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Salt Flats and Inca Ruins – a journey from Lima to La Paz
Journey through Peru and Bolivia and experience some of the most varied landscapes and fascinating archaeological sights in South America.
This 13 day adventure will take you to the most famous cities and natural sights including the infamous Machu Picchu, ancient Cuzco, the world’s highest capital La Paz, tranquil Lake Titicaca and the wilderness of the Bolivian Salt Flats.
If you enjoy an adventure that really packs it in and you’re keen to get immersed in Peruvian and Bolivian hospitality and culture then you’ve found the right trip.
- Roam the ruins of Machu Picchu
- Explore Bolivia’s salt flats and colourful lakes by 4WD
- A home stay with a Lake Titicaca family
- Party in the lively city of La Paz
- Visit the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo
- Sample the world-famous food of Peru in its capital Lima
Arriving in Lima, you’ll be able to explore both the colonial and modern parts of the city before visiting the House of Pizarro, the Plaza de Armas, and the Basilica Cathedral. From Lima you’ll travel to Cuzco (3400m). This Imperial City of the Inca’s was the cultural, political, and geographic centre of a glorious empire which, at one point, stretched from Santiago, Chile to Quito, Ecuador.
From Cuzco you’ll visit the Sacred Valley that runs along the Urubamba River. The high Andean vista is dotted with pre-Columbian villages. You’ll have a chance to visit locals here and learn about their traditions and lifestyle.
In Ollantaytambo, which was the royal estate of Pachacuti, an Inca Emperor, you’ll begin to get a sense of what is to come at Machu Picchu. This Inca city was strategically and spiritually important to the Incan people and the ruins here are awe-inspiring.
The lost city of Machu Picchu is an engineering and architectural marvel of the ancient world. The immensity and mystery of this city is staggering. The Spaniards never found it and the Inca’s themselves didn’t leave any records. Rediscovered in 1911, it’s truly an enigma.
You’ll take a boat ride to the port of Lake Titicaca and hopefully a view of snow-capped Cordillera Real on the horizon. Enjoy a home stay on Amantani Island and be a part of the traditions and simple lifestyles of these island communities. The adventure ends in La Paz with a three day journey to see the salt flats and cacti island of Uyuni. This segment of the trip is a fantastic 4WD adventure through volcanic scenery, the Red Lagoon, and the Siloli Desert.
An extraordinary journey that transports you to ancient lands and allows you to experience Peruvian and Bolivian hospitality and culture. Enquire today.
Day 1 ‐ Start Lima
The tour starts in Lima and the daytime group flights usually arrive into Lima late this evening. It is a thirty to forty‐five minute transfer from the airport to our hotel in the Miraflores district.
Day 2 ‐ Lima city tour
The morning is free to rest after your flight.
In the afternoon we have a half day tour (approx. three and a half hours) of colonial and modern Lima. We explore the residential district of Lima (Miraflores) and then the historical downtown area. We will discover the Plaza de Armas, Basilica Cathedral and Government Palace (also known as ‘House of Pizarro’) as we take a short walk around the colonial centre. We also visit the incredible Church of San Francisco, which houses one of the oldest libraries in the Americas and sits on top of a labyrinth of catacombs complete with the bones of Lima’s wealthy eighteenth and nineteenth century residents!
This evening perhaps a visit to the bohemian district of Barranco for some local food and a taste of the famous Pisco Sour, Peru’s national cocktail.
Day 3 ‐ Fly to Cuzco (3,400m)
At around midday you will take the short (approx. one hour) flight to Cuzco and transfer to our centrally located hotel. Set amidst hills in the Andes, the imperial city of the Inca’s, was the geographic, cultural and political centre of a vast empire which, at its peak, stretched from present day Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile. After the Spanish Conquistadores invaded the city they started building on top of the Incan structures, resulting in unique architecture, a fusion of the Incan and Spanish colonial styles.
