South America Express

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South America Express
Travel across South America from Lima to Rio de Janeiro. Take a guided tour of Machu Picchu, admire lunar landscapes in the Atacama Desert and wander the walkways of IguazĂș Falls. Not to mention sampling the delicious cuisine of Peru, Argentina and Brazil!

The tour that we operate in the reverse direction is South America Express (HES).


HSE | Fri 12 May 2017 - Tue 06 Jun 2017


HSE | Fri 14 Jul 2017 - Tue 08 Aug 2017


HSE | Fri 18 Aug 2017 - Tue 12 Sep 2017


HSE | Fri 22 Sep 2017 - Tue 17 Oct 2017


HSE | Tue 24 Oct 2017 - Sat 18 Nov 2017


HSE | Fri 24 Nov 2017 - Tue 19 Dec 2017


HSE | Mon 04 Dec 2017 - Fri 29 Dec 2017


HSE | Fri 05 Jan 2018 - Tue 30 Jan 2018


HSE | Mon 15 Jan 2018 - Fri 09 Feb 2018


HSE | Fri 16 Feb 2018 - Tue 13 Mar 2018


HSE | Fri 02 Mar 2018 - Tue 27 Mar 2018


HSE | Fri 23 Mar 2018 - Tue 17 Apr 2018


HSE | Fri 06 Apr 2018 - Tue 01 May 2018



Dossier Last Updated: 03-11-2016
Tour Code: HSE
Duration: 25 nights / 26 days
Joining City: Lima
Departure City: Rio de Janeiro
Nearest Joining International Airport: Lima Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM)
Nearest Departing International Airport: Rio Galeao Antonio Carlos Jobim Intl Apt (GIG), Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont Airport (SDU)

Outline Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive Lima 2 See the spectacular juxtaposition of Incan and colonial architecture in Cuzco 3 Machu Picchu 4Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas 5-6 From Puno we take a boat onto Lake Titicaca to meet the communities living on the islands on the world's highest navigable lake 7-8 Explore Bolivia's bustling commercial capital, La Paz 9Uyuni 10 Marvel at the otherworldly Uyuni Salt Flats on a thrilling 4WD tour 11 Visit the remote Laguna Colorada, a beautiful colorful lake surrounded by flamingos 12-13 Enjoy the lunar landscapes, geysers, salt flats and hot springs of the Atacama Desert 14-16 Explore Chile's sprawling cosmopolitan capital, Santiago 17-19 Tour Argentina's most famous wine region and taste some of the world's best Malbecs in Mendoza 20-22 Visit the Casa Rosada and enjoy some of the world's best steaks in Buenos Aires 23 Foz do Iguaçu 24 Be mesmerised by Iguazú Falls from Brazil and Argentina 25 You can check out the world-famous sites and beaches of South America's most beautiful city, Rio de Janeiro 26 Depart Rio de Janeiro

What's Included

  • Guided tour of Machu Picchu
  • Guided tour of Sacred Valley of the Incas
  • Full day excursion on Lake Titicaca
  • Drive on the Salar de Uyuní salt flats
  • Entry to Laguna Colorada National Park
  • Guided tour of the Valley of the Moon
  • Argentinian Winery
  • Entry to Iguazú Falls in Brazil
  • Entry to Iguazú Falls in Argentina
  • 23 night(s) in hotels, 2 night(s) in basic, multi-share hostels with limited facilities
  • 19 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
  • Travel by 6 flight(s), Train, Private Vehicle, Public Bus, Boat, 4WD
  • Tour leader

What's not Included

  • International flights and departure taxes
  • Tips on included excursions, visas, travel insurance, personal items and single rooms
  • Airport transfers and pre and post tour accommodation
  • Spending money – budget for meals, snacks, drinks, limited souvenirs, laundry, tips and any extras
  • Optional excursions - Please see the optional excursions on the Itinerary page for a comprehensive list of optional activities and excursions available on this tour


  • Lake Titicaca
  • La Paz
  • Uyuni Salt Flats
  • Atacama Desert
  • Santiago
  • Mendoza - South America's capital of wine
  • Buenos Aires - 'Paris of the South'
  • Iguazu Falls - One of the greatest natural wonders of the world
  • Rio de Janeiro

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 to 1 - Arrive Lima

The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre tour accommodation. On arrival please ask at the reception for information on when the pre departure meeting will be held.

