Arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Lima, via São Paulo.
On arrival, we transfer by coach to the four-star Casa Andina Select Miraflores, where you stay overnight with breakfast. In the afternoon, we’ll see the Presidential Palace, the Plaza del Armas and the charming Baroque San Francisco church, in the central and UNESCO-listed colonial area of the city.
Today we fly to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. To help you acclimatise to the altitude, we spend two nights at the slightly lower altitude of the Urubamba Valley, the ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas’, just below Cusco, where we stay for two nights with breakfast at the excellent four-star Casa Andina Premium Valle Sagrado Hotel.
We spend the day in the Sacred Valley, firstly visiting Pisac, famous for its colourful indigenous market with a huge range of local handicrafts. It’s a fantastic sight, full of traditionally dressed locals bartering for all kinds of produce. All sorts of handicraft are available, too, from vibrant handmade rugs and ponchos in bright reds and yellows, to local ceramics and a wide variety of llama and alpaca knitwear. After an included lunch, we visit the impressive hillside fortress of Ollantaytambo, the site of a rare Conquistador defeat. You can examine the astonishingly intricate and precise Incan stonework, all fashioned using stone tools.
Today you’ll experience one of the highlights of your tour. We board the Explorer train on one of the world’s most spectacular rail journeys through the increasingly narrow Urubamba River gorge to the legendary Machu Picchu. As we descend, the scenery changes from semi-arid brush and cactus to dense, lush rainforest. Below us the river rushes headlong into numerous rapids, whilst above the precipitous sides of the gorge rise to dizzying heights. Nothing can prepare you for your first sight of the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, the only Inca settlement never discovered or destroyed by the Spanish – its wonder and mystique are simply astounding. No one knows why it was built in such an inaccessible spot or why it was mysteriously abandoned. Set along a high ridge, it was rediscovered in 1910 by Hiram Bingham, an American explorer. We return by train to the Sacred Valley, from where we drive to Cusco for two nights with breakfast at the four-star Costa del Sol Ramada.
Cusco is a mixture of colonial architecture interspersed with fascinating Inca remains. The main square, nestling within a maze of narrow streets and quaint plazas, has been the city centre since Inca times. Today, it’s the site of the 16th-century cathedral, so huge it took a hundred years to complete. We visit the Qorichancha, the Incan temple to the sun, the ‘navel’ of their world and originally covered in sheets of pure gold. Although a Spanish convent was built over the Inca temple, many of the internal walls remain. Cusco is such a beautiful city, with so many fascinating corners to explore, that this afternoon is free for you to make your own discoveries. Our hotel is centrally located, so you can easily walk everywhere.
This morning we fly back to Lima to connect with our flight to Buenos Aires in Argentina, arriving late in the afternoon. Our hotel for the next three nights with breakfast is the centrally located four-star 725 Continental.
After breakfast, we drive out of the city to the Pampas plains to the west of Buenos Aires. Our destination is the Estancia Santa Susana, originally created by Irish migrants and today still a working ranch spread across almost 3,000 acres. The original house is beautifully preserved and gives a fascinating insight into life here during the late 19th century. The ranch has plenty of horses and in true gaucho tradition, you’ll see them showing off their equestrian skills. An excellent lunch is included featuring Argentinian beef on the barbecue, which you can enjoy with local songs and dances.
Today we explore the fascinating metropolis of Buenos Aires. Known as the Paris of South America, with its wide tree-lined avenues, squares, parks and grand public buildings, it exudes an unmistakable style. We’ll visit the Plaza de Mayo and the pink-coloured Presidential Palace, from where Evita Peron used to speak to huge rallies. We’ll see the colourful barrios (districts) of San Telmo and La Boca, and also visit Recoleta Cemetery to see Evita Peron’s final resting place. This evening we enjoy a visit to one of the city’s best tango shows, with dinner included.
This morning we take the short flight to Iguazu Falls, arriving in the mid-afternoon. We stay for two nights with breakfast at the four-star Mercure Iguazu Hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure, so perhaps relax around the pool at your hotel.
The Argentinian side of the falls is known for its numerous viewpoints over the many small and large falls, which are easily accessed by wooden boardwalks through the lush forest surrounding the falls. We also catch the charming open-sided ‘jungle train’ to the head of the falls. For the more adventurous, there is the option to take a jetboat ride to the foot of the falls on the Iguazu river – you will get seriously wet!
We cross the border to the Brazilian side of the falls, visiting the stunning Devil’s Throat balcony viewpoint, where you are literally surrounded by falling water! There’s also the option of arranging a helicopter flight over the falls. In the afternoon, we take the short flight to Rio de Janeiro, where we stay three nights with breakfast at the new three-star superior Arena Leme Hotel, perfectly located right on Copacabana beach. All our rooms have stunning sea views.
Today we visit the statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the highlights of the tour. Reached by a Swiss-built cog railway through the Tijuca Forest National Park, the granite peak stands at 2,300ft, with the statue itself a further 100ft tall. The views in all directions are simply outstanding. On return to sea level, we take a walk through Rio’s charming Botanical Gardens before our included lunch of Brazilian barbecued meats (a vegetarian option is available).
This morning we board the breathtaking two-stage cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, which overlooks some of Rio’s most spectacular bays and beaches. We follow this with a tour through the centre of Rio and an included lunch at one of the city’s most iconic restaurants, the beautiful belle-époque Confeitaria Colombo.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight via São Paulo.
Arrive back in the UK after a truly memorable tour.