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Explore and Relax Peru and Brazil: Machu Picchu to Rio

16 days from £3419pp

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Explore and Relax Peru and Brazil: Machu Picchu to Rio:
Trip Dossier

This variety-filled private journey captures the natural and cultural highlights of the southern Andes of Peru and the heady delights of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Arrive in the vast metropolis of the Peruvian capital, Lima, and move on to historic Cusco, the former Inca capital and a treasure trove of meticulous Inca stonework and graceful colonial architecture. Journey onwards into the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas and travel by rail alongside a tempestuous river through a narrow gorge leading to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, set on a sub tropical mountain saddle above the Urubamba Valley.

Fly across the continent to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where you’ll immediately notice a different culture and pace of life. You have a couple of days in this exciting outdoor city, including an adventurous jeep tour climbing through rainforest to the peak of Corcovado mountain and the famous statue of Christ. You move on up the coast to Buzios, a charming, low-key but chic beach resort.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima and transfer to your hotel in Miraflores on the Pacific coast.

Day 2

Fly to Cusco, transfer to Urubamba.

Day 3

Full day excursion to Pisaq ruins and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Day 4

By road to Ollantaytambo then train to Machu Picchu, guided tour of Machu Picchu.

Day 5

By rail and road back to Cusco.

Day 6

Half day guided walking city tour.

Day 7

At leisure in Cusco.

Day 8

Transfer to airport and fly overnight to Rio de Janeiro via change of ‘plane in Lima.

Day 9

Transfer to hotel in Copacabana.

Day 10

Jeep tour to Corcovado and the statue of Christ, and arty Santa Teresa quarter.

Day 11

At leisure in Rio de Janeiro.

Day 12

By road east along the coast to beach resort Buziós.

Days 13-15

At leisure in Buziós.

Day 16

Transfer to Rio de Janeiro international airport.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima and transfer to your hotel in Miraflores on the Pacific coast.
 
You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel in the cliff-side Pacific residential and commercial district of Miraflores.  The half-hour drive to the hotel through Lima’s outskirts is not the most enchanting introduction to this city of extreme contrasts, but it does encapsulate the invigorating buzz of a modern-day Latin American capital. Lima is a vast, complex metropolis, with a history dating from the era of its wealth and importance to Imperial Spain to its current status as a dynamic, growing city of trade, industry and tourism.  
Lima

Day 2

Fly to Cusco, transfer to Urubamba.
 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Cusco in the Andes (1hr). Continue by road to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times. Scores of archaeological sites remain, well-preserved ruins bearing witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created. Overnight in the small town of Urubamba, close to the river of the same name.

Sacred Valley

Day 3

Full day excursion to Pisaq ruins and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
 
A guided tour exploring the valley. The drive takes in 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 site rises up like a green staircase to the heavens.

Continue along this picturesque, patchwork valley to the temple of Ollantaytambo, the snow-capped Andean cordillera forming a stunning backdrop. Ollantaytambo sits strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin. 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.

pisac ruins

Day 4

By road to Ollantaytambo then train to Machu Picchu, guided tour of Machu Picchu.
 

Transfer back to Ollantaytambo station by road and travel for 1.5hrs by train 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 track, which hugs the right bank and passes through hamlets that are no more than a collection of shacks beside the railway. Close to the foot of the mountain on a saddle of which the citadel was built is the village of Machu Picchu dedicated to serving the many visitors with artisan markets, bars and restaurants.

The majestic ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, is reached by minibus up a sinuous road, or on foot up a near vertical rocky path. The American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath jungle vegetation.It is the ruins’ location on a ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon, that most ignites the imagination. 

You will have a guided tour of the ruins and, since you are overnighting nearby and not restricted by the small window of opportunity offered by a day trip, there is time later to take one of the many trails within the site itself, such as the hike to the vertiginous Inca Bridge, carved into a cliff edge or wander amongst the stone buildings and llama-dotted grassy ledges soaking up the atmosphere. 

machu picchu

Day 5

By rail and road back to Cusco.
 
Return to Cusco by rail and road. The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire, which reached its zenith at the same time as England was fighting the War of the Roses. Today its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches. It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and cafés.

Day 6

Half day guided walking city tour.
 
Today an experienced guide gives you a fascinating walking tour of the city. 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 three-day battle was fought between the Spaniards and the Incas around this fortress. The first conquistadors to see it were awestruck and centuries later it is still an extraordinary and imposing sight.
cusco

Day 7

At leisure in Cusco.
 
At leisure in Cusco. It’s a compact city, easy to explore on foot independently. You are at leisure to discover the street markets, the many baroque churches and museums, and to wander the attractive narrow streets. There are a number of optional excursions in the surrounding region, including a trip to Maras and Moray, about an hour’s drive from Cusco.

Moray is a system of ancient agricultural irrigation paths which now form circular depressions in the earth, with wonderful views into the Sacred Valley and in the shadow 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 mountainside. Feeling you’d like to be active? White-water rafting, cycling and horse riding are on offer.

Maras salt pans

Day 8

Transfer to airport and fly overnight to Rio de Janeiro via change of ‘plane in Lima.
 
