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Cuzco to Cartagena
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Overlanding is the best way to see South America by far! Dragoman have been leading the way in South American overland expeditions since 1990, so take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading to some unique hidden gems, well away from the usual tourist trail. Starting at the incredible colonial town of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, we explore some of Colombia's best highlights, such as the beautiful beaches of Tayrona National Park, the adventure capital of San Gil and the stunning historic town of Villa de Leyva, before crossing into Ecuador and arriving at its buzzing capital of Quito. From Quito we explore the stunning jungles, hills and towns of Ecuador and then head down to the coast and the idyllic beaches of Punta Sal in northern Peru. We then head south through Peru's deserts to the ruined Moche city of Chan Chan, then climb up to the spectacular Andean town of Huaraz, before heading to the chaotic capital of Lima. From Lima we continue down the coast to the magical dunes of Huacachina, and then overland to the mysterious Nazca Lines. We'll then climb up into the highlands to visit the colonial city of Arequipa and the breathtaking Colca Canyon, before staying at a local Quechua village stay on our way to the phenomenal city of Cuzco. Cuzco is our base for one of South America's best highlights, the Inca Trails and a visit to the legendary ruined city of Machu Picchu. Join Dragoman for this wonderful and unforgettable trip!

Latin America

Duration: 54 Days Guaranteed Departure: Yes
For lovers of: Physical rating: Demanding
Accommodation standard:   Budget% Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
Your Guide: English speaking Tour code: 158103
Starts: Cuzco, Peru Finishes: Cartagena, Colombia
You will visit
  • Cuzco
  • Sacred Valley
  • Inca Trail
  • Machu Picchu
  • Raqchi
  • Chivay
  • Arequipa
  • Puerto Inca
  • Nazca
  • Huacachina
  • Paracas
  • Lima
  • Ballestas Islands
  • Huaraz
  • Huanchaco
  • Punta Sal
  • Lambayeque
  • Cuenca
  • Chugchilan
  • Lake Quilotoa
  • Rio Verde
  • Baños
  • Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Quito
  • Otavalo
  • Ipiales
  • Popayán
  • Salento
  • Manizales
  • Honda
  • Villa de Leyva
  • San Gil
  • Aguachica
  • Mompós
  • Tayrona National Park
  • Cartagena

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Cuzco

Border information: if you are joining in Cuzco, you will most likely enter Peru at Cuzco Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport.

There will be an important group meeting at 10:00am at the joining hotel - please look out at the hotel reception for a note from your leader with more details about this important meeting. There will be a further meeting this evening for our Community and Classic Inca Trails, where we will have a full detailed briefing from our local trekking guides about the next few days!

The rest of today will be free to explore the wonderful city of Cuzco, discover its many historical gems, or to take part in number of optional activities near the city.

In Cuzco we will stay in a good colonial hotel.

02

Days 2-5: Sacred Valley

These four days will be spent trekking in the Andes, either on our pioneering Community Trek or on the Classic Inca Trail. We will have a tour of the Sacred Valley, embark on our various treks, and end up at the phenomenal Inca site of Machu Picchu, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World!

Please see the Inca Trails section at the bottom of the detailed trip notes for each departure for details of the Community Trek and the Classic Inca Trail, as well as our non-trekking MAPI alternative.

We will camp during these nights (except for the first night of the Classic Trail and the last night of the Community Trek, which are both in a local hotel in Ollantaytambo). 

03

Day 6: Cuzco

This morning we will arrive at Machu Picchu, one of the world's most incredible and iconic historical sites. We'll have a guided tour with a local expert, and then have plenty of time to freely explore the area before catching the train back to Cuzco.

04

Day 7: Cuzco

Today is a free day to relax after the treks, further explore the historical city of Cuzco, and take part in some optional activities around the city.

05

Day 8: Raqchi

Today we will drive south to the small village of Raqchi. Here we will stay at a homestay as guests of the local villagers in their traditional family homes. The houses are very clean and have basic facilities.

This afternoon we will visit the Inca ruins of the Temple of Wiracocha at Raqchi, and then see a pottery demonstration at a local artisan centre. This evening the villagers will invite us to take part in a traditional Quechua religious ceremony, and we'll have some lively music from some of the village's musicians.

Estimated Drive Time - 3 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

06

Day 9: Chivay

Today we will drive through the stunning landscapes of the Peruvian highlands to the small town of Chivay, where we can have an optional trip to the nearby hot springs in the evening.