Lima was founded by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535 after he eradicated the Incas and made the city his capital. Lima has many fine colonial buildings and some of the best museums in South America including the Gold Museum, Museum of the Inquisition and the Catacombs below the San Francisco Church. Peru's capital has much to offer and many of the sights, including the city's two main squares the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin, boast some fantastic sightseeing opportunities. The Plaza de Armas houses the Cathedral, Municipal Palace and Presidential Palace where the changing of the guard can be seen every day at 12 noon. There are also many markets in Lima, possibly the best being in the central district.

Optional Excursions: Museum Inquisition – free • Monastery and Catacombs – US$3 guided tour • Plaza San Martin, one of the largest and most impressive squares • Paragliding – US$60 • Magic water circuit park (largest water fountain park in the world) – US$2 plus taxi

Accommodation: 1 night(s) in hotels

Day 2 to 2 - Cuzco

Having spent the previous day exploring Lima's bustling capital city, we take a flight to Cuzco, where you have the rest of the day free to explore the fascinating ancient capital. We recommend taking a city tour, so that you see as much of the city as possible in the time available

The oldest continuously inhabited city in South America, Cuzco was the hub of the Incan Empire and features a population of around 300,000, most of who are indigenous. This marvellous colonial city is situated 3,310 metres above sea level and has numerous churches, some of which were built using recycled Inca masonry, as were many other buildings in Cuzco. The main square is called the Plaza de Armas, which has the beautiful cathedral on one side, which took a century to build, and the Church of La Compañia de Jesus on the other. The colonial arcades, which occupy the remainder of the plaza, are full of restaurants and shops. If you're in the mood for a cultural experience, take a peek inside the 14th-century Inca palace which was later converted into the city's Museo de Arte Religioso (Museum of Religious Art). Well worth exploring during your time here is the ancient archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman, which has the largest and most impressive Inca stonework of all.

The city also boasts the San Pedro market, where all kinds of textiles and artisan merchandise are sold, and you can enjoy a fresh fruit juice made by one of the welcoming locals. Or you can simply enjoy wandering the cobbled streets, enjoy a cup of coca tea in a local café and soak up the friendly atmosphere.

Optional Excursions: Cuzco Visitor Ticket, this gives access to most museums and monuments – US$45 • Salt Terraces Maras Moray – US$30 • Massages – US$25/hr • City tour – US$25

Accommodation: 1 night(s) in hotels

Day 3 to 3 - Machu Picchu

The Lost City of Machu Picchu was originally completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs. Located high above the fast flowing Urubamba River, the cloud shrouded ruins have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all in a remarkable state of preservation that will simply take your breath away.

The ruins were only discovered by the outside world in 1911, when American explorer Hiram Bingham found them while looking for another “lost city” called Vilcabamba. Due to their isolation many of the buildings are still quite intact and you can't help but admire Huayna Picchu (“Young Mountain”), which towers above the ruins. After a guided tour learning about the fascinating history of the Lost City, you have the rest of the day to meander around the ruins or enjoy some free time exploring the local markets in Aguas Calientes, before enjoying a scenic train ride back to the Sacred Valley where our transfer to Cuzco will be waiting.

Included Excursions: Guided Tour of Machu Picchu

Accommodation: 1 night(s) in hotels

Day 4 to 4 - Sacred Valley of the Incas

A full day is spent visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas before retuning to Cuzco. At an altitude of 3800m we take slow walks that take up to an hour, around each of the ruins in order to manage any effects the high altitude may have. Firstly we visit the Pisac ruins, perched on a hilltop with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. We then go down to the famous traditional market of the same name, which is full of colour and atmosphere. A great place for souvenirs! After lunch, we continue along the valley to the temple/fortress of Ollantaytambo with its enormous Inca terracing constructed on the side of a steep mountain.

Included Excursions: Guided Tour of Sacred Valley of the Incas

Accommodation: 1 night(s) in hotels

Day 5 to 6 - Puno & Lake Titicaca

Leaving Cuzco, we'll drive along roads abundant with herds of llamas, alpacas and vicuñas before reaching the Altiplano (high plain) where our journey takes us past hot mineral pools, snow capped mountains and through villages where the locals sell food, fur hats and alpaca sweaters. At the highest point, the La Raya pass at 4,321 metres, you can see the research station for high altitude animals.

The beautiful scenery is continual all the way to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which at 3,855 metres above sea level, is the highest navigable lake in the world. We'll arrive in time so you can visit the colourful local market.

The next morning we depart Puno for our full day excursion on Lake Titicaca. We visit the floating Uros islands in the Bay of Puno, which are constructed by the islanders using reeds that grow in the shallow waters of the bay. You will get to meet the families who live on these islands, learning about their way of life and visiting their homes. You will also have the option to ride in a traditional reed boat before continuing our journey to the island of Taquile, a small island 45km offshore from Puno. It is well known for its tradition of intricate textiles and clothing knitted by the male locals. These textiles are regarded among the highest-quality handicrafts in Peru, and you will learn about this important tradition by meeting and interacting with the islanders. You will then have the option to have a lunch made of local produce before returning to Puno.

