Discover South America

Grand Circle Travel

Discover South America: Argentina & Chile (2003), 13 days

Pre-trip extension: Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, & Iguaçu Falls, 5 nights
Buenos Aires | Bariloche | Puerto Varas | Santiago
Post-trip extension: Peru: Lima, Cuzco, & Machu Picchu, 6 nights

South America Map

The verve and rugged beauty of Argentina and Chile are legendary—and so is Grand Circle’s comfortably paced, value-packed look at a region most people only get a glimpse of. Frame your discoveries with the sophistication of two vibrant capitals: Buenos Aires and Santiago. Along the way, traverse the Andes Mountains from Argentina into Chile via the spectacular Chilean-Argentine lakes, take in the chic of Swiss-flavored Bariloche and posh Vina del Mar, and savor lakeside views crowned by the Osorno Volcano in Puerto Varas. Meet Argentine and Chilean families during two Home-Hosted Dinners. And when you add Brazil and Peru to your discoveries with optional extensions in Rio de Janeiro & Iguaçu Falls and Machu Picchu, Cuzco & Lima, this one-of-a-kind itinerary becomes a true South American odyssey!

Day 1, Fly overnight (Sat, Nov 29)
Fly from the U.S. overnight to Rio de Janeiro.

Day 2, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, JW Marriott (Sun, Nov 30) (D)
Arrive today from your overnight flight. You'll be met at the airport by a Grand Circle Representative who will greet you and assist with the transfer to your hotel. After lunch on your own, join your Grand Circle Representative and fellow travelers at a Welcome Briefing, followed by an orientation walk around your Rio “neighborhood.” If the walk doesn’t get your blood pumping, there’s no doubt the sights and sounds of Rio will! This evening, share a Welcome Dinner with your fellow travelers.

Day 3, Rio de Janeiro. (Mon, Dec 1) (B)
After breakfast, you have the morning at leisure. Where to begin exploring this city, universally regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful (and that’s not even taking into account its people)? Why not start with works of art? For neo-classic and art nouveau paintings, follow the Avenida Rio Branco to the Biblioteca Nacional. Discover the classics of Brazilian art at the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. Or, if you’ve a taste for the contemporary, spend your morning wandering the Museu de Arte Moderna. Your Grand Circle Travel Representative can give you directions for walking, or arrange transportation for you.

Lunch is on your own. Then, join an included afternoon tour of Rio de Janeiro. Let Rio’s energy sweep you away as you see the legendary beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema (where you’re certain to see more than one “tall and tan and young and lovely” girl). Pause at the Santo Antonio Convent and the cone-shaped New Cathedral. Explore the artists’ quarter of Santa Theresa. And of course, ride the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf and ascend the Christ the Redeemer Statue atop Corcovado Mountain for stunning views of the city.

Day 4, Rio de Janeiro. (Tue, Dec 2) (B)
Today, you’re free to explore as you wish. If you fancy a casual stroll, consider the Botanical Garden, located on Rua Jardim Botanico. Lovingly maintained and home to more than 130,000 plants and trees (including 900 palm tree varieties), it’s regarded as one of the world’s finest. Not to be missed: the Victoria Regia water lilies, measuring as much as 21 feet around.

Day 5, Rio de Janeiro. (Wed, Dec 3) (B)
Enjoy one more day at leisure to experience the life of Rio; your Grand Circle Travel Representative can offer ideas for nearly every interest. If you’re a history buff, hop a taxi to the Museo do Indio (Indian Museum), Brazil’s foremost repository of indigenous artifacts—including recordings and films documenting native life and culture.

Nearby is Casa Rui Barbosa, the home of one of the leading Brazilian statesman of the 19th century. Author of Brazil’s first constitution, Barbosa also promoted such progressive (for their day) political ideas as direct representative elections, educational reform and the abolition of slavery.

