Enquire About This Tour Code BXPA1 Southern Cross
Duration: 49 Days Route: Lima to Rio de Janeiro Style: Budget Expeditions (18-35s) Price: US$3,169.00
From the pristine peaks of the Andes to the world's most famous beach city, and from one coast to another, this is an epic adventure if ever there was one! We'll take you through the ancient Inca Empire, across the Chaco of northern Argentina, up to the Iguazú Falls and Pantanal wetlands, and then we'll culminate on the coast of Brazil for the world's best party. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, you'll be immersed in the Latino way of life every step of the way.
The tour that we operate in the reverse direction is Southern Cross (BXAP1).
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. Now the fifth largest city in Latin America, Lima is home to around one-third of the country’s population.
The Historic centre of Lima is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the city 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 plenty 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 of your hotel.
Lima offers an ample range of restaurants and bars where local as well as international cuisine is served – the city is known as the gastronomic capital of the Americas. A nice spot to head out at night for a meal is Miraflores on the coast.
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 2 to 2 - Huacachina
Leaving Lima, a short drive south along the Pacific coast brings us to Paracas, where upon arrival we will have the option to go by speedboat to explore the Ballestas Islands, passing the unusual ‘Candelabra', a giant design carved into a desert hill, along the way. On and around these celebrated islands you'll see thousands of sea lions plus many varieties of aquatic birds. Continuing on, we stopover at spectacular Huacachina, a desert oasis surrounded by massive sand-dunes. You’ll have the option to do an overnight excursion into the desert, sleeping under the stars. This also incorporates the chance to take an awesome ride in dune-buggies, an unreal way to spend the afternoon and night. Tonight is a good time for a Pisco sour party!
Approximate Driving Time:Nine hours
Optional Excursions: Ballestas Islands – US$13 • Overnight dune buggy trip – US$50 (overnight) US$18 (two hours)
Day 3 to 3 - Nazca
We continue south along the famous Pan American highway, travelling further inland to Nazca, renowned for the mysterious parallel lines and geometrical figures etched into the desert floor. Here you can take a flight in a light aircraft to see the ‘monkey', ‘hummingbird', ‘condor', ‘spider' and even what appears to be a spaceman. There are many more designs to be seen on this 30-minute flight. To this day no one is entirely sure why they are there.
Approximate Driving Time:Four hours
Optional Excursions: Scenic flight over Nazca Lines – US$110 + S/25 tax • Planetarium show & lecture – US$20
Day 4 to 4 - Puerto Inca
As we head out of Nazca we will visit the bizarre Chauchilla Cemetery where you'll see ancient mummies, some with hair and even skin intact after thousands of years.
Heading back along the coast our journey takes us to Puerto Inca, the Inca's original fishing port, which was only rediscovered in the 1950s. Tonight we camp by the beach just down from the actual ruins.
Approximate Driving Time: Six Hours
Optional Excursion: Chauchilla Cemetery – US$2
Day 5 to 7 - Arequipa & Optional Colca Canyon
Arequipa is located 2,380 metres above sea level and dominated by the conical snow-capped El Misti volcano. Although an earthquake in 2001 damaged the cathedral, it has not diminished any of the splendour of this charming square. One of the ‘must see’ attractions here is the vast Santa Catalina Convent (optional), a maze of cobbled streets, cloisters and other decorative buildings, it has only been open to the public since 1970 and it is certainly well worth visiting.
Another popular attraction is the acclaimed ‘Museo Santuarios Andinos’, which highlights well preserved mummies including the famous ‘Ice Princess Juanita’ - a young Inca maiden who was sacrificed some 500 years ago atop the Nevado Ampato volcano. You can enjoy a free day in Arequipa to explore these sights, and more, at your own leisure.
From Arequipa you have the option for an overnight visit to the Colca Canyon. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, it is the world's second deepest. From the lookout point at Cruz del Condor you can see the river flowing 1,200 metres below and from this vantage point have a good chance of seeing condors as they soar out of the canyon on the hot thermal currents.
If you choose not to travel out to the Colca Canyon you can while away your time in Arequipa.
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive
Optional Excursions: Colca Canyon overnight excursion – US$60 + $22 park entrance • City tour – US$12 • Monastery of Santa Catalina – US$10• Museo Santuarios Andinas, where you can see the frozen Inca ice mummy princess ‘Juanita’ – US$5 • Plaza de Armas and churches – free
Day 8 to 8 - Cuzco
The landscape gradually becomes greener as we get closer 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 275,000 and is centred on the Plaza de Armas, which is dominated by the cathedral and La Compañia de Jesus church. Nowadays, Cuzco is also legendary for its party atmosphere and brilliant nightlife and is jam-packed with arcades housing many fine restaurants, bars and shops.
