Cartagena To Ushuaia (98 Days) Tip To Tail

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(£4995)


Cartagena To Ushuaia (98 Days) Tip To Tail
Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina
From: £4795

Explore the very best this continent has to offer, from North to South and everything in between! This trip takes you through densely bio-diverse Colombia, across the incredible Andes and down through stunning Patagonia to the southernmost city, Ushuaia. Take in the cultural diversity and extremes of climate that spanning 6 countries will inevitably showcase and see both extremes of city immersion and real remoteness. This trip has something for everyone and offers a real taste of all the different facets that South America has to offer. Travelling overland will give you the unique opportunity to see the real South America and the possibility to meet people you would never otherwise encounter.

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Itinerary

DAY 1-6: CARTAGENA TO TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK
A highlight of any trip to Colombia is undoubtedly Cartagena. With its colonial past and Unesco World Heritage status, an old city is an ideal place to just wander the maze of cobbled alleys amongst churches, monasteries, plazas and bougainvillaea draped balconies. Las Murallas, the thick walls built around the old city to protect it from pirates, are wonderfully preserved and make for an interesting walk, before stopping off in one of the hidden patio cafes. We spend 2 nights here to get a flavour of both the old city and also the trendy area of Bocagrande. We will also include a boat trip to Playa Blanca, with its turquoise waters and golden sand it is one of Cartagena's most famous beaches.

We set off in our overland truck eastbound with a quick dip in Volcan de Lodo el Totumo before we continue to Taganga where we spend a night in this chilled-out Caribbean town with a strong alternative feel. Some of South America's loveliest coastline lies east of Taganga in Tayrona National Park. We spend 2 days exploring trails to beaches set in deep bays, shaded by coconut palms. We have the option to snorkel and possibly scuba dive in some of the bays. Lack of roads means that we will probably have to hike with our gear to our overnight spots where we sleep in hammocks!

DAY 6-14: TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK TO BOGOTA
We then head south into the heart of Colombia, with a roadside bush camp on the way before arriving in the lively city of Medellin. Here is a good spot to get a few Salsa or Tango lessons in before trying out your moves in the many discos and clubs. For those wanting a little culture, there are several art galleries and museums worth visiting or also an option to travel via local bus to the sleepy colonial town of Santa Fe de Antioquia.

Continuing south, our Colombian overland adventure takes us into the mountains to the pleasantly cool climate of Salento. Here, deep in the heart of the coffee-growing area, we have the option to visit one of the numerous coffee farms. Parque Los Nevados, with peaks topping 5000mtrs, and weirdly tall Palm trees making it a great place to spend a day trekking, before checking out some of the town's funky bars in the evening. Bogota is our next stop and we have 2 or 3 nights to see the different sides of this once notorious capital city. Having had the accreditation in the '80s and '90s of being one of the world's most dangerous cities, things have turned around for Bogota. The city is cradled by Andean Peaks and great views can be seen from a trek up the Cerro de Monserrate. Pop into the cobbled historic centre, La Candelaria, and as well as taking in a few cafes and picturesque buildings, enjoy the age-old tradition of adding cheese to your hot chocolate!

DAY 15-17: BOGOTA TO PARQUE PURACE
We now travel through the Tatacoa Desert, an arid area of striking eroded cliffs surrounded by distant peaks of over 5000mtrs. The result is a unique ecosystem, and due to the dry, clear conditions, the area is an excellent stargazing spot and we will try to camp here to appreciate the view. Turning west through stunning mountain scenery towards the Pan American Highway, and after a gruelling drive, we eventually take an unpaved road into Parque Purace. The park is the only place to see Condors in Colombia, and it is also home to some good walking trails. The adventurous can scale Volcan Purace (4750mtrs), but there are a few other less strenuous hikes to the Sulphur Mine and Termales de San Juan - a spectacular hot spring complete with water slides!

