Overland Cartagena and Cuzco (JTC)

Cuzco to Cartagena 54 days, departing 05 Apr 2013

Ratings for this trip

Comfort Zone: Moderate

Moderate Comfort Level. These trips allow you to get off the beaten track with a few of your home comforts. On OVERLAND TRIPS expect there may be some wild camps, but with a predominance of campsites with good facilities (often with upgrades to rooms available) or staying in small hotels. Hotels will range from basic up to reasonably comfortable. Sharing will be on a 2, 3 or 4 person basis. On ADVENTURE HOLIDAYS we will have standard style accommodation, usually budget or tourist-class (2-3 star) accommodation with private facilities. Some accommodation may be on a multi-share basis. Transport will be a mixture of local and privately hired.

Physical Challenge: Strenuous in parts

STRENUOUS IN PARTS: These are physical tours; we may well be travelling at high altitudes, across deserts or through hot and steamy tropical countries. Physically it can be quite tough, but not necessarily all the time and there will be plenty of rest days and time to relax as well. The fitter you are the more you will enjoy the trip.

Countries Visited

Colombia

For most people Colombia is an unknown, the forgotten part of South America. This makes it a fantastic place to explore. Colombia's geography is one of the most diverse in South America; it really is a kaleidoscope of colour, life and culture. It has an undeserved reputation due to some internal instability but the warmth of its people mean that it is worth the challenge to see such a fascinating country. Colombia is on the beautiful Caribbean coast and the home to some of the best coffee in the world.

The culture of fiesta is a central to the national psyche with the country, playing host to some of the most fabulous carnivals in the world. The Carnival of the Barranquilla lasts four days, celebrating the tradition of Colombian dance and music.

With many festivals and parties, the opportunity to relax might sound out the question, but along with the lively ongoing parties, cooking is an important icon of Colombia. Fritanga is a set of dishes enjoyed throughout the country. A barberque style meat full of flavours and aromas that will leave your mouth watering is accompanied by small potatoes and tortilla style bread. If meat isn't your preference, then the plantain of many vegetables and pulses is a beautiful choice of a meal.

Colombia's glorious sands and upbeat lifestyle is there to be cherished, and there is no doubt it will leave a special mark on your travels.

Ecuador

Ecuador is a small country with a diverse landscape including highlands, volcanoes, numerous national parks, stunning Pacific beaches, and the enthralling Galapagos Islands.

The Amazon rainforest has the greatest bio diversity on the planet. And it's possible to take trips deep into the rainforest to see jaguars, monkeys, iguanas and uncountable numbers of insects. Off the coast is the Galapagos Islands, arguably one of the world's most prestigious wildlife destinations.

If  heart racing activities is more your thing then Ecuador has plenty to offer. Surf the waves, trek through the foothills or step out of the ordinary and try some mountaineering.

Aside from the outdoors and wildlife there are lots of great coloninal towns or cities. And Quito has a more relaxed atmosphere than most Latin American capitals. Lying in a hollow at the base of Volcano Pichincha, the old city is a maze of steep cobbled streets with finely carved overhanging balconies. Its mixture of colonial and new architecture together with its European and Indian cultures make this a fascinating city.

As you explore, the discovery of food will be found and the choice of a traditional meal is hard to turn down. Ecuadorian cuisine is again diverse, and different regions boast different meals. Meat, potatoes and rice are popular in the mountain regions, where as the coastal areas boast fantastic meals containing marinades of fish onions and delectable seasonings.

There are many types of music in Ecuador and the most popular is the rhythm filled, dancing type which can get you up on your feet and joining in with the sounds of panpipes, bamboo flutes,  drums and charangos.

With so much to offer and explore - Ecuador is the place to be if you want to try something new every day.

Peru

Peru is home to some of South Americas most glorious landmarks, and the opportunity to partake in an activity seem endless.

The capital is Lima and it is known of the City of the Kings, it was founded by the Conquistador Pizarro in 1535. The elegant architecture runs through the capital and the cultural effects of the museums are all tucked away in this classic city.

Any introduction to Peru wouldn't be complete without the Inca civilisation. Cuzco is the ancient capital of the Inca empire. Even today, many of its buildings have original Inca stonework as part of their structure. The Incas had a highly organised and labour intensive society. They managed to conquer vast tracts of land and, through strong central and regional government, retained control over an empire that spanned South America, from mid Colombia in the north, to the middle of Argentina in the south and lasted for over four centuries.

The most famous Inca legacy is undoubtedly the Inca Trail the ancient set of pathway in the Andes that include the route up to the fantastic site of Machu Picchu. You can trek through the countryside making your way through the unspoilt land and view the breathtaking scenery that carries on to the horizon and beyond. When you reach Machu Picchu you will realise what a beautiful place it is, no photograph can really do the site justice. The long forgotten site was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and is simply awe inspiring and is a must visit place in South America.

Peru is flowing with fabulous landscapes and this continues at Lake Titicaca. On the border of Peru and Bolivia it is the highest navigable lake in the world. In the culture of Lake Titicaca, comes the sound of panpipes. An Andean music form, this woodwind instrument plays tranquil sounds and is a nice form of relaxation. The Charango is the national instrument of Peru. This stringed instrument was from a Spanish influence and has a distinctive sound. The taste is as distinctive as the sound and the national dish of Ceviche. This is a fish based dish where the fish is 'cooked' in lemon or lime juice.

The history and sites of Peru are outstanding, but also the friendly welcome visitors receive make Peru one of the most enjoyable countries in the world to visit. 

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Cuzco

Fri 05 Apr 2013

Border information: Welcome to Cuzco, capital of the Inca Empire.  If you are starting at Cuzco, enter Peru at Cuzco Airport.

Free day to explore the wonderful city of Cuzco, the capital of the Inca kingdom. There will be a group meeting at 10:00 hrs. Tonight we are staying in a good quality colonial hotel in Cuzco.

Hotel for the night: Hotel Cahuide

Hotel Cahuide

Calle Saphi No 845

Cuzco

+ 51 84 222771

 

Activity Approximate Cost

7 nights in and around Cuzco and the Urubamba Valley

Included in Kitty

Cuzco

Cuzco is the ancient capital of the Inca empire and any adventure tour to Peru is centred around this stunning city. Even today, many of its buildings still retain some of the original Inca stonework as part of their structure. It is interesting to know that despite their advanced civilisation, the Incas did not know how to write and had not invented the wheel, yet they were skillful irrigation engineers, inventing the suspension bridge and hammock. They must have had theories on constructing buildings to avoid damage by earthquake, which may account for the way they fitted huge carved blocks of granite together in an incredibly precise jigsaw when creating new structures. Examples of their amazing building techniques can still be seen in and around Cuzco, including the infamous "twelve sided stone", now famous as part of the logo of Cuzco's native "Cusquena" beer.

The town is a fantastic place to spend a fews days. A good place to start your explorations is the majestic main plaza, heading out into the cobbled streets lined with attractive colonial buildings. Head up the hill into the neighbourhood of San Blas and you will discover another hidden square with a quiet laid back feel. All the streets are lined with shops, bars and restaurants, from small local cafes to five star dining experiences. If you're interested in learning more about the history and culture of Peru, there are also some fantastic museums here and the many churches are well worth a look as well. So take to the streets and wander around, haggle with the street vendors, kick-back and enjoy a coffee in one of the many cafes with balconies overlooking the square and just enjoy Cuzco and it's beautiful surroundings.

Cuzco is also the gateway to Machu Picchu with most people trekking one of the many Inca Trails to reach this ancient Inca city. 

Day 2 to 5: Inca Trail , Sacred Valley, Cuzco

Sat 06 Apr to Tue 09 Apr 2013

Trekking in the Andes - either the community trek or the classic trek. This is one of the world's best treks and a highlight for most visitors to Peru.

Activity Approximate Cost

Tour of the Sacred Valley, Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo

Included in Kitty

EITHER

Hike unspoilt Inca Trails and visit Quechua communities in remote stunning Andes scenery away from tourist treks on our exclusive Inca Trails Community Trek

OR

Trek the Classic Inca Trail up the Royal Inca Road

IF YOU WISH TO BOOK THE CLASSIC INCA TRAIL THIS MUST BE ADVISED AT TIME OF BOOKING OTHERWISE YOU WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE PUT ON OUR COMMUNITY TREK.

Included in Kitty

Inca Trail

When people talk about "The Inca Trail", they are usually refering to a particular trekking route that follows a ancient pathway that leads to Machu Picchu. What many people don't realise is that there are a actually a huge number of Inca Trails that criss cross the Urubamba Valley and surrounding mountain ranges, many of which are genuinely remote, rarely used by western tourists, offering a chance to experience the real unspoilt Andes. On all Dragoman overland tours that travel via Cuzco we offer you the choice to trek either the "Classic" Inca Trail or our unique alternative, the Community Inca Trek, which is exclusive to Dragoman.

The Classic Inca Trail

The "Classic" Inca Trail route usually starts at Kilometre 82 of the Cuzco – Machu Picchu railtrack, taking in Abra Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman's Pass, 4200m) and the ruins of Phuyupatamarca and Wiñay Wayna en route, eventually arriving at the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu early in the morning after 3 days of trekking. This route is still extremely popular as it is seen by many as the "original" Inca Trail. It's also probably the best trek to choose if you're really interested in history and archaeology, because of all the other Inca sites it passes along the way.

Unfortunately, in recent years the classic trail has almost become a bit of a victim of it's own popularity. It is important to realise that the trail is now very busy, with 500 people starting the trek every day. There are only a certain number of places where it is feasible to camp, so your group will be camped alongside others, and you will meet a lot of other trekkers along the way. Nevertheless, it is still an awesome trek, passing through some stunning scenery from snow-capped peaks to abundant cloud forest, and the sense of achievement you'll have when you catch your first sight of the Lost City of the Incas is something you'll never forget.

The Community Inca Trek

Dragoman's Community Inca Trek is a unique trekking route where you'll hike through pristine unspoilt andean scenery, walking ancient Inca Trails and pass through local communities as part of our pioneering community-based tourism project, Tarpuy Yachay. This trek is all about getting away from the overcrowded thoroughfares of the Classic Inca Trail and getting out into the real Andes - not to mention being part of a project with provides a genuine, direct benefit to the host communities we travel through, by supporting education, income generation and environmental sustainability projects. The trek itself is about the same as the Classic Inca Trail in terms of length and difficulty, taking three to three and a half days and ascending to about 4700m when you cross the highest pass. The scenery out here is truly magnificent, spectacular mountain peaks, verdant hillsides dotted by isolated villages and the odd llama and alapaca, you are unlikely to see another tourist here. If you were to ask Dragoman which one we prefer, there is no contest, as the Community Inca Trek and Tarpuy Yachay Project is a much better and far more worthwhile experience.