Cuzco is our base for the next eight days for some really special optional excursions, including the challenging four-day Inca Trail trek and Jungle excursion both of which must be requested at the time of booking your tour. We have plenty of time here to squeeze in both of these excursions and more, or if you prefer, to relax and absorb the great atmosphere of such a cultural and friendly place.
Some of the optional excursions available include full-day trip through the Sacred Valley of the Incas which visits the Pisac ruins perched on a hill high in the mountains and the famous local market of the same name, in the valley below. This is a great place to buy textiles, pottery and jewellery, not to mention the delicious empanadas (pasties) at the famous bakery. After spending time here, we move down the valley to the temple fortress of Ollantaytambo, with its enormous terraces climbing up the hillside (you'll need your visitor's ticket again).
Optional Excursions: Cuzco Visitor Ticket, this gives access to most museums and monuments – US$22 • 10-Day Cuzco Visitor Ticket- US$42 • Massages – US$25/hr • City tour – US$25 but included free in visitor ticket option • Chocolate making course - US$22
Day 9 to 12 - Optional Amazon Jungle
Covering the greatest area of South America, the Amazon Jungle is a must see part of your trip. If you wish to take part in this excursion, please inform your reservations consultant at the time of booking as this excursion has to be arranged in advance.
You will take a quick flight from Cuzco, deep in to the jungle to Puerto Maldonado where you will board canoes to take you further in to the canopy. Checking in to your jungle hut, it is not long before you are out exploring the trails with a trained guide. Your guide will help you identify some species endemic to the jungle with Peru's Amazon Jungle being home to some of the most diverse wildlife. You will journey out to Monkey Island where monkeys are rescued and rehabilitated, cared for by the jungle lodge. You will also have a chance to swim in nearby lakes.
Optional Excursions: Amazon Jungle excursion – US$699 or equivalent in your currency (must be booked in advance)
Day 13 to 15 - Optional Inca Trail Trek
If you have chosen to hike 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 four-and-a-half hour, 13-kilometre walk which will get you limbered up for the highest pass at Warmiwañusca (4,200 metres) that you will reach before lunchtime on the second day (Warmiwañusca translates as “Dead Woman's Pass”). During the second day you will cover approximately nine kilometres in about five to seven hours and after the high pass it's all down hill as the trail winds its way down old Inca stairs to our campsite. On the third day we pass the ruins of Runkurakay, Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca, walking approximately 15 kilometres in seven hours. On 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 such a remarkable state of preservation that will simply take your breath away.
The ruins were only uncovered 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 relatively intact and you can't help but admire Huayna Picchu or ‘Young Mountain’ (Machu Picchu means ‘Old 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.
Optional Excursions: Inca Trail trek or Lares Valley trek • Train to Machu Picchu overnight excursion – US$379 (these activities must be booked in advance, please check prices with a member of our team)
Day 16 to 16 - Cuzco
After an action packed few days, return to Cuzco for the night and celebrate reaching Machu Picchu.
Day 17 to 19 - Puno & Optional Lake Titicaca
From Puno you have the chance to take an excursion to the islands of Amantaní and Taquile. On Amantaní we arrange home-stay accommodation with local Quechua families and you will have the chance to eat with the family, perhaps enjoy a party and dancing and maybe play football with the local children. The next morning you'll visit Taquile Island where the people live in simple adobe huts. You will also visit the astounding floating reed islands in the Bay of Puno, to see the first-hand the indigenous Uros’ way of life and ride in a traditional reed boat. Continuing back to Puno, you'll arrive in time to visit the colourful markets. That night back in Puno, you can try some of the local dishes; guinea pig, llama or some of the trout or kingfish from the lake and maybe check out some of the nightlife.
Should you choose to not visit the islands of Lake Titicaca you will have time to relax in Puno.
Optional Excursions: Lake Titicaca & Uros Islands overnight excursion – US$45 + lunch US$8
Day 20 to 22 - La Paz
La Paz is built in the basin of a spectacular ancient crater caused by a meteorite, with the snow-capped Illimani in the background. At an altitude of 3,660 metres, the city is said to host the highest football stadium in the world.
The city has colourful indigenous street markets including the ‘witches market' where women in flared skirts sell, amongst other things, dead cats and llama foetuses which are placed under new buildings in a bid to keep evil spirits away. The main square, Plaza Murillo, is where many years ago a president of the republic was lynched from a lamppost. La Paz is one of the best places to see a traditional peña show of Andean music and dance where local musicians play their time-honoured instruments such as zampoñas (pipes) and charangos (ukulele).
There are plenty of excursions available in La Paz. Check out the Moon Valley with its strange rock formations shaped by the weather. Another fantastic excursion is to 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 beware, colloquially known as ‘Death Road’, it is not at all for the fainthearted and great care must be taken!
