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Andean Flamingo: Andes laid bare

17 days from £4,448pp

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Andean Flamingo: Andes laid bare:
Trip Dossier

This adventurous yet comfortable journey through the Andean heartland explores a variety of mountain landscapes. After exploring the misty cloud forests surrounding Machu Picchu, and crossing sapphire-hued Lake Titicaca, traverse the sparkling salt flats of Uyuni before descending to the arid rocks of Atacama - the driest desert in the world.

Throughout, a rich indigenous culture is manifest in intricate and brightly coloured costumes and markets bursting with produce and crafts. The imposing ancient ruins bear testament to the region's complex and tumultuous history. The desolate high-altitude desert of south-western Bolivia is beautiful and utterly remote, with rough roads and basic infrastructure (even the hotels are constructed from salt!). An adventurous spirit is necessary to get the most from this memorable trip.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

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

Day 1

Overnight in the capital.

Day 2

Fly to Cusco, afternoon at leisure.

Day 3

Excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas; overnight.

Day 4

By train to Machu Picchu, guided tour of the ruins.

Day 5

Optional re-entry to the site; return to Cusco by train.

Day 6

Guided tour of Cusco and Sacsayhuamán.

Day 7

Scenic road journey to Lake Titicaca.

Day 8

Boat excursion on Lake Titicaca; overnight on Sun Island.

Day 9

Visit a lakeside community; continue to La Paz.

Day 10

Walking tour of the city.

Day 11

At leisure; optional excursions.

Days 12-14

Fly to Uyuni and begin your exploration of the Uyuni salt flats.

Day 15

Explore San Pedro de Atacama.

Day 16

Fly to Santiago: time permitting, optional excursion to a vineyard.

Day 17

Depart on 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 in the capital.
 
Those passengers arriving on an international flight will be met at the airport by the Journey Latin America tour leader or a local representative. The drive to the hotel encapsulates the invigorating chaos of a modern Latin American capital city. Lima, 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 low-rise city of more than 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.

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Cathedral, Lima, Peru

Day 2

Fly to Cusco, afternoon at leisure.
 

Fly to Cusco (1 hour). The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire; one that reached its peak as Columbus prepared to sail across the Atlantic. 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 squares fill with people flocking to the many restaurants (both upmarket and sophisticated cuisine and local delicacies are on offer), bars and clubs.

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Day 3

Excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas; overnight.
 
Today, head out from Cusco over the high plains and descend to explore the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the Inca Empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created. The drive passes through or close to several of the villages and temple fortresses that pepper the valley.

The Pisac complex, set high above and visible from the eponymous colonial village you will visit, is built on terraces carved into the steep hillsides. The engineering and preservation are unrivalled. From the flat valley floor this intricate hillside rises up like a green staircase to the heavens.

Continue along this picturesque, patchwork valley to the temple of Ollantaytambo. The snow-frosted Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop. Ollantaytambo, sitting strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin, was never captured by the Spanish conquistadors, but the inhabitants decided that the settlement was too vulnerable and would eventually fail, and so they abandoned it. The fortress, the colonial grid plan and the Inca foundations are still intact and there are wonderful views down over the sloping hillsides and into the fertile valley. You spend the night in the tranquil valley.

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Sacred

Day 4

By train to Machu Picchu, guided tour of the ruins.
 
Set off by rail to Machu Picchu (2½ hours). As the Urubamba river enters its narrow gorge between thickly-forested granite hills, there is room only for a single track, which hugs the right bank and passes through hamlets that are no more than a collection of shacks beside the railway. Arrive in the small, sub-tropical spa village of Machu Picchu, where you leave your bags at the hotel and board a bus for a precipitous journey up a sinuous road to the Inca site of Machu Picchu and take a guided tour.

The American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered the site in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath tropical cloud forest. It soon became clear to excavators that the conquistadors had never found the city, and for many years it was mistaken for the legendary last refuge of the Incas, Vilcabamba.

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Machu Picchu, Peru

Day 5

Optional re-entry to the site; return to Cusco by train.
 
