THE SOUTH AMERICA XPLORER ITINERARY
The South America Xplorer is divided into different phases and they go like this:
You need to fly into Cuzco airport in Peru. This is the gateway to the Inca Trail as an incredibly beautiful old colonial city located high in the Andes. On arrival an Xtreme Gap representative will meet you and transfer you to your accommodation. You will then meet the rest of the group and be prepared for your welcome briefing and orientation.
Part 1: Learn Spanish and hang out in Cuzco
Location: Cuzco, 1 week
The first part of the South America Xplorer eases you into the travel seemed perfectly. Set high in the mountains, Cuzco is a stunning location with an incredible blend of Spanish colonial and ancient Incan cultures. It was the old capital city of the Incan empire, so as you would expect it’s pretty impressive. This is a great way to acclimatise not only to the altitude but to the different cultures surrounding you. In your first week you will have plenty of time to explore Cusco (and its great nightlife) plus learn some much-needed Spanish!
We include loads of activities in your first week, and you will also have individual Spanish lessons for 4 hours per day, usually in the mornings, with plenty of time to practice what you’ve learned in the fantastic and quirky markets and many tourist sites around Cuzco.
A fantastic student teacher ratio will ensure you learn the essentials quickly and easily. If you already have an understanding or even advanced level of Spanish it will certainly improve as all lessons are tailored to you.
Throughout your first week, your afternoons will be free to explore the fascinating city streets, museums and local ruins with the rest of the group. Cusco has incredible night life as well, as the main travellers hub to people about to start having completed the Inca Trail it attracts people from all over the world. Nights out in night clubs like Mama Africa or even hanging out at the Cross Keys pub in the Placa De Armas you are sure to meet interesting people from all over the world.
Part 2: The trek to Machu Picchu
After the first week it’s time to begin trekking! We leave early from Cusco by bus to the start of our trek, Mollepata. This will be an incredible mind blowing experience. The views of the Andes Mountains, with the associated steep valleys and jaw-dropping landscapes will remain with you for ever. It’s no walk in the park however, you will be trekking at altitude for about 5 to 7 hours a day.
Snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, llamas and condors. On the fourth day we will take the train to Aguas Calientes overnight.
Early in the morning, we take the bus to Machu Picchu, following steep mountain paths eventually arriving at the ancient lost city of Machu Picchu. You can explore the site, and there is a lot to explore! You will be surprised how advanced culturally the Incas were and there is plenty of evidence still left in the city.
You can visit the sun gate for the postcard picture and also an option to climb the famous hill of Huayna Picchu should you wish to (must be pre-booked in advance). In the afternoon, we return to Aguas Calientes where we catch the train back to Cusco.
Part 3: Northern Beaches Cuzco to Puyo
Leaving Cuzco and the Andes mountains behind we set off on an exciting overland journey along the northern coastline of Peru into Ecuador! Our first stop will be the bustling Peruvian capital of Lima to discover the city’s streets, parks and plazas and get a feel for the rich history of the country.
Next we depart Lima and follow the coastline until we reach Huanchaco, once the capital of the ancient Peruvian Moche civilisation. Huanchaco is a small town with epic surf beaches. There are also a number of fascinating ruins to explore in the local area. Onward to Punta Sal for pure beach chill time where there are a number of optional activities to chose from or just kick back and relax and hang out with the group.
From Punta Sal we cross the border into Ecuador for our first stop in Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city. It’s a global heritage site and a great place to explore. From there we continue our journey inland past stunning scenery to the start point of your next phase of the expedition, Puyo.
Part 4: Amazon Rainforest and wildlife conservation project
During this part of the programme you get to interact with some of the incredible indigenous wildlife in South America. Our Animal Rescue Centre helps wild animals that have been rescued from mistreatment and abuse and focuses on saving lives, helping them to recover and, if possible, letting them return to the wild.
You can expect the following types of animals there: Capuchin, Wooly, Spider and Tamarind monkeys. Ocelots and Margays, Kinkajous, Coatis and Tayras. Ant Eaters and Porcupines, White lipped Peccaries, Macaws and various parrots, Spectacled Caiman and Boa Constrictors.
There are different areas in need of help and the exact work you will be doing will depend on your personal interests but could include: Preparing animals’ food, daily feeding and cleaning, assisting in construction and maintenance work to improve animal living conditions, providing care and support to animals, monitoring behaviour and reporting any unusual situations you notice regarding the animals to one of the supervisors.
Living with an indigenous Shuar tribe in the rainforest
After two weeks of the animal sanctuary it’s time to head deeper into the rainforest. You will live and work with The Shuar Tribe, a remote community whose traditional way of life is threatened by deforestation. During your time with the Shuar you will learn about their fascinating culture and contribute to efforts to sustain their way of life. Past groups have built traditional Shuar huts, taught local children, planted a vegetable garden at the daycare and reforested medicinal plants and trees.