Why we think the Community Inca Trek is better than the Classic Inca Trail:

And a few things to consider when choosing the Community Inca Trek:

Sacred Valley

The valley of the Urabamba river is more often referred to as “El Valle Sagrado de los Incas”, or the Sacred Valley. Close to Cuzco in Peru, the valley extends from the small market town of Pisac to Ollyantytambo, nestling at the foot of the Andean mountain ranges that are home to the magical lost Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Together with Machu Picchu itself, the Sacred Valley was a cradle of the Inca empire. The area is littered with archaelogical sites which include the magnificent ruins of Pisac, Sacsayhuaman and Ollyantytambo, as well as the Lost City itself. Together with the temperate climate, lively markets, sleepy andean villages and stunning surrounding landsccape, the rich history of the area makes it a truly bewitching place.

If you travel with Dragoman, whether you choose to take the Community Inca Trek, the Classic Inca Trail, or not to trek at all, everyone in the group will be able to take part in a tour of the Sacred Valley. We will typically leave Cuzco first thing in the morning and drive to Sacsayhuaman ruins which are just 15 mins from our hotel. These ruins are best known for the gigantic blocks that make up the zig zag frontal of this fort like construction. There are many theories as to why Sacsayhuaman was originally built and what it was used for but the most likely is that it was a temple complex where offerings were made to appease the gods. Sachsayhuaman is an amazing place and the early morning light makes the great view of the Cuzco rooftops that we get here even more beautiful.

We will then head further on into the Sacred Valley proper, stopping high on the mountainside to explore the ruins of Pisac. We will walk downhill along small pathways, through ancient arches, storage buildings and houses, learning about the history of the site from our local guide. 

If you are doing the Classic Inca Trail you will then head straight to Ollantaytambo from Pisac, exploring the ruins here that afternoon and camping overnight, heading to the Classic Inca Trail start point early the next morning.

If you are doing the Community Inca Trail we will drive to Chincheros, a small village in the Sacred Pampa where the locals speak mostly Quechua, the language of the Incas. There you will see a weaving demonstration that has been unchanged for a thousand years and you will tour the archaeological ruins there for another hour and a half. From Chincheros we will drive an area with great views to have an energizing picnic lunch. We will then drive to Quillarumiyoc, also known as the Temple of the Moon. From there we will start our hike, returning to the Sacred Valley at the end of the trek when we arrive in Ollantaytambo. Here you are joined by any of your group who prefer not to trek at all for a guided tour of this Inca site, before leaving next morning on the early train for Machu Picchu

Day 6: Machu Picchu, Cuzco

Wed 10 Apr 2013

Today is an early start to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. From there we take the bus to the Lost City of Machu Picchu - one of the world's most iconic sights. We'll have a guided tour with our local guide and plenty of time to explore this magical place. We will then head back to Ollyantaytambo and on to Cuzco for the night.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of Machu Picchu

Included in Kitty

Train back from Machu Picchu to Cuzco

Included in Kitty

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is usually the highlight of any adventure tour to Peru.  It is one of those genuinely magical places, and catching your first glimpse of the lost city of the Incas through the early morning mist is definitely a moment you’ll never forget.

The most popular way to approach the ruined city is via one of the many Inca trails that wind their way through the Andes Mountains. The Classic Inca Trail is a much-used route taking four days and culminating with an arrival at the 'Sun Gate' at sunrise on the final morning from where you descend into Machu Picchu itself. However the sheer number of trekkers following this route has resulted in erosion, deforestation, litter and overcrowding at campsites. To address this issue Dragoman has been running a 'Community Inca Trail' for the past seven years. This unspoilt route is totally unique to Dragoman clients so you will be able to enjoy the trek in peace and away from the crowds on the main trail.  It visits local communities allowing you to learn about the Quechua way of life and travels through stunning mountain scenery enabling you to fully appreciate the majesty of the Andes.

Machu Picchu itself is stunningly located, perching high in the Andes surrounded by verdant cloud forest, with the River Urambamba running through the gorge far below.  It's thought that the city was the location of a royal palace and estate, home to the Inca emperors, or possibly a sacred religious and ceremonial sight.

Discovered in 1911 by the explorer Hiram Bingham, although the ruins were heavily covered by dense jungle foliage, many of the buildings were well preserved and in excellent condition. The city consists of more than 200 buildings, from houses to temples, storage buildings and public spaces. It's fascinating to be able to gaze down on the city from above and imagine how it would have looked during the height of the Inca empire.

Day 7: Cuzco

Thu 11 Apr 2013

Today is a free day to recover from trekking with optional activities available in Cuzco such as white water rafting. Overnight in the same colonial hotel

Day 8: Raqchi

Fri 12 Apr 2013

Drive to Raqchi and visit ruins and local artisan centre. We stay overnight in local homestay. We stay in traditional family houses with clean but basic facilities. Whilst we are there we enjoy some of the ceremonial aspects of village life as well as much singing and dancing. This is a great local experience.

Activity Approximate Cost

Quechua Indian homestay and community crafts project

Included in Kitty

Guided visit to the Raqchi ruins

Included in Kitty

Raqchi

Raqchi is a small village situated a short distance outside of Cuzco. On Dragoman trips we stay here as guests of the local families in their traditional houses, a fantastic way to get a real insight into how people live here and to learn about their culture and customs. If we are lucky there may be the chance to participate in some of the ceremonial and spiritual aspects of village life - and there is always plenty of singing and dancing as we get to know our new Peruvian families. The village is also well known for it's talented craftsmen and women and there will be the chance to buy some of the beautiful hand-made and intricately decorated pottery that is made here.

Day 9: Chivay

Sat 13 Apr 2013

440kms drive day to Chivay with optional visit to thermal springs. We stay overnight in a hotel at Chivay

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight stay in Chivay and guided trip to the Colca Canyon and Condors

Included in Kitty

Visit the thermal springs in Chivay

USD 10

Chivay

Upstream from the renowned  Colca Canyon, lies the rural town of Chivay. Heated pools just outside the town are one of the main highlights and a place to relax after a morning exploring the town centre and markets. Another magnificent site is the stone Inca bridge that crosses the Colca River Ravine that is thousands of years old.

Day 10: Chivay and Colca Canyon, Arequipa

Sun 14 Apr 2013

Today we will visit the spectacular Colca Canyon to view condors and also local communities. We will then head on to the beautiful white city of Arequipa.

Activity Approximate Cost

2 night stay in the beautiful white city of Arequipa

Included in Kitty

Chivay and Colca Canyon

Chivay is a small town nestled in the hills at the base of the Colca Canyon. The River Colca runs from high in the Andes right down to the Pacific, and between Chivay and Cabanaconde it flows through the bottom of a deep gorge, often claimed to be the deepest in the world. It is certainly spectacularly beautiful, the vast Andean terraces tower up over the canyon, dotted by tiny villages that haven't changed in centuries. The canyon is also renowned as a haven for condors and they can often be seen here at quite close range as they float on the rising thermals and scan for carrion far below. Catching a glimpse of these magnificent birds as they rise from their nests, gliding high above you is a truly magical experience and one you will never forget.

Chivay is also home to some natural hot springs that provide a welcome relief from the cold night air high up here in the Andes. The springs are known as "La Calera" and are located just a short distance outside the town.

Arequipa

Situated on the Peruvian Altiplano, Arequipa sits at almost 3500 meters above sea level and is the second largest city in the country. Set against the stunning backdrop of the snow-covered volcano "El Misti", salt lakes, thermal springs and high-altitude deserts, the landscape of the area around Arequipa truly unique. If you have time, it's possible to arrange mountain-biking and rafting trips in the area as day tours from the city - and at certain times of year you can even try for an ascent of El Misti itself, though it's not an easy trek at these altitudes, so not for the faint hearted.

The city itself is very beautiful, full of beautiful colonial buildings built out of the soft white volcanic rock that is found in the area. As a university town, there is always a lively buzz about the place and there are plenty of good bars and restaurants to discover.

No trip to Arequipa would be complete without paying a visit to Juanita, the "Ice Maiden." This mummy of a young Inca girl has been described as one of the 10 most important historical discoveries of recent times by Time Magazine. Because the body was frozen at such low temperatures and high altitude, a really extensive study into the physical health of ancient Peruvian civilisations has been possible, with fascinating results. You should also try to visit the Santa Catalina Convent, which is almost a city within a city in the centre of the town. Not only are the buildings of the convent stunningly beautiful, with brightly painted walls and shady courtyards, it also has a fascinating history which you can learn about on a guided tour.

Day 11: Arequipa

Mon 15 Apr 2013

Free day to explore Arequipa.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of Arequipa's Santa Catalina convent

USD 10

White water rafting, grade 1-4

PEN 60

Day 12: Puerto Inca

Tue 16 Apr 2013

380kms drive day to Puerto Inca where we stay at a beach side campsite.

Puerto Inca

Puerto Inca is situated on the Peruvian coast in a beautiful bay and was once the Inca port that supplied the city of Cuzco with supplies of fish. There are a number of Inca ruins here, which includes a cemetery, a temple of reincarnation and part of the road that set out from the coast to Cuzco is still clearly visible. It is a great place to relax with a nice beach, the sea and swimming pool; water sports are also sometimes available. However, swimmers should be aware that there is often a strong under-current here.

Day 13: Nazca

Wed 17 Apr 2013

A 270kms morning drive takes us to Nazca where you will have the chance of an optional flight over the mysterious Nazca lines and visit Chauchilla cemetery. We stay at a campsite with a pool.

Activity Approximate Cost

Fly over the Nazca lines

USD 100

Visit to the Nazca Lines and Chauchilla Cemetery

Included in Kitty

Nazca

Nazca is home to the famous and enigmatic Nazca lines, enormous designs inscribed in the Desert on the arid high plateau between Nazca and Palpa. Many of the lines form stylised depictions of animals, for example you can make out llamas, monkeys, sharks and spiders, as well as trees and other designs.

Archaeologists believe the lines were created between 200BC and 700AD by three successive, different civilisations. The global importance of the region is reflected in UNESCO's declaration of the Nazca lines as a World Heritage Site in 1994. You can view the lines from viewing towers or take a flight in a small plane to see them from above.

Important - Flight over the Nazca Lines - As of November 2010 some western countries' travel advisories advise against this optional activity due to concerns around proper aircraft safety and maintenance standards not being reliably adhered to. For more information please refer to your country's travel advice website. Please note that due to Dragoman's internal safety policy our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking this activity.

Close to Nazca is the Chauchilla Indian Cemetery, where you can see the tombs of people of the ancient Nazca civilisation, dating from 100AD to 700AD. It is something of an eerie sight to see the skulls, bones and even hair of the dead, preserved in a remarkable state thanks to the dry desert air.

