Only in South America will you find the capitals of two mighty empires existing side-by-side. Only in South America can you spend your morning on a wide sandy beach and your afternoon in the rainforest. Only in South America can you witness the majesty of Carnival and the passion of an Argentine football game. There truly is no place like South America; and it’s waiting for you on this best of South America tour.
Lima – Landing in Peru
Arrive this morning in lovely Lima, the capital of Peru, and the home to the oldest institute of higher learning in the Americas. A private driver will be waiting to take you to your centrally located and elegant hotel, where you can drop off your bags before hitting the highlights of this eclectic city. The Historic Center of Lima was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, and it is home to some of the most amazing edifices in all of Latin America, from the colonial façade of the Cathedral of Lima to the baroque Convento de San Francisco. Regardless of what strikes your fancy, you are sure to find it in Lima.
Cusco – Exploring the Ancient Capital of the Incas
This morning, you’ll be taken to the airport where you’ll board a plane that will take you to the ancient city of Cusco, the former capital of the mighty Incan Empire. The afternoon is spent on an expertly guided tour of this phenomenal city, visiting the main sites of Cusco and introducing you to the city’s long and rich history. You’ll certainly enjoy strolling along the city’s main square, the Plaza de Armas, and taking in the wide array of architectural marvels, like the 17th-century Cathedral of Santo Domingo and the adjacent Coricancha, the Incan Empire’s most prominent temple, dedicated to the Sun God Inti.
Then you head further afield to take in the impressive remnants of the mighty Incan civilization, like stolid Kunko, the former baths of Tambomachay, and the imposing Fortress of Puca Pucara. All of these, however, pale in comparison to mighty Sacsayhuaman, where massive polished stones fit snugly together without mortar and where the view over the valley is sure to take your breath away. After this excursion into the past, you’ll understand why the Incas continue to exert a powerful hold on the collective subconscious of the Peruvian population.
Cusco – The Awe-Inspiring Sacred Valley of Peru
Today, you visit the historic heartlands of the Incas, the magnificent Urubamba Valley, where the Empire grew the maize and extracted the natural resources that turned them into the most dominant pre-Colombian power in South America. Start at the scenic Indian Pisac Market, held every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, where artisans ply their wares and showcase their skills at traditional handicrafts. Lunch is a prototypically Incan affair, filled with delicious and hearty cuisine that will prepare you for more awe-inspiring sights.
Following lunch, you’ll visit the Incan cities of Calca and Urubamba before touring the daunting fortress of Ollantaytambo, a series of defensive fortifications that were used throughout Incan history to repel invaders from Cusco and the sacred city of Machu Picchu, up to and including the Spanish forces of Pizarro. On the return voyage to Cusco, you’ll stop at Chinchero, where you’ll find the remains of the Royal Hacienda of Tupac Inca Yupanqui, an ancient leader of the Incas with a legendary reputation. Here, the collision between the Incas and the Spanish is on full display, from the immaculately unspoiled Inca Wall in the Main Square to the gorgeous colonial-style temple replete with Spanish frescoes.
The evening sees you back in Cusco, where you might want to enjoy a famous Pisco Sour, a tasty libation invented in Lima that has since become the national cocktail of Peru.
Aguas Calientes – Climbing the Andes to Unforgettable Machu Picchu
This morning sees you rising early, but we doubt you’ll mind as you set your sights for the astounding ruins of Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and the quintessential image of the Incan civilization. A short bus ride from Aguas Calientes takes you to the magnificent site, where you’ll get a guided tour of the best remaining buildings, from the Citadel to the massive Torreon – perhaps used by these astronomically inclined minds as an observation tower – to the Intihutana Stone, an ancient sundial that points toward the sun at the winter solstice. You’ll also stop by the Royal Quarters, various burial sites throughout the temple, and the archeologically significant Temple of the Three Windows, as well as gaze upon the stirring scene in the Sacred Valley below.
Lunch is back in Aguas Calientes, where you can enjoy the many charms of this small city. The evening is spent at a local hotel, right in the shadow of the most famous of all Incan civilizations.
Aguas Calientes – Primeval Cities and Pristine Nature
Choose to either enjoy a leisurely morning or wake up for a sunrise unlike any other before enjoying one final day in the heartlands of the Incas. Choose to remain in Aguas Calientes – officially known as Macchu Picchu – and survey the many delicious eateries, moving and eye-striking sites, or the natural hot baths that give the town its better-known moniker.
Those who are looking for more of an adventure, however, might choose to scale the towering heights of Huayna Picchu, where you’ll gain an incredible vista of Machu Picchu as well as an up-close look at the Temple of the Moon, one of the most prominent and important temples in the Machu Picchu area. However you choose to spend today, you can be sure that your final day in Peru will be the stuff that dreams are made of.