In Chivay we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours.

07

Day 10: Arequipa

This morning we will head out on a short drive to some of the best viewpoints along the spectacular Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world! The canyon is famous for its resident condors, and we will spend a good amount of time at the viewpoints to give ourselves the best chance of spotting them. We will also visit a couple of local communities on the way back to Chivay.

After lunch in Chivay, we will drive to the beautiful ‘White City’ of Arequipa.

In Arequipa we will stay in a good local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours.

08

Day 11: Arequipa

Today we will have a free day to explore the colonial city of  Arequipa, or for some optional activities in and around the city.

09

Day 12: Puerto Inca

Today we will continue our drive and head all the way downhill to the Pacific coastal resort of Puerto Inca, where we camp at a well-equiped campsite on the beach.

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.

10

Day 13: Nazca

This morning we head north to the world-famous village of Nazca, the location of the mysterious Nazca Lines. We will have an included visit to the nearby ancient sites of the Chauchilla Cemetery and the Cahuachi Pyramid, thought to have once been the religious centre of the Nazca civilisation.

In the afternoon, we will have the opportunity to take an optional 30-minute flight over the Nazca Lines in a small aircraft - this is by far the best way of seeing the figures, and we use a local operator with an excellent safety record. The Nazca Lines are a series of figures, lines, and geometric shapes that were etched into the ground of the desert plateau over a thousand years ago by the ancient Nazca culture, and their purpose is still unknown to this day.

In Nazca we will camp at a well-equipped campsite.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours.

11

Day 14: Huacachina

Today we continue north, stopping at a viewing platform to get a glimpse of some of the Nazca Lines. 

We will arrive at the stunning desert oasis town of Huacachina, where we have the option to head out for an evening of sand boarding and dune buggying and the further option to camp out under the stars in the deserts.

For those that do not wish to participate in the optional camping in the desert, in Huacachina we will stay in dorm accommodation in the village itself.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours.

12

Day 15: Paracas

Today we will continue north to Paracas National Park, where we have plenty of time to fully explore the desolate beauty of the landscape here, visit the museum, and go in search of the local wildlife.

We will wild camp in the National Park tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 2 hours.

13

Day 16: Lima

Today we will board one of the local boats for an included trip to the Ballestas Islands to view its incredible array of resident wildlife and birds.

After lunch, we will continue north to arrive at the chaotic Peruvian capital of Lima.

In Lima we will stay in a comfortable hotel in the city's historical centre.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours.

14

Day 17: Lima

Border information: if joining in Lima, you will most likely enter Peru at Lima Jorge Chavez International Airport.

There will be an important group meeting at 6:00pm at the joining hotel - please look out at the hotel reception for a note from your leader with more details about this important meeting.

In Lima we will stay in a comfortable hotel in the city's historical centre.

15

Day 18: Huaraz

Today we will have a spectacular drive up the winding roads of the 'Paramonga Route' into the Cordillera Blanca section of the high Andes, reaching the mountain town of Huaraz.

In Huaraz we will stay in a local hostel in either dorm accommodation or private rooms depending on availability.

Estimated Drive Time - 10 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

16

Days 19-20: Huaraz

We have two days in the spectacular area of the Cordillera Blanca for exploration and optional activities such as visiting the incredible pre-Inca ruins of Chavín de Huantar or trekking and climbing to the nearby lakes and glaciers.

17

Day 21: Huanchaco

Today we will have a full day's drive down the stunning 'Casma Route' to the Pacific coast and on to Huanchaco, near the city of Trujillo.

In Huanchaco we will camp in the grounds of a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours.

18

Day 22: Huanchaco

Today we will have an included guided trip to explore the enormous adobe ruins of Chan Chan and the world-famous Moche archaeological site of Huaca de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon).

19

Day 23: Punta Sal

Today we will have a full day's drive along the coast of northern Peru. We will have an included visit to the phenomenal Lord of Sipan museum in Lambayeque, home of an incredible collection of Chimu-era treasures (please note that this museum is closed on Mondays, so we will be unable to visit if your trip passes through on a Monday).

We will stay at a friendly local campsite just outside of Punta Sal, on a beautiful and serene beach on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.

Estimated Drive Time - 10 hours (including approximately 1 hour 30 minutes at the Lord of Sipan museum). 

20

Day 24: Punta Sal

Today we have a full day to relax on the beach and enjoy some activities in and around the stunning coastal area of Punta Sal.