It is recommended to take it easy upon arrival into Cuzco and to drink plenty of water to allow your body time to acclimatise to the altitude (3,400m). In the afternoon there is a walking tour to visit the beautiful Plaza de Armas (main square), the traditional San Blas neighborhood and a Coca Museum.
Day 4 ‐ Free day in Cuzco
Today has been left free for exploring Cuzco, one of South America’s most beautiful cities. The Plaza de Armas is a fantastic spot for people watching, and the Koricancha Sun Temple, located in the Santo Domingo Church and Monastery are worth a visit. The Mercado San Pedro is the place to try some local produce and there are many handicraft markets to shop for souvenirs such as alpaca jumpers and scarves.
Outside the town are more Inca ruins, notably the fortress of Sacsayhuaman where the Inca armies made their last stand against the Conquistadores.
If you fancy something more active then there are a array of optional activities available from Cuzco that your leader can organise for you. These include paddle‐boarding on a lake, mountain biking, or a combination of via ferrata and zip‐lining in the Sacred Valley.
You will need to pack a smaller overnight bag this evening with enough clothes for the next two nights ‐ your main luggage will be stored at the hotel in Cuzco until your return.
Day 5 ‐ Explore the Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley, which runs along the Urubamba River near Cuzco, is the true heartland of Incan culture. The high‐Andean scenery is dotted with old towns and villages dating back to pre‐ Columbian times: we stop to visit a local community in the valley to learn about their lifestyle over a traditional lunch.
In Pisac we encounter a picturesque landscape of terraces carved into the solid rock itself. This citadel was once of strategic importance as this site guarded a road from the lowlands.
We usually arrive at the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo by the mid‐ afternoon. The colossal stone terraces found here give a sense of the scale of what is yet to come when we visit Machu Picchu. This was the royal estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti as well as being of religious and defensive significance. We stay the night in Ollantaytambo.
Day 6 ‐ Visit Machu Picchu
From Ollantayambo we catch the train to Aguas Calientes (approx. one and a half hours) and then take the bus to one of the greatest sights in the world, Machu Picchu. This is one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world, in a mountain setting of staggering immensity. The Spaniards never found it; the Incas left no records about it, so Machu Picchu remains a great enigma, a city lost for centuries in the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Your leader will give you a two/three hour guided tour of the ruins and afterwards there will be free time to explore at your leisure. There are some spectacular walks around the site that you may wish to do, including following the path to the Inca Drawbridge or even up to the Sun Gate for the iconic view of the ruins.
This afternoon/evening you’ll have plenty of time to explore Aguas Calientes, a lively hub with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. There is a fantastic market here where you can pick up textiles and clothing.
Day 7 ‐ Return to Cuzco
The morning is at your leisure. There is the opportunity to make a second visit to Machu Picchu (optional) if you wish ‐ you will need to purchase an extra ticket to do so. Please inform your leader at the start of the holiday if you would like to purchase an extra entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. Alternatively you may decide to visit the hot springs in Aguas Calientes, however please be aware that in recent years they have become over‐crowded and the water quality can suffer as a result.
In the afternoon we take the train back to Ollantaytambo where we meet our bus and transfer the rest of the way to Cuzco by road.
Day 8 ‐ Drive to Puno (3,800m)
We travel to Puno by coach (eight to ten hours), following the Vilcanota River and then climbing onto the altiplano, the high plains separating the Andes from the jungle. Although it is quite a long drive, it is interesting and often spectacular. There are scheduled stops at sites along the route (and a lunch stop) to help break up the day and we get a feeling for the immensity of the Andean landscapes. Look out for alpaca farms too! We arrive into Puno (3,800m), on the shores of Lake Titicaca in the late afternoon.
This evening you should pack your overnight things for the Isla del Sol into a daypack, as your main luggage will be left at the hotel in Copacabana.