Brazil's spectactular Iguaçu  Falls

Day 6, Iguaçu Falls, Argentina, Sheraton International Iguaçu Resort. (Thu, Dec 4) (B)
After breakfast, ride to the airport to meet your flight to Iguaçu . Your first views will be from the Argentine side. Thanks to a network of catwalks, you’ll have the chance to take a closer look.

It should come as no surprise that man should harness the energy of this mighty force of nature. This afternoon, you’ll tour the largest hydroelectric dam on the planet, the Itaipu Hydroelectric Project. A joint effort of the Paraguayan and Brazilian governments, its 18 turbines generate 12,600 megawatts of electricity (Half the energy that just one of the turbines generates is sufficient to satisfy the energy needs of all Paraguay.).

Day 7, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Hotel Intercontinental (Fri, Dec 5) (B,D)
After breakfast, you’ll enjoy more time at the breathtaking falls. Your most spectacular view may well be that of “Devil’s Throat,” an array of 14 cataracts rumbling and tumbling 350 feet straight down.

In the afternoon, you'll ride to the airport and board your flight to the Argentine capital city, where your base program begins. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, a Grand Circle representative will assist you to your hotel.

For a country as culturally and ecologically diverse as Argentina, there could be no capital more fitting than Buenos Aires. The “gateway to Argentina” simultaneously embodies the fiery passion of Latin America and the stately elegance of 19th-century Europe.

After lunch on your own and a little free time to settle in, your Program Director will lead an easy walk-about, giving you the lay of the land in your Buenos Aires neighborhood. Be sure to ask your Program Director to recommend a restaurant, as dinner (not to mention your first chance to taste the legendary steaks of Argentina) is on your own this evening.

Tonight, sample some local flavors when you dine on your own.

Day 8, Buenos Aires (Sat, Dec 6) (B,D)
How does one explain the abiding fascination with Eva Peron, Argentina’s captivating, tragic first lady? Perhaps it was the razor’s edge she walked…. Rising from poverty to stardom to the corridors of power…. Rallying the working classes while draping herself in gowns and jewels…. Her premature death and the campaign for her canonization. You may wish on this or another morning to rise early, venture to the Duarte tomb, her resting place at the Recoleta Cemetery, and meditate on the legacy of “Evita.”

After breakfast, join your Program Director and travel companions for a Welcome Briefing. It’ll be an informal preview of the adventures that await you—and your chance to make some new friends. Then, set off on an included half-day tour of Buenos Aires, an elegant mixture of Spanish colonial architecture and several traditional European styles.

You’ll visit Avenida de Mayo, which runs into Plaza de Mayo, where many buildings important to Argentine history are centered. See the Casa Rosada (Government House), the Presidential Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Cabildo, the first City Hall built during Spanish rule. Continue on to the old district of San Telmo, center of the exotic tango and full of smoky tango halls. Then visit La Boca, Buenos Aires’ first merchant and fishing port. You’ll have time to visit the famous Caminito, an outdoor museum and art show where painters offer their tango pictures, or stroll along the renovated waterfront promenade (Why are the houses here painted so many different colors? The painters used paint leftover from their fishing boats).

Your tour passes by the beautiful Colon Theater. Built in 1908, this is one of the world’s most famous opera houses, and international stars vie to perform here as they do at Milan’s La Scala and Vienna’s State Opera House. Continue on to Palermo with its beautiful parks, the City Zoo, Botanical Garden, famous Argentine Horse Track and National Polo Fields.You’ll also visit the Recoleta District with its elegant homes, fashionable restaurants and shops, and famous cemetery. The rest of this afternoon is at leisure.

Exclusive Discovery Series Event
In the late afternoon, you’re invited to brush up on your Spanish with a little help from your Program Director during an included Discovery Series language lesson. Whether you’re ordering lunch or bargaining in a market, you’ll learn easy phrases that’ll assure you receive a warm reception.

Tonight, together with your Program Director, you'll take a stroll through the Argentine evening to a local restaurant where your Welcome Dinner awaits.

