South America's BIG FIVE Explorer

From Buenos Aires to Quito
  • Amazon Jungle
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Custom
  • Wildlife
View Similar Tours

Tour Description

Discover South America, a continent like no other. Join us on this amazing tour to witness five of the bucket list places on the continent, i.e. Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu, Amazon, Iguazu Falls and the Galapagos Islands.

Starting from Buenos Aires, the birthplace of famous tango, to Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall complex in the world splitting between Brazil and Argentina, and the most beautiful and interesting urban centre -  Rio de Janeiro. We continue to Lima, also known as the Colonial ‘City of Kings’ and we set off exploring the famous Lake Titicaca. Travel to the beautiful city of Cusco and visit what once was the heart of the ancient Inca civilization, the Sacred Valley, and explore one of the most important archaeological sites in the world: Machu Picchu. The journey proceeds with a visit to the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rain forest and continues to the Galapagos Islands, home of unusual and unique wildlife. 

Diverse nature, wildlife, climate, cultures, history and buzzing metropoles are what make the tour of the South America a one of a lifetime experience!

Viva's Best Bits...

Tick off five bucket list places in South America – Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Amazon & Galapagos

Return back in time and get insights into what the lost city of Incas must have looked like

Learn about the wildlife, conservation and future of the largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon Jungle

Tour Itinerary

Customisable ? This tour can be customised to suit your tastes and timing. Enquire here for more information.
Day 1
Buenos Aires

On arrival into Buenos Aires you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Buenos Aires, Argentina’s elegant, historic and cosmopolitan capital, is known as the “Paris of the South” due to its European atmosphere with glamorous avenues lined with fashionable shops and Parisian-style restaurants and cafes. Located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, Buenos Aires has many fascinating neighbourhoods to explore including the colourful and lively La Boca, home to art galleries and tango shows; San Telmo with its restored mansions and antique stores and Recoleta, the city’s most exclusive area.

Day 2
Buenos Aires

This premium shared city tour with an excellent local guide is a great way to get an overview of Buenos Aires and to find your bearings. The tour explores the busy city centre, including the Plaza de Mayo where the iconic Casa Rosada Presidential Palace is located; trendy Palermo; the working-class south, such as the famous La Boca and San Telmo districts - heartlands of the tango - and the elegant neighbourhoods of Recoleta and Puerto Madero. Generally three stops are made to get out and explore on foot, including at the Plaza de Mayo and along the renowned Caminito Street in La Boca. You can choose to end the tour at the Plaza Francia so that you can look around the Recoleta Cemetery on your own, or you can be taken back to the hotel.

Essential Info: Every day at (approx) 08.00am and 15.00pm. Duration 3-4hours. Groups of 2 to 12.

This evening enjoy an intimate & passionate tango show, housed in a cosy wood-panelled 19th century building in the heart of Buenos Aires' historic centre. The building has a colourful history as it was once a meeting point for poets and students. After being abandoned in the late 1970s, the bar was beautifully restored and reopened in July 1992 as El Querandí Tango Hall. The show, directed by Claudio Campos with musical arrangements by Ado Falasca, smoothly charts the history of Argentina's most authentic artistic expression from its origins to the modern day. With one of the most varied à la carte menus you will find at a tango show, the dinner is very good, and the show, at just over an hour long, is the perfect length. The three house singers, six dancers and four musicians put on a great show.

Day 3
Buenos Aires Iguazu

You will be collected from your hotel at the appropriate time and transferred to the domestic airport for your onward journey from Buenos Aires.

Arrival at Foz do Iguazu airport and transfer to your hotel. Includes guide.

The spectacular Iguazu Falls that straddle the Argentine-Brazil border, are made up of 275 individual waterfalls lining a 2.7km wide horseshoe-shaped gorge. The falls are located where the Iguazu river cascades over the edge of the Paraná Plateau. The falls can be viewed from both the Argentinian and the Brazilian sides, the Brazilian side offering a broader, panoramic view, with the Argentinian side offering a series of catwalks that allow you to experience the falls from close range.

