South American Small Group History and Culture Tour
Experience the jewels of South America on this in-depth itinerary featuring the dramatic contrasts of this great continent on a small group tour for senior couples and solo travellers. Journey through Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. Marvel at the ancient cultures and natural wonders of the Amazon, the snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountains, the calm waters of Lake Titicaca and the jewel coloured beaches of Rio.
- 1. Enjoy the great train journeys from Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu and the Andean Explorer to Lake Titikaka.
- 2. Feel the Latino passion and excitement of South America in the cities Buenos Aires and Rio De Janeiro.
- 3. Be amazed by the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, perched high on the Peruvian mountain of Huayna Picchu.
- 4. See the astounding natural wonder of Iguassu Falls.
|13 April 2024 |
Ends 07 May 2024 • 25 days
|09 September 2024 |
Ends 03 October 2024 • 25 days
|12 April 2025 |
Ends 06 May 2025 • 25 days
|08 September 2025 |
Ends 02 October 2025 • 25 days
History and Culture Tour of South America | Small Group Tours South America
Our South American small group tour is a comprehensive and fully escorted introduction to Latin America. During 25 memorable days, we explore five key South American countries with our Odyssey Traveller Australia program leader and knowledgeable local guides.
This in-depth tour allows travellers to experience many of the jewels of Latin America. Together, we explore the dramatic contrasts of this great continent as we journey through Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil. We marvel at the ancient cultures and natural beauty of the Amazon. We experience the snow-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains, the calm waters of Lake Titicaca, and the sapphire-sparkling waters of the beaches of Rio. Learn about the art of Tango dancing, the history of the ruins of Machu Picchu and the amazing biodiversity of the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon.
Itinerary & highlights for this South America small group tour
Our South American small group tour begins in Santiago. While here, we discover some of the city's highlights such as the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by an 18th-century cathedral, and the central market with is colourful display of fruits, fish and flowers. Afterward, we ascend the San Cristobal Hill for a panoramic view of the city. Our next stop is Lima City, Peru, where we take a walking tour of the city and visit Pachacamac, the pre-Inca sacred and ceremonial site. Here, pilgrims arrive to leave their offerings and consult the oracle of Pachacamac. The site is comprised of pyramidal temples and enclosures built by several Pre-Columbian cultures. The remainder of the tour explores other significant sites in Peru, before heading south to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We finish in the vibrant, cosmpolitan city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
One key highlight of this South American small group tour include the chance to explore the Peruvian reaches of the legendary Amazon River. We will stay in the heart of the Amazon jungle and search for caiman, a crocodilian alligatorid native to South America. We experience many Amazonian wonders, learning about its lush rainforests and exotic wildlife as well as native communities that inhabit the area. We also have the opportunity to take several great train journeys including one from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. In addition, we ride the Andean Explorer to Lake Titicaca. We will also marvel at the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, perched high on the Peruvian mountain of Huayna Picchu.
You can learn more about Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil with our country profiles. For more details on this tour, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.
Day 1: Santiago
Accommodation: 2 nights at Noi Vitacura Hotel or similar.
Upon arrival in Santiago, we will come to our accommodation individually. We will enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Day 2: Santiago
Accommodation: Noi Vitacura Hotel or similar.
We will take a morning tour of the city’s highlights, starting at the Civic Center with the Neoclassical La Moneda Palace, the Plaza de Armas surrounded by the 18th century Cathedral, the National Historical Museum, and the Central Post Office. We will visit the central market to see its colorful display of fruits, seafood, fish, and flowers, then ascend the San Cristobal Hill for a panoramic view of the city. We will enjoy lunch during the tour.
Day 3: Lima City
Accommodation: 2 nights at Estellar Hotel or similar.
We will Transfer to the airport to board a flight to Lima. On arrival we will be transferred to the hotel.
This morning we visit Pachacamac, the pre-Inca sacred and ceremonial site of the beginning of the Christian era, where millions of Peregrines arrived to leave their offers and to consult the oracle of Pachacamac. The site is comprised of pyramidal temples and enclosures built by several Pre-Columbian cultures and the Incas. Tonight we will dine at the La Dama Juana.
Day 4: Lima City
Accommodation: Estellar Hotel or similar.