The community will also be keen for you to experience their traditional customs and culture and you will be involved with a number of activities such as face painting with natural Suar, bracelet making, learning traditional Shuar Dance, jungle hikes and attending local pageants or parades
Free Time: Weekend optional activities in the jungle are varied and abundant – options include rope swings, mountain biking, hot springs, jungle tours, shopping and white water rafting.
Part 5 cultural immersion project Quito
For the final part of the programme we leave the jungle and head to the city. Out of the Jungle and into the city; you’ll make a quick stop in Quito before beginning your final week of volunteering on one of our many community outreach project in and around Quito.
Past groups have done teaching, painted classrooms, designed murals and floor games, fixed up walls or windows and built entire playgrounds in schools from rubble. There’s also plenty of time for playing with the kids and teaching English.
This phase is a chance to really get to know an Ecuadorian community and you’ll come away with many new friends. It’s also a last chance to make trips to Ecuador’s must-see sights like Cotopaxi volcano and the Quilotoa crater lake before your final party night in Quito!
Explore the wonders of Quito including meeting the locals, relaxing, sightseeing and shopping…and some crazy nights out!
Option add on Galapagos £650
DAY 1 BALTRA / SANTA CRUZ ISALAND / ISABELA ISLAND
You take a flight from Quito to the Airport of Baltra Island.
Our guides will take you over to Isabela Island.
Flamingo Lagoon which is the largest coastal lagoon found in the Galapagos and is one of the main reproductive sites for the grand majority of flamingos. Dinner and accommodation.
Highlights: Flamingos, svelte birds.
Activities: Hiking, walking
Type of Landing: Dry landing
DAY 2 ISABELA ISLAND
After breakfast our destination is the rim of Sierra Negra Volcano.
The Sierra Negra Volcano boasts the largest basaltic caldera in Galapagos at 9 x 10 km. The site offers impressive views and the opportunity to observe up to 7 species of finch and a rich display of vegetation. The north side of the caldera provides evidence of its most recent volcanic activity in 2005.
Highlights: Basaltic caldera, stunning views, finches
Activities: Hiking, horseback riding, walking
Type of Landing: Dry landing
Concha de Perla
This is the perfect spot for those who love swimming or snorkeling! Concha de Perla is a shallow, calm bay with crystal clear water that allows you to enjoy the fascinating marine life of Galapagos. If you are lucky you will be able to swim with sea lions and penguins. Dinner and accommodation.
Highlights: Sea lions and penguins.
Type of Landing: Dry landing
DAY 3 SANTA CRUZ ISLAND (After breakfast Navigation to Santa Cruz)
Charles Darwin Station
The Charles Darwin Research Station is home to turtles ranging from 3-inches (new hatchlings) to 4-feet long. Sub-species of turtles interact with one another and many of the older turtles are accustomed to humans, stretching out their heads for a pet. The babies are kept until they are about four years old and strong enough to survive on their own.
Tortuga Bay is another destinations to visit on your own on Santa Cruz with baby powder white sand, magic blue waters, marine iguanas, and sometimes flamingos. It is only 2.5 Km from Puerto Ayora on a nice brick path (about 30-45 minutes walking).
Highlights: Giant Tortoises in captivation, marine iguanas.
Type of Landing: Dry landing
DAY 4 FLOREANA ISLAND
Post Office Bay is one of the few visitor sites that is visited for its human history. Whaling Captain James Colnett established the wooden post barrel in 1793. At this time whaling was a big industry, ships were typically gone for 2 years at a time. Floreana was a frequent stop for these ships. Outbound ships would drop off letters after rounding the cape and the ships returning home would pick the up and delivered in time by hand. Near Post Office Bay, we explore the north shore of Floreana along narrow channels teeming with life. Rays, turtles and sea lions can be seen gently swimming next to the panga.
Mirador de la Baronesa is a vista point on the northside of Floreana, in La Olla Bay. It is a basaltic rock formation between Cormorant Point and Post Office Bay. You will take a panga ride to reach this point. On the panga you can observe several marine species such as golden eagle rays, sea turtles, sea lions, mullets and eventually Galapagos penguins.
Mirador de la Baronesa is a good place for understanding the mangroves. The red mangrove is characterized by a hanging elongated fruit, which in reality is a new daughter plant that grows from the parent plant, a rarity in the plant kingdom. The red mangrove is a pioneer in the coasts and has a very hard and resistant wood.
This location has a history. It was known to be loved by Baroness Eloisa von Wagner, where she would spent hours watching ships and acquiring knowledge of vessels approaching the island. Within walking distance (30 m) are the ruins of what is known as the House of the Baroness. Dinner and accommodation.
Highlights: Post office barrel, nice sandy beach. View, sea turtles, history and
Mystery…stories of the first inhabitants on Floreana
Activities: Short hike, snorkeling
Type of Landing: Wet landing
DAY 5 SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
Los Gemelos, or the Twin Craters, are located opposite each other on both sides of the road leading from Puerto Ayora to Baltra. The name is only figurative; not real craters, these formations were created by the collapse of surface material in underground fissures and chambers. The view is breathtaking.