DAY 18-22: PARQUE PURACE TO QUITO
Further west is the beautiful colonial city of Popayan. Nicknamed the white city, some would say only Cartagena surpasses Popayan's colonial structures. We shall make a small stop to admire the chalk-white facades and stock up on supplies, before following the Andes south towards Pasto. Santuario De Las Lajas - a neo-Gothic church built on a stone bridge spanning a gorge - is the main point of interest in our last stop in Colombia, Ipiales. We may choose to camp the night in either Pasto or Ipiales, or possibly continue to the border with Ecuador.

We cross the equator as we make our way to Quito, a capital city rich in history, surrounded by mountains - a playground for hikers and mountain bike fans.

DAY 23-28: QUITO TO AMAZON JUNGLE
Departing the largest city in Ecuador - Quito, we cross the Equator on our way to the town of Otavalo famous for its colourful craft market. Heading east on narrow, tortuous roads to the steamy edge of the Amazon basin and our gateway into the Amazon jungle. Here accompanied by experienced guides, we explore on foot this exotic environment.

DAY 29-34: AMAZON JUNGLE TO CUENCA
Further south, perched high in the mountains of Ecuador, lies the outdoor adventure mecca of Banos. This spa town, where Ecuadorians go to relax in the thermal baths, is a favourite amongst those who have undertaken South America travel. With optional activities including rafting, canyoning and treks to waterfalls, you won't be short of things to do! We hit the road again and drive south along the spine of the Andes towards Peru visiting Cuenca on the way.

DAY 35-40: CUENCA TO LIMA
A days drive on the Pan-American highway brings us to the border with Peru. You will notice an amazing transition in one day, from the lush farming country of highland Ecuador, through the sub-tropical forest and immense banana plantations, to the dry barren desert in Peru. We are rewarded with a couple of days chilling by the beach. Our next stops on our South America travel experience are the Chan Chan ruins, the imperial citadel of the pre-Inca Chimu kings which the Incas later conquered. It claims to be the largest mud-brick city in the world.

Continuing with the Andes close to our left and the sea on our right, the capital city of Lima will be our next stop on our South America tour. Here you'll encounter both abundant wealth and grinding poverty, modern skyscrapers next to some of the finest museums and historical monuments in Latin America.

DAY 41-47: LIMA TO COLCA CANYON
Departing Lima our next stop is the Ballestas Islands in the Paracas National Reserve. By boat, you have the opportunity to visit the rare and exotic sea birds and mammals that inhabit these islands. An hour's drive inland in the heart of the Ica Desert is the Oasis of Huacachina; if its an adrenaline rush you're after, you have the option to head out on a custom made dune buggy & roar across the desert sands to the top of enormous dunes & then sandboard down them - headfirst on a greased-up plank of wood! Then, after an unforgettable desert sunset, we sit around the campfire while our guides cook up a storm, followed by a night sleeping out under the stars. In the morning we make our way to one of the world's great archaeological mysteries The Nazca Lines. These huge figures and shapes, carved into the desert floor are best viewed from the air - South American travel is not complete until you have seen these unbelievable ancient mysteries.

Still heading south we visit Chauchilla Cemetery with its well-preserved mummies, on our way to Puerto Inca, at this ancient Inca harbour we camp at the beach and enjoy our last night at sea level before beginning our climb back into the towering Andes. The next two nights are spent in Arequipa at 2325m, giving us time to acclimatise, and enjoy this beautiful colonial city with its impressive El Misti Volcano in the background. Arequipa is also the gateway to one of the deepest canyons in the world. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is an awesome sight. Here, if you get up early, Condors can be seen circling lazily on the thermals rising from the canyon floor.