Today we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Lima, including visits to the Government Palace, the Cathedral, San Francisco Church, and the residential areas of San Isidro and Miraflores. After lunch at Brujas de Cachiche restaurant, we will visit the Larco Herrera Museum, a 17th century mansion from the viceroyalty period, built on a Pre-Colombian pyramid that dates from the 8th century. This impressive museum contains a famous erotic art chamber and holds the exquisite collection “Gold and Silver From Ancient Peru.” The Larco Museum has the largest private collection of Peruvian Pre-Colombian art in the world. Dinner tonight will be at Lima’s famous Rosa Nautica Restaurant. We will continue to the coast for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
Day 5: Amazon Jungle
Accommodation: 2 nights at Refugio Amazonas Lodge.
This morning we will transfer to the airport for a flight to Puerto Maldonado. Upon arrival, we will drive 10 minutes to Refugio Amazonas Puerto Maldonado headquarters. While enjoying our first taste of the forest in our gardens, we will pack only the necessary gear for our next few days, and leave the rest at our safe deposit. This helps us keep the boats and cargo light.
We will transfer from Puerto Maldonado Headquarters to Tambopata River Port, entering the Native Community of Infierno. The port is a communal business. The 2 and a half hour boat ride from the Tambopata Port to Refugio Amazonas will take us past the Community of Infierno and the Tambopata National Reserve´s checkpoint and into the buffer zone of this 1.3 million hectare conservation unit. Upon arrival, the lodge manager will welcome us and brief us with important navigation and security tips. After dinner we will go on a caiman search at the river’s edge at night, scanning the shores with headlamps and flashlights to catch the red gleams of reflection from caiman eyes.
Day 6: Refugio Amazonas
Accommodation: Refugio Amazonas Lodge.
We will paddle around Oxbow Lake on a canoe or a catamaran to look for lakeside wildlife such as hoatzin, caiman, horned screamers, macaws, and possibly even otters.
A 30 minute walk from Refugio Amazonas leads to the 25 meter scaffolding canopy tower. A bannistered staircase running through the middle provides safe access to the platforms above. The tower has been built upon high ground, therefore providing an excellent view of the continuous primary forest extending out towards the Tambopata National Reserve. From here we will view mixed species canopy flocks as well as toucans, macaws, and raptors.
After lunch, we will travel 5 minutes downriver from the lodge to take an ethnobotanical tour on a farm owned and managed by charismatic Don Manuel from the neighbouring community of Condenado. He grows a variety of popular and unknown Amazon crops – just about every plant and tree we will see serves a purpose. We will learn about the medicinal uses of Ajo-Sacha, Yuca de Venado, Uña de Gato, Charcot-Sacha, Para-Para, and several others. After dinner, we will attend a lecture at Tambopata National Reserve. Nightly lectures prepared by the staff of Refugio Amazonas cover conservation threats, opportunities, and projects in the Tambopata National Reserve.
Day 7: Sacred Valley
Accommodation: 2 nights at Casa Andina Private Collection Valle or similar.
After an early breakfast, we will return by motor canoe to the Puerto Maldonado Airport. En route we will see early morning wildlife activity along the river. From here we will fly to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, where our jungle adventure ends. En route to the Sacred Valley, we will visit Awana Kancha, where we will be introduced to the camelids of Peru, including species of llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas. We will also enjoy textile weaving onsite, then continue to the hotel where we will enjoy dinner and some time to rest and adjust to the altitude.
Day 8: Sacred Valley
Accommodation: Casa Andina Private Collection Valle or similar.
Today we will explore the colourful Pisac Market where the locals meet to barter and sell their merchandise. We will also visit Ollantaytambo, the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the Americas. We will return to the hotel for dinner.
Day 9: Machu Picchu Ruins
Accommodation: 1 night at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo or similar.
Early morning we will take a train ride to Aguas Calientes, the small village below Machu Picchu. From there, we will travel by mini bus up the winding road to the ruins where we will have a guided tour and time to wander at our leisure. Machu Picchu is the most famous of the Inca settlements, straddling a mountaintop thousands of metres above the Urubamba Valley. During the years of the Spanish conquest, this citadel remained undiscovered and therefore intact. In 1911 an American explorer, Hiram Bingham discovered the city buried in jungle, and staircases, terraces, temples, palaces, towers, and fountains have since been uncovered. Archaeologists believe the citadel was built in the mid 15th century by the Inca Emperor Pachacutec.
Day 10: Cuzco
Accommodation: 3 nights at Costa del Sol Ramada or similar.
