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Jacana: Crossing the continent

Jacana: Crossing the continent:
Trip Dossier

An epic journey that traverses this diverse continent from the Pacific to the Atlantic in just under three exhilarating weeks. Landscapes of infinite variety unfold before you; The dramatic peaks of the Andes, and the shimmering lakes and bleak beauty of the altiplano eventually give way to sultry forests and wide, white-sand beaches. The human story is no less captivating; histories are preserved in the magnificent Inca temples and glorious colonial architecture, and the bustling villages and markets offer an insight into contemporary ways of life. The trip begins in Lima and quickly moves onto Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire, and a visit to the awe inspiring ruins of Machu Picchu. Cross the saphire waters of Lake Titicaca into Bolivia, before venturing into little known, atmospheric Paraguay.You continue onto the thundering Iguazú Falls, and the trip finishes in Rio de Janeiro, a spellbinding city in a peerless location, sandwiched between steep forested mountains and the Atlantic.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart arriving Lima, Peru, the same day.

Day 1

Overnight at your hotel in Lima.

Day 2

Fly to Cusco.

Day 3

Guided tour of Cusco and the surrounding sites.

Day 4

Full-day excursion to the Sacred Valley, overnight there.

Day 5

Train to Machu Picchu, guided tour. Overnight in nearby village.

Day 6

Optional re-entry to the Inca site. Return by train and bus to Cusco.

Day 7

Day at leisure in Cusco.

Day 8

Scenic bus ride to Puno.

Day 9

Visit the Uros Islands and travel to Copacabana, Bolivia.

Day 10

Boat trip to Sun Island and overland to La Paz.

Days 11-12

Guided tour of La Paz and optional visit to Tiwanaku.

Day 13

Fly to Asuncion, Paraguay.

Days 14-15

By road into Argentina and visit the Iguazu Falls.

Day 16

Visit the Brazilian side of the falls and fly onto Rio de Janeiro.

Day 17

Guided tour of the city including Sugarloaf Mountain.

Day 18

Further exploration of Rio including Corcovado Mountain.

Day 19

Depart for international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Detailed itinerary

UK clients depart arriving Lima, Peru, the same day.
 

Day 1

Overnight at your hotel in Lima.
 
Lima
Those passengers arriving on an international flight will be met by the Journey Latin America tour leader or a local representative at the airport and escorted to the group hotel.

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. There will be a walking tour of the colonial centre with your tour leader the following morning.
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Lima

Day 2

Fly to Cusco.
 

A short 90 minute flight takes you into the Andes and the famous city of Cusco. The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire. Its many impressive, original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, and the squares are dotted with ornate colonial churches. It's a vibrant, lively city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention on cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and clubs.

Day 3

Guided tour of Cusco and the surrounding sites.
 
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.

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Cusco

Day 4

Full-day excursion to the Sacred Valley, overnight there.
 
This 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 forming 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.
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Day 5

Train to Machu Picchu, guided tour. Overnight in nearby village.
 
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 of the ruins, you spend the night at the spa village of Machu Picchu, a couple of kilometres upstream.

Fancy hiking some of the Inca Trail without interrupting your tour? We can organise for you to walk the mini Inca Trail on this day, but still, have a guided tour of the ruins and stay with the group in the evening. Please ask us for more details.

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Machu Picchu

Day 6

Optional re-entry to the Inca site. Return by train and bus to Cusco.
 

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. Those who are feeling active could choose 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 necessary 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 train and bus.

Day 7

Day at leisure in Cusco.
 

There are a number of optional excursions in the surrounding region. About an hour's drive from Cusco is Moray, where ancient agricultural irrigation paths form circular depressions in the earth, and there are wonderful views into the Sacred Valley and of the snowy peak of Mount Veronica. From here it is a short walk to the salt pans at Maras, circular pans of glistening white carved into the mountain side. Ask your tour leader for more optional excursions into the region, including horse riding and white water rafting on the Urubamba river.

Day 8

Scenic bus ride to Puno.
 

A scenic day-long bus ride takes you from Cusco to Puno (7 hours). The drive begins by climbing up through the fertile fields of corn and potatoes to the roads highest pass at la Raya (4,200m). After this you travel across the altiplano, a large, windswept plain, punctuated by occasional market towns, where bowler-hatted indigenous women tend herds of llamas and alpacas. You arrive into Puno in the early evening.

Day 9

Visit the Uros Islands and travel to Copacabana, Bolivia.
 
There is a morning excursion to the famous 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.

Later continue across the Bolivian border to the small lakeside town of Copacabana. This pretty little town is a religious sanctuary (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.
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Day 10

Boat trip to Sun Island and overland to La Paz.
 
From Copacabana there is an included boat trip to Isla del Sol (Sun Island). 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.

Later in the day we will drive across the altiplano's windswept plains to La Paz (4hrs). At over 3,500m, La Paz 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. 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

Guided tour of La Paz and optional visit to Tiwanaku.
 