Included Excursions: Full day excursion on Lake Titicaca

Accommodation: 2 night(s) in hotels

Day 7 to 8 - La Paz

Built in a steep valley that protects the city from the harsh elements of the Altiplano, just about every building in La Paz is built on some sort of hill, so sightseeing will literally take your breath away! You will have two days to explore La Paz and it's bustling atmosphere. Our hotel is very centrally located and is just around the corner from the city's colourful indigenous street markets including the fascinating and suitably named "Witches Market'' where local women in traditional 'Cholita' dress sell such items as dead cats and llamas foetuses said to ward off evil spirits. The main square, Plaza Murillo, is also within walking distance. The square still retains its colonial buildings including the Presidential Palace. La Paz is possibly the best place to experience a traditional peña show of Andean music and dance to local bands playing time-honoured instruments such as zampoñas (pipes) and charangos (the ukulele).

Optional Excursions: Red Caps walking tours – Bs.20 • Death Road – US$110

Accommodation: 2 night(s) in hotels

Day 9 to 9 - Uyuni

We fly from La Paz to Uyuni, in the South West corner of Bolivia. If it is a clear day, you will be able to see the huge expanse of the Altiplano as you fly over the landlocked country, perhaps seeing the Andes slowly flattening out to become the Amazonian basin, which spreads to the far East of the country, to the border with Brazil.

Please note: During the winter months of May-August temperatures of the Altiplano can be extremely cold, so please be prepared and pack warm clothes

Accommodation: 1 night(s) in hotels

Day 10 to 10 - Uyuni (Salt Flats)

The next morning we embark on an exhilarating three day 4WD tour to explore the Salar de Uyuni and the striking landscapes that surround it. First on the agenda is a visit to the Train Cemetery, where you can see the remains of 19th and early 20th century steam locomotives - a good place for artistic photographs. We will then come to Colchani, the main plant for the iodisation of salt and the best place to observe the methods of salt extraction from the salar. Here ovens are used to dry the salt, which is then formed into cakes. From here we drive onto the Salt Flats themselves. Claimed to be the largest salt flat in the world, the brilliant white vast Salar de Uyuní, which covers some 10,500 square kilometres and is estimated to contain 10 billion tons of salt, looks like something from a surrealist painting and its seemingly infinite horizons will amaze you. The highlight of the day is Fish Island (seasonal dependent). Located in the centre of the Salar, 100 kilometres from Uyuní, this hilly outpost is covered in giant cacti amid a flat, white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. The island is so named because it has the shape of a fish. The otherworldly views from Fish Island will take your breath away, with the brilliant blue sky (weather permitting of course) contrasting with the pure white of the salt flats.

Please Note: Occasionally in the rainy season the salt flats become overly flooded and we may have to alter the itinerary if the salt flats are not safe to traverse. Your tour leader will advise as early as possible if this is likely to happen on your tour.

Included Excursions: Visit the Salar de Uyuní salt flats

Accommodation: 1 night(s) in basic, multi-share hostels with limited facilities

Day 11 to 11 - Laguna Colorada

We continue south on our epic 4WD expedition, into some of the most remote areas of the Bolivian Altiplano. You will see a variety of dramatic landscapes including smoking volcanoes, barren deserts and gravity-defying rock formations carved by the wind. In this incredibly empty landscape you'll most likely feel the furthest from civilisation you've ever been. You will visit the Laguna Colorada, which offers some truly breathtaking scenery, with several varieties of flamingos gathering in the shallow waters of the beautiful crimson lagoon.

Included Excursions: Entrance to Laguna Colorada National Park

Accommodation: 1 night(s) in basic, multi-share hostels with limited facilities

Day 12 to 13 - San Pedro de Atacama

We visit the volcanic zone ‘Sol de Mañana' (Morning Sun) at 4,850 metres above sea level. Here you'll discover a geyser basin with bubbling mud pots, hellish fumaroles and a thick aroma of sulphur fumes. Inside a small crater we will observe boiling lava and we will also stop at hot springs where you can bathe. Crossing a 5,000 metre pass we come to the beautiful Laguna Verde, which is shadowed by the cone of the Licancabur Volcano. Continuing on we will cross into Chile and come to San Pedro de Atacama in the world's driest desert. The area is famous for the salt-covered lunar landscapes, geysers, salt flats and hot springs of the Valley of the Moon, which we will explore by 4WD. There is an excellent archaeological museum at San Pedro de Atacama, housing a good selection of ancient artefacts.