DAY 48-54: COLCA CANYON TO CUSCO
Widely considered to be the most interesting city for South American travel, our next stop Cusco is surrounded by the Sacred Valley of the Incas and offers a wide range of activities to explore the region. We will base ourselves here for 6 days giving us enough time for the Inca Trail trip, which is regarded by many to be the highlight of their South America tour. There are several treks which you can take in Machu Picchu. When permits are still available, we will organise the Classic Trail trek, but great alternative Inca Trail treks, like the Lares or Salkantay, can be arranged when the Classic is not available or by your choice (must be pre-arranged at time of booking). These alternatives mean that you still get to visit Machu Picchu. Tours to Machu Picchu are unbelievable; a trip to this City in the Clouds is an ancient and awe-inspiring part of our South America travel tour. Besides seeing Machu Picchu, you can enjoy the architectural uniqueness of Cusco and explore some of the colourful surrounding markets. Please note that for all those visiting Machu Picchu there is now the option to buy a ticket to go up the summit next to Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu. Tickets for this must be requested at the time of your booking with us, and payment made in advance in the UK. You will have the option to add the tickets to go up to Huayna Picchu when you make your booking online, be sure to add them if you would like them.

DAY 55-59: CUSCO TO LA PAZ
Bordering Peru and Bolivia at 3800m lies Lake Titicaca, the home of the Uros Indians who have made their dwellings on floating reed islands. By boat, we visit the floating islands during the day and then we go that one step beyond the average tourist and spend the night with one of the Indian families on the lesser-known islands Isla Amantani or Taquile. Spending some time during South America travel in these local communities will provide a unique opportunity to learn more about the traditional lifestyle of the Andean people and their customs. From here it is a day drive to the capital of Bolivia - La Paz. This is a great place to visit a club, dedicated to Andean folk music, and perhaps buy some souvenirs in one of the authentic markets such as the witches market.

DAY 60-65: LA PAZ TO UYUNI
Leaving La Paz we enter real Bolivia, where the Aymara and Quechua Indians scrape a living from their small plots of land in the harsh climate and paved roads are virtually non-existent. A days drive brings us to Potosi. At over 4000m it is the highest city of its size in the world and 400 years ago it was the largest city in all the Americas. Vast amounts of silver were extracted from Potosi and shipped to Spain in years gone by. The adventurous who have undertaken South American travel will appreciate the opportunity to go down one of these mines where mining techniques have remained unchanged for centuries. Visiting the ancient mint or having a tour around the Casa Nacional de Moneda (National Money House) also provides a good look into Potosi's and Bolivia's past. Leaving the bleak Altiplano we arrive at the shimmering white Salt Flats of Uyuni.

DAY 66-69: UYUNI TO SALTA
It is possible to venture out into the salt lakes for a 1-day excursion. With no roads and only vague tracks to follow it makes for an unforgettable experience. Our descent through the Andean passes is spectacular as we cross into Argentina towards the colonial city of Salta where we have a couple of free days.

DAY 70-75: SALTA TO SANTIAGO
After Salta, we head south winding around lakes and weaving through baked cliffs until we reach Cafayate, the first wine region of Argentina. Famous for its white wines, you can explore some of the wineries on foot or by bicycle. Continuing south we join route 40, the longest route in Argentina, to Mendoza, the biggest wine region in Argentina. Here you can indulge in more wine and a good steak! From here we head for Chile as we cross the Andes past the Inca Bridge and San Martin's pass and into the modern capital, Santiago.

DAY 76: SANTIAGO
We have a free day to explore Santiago, with famous Chilean Steak houses, Casillero del Diablo winery, Skiing available in the winter, you will find it easy to pass the days away.

DAY 77-82: SANTIAGO TO BARILOCHE
If you are travelling on a trip that travels through Patagonia from July to September, please be aware it will get very cold at times with temperatures well below zero, and you can expect snowfall. Please be prepared for cold conditions, with thermal clothing and the correct sleeping bag.

On our July to September trips in Patagonia, this section of the trip is subject to change en route. Please see our 'Winter in Patagonia' notes below for further details.

