Friendly Planet (tel. 800/555-5765; www.friendlyplanet.com) has put together a South American tour of some of the biggest attractions, including Machu Picchu in Peru and Iguazu Falls in Brazil -- all from $2,099 for nine days with air.
The weather in South America between November and March is summer, and that means temperatures that range from 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks to the high altitude, evenings in Cuzco and Sacred Valley can dip into the 60s, so be prepared with layers.
The journey begins in Lima, where you'll spend the night before taking a short flight to Cuzco, located about 11,000 feet above sea level. Visit the Andean village of Pisac, where you can visit its market and stock up on traditional clothing and crafts. From there, the trip takes you to the Urumbamba, with its steep terraces surrounding its sacred temple. Take a train through the Sacred Valley, visit Machu Picchu (the Incan archeological site that's on many a bucket list), and spend time in Cuzco, admiring its plazas and cathedrals.
Midway through the trip, you'll head back to Lima for a city tour. The next day, board a flight to Iguazu Falls (on the Brazil side) the next day. You'll have time to explore the falls on your own before returning to Lima for your flight back to Miami.
Why is this package a deal? Well, a Kayak search for the November departure reveals a $702 LAN Airlines flight between Miami and Lima. Hotel stays, without taxes or service charges, will at the minimum total about $1,116, or $558 per person. (Two nights in Lima at Jose Antonio Hotel in Lima will run around $200 for two people. One night of the trip puts you in Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley in Cuzco at $236 per room. Two nights at Eco Inn would cost $320 for two people. Finally, three nights at Bristol Viale Cataratas, near Iguazu Falls, would cost about $360 for two.)
If you booked airfare and hotels on your own, you could easily spend $1,260 per person without taxes. When you start looking at the Vistadome train to Machu Picchu, for example, a round-trip ticket tacks on $142 per person -- bringing the total to about $1,402. For about $750 more if you count taxes, this Friendly Planet package includes your flights within South America, the services of an English-speaking tour guide, breakfast daily, all entrance fees -- and simplifies the planning.
Please note that this package is selling out on some departure dates. And if you tried to book some of these hotels on your own, you'd have a hard time finding a room. In some cases, a hotel's booking engine wasn't working, and so we relied upon other resellers. Sometimes, it was not even possible to find availability using Travelocity, Booking.com or Hotels.com -- the hotel was already sold out.
Trip Type: Air-inclusive; escorted
What the Quoted Price Gets You: Airfare from Miami to Lima; intra-South America flights; land transportation and transfers; eight nights' hotel; tickets aboard the Vistadome train to Machu Picchu; breakfast daily; airline fuel surcharges; entrance fees; and the services of English-speaking tour guides.
What Else You'll Have to Pay: Government taxes and fees of $150
When: Nov, 27, 2011, March 16, 2012 (from $2,099); Dec. 4, 2011, Jan. 22, Feb. 19, 2012 (from $2,199); Jan. 29, Feb. 5, 2012 (from $2,299)
Book By: Nov. 3; note that these tours are selling fast.
Other Gateways: New York, Los Angeles (add $250)
Other Details: All prices are per person and, if lodging is a component of the package, based upon two people traveling together (unless otherwise noted). The prices listed are general starting rates; see "What Else You'll Have to Pay" for details about associated taxes and fees. Base-prices, taxes, and fees can vary based on point of departure and time of travel. Blackout dates may apply. Trip add-ons like sightseeing tours and meal plans may also increase the price. Check with the tour operator for additional gateways. The single supplement is the extra cost that a solo traveler would pay to book the deal.