San Pedro de Atacama is a picturesque small town that looks like it has come straight from the scene of a Western with its single-storey buildings, white-washed walls and dusty roads. Due to its remote location and dry climate, the Atacama desert offers some of the clearest skies in the world and as such is used by international space agencies to monitor the skies. If you are lucky enough to have clear nights during your stay in San Pedro de Atacama, the starscape will most likely be the best you'll ever see.

Included Excursions: Guided tour of the Valley of the Moon

Accommodation: 2 night(s) in hotels

Day 14 to 16 - Santiago

We head to the sprawling metropolis of Santiago. You will have three days to explore this cosmopolitan city at your own pace.

Santiago is a very clean, modern city with many fountains and parks, but also has its own turbulent history. It is well-known for its fresh markets such as the famous La Vega Central Market, and the Mercado Central, one of the best seafood markets in the world. You can see the changing of the guard most days outside the impressive Palacio de La Moneda, the seat of the President of Chile. In the 1970s, the palace was bombarded during the military coup d'état, ushering in a dark period in Chile’s national history.

Other interesting places to visit are the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, an impressive fine art gallery housed in a colossal neo-classical building, and the Cementerio General, a huge cemetery with large mausoleums including that of the former president Salvador Allende Gossens. Also worth a visit is the Plaza de Armas, the centrepiece of the city, which is bordered on one side by the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, completed in the 19th century.

For the best views of the city, take a funicular railway or hike to the top of San Cristobal, where the Statue of the Virgin overlooks the capital and the distant Andes. Here you can taste some of Chile's best wines and find some beautifully situated swimming pools.

You may wish to take an optional excursion to the Chilean coast, about two hours’ drive from Santiago. You can wander around the creative port city of Valparaiso, which has a lively tradition of imaginative street art and painted murals, or you can relax in the upmarket beach resort of Viña del Mar, trying exquisite seafood in stylish restaurants that look out onto the Pacific Ocean.

Optional Excursions: Tours 4 Tips Walking Tours – Free (tip how much you think the tour is worth) • Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes - US$1 • Museo Histórico Nacional – US$1 • Teatro Municipal, with daily shows ranging from opera, ballet, orchestras and concerts – from US$3-12 • Maipo region winery tours – US$18-50

Accommodation: 3 night(s) in hotels

Day 17 to 19 - Mendoza

We enjoy a scenic drive into Mendoza, the epicentre of Argentina's wine country.

Mendoza is where General José de San Martín organised the army with which he liberated Chile and Peru from Spanish rule in 1818. Unfortunately, few historic buildings remain after an earthquake devastated the city in 1861. However, the city was rebuilt on a grid system, resulting in the broad tree-lined streets and beautiful green plazas for which the city is famous. There are great views from the top of “Cerro de la Gloria” at Parque San Martín, where you can also visit the local zoo. Situated on the foothills of the Andes, the city is a great base for some optional outdoor activities, such as white-water rafting, rappelling and horseback riding. But of course no trip to Mendoza would be complete without touring the surrounding vineyards. You can hire bikes and cycle the ‘Ruta de los Vinos' (wine route), visiting both ancient cellars and working wineries – tasting some of the world's best Malbecs en route.

Please note: Due to Winter weather conditions the route from Santiago to Mendoza may be replaced with an included flight instead

Included Excursions: Guided tour of an Argentinian winery
Optional Excursions: White water rafting – from US$40 • Full day wine tour – US$100 • Paragliding – US$106 • Parque San Martin – free

Accommodation: 3 night(s) in hotels

Day 20 to 22 - Buenos Aires

We fly to the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, known as the "Paris of South America" due to its lovely green parks, plazas and wide boulevards. You will have three days to explore the quirky neighbourhoods and artistic markets of the city, where European and Latin American influences have mixed together to create a city like no other. Stroll down Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world, spotting the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, which was built to commemorate the fourth centenary of the city, and the impressive Teatro Colón, one of the world's best opera houses. You can also visit the famous Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential palace, from where Juan and Eva Perón famously addressed the crowds gathered on Plaza de Mayo in 1945.

Argentina’s capital city is a great destination for culture lovers, with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes boasting an impressive collection including original works by Monet, Renoir and Cézanne. You can also learn about the national heroine ‘Evita’ at the Museo Eva Perón.