Day 14: Huacachina

Thu 18 Apr 2013

We drive 220kms and visit the oasis town of Huacachina for optional sand boarding and sand buggying and an overnight trip to the dunes.

Activity Approximate Cost

Dune buggying or boarding in the spectacular sand dunes of Peru Desert

USD 20

Huacachina

Known as the 'oasis of America', Huacachina is near Ica in northern Peru, and is perhaps more reminiscent of the Sahara than South America. The picturesque lagoon is surrounded by palm trees and towering sand dunes and creates a tranquil oasis in the dusty coastal desert. The small town here has become a popular destination for sand boarding and buggying, although care should be taken before going on any of these trips, as standards are not always quite up to western expectations.

Day 15: Paracas National Park

Fri 19 Apr 2013

A short drive via the town of Ica takes us to Paracas National Park where we will visit the museum in the park before bushcamping in this spectacular location.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit to Paracas National Park, coastal wildlife reserve.

Included in Kitty

Paracas National Park

Spanning 335,000 hectares of land and sea, Paracas National Park and is widely regarded as one of the most important marine reserves in the world. This coastal and marine national park is located on a peninsula in the Pacific Ocean and is home to one of the highest concentration of marine birds in the world. Providing a vital habitat for sealions and dolphins, Paracas National Park is without doubt one of the most biologically diverse coastal areas in the Americas. Historically the peninsula was the home to the Paracas people from 1200BC through to around 200 AD. Some remains of their culture can be found in the area, the most spectacular of which is the enormous candelabra - a giant etching – depicting a cactus inscribed onto a coastal hill overlooking the ocean.

Day 16: Ballestas Islands, Lima

Sat 20 Apr 2013

In the morning we board a boat trip around the Ballestas Islands to view wildlife. We then head 270kms to Lima, arriving late in the afternoon. We stay in a good quality hotel in central Lima.

Activity Approximate Cost

Boat trip to see the seals & seabirds on the Ballestas Isles

Included in Kitty

Overnight stay in colonial Lima

Included in Kitty

Ballestas Islands

The Ballestas Islands has weird and wonderful wildlife. From the boat trip you will be able to see Humboldt Penguins, Blackish Oystercatchers, Guano Cormorants and Peruvian Boobies living alongside vast colonies of Sea Lions nosily crowding the Ballestas coastline. The startlingly biodiversity around the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Park is the result of two merging currents; the warm northern waters El Nino and the cooler waters of the Humboldt. The climatic conditions produced by the combination of these two currents create the perfect environment for a proliferation in the number of plankton and fitophankton, the core constituents in the diet of fish. The Ballestas Islands are one of the most popular ecotourism points of view along the Peruvian coast.

Lima

Lima is a city of hidden beauty. Dive in and explore the Peruvian capital's streets, parks and plazas and you will discover a real gem of a city. Infact there's so much to see here, a city tour is a great opportunity to find out about more about the rich history of Lima itself and Peru as a whole. The city was founded by Conquistador Pizarro in 1535 and was originally the administrative centre for Spain’s Vice royalty in South America, making it the continent’s most important city for nearly three centuries. It became a city of great wealth financed by the massive quantities of gold and silver that were mined in the area.

Whilst you are here there are many museums you can visit, such as the Museo de la Nacion and the Gold Museum, which showcase the finest artefact's from the country's many ancient civlisations. You can also visit the finely preserved catacombs at the Church of San Francisco, and take in a bit of local culture at an evening folklore show.

Day 17: Lima

Sun 21 Apr 2013

Border information: Welcome to Lima, the capital of Peru. If you are starting in Lima, enter Peru at Lima Airport.

Free time to explore Lima, with a group meeting at 18:00 hrs. We overnight in a comfortable hotel.

Hotel for the night: Hotel Inka Path

Jr. de la Union 654

Lima

+51 1 426 1919

+51 1 426 9302

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit the Gold Museum & Catacombs of Lima

USD 20

Overnight stay in colonial Lima

Day 18: Huanchaco

Mon 22 Apr 2013

We'll start with a very long drive to Huanchaco.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of Moche Pyramids and the Chimu city of Chan Chan

Included in Kitty

Explore the northern Peru Desert

Included in Kitty

Visit to the Lord of Sipan Museum

Included in Kitty

Huanchaco

Once the capital of the ancient Peruvian Moche civilisation, Huanchaco is a small town on the Peruvian coast that is rapidly acquiring a reputation for the quality of the surfing off its relaxed beaches. Wandering along the sea front you will come across the local fishermen's "caballitos de tortora", curved reed boats that they leave propped up in groups together on the sand.

Huanchaco is an ideal location from which to explore the numerous archaeological ruins the surround nearby Trujillo, such as the enormous pre-columbian complex of Chan Chan, a vast adobe city constructed by the emporer of the Chimu people, as well as the world famous Moche pyramids the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna.

Day 19: Huanchaco

Tue 23 Apr 2013

Visit to numerous ruins in and around Huanchaco including the enormous ruins of Chan Chan and the world famous pyramids Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna. Camping with good facilities

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of Moche Pyramids and the Chimu city of Chan Chan

Included in Kitty

Day 20: Punta Sal

Wed 24 Apr 2013

Lond day drive to Punta Sal, on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. We will be visiting Lord of Sipan Museum en route and camp at a hostel

Activity Approximate Cost

3 night stay on the pacific coast at Punta Sal

Included in Kitty

Try horse riding, fishing, salsa and surfing at Punta Sal

USD 20

Punta Sal

Situated on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in a long, curvy bay, Punta Sal is a haven of sun and sand. The warm and tranquil waters are a pleasure to swim in and there's also the opportunity to set out on fishing trips and boat trips along the coast line. For those who prefer to stay on dry land, horse riding along the beach and salsa lessons can be arranged, or just kick-back in a hammock and laze the day away, enjoying the peace and quiet of this beautiful spot.

Day 21 to 22: Punta Sal

Thu 25 Apr to Fri 26 Apr 2013

2 non-driving day with free time to enjoy the beach and activities at Punta Sal. Second and third night camping at the same hostel. 

Day 23 to 24: Cuenca

Sat 27 Apr to Sun 28 Apr 2013

 

Border information: Exit Peru at Tumbes, enter Ecuador at Tumbes.

285kms drive across the border into Ecuador, to the beautiful colonial Cuenca, Ecuador's third-largest town. We stay in a stunning local guesthouse for the next 2 nights.

We'll have free time to explore Cuenca and visit the famous Panama Hat factory. 


Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight in colonial Cuenca

Included in Kitty

Time exploring the historic city of Cuenca

Cuenca

Cuenca is Ecuador's third-largest city and it's small centre is home to some beautiful architecture. This small university town is a pleasure to wander around and explore, take to the streets and you'll discover impressive churches that date back to the 16th and 17th Centuries, attractive colonial buildings, tranquil plazas and lively markets. The Ecuadorians consider it the finest city in the country and many of its buildings are constructed from marble and decorated with stunning woodwork and ironwork. Cuenca is also the home of the Panama hat, and you can visit some of the famous hat factories, where you can watch the craftsman and marvel at their skill first-hand.

Because of all the students who are based here, the town has a lively night-life and there are some good bars and restaurants to choose from. Top that off with an evening stroll around the Plaza and you'll have spent the perfect day enjoying the city.

Day 25: Riobamba

Mon 29 Apr 2013

Today we drive 250kms to Riobamba and stay in a local hotel.

Day 26: Chugchilan

Tue 30 Apr 2013

An early start leads to a 350kms drive on the northern section of the spectacular Quilotoa Loop to the town of Chugchilán. We stay the night in a fantastic hostel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overland around the stunning Quilotoa Loop

Included in Kitty

Trek from Quilotoa to Chugchilan

Included in Kitty

Hire kayaks on Lake Quilotoa

Go Mountain Biking around Chugchilan

USD 20

Chugchilan

Set on the slopes of the Rio Toachi Canyon, Chugchilán is our base for 2 nights where we either stay in a wonderful eco-lodge or an equally fantastic hostel. From the front door of the lodge, several day hikes are available, the most famous being one from Lake Quilotoa which is considered to be one of the best hikes in Ecuador.

We will drive from Chugchilán to Quilotoa where you will be able to climb down the crater to the waters edge before we begin a 4-6 hour guided trek, mainly downhill, back to our eco-lodge base. A moderate level of fitness is required as the trek is at altitude but the walking itself is not too strenous.

Day 27: Lake Quilotoa, Chugchilan

Wed 01 May 2013

An hour’s drive brings us to the town of Quilotoa to see the stunning Crater Lake and begin one of Ecuador’s best day hikes back to Chugchilán. We will trek with a local guide and the mostly downhill trek takes between 4-6 hours. There is however a section towards the end of the trek with a steep incline which you will need to be physically fit for.

Lake Quilotoa

Lake Quilotoa is a beautiful volcanic crater lake located at 3800 metres (12,400 feet) between the towns of Zumbahua and Chugchilán.  Its emerald water spans two kilometres.  Local legend claims it is connected to the ocean and is therefore salty and sulfuric.  Quilotoa is an active volcano, the last major eruption was over 850 years ago. 

It is possible to hike down from the crater rim to the lakeside. The descent takes 30 minutes and climbing back up takes about an hour.  It is possible to swim in the lake, but the water is very cold (5° celsius).  If the climb back up from the laguna is too strenuous, you can hire a mule to ride for a few dollars.

The lake also lends it’s name to the Quilotoa Loop, given to the winding circuit of spectacular dirt roads that connect Lake Quilotoa to Latacunga and the Pan-American Highway. The roads that lead away from Latacunga are unpaved, winding and have spectacular views of the mountains, rivers and verdant landscape. We will head to the town of Chugchilán on the northern section of the loop and after a 2 night stay head out on the southern section of the loop allowing you to see some of the more remote people and culture of the central Andes of Ecuador.

Day 28: Rio Verde

Thu 02 May 2013

In the morning we will drive the southen section of the Quilotoa Loop before heading to the beautiful town of Rio Verde, 300kms in total. We stay at a campsite with great facilities

Activity Approximate Cost

2 or 3 nights camping at the stunning Rio Verde

Included in Kitty

Rio Verde

A few kilometres from Banos, is the small town of Rio Verde, named after the clear green water of the river that flows through the town. A number of waterfalls are found along its course, the most spectacular being The Devil’s Cauldron (‘El Pailon del Diablo’), a 20-minute walk out of town. Whilst staying here, you will have the opportunity to take part in optional adventure activities like as horse-riding, canyoning, mountain biking and rafting, as well as making the short trip into Banos to visit the thermal springs.

Day 29 to 30: Banos, Rio Verde

Fri 03 May to Sat 04 May 2013

These are non-driving days with free time for range of adrenalin activities or a possible visit to nearby Banos. The nights are spent at the same campsite.