Day 4
Iguazu

In the early morning we will visit the Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side. We will ride the Rainforest Ecological train and then explore panoramic views from above and below the waterfalls. We will visit the Devil's Throat falls, which are said to be one of the most spectacular falls in the world, and you have the option of taking a boat ride under the falls. National park fees included.

Day 5
Iguazu Rio de Janeiro

Today we see the falls from the Brazilian side of the border. After arriving at the visitor centre, we board buses for a tour of the park. Equipped with panoramic windows, the buses are designed to maximise your views of the falls, while the walkways and steps allow you to get up close to the spray. Views of the Floriana Falls, the Devil’s Gorge Canyon and the Iguazu River are spectacular and are guaranteed to impress. National park fees included.

You will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight from Iguazu. Includes guide.

On arrival into Rio de Janeiro you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Day 6
Rio de Janeiro

Known as the ''Cidade Maravilhosa'', or Marvellous City, Rio never fails to amaze with its sandy beaches, carefree lifestyle and unparalleled natural beauty. As the capital of Brazil until 1960, Rio is today one of the most culturally and economically prominent cities in the country, receiving more tourists than any other part of Brazil.

After an early pick up from the hotel between 7:00 & 7:30am, the tour makes its way to the bottom of Corcovado Hill, where we ascend the mountain by vehicle. Climbing 4km through the Tijuca Forest, the world’s largest urban national park, we will arrive at the statue of Christ the Redeemer. After taking in the panoramic views we continue to the Maracanã Stadium. We also pass the Sambadrome and the Metropolitan Cathedral, before passing through the bohemian neighbourhood of Lapa and its famous arches en-route to Copacabana. We have a traditional Brazilian BBQ lunch before visiting the famous Sugarloaf Mountain with views across the entire city. After descending the mountain, you will be dropped off at your hotel.

Included: all transport, tickets and entry fees, lunch (beverages not included).
Approximate duration of tour: 8 hours.

Day 7
Rio de Janeiro

Today is a free day for you to relax on one of Rio’s famous beaches such as Ipanema or Copacabana, or explore the city further at your leisure.

Day 8
Rio de Janeiro Lima

Transfer from your hotel to the airport in a private vehicle.

On arrival into Lima you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Guided assistance is included.

Day 9
Lima

Lima, the capital of Peru, sits on the country's arid Pacific coast. Founded in 1535, its colonial centre is well preserved, but today Lima is a bustling metropolis and one of South America’s largest cities. The city is home to the various museums including the Museo Larco that houses a collection of pre-Columbian art and the Museo de la Nación, tracing the history of Peru’s ancient civilizations. Lima is known as the “gastronomical capital of the Americas”, encompassing specialties from ceviche and traditional coastal cooking to refined global fare. It even boasts several of the top restaurants in the world.

Today is spent touring Lima, the Colonial ‘City of Kings’. On the city tour you will visit a number of well-known sites including the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Plaza de Armas as well as the Catacombs located beneath the San Francisco Convent. This is a chance to appreciate Lima's magnificent Colonial architecture as well as vignettes of its pre-Colombian past.

Day 10
Lima Puno

You will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your outward flight from Lima.

On arrival into Juliaca you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Puno, stopping on the way to take in the pre-Inca burial ground of Sillustani. Here you can wander through the remarkable tombs built from volcanic stone. Known as Chullpas, these funerary towers reach heights of up to 12 metres. Overlooking the beautiful Lake Umayo, Sillustani is considered to be one of the most important necropoles in the world.

Puno lies on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. It is the largest city in the Southern Altiplano and an important agricultural and livestock (llamas and alpaca) region. It sits at an altitude of over 3,800 metres and is a picturesque hillside city and a melting pot of the Aymara and Quechua culture.