Day 9, Buenos Aires (Sun, Dec 7) (B,D)
You’ve gotten a look around this vibrant city; today is your day to dive in for a deeper experience. Fortunately, it’s very easy to get around the city, particularly by subway (the oldest system in South America, and among the best anywhere).Perhaps you’ll return to the cobbled streets of San Telmo. Wander the elegant Barrio Norte, shaded by venerable oak trees. Or stroll the Costanera Norte riverside promenade, where, on a clear day, you might spy the Uruguayan coast.

Or, join today’s optional Fiesta Gaucho tour. Argentine life wears many faces, and arguably the most stirring and colorful of them is the gaucho. Romantic, daring, free-spirited, the gauchos are the riders of Argentina’s cattle range, La Pampas. Today’s optional Fiesta Gaucho tour is your once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience for yourself the world of these rugged men.You'll feel Argentina’s cowboy spirit come alive with a visit to a real estancia (ranch)—complete with a succulent barbecue lunch.

Exclusive Discovery Series Event
For all you’ve seen and done so far in Buenos Aires, the most memorable part of your visit may well be tonight’s dinner. Nothing brings you closer to the culture than meeting the locals, as you’ll see during tonight’s Home-Hosted Dinner with a local Argentine family. Take a seat at the table, share their evening meal, chat, learn about each other and make new friends as you sample the authentic flavors of this land.

Day 10, Buenos Aires (Mon, Dec 8) (B)
It’s another day at leisure to explore Buenos Aires as you wish. Or, if you’d like a change of pace from city life, you’re in luck. Join us on an optional tour that will take you through the northern residential communities of Vicente Lopez, Martinez, San Isidro and San Fernando to the Parana River Delta. Here the vast Parana River empties into Buenos Aires’ Rio de la Plata on its way into the Atlantic. Enjoy a boat trip in this scenic area.

Exclusive Discovery Series Event
Back at your hotel this afternoon, attend an included Discovery Series discussion on the current state of Argentina’s economy. What are the root causes of its current crisis? What might the solutions be? How does it affect Americans? You’ll discuss these and other questions during this lecture on "Argentina Today". Be sure to bring your own too.

Exclusive Discovery Series Event
Later this afternoon, join us for a tango lesson and learn the basic steps of Argentina’s fiery, passionate, signature dance (and of course, feel free to practice your moves whenever the spirit moves you!). A tango primer: The music’s roots stretch back to the slums of Buenos Aires, where discharged soldiers, African slave descendants, and immigrants from southern Europe congregated and created haunting songs to express their loneliness. Dancing naturally followed, but the Argentine upper classes took a dim view of both. Only after the tango became a sensation in the salons of Europe did Argentine “polite society” bestow its blessing.

Now that you’ve learned the basics of the tango, see how it’s really done tonight at a dazzling optional tango show, complete with dinner.

Day 11, Bariloche, Panamericano Bariloche (Tue, Dec 9) (B)
Today after breakfast, you’ll board your flight to the chic town of Bariloche. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Settle in, then join a casual, orientation walk around Argentina’s premier Alpine resort—and your gateway to the stunning natural wonders of Patagonia—with your Program Director.

Bookended by the stark granite peaks of the Andes (reminiscent of Wyoming’s Tetons) and mirrored in 40-mile-long Lake Nahuel Huapi (NAW-well WOP-e), Bariloche is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. Just don’t be surprised if that air has an enticing chocolate scent; chocolate is, after all, one of the area’s most popular exports. Nature reigns in Bariloche, and is revered by locals and visitors alike. You’ll see flowers abloom in virtually every available space. And the trout or salmon you order at a restaurant was probably swimming in a crystal brook mere hours before.

Dinner and the rest of this evening are on your own. Relax, in preparation for tomorrow’s experiences.

Day 12, Bariloche (Wed, Dec 10) (B,D)
Bariloche (or San Carlos de Bariloche, as it’s officially known), is a curious and perhaps unexpected amalgam of cultural influences. Its buildings recall the Austrian Tyrol in their design. Many of the ranches dotting the outlying Patagonian plains remain English-owned and run, worked by Chilean workers from over the border. (Film buffs: This is the territory where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made their real-life last stand.)