Activity Approximate Cost

Rafting and horseback trekking around Rio Verde

USD 35

Explore the beautiful hills surrounding Banos with an abundance of activities on offer

USD

Half day rafting at Banos, including lunch

USD 75

Half day canyoning at Banos

USD 45

Banos

Set in the hillside of the Tungurahua volcano is the exquisite town of Banos. Tungurahua may be the biggest volcano in Ecuador, but it is also one of the most popular to climb. This creates hiking opportunities and if you explore you will discover the thermal baths and gorgeous waterfalls. Banos is also the perfect place if you want exciting bike rides when the unknown always lies ahead. Pitch black tunnels, sheer drops - it is a place for the bold, it is a place for the daring and most importantly, it is a place that will bring out the adrenaline seeker in us all!

Day 31: Coca

Sun 05 May 2013

Today is a driving day to Coca (Puerto Francisco de Orellana). 

We'll spend the night in a comfortable hotel and get ready for our 3 days in the wilderness. 

Coca

Coca is the more commonly known name for Puerto Francisco de Orellana, which is also the capital of the province of Orellana in the 'oriente' or the Est of Ecuador deep in the jungle. The city is located at the confluence of the Napo River and the Coca River which gives the nickname to the city.

Francisco de Orellana is the famous explorer who gives the name to the city. He explored the confluence of the Napo River and the Coca river. History says he set off from the current location of the city and made his way deep into the Amazon Jungle and river crossing indigenous tribes in which even women used to fight. He sailed all the way eventually makin it to the Atlantic. Francisco de Orellana died on his second expedition along the Amazon delta not being able to find his way through. 

 

Day 32 to 34: Panachoca Amazon Experience

Mon 06 May to Wed 08 May 2013

We will set off in the morning on a motorised canoe and leave civilization behind. The next 4 days will be all about the jungle. During your 3 nights here you will take trips out into the rainforest on foot and by boat to explore for wildlife.

Activity Approximate Cost

3 nights, 4 days exploring the deep jungle along the river Panachoca. Jungle walk, bird watching, piranha fishing and all that the deep jungle has got to offer, very far away from any other tourists. A truly unique experience.

Included in Kitty

Day 35: Quito

Thu 09 May 2013

An early boat ride brings us back along the Rio Napo to Coca from where we rejoin our overland vehicle and drive 300kms to the country's capital, Quito. We stay in a local, friendly hotel in the city.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight stay in historic Quito

Quito

Quito has a more relaxed atmosphere than most Latin American capitals. Lying in a hollow at the base of Volcano Pichincha, the old town is a maze of steep, cobbled streets with intricately carved, overhanging balconies. Its mixture of old colonial and modern architecture and the mix of European and Indian cultures make this a really fascinating city. Wandering around, you will come across stalls displaying Indian textiles, colourful wall hangings, jewellery, pottery and woodcarvings - and the old town has some of the best examples of Spanish colonial art and churches anywhere in the Americas.With so much to see and do, it is well worth extending your time in South America to ensure you experience all that Quito has to offer.

Day 36: Quito

Fri 10 May 2013

Border information: Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. If you are joining in Quito, enter Ecuador at Quito airport.

Free time to explore Quito with a group meeting day at 18:00hrs. We stay in local friendly hotel in Quito

Hotel for the night: Alston Inn Hotel

Alston Inn Hotel

Juan Leon Mera N23-41 y

Ventimilla

Quito

Tel: 00 593 2 22 22721

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight stay in historic Quito

Included in Kitty

Take a trip on El Telerifiqo, the world's second highest cable car

USD 4

Visit the Museo De La Cuidad

USD 2

Day 37: Quito, Otavalo

Sat 11 May 2013

In the morning we will drive 140kms to the Indian market town of Otavalo where we stay in a friendly hotel. En route we will stop at the Equator for the must have photos.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit the equator at Mitad del Mundo

Included in Kitty

Overnight stay in the market town of Otavalo

Included in Kitty

Horseriding, rafting, biking or village tour around Otavalo

USD 15

Otavalo

Otavalo is a small town known for it's market, nestled in beautiful surroundings a short distance north of Quito. Many of the local indigenous communities in this area still wear their traditional clothing made from intricately woven and decorated fabrics, and the men tend to wear their hair in long ponytails. Infact, the Otovalan's weaving skills are quite renowned and they are rightly famous for their textiles, so rugs, wall hangings and knitwear are all well worth buying here. There are numerous other activities to do in the surrounding area, including horse-riding and trekking into the surrounding hillsides. If you have time, it may also be possible to visit the hot springs at Papallacta.

Day 38: Ipiales

Sun 12 May 2013

Border information: Exit Ecuador at Ipiales. Enter Colombia at Ipiales

Today we cross the border into Colombia to the town of Ipiales where we stay in a local hotel

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit the jaw dropping Santuario La Lajas on the outskirts of Ipiales

Included in Kitty

Ipiales

Ipiales is the border town on the Colombian side of the Colombia/Ecuador frontier. The town has some pleasant plazas squares and the sight of locals using a horse and cart gives it a quaint, countryside feel.

The star attraction of Ipiales, 7 km outside of town, is the famous Santuario de Las Lajas, the site of many a miracle and apparition over the years. Set amid breath-taking scenery, El Santuario is a spectacular gothic-style church straddling a dramatic gorge with rushing river below. It is one of the most impressive churches on the continent and its fantastic setting and quirky museum make it a highlight of any visit to Colombia.

 

 

Day 39: Popayan

Mon 13 May 2013

An early morning start leads for a 315km drive to the beautiful town of Popayan where we stay for the night in dorm accommodation in a hostel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight in the beautiful old town of Popayan

Included in Kitty

Popayan

Nicknamed the White City, Popayan is a beautiful colonial town of white-washed houses and grand churches encircled by rolling green hills. Although the capital of the Cauca region and the former capital of Southern Colombia, Popayan somehow retains it's relaxed small town feel. The friendly locals can often be found sipping coffee in one of the city's excellent cafes or relaxing in one of the shaded parks, catching up with friends and watching the world go by.

The cool and sunny climate of the lower Andes makes Popayan a very comfortable place to stay and as the main university town of the region, there's a young, sociable feel to the city. The leafy parks marked with elegant church towers provide a sociable and relaxed location where you could easily spend an afternoon, while an evenings entertainment could be chatting with the friendly locals in a classy cafe bar or salsa club.

Whilst staying in the town there are some lovely walks offering excellent views of the Historic Centre, several worthwhile museums and galleries and many good cafes, bars and restaurants to make the most of.

Another highlight of this area is the Silvia Indigenous Market. This beautiful Andean market town is absolutely bursting with colour and energy when the market opens on Tuesdays. Guambiano Indians from the surrounding communities make their way into Silvia to sell their produce and socialise with friends from neighbouring towns.

Day 40 to 41: Cali

Tue 14 May to Wed 15 May 2013

A short 140kms drive brings us to Cali, Colombia’s most lively city. In the evening you may have the chance to head out for a tour of the city in a traditional chiva bus and there is the chance for optional salsa classes and plenty to keep you entertained during the daytime too. We stay in Cali for 2 nights in a lovely hostel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore Cali in the evening on a chiva bus

USD 10

Learn to Salsa like a local

USD 20

Enjoy Colombia’s best nightlife in Cali

Visit Cali Zoo, probably the best in South America.

USD 5

Get wet at Cali's Water park!

USD 5

Visit Museo Arqueológico la Merced, Cali's best museum.

USD 2

Visit the Museo del Oro in Cali, with it's wonderful gold collection.

USD 1

Cali

Cali is a big and bustling city with a warm climate and pleasant atmosphere. Although there are comparatyvely few sights of special interest, just wandering through the mix-match architecture and relaxing in the sociable parks and plazas is a nice way to spend some time.

The city has made it's reputation in traveller circles thanks to it's nightlife and social scene and as such is increasingly popular. The Salsa capital of Colombia provides great opportunities to test out those dance moves and hit the fashionable bars and restaurants with the locals. For party seekers and those who enjoy the faster paced city life, Cali shouldn't disappoint. Avenida Sexta, is Cali's party street. With rows of bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes, this is where to head for a night on the town.

For others, the old neighbourhood of San Antonio is a lovely spot with arty, Bohemian cafes, shops and restaurants lining picturesque Colonial streets.

Alternatively why not head to Las Tres Cruces which is a great point from which to catch the best views over Cali. It’s quite a hike up there but it's a peaceful spot and a nice break from the rush of the city.

Day 42 to 44: Manizales

Thu 16 May to Sat 18 May 2013

We head out early to overland 270kms to Manizales where we stay for 3 nights on a coffee plantation, camping in the grounds of a traditional finca. During the next few days we will enjoy a night of music and dancing, a city tour of Manizales and a coffee plantation tour. Will will also visit a local childrens's charity which we support.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit to Sagrada Familia childrens project

Included in Kitty

Enjoy a night of traditional live Colombian music

Included in Kitty

Explore Manizales on a city tour

Included in Kitty

Explore a working Colombian coffee plantation

Stay On A Coffee Plantation Near Manizales

Included in Kitty

Manizales

Manizales is a friendly city right in the heart of Colombia's coffee region with a comfortable climate and plenty to see and do. Although still opening up to international tourism, Manizales has a lot to offer the visitor in the way of outdoor activities and ecological attractions. The town itself is a relaxed and friendly place centred around the magnificent cathedral with attractions such as the botanical gardens, thermal springs and eco-parks all easily access able from the centre of town. Venturing a little further, you will find coffee haciendas and plantations in the surrounding area as well as some beautiful country landscapes perfect for trekking or just taking a relaxing break in the great outdoors.

In Manizales we stay on one of these working coffee plantations covering approximately 480 acres which provides people from around the world a taste of the finest Manizales fair trade coffee. The plantation employs around 100 people all throughout the year and about 400 people during the peak picking season.

 

Day 45 to 47: Guatapé

Sun 19 May to Tue 21 May 2013

We head north some 200 kms to the small town of Guatapé which is beautifully located aside a lake in rolling countryside. The town is famous for the towering El Peñón de Guatapé which will will visit before enjoying 3 days of camping by the lake for various activities in the local area.

Activity Approximate Cost

Cilmb the 644 steps to the top of El Peñón de Guatapé for spectactular views.

USD

Waterfall treks around Guatapé

USD 6

Hire kayaks to explore the lakes around Guatapé

USD 6

Rent mountain bikes to explore Guatapé

USD 3

Guatapé

Guatapé is a picturesque town surrounded by the Embalse del Penol, an artificial lake built in the early 1960’s and wonderful countryside yet with a colourful and historic centre. On weekends, the waterfront malecón (boardwalk) fills up with local vendors selling beautiful Paisa art, food, and souvenirs. The area is great for activities but one of the main reasons to visit is to see El Peñón de Guatapé, a 650 foot tall granite monolith that divides the countryside and offers amazing views from the top. El Peñón is very similar to Sugar loaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro and has 644 steps which you need to climb to get to the top, but it is well worth it.