This morning there will be some free time to explore on your own. We will leave from Aguas Calientes at 10:50 am to travel to Ollanta Station in Cusco. From here we will be transferred to the colourful market at Chinchero. Afterwards we will be at leisure to stroll through Cusco’s narrow winding cobbled streets and admire the remains of its former splendour, much now covered by churches and mansions of the conquering Spaniards. This evening enjoy a Peruvian folk show and typical dinner at El Tunupa restaurant, which is walking distance from the hotel.
Day 11: Cuzco
Accommodation: Costa del Sol Ramada or similar.
This afternoon we enjoy a tour of the city and nearby ruins. We will visit the Korikancha temple, the Cathedral, the fortress of Sacsayhuaman overlooking the city, and the Tambomachay Ruins. We will enjoy dinner in a local restaurant this evening.
Day 12: Cuzco
Accommodation: Costa del Sol Ramada or similar.
We will enjoy a day at leisure in Cusco.
Day 13: Puno
Accommodation: 2 nights at Casa Andina Private Collection or similar.
We will travel by train across the vast altiplano from Cusco to Puno, a journey of approximately 10 hours. We will enjoy the views from the brass-railed open carriage at the rear or sit in the bar lounge. This unique train is a faded reminder of the Orient Express with its seating and service. On arrival we will transfer to our hotel.
Day 14: Puno
Accommodation: Casa Andina Private Collection or similar.
This morning we will visit the remarkable floating reed islands built on layers of totora reeds on Lake Titicaca, home to the Uros Indians who still live as their ancestors did a thousand years ago. After lunch we will visit the “Chullpas” of Sillustani, a cemetery from Pre Inca times with circular, tower-shaped tombs made of stone. We will return to our hotel in Puno for the night.
Day 15: La Paz
Accommodation: 2 nights at Hotel Osira or similar.
After breakfast, we will transfer to Copacabana to see the churches of Pomata, Juli, and the Copacabana cathedral. Then we will board Hydrofoil Cruise to Huatajata, the “Andean Roots Eco Village.” We will continue to Sun Island, visit the Inca Staircase, and taste the sacred water believed to give eternal youth and happiness from the Sacred Fountain. Lunch will be at “Uma Kollu” archaeological restaurant and we will visit a picturesque handicraft market.
We will visit The Altiplano Museum, where a state of the art audio system will explain the cultural heritage of the Aymaras and the Incas, the colonial time, and the Jacques Cousteau Expedition to Lake Titicaca. We will meet the Limachi family, builders of the RA II and Tigris for Thor Heyerdhal epic expeditions across the Atlantic Ocean and much more. We will transfer by coach to La Paz on a road that runs parallel with the Royal Range of the Andes. We will check into the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 16: La Paz
Accommodation: Hotel Osira or similar.
This morning we will enjoy breakfast and then visit the Tiwanku Ruins, which run parallel with the royal range of the Andes. Our activity for this afternoon is an exploration of La Paz, where we will visit indigenous, colonial, and modern areas, as well as the Moon Valley.
Day 17: Buenos Aires
Accommodation: 3 nights at Hotel Pestana Buenos Aires or similar.
Early morning, we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Buenos Aires, where we will be transferred to our accommodation. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Buenos Aires offers great shopping opportunities. Leather goods of excellent quality are special bargains you cannot miss. Buenos Aires’ chic shopping district is Recoleta, along Alvear and Quintana Avenues, where you will find the best local and international brands. Florida street is also a must for tourists. Many of the most important jewelry shops, art galleries, fur shops, and leather goods shops are located along this attractive pedestrian street. We will enjoy dinner at the hotel this evening.
Day 18: Buenos Aires
Accommodation: Hotel Pestana Buenos Aires or similar.
This morning we will enjoy a tour of the southern side of charming Buenos Aires with its strong European influence. Buenos Aires is a city of grand architecture, beautiful parks, wide avenues, and wonderful walks. We will see Plaza de Mayo, Teatro Colon, Casa Rosada, and the famous La Boca District, followed by lunch in a local restaurant and visits to Congress and the Colon Theater. We will return to the hotel and then later have dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 19: Buenos Aires
Accommodation: Hotel Pestana Buenos Aires or similar.