Rio de Janeiro – Heading to Brazil
Today is a traveling day, spent getting you from Peru to the shores of the Atlantic and the vibrant and vivacious city of Rio de Janeiro. You’ll need to have a brief stopover in Lima, where you’ll await your late-night flight into Rio, ready to experience the famed Brazilian nightlife for the first time. It might be tiring, but we promise the results will be well worth it.
Rio de Janeiro – The Treasures of Rio, from Sugar Loaf to the Harbor
After getting settled at your hotel, spend the afternoon touring the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain, the dramatic monolith of quartz and granite that rises irresistibly from the sapphire waters of Guanabara Bay. The ascent of this famous peak is almost as memorable as Sugar Loaf’s iconic location, as cable cars carry you nearly 1,300 feet in two stages to the top, offering a 360-degree view over resplendent Rio and the sensational scenery that surrounds it. The ascent takes only three minutes, but it is certainly not for the faint of heart, as you’ll feel like you’re flying up to arguably the most famous spot in Brazil.
The evening sees you back at your hotel, where you can find a place to sample a delicious caipirinha, Brazil’s answer to the mojito as well as its national cocktail.
Rio de Janerio – An Imperial City and the Brazilian Samba
Today greets you with an unparalleled tour of Petropolis, an ideal city merely 40 miles from Rio that was built for the former (and final) Emperor of Brazil, Pedro II. Your friendly and knowledgeable guide will lead you to the must-see locales of this gorgeous urban area, from the soaring spire of the Cathedral of Saint Peter of Alcantara to the truly arresting Palacio Quitandinha, a former luxury resort hotel whose opulence and elegance is beyond the power of verbal description.
In the afternoon, you return to Rio where you’ll want to prepare for the evening of a lifetime, as you’ll head out for an unforgettable performance of the world-renowned Brazilian samba, one of the sexiest and most seductive dances on the planet. With incredible dancers moving with effortless grace, to the pounding beat of some of the world’s best musicians, you’ll come to understand why the samba plays such an important role in Brazil’s cultural heritage, and why people flock to the city for its famous Carnival celebration.
Iguazu – A Natural Wonder in the Brazilian Borderlands
In the morning, hop on a flight that will take you from the shores of the Atlantic to Brazil’s border with Argentina, to ogle at the incomparable Iguazu Falls. After a quick check in at your hotel, you’ll spend the rest of your day exploring this amazing area, starting with an in-depth expedition into Iguassu National Park, where you’ll see a vast array of some of the most fascinating and beautiful wildlife in the world. There are nearly 70 species of mammals, more than 400 species of birds, and 50 species of reptiles and amphibians that are endemic to the area surrounding the falls, some of which are critically endangered and threatened with extinction.
You’ll then set off for a venture unlike any other as you embark on a Macuco Safari, where open-aired vehicles get you up close and personal with the wildlife. Fascinating local guides will show you the most beautiful trees and plant species until you’re led to the Macuco Falls, the perfect respite from the heat of a summer or early autumn day. The water tumbles more than 60 feet into the crystal pools below. Then, hit the water as you’ll get within spitting distance of the best cataracts of Iguazu while the light swims with the prisms of rainbows and bathes the air in a fine and refreshing mist. Be advised: the captains of the boats like to bring them directly under the falls, so an extra pair of clothes is advised!
Iguazu – Crossing into Argentina in Spectacular Style
While the Brazilian side of the falls is renowned for its striking foliage and inestimable selection of wildlife, the truly spectacular cascades are found mostly in Argentina, and today takes you deep into the heart of this fantastic natural marvel. You’ll be transported to the Parque Nacional de Iguazu, where you’ll have a guided walking tour of the falls: the paths are well-maintained and excellently marked, and they allow you to get closer to the rushing, tumbling water than you could ever believe. The highlight of the journey is the astounding Devil’s Throat, a half-mile long fissure where nearly half of the Parana River’s output tumbles more than 250 feet to the churning pools below.
The evening sees you back at your hotel on the Brazilian side of the falls.
Buenos Aires – From Roaring Waters to a Cosmopolitan Capital
After being transferred to the airport at Puerto Iguazu, you’ll board the plane that will take you to the streets of brilliant Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina and one of the truly astounding cities in Latin America. In the afternoon, you’ll have a guided tour of this outstanding metropolis, learning about the vibrant culture and fascinating history of the city from your engaging and informative guide. Walk along the Plaza del Congreso and marvel at the soaring dome of the Argentine National Congress Palace, then walk down the Avenida de Mayo until you reach the noteworthy Casa Rosada, the Executive Mansion of the President of Argentina that gets its popular nickname from the hue of its marble exterior. Learn more about Argentina’s political struggles and successes at the Plaza de Mayo, the country’s activism center since May of 1810, before visiting the stunning Metropolitan Cathedral, whose classical portico and immense dome gives it an unorthodox appearance for a religious structure.