Day 48 to 49: Medellin

Wed 22 May to Thu 23 May 2013

A short drive of a couple of hours takes us to Colombia’s second city, Medellin where stay in dorm accommodation for 2 nights in a centrally located hostel within the Zona Rosa allowing you to enjoy the vibrant nightlife.

Activity Approximate Cost

2 Nights to explore the vibrant city of Medellin

Included in Kitty

Day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia

USD 1

Visit the Catedral Metropolitana in Medellin

USD 1

Visit Medellin's beautiful Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe

USD 1

Relax and unwind on a stroll though the Medellin's gorgeous Botanical Gardens.

USD 1

Medellin

The rapid transformation that has taken place in Colombia's second largest city is one like no other. Having spent the 1980's and 90's with international reputation of one of the world's most dangerous cities, Medellín has certainly turned itself around.

With the infamous Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel holding the largest drug-trafficking base here for decades, the city suffered a seriously damaged reputation amongst international travellers and has only recently become a popular destination amongst backpackers. Despite the damage of the city's past, the Paisas (as people from Medellin are known) have strived to change the it's reputation. Almost nothing of those former days can be seen in the character of the city today and visitors can comfortably enjoy the beautiful architecture, excellent facilities and all round well developed city!

Set amid the rolling green hills of the Aburrá valley and with a warm climate and comfortable altitude of 1538 metres, Medellín has seen more and more travellers flocking to the city in the past few years. With some of the country's finest museums, parks and most impressive architecture as well as a much safer and comfortable atmosphere, it’s easy to see why.

Medellín is also one of Colombia's easiest cities to get around with the immaculate and convenient metro system passing all the main points of interest. If you use the metro then make sure you head up on El Teléferico, the city’s cable car, as this is included on your metro ticket and gives you a great view of the city.

Why not visit the Museo de Antioquia which combines pre-colombian exhibits with displays by several of Colombia's best known artists including a collection by the famous Fernando Botero and head to the 'Jardines Montesacro' to see where the infamous Pablo Escobar is buried.

A great side trip from Medellin is Santa Fe de Antioquia. Set in a lush low lying hot and sultry valley on the banks of the Rio Cauca, Santa Fe de Antioquia is the oldest settlement in the region. Founded in 1541 it served as the capital of the department until 1826 when the state capital moved to Medellin. The town has kept much of its Colonial charm, the narrow streets and whitewashed  colonial style buildings many of which with large central courtyard in which to relax away from the midday heat. The central plaza is dominated by the principal church of the town. The plaza is also home to a daily market where vendors sell various varieties of Tamarind product that grow locally, take a tour of the stalls and try a few samples of this local delicacy. There are several other churches and important colonial buildings to visit but the greatest pleasure is simply exploring the narrow streets infused with history of the region.

 

Day 50 to 51: Covenas, San Bernardo Islands

Fri 24 May to Sat 25 May 2013

A 525kms drive takes us to Covenas on the Morrosquillo gulf where we camp in the grounds of a local hotel near the beach for 2 nights. On the second day we will take a boat over to the spectacular San Bernardo islands for a tour of this beautiful archipelago.

Activity Approximate Cost

Take a boat trip out to the spectacular San Bernardo islands for the day

Included in Kitty

San Bernardo Islands

The islands of San Bernardo are made up of ten small islands with fine beaches and are the real travel highlight of this area. Sitting within the Golfo de Morrosquillo in the Caribbean sea the archipelago belongs to the National Natural Park Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo and consists of the islands of Boqueron, Cabruna, Ceycén, islote of Santa Cruz, Mangle, Maravillar, Múcura, Palma, Pandora and Tintipán.

The Islet of Santa Cruz which is an artificial island is supposedly the most densely populated piece of land in the world with just over a thousand people in less than a hectare of land!

Not all of the islands are accessible but contain stunning beaches, marshes, mangroves and diverse wildlife ranging from flamingos and monkeys to birds and crabs of all colours.

Day 52: Cartagena

Sun 26 May 2013

We leave Covenas and head 240kms to Cartagena.  We stay in a comfortable hotel in central Cartagena.

Activity Approximate Cost

2 nights in vibrant Cartagena

Included in Kitty

Explore Cartagena on a guided walking tour

Included in Kitty

Visit the mudbaths at the Totumo Volcano

USD 25

Go Diving Or Snorkelling Out To the Islas Del Rosario

USD 10

Visit the historic Castillo San Fellipe

USD 20

Cartagena

Cartagena is one of the most historic cities in South America. It is legendary both for its history and beauty and tends to be a favourite of all travellers who visit it. Having been the centre of many battles, the city is heavily fortified and huge defensive walls surround its narrow cobbled streets and colonial buildings. The city is made up of various districts, the new town with its high rise hotels, apartments and nightspots; and the older colonial parts of the city. The old city is the main attraction particularly the inner walled town, packed with churches, monasteries, plazas and mansions. Wandering through the streets you get a real feel of the sense of history of this amazing city. The waters of the Caribbean surround Cartagena on three sides. It is possible to take a day trip by boat to the idyllic coral islands of Rosario. This archipeligo of small coral islands is surrounded by the largest and most magnificent coral reefs on the Colombian Caribbean coastline. Marine life is abundant and the whole area is protected under National Park status.

Day 53: Cartagena

Mon 27 May 2013

Today we explore the city on a guided walking tour and you also have the chance to enjoy the many optional activities on offer.

Day 54: Cartagena

Tue 28 May 2013

Border information: If you are finishing in Cartagena, exit Colombia at Cartagena airport.

The trip ends today after breakfast and no accommodation is provided.

However if you are continuing on to Panama then your leader will assist you with getting to the airport for your included flight. You will overnight tonight in a comfortable hotel in either Panama City or Cartagena (depending on the flight times and availability).

Visa Information:

Important Notes

The routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only.

 

We intend following the planned route but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. By their very nature overland itineraries need to be flexible and the regions that we are travelling through are often unpredictable. We run adventure journeys in off the beaten track areas, often in areas without western infrastructure. You should expect that some these areas do not adhere to western safety standards.

The Community Inca Trek, Classic Inca Trail and Non Trekking Package – more information

The Inca Trail usually refers to the ancient pathway used by the Incas leading to Machu Picchu, but in fact there are a number of Inca Trails running through the Urubamba Valley. On all Dragoman trips that travel via Cuzco we include the choice between three options: the Classic Inca Trail, our Community Inca Trek which is exclusive to Dragoman, or a non trekking package.

The costs for each option are included in the kitty, but you must tell us at the time of booking if you want to book the Classic Inca Trail or the non trekking option. If you do not tell us this you will automatically be booked onto the Community Inca Trek. Full details of all three options are below.

Option 1: The Community Inca Trek

This unique and pioneering trekking route is automatically included in all of our trips that visit this area of Peru. The trek travels through spectacular scenery, passing through Inca ruins and staying in remote villages. You'll be hiking unspoiled trails used only by local villagers and Dragoman passengers, avoiding the crowds of the Classic route. You will be camping as guests of the local communities we pass through and may have the opportunity to help out with some hands-on projects, for example at the local schools. This is the real Andes, trekking pristine trails with spectacular mountain scenery at every turn. After a comfortable overnight stay in Ollantaytambo we head to the ancient citadel Machu Picchu. Although we do not enter the site through the Sun Gate as on the Classic Inca Trail there is plenty of time to hike to the Sun Gate for those who wish.

This option is automatically included as part of your trip unless you advise us otherwise. So if you want to take the Community Inca Trek no further action is required. If you would prefer to trek the classic Inca Trail, or choose not to trek at all, you let us know at the time of booking.

To be able to buy your train ticket between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes, it is vital that you provide the following information at the time of booking:

 

Any inconsistency between the information provided and the passport you travel on may result in you not being allowed to board the train.

DAY 1: Cuzco to Zurite
Leaving Cuzco early in the morning, we proceed to Sascaywaman for a 1 hour tour of the archeological ruins. From there we will go to Pisac to visit the ruins, before continuing on to Chincheros, a small village in the Sacred Pampa where the locals speak mostly Quechua, the language of the Incas. There you will see a weaving demonstration that has been unchanged for a thousand years and you will tour the archaeological ruins there for another hour and a half. From Chincheros we will drive an area with great views to have an energizing picnic lunch. We will then drive to Quillarumiyoc, also known as the Temple of the Moon. Then we will hike to Zurite where you will have a picturesque home stay in a house that is full of history from the Colonial period. In the house we will enjoy a nice dinner of traditional or contemporary food and you can experience the lifestyle of the locals.

Meals provided: Morning snack, lunch, dinner
Approximate walking time: 4hrs
Distance: 8km

DAY 2: Zurite to Amaruwatana
After a hearty breakfast we leave Zurite and head towards Amaruwatana camp. The walk will take us through Qenteqentiyoc (the hummingbird temple), where we can visit and admire this archaeological Inca site. Following the ancient path all the way to the top of our first pass at 4,500 metres, where we will have a dramatic view of both mountain ranges, Vilcabamba and Vilcanota. From here we start walking down on the way to our first camp in the Sambor valley where we will spend the night.
Meals provided: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Approximate walking time: 8hrs
Distance: 13km

 DAY 3: Amaruwatana to Ancascocha
Early in the morning after breakfast we trek for 2 hours to get to our second pass at 4,700 metres; from there we have fantastic views of the rock formations below us. Sometimes it is possible to see Andean ibis, herons, torrent ducks, caracaras, eagles and foxes. After another 2 hours we arrive to a nice highland valley, a place named Kenqo Mayu, or zig-zag river, where glacier water flows through the valley. Our lunch will be at the end of the river, and after lunch we will continue downhill and follow the ancient trail, which goes on a little uphill section which leads us to our campsite in a community called Ancascocha. We will arrive to our campsite in the late afternoon near to a large glacier mountain and glacier stream. If we arrive on time there is an optional hike to the lake, a one hour round trip.
Meals provided: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Approximate walking time: 6½hrs
Distance: 10km

DAY 4: Ancascocha to Ollantaytambo
After eating breakfast and breaking camp we start hiking down the Silque Canyon. We will descend by way of the narrow canyon, following a stream that will gradually get bigger. We can observe tall granite walls on the sides of the canyon, populated by a large variety of orchids and bromeliads, filling the environment with magnificent colours when they bloom. We continue on the trail making zig-zags. After crossing many little bridges we will reach the community of Camicancha, where we stop in a nice volcanic rock area, with magnificent views of mount Veronica, a snow capped mountain. From here we are very close to the Chilca community where we finish our trek. A vehicle will transfer us to Ollantaytambo and our hotel. After showers and a little rest, we get ready for the cultural tour of this incredible archaeological site, which is very well known as the Temple of the Sun.
Meals provided: Breakfast, lunch
Approximate walking time: 5hrs
Distance: 12km

 DAY 5: Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu – Cuzco
Early morning after breakfast, we catch the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes where a short bus ride takes us to the 15th-century Inca site of Machu Picchu where we have a full day to walk around the ruins with our guide. We arrive back in Cuzco late evening after the return train and bus journey via Ollantaytambo. We spend the night in Cuzco.
Meals provided: Breakfast

Community Trek inclusions

 

Communities Supported

The communities that we visit are remote Andean farming communities with traditions dating back to the Incas. They are primarily Quechua speaking, with some Spanish, and little contact with the general population. Their daily lives consist of potato cultivation, weaving, and the herding of llamas, alpacas, and sheep. Considered by the Peruvian government to be living in extreme poverty, they often face malnutrition, severely cold weather, poor hygienic conditions, and little medical or health assistance. These communities typically have small schools that often need support with construction, furniture, materials and teachers. Villagers live in thatched-roof stone huts and cook with firewood. Because of the disproportionate supply and demand of native trees and bush, there is a great need for an effective reforestation project in the area. Since 2006, Dragoman has worked with Ecoam (who helps us with our reforestation project) and thanks to the support from Dragoman and our passengers, the area we used to visit around Quishuarani, Cuncani and part of the mountain range of Lares has been declared a Private Landscape Reserve.

