), so named because it has the shape of a fish. Located in the centre of the salar, 100 kilometres from the town of Uyuní, this hilly outpost is covered in giant cacti amid a flat, white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. 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 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. Lastly we make 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. Moving on we reach the desolate town of Uyuní in the south of Bolivia.
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.
Included Excursions: Visit the Salar de Uyuní Salt Flats
Day 11 to 11 - Potosí
Travelling further into Bolivia 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 (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. Millions of indigenous South Americans, 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 mine tour – US$15 • City tour – US$13 • Hot springs – US$11
Day 12 to 15 - La Paz
We travel by comfortable overnight bus through the beautiful landscapes of the Altiplano to La Paz. Built in a steep valley that protects the city from the harsh elements of the Altiplano, just about every building in La Paz is built on some sort of hill, so sightseeing will literally take your breath away! You will have just one day to explore this bustling city, so we recommend taking a Red Caps walking tour to see as much of the city as possible in the time available to you. 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 local women in traditional 'Cholita' dress 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 to local bands playing time-honoured instruments such as zampoñas (pipes) and charangos (the ukulele).
Optional Excursions: Red Caps walking tours – free (tips appreciated) • The World's Most Dangerous Road Mountain Biking – US$107
Day 16 to 18 - Puno & Lake Titicaca
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 honour 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 Excursions: Overnight Excursion & Homestay on Lake Titicaca
Day 19 to 19 - Cuzco
Leaving Puno we first pass through the bustling town of Juliaca, before travelling along roads abundant with herds of llamas, alpacas and vicuñas until we reach the highest point, the La Raya pass at 4,321 metres. From here you can see the research station for high altitude animals, past hot mineral pools, snow capped mountains and through villages where the indigenous locals sell food, fur hats and alpaca sweaters. We arrive in legendary Cuzco, where your tour leader will take you on an orientation walking tour of this ancient Inca capital.
Day 20 to 21 - 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 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 Excursions: Excursions in to the Amazon Jungle on foot and by boat
Day 22 to 23 - Cuzco
On the final day we awake to the sounds of the jungle before departing this jungle haven and returning to Puerto Maldonado for our flight on to Cuzco, where you have the rest of the day free to explore this fascinating ancient capital. Before embarking on the Inca Trail Trek we will have a briefing to prepare for the next few days and an early departure the following morning.
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 Excursions: Guided Tour of Sacred Valley of the Incas
Day 24 to 26 - Inca Trail Trek
During your hike of the Inca Trail you will cross spectacular passes and visit more Inca ruins en-route to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. A local guide will lead this expedition and there will be cooks and porters to carry the main equipment, leaving you with just a small daypack. The trek begins after a short bus journey and the first day is a relatively easy 4½ hour 13 kilometre walk which will get you limbered up for the highest pass at Warmiwañusca (4,200 metres) which you will reach before lunchtime on Day two (and which translates to “Dead Woman's Pass”!). During Day two you will cover approximately nine kilometres in about 5-7 hours and after the high pass it's all down hill as the trail winds its way along old Inca stairs to our campsite. On Day three we pass the ruins of Runkurakay, Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca, walking approximately 15 kilometres in seven hours.
The last morning, after an overnight stop at Wiñay-Wayna, you will rise early for the final walk to Machu Picchu and greet daybreak over the famous “Sun Gate”. There will then be time to explore on your own or simply take in the magnificence of the place after your guided tour.
The Lost City of Machu Picchu 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. After spending most of the day at Machu Picchu you have the chance to soak your tired muscles in the hot springs at Aguas Calientes or meander through the markets before returning to Cuzco by train.
Due to a limited number of people being allowed on the trail a day, permits are limited and can sell out far in advance. If you wish to book the Inca Trail, please provide your Reservations Agent with your passport details by email as soon as possible so that we can secure your permit. Without your passport details, we are unable to arrange your Inca Trail Trek. Please click here for more information. For information on the Lares Trek, click here. If you are not participating in either trek then you will visit Machu Picchu by train and have plenty of free time to enjoy the activities available in and around Cuzco.
Included Excursions: Permits and Guided three day hike on the Inca Trail • Guided Tour of Machu Picchu
Day 27 to 28 - Cuzco
Cuzco, which means ‘navel of the earth' in the Inca language of Quechua, has a mostly indigenous population of around 300,000 and is centred around the Plaza de Armas, which is dominated by the Cathedral and La Compañia de Jesus Church. Its cloistered arcades house many fine restaurants, bars and shops. Make the most of your free days in Cuzco to explore its amazing churches, colonial buildings and picturesque streets, many of which have Inca walls, arches and doorways. On a hill overlooking the city stands the ceremonial fortress of Sacsayhuaman, where some of the most spectacular Inca walls can be found, including a massive 130 ton stone. There are also many optional excursions and activities available such as white water rafting, horse riding, mountain biking and canoeing on offer.