Leaving Santiago, we pass small villages and deep blue lakes with mountains towering above us as we wind through Chile's Lake District. Pucon, an outdoors centre in its own right, will be our base for the next few days from where it is possible to organise whitewater rafting, water sports, horse riding and one-day hikes up nearby Villarrica Volcano. Ascending the Andes via some spectacular mountain passes we arrive in Bariloche, Argentina. This very popular holiday destination for Argentinians is the top ski resort on the continent and also has several hiking trails and great nightlife.

DAY 83-98: BARILOCHE TO USHUAIA
Heading further down through Argentina into the deep south on a good dirt road we enter the vast wilderness of Patagonia. The perpetual wind makes it difficult for trees and plants to grow, so for a while, we are faced with endless grassland. However, our long drive will soon be rewarded with the stupendous views that Los Glaciares National Park provides - it also has the largest glacier in the world and here we have the option to take a boat ride up close to Perito Moreno Glacier, almost 200 ft high. Torres del Paine NP is another area of outstanding beauty where huge granite cliffs dominate the landscape. A good way to explore the area is either hiking or by horseback. Here there is the option to complete the famous W-Trek (bookable as an add on). Please note that spaces on this trek are subject to availability. For those who do not want to complete the W-Trek, there are options of shorter day hikes in the park that do not need to be booked ahead and you are free to do as you choose once there.

We continue south towards the wild and hauntingly beautiful land at the world's end, the island of Tierra del Fuego. We cross by ferry to the most southerly town in the world Ushuaia, from where you can view the green waters of the Beagle Channel and the snow-clad peaks beyond.

Winter in Patagonia - Please note that the trips which travel through this part of Patagonia between July and September will coincide with winter in Patagonia. This will allow us to see the Andes at their most impressive, driving past towering snow-capped peaks and experiencing this rugged wilderness at a time of year that not many other travellers get to see! We will hopefully have the chance to ski or snowboard in Bariloche and Ushuaia, ice-climb across glaciers in El Chalten, and hike in national parks at the most dramatic time of year. However, weather conditions can be unpredictable, and there is a chance that certain roads will not be passable, so we cannot guarantee following our planned itinerary to Tierra del Fuego; changes may have to be made with little or no notice. But if this is required we will make a new plan and find a different route that will be sure to offer its attractions and experiences, so come prepared for an adventure!

Experience

Explore the palm-shaded coves, coastal lagoons and rainforest in Tayrona National Park
Wander around the historic centre, picturesque buildings and take in a few cafes in Bogota
Camping under the stars in the Tatacoa Desert, an arid area of striking eroded cliffs
3 nights exploring the Amazon Jungle - taking guided walks and view the exotic wildlife by land or river
View the majestic condors, which can be seen circling lazily on the thermals rising from the Colca Canyon floor
Trek through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to reach Machu Picchu
Enjoy Torres del Paine's outstanding mountain scenery

Included

  • Accommodation - approx. 50% camping & 50% simple hostels/hotels
  • Playa Blanca boat trip - Cartagena
  • City tour - Cartagena
  • Tayrona National Park - includes entrance & hammock accommodation
  • El Totumo Mud Volcano
  • Coffee plantation tour - Salento
  • 3 night Jungle Trip - includes accommodation and meals (activities are optional extra)
  • Chan Chan Ruins - entrance & guided tour
  • Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu - 4 days trek including all meals & guide
  • Entrance to Machu Picchu - including guide
  • Boat tour on Lake Titicaca
  • Overnight stay with local family on Lake Titicaca
  • Torres del Paine National Park - park entrance fee included
  • Meals - approx. 40%
  • All transport on Oasis Expedition Truck
  • Camping and Cooking equipment
  • Services of Oasis Crew

Not included

  • Local Payment of USD 2700 (2023), USD 2900 (2024) payable at the start of the trip
  • Visas
  • Optional Excursions as listed in the Pre-Departure Information
  • Flights
  • Airport Taxes & Transfers
  • Travel Insurance
  • Meals - approx. 60%
  • Drinks
  • Tips
Cartagena To Ushuaia (98 Days) Tip To Tail
Next Booking: August 26, 2023
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