Buenos Aires has a variety of craft markets, and if you stroll through them at the weekends you may come across live bands, barbecues, make-shift bars and practising tango dancers for a truly atmospheric Latin-American experience. San Telmo is the best market for antiques, while the market at Recoleta has great hand-made craft items. The nearby Recoleta Cemetery is also worth a visit – it has beautiful marble tombs and Eva Peron’s family tomb can be found here. No visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without a stroll around the upmarket boutiques and cafés of the Palermo district, and the contrasting bohemian barrio of La Boca, where poor inhabitants of the area used left-over paint from the nearby shipyards to paint their humble houses made of scrap metal in bright, block colours.

The city is also world-renowned for its incredible nightlife, with many nightclubs, bars, restaurants and cinemas open all night. For a great evening, you could see an authentic tango show in the city where the dance originated, and you can’t leave Buenos Aires without trying some of the best steaks in the world!

Optional Excursions: Tango show & dinner – US$90 • Hop on/hop off bus – US$28 • Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Free

Accommodation: 3 night(s) in hotels

Day 23 to 24 - Foz do Iguaçu

We fly over fertile farmlands to the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguaçu, our base for visiting the famous Iguazú Falls - the most magnificent waterfalls in the world. Unlike most other waterfalls that have just one or two cataracts, at Iguazú Falls there are 275 cataracts in a magnificent 3 kilometre long U shape that we will visit from both the Brazil and Argentinean sides.

Visiting the Argentine side of the falls you can board a speed boat which will take you under the falls soaking you from head to toe, an optional adventure you'll never forget! On the Argentine side you'll also find the famous "Devil's Throat" where fourteen falls drop with such force that there is always a massive cloud of spray overhead.

Visiting the Brazilian side of the falls will give you a completely different perspective from the Argentine side. On the Brazilian side you can see the falls by walking through the rainforest and along catwalks above and below the rushing water. You can also visit the world's largest hydroelectric dam at Itaipu (optional) where you can learn more about the ecological issues faced during the dam's construction. There is also a very interesting bird park nearby, perfect for that must-have photo with a toucan!

Included Excursions: Iguazu Falls,visiting the Argentine and Brazilian sides from our base in Brazil Optional Excursions:Helicopter ride over the Falls – US$120 • Bird Park – US$14 • Rafain dinner and dance show – US$50 • Itaipu Dam, including transport, presentation film and tour around the engineering marvel – US$25 • Jungle 4WD and boat trips – US$12-60

Accommodation: 2 night(s) in hotels

Day 25 to 25 - Rio de Janeiro

Fantastic Rio de Janeiro has many things to see and do. A highlight for many would be to experience the majestic gaze of Christ the Redeemer at the top of Corcovado, the breath-taking panoramic views from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, and the vibrant coloured tiles of the Selarón staircase. You can walk from the top of the staircase up to the quiet hill-top neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, with many quaint cafés and shops lining the cobblestone streets. In the city centre, you can stroll around Rio's old colonial buildings and wander around the skyscrapers of the financial district. Alternatively, you may like to visit the Botanical Gardens, one of the world-famous beaches of Copacabana or Ipanema, or the beautiful Rodrigues de Freitas Lagoon. If you are in Rio de Janeiro around February/March, get ready for the world's biggest party, the Rio Carnival.

Optional Excursions: Full day Rio de Janeiro city tour – US$47 • Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf) cable car – US$12 • Beaches – free • Maracana Stadium tour – US$7-35 • Favela half day tour – US$25 • Hang-gliding - US$145

Accommodation: 1 night(s) in hotels

Day 26 to 26 - Depart Rio de Janeiro

Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.


Tour Prices

  • Tour Price Per Person: US$5,929.00


  • 5% Loyalty Reward - Repeat Client: US$-296.45


  • Rio Carnival Accommodation Supplement: US$119.00
  • I'd Like My Own Room: US$799.00
  • Rio Olympics Accommodation Supplement: US$319.00
  • Carbon Offset: US$20.00

Additional Prices (Optional)

  • Pre-tour Accommodation Price Per Person Per Night (Single Room): US$69.00
  • Pre-tour Accommodation Price Per Person Per Night (Twin Room): US$41.00
  • Pre-tour Accommodation Price Per Person Per Night (Triple Room): US$38.00
  • Post-tour Accommodation Price Per Person Per Night (Single Room): US$143.00
  • Post-tour Accommodation Price Per Person Per Night (Twin Room): US$78.00
  • Post-tour Accommodation Price Per Person Per Night (Triple Room): US$65.00
  • Lima Arrival Transfer Price Per Booking Per Unit: US$30.00
  • Rio de Janeiro Departure Transfer Price Per Booking Per Unit: US$60.00