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The Andes: The Crown of South America

South America’s pride, the Andes is the continent’s 4,500-mile-long spine that earns the title of the world’s longest continental mountain chain. While possessing awe-inspiring landscapes that are must-see spectacles in themselves, this cordillera is also home to dozens of distinct cultural groups, each possessing their own language, history and civilization – yet all sharing the same “spirit.”

Journeying through the Colombian Andes, you can discover the vibrant capital city of Bogota, as well as the blossoming city of Medellin. In addition, in the country’s deservedly world-famous Coffee Triangle region, savor a cup of java picked by Juan Valdez himself.

Venturing further south, cross the border into the Ecuadorian Andes, a region known for the beauty of its breathtaking string of summits that constitute “Volcano Avenue.” And be sure to visit at least one of the country’s two UNESCO-declared World Heritage Sites of Quito and Cuenca – two Andean gems.

Of course, no adventure to the Andes is complete without making a pilgrimage to Machu Picchu, in Peru, after having reached the Inca city of Cusco and passing through Sacred Valley. For even more thrills, take a side trip to Arequipa and Colca Canyon, which is even deeper than the so-called “Grand” Canyon.

Then too, while at the border between Peru and Bolivia, and though still in the Andes, you may be surprised to find the highest navigable lake in the world: Lake Titicaca, whose floating Uros islands and Sun Island provide windows into the ancient past. Other must-visit destinations in the Bolivian Andes include the highest capital city on earth – La Paz – as well as one of the planet’s most surreal visitor sites: the vast Uyuni salt flat.

Yet the Andes doesn’t stop there. Crossing over into Chile, you can experience everything from the otherworldly wilderness of the Mars-like Atacama Desert to the cultural delights of Santiago de Chile – the country’s refined capital city. On just the other side of the Andes, in store for you is the Mendoza, (Argentina) wine country. And don’t forget, much farther north in Argentina are the scenic Andean badlands of Salta, while farther south of Mendoza is the resort city of San Carlos de Bariloche, where the Lloa Lloa Lodge provides activities for every taste and inclination.

No matter what destination you’re considering to visit along the expansive backbone of the South American continent, contact Surtrek South American Travel so that we can start planning your Andean adventure.

 

What you’ll experience on an Andean Vacation

The Andes is a land waiting to be explored and sensed. Whether hiking or horseback riding in the foothills Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Mountain, observing the enigmatic ruins of Machu Picchu, or even bargaining for handicrafts at the Otavalo market, there’s a mystical air about the Andes. In this region, otherworldly experiences await you everywhere from the vast Uyuni salt flat to the Mars-like Atacama Desert. For adventure seekers, you’ll find mountain trekking, whitewater rafting or herding wild horses across the lunar landscape of the paramo highlands the thrill of a lifetime. Then too, opportunities for cultural contacts with indigenous communities abound, whether at local markets, working haciendas or visits with local families or schools. Similarly, you will get a chance to step back in time as you experience legendary Inca and pre-Inca sites such as Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca and Ingapirca. And on top of all of this, the Andes is also known for its unique chances for wildlife watching, as you can observe herds of wild alpacas grazing across Altiplano plains and majestic condors floating through mountain canyons. For these and other experiences, Surtrek welcomes you on your own unique and personalized journey through South America’s Andes.

 

Why tour the Andes with Surtrek?

With over 25 years of introducing adventurous travelers to authentic, environmentally friendly, tailor-made luxury travel experiences across South America, Surtrek is adept at offering some of the best and most complete tour services through and across the Andes.

With our experienced travel team of 25 members strong — including native speakers of five different languages — we will work one-on-one with you to custom-design an Andean tour that perfectly suits your particular interests and needs.

 

Best time to tour the Andes

When traveling to and through the southern Andes in particular (in southern Argentina &/or Chile), keep in mind that the Southern Hemisphere’s summer takes place during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. This means that the best time to visit the southern Andes is from November to early March – though you'll meet up with crowds of fellow tourist during this peak season.

