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Hummingbird: Ocean to ocean

21 days from £3738pp

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Hummingbird: Ocean to ocean:
Trip Dossier

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. 

This comprehensive and comfortable trip introduces you to South America's fascinating history and gives an insight into contemporary culture and ways of life.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart Wed, arriving in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil the same day.

Day 1

Overnight in Copacabana.

Day 2

Explore Rio; cable car ride up Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Day 3

Optional excursion.

Day 4

Fly to Iguazú Falls; explore the Brazilian side.

Day 5

Iguazú Falls; explore the Argentine side.

Day 6

Fly to Buenos Aires.

Day 7

City tour of the Argentinean capital.

Days 8-9

Fly to and explore the colonial city of Sucre.

Day 10

Fly to La Paz, the world's highest capital city.

Days 11-12

From La Paz, visit Tiwanaku pre-Columbian ruins. At leisure.

Day 13

By road to the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Day 14

Lakeside drive to Puno, Peru.

Day 15

Private transport to Cusco.

Day 16

Tour of Cusco and Inca temple Sacsayhuamán.

Day 17

Excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, overnight.

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

Depart for international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Wed.

Detailed itinerary

UK clients depart Wed, arriving in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil the same day.
 

Day 1

Overnight in Copacabana.
 
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.

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.

Rio de Janeiro

Day 2

Explore Rio; cable car ride up Sugar Loaf Mountain.
 
You have a guided tour of the city and then travel by 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

Optional excursion.
 
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.

Rio de Janeiro

Day 4

Fly to Iguazú Falls; explore the Brazilian side.
 
Fly to Foz do Iguaçú in the subtropical south-west corner of Brazil (2 hours). 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

Iguazú Falls; explore the Argentine side.
 
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.

Iguazu Falls

Day 6

Fly to 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

City tour of the Argentinean capital.
 

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.

Buenos Aires

Days 8-9

Fly to and explore the colonial city of Sucre.
 
A flight via Santa Cruz takes you 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.

Sucre

Day 10

Fly to La Paz, the world's highest capital city.
 

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

From La Paz, visit Tiwanaku pre-Columbian ruins. At leisure.
 
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.

La Paz

Day 13

By road to the shores of Lake Titicaca.
 
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

Lakeside drive to Puno, Peru.
 

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.

Lake Titicaca

Day 15

Private transport to Cusco.
 

A scenic day-long private vehicle road journey takes you from Puno to Cusco. You cross the altiplano, a large, windswept plain, punctuated by occasional market towns, where bowler-hatted indigenous women tend herds of llamas and alpacas. As the mountains close in, the bus climbs to its highest pass at la Raya (4,200m), and from here the scenery changes dramatically as you race down through the fertile fields of corn and potatoes to Cusco. You arrive in the early evening. (If you would prefer to travel this route by train, please enquire with one of our consultants for further information.)

Day 16

Tour of Cusco and Inca temple Sacsayhuamán.
 

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.

Cusco

Day 17

Excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, overnight.
 
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.

Ollantaytambo

Day 18

By rail to Machu Picchu; guided tour of the site.
 
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.

Machu Picchu

Day 19

Optional revisit to Machu Picchu. Return 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. 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 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 rail and road.

Day 20

Fly to 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 for international flight or extension.
 

UK clients arrive home the following day, Wed.
 

Essential information

Transport

5 flights (longest 6 hours with connection), 3 road journeys (longest 8 hours), 2 rail journeys (longest 3.5 hours). The journey from Puno to Cusco is by road. If you would prefer to travel by train please contact one of our consultants for further information.

Accommodation

On this journey we use superior mid-range hotels.

Examples of hotels on the Hummingbird include

• Rio de Janeiro: Hotel Porto Bay International 2016/Miramar Hotel by Windsor 2017
• Puerto Iguazú: Hotel Panoramic 
• Buenos Aires: Sheraton Libertador 2016/Recoleta Grand 2017
• Sucre: Hotel Su Merced  
• La Paz: Hotel Europa 
• Copacabana, Lake Titicaca: Rosario del Lago 
• Puno: Libertador Esteves 
• Cusco: Novotel 
• Sacred Valley: Hotel Pakaritampu
• Machu Picchu: El MaPi Inn  
• Lima: Casa Andina Select Miraflores

These hotels are subject to change and are dependent on availability. Address and contact details will be sent out with your final documents.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 13, 17; dinner day 18.

Included excursions

• Rio de Janeiro: city tour 
• Rio de Janeiro: Sugar Loaf Mountain
• Iguazú Falls: Argentinian and Brazilian sides
• Buenos Aires: city tour
• La Paz: city tour
• La Paz: Tiwanaku archaeological site 
• Cusco: city tour and Sacsayhuamán 
• Sacred Valley: tour of the region
• Machu Picchu: guided tour

Summary of nights

21 days, 20 nights: Rio 3; Iguazú 2; Buenos Aires 2; Sucre 2; La Paz 3; Lake Titicaca 1; Puno 1; Cusco 2; Sacred Valley 1; Machu Picchu 1; Cusco 1; Lima 1.

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 gratuities
• Meals other than specified
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• 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 $320USD should cover participation in most of 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: 

• Rio: funicular railway up Corcovado Mountain to Christ the Redeemer statue
• Iguazú Falls: helicopter ride over the falls or boat ride up to it
• Buenos Aires: Teatro Colon, museums or train ride to Tigre
• Sucre: full day trip to Potosí
• La Paz: the Moon Valley or the Cerro Chacaltaya
• La Paz: Ride the Telefericos over the city
• Lake Titicaca: boat trip to Sun Island
• Lake Titicaca: Uros Islands
• Sacred Valley: Moras and Moray
• Cusco: horse riding or white water rafting close by
• 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)

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 Brazil is the real, in Argentina the peso Argentino, in Bolivia the boliviano, in Peru the sol.

Budget

A budget of around $45USD per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday price, drinks and the odd souvenir.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN 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. Travellers’ cheques are increasingly less favoured by travellers 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.  

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

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

Airport taxes

International departure tax from Lima is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

The pace of this trip is brisk and 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 taking these on at altitude.

Climate

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.

Buenos Aires is at its hottest Jan-Mar (very humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40C during the day). It can be cold and cloudy Jul-Aug, so weather conditions are best for a visit in spring and autumn.

In the mountains from Bolivia into Peru, rain can be expected at any time from October to 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 the Bolivian lowlands and Paraguay it will be hot and humid, with frequent showers.

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 sun down 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. 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 10 kgs 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. A yellow fever certificate may 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. You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health

Cases of Zika virus have been reported in parts of Latin America. If you’re pregnant, or planning to be, you should follow the advice of the  National Travel Health Network and Centre

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. Other nationalities should enquire or check with the relevant consulate.

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

This costs $14USD per person. This must be done by you personally.

Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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