Transfer to the Baltra Airport
Highlights: Pit craters, Scalesia forest
Activities: Short hiking
Type of landing: Dry landing
NOTE: This itinerary is subject to change without notice due to seasonal changes, inclement weather conditions, and adjustments of Galapagos National Park policy.
INCLUDED: transfers, tours, Complete Meals, Accommodation (private bathrooms – air conditioner – hot shower), Bilingual naturalist guide (Spanish-English); Transportation.
NOT INCLUDED: Entrance fee 100.00 usd; ingala immigration control card 20.00 usd, Fee port on Isabela Island $ 5 per person, tips. Water taxi $3, Snorkel equipment $ 5 (mask, tubing and flippers), Additional drinks and Personal expenses.
Due to the diverse nature of this trip, the accommodation will vary throughout. For example, in towns and cities we use local hotels and guesthouses, camping on the Trek, in the Amazon we use a volunteer guesthouse and traditional stilted huts in the Shuar community. In the Galapagos (optional) you will be staying in hostels.
Accommodation in Quito will be in our centrally located volunteer house. All meals are included and will consist of typical Ecuadorian fare. Rooms will be dorm style, 4-6 per room.
You will be provided with 3 meals a day and the food is typical South American fare. In towns and cities we eat at the guesthouse or local restaurants, cooks provide hearty meals on the trek and in the animal sanctuary volunteers go together to purchase groceries and take it in turns to prepare evening meals. Please note only breakfast is included on Galapagos. Typical South American foode includes lots of rice, meat, beans, vegetables and fruit, regional dishes vary and local specialities will always be made available!
Throughout the expedition you will have an Xtreme Gap representative and trip leader. On each project there will also be a dedicated project co-ordinator and team of staff who will work with the leader and volunteers to assign tasks. We also have a team of staff based in Quito to provide further back up.
Transport to and from the airport, to each phase and for all tours on the itinerary will be included. Transport can vary from taxi, minibus and local buses depending on the journey. Any extra trips not included on the itinerary will be at each volunteers own cost.
Flights are always arriving to Cusco (arrive in the morning) and from Quito (leave in the afternoon). Flights to Galapagos (for when you book the Bolt-on) are from Quito – there is a flight around 9/9:30 am to Galapagos so to get that one.
Trip Frequently Asked Questions
The majority of foreign nationals do not require a visa for Peru or Ecuador. However, those with criminal records in Ecuador may still be denied entry. On arrival in the country, the immigration police will normally allow a stay of up to 90 days
There is a National Park entrance fee to the Galapagos Islands of $110 for all foreign nationals. This fee is not included.
If possible, it would be best to get the flight arriving at 11:00.(Iberia/LAN from Lima to Cusco) So arrive on the start date of the trip at 11 am, or earlier in the morning, in Cusco.
You can arrive 1 day early if that’s more convenient, the price is £30 for an extra night (incl food)
The arrival airport is Cuzco (CUZ) and departure airport is Quito (UIO) You are responsible for booking your own flights/transport to the start point of the expedition (at the in-country airport). Information and advice about booking flights will be provided upon booking but please do not hesitate to contact us if you need further assistance. Do not forget to upload your flights details on your personal pages before you go! Call us if you have any questions or need any advice.
You will also need to book return flights from Quito to the Galapagos Islands. These flights are approximately $450 USD and although not included, we can help you can book these flights for you.
Weather Ecuador: The highland dry season is June through until the end of September. In the Oriente, it rains during most months, but August and December through March are usually the driest. In the Galápagos, the wildlife is there year-round. The dry season (June to December) is also cool and often misty. On the coast, the wet season (roughly January to May) sees sunny days with daily afternoon downpours, but it’s the best beach weather. The dry season (roughly June to December) is cooler.
Peru: From June to August is the dry season in the mountains and altiplano (Andean plateau); the wettest months are from December to March. It rains all the time in the hot and humid rainforest, but the driest months there are from June to September. However, even during the wettest months from December to May, it rarely rains for more than a few hours at a time.
Even though you will be provided with food and accommodation in-country, you will need money to do your own travelling if you wish and for any activities not on the itinerary. There will be plenty of things do! Depending on the duration of your stay, we advise you to budget for $60 – $80 or £40-£50 a week.
We can cater for vegetarians. Meals are normally locally sourced and include rice, beans, pulses and some meat (if you want it!).
Upon booking you will be provided with a recommend kit list. You will also have a kit briefing before you go out on expedition and you are welcome to call us with any kit related queries before you go!
Don’t be! By joining our group you will be meeting loads of like-minded adventurers so don’t be put off travelling if you don’t have any mates to come with you. You’re guaranteed to make loads of friends and have an incredible time on this adventure!