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive
Optional Excursions: Red Caps walking tours – free (tips appreciated) • Death Road Mountain Biking – US$107
Day 23 to 24 - Potosí
We now travel across the Altiplano to Potosí, the highest city of its size on Earth at 4,070 metres, with a population of 110,000 people. The history of Potosí, its fame and splendour, as well as its tragedy and horror, is closely linked to silver. The city was founded in 1545 soon after the discovery of silver in a nearby hill, the Cerro Rico (or Rich Hill). The veins proved to be so prolific that they quickly became known as the world’s richest source of the precious metal. Silver from Potosí underwrote the Spanish economy, particularly its monarchy's extravagance, for over two centuries. Millions of indigenous people, and later, African slaves, were made to work in the mines where conditions were so appalling and dangerous that miners died in horrific numbers, either in accidents or from silicosis pneumonia. During the three centuries of colonial rule, it is estimated that eight million Africans and locals died in the Potosí mines. Reminders of the grand colonial city are still evident in the narrow streets, formal balconied mansions and ornate churches. We offer you the opportunity to visit one of the mines (optional) where you will learn from first-hand experience some of the hardship that miners still suffer. You soon realise that the mines are worked today in much the same way as they were under Spanish rule.
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive
Optional Excursions: Silver mine tour – US$15 • City tour – US$13 • Hot springs – US$15
Day 25 to 26 - Uyuní
Travelling on we head north to the desolate town of Uyuní, to visit what is claimed to be the largest salt flat in the world, the brilliantly white and vast Salar de Uyuní. We will have an overnight stay in Uyuni, and you will have the opportunity to take an excursion onto the salt flats in four-wheel-drive vehicles, stopping off at places such as Fish Island (season dependent) where there are great views of the surrounding lake, and where giant cacti and llama provide perfect photo opportunities. The fantastic contrast of the brilliant blue sky (weather permitting of course) and the pure white of the salt flats is surreal. This area proves to be a very popular place for some creative photo opportunities.
Optional Excursions: Full day Salar de Uyuni tour – approx US$55
Day 27 to 27 - Tupiza
Winding our way along the dusty roads of Bolivia, which are some of the most rugged in South America, we head towards the Argentine border amidst the vividly coloured rock formations and giant cacti. We arrive at Tupiza where we will take respite from the arid surrounds and dusty road. Legend has it that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their end at the hands of the Bolivian army near Tupiza, concluding their notorious string of bank raids.
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive
Day 28 to 30 - Salta
We arrive in the striking city of Salta in the Lerma Valley at the foothills of the Andes, established in 1582. Salta has many old colonial buildings, a cathedral with ancient statues of the Cristo del Milagro (Miracle of Christ) and the Virgin Mary, which were brought over from Spain in 1592. A variety of excursions await you here including rafting, horse riding and mountain biking.
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive
Optional Excursions: Full day rafting with BBQ lunch – US$60 • Horse riding at ranch with BBQ lunch – US$70
Day 31 to 31 - En route
We make our way to San Ignacio Miní where we will find some of the best kept Jesuit ruins in the region. You will have the chance to visit the site. Founded in 1632, San Ignacio Miní was one of the many missions settled by the Jesuits in the Americas during the Spanish colonial period. San Ignacio Miní is one of the five Jesuit missions of the Guaranis that were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. The ruins are one of the best preserved among the several built in a territory today belonging to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and one of the most visited due to its accessibility.
Optional Excursions: Jesuit Ruins – US$17 • Light and sound show – US$17
Day 32 to 33 - Puerto Iguazú
Continuing on we arrive in Puerto Iguazú. Here we visit the falls from the Argentinian side where you can walk through rainforest and along catwalks directly above the falls and you will also find the famous Garganta del Diablo, Spanish for "Devil's Throat", where fourteen waterfalls drop with such force that there is always a massive cloud of spray overhead. If you feel like cooling down, take a zodiac boat ride up the river and under the falls – a fun way to get a different perspective of these impressive falls. Tonight, visit some of the town's bars and clubs close to our hostel.
Approximate Driving Time: Eight Hour Drive
Optional Excursions: Iguazú Falls National Park entry – US$25 • Jungle 4WD and boat trips – US$12-60
Day 34 to 35 - Foz do Iguaçu
We reach the little Brazilian town of Foz do Iguaçu (Iguazu Falls), where some 275 separate waterfalls cascade over a two-and-a-half-kilometre-wide cliff face. We first visit the stunning falls from the Brazilian side which offers panoramic views of the numerous waterfalls on the Argentine side.