What remaining traces there are of Patagonia’s and Lakes Region’s indigenous folk reside in the town’s Patagonian Museum, a centerpiece of this morning’s included half-day tour. We’ll also take time to bask in some phenomenal views of the lake. You may choose to take an optional chairlift ride to the top of Campanario Hill for one of the world’s most beautiful views.

Exclusive Discovery Series Event
Argentine chocolate? You bet! Bariloche’s mouth-watering chocolate rivals that of Switzerland. And we’re willing to bet it’s some of the best you’ve ever tasted. During this afternoon’s included Discovery Series presentation, you’ll learn about this specialty confection, from its origins in Bariloche to how it’s produced today. (We probably don’t have to tell you this, but there will be samples.) Depending on presenter availability, a presentation on local ceramic crafts may be offered in place of the chocolate presentation.

Tonight, taste local dishes and local color during your included dinner at a neighborhood restaurant.

Day 13, Puerto Varas, Chile, Cabanas del Lago (Thu, Dec 11) (B,L)
Travel from Argentina to Chile today on a breathtaking journey over land and water. You’ll traverse shimmering turquoise lakes and lush green forests. En route, stop in picturesque, alpine Peulla for an included lunch. Arrive in German-flavored Puerto Varas in the evening.

After an early breakfast, we’ll ride to the town of Puerto Panuelo, where today’s excitement casts off. First we’ll cruise west across Lake Nahuel Huapi to Puerto Blest. To either side, marvelous, snow-frosted Andean mountainscapes rise over the crystal lake, and waterfalls pour down fjords blanketed with virgin forest. All the while, gulls swoop and crow their “Buenos dias” greetings.

Arriving in Puerto Blest, ride over a road of crushed black lava to the shores of Lake Frias and board a catamaran for a cruise to Puerto Frias. Crossing the lake, take note of its iridescent green color and you might be reminded of a penny—or plumbing pipes. You see, according to geologists, the mountains around the lake abound with copper. Mountain snowmelt carries the copper salts into the lake, giving it its unusual tint.

Boarding a bus in Puerto Frias and passing through Argentine, then Chilean, customs, we’ll ride further to German-flavored Peulla, where an included lunch awaits. After lunch, cruise aboard a catamaran on one of the world’s newest lakes—Lake Todos Los Santos, created by an 1833 earthquake that separated it from Lake Llanquihue. Likewise green in hue, the lake will afford you a tremendous view of Osorno Volcano, a peak rivaling only Japan’s Mt. Fuji for the perfection of its symmetry.

We’ll arrive in Petrohue and have a little time to stretch our legs before we board motorcoaches and ride to Puerto Varas, where the day’s exhilarating travels come to a close.

Day 14, Puerto Varas (Fri, Dec 12) (B)
This morning, we’ll ride to Puerto Montt, Chile’s own “land’s end,” for a half-day tour. But before we leave, consider taking a taxi ride to the lovely main church of Puerto Varas—certainly a must-see for those who embrace the architectural as well as the spiritual.

Then, it’s off to Puerto Montt. In 1853, German émigrés founded the town, envisioning a seaport hub that would bring them and the region unprecedented prosperity. It took 60 years and the arrival of the railroad, but their vision would become reality. Like Bariloche, Puerto Montt displays a distinctly European character, in this case German, which you can plainly see in the pitched roofs, carved balcony woodwork and weather-beaten shingles of its residences.

Speaking of woodwork, your tour features the city’s oldest structure, a cathedral built of redwood. From the square, you’ll visit the Angelmo port and market district on the shores of Reloncavi Sound. Walk right into the workaday life of Puerto Montt as you watch fishermen mending nets and bringing in their catch (you may even want to try out some of the Spanish you’ve learned). And we can’t return to Puerto Varas without viewing the panorama from Melipulli Hill.

