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Signature Peru and Brazil: Machu Picchu, Rio and Iguazu Falls

13 days from £3,736pp

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Signature Peru and Brazil: Machu Picchu, Rio and Iguazu Falls:
Trip Dossier

This luxurious private journey captures the natural and cultural highlights of the southern Andes of Peru and the exotic beauty of the Iguazú Falls and 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. Travel 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 Brazil where you’ll immediately notice a different culture and pace of life. You arrive at Iguazú Falls, where you will step out of your hotel room at Belmond (ex-Orient Express) Hotel Das Cataratas to a symphony of birdsong and the thunderous roar of water crashing over lofty granite cliffs fringed by tropical rainforest. Explore the falls, walking above, below and even behind some of the 275 cascades, then move on to Rio. 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.

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 tour of the city and surrounding Inca ruins.

Day 7

At leisure in Cusco.

Day 8

Transfer to airport, fly via Lima to Iguazú Falls, Brazil

Day 9

Excursion to the Argentine side of the falls.

Day 10

At leisure at Iguazú

Day 11

Fly to Rio de Janeiro, transfer to hotel in Copacabana.

Day 12

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

Day 13

At leisure in Rio; transfer to airport for international flight home.

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.

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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. Climb out of the bowl in which Cusco is set and descend into the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times and ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created. You spend 2 nights close to the town of Urubamba on the river of the same name.

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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 rises up like a green staircase to the heavens.

Continue along this patchwork valley. The snow-capped Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop to Ollantaytambo, sitting strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin, was never captured by the Spanish conquistadors, but was abandoned. 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.
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Day 4

By road to Ollantaytambo then train to Machu Picchu, guided tour of Machu Picchu.
 
Transfer to Ollantaytambo and travel for 90mins by Vistadome 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.  The ruins’ location is on a ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon.

 You will have a guided tour of the ruins and 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.

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Machu Pichu

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.

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Day 6

Half day guided tour of the city and surrounding Inca ruins.
 

Today you have a fascinating tour of the city. Among the feast of cultural; and historic delights you’ll savour 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.

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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.

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Day 8

Transfer to airport, fly via Lima to Iguazú Falls, Brazil
 

Transfer to airport and fly to Lima (1hr), connecting with a direct, non-stop flight to Foz do Iguaçú in Brazil (4hrs). You’ll be driven to the Hotel das Cataratas, the only property in the sub-tropical national park in which the Iguazú Falls are situated. A mock-colonial building which was once a museum, it’s a very elegant hotel, sitting a short stroll from the falls themselves. Here there’s a broad panoramic view of these colossal falls.

The Iguazú Falls constitute one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder over a 60m high rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The u-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing 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 cascades.

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Day 9

Excursion to the Argentine side of the falls.
 

Private guided tour of the Argentine side of the falls.The day begins with a visit to the National Park Visitor Centre and from there 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 the sheer rock face, and the walkways cross the myriad of streams as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. The train then continues to a kilometre-long walkway leads across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, The Devil’s Throat. From this spectacular vantage point you can feel the incredible power of the water as it plummets into the vortex below.

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Iguazu Falls

Day 10

At leisure at Iguazú
 

At leisure to enjoy the hotel’s facilities or take an excursion to the quirky bird park, or take part in any of the active adventures in the rainforest.

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Day 11

Fly to Rio de Janeiro, transfer to hotel in Copacabana.
 

Fly to Rio de Janeiro and transfer to your hotel on the beachfront in Copacabana. 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. Rest of the day at leisure.

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Rio de Janeiro

Day 12

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, and an ancient rickety tram still climbs around impossibly steep lanes lined by high walls sheltering museums, parks, art centres, smart restaurants and one or two luxury hotels.

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Santa Teresa

Day 13

At leisure in Rio; transfer to airport for international flight home.
 

If your flight is departing in the late evening, you have most of the day 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.

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Essential information

Transport

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

Accommodation

This holiday uses a choice of first class hotels, a mix of historic and contemporary style with well-equipped rooms, excellent facilities and stunning locations.

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 tour of the Argentine side of the Iguazú Falls.
  • Guided jeep tour of Corcovado mountain and Santa Teresa.

Summary of nights

14 days, 13 nights: Lima 1; Urubamba 2; Machu Picchu 1; Cusco 3; Iguazú 3, Rio de Janeiro 3.

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.
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
  • Optional excursions.
  • International flights to Latin America.

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 welcomed 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. Grteater distances are travelled b y air. Drives are relatively short and scenic, stops possible. 

The stay in the Andes is at altitudes of between 2,800 and 3,500m (see the paragraph “Altitude” below).

Climate

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

In sub-tropical Rio and Iguazú, 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 in Rio. In Iguazú it can be very cold at night – temperatures may drop to single figures.

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 in Rio (June-August) is less predictable and can be a bit chilly, though never cold; there may be cold snaps in Iguazú in June and July, requiring a warm jacket or sweater.

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

 Due 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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