Hummingbird: Ocean to Ocean
This extended coast-to-coast spectacular takes in some of the continent's most extraordinary and contrasting sites: exotic Rio de Janeiro, hemmed in by forested mountains and white-sand beaches; the thunderous falls at Iguazú; the sophistication of cosmopolitan Buenos Aires; the traditional, long-lasting indigenous culture of Bolivia; peerless Inca architecture in Cusco, Peru; the Lost City of Machu Picchu; and the shimmering waters of Lake Titicaca, fringed by snow-capped Andean peaks.
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Home » Hummingbird: Ocean to Ocean
- Visit the Brazilian Side of Iguazu Falls
- Visit the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls
- Visit Sacsayhuaman Inca fortress
- Explore Sacred Valley of the Incas
Itinerary in Brief
- Day 1: Arrive at Rio de Janeiro
- Day 2: Sugar Loaf Mountain
- Day 3: Visit Corcovado mountain and the famous Christ the Redeemer.
- Day 4: Fly to Iguazu Falls; Brazillian s ide
- Day 5: Iguazu Falls; Argentinean side
- Day 6: Fly to Buenos Aires
- Day 7: City tour of the Argentinean capital
- Day 8-9: Fly to the colonial city of Sucre
- Day 10: Fly to La Paz, the world's highest capital city
- Days 11-12: From La Paz, visit Tiwanku pre-Columbian ruins
- Day 13: By road to the shores of Lake Titicaca
- Day 14: Lakeside drive to Puno, Peru
- Day 15: Luxury Train to Cusco
- Day 16: Tour of Cusco and Inca temple Sacsayhuaman
- Day 17: Excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Inca
- Day 18: By rail to Machu Picchu, guided tour of the site
- Day 19: Optional revisit to Machu Picchu. Return to Cusco
- Day 20: Fly to Lima
- Day 21: Departure
Day 1: Rio de Janeiro
If you are arriving on an international flight you will be met by the local tour leader or a local representative at the airport and escorted to the group hotel.
Rio de Janeiro is the most romantic, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. Sumptuous apartments overlook the sparkling bays against the backdrop of half-built slum dwellings, favelas, which cling precariously to the hillsides. Rio has an awesome bay-side location among near-vertical granite mountains.
Here, tropical foliage swoops down to white-to-toffee coloured sandy beaches in turn battered by the huge waves of Atlantic surf. The drive into the city gives a fleeting glimpse of the docks and commercial centre as you head towards the magnificent stretch of sand at Copacabana beach where your hotel is located.
Day 2: Rio de Janeiro
You have a guided tour of the city today which includes a cable-car ride up Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain), for expansive views of the city, its beaches, and the mountains beyond.
You might ask your tour leader to direct you towards the new nature trail running around the skirt of the mountain - It's easy walking and safe. You'll be accompanied by local families on a stroll, monkeys and exotic birds flitting between the trees and a plethora of butterflies. After your walk, have a drink in the arty quarter of Urca, crouching at the foot of the mountain, with views over the yacht club in Botafogo Bay across to Corcovado.
Day 3: Rio de Janeiro
Today offers an optional trip to Corcovado mountain. This tour takes you on board a steep rack-and-pinion railway which glides up through tropical Tijuca National Park, the largest urban forest in the world dripping with fruit and flowers, to reach the summit of Corcovado. Here the famous 40m art deco Christ the Redeemer statue soars above the city, arms outspread benevolently. On a clear day the views over the city and out across the ocean and outlying islands are stupendous.
Another popular optional excursion is to the Botanical Gardens. Walk along the splendid Avenue of the Royal Palms, and see if you can catch a glimpse of the toucans and marmosets that frequent the park, attracted by thousands of species of tropical and subtropical plants. There are also glass houses sheltering bromeliads and a research institute here.
You might take a drive through old Rio, the arty Santa Teresa district, where colonial houses in pastel hues line the winding, cobbled streets. Football fans might want to travel to the north of the city to visit the Maracanã stadium. Depending on fixtures you might even be able to join the raucous crowds on the terraces.
Day 4: Iguazu Falls
Fly to Foz do Iguaçú in the subtropical south-west corner of Brazil. The Iguazú Falls are unquestionably one of the most extraordinary natural wonders in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder through dense forest over a 2.5km stretch. The u-shaped Devil's Throat is the main gorge, where the frothy water of the Iguazú River crashes over a 1.5km-wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward. Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest breaking up into dozens of smaller falls. You might spot toucans with their outsized bright orange beaks perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.
You head out to the Brazilian side of the falls, from where there is a broad panorama of these magnificent cataracts, and there are some excellent opportunities to photograph the full sweep of the cascades. Before leaving the Brazilian side, you could stop off at the excellent and rather quirky bird park just outside the entrance of Iguaçu National Park. The enclosure is home to a huge variety of birds and wildlife, including toucans, trogons and the coatimundi, from the same family as the racoon.