21

Day 25: Cuenca

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

Today we will have a long drive day north, crossing the border into southern Ecuador and arriving at the beautiful colonial town of Cuenca.

In Cuenca we will stay in a centrally-located hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 10-11 hours.

22

Day 26: Cuenca

Today we will have a free day to explore the colonial city of Cuenca. The town is the birthplace of the famous Panama Hat, and we will have the opportunity today to visit one of the factories to learn about the manufacturing process.

23

Day 27: Chugchilan

Today we will drive to the remote village of Chugchilán, via the stunning landscape of the Cajas National Park en route and the spectacular highland scenery along the road of the 'Quilotoa Loop'.

In Chugchilán we will stay in a fantastic local hostel where breakfast and dinner are included, giving you a chance to enjoy traditional Ecuadorian food.

Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours.

24

Day 28: Lake Quilotoa

Today we will transfer to the village of Quilotoa to see its stunning crater lake, and take an included day trek back to Chugchilán through the local villages, canyons, and beautiful scenery. This walk is widely considered one of the best day treks in Ecuador! 

The mostly-downhill usually takes between 4-6 hours, but please be aware that there is a section towards the end of the trek with a steep incline which you will need to be physically fit for - although we thoroughly recommend the trek, it can be skipped by anyone if they prefer.

25

Day 29: Rio Verde

Today we will drive along the remainder of the Quilotoa Loop and head north to the village of Rio Verde near the famous Tungurahua volcano.

In Rio Verde we will stay at a well-equipped campsite with great facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours

26

Days 30-31: Rio Verde

We will have two full days of free time for a range of activities in Rio Verde, such as white-water rafting, trekking, canyoning, cycling, and other options. We will also have the opportuinty to visit the nearby town of Banos and its popular volcanic thermal springs.

27

Day 32: Ecuadorian Amazon

Today we drive to the edge of the Amazon basin near the town of Tena, where we head to our jungle lodge for an incredible 3-night stay.

In the Amazon Jungle we will stay in a comfortable rainforest lodge with meals included.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours

28

Days 33-34: Ecuadorian Amazon

Over the next two days we will head into the Amazon jungle, enjoying rainforest treks exploring the nearby waterfalls and caves, and trips down the Napo River in motorised dugout canoes, hopefully spotting plenty of wildlife on the way. We will also see some ancient fossils and petroglyphs, and visit a local Quichua community. 

29

Day 35: Quito

Today we will drive back up into the highlands and arrive at the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.

In Quito we will stay in a friendly local hotel in the 'New Town'.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours.

30

Day 36: Quito

Border Information: if joining in Quito, you will most likely enter Ecuador at Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport (IATA code: UIO).

There will be an important group meeting at 6:00pm at the joining hotel - please look out at the hotel reception for a note from your leader with more details about this important meeting.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Quito before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Quito.

In Quito we will stay in a friendly local hotel in the 'New Town'.

31

Day 37: Quito

Today our journey begins with a short drive to Mitad del Mundo, the monument that marks the Equator. After this we will continue north to the small town of Otavalo, stopping in the centre to visit its famous markets.

In Otavalo we will camp in the grounds of a rural guesthouse overlooking the town.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

32

Day 38: Ipiales

Border information: Exit Ecuador at Ipiales, enter Colombia at Ipiales.

Today we will have an early start to cross the border into Colombia and reach the border town of Ipiales. We will visit the famous Santuario de las Lajas church outside of Ipiales in the late afternoon.

In Ipiales we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

33

Day 39: Popayán

Today we have a full day drive to the beautiful town and former colonial capital of Popayán.

In Popayán we stay in dormitory accommodation in a local hostel.

Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.

34

Day 40: Salento

Today we will drive to the small town of Salento, the gateway to the spectacular Valle de Cocora.

In Salento we will camp in a well-equipped campsite, 15 minutes drive out of town.

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.

35

Days 41-42: Manizales

This morning we will have an included guided trek through the Cocora Valley to see the Quindio wax palm trees, the largest palms in the world and the national tree of Colombia. In the afternoon we will head to the town of Manizales, where we stay for 2 nights on a coffee plantation.

Estimated Drive Time - 3 hours.

During our time in Manizales we will enjoy a night of traditional music and dancing, take a fascinating tour of the coffee plantations, and visit the Sagrada Familia charity - a local Dragoman-supported charity that provides education, nutrition, and psychological support to poor children in the area.