The fairly recent introduction of tourism to the region has brought some needed assistance and economic development to the communities, but there is still much more to do. Our local trekking operator working within the guidelines of sustainable tourism has met with the communities and discussed the pros and cons of tourism in the area. Together they have established still un-official guidelines for trekking and tourism through the Cordillera such as: established campsites to avoid contamination of community areas, use of community animals and personnel on treks, training of community members through workshops on camp maintenance, hygiene, client service to enhance their economic viability, maintenance of camp trails, camp sites, and environmental conservation. Many agencies respect these guidelines, but because making things official often brings on unwanted government intervention, they are now a pact between the communities, agencies, and tourists.

Option 2: Classic Inca Trail

This original King's route still remains popular and it is a 4-day trek, which passes through cloud forest and dramatic mountain scenery. It ends at sunrise on the last day as you trek to the Sun Gate for your first views of magnificent Machu Picchu. If you would prefer to trek the Classic Inca Trail then you must advise Dragoman at the time of booking. Dragoman will then apply for your permit but please note that these can never be guaranteed and if unavailable we will automatically book you onto the Community Inca Trail.

To be able to apply for your Inca Trail permit, it is vital that you provide the following information at the time of booking:

 

Any inconsistency between the information provided and the passport you travel with may result in you not being granted access to the Inca Trail.

DAY 1
This morning we go for a guided tour of the Sacred Valley and enjoy lunch at Pisac. We then head to Ollantaytambo to view more Inca ruins and we stay in a nice hotel for the night.
Meals provided: Lunch, Dinner, Snacks

DAY 2
The following morning after breakfast, we catch a bus to the 82 km marker and are joined by a crew of local porters, cook, etc. As we hike from high plateau to dense forest, you will see some remains of ancient villages and temples, the first of which is Llactapata. The starting point of the trek (the 82 km marker) is located at 2,850 m above sea level. The trek includes some uphill trekking to the campsite (over 3,000m above sea level). Take advantage during the 4 days of the trek to get to know your porters. You will realise they work the hardest on the team and are gentle people willing to share with you their culture, language and trek experiences.
Meals provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks

DAY 3
This is the most challenging of the trek as w.e ascend a long steep path (approx 4 hrs) to reach the highest point of our trek, Warmiwañusca, or Dead Woman's Pass, at a height of 4,200 m (13,779 ft), before descending to the Pacaymayo Valley (3,650 m above sea level - 2 hrs downhill). Depending upon local conditions, you might camp here today, or may need to continue further up and down. We might cross the first and second passes on this day. From the second pass, Runkuracay (3,980 m above sea level - 90 min uphill) we can enjoy views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending to the ruins of Sayacmarca (2 hours downhill). From here it is only a few more minutes to the Chaquicocha campsite (3,620 m above sea level).
Meals provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks

DAY 4
Today we continue over the third pass and soon reach the beautiful ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the 'Town above the Clouds' (3,850 m above sea level – 90 min uphill). Start descending real Inca Steps (2 hrs) to reach our final night's camp by the Wiñay Wayna, or 'Forever Young' ruins (2,750 m above sea level), with panoramic views of the valley below.
Meals provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks

DAY 5
Today is only a short final hike (90 min) to Machu Picchu and we climb the steps to the Sun Gate to watch the ruins emerge from the mist below. As with the community trek our guide will show us the most important constructions as well as explain the history and the mythology of this magnificent place. There is some free time to explore the ruins further at your own pace or maybe if you haven't experienced enough steps and trekking, why not visit the Inca Bridge. Or you can just chill out and watch the hummingbirds or vizcachua. Late afternoon we head back down to Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Ollantaytambo and return to Cuzco for a well-deserved rest.
Meals provided: Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks

Option 3: Non Trekking Package

If you do not wish to trek but want to take part in the Sacred Valley Tour and guided tour of Machu Picchu, then this is the package for you. You will receive a refund from kitty for the unused part of the excursion as your kitty amount has been calculated for the trekking options. Please note that in order to obtain a refund you MUST inform us that you would like the non trekking package at the time of booking. Please also note that there is a possibility that you may be the only person booked on to the non trekking package.

To be able to buy your train ticket between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes, it is vital that you provide the following information at the time of booking:

 

Any inconsistency between the information provided and the passport you travel on may result in you not being allowed to board the train.

DAY 1
You will leave Cuzco with your fellow passengers who will be trekking the Community Trek of the Classic Inca Trail. You will visit the fortress of Sacsaywaman, followed by a beautiful scenic drive over mountains and through valleys, via the ancient city of Pisac and on to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. After lunch you will head back to Cuzco where you will stay at our nice, centrally located hotel for a further 3 nights. These hotel nights will be booked for you by your tour leader.

DAYS 2 & 3
There are no activities booked or organised for you during these two days. There will be plenty of free time for you to go out and enjoy the many beautiful restaurants and shops that this wonderful town has to offer.

DAY 4
After being picked up from your hotel in the morning you will be driven to the fortress city of Ollantaytambo and our hotel for the night, the Tunupa Lodge. Here you will rejoin the Community Inca Trekkers and your tour leader who will be arriving from their trek this afternoon.

DAY 5
After an early breakfast and a 10 minute walk to the train station, your stunning 2 hour train ride to Aguas Calientes begins. The journey takes you through several different micro-climates, past Inca terraces, lookout posts, ancient river bank reinforcements and small towns. You will get a glimpse of different temples and the beautiful Mount Veronica (18,800 ft. / 5,750 m). Passing through 8 tunnels, the train journey finally comes to an end in the busy pueblo, Aguas Calientes. From here you take a local bus that winds up the mountainside for about 30 minutes until you arrive at the entrance to Machu Picchu (7,800 ft / 2,400 m), the awe inspiring 'Lost City of the Incas'. The guide will take you around the immense, mystical ruins for about 2 to 2 ½ hours, explaining the rich history of the ancient site. Afterwards, you will have time to explore on your own before returning down the mountain to Aguas Calientes. In the afternoon you will catch a train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo and a private transfer will take you back to your hotel in Cuzco.

Non Trekking Package inclusions

 

Still Unsure of Which Trail?

Dragoman's Community Inca Trek is a unique trekking route that not only involves trekking through pristine unspoiled mountains along ancient Inca Trails, but also allows the trekkers to stay within local communities and get involved with our pioneering community-based tourism project, Tarpuy Yachay. This trek is all about getting away from the overcrowded thoroughfares of the Classic Inca Trail and instead getting out into the real Andes. Not to mention being part of a project with provides a genuine, direct benefit to the host communities we travel through, by supporting education, income generation and environmental sustainability projects.

The Classic Inca Trail is the trek which you will see in every tour operator's brochure and website that features Peru as a destination. It is the most common trekking route taken to get to Machu Picchu.

Benefits of the Community Inca Trek over the Classic Inca Trail

 

Points against the Community Inca Trek

 

The Classic Inca Trail

 

However this is still the Classic Inca Trail and for some no other route will do, and we therefore offer it as an alternative. The Community Trek is included in our trips, but if you would prefer to take the Classic then you will need to let our sales team know at time of booking.

Trail fitness 

Trekking at altitude should not be undertaken lightly. Regardless of which trek you choose, you need to be in good health with good physical fitness to enjoy the experience. It is not about speed; trekking slowly is far better at altitude but you do need to have the stamina to keep going and altitude can have a negative impact on your general condition and physical performance. For your own safety you must accept that it is at the complete discretion of the professional trekking guides to decide if you are not fit enough to trek, whether it be before or during the trek. The Community Inca Trek reaches 4,700 m in altitude when we cross one of the passes. The trail can be steep and rocky but has few steps. The Classic Inca Trail has lots of steps and the highest pass is Dead Woman's Pass at 4,200 m. If you are in any doubt about your suitability to trek please consult your local doctor. 

Trekking - what to bring

Tents, sleeping mats and all food and drinking water during the trek are provided, as well as duffle bags for your personal gear that you don't need to access during the trekking hours (such as sleeping bags and extra clothes). On the Community Trek your duffle bag will be carried by pack animals and on the Classic Trail your duffle bag will be carried by porters. Please note that for the Classic Inca Trail there is therefore a strict weight limit of 10 kgs per bag, no exceptions. You will have to carry your own daypack with any items you need during the day.

You will need to be prepared for 4 seasons' weather in one day. Basically it will be cold after dark and in the mornings. During the night you will need to layer up with thermals and warm socks. In the morning when you've walked for a little while you will warm up and gradually strip off. Think layers! Community trekkers, you should also bring a set of clean clothes for night 4, which you will spend in Ollantaytambo where you have hot showers and the evening meal out in a restaurant.

Some very useful things to bring:


We recommend a tip of US$20 for your guide and perhaps US$30 for all the rest of the staff. On the Community Inca Trek, you may also wish to bring financial or actual donations for the communities. Photos of your home area and family are great things to share with the children and families we may meet in the communities.