Day 5: Iguazu Falls
You have a full day to explore the Argentine side of the falls. From the National Park Visitor Centre, where there is a display that illustrates the biodiversity of the region's tropical rainforest, a little natural-gas-powered train transfers you to Cataratas Station where the Upper Walk begins. This sequence of causeways and passarelles links dozens of tiny basalt islands at the top of a sheer rock face and the walkways cross the myriad streams of the River Iguazú as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. Your breath is quite literally taken away as the water thunders on to the rocks below.
The train continues to Devil's Throat Station where a 1km-long walkway leads across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, the Devil's Throat. From this vantage point you can feel the incredible power of the water, and the flow is mesmeric as it plummets into the vortex below.
There is an optional boat trip out to the base of the falls; it's an exhilarating ride that takes you within touching distance of these thunderous cascades and your clothes and hair are soaked with the spray.
Day 6: Buenos Aires
Transfer to the airport to fly south to Buenos Aires. The Argentine capital is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. The afternoon is free to explore the area around your centrally located hotel or enjoy the cafés and restaurants for which Buenos Aires is famed.
Day 7: Buenos Aires
The centre of town is home to the historic heartland, government buildings and churches as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic, Parisian feel. The bohemian district of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and extravagant restaurants. Close to the centre is the Gallic influenced Recoleta district where Evita Peron was laid to rest. We explore some of these quarters on our guided city tour, after which you can shop, have a drink and a pastry in an enticing coffee bar, peruse the items on display in one of the many markets or visit one of the city's museums.
Days 8-9: Sucre
You depart Buenos Aires and and take a flight via Santa Cruz to Sucre, the legislative capital; a sleepy whitewashed town with a leafy main square bordered by restaurants and the Supreme Court buildings. The climate is temperate and skies are clear, and wandering the cobbled lanes, stopping to investigate the many churches and museums (if you can fathom the erratic opening hours) is a lovely way to spend the day.
High above the town is a monastery with a café and extensive views. The national library has a good collection of colonial archives. It's not officially open to the public, but they've been known to let the odd 'student' browse through the papers.
There is the option for a day trip to Potosi, once the silver mining capital of the world. At a chilly 4,090m, Potosi flourished during the 18th century and was at the time the wealthiest place in Latin America and home to the Spanish Imperial Mint. Evocations of this history can be found in the colonial architecture, ornate monuments and churches.
Day 10: La Paz
Fly to La Paz. At over 3,500m, this is the highest capital city in the world. It is a glittering mosaic of tin, slate and tile roofs, interspersed with a line of skyscrapers that march down the valley. And beyond, keeping an eye on it all, is the colossal snow-capped Mount Illimani. This busy, commercial city has a 60% indigenous population; women dress in voluminous multi-coloured skirts, bowler hats and have centre-partings, as decreed by the Spanish monarch 3 centuries ago.
Days 11-12: Tiwanak
You have plenty of opportunity to explore the colonial centre around Plaza Murillo. There is also time for an included visit to the ruins of Tiwanaku. You travel out of La Paz and across the bleak, tawny earth of the altiplano, past glimmering lakes and herds of haughty alpacas. These pre-Columbian ruins are considered to be some of the most important on the continent, and the massive gateways and imposing walls are redolent of bygone glory.
You may also like to venture out of town to Chacaltaya, once the world's highest ski resort. From a vertiginous wooden chalet house there are views over 3 countries, and the waters of Lake Titicaca twinkle in the distance.
Day 13: Copacabana
From La Paz take a scenic road trip to Lake Titicaca where you spend the night in a small hotel overlooking the sapphire water. The lake sits high in the Andes on the Peruvian- Bolivian border, and is focal point for subsistence farmers in the region who fish its icy waters and plant crops along its shores.
The pretty little town of Copacabana where you stay is a religious sanctuary (and it gave Rio's famous beach its name), and its whitewashed buildings and Moorish-style basilica are striking against a clear blue Andean sky. The Basilica is frequented by pilgrims to the miraculous 16th-century Dark Virgin of the Lake, and they bring their rickety cars to the forecourt, bedecked in flowers, to be blessed by her.
If you have the energy in this rarefied air, climb the stations of the cross for views out over the lake and the snow-capped cordillera in the distance. From Copacabana there's an optional boat trip to Isla del Sol. Legend has it that this mystical spot marked the beginning of Inca civilisation. The children of the sun god sprung from the lake's depths to found the mighty empire in Cusco, and a rock at the northern end of the island was their birthplace.