Day 11
Puno

The excursion begins at 6:30 am with a transfer from your Puno hotel to the port. We travel by motorboat (35 feet long with 25 individual seats and a covered section in case of rain or cold weather) to the floating reed islands of Uros, situated four kilometres from Puno. Here the locals continue to practise their traditional way of life, living by fishing. The original inhabitants of these floating islands are said to descend from one of the oldest cultures of the Americas. The Uros Islands, as well as the houses on them and the boats used by their inhabitants, are all made from the totora reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca. Optional rides on traditional reed boats can be arranged. We visit two of the 60 islands before continuing on to Taquile Island.
The journey to Taquile Island takes 2.5 hours, giving you the chance to enjoy the spectacular views offered from Lake Titicaca. On arrival at Taquile, we hike for around 45 minutes along a long path that gradually ascends to a village with a unique community. The views along the way are incredible. We visit the communal cooperative where we find craft textiles of a high quality. Lunch is served at one of the many local restaurants.
After lunch we descend down 500 steps to the main port of the island in time for a 2:30 pm departure back to Puno city. We arrive into Puno at 5.30 pm and on arrival you will be transferred to your hotel.

Lunch is included on the tour.
Approximate duration of tour: 10 hours.

Day 12
Puno Cusco

This morning, you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the bus station for your journey from Puno to Cusco.

The spectacular journey from Puno to Cusco takes you across the Altiplano and you will travel accompanied by an English-speaking guide. The drive takes you through sleepy Andean villages and past spectacular snow-capped mountains, sheer cliffs and rampaging rivers. Stops along the way include the atmospheric towns of Pucara and Andahuaylillas and the pre-Inca ruin of Raqchi. Lunch is included and you will arrive in the famous city of Cusco in the early evening.
Approximate duration of drive: 10 hours.

Available alternative: The luxury Andean Explorer Train can be booked for an extra charge. For more information, please ask your Travel Specialist.

On arrival into Cusco, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Cusco, set at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Peruvian Andes, was once the capital of the Inca Empire. It is known for its Spanish colonial architecture and Incan remains. Narrow, cobble-stoned streets lined by Inca walls stretch out from the main plaza in every direction. Many of the colonial buildings were built on top of Incan foundations and the stonework is unparalleled in its precision and beauty.

Day 13
Cusco

Take a sightseeing tour through Cusco, the heart of the Inca Empire. Visit the fascinating Qorikancha Temple of the Sun, the 12-Angled Rock and the Cathedral, built on the ruins of an Inca Palace. From here head to the archaeological remains located around the city, including the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo (giant rock), the ancient site of Puca Pucara and finally the Water Temple of Tambomachay.

Day 14
Cusco Aguas Calientes

Today, explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This fertile river valley was home to many important sites for the Incas, both strategic and religious. The first stop is the village of Pisac, with its famous market. The colonial village of Pisac sits at the base of the spectacular Pisac ruins – a hilltop Inca citadel and fortress with impressive agricultural terracing.
On market days Pisac comes alive with locals from nearby hillside villages in traditional dress selling local fruit and vegetables as well as handicrafts. There is free time to wander the colourful market stalls before a typical Andean lunch at a local restaurant.

Continue your journey along the river Urubamba, to Ollantaytambo. The town, which is dominated by a giant Inca fortress, is perhaps the best surviving example of Inca town planning and was the scene of a rare Inca victory over the invading Spanish. At the end of the tour you will be transferred to the train station in Ollantaytambo to take the train to Aguas Calientes. Lunch is included.