Optional revisit to the ruins. It is the location, perhaps, that most captures the imagination, set on a ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon. Over the 2 days there is time to explore some of the many trails within the site; follow the steep path up Huayna Picchu the conical peak which juts out behind the ruins (please enquire with the office, as spaces are limited and it's necessary to pre-book) for wonderful views over the site, or hike to the vertiginous Inca Bridge, carved into a cliff edge. Your tour leader will be on hand to talk through the various walks.

You may prefer to relax and wander the narrow vehicle-free streets of Machu Picchu village, lined with bars and cafés. You return to Cusco on the afternoon train, arriving in the early evening.

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Day 6

Guided tour of Cusco and Sacsayhuamán.
 
A guided 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/temple; the first conquistadors to see it were overawed, and centuries later it is still an extraordinary and imposing sight.
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Lam

Day 7

Scenic road journey to Lake Titicaca.
 
The memorable drive from Cusco to Puno (7 hours - with comfort breaks at places of interest and photo opportunities) follows the narrow Huatanay Valley south through an intensively farmed arable landscape. Ancient villages, small farmsteads and market towns line the river banks as the road climbs steadily to the high pass at La Raya (4,300 metres), after which point the scenery changes dramatically as you cross the altiplano, a vast, windswept plain, punctuated by occasional market towns, where bowler-hatted women tend herds of llamas and alpacas. (If you would prefer to travel this route by train, please enquire with one of our consultants for further information.)

Puno is situated on the shores of Lake Titicaca and the town has a huge market and one of the largest universities in Peru. Exquisite Lake Titicaca sits high in the Andes (at 3,805 metres, the highest navigable lake in the world) on the Peruvian-Bolivian border, and is the focal point for subsistence farmers in the region who fish its dazzling sapphire waters and plant crops along the fertile shores.

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Day 8

Boat excursion on Lake Titicaca; overnight on Sun Island.
 
By road to Copacabana, a small town with a rich colonial history, and board a hydrofoil for a half-hour trip across the lake to Moon Island (Isla de la Luna). Here you visit the Sun Virgin's temple, considered by some to be the most significant ruins on the lake, before continuing by boat to the nearby Sun Island (Isla del Sol).

Sun Island was an important pilgrimage destination even before the arrival of the Incas; originally called Titicaca, it gave the lake its name. Terraced slopes provide sustenance for its small farming communities. From one of the walking trails here you can squint across the sparkling lake to the ice-jacketed peaks of the Cordillera Real beyond. There is a short walk to reach the comfortable hotel where you spend the night.

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Sun Island, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Day 9

Visit a lakeside community; continue to La Paz.
 
Descend a steep Inca stairway containing an ancient “fountain of youth”. After lunch on the island, board the hydrofoil to Huatajata (3 hours). Here you will learn about the traditional living on the lake's islands and the creation of structures from local tortora.

At Huatajata board a bus for the final drive to La Paz (90 minutes). The road crosses the bleak altiplano and has views over the snow-tipped, spidery peaks of the Cordillera Real before its spectacular descent into La Paz. At over 3,500m this is the highest capital city in the world. You arrive through the highland suburb of El Alto, which has grown so rapidly with an influx of rural migrants in search of work, that it is now a huge city in its own right. Soon after, you find yourself on the rim of a vast canyon and the city of La Paz spreads out before you, 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 bulk of Mount Illimani.

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Day 10

Walking tour of the city.
 

This busy city has a 60% indigenous population; women dress in voluminous multicoloured skirts and bowler hats and have centre partings, as decreed by the Spanish monarch 3 centuries ago. Your 2 full days in the city give you plenty of opportunity to explore the colonial centre around Plaza Murillo, to stroll through the steep narrow streets, and around the many open and covered markets; it's the street life here, the sounds and smells, that make it so fascinating. You are orientated in the compact city centre by a walking tour.

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La Paz, Bolivia

Day 11

At leisure; optional excursions.
 
At leisure further to explore.  There is an optional excursion to the ruins of Tiwanaku, about which little is known. Travel 2 hours from of La Paz across the bleak, tawny earth of the altiplano, past glimmering lakes and herds of haughty alpacas. These pre-Columbian ruins are considered among the most important on the continent, and the massive gateways and imposing walls are redolent of bygone glory. It is believed that the inhabitants here were more advanced than the Incas in pottery, mathematics, art and astronomy. Explore a new museum on the site which houses more than 100 artefacts and provides a fascinating insight into the history of the ruins.