Optional Excursions: Cuzco Visitor Ticket, this gives access to most museums and monuments – US$45 • Salt Terraces Maras Moray – US$30 • Massages – US$25/hr • City tour – US$25
Day 29 to 31 - Arequipa & the Colca Canyon
After a short flight to Arequipa we have much of the day free to explore this beautiful colonial city. Arequipa has a lovely central plaza dominated by a large cathedral. There are some fantastic restaurants in Arequipa and it is possible to enjoy many Peruvian delicacies here. Besides the stimulating architecture, one of the the main attractions is the Santa Catalina Convent, which is almost a city in itself with its maze of cobbled streets, cloisters and decorative buildings. Don't miss the nuns' café for excellent freshly baked treats! Another popular attraction is the acclaimed Museo Santury (also known as the Museo Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria) which houses many well preserved mummies. The most famous of the mummies is Juanita, a young Inca maiden who was sacrificed around the year AD 1450 atop the Nevado Ampato volcano to appease the gods and ask for a good harvest. Juanita was sacrificed then frozen by snowfall at the top of the mountain, hence her nickname ‘ice princess’. She was rediscovered in the 1990s when ash from the volcano melted the snow around her.
Now we visit the nearby Colca Canyon, said to be one of the deepest in the world. En route we travel into the high, barren Andean landscape, passing through ghost towns destroyed by earthquakes while learning about the local fauna and flora of the region. After checking in to our hotel in Chivay, we can go for a walk to the entrance of the canyon. Later in the day we may possibly visit the nearby hot springs for a relaxing soak.
Early the following morning travel to the Cruz del Condor (Condor's Cross) lookout point in search of the giant condors soaring out of the canyon on thermal currents. Afterwards we walk along the canyon's edge and then stop for lunch on the way back to Arequipa. Later that day we travel by overnight bus to Nazca.
Included Excursions: Entrance to & Guided Tour of the Colca Canyon
Optional Excursions: City tour – US$12 • Monastery of Santa Catalina – US$15 • Museo Santuarios Andinas, where you can see the frozen Inca ice mummy princess ‘Juanita’ – US$8 • Plaza de Armas and churches – free
Day 32 to 32 - Nazca
Nazca, an oasis town is famous for the strange parallel lines and geometrical figures etched into the desert floor. Although there is a viewing tower, these strange designs can only be fully appreciated from the air. You can take a fascinating flight (optional) over the lines and shapes, which include a monkey, hummingbird, condor, spider and even a spaceman. The designs are thought to have been made by three different groups of people: the Paracas (900 -200 BC), the Nazca (200BC -600AD) and then new migrants from Ayacucho around 630AD. You can also take optional tours to visit the underground aqueducts, gold mines and ceramic shops. We'll have a chance to visit the extraordinary Chauchilla Cemetery where you can see the ancient mummies which still have skin and hair intact.
Optional Excursions: Scenic flight over Nazca Lines – US$110 + S/25 tax • Planetarium show & lecture – US$20 • Chauchilla Cemetery – US$15
Day 33 to 33 - Pisco
Next we head deep into the desert towards the Huacachina oasis where you have the chance to try your hand sand boarding down the enormous sand dunes, which is a lot of fun, but be careful, they are very steep! The brave can go for a dip in the murky lagoon, which is said to contain therapeutic properties.
We then travel to the Atlantic coast to the town of Pisco, from where the Peruvian national drink, the pisco sour gets its name. The following morning we move along the coast to neighbouring Paracas where we take a motorboat out to explore the Ballestas Islands. The islands, sometimes known as the ‘poor man's Galapagos', are teeming with over 150 species of bird life (including penguins, cormorants, boobies and pelicans). The islands are also home to thousands of sea lions and boast some amazing rock formations. Although it is not possible to set foot on the islands, you will experience the magnificent sight and sounds of the vast array of wildlife and maybe even spot seals and dolphins playing around the boat. Our boat trip also takes us past the mysterious Candelabra figure etched on the side of a mountain. Best viewed from the sea, many believe the Candelabra is linked to the Nazca Lines.
Included Excursions: A Boat Tour of the Ballestas Islands
Day 34 to 34 - Lima
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.
Optional Excursions: Museum Inquisition – free • Monastery and Catacombs – US$3 guided tour • Plaza San Martin, one of the largest and most impressive squares • Paragliding – US$60
Day 35 to 35 - Depart Lima
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.
Day by Day Itinerary
|Day 2||La Serena|
|Day 3||La Serena||B|
|Day 4||Overnight Bus to San Pedro de Atacama||B|
|Day 5||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Day 6||San Pedro de Atacama||B|
|Day 7||San Pedro de Atacama||B|
|Day 8||Salar de Uyuní||Bolivia||BLD|
|Day 9||Entry to Laguna Colorada National Park||BLD|
|Day 12||Overnight Bus to La Paz|
|Day 13||La Paz|
|Day 14||La Paz|
|Day 15||La Paz|
|Day 17||Lake Titicaca||LD|
|Day 20||Amazon Jungle||LD|
|Day 21||Amazon Jungle||BLD|
|Day 24||Inca Trail Trek||LD|
|Day 25||Inca Trail Trek||BLD|
|Day 26||Inca Trail Trek||BLD|
|Day 30||Colca Canyon|
|Day 31||Overnight Bus to Nazca|
(B - Breakfast, L - Lunch, D - Dinner included)
For tours that include the option of a single supplement, a ✔ will indicate in which destinations single rooms are available. The detailed and day by day itineraries above are provided in good faith and it is our intention to adhere to the published route. Changes may be made before or during your tour for operational or safety reasons or to incorporate improvements. Impromptu changes may also occur whilst you are travelling as a result of one-off circumstances such as an excursion being closed on a particular day, weather conditions or transport. Delays are rare but occur occasionally and for this reason and the reasons above this itinerary should be considered as a guide only. Published transport times are approximations and may vary depending on local conditions.