For a bird's eye view over the entire falls you can take an optional scenic helicopter ride. There is also an excellent bird park nearby and you can visit the world's largest hydroelectric dam at Itaipu where videos show the environmental planning behind the dam project. If you’re keeping a keen eye on your country tally you can pop into neighbouring Paraguay by public bus (you don't even have to get your passport stamped) for a bit of shopping in Ciudad del Esté.
Approximate Driving Time:Two Hours
Optional Excursions: Helicopter ride – US$120 • Bird Park – US$14 • National Park entry – US$20 • Rafain Show – US$50 • Itaipu Dam – US$25
Day 36 to 36 - En route
We hit the road making our way north in the interior of the continent towards Bonito. It is a long drive and we will stop for one night en route to break up the journey.
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive
Day 37 to 39 - Bonito
Bonito is located in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul and is renowned for the unbelievable blue of its rivers and cave lakes. The waters are filtered through the enormous quantity of limestone in the ground and the impurities are deposited at the bottom of the river bed making the rivers appear some of the clearest in the world.
We have time here to take in some great optional activities which include cave and river snorkelling, rainforest walks and wildlife spotting.
Approximate Driving Time:Four Hours
Optional Excursions: Rio da Prata snorkelling (7 hours) – US$75 includes lunch and guide • Mimosa waterfalls tour – US$38 includes buffet lunch • Balneario do Sol, local swimming hole and games – US$15 includes transport and entry
Day 40 to 42 - Pantanal
Our next stop is the Pantanal Wildlife Reserve, a massive wetland. One of the unusual things about the Pantanal is that there are also many farms in the area and the animals from these farms live quite comfortably with the other wildlife in the region. Wild animals include birds, capybara, howler monkeys, pumas, jaguars, ocelots, coatis, yellow anacondas, marsh deer, caiman, tapir and many more. The Pantanal is excellent for wildlife watching as the region is more open and flat than a jungle setting.
Each excursion in to the Pantanal will vary slightly but you will have the chance to explore the vast region, searching for the elusive jaguar and anteater, camping on the wetlands. From walking tours to horseback riding, your days will be spent enjoying the scenery while nights are spent around the camp-fire with a beer in hand. Other, shorter excursions into the Pantanal can also be arranged with your tour leader.
Included Excursions: 3-day Pantanal excursion (all meals and accommodation, a walking tour, horseback ride, piranha fishing, boat tour, night walk & jeep safari included)
Day 43 to 44 - En route
We continue our trip making our way towards the Costa Verde. During the drive you will get some idea of the size of Brazil as it will take two days driving before we hit the coast. We will camp en route to break up the journey with travel times determining the locations.
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Drive
Day 45 to 47 - Parati
Getting to the Costa Verde we arrive at Parati which is a preserved Portuguese colonial town (1500-1822). The town is renowned for its historic town centre, the coast and mountains in the region. Parati was also a major port for the exportation of gold and coffee during the 17th and 19th centuries respectively and recommended excursions include a sailing schooner cruise around the bays, rainforest treks and walking the gold trail.
Approximate Driving Time: Four to eight hours depending on the day before
Optional Excursions: Parati boat cruise – US$40
Day 48 to 48 - Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, or more commonly known as Rio, is the second largest city in Brazil and arguably one of the most beautiful cities of the world. In the late 17th century the Portuguese found gold and diamonds in the nearby state of Minas Gerais and thus Rio became the main port for exporting the new found wealth. During the colonial Portuguese period of 1763-1815, Rio was the capital of Brazil.
The city has so much to offer from its natural sites to its famous landmarks including Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) and Corcovado with its famous ‘Cristo Redentor’ (Christ the Redeemer statue) - both of which offer great views over the city. You of course have to visit the famous beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. And of course, if you are in Rio around February/March time, get ready for the world's biggest party, the Rio Carnival!
Please note that the four nights during Rio Carnival are not included in the tour price and it is essential to pre-book accommodation if you wish to stay on for the Carnival. Please see our brochure or the ‘Useful Information’ section of our website for important booking info and prices.
Approximate Driving Time: Six Hour Drive
Day 49 to 49 - Depart Rio de Janeiro
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 4||Puerto Inca||BLD|
|Day 7||Arequipa (optional Colca Canyon excursion)||BLD|
|Day 18||Puno (optional Lake Titicaca excursion)|
|Day 20||La Paz||Bolivia||L|
|Day 21||La Paz||B|
|Day 22||La Paz||B|
|Day 31||En route||BLD|
|Day 32||Puerto Iguazú||BL|
|Day 33||Puerto Iguazú||B|
|Day 34||Foz do Iguaçu||BLD|
|Day 35||Foz do Iguaçu||Brazil||BLD|
|Day 36||En route||BLD|
|Day 43||En route||BLD|
|Day 44||En route||BLD|
|Day 48||Rio de Janeiro||BL|
|Day 49||Rio de Janeiro||B|
(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.