Alternatively you may choose to venture out of town to Chacaltaya, once the world's highest ski resort, located at 5,000m in the Cordillera Real. It takes around 90 minutes to climb the 7km of winding, rural roads. There's no longer any snow here, but from a wooden chalet house, set on a steep cliff there are views over 3 countries, the cordillera and Lake Titicaca twinkling in the distance.

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Days 12-14

Fly to Uyuni and begin your exploration of the Uyuni salt flats.
 

Early start to fly south from La Paz to Uyuni (45 minutes), a small and unremarkable settlement which cowers on a wind ravaged and remote plateau; gateway to a starkly intense area of outstanding natural beauty. After a visit to the 'train cemetery' on the outskirts of town it is straight onto the salt flats for the next 3 days of your journey. The salar is a dizzying sight. The surface is utterly featureless, smooth, and composed of nothing but pure, dazzling white salt. After rain a thin layer of water covers the surface, turning the salt flats into a huge mirror reflecting an inverted sky. In the centre lies the Isla del Pescado, a small island covered in giant cacti, where you stop to stretch your legs and soak up the view.

The next 2 days are spent travelling by 4WD on this extraordinary, other-worldly journey.

Once across the Salar, the drive continues on unpaved tracks across a lofty and bitterly cold plateau. The pale ochre beauty of the ashen hills and moonlike rock formations is suddenly broken by the opalescent colours of remote lagunas Verde and Colorado. As you swoop down into the Atacama Desert you see a distant patch of green, the oasis of San Pedro.

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Uyuni

Day 15

Explore San Pedro de Atacama.
 

San Pedro is a timeless adobe town with a laid back atmosphere and an erratic electricity supply. Its dusty streets are lined with bars, cafés and tour operators offering various kinds of excursions into the surrounding desert.

Should you choose to take the morning optional excursion to El Tatio Geysers, be prepared for a very early start. But it's well worth it. You arrive on the pitted, craggy geyser field just before dawn, and as the sun rises and warms the earth, hot steam projects dramatically out of the crater into the freezing morning air, creating a wall of mist through which you can make out dark silhouettes and the penetrating sunlight. Note that a rapid ascent to an altitude of 4,500m makes this excursion unsuitable for some.

Alternatively you may want to walk to Pukará de Quitor (3 km). This old Inca fortress has superb views of the mountains and volcanoes bordering Bolivia and Argentina.

On the included excursion to the Moon Valley you arrive late afternoon to explore shady gorges and dramatic canyons formed over centuries by the erosion of salt mountains. Just before dusk, climb to the ridge of a vast golden sand dune to see the landscape lit up in different shades of pink, crimson and mandarin cast by the setting sun.

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Atacama desert

Day 16

Fly to Santiago: time permitting, optional excursion to a vineyard.
 
A bus takes you to nearby Calama (90 minutes) for the 2 hour flight to Santiago. Set in a broad valley between the high Andes and a smaller coastal range, Chile's capital has a distinctly Mediterranean feel.

For a panoramic view over the city, visit Cerro Santa Lucía, a central romantic park; for even more dramatic vistas, a cable car leads to the summit of San Cristóbal, where you can join Chilean families wandering along the leafy paths. Afterwards, have a beer at one of the pavement cafés in Bellavista. This is an Italian quarter of narrow streets peppered with bars and shops selling local lapis lazuli (only Chile and Afghanistan produce the stones in commercial quantities).

The museum and house of Chilean poet laureate Pablo Neruda is close by, and its unusual interior with an eclectic collection of paintings and bric-a-brac is well worth a visit. Time permitting, you may wish to visit one of the vineyards close to Santiago, to sample some famous Chilean wine.

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Santiago, Chile

Day 17

Depart on international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Essential information

Transport

3 flights (longest 2 hrs), 2 train journeys (3.5hrs), 2 boat journeys, 4 scenic road journeys (longest 8 hrs with stops). The journey from Cusco to Puno is by bus. If you would prefer to travel by train please contact one of our consultants for further information (only available until April 2017).