Continue to the Manzana de las Luces – the Illuminated Block – that is one of the oldest sections of the city and a highlight of the Monserrat barrio (neighborhood). Then make your way to one of the newest parts of the city and the unbelievable expanse of the Avenida 9 de Julio, perhaps the most famous thoroughfare in South America and the widest avenue in the world. The late afternoon sees you back in the hotel, but the evening features a special treat, as you’ll enjoy a delicious Argentine dinner while taking in a sensational tango show, where you’ll feel the passion in every step and the romance in every chord.
Buenos Aires – The Charming Town of Tigre
Turn to the outskirts of Buenos Aires today as you hop on board the scenic Tren de la Costa (Train of the Coast), winding your way past areas of natural beauty and cultural importance before you reach the town of Tigre. In this charming riverside village, you’ll come face-to-face with some of the most incredible architecture in Argentina, from the opulent splendor of the Tigre Municipal Museum of Fine Art to the stately and immaculate La Marina Regata Club. These edifices take on a simply irresistible beauty from the deck of a sleek and luxurious sailboat, with the sun shining off the shimmering waves of the Rio de la Plata; it is a journey that is not to be missed.
Return to Buenos Aires for the afternoon, where you can spend some more time exploring the favorite neighborhoods of the city. Palermo is a posh and serene neighborhood with some of the best restaurants and boutiques in Buenos Aires while the cemetery in La Recoleta is one of the most beautiful in the world. Those looking for a livelier scene would do well to turn to La Boca, ground zero for the Italian immigration to Argentina in the 19th-century and a great place to find excellent street tango dancers working on their sensuous art form.
If you’re interested in exploring more of Buenos Aires, you may also want to browse Zicasso’s Argentina tours section.
Buenos Aires – Shopping in the Paris of Latin America
Today is dedicated to getting your retail fix, and few cities in South America have the quality and quantity of shopping of Buenos Aires. Florida Street and Lavalle Street are pedestrian-only areas in the Microcentro that offers touristy items like mate and designer items, as well as a great forum for some of the city’s best street performers. Murillo Street is one of the best places to find leather goods in a city that prides itself on its leather products while the chic neighborhood of Palermo Viejo echoes the artsy and fashion-forward sectors of fashion capitals like London and New York. Dancers and culture lovers might want to pick up a handmade pair of authentic tango shoes, and bibliophiles simply must stop by El Ateneo, a large bookstore in a former theater that is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful shops of its kind.
Buenos Aires – The End of Your South American Adventure
A leisurely and hearty breakfast awaits you this morning. After breakfast, a driver will pick you up from your hotel and drop you off at the airport with plenty of time to board the flight that will send you home. You’re sure to spend the plane ride home remembering the astounding moments of your past two weeks in South America, from the ancient glory of Machu Picchu, to the bright lights of Rio and from the thundering cascades of Iguazu Falls, to the history and culture of Buenos Aires. You’ll likely spend just as much time planning your return voyage to do more exploring of this captivating continent.
- Begin in Lima, Peru’s pristine capital, and see the many sights of the Historic City Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has some of the most astounding architecture in all of South America
- Discover the many marvels of the Incan Empire, from the former capital at Cusco to the fertile rift of the Sacred Valley, to the iconic remains of Machu Picchu that clings like a dream to the slopes of the Andes
- Revel in Rio de Janeiro, the capital of Carnival and the center of the samba, where you’ll be taken in by the beautiful beaches and swept off your feet by Sugar Loaf and Corcovado
- Ogle at the incredible puissance of Iguazu Falls, one of the most astounding waterfalls in the world, from both sides of the Brazilian-Argentine border
- Live it up in Buenos Aires, where the spirit of the tango haunts the streets and where an insatiable and infectious love of life fills the air
- Explore the smaller suburbs of the great South American cities, from regal Petropolis to quaint and charming Delta del Tigre
From the highlands of Peru to the river lands of Argentina, from Machu Picchu to Christ the Redeemer, South America is filled with the majesty of nature and the miracles of humanity. This 14-day best of South America tour will give you the perfect introduction to this spellbinding continent, and will fill you with an undeniable itch to learn about the charismatic countries that comprise it.
Encounter the attractions of bountiful Brazil, from the gorgeous city of Rio de Janeiro to the awe-inspiring cataracts of Iguazu Falls. See the great cities of the past and present in Peru, where the legacy of the Incas and the Spanish run side by side through time and space. And experience the very best of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city that is known throughout the world as the Paris of Latin America.
Whether you’re a nature lover or shopaholic, a beach-going sun goddess or a mountain man, enamored with history or driven by the promises of the future, South America has something for everyone. From the summit of Huayna Picchu to the swelling waters of the Atlantic, this is sure to be a South America adventure that you’ll never forget.
$3,579 per person (excluding international flights)
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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