Transfer to the airport and fly to Lima (1hr), connecting with an overnight flight to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil (5hrs).

Rio 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.

Copacabana

Day 9

Transfer to hotel in Copacabana.
 

Transfer to your hotel in Copacabana. You arrive early, so your room might not be ready but the hotel will store your luggage while you go off to explore or head to the famous Copacabana beach in front of the hotel. (If you’d rather pay for an extra night in order to be able to check in straight away, please contact us).

Rest of the day at leisure.

Day 10

Jeep tour to Corcovado and the statue of Christ, and arty Santa Teresa quarter.
 
Take an exhilarating trip by open-topped jeep through tropical fruit-laden vegetation up the sheer-sided Corcovado Mountain to drink in the views from beside the famous Christ the Redeemer statue on the peak.

Continue to Santa Teresa, the colonial heart of the city which sits on a hill close to the Cathedral in the busy centre. This is a popular residential area for artists and TV personalities who occupy the stately shaded houses lining its cobbled streets. There are plenty of old-fashioned bars, or bodegas. Impossibly steep lanes lined by high walls shelter museums, parks, art centres, smart restaurants and one or two luxury hotels.

View over Rio

Day 11

At leisure in Rio de Janeiro.
 
At leisure in Rio. The chic boutiques of Ipanema are a stroll away along the beachfront. The quarters of Leblon, the smartest part of town, and Lagoa – the shores of this attractive urban lagoon – have excellent restaurants and night clubs with world class performers.  Close by are the recently refurbished Botanical Gardens, an oasis of calm in this sometimes frenetic city.

Further afield you might take a day trip on a schooner down the coast to the tropical islands off the Emerald Coast, each with its pretty sandy bay. There’s an al fresco lunch and you can swim in the warm, calm waters.

In the evening you might choose to attend a samba show, usually accompanied by dinner and invitations to join the girls on the dance floor.  Or, an evening in Lapa offers an alternative taste of Rio by night to this traditional tourist experience. This atmospheric (if rather edgy) neighbourhood of crumbling colonial facades is where Cariocas (Rio's residents) like to let their hair down, especially late on weekend nights when the bars and nightspots on Rua do Lavrado are crammed with revellers. 

Botanical gardens Rio

Day 12

By road east along the coast to beach resort Buziós.
 

Transfer up the Atlantic coast to Buziós. This is a Mediterranean-style beach resort which combines an upmarket feel with typical Brazilian informality. It’s all very laid back but there are some sophisticated restaurants and chic boutiques. Check into your pousada (small guest house-style hotel) for a 4 night stay.

Buzios

Days 13-15

At leisure in Buziós.
 

At leisure in Búzios. Sunbathing, shopping, fine dining, boat trips and water-sports all within your grasp.

Buzios

Day 16

Transfer to Rio de Janeiro international airport.
 

Essential information

Transport

3 flights; 2 road journeys; 2 rail journeys (longest 4hrs). 

Accommodation

This holiday uses a mix of good quality mid-range hotels, colonial guest house or contemporary in style, with well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and heating.  

Meals

Breakfast daily; lunch day 3, 4 and dinner day 4.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Full day guided excursion to Pisaq ruins and the Sacred Valley.
• Guided tour of Machu Picchu.
• Guided walking tour of Cusco city.
• Guided jeep tour of Corcovado mountain and Santa Teresa.

Summary of nights

16 days, 15 nights: Lima 1; Urubamba 2; Machu Picchu 1; Cusco 3; in the air 1; Rio de Janeiro 3, Buziós 4.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions

Currency

The unit of currency in Peru is the sol; in Brazil it’s the real (plural: reais).

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

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 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 additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques (American Express are the most widely accepted), though these are gradually falling out of use. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

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.

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

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This is a fairly leisurely tour, although it visits a number of places in a short time. Travel is by air or short scenic drive with stops possible. 
The stay in the Andes is at altitudes of between 2,800 and 3,300m (see the paragraph “Altitude” below). 

Climate

The rainy season in the Andes runs between November and March when showers can be expected, frequently in the afternoons. The dry season is from June to September, when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically (from freezing to 10°C). April, May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells.

In tropical Rio and Buziós, December to March are the hottest and most humid months, with temperatures sometimes reaching 40°C, and rain which falls in brief, heavy showers.  From June to September, temperatures are more moderate (18-23°C) and there is plenty of sunshine, but cold fronts can usher in periods of up to several days of cloud and drizzle.

Altitude

Your stays in Cusco and the Sacred Valley are at high altitude (2,800-3,300m). A small minority of visitors may suffer temporarily from altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. 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, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants, although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate.

If you are travelling in the southern summer you’ll only need summer clothing for Brazil, plus beachwear and an umbrella. Winter (June-August) is less predictable and can be a bit chilly, though never cold.

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block and sun glasses.

Owing to luggage restrictions on the train to Machu Picchu, main luggage must be left in Cusco. You can take up to 10kgs per person on the train and an overnight holdall is recommended to separate your luggage for the night spent away from Cusco.

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 the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

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.

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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