Day 15
Aguas Calientes Cusco

Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca site, located 2,430 metres above sea level on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley. It is the most famous of all Inca sites, but it was not until 1911 that it was brought to the world’s attention by the American historian Hiram Bingham. The Incas abandoned the city just prior to Spanish colonisation, the city was never pillaged and as a result the ruins are still in fantastic condition. With its location on a dramatic ridgeline surrounded by sheer cliffs and the Urubamba river on three sides, the city of Machu Picchu is a remarkable place to visit. Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and in 2007 it was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The tour starts with a bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. You will be astonished at your first view of Machu Picchu, a stunning display of ancient architecture with incredible surroundings. Enjoy a guided tour of the ruins and monuments such as the Main Square, the Circular Tower, the Sacred Solar Clock, the Royal Quarters, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Cemeteries.
Tour includes guided group tour and return bus from Aguas Calientes village.

Please be aware that your tour of Machu Picchu does not include an entry permit to Huayna Picchu (the iconic hill behind the Machu Picchu ruins) or to Machu Picchu Mountain. (the big mountain towering above Huayna Picchu and the Machu Picchu site, providing stunning views). If you want to climb one of these two mountains, you need to pre-book your permit with at least 3 months in advance. Please contact your travel specialist if you would like to do this.

This afternoon travel by train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo.

Transfer from Ollantaytambo train station in the Sacred Valley to Cusco.

Day 16
Cusco Amazon Jungle

You will be collected from your hotel at the appropriate time and transferred to the airport for your flight from Cusco.

You will be met on arrival at Puerto Maldonado Airport to get transferred by road and then a two and a half hour boat journey to Refugio Amazonas, located in a 200-hectare private reserve. The boat ride from the Tambopata Port to Refugio Amazonas takes us past the Infierno Community and the Tambopata National Reserve checkpoint and into the 1.3 million hectare conservation unit.

We venture out at night from the lodge to the river’s edge, scanning the shores with headlamps and flashlights to search for caimans, spotting the red reflection from their eyes.

The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the rainforest covering over 75% of the Amazon Basin. It comprises the largest and most bio diverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, dissected by hundreds of rivers, the most notable being the mighty Amazon. There are over 1,400 species of mammals found in the Amazon, including giant river otters, ocelots, capybara, sloths, tapirs and a large variety of monkeys. The basin is inhabited by more than 1,500 species of birds including toucans, hummingbirds, flycatchers, macaws and other parrots and there are hundreds of butterfly species present. Reptiles found in the Amazon include the anaconda and boa constrictor. The area is also home to over 1,000 species of amphibians and 2,200 species of fish including the red-bellied piranha. The Amazon basin also contains thousands of plant species with tropical fruit trees such as brazil nut, cocoa and rubber trees as well as orchids and the kapok tree, the largest tree of the Amazon rainforest that can grow to a height of over 60 metres.

Day 17
Amazon Jungle

After breakfast venture out onto the lake by canoe or catamaran, looking for wildlife such as hoatzin, caimans, horned screamers, macaws and otters that are sometimes seen in the area. Back on land, a 30 minute walk from the lodge takes you to the 25 metre scaffolding canopy tower, complete with staircase running through the middle and providing safe access to the platforms above. The tower has been built on high ground to give views of the primary rainforest extending out towards the Tambopata National Reserve. Enjoy excellent views across the canopy and look for toucans, macaws and raptors.

After lunch you will visit a farm to learn about local agriculture and Amazonian crops before an ethnobotanical tour to learn about the medicinal uses of the various plants and trees of the region. In the evening, Refugio Amazonas staff offer lectures covering topics such as conservation threats, opportunities and projects in the Tambopata National Reserve.

Day 18
Amazon Jungle

Witness the audio and visual spectacle of a clay lick, watching vibrant coloured macaws, parrots and parakeets feast on clay. Species such as dusky-headed and cobalt-winged parakeets are often seen and with luck we may also see mealy and yellow-crowned Amazons, blue-headed pionus, severe macaw and orange-cheeked (Barraband`s) parrots.

Later, a short hike from the lodge brings you to a beautiful Brazil nut forest that has been harvested for decades. Here you can learn about the whole process of the rainforest’s only sustainably harvested product, from collection through transportation to drying. You will also see the remains of a camp used by the Brazil nut gatherers for 2 months each year.