In Manizales we will camp with facilities within the grounds of the finca.

36

Day 43: Honda

Today we have a final morning in our coffee finca near Manizales, and then drive to Honda, a historic river town where we meet the Rio Magdalena.

In Honda we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours

37

Day 44: Villa de Leyva

Today we will continue our journey with a drive to Villa de Leyva, one of the country's most beautiful colonial villages. Nestled high in the arid semi-desert away from any trade routes, the town has escaped development and modernisation for centuries and is one of the most authentic old-towns in South America.

In Villa de Leyva we will camp in the grounds of a hacienda.

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.

38

Days 45-46: San Gil

Today we will take an included walking tour of the main sights of the colonial town of Villa de Leyva in the morning, before driving to San Gil, the outdoor capital of Colombia and a mecca for extreme-sports enthusiasts! Tonight we will enjoy a vegetarian Indian buffet from the campsite's in-house restaurant.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

The following day is free to enjoy some of the myriad of adrenaline activities on offer in the area, or to spend the day relaxing on the farm.

In San Gil we camp in a coffee and cattle farm outside town.

39

Day 47: Aguachica

Today we will drive north, stopping for the night in the town of Aguachica.

In Aguachica we stay in a hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours.

40

Days 48-49: Mompós

Today we will drive to the peaceful and rarely-visited colonial town of Mompós, where we will stay 2 nights. 

Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.

The following day we go on a short boat trip down Rio Magdalena to observe the riverside life and do some wildlife spotting. There will also be plenty of free time to explore this historical colonial town, the first town in Colombia to declare independence from Spain, wander the beautiful streets and soak up the atmosphere of the architecture.

In Mompós we stay in a lovely local hotel.

41

Days 50-51: Tayrona National Park

Today we drive north to Tayrona, one of the most popular national parks in Colombia. Leaving our main luggage stored on the truck, we take a day-pack/night-bag and go on a moderate walk in to the park to where we will stay. Mules to carry your luggage can be hired at an extra cost.

Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.

The following day is a free day to explore this stunning coastal park. We have the opportunity to trek to El Pueblito, a pre-Hispanic settlement of the Tayrona people, do some snorkelling, or just relax on the beautiful beaches.  

In Tayrona National Park we will stay in rented hammocks. The hammocks are equipped with mosquito nets but please note that the nets are not treated with Permethrin or similar pesticides.

There is also an option to bring tents if you prefer to stay in a tent rather than a hammock, but please note that mules will have to ber hired to carry your tent, at an extra cost.

42

Day 52: Cartagena

We will have some more free time in Tayrona National Park in the morning, before we walk back to the park entrance and complete our epic journey with a drive to the beautiful coastal colonial city of Cartagena.

In Cartagena we will stay in a comfortable hotel just outside the historical centre.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

43

Day 53: Cartagena

Today we will have an included walking tour of the city, and then the afternoon will be free to explore the city further, enjoy the many optional activities on offer, or simply relax on the beach.

44

Day 54: Cartagena

Border information: if you are finishing in Cartagena, you will most likely exit Colombia at Cartagena Rafael Núñez International Airport (IATA code: CTG).

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Cartagena. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

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

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Visit the monument to mark the Equator at Mitad del Mundo
    • Visit the jaw-dropping church of Santuario de las Lajas on the outskirts of Ipiales, built on a bridge spanning a 45m-deep river gorge
    • Head out on a half-day guided trek through the spectacular Cocora Valley, and see the incredible 50m-tall Quindio wax palms, the tallest plam trees in the world!
    • Enjoy a night of traditional live Colombian music with a delicious BBQ dinner at our coffee finca nea Manizales
    • Stay for 2 nights on a coffee finca near Manizales, and learn all about coffee production on an informative tour of the plantations
    • Visit the Dragoman-supported Sagrada Familia project in Manizales, who work to provide education, nutrition, and psychological support to young children from poor backgrounds in the area
    • Discover the delightful Spanish colonial town of Villa de Leyva on a guided walking tour, and explore its cobblestoned streets, huge original plaza, and 16th-Century buildings
    • Explore the area of Mompós by boat, on a beautiful short trip out on the Magdelena River
    • Freely explore the fascinating colonial city of Cartagena or learn all about its incredible history on a guided walking tour
    Tour Staff
    • 2 crew, local guides as necessary
    Accomodation
    • 40% Camping - 60% Hotels
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