Day 9 ‐ Isla del Sol
It’s about a two to two and a half hour drive from Puno to the border crossing into Bolivia at Kasani. At the border we leave the bus (taking all of our luggage and belongings with us) and complete the immigration procedures, which can take about an hour. We walk about 300m from the Peruvian immigration office to the Bolivian immigration office, where we will be joined by our Bolivian guide. It’s a good idea to change some money into Bolivianos at the border or at Copacabana. We transfer the remaining ten minutes or so to Copacabana by minibuses / car and visit the impressive Basílica de la Virgen de Copacabana before stopping for lunch. Bolivia is an hour ahead of Peru so remember to change your watch.
Your main luggage will be left at the hotel in Copacabana so you need only take your overnight bag to Isla del Sol (we recommend keeping any vauables with you).
After lunch we board a boat and travel for an hour to Lake Tititcaca’s beautiful Isla del Sol, disembarking at Pillkokaina port where we ascend the steps to the ‘Fountain of Eternal Youth’. It’s about an hour’s walk to our eco‐lodge, which allows us to take in the stunning surroundings; deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca in contrast to the snow‐capped peaks of the Cordillera Real. There is the option to walk to a viewpoint for sunset if you wish.
Day 10 ‐ Isla del Sol ‐ Copacabana
Be prepared for one of the highlights of the trip. We walk across the Isla del Sol, from south to north (approx. four hours) ‐ scenery doesn’t get much better than this. We should arrive to ‘The Temple of the Sun’ (Chincana) around noon and we will explore the huge labrynth complex of ruins. We will also visit the Sacred Rock, carved in the shape of a puma, before taking a boat to Yumani (approx. fifty minutes). We will be treated to a traditional Apthapi lunch ‐ a selection of dishes typically including boiled potatoes, vegetables, eggs, local tortilla, chicken, trout and sauces.
After lunch we travel back to Copacabana by boat, and spend the night.
Day 11 ‐ La Paz (3,650m)
Our destination is La Paz, but we visit the pre‐Columbian ruins of Tiahuanaco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site en route. La Paz sits at 3,650m above sea leve and is the world’s highest administrative capital.
Day 12 ‐ Free day La Paz
Today is free. Your leader will be able to make suggestions of things to do and see and help you organise it. Perhaps you might like to visit the Cathedral, the Basilica of San Francisco, and the Prado pedestrian area of La Paz. There are also various optional excursions available, including a Lunar Valley and Witches’ Market tour. Lunar Valley is a short distance outside the city and is known for its intriguing landforms of eroded canyons, pinnacles and cacti. You might also want to explore the Witches’ Market (Mercado de Hechicería) which sells unusual herbal and traditional remedies, some of which are quite unorthodox.
The tour ends after breakfast. The group flights depart early this morning. Standard Hotel (Breakfast). For those on group flights, these depart in the morning and will arrive in the UK the following day.
This is a small group guided holiday. The group is usually between 4 and 16 in size, with an average of 12 like-minded clients booking individually, in a couple or as friends together.
You are reasonably fit, enjoy the outdoors and are looking for some exercise. Some previous experience is preferable for activity based trips.
This tour spends 11 nights in comfortable hotels with en suite facilities, and 1 night in an eco-lodge.
Please note than central heating is very rare in Peru and Bolivia, even in good standard hotels. Most hotels provide plug in heaters and spare blankets to combat this.
Vaccinations and Visa
Visas are not required by UK citizens, Western European nationals, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and most other nationalities. If you are in any doubt please contact the nearest Peruvian Embassy.
There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. If you are travelling to the rainforest (including Tambopata Reserve and Manu National Park), although the risk is not great, we advise you to take anti-malarial precautions and strongly recommend that you obtain a Yellow Fever vaccination. You should also be aware that Dengue Fever is present in the Amazon region – this is a non-preventable disease caused by daytime biting mosquitoes. You should always apply insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers while in the rainforest to avoid being bitten.
The size of Peru and Bolivia means that there are some long drives (up to approx. 11 hrs maximum including stops) and some early starts. The buses used are comfortable (a mix of private buses and shared tourist coaches) and the scenery is outstanding. There will be several stops along the way to help break up the long journeys.