Responsible Trekking

Frostbite, altitude sickness and even death can be the cost for the guides and trekking staff. Tourism Concern has a campaign aimed to put a stop to the abuse of trekking staff's human rights. Equally pack animals suffer abuse and mistreatment. Mountain trekking is exhilarating and challenging, but how could many of us do it without the assistance of trekking staff. Once they have started a trek, trekkers are often horrified by the reality of the working conditions for the staff. The prices that tour operators charge for trekking does vary enormously, mainly due to the rates of pay and conditions that the trekking crew receive. It is easy to book a trip based purely on price, but in the case of trips involving Inca trails, this will probably be because the tour operator is using local suppliers without regard to the treatment of porters and guides. In keeping with our Responsible Tourism Policies, Dragoman has a strict Suppliers Policy, which also covers our trekking partners. We follow Tourism Concern's policies on trekking companies and the way that guides, porters or animals are looked after. We therefore use a local Cuzco based trekking company called Andina Travel to run all our Inca trails trekking trips. They have an excellent trekking record and good, knowledgeable guides. They have been at the cutting edge of developing codes of responsible tourism practice and involving the local Quechuan communities in the development of their various treks. They supply us with evidence of their code of practice concerning their guides, staff and pack animals. Please bear this in mind when deciding which travel company you will travel with. Remember many of the trekking organisations, as well as many overseas tour operators who use these suppliers, are happy to promote low cost trips, even if it is at the expense of the welfare of the guides and porters that they use.

Multiple departures with amended itineraries

South America is very busy for travel at certain times of the year, particularly in connection with the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro which takes place every year 40 days before Easter. If the trip you are on is connecting to Rio Carnival in any way then there is likely to be more than just one truck on your specific departure date. This means that each truck will operate on slightly different itineraries and your day to day itinerary may vary from your trip notes. You will of course still visit all the highlights listed, and the presence of other trucks can make for a great atmosphere leading to or from the greatest party on earth! 

Physical Preparation

South America is diverse continent from high altitude, to the steamy Amazon, to baking deserts. You should therefore be prepared for the full gambit of climates. There will be time for hikking and other activities such as horse riding and you will need to be reasonably fit. Overland travel can be demanding - long, rough travel days, dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large the South America trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping so that life is not too rough.

South America

South America is diverse continent from high altitude, to the steamy Amazon, to baking deserts. You should therefore be prepared for the full gambit of climates. There will be time for hikking and other activities such as horse riding and you will need to be reasonably fit. Overland travel can be demanding - long, rough travel days, dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large the South America trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping so that life is not too rough.

Altitude

Please note that this trip spends time above 2800 metres/9200 feet where it is possible for travellers to experience some adverse effects on your health due to the altitude, potentially including Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).

Because of this it is very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude and monitor your health during this trip. 

For further information please click here to download our AMS information sheet or check out the following website www.high-altitude-medicine.com

Your leader will also hand you a copy of the AMS information sheet during your trip as well as holding a short meeting prior to travelling to altitudes above 2800m/9200ft for the first time.

If you are starting your trip in a destination above 2800m/9200ft we strongly advise reading this information prior to arrival.

Visa Information

Most countries we visit on our travels will require visas. Some are best obtained before you leave home and others can be obtained en-route. Whilst the ultimate responsibility for obtaining visas is yours, we will endeavour to assist you wherever possible.

The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. The information provided is given in good faith and we do try to keep the visa information as up to date as possible.  Please be aware though that rules do change, often without prior warning, which is why it is important that you check for yourself.

For visas that are needed in advance, you can choose to submit the applications directly to the relevant embassy or consulate.  However, our recommendation is that you use a visa agent to assist you with your applications. While this does increase the cost, it will make the process much easier for you. Dragoman have teamed up with ‘The Visa Machine’ to create a safe, secure, hassle-free way of obtaining visas and visa advice. Our unique link within their website is designed to make the visa process as straightforward as possible.  Simply go to https://dragoman.thevisamachine.com and click on your region of travel followed by your trip route and ‘The Visa Machine’ will advise you about not only the required visas but also the dates by which you should apply.  ‘The Visa Machine’ can then assist you in the actual visa application, thus taking all the worry and hassle out of the process.  This should apply for ALL nationalities and countries of residence.

As you will need to submit your passport together with your applications, we recommend that you avoid making any travel plans in the weeks leading up to your departure. However if you do need to travel in this period please let us know as soon as possible so that we can help you work out the options for your visa application process. 

Peru

Nationals of most countries including Australia, the EU, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK do not need a visa for tourist visits of limited duration to Peru

Flying to Central or South America via the USA

If your flight to central or South America is via the USA then you MUST obtain an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before travel.

An ESTA can be obtained online via the following link and paying the appropriatefee - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

Personal Spending

Based on the range that previous travellers have spent on trips in South America, we recommend you allow between a minimum of US$15 and a maximum of US$30 per day. This amount is usually lower in countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru but slightly higher elsewhere. 

This will cover expenses such as your drinks, meals when staying in hotels, souvenirs, tips and personal permits.

What else you need to know

Currencies & Cash

It is not really worth trying to buy local currencies before you travel. Bear in mind that many countries have strict regulations about the amount of their own local currency you are allowed to import - if you are found with amounts in excess of the allowed amounts, it may well be confiscated!

For obvious security reasons we hesitate to recommend you bring lots of cash with you, a sensible mix of cash and ATM cards is best. Most of our past passengers have said they wished they had been told to bring more cash. Apart from the convenience of being able to change money in many more places, you will sometimes get a much better exchange rate for cash.

More and more people are choosing to travel with cash passports such as TravelEx cards (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these).  This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling.  You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM within each country.

Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change in South America with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.

You should take a mixture of denomination notes. However due to a recent counterfeit scam central banks in several South American countries (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile) have temporarily banned the circulation of $100 notes bearing a series 2001 production date and a serial number starting with the letters CB or CF and ending in B2. The serial number is printed in green on the emblem. Banks and moneychangers in most countries will now only accept bills with a metallic strip running top to bottom of the bill and which are dated from 2003 or later. You should not take worn or damaged notes, or any that have been written on. Cash machines are readily available in most areas but are not always reliable therefore we recommend that you do not rely on them as your only source of cash. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most commonly accepted, but be prepared for very high commission charges. Please do not rely on cards for daily use, as they are not always accepted outside of larger towns and cities. If you are taking traveller's cheques, we recommend that you should only take those issued by American Express. Please note that Thomas Cook traveller's cheques may be used in some places, but are becoming more difficult to change. Brazil can be difficult for changing forex, it’s handy to have a cash card as backup. Please bring a mixture of small and large denominations as in more remote areas it can be hard to change amounts over $50. Kitty contributions should be at least half in cash and be in the same denominations and currencies as suggested above. Any proportion of kitty contributions paid in travellers cheques should be increased to cover the commission charge incurred in exchanging them.

Pre and post trip accommodation and connecting flights

At Dragoman we believe you should make the most of the places you visit, so if you would like to see more of your joining or finishing point cities, why not book additional accommodation to extend your stay. Dragoman can take away the hassle of time zones and language barriers by making the booking for you. This accommodation is only available at the joining or finishing city of your trip, immediately before or after the trip you are travelling on. 

While Dragoman is happy to assist with booking your pre and post trip accommodation, it is important that you understand you may be able to book your own room at a cheaper rate directly through the hotel or on the internet.  Our additional accommodation prices are based on the hotel’s rate plus an administration fee. Please note our rates do not reflect last minute walk in rates or internet specials.

We can also book arrival airport transfers for you as long as we have your flight arrival details.  These are normally payable in cash upon arrival, however we do have pre paid transfers in a few destinations. 

Please contact our reservations team for details of the accommodation and transfers that we can offer as not all hotels offer this service.

Accommodation on tour

Dragoman overland trips are designed for shared accommodation, whether camping or staying in hotels and therefore do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers will share with people of the same sex for the duration of the trip, in accommodation ranging from twin to multi-share. The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. The campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. On some of our trips we are able to stay in villages or local homestays, this allows us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities. 

Group size?

The maximum group size we take on our overland journeys ranges from 19 to 22 depending on the geographical location, however the average number of passengers is more likely to be around 16. 

Please note that there is an overlap of 2 trips in Zanzibar. This means a group starting a trip in Nairobi for example will visit Zanzibar at the same time as groups starting their trips in Dar es Salaam. In practical terms this means there could be up to 44 group members in Zanzibar at the same time.

Who travels with Dragoman?

Our passengers come from around the world and are always an interesting mix of nationalities and ages. On average there is a pretty even split, males to females and between solo travellers, couples and small groups of friends. We believe that overlanding should be open to as many people as possible and so although we have a minimum age limit of 18, as long as you are fit, healthy and passionate about travel, we are happy to take you, whatever your age is. One of the beauties of group travel is the camaraderie and friendships that are formed along the way and as well as the variety of people that you will meet.

Our Community

At any time before or after you book you can join our community - Dragoland. This is a great place to ask questions before you travel and catch up with your fellow travellers once your trip has finished. You can share photos, videos and stories You can also download a selection of free travel apps. See the home page to sign in, it's free and easy.

We also have a Facebook page where travellers regularly swap info with each other - you can join here

Our crew and guides

Our crew are passionate about travel and always up for adventure. It takes someone special to become a Dragoman leader. Our crew undergo the most intensive training program of all overland companies, spending 10 weeks learning the ropes at our base in Suffolk, UK and then up to six months on the road as a trainee. On all Dragoman overlanding trips two western crew who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation will accompany you. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. On trips South of Nairobi in East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. 

Dragoman endeavours to provide the services of experienced crew however, due to the seasonality of travel, situations may arise where your crew is new to a particular region or training other crew.

Your tour leader has a duty of care to all of their passengers and therefore they have the authority to ask passengers to leave the trip if they require medical assistance, are behaving in an anti-social manner or refuse to comply with local laws and customs. In all matters relating to the trip, the leader's decision will be final and we appreciate your respect of this.

Health

All Dragoman travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in our trips. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our leader, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Dragoman reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of the trip without a refund. 

You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information prior to travel, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. We also advise you to declare any pre-existing medical conditions to your travel insurers upon purchase. 

For trips that travel to areas of high altitude we also require all travellers to complete an altitude questionnaire. The ratings for each trip are a good indication of how challenging they are and in some cases customers should be prepared for some long driving days and possibly limited facilities. We are always happy to give extra advice if you have additional concerns. 

 

Vaccinations

 Recommended vaccinations and other health protection vary according to regions and recent bulletins issued by health authorities. It is essential to get the latest advice on the region(s) you are planning to travel in. It is essential that you check with either your doctor or travel clinic in good time before you travel.

 In the UK we have been working with Nomad travel for many years and their website has comprehensive, up to date vaccination and health information. Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount off all vaccinations given at Nomad Travel clinics.

A good source of up to date information is the world Health Organisation - http://www.who.int/en/

Malaria

Get expert advice before travelling about types of malaria pills and take them as instructed. Recommended types do change from time to time and from area to area. Consult your vaccination centre for the most up-to-date requirements

The mosquito usually bites between the hours of dusk and dawn and so covering up by wear long-legged and long-sleeved clothing, preferably light coloured and buttoned at the wrists can help. Do not sleep without closing windows, tent doors or, if sleeping out, use a mosquito net. Wear repellent applied directly to the skin or soaked into clothing.