Enjoy the balance of the day at leisure, strolling through Puerto Varas, admiring all the splendors of this village in the heart of the Lake District and making the most of your last day in Patagonia. You might want to pick up a bottle or two of Chile’s superb wine. Dinner tonight is on your own. No matter what you’re hungry for, your Program Director will have a recommendation.

Day 15, Santiago, Chile, Intercontinental (Sat, Dec 13) (B,D)
Return to Puerto Montt this morning—this time to catch our flight to Santiago, the Chilean capital. After checking in at your hotel, you’re free to have lunch where you wish (ask your Program Director for suggestions).

Home to a third of Chile’s 12 million people, Santiago rests at the confluence of the Mapocho and Maipu rivers, surrounded on all sides by Andean peaks. To be sure, it’s a breathtaking setting for a capital that has witnessed a remarkable history—from settlement by conquistadors in 1541 to the Marxist, military and, finally, democratic governments of the twentieth century. Throughout its growth into a glittering commercial center, lovely Santiago has retained its Old World charm—particularly in its graceful parks and tree-lined boulevards.

Following a little early-afternoon “down time,” join your Program Director for an included orientation walking tour of the neighborhood around your hotel, followed by a “Welcome to Santiago” briefing.

Discovery Series Event
This evening, get a taste of everyday, family-centered Chilean life—you’re the guest at a home-hosted dinner. You’ll get to know some of Chile’s residents the old-fashioned way and break down cultural barriers as you break bread. There’s no substitute for this kind of experience.

Each evening, watch for the rosy glow that infuses the surrounding, snowcapped Andes Mountains at sunset.

Day 16, Santiago (Sun, Dec 14) (B,L)
If you really want to get to know a place, watch it wake up. And to see Santiago’s local color just as it is, begin your day with an early-morning market expedition.

Later, on an included city tour, see the best of Santiago as you pass by several historic monuments and buildings, including the Palacio de la Moneda, the current seat of the government. Stop for a stroll at the city’s most important plaza, the Plaza de Armas, which has been the heart of Santiago since its origin in 1541.

Ringing the plaza are many important buildings that are considered national monuments. Here you see the Correo Central (main post office), Iglesia Catedral (Cathedral Church), the Municipalidad de Santiago (City Hall), and the National Historic Museum. Nearby, you find the Mercado Centro (Central Market), an elegant wrought-iron structure inaugurated in 1872 as the site of a National Exhibition. Now it is the city’s central market (and the place where we’ll do a little grocery shopping for today’s lunch), filled with colorful stalls and seafood eateries (called marisquerias).

Visit Cerro San Cristobal (St. Christopher Hill), with its striking white statue of the Virgin Mary at its summit. From the top, you’ll have a breathtaking city view. You’ll drive through the residential districts of Santa Maris de Manquehue, Vitacura and Los Condes, where you will see beautiful homes, parks, and large shopping centers. On the way back to the hotel, you pass through Providencia, a district of great tradition and strong commercial and social activity.

Discovery Series Event
Remember the groceries we bought at the Mercado Central? This afternoon, they’ll be the focus of an included Discovery Series demonstration of the flavorful—and internationally spiced—cookery of Chile. You're sure to enjoy this cooking lesson and savor the dishes you help prepare.

Discovery Series Event
And what’s a good meal without a good wine? Chilean vintages are one of the wine world’s best-kept secrets, yet they’re readily available stateside. Find out what sets them apart during a Discovery Series wine lecture and tasting.

You’ve spent the afternoon whetting your appetite; now satisfy your cravings with dinner on your own in Santiago.

Day 17, Santiago(Mon, Dec 15) (B,L,D)
Discover two coastal gems today during a full-day excursion to the north: Vina del Mar, a posh resort with lush gardens and fine beaches; and Valparaiso, a colorful and thriving port city spread out across steep hills.

