From its amazing archaeological treasures to its gastronomic delights and from its rich history to its melting pot of cultures, Peru offers visitors a wide array of attractions—and on this tour, you’ll experience its highlights. Plus, you’ll have the thrilling opportunity to cruise through the Galápagos Islands. Start in Lima, a cosmopolitan city steeped in history with pre-Columbian ruins, Spanish colonial buildings, and remnants of colonial mansions. On your sightseeing tour, you’ll see many of its famous sights. High in the Andes Mountains, Cusco is the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America and is sure to please history buffs. Learn about the Incas’ struggles with the invading Spaniards on your tour of Cusco and visit the Temple of Sacsayhuaman, built in the early 12th century with some stones weighing more than 350 tons. Try to figure out how it was built so precisely without the help of modern machinery and technology! Of course, no vacation to Peru is complete without visiting Machu Picchu. Built around 1450 at the height of the Inca Empire, Machu Picchu is located in a gorgeous mountain setting above the Urubamba Valley. Stand in awe as you witness it—it is one of the most majestic images in all of South America, if not the world!Not only will you visit the must-see sights, you’ll also have an opportunity to learn about Peruvian life. Experience a Mother Earth ceremony performed by a local shaman. These ceremonies thanking Mother Earth and asking for good health and safe travels have been practiced in Peru since before the arrival of the Incas. You’ll also stop at a local Peruvian food market and visit a home to meet some of the locals and experience their way of life. Conclude your vacation by cruising through the Galápagos Islands, where you will witness blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, sea lions, land iguanas, and much more. For even more spectacular beauty and fun, you can swim or snorkel in search of sea life such as octopus, sea horses, and starfish. Afterward, spend time in Quito, where a sightseeing tour shows you its highlights—a perfect conclusion to an amazing adventure!
Day #1 Arrive in Lima, Peru. Arrive in Lima, where you will be met by your Tour Director.
Day #2 Lima. This morning, your Local Guide focuses on the city’s colonial heritage during a walking TOUR. Start at the Plaza de Armas to see the Government Palace and the cathedral. From here, stroll to the venerable SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY with its splendid 17th-century cloister murals. For a special treat, stop at a [LF] LOCAL PERUVIAN FOOD MARKET to get a real taste of life for the local people. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at one of Lima’s finest historic homes, CASA GARCIA ALVARADO, with your fellow traveling companions. (B,D)
Day #3 Lima–Cusco–Sacred Valley. Fly to Cusco, the impressive Andean city that was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Spend the day in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, starting with a visit to the TEMPLE OF SACSAYHUAMAN, perched on a hillside overlooking Cusco. It remains unfathomable how and when this fortress of gigantic stones—with some blocks weighing more than 350 tons—was built. While at the ruins, experience an [LF] El Pago a la Tierra, or MOTHER EARTH CEREMONY, performed by a local shaman. These ceremonies thanking Mother Earth and asking for good health and safe travels have been practiced in Peru since before the arrival of the Incas. Next, stop at the semi-circular KENKO Amphitheater with its stone altars and labyrinth of passages. See the ancient site of Puca Pucara before continuing to PISAC, an old mountain village where you will have free time to shop for local wares such as alpaca sweaters and blankets, jewelry, or hand-painted ornamental dishes and vases. Stay in the Sacred Valley tonight, and enjoy a special dinner outing with a PERUVIAN PASO HORSE SHOW. (B,L,D)
Day #4 Sacred Valley–Machu Picchu. This morning, visit the Inca Fortress of OLLANTAYTAMBO followed by the opportunity to visit a [LF] HOME, meet some of the locals, and experience their way of life. Next, board a TRAIN for a short journey through the lush Urubamba Valley. Then, transfer to a motorcoach for the ascent to legendary MACHU PICCHU, the “Lost City of the Incas,” high above the steep valley overlaid with dense tropical jungle. Your Local Guide will bring you closer to the lives and mysteries still hidden in these amazing structures built by the pre-Columbian masters of this sacred land. Tonight, stay at a nearby hotel. (B,L,D)
Day #5 Machu Picchu–Cusco. Your entrance to MACHU PICCHU is included for a second day. Enjoy the tranquility of the morning with free time to wander the ruins at your own pace and experience the magic that is Machu Picchu. After lunch, return to the Sacred Valley by TRAIN and continue on to Cusco. (B,L)
Day #6 Cusco. This morning, learn more about the Incas and their struggle against invading Spaniards on your Cusco city TOUR, with visits to the imposing CATHEDRAL and the SANTO DOMINGO MONASTERY. The remainder of your day is free to explore at your leisure. Tonight, enjoy a special farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B,D)
Day #7 Cusco–Lima. Bid farewell to your Tour Director in Cusco and board a flight to Lima. Meet a Local Guide and transfer to your hotel. The afternoon is at leisure to explore the city. (B)
Day #8 Lima–Guayaquil, Ecuador. Fly to Guayaquil, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (B)
Day #9 Guayaquil–Baltra–Santa Cruz (Embarkation)–Cruising. Fly to Baltra and transfer to SANTA CRUZ Island, where you’ll board the Galápagos Legend for your 3-night CRUISE. This afternoon, visit LAS BACHAS on the north side of Santa Cruz. Behind the beach lie two small flamingo ponds with iguanas, coastal birds, Darwin finches, mockingbirds, and gulls, as well as interesting native and endemic vegetation, red and black mangroves, salt bushes, and much more. This beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galápagos. At this site we will also find the remains of barges that sank long ago, once property of the United States Navy when they operated an air base on Baltra Island during World War II. (B,L,D)
Day #10 Cruising: South Plaza & Santa Fé Islands. This morning, visit SOUTH PLAZA and take a walk through an impressive cactus forest surrounded by land and marine iguanas. As you reach the highest point, be on the lookout for tropical birds, Nazca and blue-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls, to name a few. On South Plaza, there is a large colony of the smaller-sized land iguanas. Due to their proximity to marine iguanas, this is the only place on Earth where we will find the Galápagos hybrid iguana. Later today, disembark on the white-sand beach of SANTA FÉ, where you will be surrounded by a colony of sea lions. Continue walking through an endemic cactus forest as your Naturalist leads the search for the endemic Santa Fe land iguana. This island is home to a number of other endemic species, as well, including the Galápagos hawk, Galápagos snake, a variety of finches, and one of the four species of Galápagos mockingbirds. This is also a great opportunity for snorkeling. (B,L,D)
Day #11 Cruising: San Cristobal Island. A brisk walk at Punta Pitt on SAN CRISTOBAL leads to the top of a volcanic tuff, and offers several magnificent viewpoints. This is probably the only site where the three Galápagos booby species can be seen together, as well as the two species of frigatebirds. It is an excellent area for exploring by panga—or in the water! At CERRO BRUJO this afternoon, see an eroding tuff cone with its lava formations. Visit a lagoon where migratory bird species can be seen, like black-necked stilts, ruddy turnstones, whimbrels, other sandpiper species, and white-cheeked pintails. The beautiful white-sand beach here is a great place to snorkel and look for marine life. (B,L,D)
Day #12 Cruising: San Cristobal (Disembarkation)–Quito. Disembark this morning and visit the GALPAGUERA on San Cristobal to learn about the national park’s conservation programs and the giant tortoises of the Galápagos. You will also have the opportunity to visit the port before your return flight to Quito. (B)
Day #13 Quito. On a city tour, see INDEPENDENCE SQUARE with its CATHEDRAL and SAN FRANCISCO PLAZA CHURCH, and the BASILICA. (B)
Day #14 Quito. Your tour ends with breakfast this morning. (B)