DAYS 13 – 34: PERU
A day’s drive on the Pan-American highway brings you to the border with Peru. You will notice an amazing transition in one day, from the good farming country of highland Ecuador, through sub-tropical forest and immense banana plantations, to dry barren desert in Peru. You will be rewarded with a couple of days chilling by the beach.
The next stop on your South America travel experience is the Chan Chan ruins, the imperial citadel of the pre-Inca Chimu kings which the Incas later conquered. It claims to be the largest mud brick city in the world.
Continuing with the Andes close to your left and the sea on your right, the capital city of Lima will be your next stop on your epic South America overland tour. Here you’ll encounter both abundant wealth and grinding poverty, modern skyscrapers next to some of the finest museums and historical monuments in Latin America.
Departing Lima your next stop is the Ballestas Islands in the Paracas National Reserve. By boat you will visit the rare and exotic sea birds and mammals that inhabit these islands.
An hour’s drive inland in the heart of the Ica Desert is the Oasis of Huacachina; if it’s an adrenaline rush you have the option to head out on a custom made dune buggy & roar across the desert sands to the top of enormous dunes & then sand board down them – imagine snowboarding but on sand instead! Then, after an unforgettable desert sunset, you can sit around the campfire while the guides cook up a storm, followed by a night sleeping out under the stars.
In the morning you make your way to one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries, the Nazca Lines. These huge figures and shapes, carved into the desert floor are best viewed from the air, your travels in South America won’t be complete until you have seen these unbelievable ancient mysteries.
Still heading south you visit Chauchilla Cemetery with its well-preserved mummies, on your way to Puerto Inca, at this ancient Inca harbour you camp at the beach and enjoy your last night at sea level before beginning your climb back into the towering Andes.
The next two nights are spent in Arequipa at 2325m, giving you time to acclimatise, and enjoy this beautiful colonial city with its impressive El Misti Volcano in the background. Arequipa is also the gateway to one of the deepest canyons in the world. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is an awesome sight. Here, if you get up early, Andean condors can be seen circling lazily on the thermals rising from the canyon floor.
You now have to face one of the most arduous and punishing dirt roads on the tour, although you soon arrive at Cuzco. Widely considered to be the most interesting cities in South America, Cuzco is surrounded by the Sacred Valley of the Incas and offers a wide range of activities to explore the region. You will be based here for 6 days giving you enough time for the Inca Trail hike, which is regarded by many to be the highlight of their South America overland tour. When permits are still available, the operator will organise your permit for the Classic Trail trek, but great alternative treks can be arranged when permits are not available for the Classic Inca Trail or by your choice (must be pre-arranged at time of booking). These alternatives mean that you still get to visit Machu Picchu. Tours to Machu Picchu are absolutely unbelievable; a trip to this City in the Clouds is an ancient and awe-inspiring part of your South American overland tour. Besides seeing Machu Picchu, you’re able to enjoy the architectural uniqueness of Cuzco and explore some of the colourful surrounding markets.
Please note that for all those visiting Machu Picchu there is the option to buy a ticket to go up the summit next to Machu Picchu, Huaynapicchu. This must be booked and paid for at the time of booking.