Our first stop: the Pacific resort of Viña del Mar, known as the Garden City in recognition of its numerous parks—many of which began life as late-nineteenth-century mansions for the affluent holidaymakers who flocked here from Valparaiso. You’ll see many of these dotting the Cerro Castillo en route to the Casino Municipal. We’ll pause at the superb park, Quinta Vergara and visit the Museo de Bellas Artes (formerly the century-old Palacio Vergara).

Onward to Valparaiso, Chile’s second largest city, where 17 hills tower over a port—the “basin” district—abuzz with activity. The city bears a striking resemblance to San Francisco, with twisted, cobblestoned streets and ancient ascensores, electric cable cars that climb into hillside neighborhoods and afford splendid sea views. You’ll get the best views from Mirador O’Higgins, named for the national hero, General Bernardo O’Higgins. From this spot, the general dispatched the Chilean navy northward to Peru to assist that nation in its war for independence from Spain. For his trouble, the Spanish navy returned the favor by bombarding Valparaiso. You’ll enjoy an included lunch during your sightseeing.

Such a remarkable journey it’s been! Toast your adventures and companions at tonight’s "Hasta Luego" Farewell Dinner, served at a local restaurant.

Day 18, Lima, Peru, Sonesta Posada El Olivar (Tue, Dec 16) (B)
After breakfast at your Santiago hotel, you’ll transfer to the airport for your international flight to the Peruvian capital city of Lima.

After transferring to your hotel in Lima, you'll have time to settle in and have lunch on your own. Then, take an Orientation Walk around Lima with your Grand Circle Program Director as your guide. For the story of the Spanish presence in Peru, one needs merely to explore the city center. Begin at the Plaza de Armas, the seat of power for both secular and clerical authority, as evidenced by the Palacio Presidential, Palacio Municipal, and Archbishop’s Palace. Next to the Archbishop’s Palace stands the Cathedral, where the remains of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of the Incas, lie in repose.

Follow the Jiron de la Union pedestrian walkway to Plaza San Martin, arguably the place where it all happens in Lima. Money changers, street vendors, caricaturists and other locals crowd the sidewalks, and shops offer everything from snacks to silver goods.

Another attractive (and more peaceful) walk is along the Alameda of the Descalzos, nearly four centuries old. On either side, you’ll see statues crafted from Italian marble representing the months of the year as well as flower-dotted lawns.

Two of Latin America’s most revered saints—Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres—called Lima home and are buried in the Santo Domingo Monastery. On a less divine note, Plaza Bolivar is where you’ll find the rather chilling Inquisition Museum.

Day 19, Cuzco, Hotel Don Carlos (Wed, Dec 17) (B)
Rise early for breakfast, then transfer to the airport for your flight to Cuzco. You'll arrive in Cuzco, check in to your hotel and have lunch on your own before you set off on an included city tour.

You may feel that your flight to Cuzco was also a flight back in time, for here the civilization of the Incas—a civilization that once spanned a continent—remains and everywhere surrounds you.

The name Cuzco is a westernization of the Quechua Indian name “Qosqo,” meaning “navel.” In this fecund valley, the “navel” of their universe, the Inca nurtured their culture; from here, they expanded their domain. In fact, the Incas regarded the site of the present-day Plaza de Armas as the precise geographical center of their empire.

The Incan legacy greets you in the city’s architecture. While many structures bear the obvious marks of colonial design, chances are they were built on the foundations of Incan buildings. Try as they might to destroy all vestiges of a civilization they saw as “pagan,” Spanish conquerors met their match in Incan masonry. There’s no better proof of the stonecutter’s skill than the Twelve Angles Stone—laid without mortar—just outside the Museum of Religious Art.

On your tour, you’ll hear the stories behind some of Cuzco’s many lovely churches (for instance, the site of the Santo Domingo Church had for centuries been the sprawling Inca Temple of the Sun, or Koricancha). You’ll also view the treasures of the Archaeological Museum.

Day 20, Cuzco (Thu, Dec 18) (B,L,D)
It’s another early breakfast this morning before we ride outside Cuzco to the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River.