Today we will explore areas on the northern side of Buenos Aires, including visits to Recoleta Cemetary, the rose garden, and Evita Musuem. Lunch will be in a local restaurant. This evening features a Tango dance lesson at La Ventana, followed by dinner and a Tango show.
Day 20: Iguazú Falls, transfer to Brazil side
Accommodation: 2 nights at Hotel das Cataratas or similar.
We will board a domestic flight to Iguazú Falls on the Argentine side, and transfer to the Brazilian side for a guided walking tour of the Brazilian side of the falls. We end the day with a transfer to the hotel.
Day 21: Iguazu Falls, Argentine Side, Devil’s Throat Boat tour
Accommodation: Hotel das Cataratas or similar.
This morning we will depart our hotel and cross the Tancredo Neves Bridge into Argentina for a tour of the Argentine side of the falls. This excursion takes us along the upper and lower trails of the Iguaçu National Park, allowing us to get a closer look at some of the 275 falls that drop from the Iguaçu River. We will enjoy the fantastic wildlife and jungle that surrounds it. At the end of the trail, we will appreciate the Devil’s Throat Cataract. Take a coat or buy a plastic disposable one nearby for the included boat safari. On this trip, we board a twin engine boat specially designed for this river’s conditions and cruise up into the Iguaçu Canyon, shooting several rapids to arrive at the very base of the majestic waterfalls. During this tour an experienced pilot will maneuver into the midst of the falls themselves, for a completely different view and experience. This is a thrill never to be forgotten.
Day 22: Rio de Janeiro
Accommodation: 3 nights at Hotel Windsor Excelsior or similar.
After breakfast we will check out of our hotel and enjoy a visit to the local bird park. (Opposite the bird park, there may be an opportunity for helicopter rides over the falls at personal cost and dependent on weather). Afterwards, we will transfer to the airport where we will board a flight to Rio de Janeiro and stay at famous Copacabana beach.
Day 23: Rio de Janeiro City, Schooner lunch, Sugar Loaf
Accommodation: Hotel Windsor Excelsior or similar.
Today our full day tour of Rio includes a cruise on Guanabara Bay aboard a classic Brazilian Schooner, with lunch at a seafood restaurant included before visiting the Sugar Loaf, known world over as Rio’s postcard and a must to visit. The Sugar Loaf is reached on a two stage cable car ride taking 80 passengers per trip on a 2 minute ride each stage. The first stage, Morro da Urca, has a restaurant, amphitheatre, a heliport for scenic rides and a privileged view of the yacht club and Botafogo Bay. The second stage takes one up to the Sugar Loaf thus named because of the loaves of sugar that were commonly used by the Portuguese at the time of the discovery of the city. The all-encompassing views from this privileged 270 metre high lookout is unrivaled.
Day 24: Rio De Janeiro
Accommodation: Hotel Windsor Excelsior or similar.
We will take a morning tour of the Corcovado Mountain and see the Christ Statue, which has been Rio’s top attraction widely sung by famous Brazilian composers. Driving along the beaches of Rio and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, we will reach the Rebouças Tunnel which links the southern and northern parts of the city cut in half by the Tijuca Ridge. Rio is the only city in the world to have a national park 5 minutes from downtown. As we reach the Cosme Velho district, we will board a cogwheel train that climbs the mountain from its base at 15 metres to almost its summit at 670 metres. The very top can be reached by either lift or climbing a flight of steps to reach the base of Christ the Redeemer statue. This evening we will enjoy farewell dinner buffet at the hotel.
Day 25: Rio de Janeiro
We will explore Rio de Janeiro this morning at leisure. This tour concludes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- Effects of altitude, age, and ability to function enjoyably in this environment should be discussed with your doctor.
- Effects of heat and humidity are expected in some parts of the tour.
- Group size limited to 18.
- Uneven terrain will be traversed in parts of this tour.
Includes / Excludes
What’s included in our Tour
- 24 nights hotel accommodation.
- 2 nights Amazon Jungle Adventure at Refugio Amazonas (or similar), including all meals and jungle activities.
- 23 Breakfasts plus 1 boxed breakfast, 10 lunches plus 1 boxed Lunch, and 17 dinners.
- 5 internal flights including taxes.
- Transport by coach and rail.
- All sightseeing tours applicable to the itinerary, including entrance fees.
- Service charges and gratuities.
- Services of an Odyssey tour leader.
- English speaking local guides.
- Detailed tour information.