On your first full day in the city, there will be a guided tour, beginning in the historic centre with its quaint Spanish colonial buildings, from the Governmental Palace to the cathedral. Another highlight in the heart of the city is the famous Witches' Market, brimming with potions, amulets and ritual offerings including gruesome dried llama fetuses. We'll jump on some public buses to get a real feel for the city, and then we'll take to the skies on board the new Telefericos that zigzag the city, all the way up to El Alto for magnificent views of the city.

There is also time for an optional 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.
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Day 13

Fly to Asuncion, Paraguay.
 

Depart for the airport in El Alto and board a flight (normally via Santa Cruz – 3.5hrs) to Asuncion. This rather old world, eclectic city is located on the shores of the Río Paraguay, and an air of nostalgia permeates its busy streets. Paraguay feels caught in a time warp, the legacy of years of isolation from the outside world under the rule of a series of dictators. The wide, tree-lined avenues, parks and stately buildings are impressive, and it's a pleasant place to wander. Or you might like to browse some of the many duty-free goods on sale (mostly perfume, spirits and electronic goods), some of which are of doubtful authenticity.

Days 14-15

By road into Argentina and visit the Iguazu Falls.
 
Iguassu Falls
The adventure continues with a road journey (7 hours) across the Argentinean border to the town of Puerto Iguazu. 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.

On your full day based here there is an expedition to the Argentine side of the falls with your tour leader. 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.
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Iguassu Falls

Day 16

Visit the Brazilian side of the falls and fly onto Rio de Janeiro.
 
In the morning you’ll 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. Continue onto Foz do Iguaçú airport and fly to Rio de Janeiro (2 hours).

Rio de Janeiro is the most romantic, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. Sumptuous apartments overlook sparkling bays against a 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; your hotel is close by.

Day 17

Guided tour of the city including Sugarloaf Mountain.
 
Rio Botafogo

Today there is a tour to familiarise yourself with this most iconic of cities. As part of this we also include a trip to Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain). Ride the cable-car up the twin granite mountains protruding from the ocean and enjoy the magnificent views back over the beaches, Botafogo Bay with its bobbing yachts and into the mountains beyond. Theres a lovely (and safe) nature walk round the foot of the mountain, or you could pop for a beer into the nearby villagey quarter of Urca, leafy home of artists and TV stars.

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Rio Botafogo

Day 18

Further exploration of Rio including Corcovado Mountain.
 
In the morning you'll 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 Mountain. 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.

The afternoon is at leisure. A popular optional excursion is a visit to the exotic 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.

Day 19

Depart for international flight or extension.
 

UK clients arrive home the following day.
 

Essential information

About Our Group Tours

To find out more about how our group tours including group sizes, solo travellers and why to choose us. Please click here.

Tour Leader

On this tour, you’ll be accompanied from start to finish by one of our exceptional Journey Latin America tour leaders. From the moment you land in Latin America until the day the tour ends they will deal with all the practicalities, expertly adapting to the circumstances and individual needs of the group. Rather than different guides in different cities, your leader will get to know the group and keep you informed and entertained as you go.

 

Transport

3 flights (longest 2 hours), 2 train journeys (longest 3.5 hours), 4 road journeys (longest 7 hours).

Accommodation

For our Discovery Journeys we aim to use good quality, value-for-money accommodation, in a mix of larger more modern and smaller family run hotels. All the properties we use are well maintained and rooms will have a private bathroom with hot water.

The focus of these trips is on getting outside, seeing the sights, and experiencing local restaurants and cafes, therefore a few hotels may not have evening dining facilities. If you prefer more luxurious accommodation, please see the Hummingbird Tour which follows a very similar route.

Examples of hotels include:
Lima: Hotel El Tambo
Cusco: Hotel Ruinas
Sacred Valley: Tunupa Lodge
Machu Picchu: Hatun Inti Classic
Puno: Hotel Intiqa
Copacabana (Lake Titicaca): Rosario del Lago
La Paz: Hotel Rosario
Asunción: Asunción Palace
Puerto Iguazu: Mercure
Rio de Janeiro: Hotel Augusto's

On very rare occasions these hotels can change, however please speak to one of our consultants who can provide full details for each departure if you have any doubts. Address and contact details will be sent out with your final documents.

Meals

Breakfast daily.

Included excursions

• Lima: walking tour of colonial centre
• Machu Picchu: guided tour of the ruins
• Sacred Valley: guided tour 
• Cusco: guided city tour 
• Lake Titicaca: Uros Islands
• Lake Titicaca: boat trip to Sun Island
• La Paz: city tour
• Iguazú: Iguazú Falls (Brazilian and Argentine sides) 
• Rio: city tour, Sugarloaf and Corcovado mountain

Summary of nights

19 days, 18 nights: Lima 1; Cusco 2; Sacred Valley 1; Machu Picchu 1; Cusco 2; Puno 1; Copacabana 1; La Paz 3; Asunción 1; Puerto Iguazu 2; Rio de Janeiro 3.