Our first stop is Puka Pukara, a fortress that archaeologists believe stood guard over the road we’re traveling. Its terraced features recall Machu Picchu, albeit on a much smaller scale. Further north awaits the sacred bathing site of Tambomachay, another testament to the engineering skills of the Inca. While the date of its construction is anyone’s guess, its aqueduct system still functions remarkably well.

As you walk through the massive Sacsayhuaman fortress overlooking Cuzco, consider first that Inca workers built its walls entirely by hand, securely fitting boulders weighing as much as 125 tons without a drop of mortar. Then recall that on these ramparts in 1536, the Incan armies of Manco Capac made their final, failed attempt to recapture their city from the Spanish in the bloodiest fighting seen in any Latin conquest.

Of all the Home-Hosted meals on your tour, today’s lunch may be the most engaging. You’ll be the guest of a local family, who will share their midday meal and their insights with you. Look forward to a rare, first-hand contact with the Indian/Spanish cultural blend that pervades the Cuzco region.

Spend the evening as you wish, or encounter Incan culture during an optional dinner and folklore show at a local restaurant. Incan heritage in Cuzco

Day 21, Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu Inn (Fri, Dec 19)
You’ll need to rise early to eat breakfast and catch the daily train to Machu Picchu.

From Cuzco’s Poroy Train Station, your train climbs to a fertile Andean plain before descending into the Urubamba River Valley (Machu Picchu occupies a rarefied air, but it’s still 3,000 meters lower in altitude than Cuzco.). To either side, you’ll see gorges swathed in greenery. And at every train stop on the route, count on seeing colorfully-garbed Quechua Indians selling crafts and souvenirs.

It’ll take between 2 ½ and 3 hours until we arrive at Agua Calientes Station, where it’s “everybody off.” You’ll check into your hotel and have an hour or so to rest, write postcards or take a walk.

We’ll share lunch at a restaurant that’s a quick walk from your hotel. Then, board a bus for the ride up the hairpin road to the “jewel in the mists”—Machu Picchu.

We’ll spend the afternoon exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu together. As you wander, pause and look around you: At the heart of Machu Picchu’s perfection are its scale, proportion and organic harmony with the mountains on which it’s perched.

Four sections—cemetery, jails, homes and temples—comprise the city. At the Temple of the Three Windows, the observatory and a peculiar stone block called the Intiwatana, you’ll see the central role the sun played in the life of the Inca, as well as the architecture of the city. The precision of the stonework—like all the stonework in the city—is practically beyond belief. And it again bears mentioning: This city in the sky was planned and erected entirely by hand, its stones bound together only by their own weight.

Back at your hotel late in the afternoon, toast your discovery and share your impressions at an included reception.

Day 22, Cuzco (Sat, Dec 20) (B,L,D)
You’ve got the morning free. If you wish to return to Machu Picchu, we’ll arrange an early hotel checkout and bus transportation to the ruins.

Exactly what became of the inhabitants of Machu Picchu? When and why did they abandon the city (if in fact they did)? Having kept no written accounts, the Incas left it to science and speculation to find the answer. One theory contends that epidemics of disease decimated the population. Another, socio-historical surmise is that as the Incan empire bloodily imploded, Machu Picchu became a refuge for the ostracized, who in their exile simply faded away. Only the stones remain today.

After an included lunch and a brief time to explore on your own, it’s back on board the train to Cuzco. We’ll be back at our hotel in the early evening.

Day 23, Lima (Sun, Dec 21) (B,L,D)
After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport this and board your return flight to Lima.

You may choose to take it easy on your last afternoon in South America or take in more of Lima on this free afternoon.

In the evening, you'll gather with your travel companions and Program Director at a fine restaurant in Lima for your Farewell Dinner. It's a great time to share memories, swap addresses and celebrate a spectacular South American odyssey.

Day 24, Fly home (Mon, Dec 22) (B,L,D)
After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight home to the U.S.