Treating clothes and mosquito nets with a Permetherin solution provides significant protection. It should be available at most travel stores.  Mosquito coils are useful on still nights, in hotel rooms but cannot be used inside the tents.

Meals and group participation

On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger - you're part of the crew. You are expected to pitch in to set up camp, shop for food, cook and generally help out. As part of your trip you will be assigned a truck job which could be collecting water and firewood, sweeping out the truck, loading the back locker, etc.

While camping on overland journeys, all meals are included in the kitty. This means that you will have to work together to cook for everyone in your group. You will be divided into smaller units of 3-4 people and take it in turns to cook for the whole group according to a rota system. When it is your turn to cook you will have to plan the meal, shop for the ingredients in local markets or supermarkets and then prepare the meal for the whole group. The secret to cooking for 20+ people in a basic camping kitchen is to keep it simple! (On trips south of Nairobi we have a cook on board the truck; however you will still be required to help prepare meals).

If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew at your welcome meeting. An example of a typical camp breakfast might be toast with spreads, fruit and cereal as well as tea and coffee. When time allows it will also be possible to serve something hot such as eggs or pancakes. Lunch is almost always a sandwich heaped high with healthy salad and assorted fillings, with fruit to follow. Dinner might be a BBQ, risotto or pasta dish and there is always the chance to try some local cooking. Generally our passengers find the more they put into a trip, the more they benefit from it.

Responsible tourism

Dragoman is committed to ensuring that we have a positive impact on local communities and that we implement policies to minimise any negative impact on the local environment. We are dedicated to making sure that we adopt a responsible attitude to the areas through which we travel and believe that our trips should benefit the local people and their environment. Dragoman recognises that we are guests of local communities and strive to make these communities our partners, so that they benefit directly from our visit. You can find full details of Dragoman’s responsible tourism policy linked from the home page.

A few Rules 

 Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs is not only against the law, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Dragoman customers.  It is one of our core values to treat all people we encounter with respect which of course includes all the local people who make our destinations so special.  The exploitation of prostitutes or children is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes or abuse children.  Equally Dragoman will not tolerate any violence or threat of violence towards local people, other group members or any member of our staff. 

 We expect all our customers to obey all the laws of the countries through which we pass.  This particularly applies to the smuggling of contraband and possession of narcotic drugs (as above), firearms, antiquities and ivory. 

Any customer found contravening such laws or customs will be required to leave the trip immediately with no refund of the trip price.

Safety and security

One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling. There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world. We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt whilst travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items (although most of these can be locked in the safe whilst you are on the trip) and advise passengers to leave any valuable jewellery, watches etc at home. Generally speaking, you will not be travelling on local public transport and will have the added security of travelling in a group with experienced crew on hand to offer advice.

Please note: Any personal effects that are left on the truck, even if they are stored in the safe, are left at your own risk and Dragoman cannot be held responsible for any damage or theft that may occur.

The safety of our passengers, leaders and operators is a major priority of Dragoman. With this in mind we monitor world events very closely. By the very nature of the adventure travel that we take, there are risks and hazards that are inherent in our itineraries. Dragoman makes operational decisions based on informed advice from a number of sources:

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice

Reports from other travel companies and local suppliers

Leaders reports from off the road

Local contacts we have built up over 31 years of experience

Dragoman has also teamed up with the UK Foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) in their 'Know before you go campaign' www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougoThis website offers straightforward travel advice, top tips, and up to date country information to help you plan a safe trip.

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. You should always make yourself aware of the travel advice before you book and again before you travel. Below are links to some of the websites

Britain. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country

Australia. http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

New Zealand. http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

United States. http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html

Canada. http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/menu-eng.asp

Dragoman has comprehensive passenger liability protection and tour operator insurance. These policies have total indemnities of £3,000,000 and £10,000,000 respectively. This is in addition to local vehicle insurance and your personal travel insurance.

Emergency contact

We have a dedicated 24 hour telephone number which should only be used once you have left the UK and in the event of a real emergency. Should you need to call the number, we will do what we can to help but please bear in mind that real progress or action may not be possible until normal office hours.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, please let us know and then make your way to the joining hotel as instructed in theses trip notes. If you cannot get through leave a message and a contact number as these will be regularly checked and the crew informed if necessary.

Emergency Number: +44 (0) 7985106564.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that you have comprehensive travel insurance. Without evidence of valid travel insurance you will not be allowed to start the trip.

Whatever policy you choose, you must ensure that it is designed for adventure/overland travel. As such it must cover you for adventure activities such as white water rafting, trekking, horse-riding and that the 24 Hour Emergency Assistance Company must be experienced in handling situations in developing countries – for example they have the ability to arrange repatriation from remote areas such as the Sahara or if you were trekking in the Andes. Please double check if you have annual travel and/or credit card policies to ensure they have the cover you require, as many of these policies are not able to cope with adventure travel to remote areas. We recommend that any policy has the following minimum levels of cover: Medical (incl. repatriation) £5,000,000 Personal Liability £5,000,000 Cancellation and Curtailment £5,000 Loss of Baggage, personal effects, money and other inclusions are down to personal choice.

Issues on the trip

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local partner straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

We recognise that there may be times when your group leader may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction. If this is the case please contact our customer relations department on customer_relations@dragoman.co.uk. You may also choose to provide details in your feedback questionnaire which we ask you to complete at the end of your trip but we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.

Passports

Check that your passport will still be valid for 6 months after the end of the trip - this is important as some countries WILL refuse entry to anyone whose passport is due to expire. A temporary or "visitor's” passport is not valid on our trips. You will need to provide us with your passport details prior to departing for you trip. If you change your passport please remember to inform us.

Luggage & Kit List

Although you will not have to carry your main bag long distances you will need to help load and unload them onto the truck. For this reason we recommend that you use a backpack or soft bag rather than a heavy suitcase. During your trip your main luggage will be kept in the back locker so you will also need a small daypack. This can be used to carry your camera, water bottle and other personal effects for daily use.

The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different-sized lockers however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg.  Backpacks should not have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.

Your clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats (except on routes between Nairobi and Cape Town where ground mats are provided).

The clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in, which will vary depending on which part of the world you're heading to. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats*, so you'll need to bring those with you. Think about the climate and altitude of the areas you'll be travelling to, there's nothing worse than being cold at night so it's worth investing in a decent sleeping bag if it's likely to get cold. And remember even when it's warm during the day, it can often get cold at night, particularly in desert regions.

IMPORTANT: Ground mats are provided on all of our overland trips that run in South and East Africa, between Nairobi and Cape Town. This includes our Family trips between Nairobi and Cape Town.

For a general idea of what you need this list provides a guide:

For a comprehensive kit lists take a look at the Dragoman kit list that Nomad Travel have created.  Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount on all equipment purchased either online or in store. Click to see the kit lists www.nomadtravel.co.uk/kitlist/overlanders-kit-list

Water

The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments.

Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your Overland vehicle. You are free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like. You are helping the environment and your hip pocket!

Personal medical kit

All of our trucks have a fully stocked medical kit onboard for use in emergency situations only.  Therefore in addition to this we recommend that you purchase your own personal medical kit. In the UK we have teamed up with Nomad Travel Stores and Clinics to produce the Dragoman Travel Medical Kit. It has been designed in conjunction with the truck kits  and contains everything you would need for any minor accidents. For more details please visit their website:

nomadtravel.co.uk/catalog/view/dragoman-medical-kit

Electrical equipment

Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt socket so to charge your iPod, MP3 player, camera, laptop and mobile phone you will need a DC 12 volt adapter - the type that can be used from a cigarette lighter in your car. Please be aware that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets and the majority of the campsites we stay at have electricity points so please bring along your normal charging adapters as well. You will need to ensure that you have the correct country adaptor for your specific charger.

For mobile phones, please note that most countries in the Americas operate at 850MHz and 1900 MHz which is not the same frequencies used in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Most modern tri-band and quad-band mobile phones will be able to operate on these frequencies but please check your mobile phone specifications before travelling to ensure that you'll be able to use your phone in the Americas.

The kitty

In addition to the trip price on our overlanding trips you will also be required to pay a kitty specified for your trip. The kitty is payable in instalments at the start of each section of the trip for combination trips, and in full at the start of the trip for individual trips. Each customer joining a trip pays their kitty into a central fund. The fund is managed by the Dragoman crew & kitty accounts can be viewed by all throughout the trip.

The Kitty covers all things that the whole group does, such as:

The kitty system is very unique to overlanding and we believe it allows us to have flexibility & transparency on our trips. You can see exactly how your money is being spent and ensure that you are getting the best value by buying locally. It also helps to keep the costs competitive & save on administration costs so that we can pass the saving on to you. Dragoman makes NO PROFIT on kitties as they are the group's fund. 

We constantly update the kitty prices on our website and the kitty advertised in the brochure is an estimate at the time of printing. Prices can go up or down with no notice and exchange rate fluctuations will affect costs. If there is money left in the kitty at the end of your trip then this is divided between the group and you receive a refund.  Once you book your trip it is very important that you check our website on a regular basis and just before departure for any changes to the kitty amount.

At least half of your kitty should be paid in cash in the specified currency on the website (US Dollars or Euros in West Africa). The outstanding amount can be paid in local currency during your trip; your leader will give you the exchange rate.  Most of our travellers choose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.

Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.

Continuing your trip

Having an amazing trip and met a great group of people? Having too much fun to go home yet?  If on your trip you decide you would like to continue, then why not speak to your trip leader who can advise you of the cost and availability of continuing your journey.

Contingency emergency fund

Sometimes, civil or political unrest, or reasons beyond Dragoman's control (e.g. a natural disaster), can mean that an itinerary is disrupted and we have to make a contingency plan. This may involve hiring alternate transport or even the whole group flying over an area. Although Dragoman will help organise travel arrangements, in circumstances outside Dragoman's control you should be prepared to contribute towards the costs and therefore we ask you to bring along a 'Contingency Fund' of USD400. In almost all cases trips run smoothly and this fund is therefore never used. We also recommend that you take along an internationally recognised credit or charge card with a decent limit in case of emergencies, such as medical treatment en route, or even the need to be repatriated; though these occurrences are rare. Remember that travel insurance policies usually only refund you for expenses after you have already paid out.

Tipping

Tipping is entirely voluntary. The Dragoman crew may be travelling with you for many weeks and usually they become good friends with most members of the group. It is sometimes easy to forget that they do work hard to ensure that you do have a great trip. If you feel you would like to tip them, they certainly would appreciate it. On a number of our trips, we also use a local guide as well as our own Dragoman crew. These guides live and travel with you through their home country and it is usual to tip them when they leave. We recommend USD10 to USD15 per person.