In the afternoon, there will be a visit to a peccary clay lick, this time to see mammals. Wild rain forest pigs show up in herds of up to twenty to eat clay, alongside deer, guan and parakeets. After dinner you have the option of a night hike when most mammals are active.

Day 19
Amazon Jungle Lima

After breakfast, return to Puerto Maldonado for your departure flight. Depending on airline schedules, this may require a dawn departure.

Arrive at Lima and transfer to your hotel.

Day 20
Lima Quito

You will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your outward flight from Lima. On arrival into Quito you will be greeted and transferred to your hotel.

Check into your hotel in Quito. Your cruise rep will be at the hotel and will brief you on all the details for the next day's departure.

Day 21
Quito

Today’s colonial city tour sees you exploring the bustling streets and squares of the largest historical old town in the Americas. Visit some of its most important churches such as the majestic La Compañía and iconic San Francisco which have stunning multi-ethnic designs and rich cultural heritage.

We then take you to the Equatorial Monument, 25 km (16 miles) north of Quito, which marks the exact middle of the world, Latitude 0º, where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. A certificate for having crossed the Equator is issued to each guest!
The surrounding volcanic scenery is spectacular and there is the opportunity to visit the Ethnographic Museum, which shows the great diversity of Ecuador’s native groups, inside the monument and a Colonial-style town, complete with main square, church, post office, bullring, cafeterias, restaurants and gift shops, beside the monument.

Day 22
Quito Galapagos Islands

At the appropriate time, you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your outward flight from Quito.

Take a morning flight to the Galapagos from Quito or Guayaquil Airport. The flight from Quito to the Galapagos is approximately 2 ½ hours and from Guayaquil it is approximately 1 ½ hours.

Please note that before taking the flight you must pay the INGALA Tourist Control Card Fee at the Galapagos Government Council counter. This is currently US$20 per person but subject to change.

On arrival at Baltra Airport, travellers pass through an airport inspection point to ensure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands and to pay the Galapagos Islands National Park Entrance Fee. This is currently US$100 per person but subject to change.

Guides will meet you, collect your luggage and escort you on the short bus ride to the harbour. Motorized rafts, called ‘pangas’ will transport you to the M/C Seaman Journey and our crew will welcome you on board. After departure and lunch, we make our first island visit.

PM: Interpretation Centre

Opened to the public in 1998, the Interpretation Centre is set in exuberant gardens with stunning ocean views. The Interpretation Centre presents a complete and documented history of the Galapagos, its flora, fauna and ecosystems. It focuses on the history of the archipelago from its volcanic origins to the present day with information on both the geological and human history as well as conservation facts and natural history.

Day 23
Galapagos Islands

AM: Galapaguera
The Galapaguera was built to increase the population of the Galapagos tortoise that is under threat from introduced species such as wild goats and cats. It is a breeding station and sanctuary for giant tortoises and provides a good place in which to observe Galapagos tortoises in their natural habitat.
San Cristobal Island is the easternmost island in the Galapagos archipelago. It has some endemic species including the San Cristobal mockingbird, San Cristobal lava lizard, leaf-toed gecko and turtles. The beach is large and serves as a nesting site for sea turtles. The females lay their eggs in the sand dunes between January and May.
PM: Cerro Brujo
Cerro Brujo is a beautiful white coral sand beach, with good swimming and snorkelling in the turquoise waters. It is home to a colony of sea lions and blue-footed boobies and there are great egrets and great blue herons in the lagoon behind the beach. Nazca boobies, frigate birds and shore birds can also be observed. This is the first coast where Charles Darwin went ashore in 1835.
The salt water pools behind the sand dunes were used by the fishermen as a salt mine in order to preserve food for the local population. Here you may see the Chatham mockingbird and the San Cristobal lava lizard, both species being endemic to the island and unique to this area. You may also spot Galapagos turtles and with luck the small bird known as the Pájaro Brujo in Spanish, an endemic species from San Cristobal Island. The vegetation on the island includes candelabrum cacti and carob trees.
Located on the north coast of Isla San Cristobal, Cerro Brujo is a peaceful place with white sand and crystal water, a perfect combination for an incredible visit.