Included in the journey price

• Services of Journey Latin America tour leader
• All land and domestic air transport
• Accommodation as specified
• Meals as specified
• Excursions as specified

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and insurance
• Meals other than specified
• Optional excursions

Optional excursions

There are optional excursions available throughout this tour, which are booked locally through your tour leader once you are in Latin America. Not all excursions available will suit everybody, whilst others only operate within certain seasons, with minimum numbers or may not be included due to time constraints. A budget of around $200USD should cover participation in the following options, but prices can fluctuate depending on the size of the party and so cannot be provided accurately until travel commences. The list below is only a guideline, so please enquire with your tour leader for any further areas of interest: 

• Machu Picchu: re-entry to the ruins
• Machu Picchu: climb Huayna Picchu (this excursion must be pre-booked due to availability issues so please let the office know before travel). Please note that this is a vigorous climb, involving very steep steps and uneven terrain. It would not be recommended for anyone suffering from vertigo. For more information, please contact your travel consultant.
• Sacred Valley: Moras and Moray
• Cusco: Horse riding or white water rafting
• La Paz: Pre-Inca ruins at Tiwanaku

Travelling alone

There is no extra cost for single travellers who are willing to share a room. You will be accommodated with another same-sex member of the group who is also travelling solo. For single travellers who wish to have their own room there are a limited number of single rooms available, which carry a surcharge.

Currency

The unit of currency in Peru is the sol, in Bolivia the boliviano, in Paraguay the guaraní and in Brazil the real.

 

Budget

Based on feedback from other passengers who have done this tour we currently recommend a budget of around US$35 per day. This would cover the cost of meals not included in the itinerary, soft drinks and the odd souvenir. This is an average but prices vary greatly between countries with Brazil being more expensive then Bolivia for example.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

We recommend that you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. These bills should be in good condition as soiled or torn bills may be refused. Your tour leader is on hand to advise the best time to get out or change money along the way. Travellers’ cheques are increasingly less favoured by visitors who find them difficult to exchange as well as offering a poor rate of exchange. If you do decide to carry some with you they should be US dollar cheques only (American Express are by far the most accepted brand).

Tipping

Tips are normally welcomed and expected. Local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $3USD (or local equivalent) per person per day for each of guides and drivers, depending on the size of the group.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

If you would like to show your appreciation to your Journey Latin America tour leader, who you may feel has exceeded your expectations, a discretionary gratuity would be gratefully received. As a guideline we recommend an amount of between $4 and $6USD per person, per day. You are obviously free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

International and domestic departure tax is currently included within the price of tickets.

Journey grade

The pace of this trip is fast; there are some early mornings and long days spent travelling (albeit with frequent stops and fantastic scenery). The streets in Cusco and La Paz are cobbled and steep and you must be cautious at altitude. You should consult your tour leader to make sure your chosen optional excursions are suitable for you.

Climate

In the mountains, rain can be expected at anytime October-April, although January and February are historically the wettest months. The thinness of the air and the strength of the sun mean you can expect warm if invigorating days (up to 25°C), but once the sun sets the temperature drops dramatically (below freezing, depending on altitude). In Iguaçu and Paraguay it will be hot and humid, with frequent showers.

December- March are the hottest months in Brazil, but also the most humid. Rain is possible at any time. In the southern hemisphere the seasons are the reverse of our own. Summer on the Peruvian coast (November-April) is hot, temperatures rise above 30°C. 

Altitude

Some of the excursions in and around La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Cusco and the Sacred Valley are at high altitude (over 3,000m). Symptoms of altitude sickness vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. Most people are unaffected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don't exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of suffering any symptoms. Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials also work well. It can get very cold at altitude, particularly after sundown and so warm clothes are essential as is a good waterproof jacket. Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block and sunglasses. You should take swimwear for visits to thermal baths.
At the Iguazú Falls you can get very wet from the spray. Some visitors like to take dry clothes in a bag and simply wear swimwear and flip flops. 

If you plan to go to good restaurants or out on evening entertainment trips, you might want to bring something a bit smarter as well (although formal attire will not be required). 

Due to luggage restrictions on the train to Machu Picchu, most of your luggage must be left in Cusco. You can take up to 5kgs per person on the train and an overnight holdall is recommended so that you can separate your luggage for the nights spent away from Cusco. A separate bag is also useful if you are planning an extension from Lima, usually the rest of your luggage can be left in the hotel. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against typhoid, polio, tetanus, hepatitis A and yellow fever. A yellow fever certificate may also be a compulsory requirement for onward travel and immigration purposes. The rules are complex and subject to change. We advise you check the most up to date information at www.iatatravelcentre.com. Please consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on malaria tablets.

For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

As of 2018, visitors to Brazil travelling on our holidays should be protected with a vaccination against yellow fever, and carry the corresponding certificate. In April 2013, the World Health Organisation Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation concluded that a single primary dose of yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained immunity and lifelong protection against yellow fever disease, and that a booster dose is not needed.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your online ESTA application.

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