I'd previously posted this topic, but it was my first post and the title wasn't very descriptive so thought i'd repost it so more people may read it!
Myself and a friend are planning on travelling the north/west areas of south america next summer. Our ideal route would cover these destinations: Guyana (for fishing on the essequibo river and kaieteur falls), Manaus (to experience a city but also the meeting of the blackwaters and river dolphins), Peru (both lima for surfing and machu picchu) and potentially bolivia to visit the Uyuni salt flats. I should add that we would like to do a week trekking with guides in the jungle to see as much of the wildlife as possible, preferably in guyana as it's the most un touched section of the rainforest. We are completely open to boat and bus travel and also open to suggestions on our route entirely. We have about 4 weeks to try and do this, give or take up to a week. Our budget for travel itself can go up to somewhere in the region of £2000, however that is based on air travel, and would rather cut that cost to spend more time on expert guides and good experiences when were out there. We both plan to have about £2000 to spend once were out there, so about £4000 each would be our maximum budget to try and do everything. ANy help would be much appreciated, as neither of us have travelled to south america before, or done any multi city travelling, for that matter.
Of these destinations, I only have experience with Peru, but trying to put them all into four weeks feels ambitious to me. I guess it is possible, if you really only stick to these specific destinations in their respective countries, but I imagine you're going to lose a lot of time on transport. I'd definitely aim for five weeks to allow yourself a schedule with a bit more flex in it. Travel plans in South America tend to need adjusting and some flexibility. It all ends up working out, mostly, but you'll basically want to have a day's worth of leeway for arriving at each new destination, just in case.
Specifically for Peru and Bolivia, there's one major factor to take into account, and that's altitude. Going straight to the 3300 meters altitude of Cuzco is a bad idea when coming from sea level. A significant percentage of people experiences altitude sickness when going up more than ~2500 meters at a time, so the most common route in Peru is to first head to some "halfway" point (in altitude; the location doesn't matter so much), with Arequipa being a thoroughly recommendable destination for that. (Great restaurants with really amazing food, and a wonderful city center to explore for a few days.)
Lima was by far my least favorite destination in Peru; frequently smoggy, ugly, and overall devoid of interest. (Not a universal sentiment; there've been other people posting on this forum with less harsh opinions.) I didn't pay much attention to this while I was there, so might very well be wrong here, but I also wouldn't expect there being much of any surfing there, at least assuming that the "summer" you're speaking of is the Northern Hemisphere summer, which is "winter" in Peru. Now the seasons don't hold too much sway there, but it does make enough of a difference to the water temperature that you'll basically find surfing in Lima to be mostly limited to the months of January through March, while the rest of the year most people would head over to the far north of the country for it.
If you want to hike the classic inca trail, and "summer" is indeed somewhere between June and September, note that this is peak season, and that you should book that way in advance due to extremely limited numbers of hikers allowed on the trail each day (I'm not up to date with current popularity, but I'd expect it'd be good to have taken care of it by December or January). If on the other hand you just want to train to Aguas Calientes and visit Machu Picchu from there, then there's not much to worry about, and you can make travel arrangements much closer to the date.
Thank you very much for your reply! What were your flights like into peru? In relation to prices. I'm from the UK so it might not be a worthwhile comparison, unless you're from here too!
I'm from the Netherlands, but flew through Peru in 2008 on a RTW ticket, so unfortunately not in any way useful to you now.
Adioso is currently showing me a return ticket direct to Lima for about €850 for June next year, which seems about right. From London seems to be way more expensive, which doesn't make much sense to me. (You can certainly do better than Adioso for finding cheap flights, but I tend to prefer it for getting an initial overview of what's available.)
Hi, my fiance and I did two weeks in Guyana in 2013. I believe it costs us a little over $5000, without the flight and the falls. We used an amazing tour operator: Wilderness Explorers. Please, keep in mind that doing Guyana on your own is pretty much impossible. Trust me, we tried to explore the options. If you want to do just fishing, you might want to contact Rewa Eco Lodge directly, and see if they can do the arrangements. Their electricity operates on solar panels, so you might not hear from them for days, depends how busy they are and if there is a power. We also did Atta Lodge and Iwokrama Canopy, as well as spent a few days in Surama Eco Lodge, so obviously the cost was much higher for that reason.
Rewa is a lodge located deep in the interior, and accessible only by boat. An ultimate fishing destination! They should be able to help you with the transportation to the boat pickup location. You have two options here to get to the interior: fly in (expensive) or bus in (cheap). Now, when I say "bus", dont think Greyhound. It more like a small minivan, packed with people and loud music, going over hundreds of pot holes - it takes all night to do a 100km drive. But it is an experience! lol You can always bus in and fly back. I would suggest to book Kaietur Falls with Wilderness Explorers. They will help you to make the arrangements and help you to book an alternate trip, if the original one is cancelled. This happened in our case - not enough people, so the tour was cancelled. The WE quickly made other arrangement for us, so we could see the falls.
You can only travel by boat in Rewa. A gas is VERY expensive in Guyana. Most likely you will need both: a guide and a boat captain. We also had a cook, since we opt-in for camping two nights in the jungle. Everyone was fantastic and the food was amazing! This was truly a trip of our lifetime! Rewa accepts US dollars for beer, and please remember to tip your guide and boat captain, ideally in Guyanese dollars, since they dont really gravel to Georgetown to do the exchange. We also left money for a village and brought school supplies and books for kids. Wilderness Explorers can assist with the money exchange. It was easier this way for us, since our bank had an awful exchange rates and it would take forever to get the money.
Please, feel free to ask me any questions!