As for the northern “Tropical” Andes of Ecuador, Peru Bolivia and Colombia, the temperatures here remain relatively constant throughout the year, making these destinations that can be easily visited year-round. However, you will have to consider the somewhat rainier “wet season” that extends from December to April. Also, note that Machu Picchu is closed in February for maintenance.

Again, though the northern Andes easily and comfortably be visited any time of the year, the very best months to visit this region is from May to November.

 

Getting to the Andes

Keep in mind, wherever you choose to journey across the vast Andean mountain chain, you will be met by a Surtrek representative at the respective international airport the moment you touch down, and continuously accompanied by a Surtrek representative and guide throughout your adventure.

Arriving at one of these international airports, it will most likely be in the capital city of the respective Andean country that you’ll first visit, as explained in a bit more detail below: 

  • Reaching Sites in the Ecuadorian Andes: ​​​Travelers flying into Ecuador will most likely arrive at Quito’s new Mariscal International Airport (UIO), located 10 miles from the city’s downtown.  From Quito, ground transportation is available to other sites in the Ecuadorian Andes, such as Cotopaxi Volcano and National Park, Quilotoa and Cuicocha lakes, and Papallacta Resort and Spa. To reach Cuenca, which is Ecuador’s other UNESCO-declared World Heritage City, travelers can fly out of Quito or take a scenic 8-hour ride through the Andes to reach that city, dubbed the “Athens of Ecuador.” In addition, the luxury trans-Andean Tren Cruceo train service carries passengers from Quito through the Ecuadorian Andes to cities such as Latacunga, Ambato, and Riobamba before reaching the port city of Guayaquil, on the country’s coast.
  • Reaching Sites in the Peruvian Andes: Travelers to Peru touch down at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), with many travelers who are heading on to Machu Picchu flying on to the city of Cusco the next day. Note that most flights from the capital to Cusco leave in the morning. From Cusco, trains to Machu Picchu leave from outside of the city, carrying travelers through the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo before arriving at the town of Aguas Calientes, at the foot of the Machu Picchu citadel. Frequent flights from Lima also carry travelers to Lake Titicaca (arriving in Puno), and Arequipa and its nearby Colca Canyon.
  • Reaching Sites in the Bolivian Andes: Most travelers flying into Bolivia land at the El Alto International Airport (LPB) just outside of the capital city of La Paz. From there, major Andean attractions such as the “World's Most Dangerous Road,” the ancient pre-Inca ruins of Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca and its Sun Island can be reached by car, van or bus. More distant destinations such as the Uyuni salt flat can also be reached by plane.
  • Reaching Sites in the Chilean & Argentine Andes: Santiago de Chile’s Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL) is the arrival point for almost all travelers to the Chilean Andes, as well for many travelers to the Argentine Andes. From the Chilean capital city, domestic flights can be taken to travel the long distances north and south over the Chilean Andes to destinations such as the Atacama Desert (landing in Calama), the Lake District (landing in Puerto Montt) or even further south to Andean destination in Patagonia (Torres del Paine National Park, Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas). Santiago de Chile can also serve as an arrival point for those wanting to experience Mendoza, (the Argentine city of wine-fame) or even Salta Argentina of northern Argentina. Flight to Salta or Mendoza can be taken, of course, from the Argentina capital of Buenos Aires.
  • Reaching Sites in the Colombian Andes: Travelers to Columbia will discover what neither Sir Walter Raleigh nor the Spanish conquistadors were ever able to find: El Dorado. However, rather than the empire of gold, this is the name of the Bogota’s international airport (BOG). Though visitors to Colombia will likely want to spend several days in the capital city, other Andean cities across the country can be reached by ground transportation or air. Notes that the drive time to Medellin is just over eight (8) hours and the drive time to the Coffee Triangle is just over seven (7) hours, though each destination can be reached by air in about an hour.
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