Standards in Bolivia are generally lower than those found in Peru and some other South American countries. This will be most apparent in Uyuni where accommodation is basic and transport a bit more rough and ready (by 4×4). There will be only five passengers in each 4×4 vehicle to provide better comfort and views. Although the vehicles are serviced regularly, the dust, temperature fluctuations and terrain in Uyuni can take its toll on them.
Temperatures in Uyuni can fall as low as minus twenty degrees Celsuis at night. You are best to approach this trip with a relaxed attitude and a sense of adventure. We hope that you will agree that the scenery in Uyuni is of incomparable beauty and this is a highlight of the trip!
This trip spends considerable time at altitude (max. overnight stay 3800m at Lake Titicaca) – please see the Trip Notes for more information and advice on how to limit the effects of altitude sickness. This tour has been purposely designed to operate in the direction of Lima to La Paz to allow for gradual acclimatisation.
There will be one leader whilst in Peru and a different local leader for the Bolivia section, plus local guides where needed.
Eating & drinking
All breakfasts, 5 lunches and 4 dinners are included in the price of the tour. Hotel breakfasts are normally buffet-style, with a variety of hot and cold dishes. Where lunch and dinner is not included we’ll visit a variety of cafes and restaurants. For some of the days with long drives we may take some packed lunches to eat at a scenic spot along the way.
Food in Peru and Bolivia is delicious and varied, with a wide range of fresh ingredients – local specialties to look out for include ceviche (a spicy dish of fish marinated in lime juice), lomo saltado (a Peruvian take on a stir fry) and the hearty soups.
Weather & seasonality
Since Peru and Bolivia are in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the reverse of those in Europe; trips are therefore organized between April and October, to take advantage of the longer, warmer days in the rather brief summer period. You can expect to experience a range of temperatures and climates as we cover a lot of distance and travel from lowland areas to high altitude regions (>4,000m)!
Peru’s diverse geography results in a very varied climate. The coastal desert including Lima, is generally dry but cloudy through most of the year. The exception is January to March when the skies are clear and the temperatures rise.
In Cuzco and the Andes, April to November is the dry season; during these months the sky is generally bright and clear with strong sunshine in the mornings, sometimes clouding over as the day progresses. In the Andes, however, anything is possible at any time of year, including cloud rolling up from the Amazon basin, rain or even snow, and rapid and unexpected changes! During the dry season temperatures at night can dip to around the freezing mark (and sometimes below!), particularly around Lake Titicaca.
Temperatures in Uyuni can fall as low as -15 to -20 degC at night due to the high altitude.
Price: From 1,749 GBP (excluding flights – flight inclusive options available). Get in touch for availability and confirmed prices.
Dates: Contact us for confirmed departures.
- All breakfasts, 5 lunches and 4 dinners
- All accommodation
- All transport and listed activities
- Tour leader throughout
- Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
- Arrival and departure transfers
- Travel insurance
- Single accommodation (available on request)
- Visas or vaccinations
If you’re looking for a company with experience you can’t beat these guys. This operator started life in February 1974 when two friends got together to provide an overland truck to travel to the Minaret of Jam, deep in the heart of the Hindu Kush, the most inaccessible of the world’s great monuments.
For the company, and people who work for them “it’s all about adventure” which is what they were founded on and what they are still about today. Their trips take place all around the world where they help travellers to delve into local traditions, cultures, cuisine, lifestyles – anything that contributes to a country’ unique identity.
We love that their groups and guides travel courteously and respectfully, in smaller groups to minimise the impact and to ensure that every holiday is a beneficial experience for everyone involved.
Salt Flats and Inca Ruins – a journey from Lima to La Paz
- Trip Code: AWA305
- Dates: From April to October
- Price: from 1,749 GBP
- Depart: Lima, Peru
- Arrive: La Paz, Bolivia
- Length: 13 days
- Adventure: Journey from Lima to La Paz taking in Machu Picchu, Cuzco, La Paz, Lake Titicaca and the wilderness of the Bolivian Salt Flats