Day 14: Puno and Lake Titicaca
Continue across the border to Peru, a journey that skirts the lake and has wonderful views. Stop for lunch en route and arrive at your lakeside hotel in Puno in the afternoon. If there is time, you have the option to visit the Uros Islands. You alight on a floating island, made entirely of tortora reeds - the same material used to build their canoes and even their homes. The inhabitants earn their living mainly through selling handicrafts to tourists and, while this is a unique experience, it has the air of a visit to a living museum.
Day 15: Cusco
A luxurious all-day train journey takes you from Puno to Cusco (10 hours) along one of the most scenic routes on the continent. First you cross the highland altiplano, a vast, windswept plain of bog and moor, where bowler-hatted indigenous women tend herds of llamas and alpacas, punctuated by the occasional market town. As the snow-dusted mountains close in, the train climbs to the high pass at La Raya (4,200m), and from here the scenery changes dramatically as you race down through the increasingly fertile pocket-sized fields of corn and potatoes to Cusco.
Day 16: Cusco
An experienced guide gives you a detailed tour of Cusco, which includes a visit to several nearby Inca ruins. You visit Q'oricancha, once the principal Inca Sun Temple, with extraordinarily intricate stonework, and then explore the colossal zigzag walls of Sacsayhuamán, brooding on a hillside above Cusco. In 1536 a desperate and defining 3 day battle was fought between the Spaniards and the Incas around this fortress; the first conquistadors to see it were overawed and centuries later it is still an extraordinary and imposing sight.
Day 17: Sacred Valley
A full-day adventure visits several of the villages and archaeological sites which pepper the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Pisac complex, set high above the eponymous village, is composed of steep terraces; their engineering and preservation are unrivalled, and you can clamber among the ancient walls and explore the ruins of temples, residences and storehouses. It takes about an hour and a half to explore the site, after which you stop off in the village below where an arts and crafts market spills across the main square, stalls laden with tapestries and weavings crafted in the surrounding villages.
Continue along this picturesque, patchwork valley to Ollantaytambo, the snow-capped Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop. The Inca fortress towering above the adobe village is well preserved and there are wonderful views down over the gentle sloping hillsides and into the fertile valley. You spend the night in the Sacred Valley.
Day 18: Machu Picchu
A dramatic 2 hour train journey from Ollantaytambo delivers you to the ruins of Machu Picchu. As the river Urubamba enters its narrow gorge between thickly-forested granite hills, there is room only for a single rail track, which hugs the right bank and passes through hamlets which are no more than a collection of shacks. The citadel is then reached by minibus up a sinuous road.
In 1911 the American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins buried beneath tropical cloud forest. It is the city's location which most captures the imagination, on a ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon. Following a guided tour or the ruins you spend the night at the spa village of Machu Picchu, a couple of kilometres upstream.
Day 19: Machu Picchu
You might like to return to the ruins the following morning to see the granite mountaintops emerge from the mist before the crowds arrive: a magical experience. You may like to set off on one of several short hiking trails: follow the steep path up to Huayna Picchu, the conical peak rising behind the ruins or trek to the vertiginous Inca Bridge, carved into a cliff face (please enquire with the office, as spaces are limited and it's a good idea to pre-book). Your tour leader will be on hand to talk through the various walking options. In the afternoon you return to Cusco by rail and road.
Day 20: Lima
A morning flight takes you to Lima (1 hour). The City of Kings was once the capital of Spanish America, and the remnants of its glorious past can still be seen in the faded grandeur of the colonial churches and splendid, traditional wooden balconies in the city centre. The explosive growth of the last 50 years, so typical of capital cities in the developing world, has transformed Lima into a bustling and chaotic low-rise city of over 6 million people.
Away from the busy centre, there are some superb traditional restaurants as well as archaeological museums filled to the rafters with pre-Columbian treasures. In crowded streets, throngs of traffic race out towards Miraflores, on the coast, a modern middle-class suburb where your hotel is located.
Day 21: Depart
Depart Lima at any time today.
|Rio de Janeiro||Miramar Hotel by Windsor|
|Puerto Iguazú||Panoramic Iguazu|
|Buenos Aires||Recoleta Grand Hotel Buenos Aires|
|Sucre||Su Merced, Sucre|
|La Paz||Hotel Europa|
|Copacabana||Rosario del Lago|
|Puno||Casa Andina Premium Puno|
|Cusco||Casa Andina Premium Cusco|
|Sacred Valley||Hotel Pakaritampu|
|Machu Picchu||El Mapi Hotel|
|Lima||Casa Andina Select Miraflores|
- Internal airfares as specified
- All land transport
- Activities as specified
- Meals as specified
- English speaking guide
What’s not included?
- International airfares
- International airport transfer
- Arrival/departure taxes or reciprocity fees, visa fees where applicable
- Travel insurance
- Optional excursions (please ask us for details)
- Any items not listed as included
This tour operates with a minimum of 4 passengers and a maximum of 20 passengers. The minimum age is 12.