Day 24
Galapagos Islands

AM: Gardner Bay
Española Island is the southernmost of the Galapagos Islands and one of the oldest, and due to its isolation it has a large number of endemic species including the Española mockingbird, Española lava lizard and the waved albatross.
Located on the north-eastern coast of Española Island (or Hood Island as it was named by the English), Gardner Bay provides an excellent beach for relaxing, swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. The beach attracts many sea lions and you may see sharks as well as green sea turtles in the crystal clear ocean waters.
PM: Suarez Point
This beautiful site on the ocean front is great for spotting blue-footed boobies, albatrosses and Nazca boobies. The large waved albatrosses breed on the island and use the cliff as a launching pad. The famous attraction is the magnificent blowhole, where waves crash into a lava fissure, creating a blowhole that spurts water 30-50 metres into the air. Suarez Point presents wonderful photographic opportunities.

Day 25
Galapagos Islands

AM: Cormorant Point
Cormorant Point on Floreana Island probably offers one of the largest and best flamingo lagoons in the Galapagos. It is situated between two tuff lava cones that give the area a special atmosphere. There are various other species of shorebirds to observe including common stilts, white-cheeked pintail ducks, large-billed flycatchers, finches and other migratory birds. There are two distinct beaches: “Green Beach” (due to its high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand) and “Flour Beach” which is made up of fine, pulverized coral. Green sea turtles nest on Flour Beach and several species of rays can be seen in the waters.
PM: Post Office Bay & Baroness Lookout
Historically, this site is the location of a wooden barrel that was placed here by the crew of a whaling ship in the 18th century. It has been used since this time by mariners and tourists as a post office. The idea is to carry letters or postcards to their destination by hand. This area was also the site of a failed colonization effort by Norwegians in 1926. At the north of the island we ascend an elevated slope to enjoy a beautiful vista at Baroness Lookout. It is said that Baroness Eloisa Von Wagner loved this place and spent several hours watching the horizon. Within walking distance (30m) are the ruins of what is known as her house. From this lookout, you can see the landscape from the coastline at Enderby Islet to Post Office Bay, as well as Cerro Pajas, the pool of flamingos and the wide forest of Palo Santo.

Day 26
Galapagos Islands Quito

AM: Charles Darwin Station
Although the great majority of Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate natural wonders, it is also interesting to learn how the protection and conservation of the islands are carried out. One of the main attractions are the National Park information center, the Van Straelen Exhibition Hall, the Breeding and Rearing Center for young tortoises, Lonesome George (turtle from Pinta), and adult Galapagos tortoises in captivity.
After the morning excursion you will be taken to the airport for your flight to the mainland.
Transfer to Baltra Airport
Flight to Quito or Guayaquil.

On arrival into Quito you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Day 27
Quito Depart

At the appropriate time, you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your outward flight from Quito.

What’s Included

Accommodation
  • Included Copy 20 Standard hotel accommodation
  • Included Copy 20 Standard Twin Cabin on the Galapagos ship
  • Included Copy 31 Hotel upgrades available
  • Included Copy 31 Variety of Galapagos Cruises to chose from 4-15 day itineraries
Food
  • Included Copy 20 Other meals where stated
  • Included Copy 20 Breakfast daily
  • Included Copy 31 Other meals where stated (Full Board while on the Galapagos Cruise & in the Amazon)
Fees & Services
  • Included Copy 20 Internal flights
  • Included Copy 20 Airport transfers
  • Included Copy 20 Tours as stated in the itinerary
Transportation
Land, Air, Ship, Train ...

Click here for dates & prices
Duration

27 days

Price from

$13,370 NZD

Per person, twin share

Daily departures
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