Accommodation

A mix of superior and mid-range hotels, with simple lodgings in the Uyuni area.

This journey goes to remote regions where the standard of accommodation varies according to what is available. We use a simple guesthouse on Sun Island and basic (salt) hotels in Uyuni. 

Hotels we use on the Andean Flamingo Journey include:
 
• Lima: Antigua Miraflores
• Cusco: Novotel
• Sacred Valley: Pakaritampu
• Machu Picchu: Casa Andina Classic
• Puno: Posada del Inca 
• Sun Island: Posada del Inca
• La Paz: Hotel Europa
• Uyuni area: Hotel Tayka del Sal
• Uyuni area: Hotel Tayka del Desierto
• San Pedro de Atacama: Hotel Poblado Kimal
• Santiago: Hotel Atton el Bosque 

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 9, 14, full-board days 8, 12 and 13.

Included excursions

• Cusco: city tour with Sacsayhuamán
• Sacred Valley: tour of the valley
• Machu Picchu: guided tour of the ruins
• Lake Titicaca: Sun Island
• La Paz: walking tour
• Uyuni salt flats: 2 night exploration
• San Pedro de Atacama: Valley of the moon

Summary of nights

17 days, 16 nights: Lima 1; Cusco 1; Sacred Valley 1; Machu Picchu 1; Cusco 2; Puno 1; Sun Island 1; La Paz 3; Uyuni area 2; San Pedro 2; Santiago 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 insurance
• Meals other than specified
• Optional excursions

Optional excursions

There are a wide range of optional excursions available 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 $180 USD 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:
• Re-entry to Machu Picchu 
• 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
• Sun Island: by boat and on foot to the ruins of Chincana
• La Paz: guided tour to the pre-Inca ruins at Tiwanaku 
• La Paz: guided tour to the Moon Valley
• La Paz: guided tour to the Cerro Chacaltaya 
• La Paz: Ride the Telefericos over the city
• San Pedro: tour to the El Tatio geysers 
• San Pedro: star gazing in one of the clearest skies in the world 
• Santiago: city tour

Travelling alone

There is no extra cost for single travellers who are willing to share a room. You will be accommodated with a same-sex member of the group who is usually also travelling solo. For single travellers who wish to be sure of having 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, and in Chile the peso Chileno.

Budget

A budget of around $45 USD per day should cover the cost of meals, drinks and the odd souvenir, although prices do vary greatly from country to country.

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. 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 $2 USD (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 USD 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.

Journey grade

The pace of this trip is fast; there are early mornings and long days spent travelling (albeit with frequent stops and fantastic scenery). The Uyuni crossing involves long days of travel across often bumpy terrain. All walks are optional and you should consult your tour leader to make sure you undertake optional excursions that are best suited for you. Please note that if you have requested a double matrimonial room at booking stage this cannot be guaranteed on some parts of the tour such as on the Uyuni Salt Flats crossing due to most of the rooms have twin beds.

Climate

The rainy seasons in the Andes runs between December and March when there are showers most afternoons. The dry season is May to September when the sun is strong during the day, but at night temperatures drop dramatically (to well below freezing), particularly in the south of Bolivia, where temperatures can fall below -10°C. April and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells. 

Lima is covered in a dull grey mist for much of the year, although the sun does break through between November and March. It almost never rains in Lima, and temperatures are moderate. The rest of the coast is sunnier than Lima and for most of the year it is warm enough to wear a shirt during the day and perhaps a light jumper at night.

Altitude

Many of the excursions are at high altitude. 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 also essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block and sunglasses. You should take swimwear for visits to thermal baths. A torch can also be useful during your time on the salt flats. Temperatures can drop well below freezing at night, so thermal underwear is advisable, as well as thick socks and gloves and a hat that will cover your ears. 

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).

Owing to luggage restrictions on the train to Machu Picchu, most of your luggage must be left in Cusco. You can take up to 5kg 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 a pre tour extension from Lima, as usually your main 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. 

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

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 visas for entering Peru, Bolivia or Chile although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Other nationalities should enquire or check with the relevant consulate. Even where visas are not required, there may be a reciprocity fee to pay (e.g. USA and Canada).

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online. This costs $14 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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