What’s not included in our Tour
- Return international airfares including taxes.
- Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
- Comprehensive travel insurance.
- Chilean “reciprocity fee.”
- Argentinean “reciprocity fee”.
- Brazilian visa fee.
Participants must be in excellent health, extremely mobile and live an active lifestyle. Program activities may include up to 6 hours of continuous strenuous, moderate-to-fast paced activities per day on varied terrain.
Make it a private tour
Easing your journey
Crossing international borders with restrictions
The list of requirements to travel internationally has changed and will continue to change for several years. Odyssey is here to assist you in managing your way through these requirements:
For more information see our Crossing international borders with restrictions page.
Book With Confidence
If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.
See Terms and conditions for details.
Peace of Mind Travel
The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.
See Peace of Mind Travel for details.
Reading List Download PDF
Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time
What happens when an unadventurous adventure writer tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu?
In 1911, Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and “discovered” Machu Picchu. While history has recast Bingham as a villain who stole both priceless artifacts and credit for finding the great archeological site, Mark Adams set out to retrace the explorer’s perilous path in search of the truth—except he’d written about adventure far more than he’d actually lived it. In fact, he’d never even slept in a tent.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu is Adams’ fascinating and funny account of his journey through some of the world’s most majestic, historic, and remote landscapes guided only by a hard-as-nails Australian survivalist and one nagging question: Just what was Machu Picchu?
The Last Days of the Incas
The epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and the recent discovery of the lost guerrilla capital of the Incas, Vilcabamba, by three American explorers.
In 1532, the fifty-four-year-old Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a force of 167 men, including his four brothers, to the shores of Peru. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, the Inca rulers of Peru had just fought a bloody civil war in which the emperor Atahualpa had defeated his brother Huascar. Pizarro and his men soon clashed with Atahualpa and a huge force of Inca warriors at the Battle of Cajamarca. Despite being outnumbered by more than two hundred to one, the Spaniards prevailed—due largely to their horses, their steel armor and swords, and their tactic of surprise. They captured and imprisoned Atahualpa. Although the Inca emperor paid an enormous ransom in gold, the Spaniards executed him anyway. The following year, the Spaniards seized the Inca capital of Cuzco, completing their conquest of the largest native empire the New World has ever known. Peru was now a Spanish colony, and the conquistadors were wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
But the Incas did not submit willingly. A young Inca emperor, the brother of Atahualpa, soon led a massive rebellion against the Spaniards, inflicting heavy casualties and nearly wiping out the conquerors. Eventually, however, Pizarro and his men forced the emperor to abandon the Andes and flee to the Amazon. There, he established a hidden capital, called Vilcabamba—only recently rediscovered by a trio of colorful American explorers. Although the Incas fought a deadly, thirty-six-year-long guerrilla war, the Spanish ultimately captured the last Inca emperor and vanquished the native resistance.
Peru: Elite Power and Political Capture
John Crabtree (Author), Francisco Durand (Author)
While leftist governments have been elected across Latin America, this Pink Tide, as it has been called, has so far failed to reach Peru. Instead, Peru represents a particularly stark example of state capture, in which an extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a few corporations and pro-market technocrats has resulted in a monopoly on political power. In the wake of the 2016 general election, John Crabtree and Francisco Durand provide a close look at the ways in which Peruvian elites have been able to consolidate their position at the expense of genuine democracy.
In their timely analysis, Crabtree and Durand offer a particular focus on the role of mining and other extractive industries, where extensive privatization and deregulation have contributed to extreme disparities in wealth and power. In the process, they provide a unique case study of state development, by revealing the mechanisms used by elites to dominate political discussion and marginalize their opponents, as well as the role played by external factors such as international financial institutions and foreign investors. The significance of their findings therefore extends far beyond Peru and illuminates the wider issue of why mineral-rich countries so often struggle to attain meaningful democracy.
Articles about South America
Discover Bolivia: The Definitive Guide for Travellers
Discover Bolivia The lakeside town of Copacabana, Bolivia Bolivia is a landlocked country in South America, bordered by Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Its capital is historic Sucre where the Supreme Court is established,…
Chile and Easter Island: The Definitive Guide for Seniors
Chile is an extraordinary country, covered every inch by scenic landscapes, incredible wildlife, and long-standing culture. The tumultuous history undertaken since the time of Spanish colonisation and on the road to a sustainable democracy has…