Buffet breakfast daily (B), 6 lunches (L), 5 three-course dinners (D); Local Host service in each city; sightseeing with a Local Guide and transportation as outlined in the day-by-day itinerary (except intra-vacation flights, which are additional; inside visits and special features are shown in UPPERCASE).
Day #1 Arrive in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Welcome to South America’s capital of glamour—Rio de Janeiro! Your Local Host will be available with suggested activities during your free time. Tonight, you may opt to join an outing to a fun churrascaria for a feast of barbecued meats marinated and roasted over charcoal in true Brazilian style, followed by a Samba show, where the sheer vitality of this country explodes in a colorful extravaganza.
Day #2 Rio de Janeiro. An included city TOUR takes you to bustling downtown Rio, where modern office towers stand next to relics of the Portuguese colonial past. View the Sambodromo and the Cathedral before visiting 300-foot-high SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN. Ascend by cable car to its summit, where you can savor spectacular vistas of the city and beaches. The afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B)
Day #3 Rio de Janeiro. Enjoy a full day at leisure. Your Local Host will suggest an optional Jeep tour to the rainforest in the middle of the city, Tijuca National Park and its bird sanctuary. This afternoon you may elect to discover historic Petropolis, a mountain resort and site of the former summer palace of Emperor Dom Pedro II. (B)
Day #4 Rio–Iguassu Falls. Fly to IGUASSU FALLS at the crossroads of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. This masterpiece of nature encompasses 275 separate falls and spans almost two miles. The afternoon is dedicated to enjoying the spectacle of this 2-mile-wide torrential downpour. With some cataracts as high as 250 feet, it’s nothing short of hypnotic. The clouds of spray, the incessant roar, and the surrounding luxuriant tropical growth make this an unforgettable natural wonder. (B)
Day #5 Iguassu Falls. This morning, take the ECOLOGICAL JUNGLE TRAIN and tour the Argentine side of IGUASSU FALLS with numerous walkways that wind under the crashing water. (B)
Day #6 Iguassu Falls–Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fly to Buenos Aires, proud capital of the vast country that occupies most of the southern part of the continent. After arriving at your central hotel you will have time to become acquainted with the “Paris of South America” and its wide boulevards and outdoor cafés. Enjoy an evening at leisure. (B)
Day #7 Buenos Aires. Included SIGHTSEEING this morning starts in the colorful La Boca district, site of the city’s first port. Take a short walking tour of this unique neighborhood, then on to San Telmo, famous for its late-colonial buildings and a popular gathering spot for artists. At the Plaza de Mayo, see La Casa Rosada (the President’s Pink House) and the Metropolitan Cathedral, which houses San Martin’s Mausoleum. Drive past the ornate Colon Opera House before reaching the CEMETERY of the Recoleta, burial site of Eva Peron. Spend the afternoon at leisure. This evening, perhaps savor the city’s atmosphere on an optional dinner at a local restaurant followed by a performance of Latin America’s most sensuous dance—the Tango! (B)
Day #8 Buenos Aires. Today is at leisure. Your Local Host will suggest an optional excursion to the Pampas. Experience Argentine country life as you visit an estancia (ranch). Get acquainted with the lifestyle of the gauchos and enjoy a barbecue lunch and the warm hospitality of your hosts before returning to the city. (B)
Day #9 Buenos Aires–Lima, Peru. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Lima, where you will be met by your Local Host. (B)
Day #10 Lima. Your included city TOUR focuses on Lima’s rich colonial history as well as the modern city. Lima was the bastion of Spanish South America from its founding in 1535 until the independence of the South American republics in the early 19th century. See the Cathedral, where the remains of Francisco Pizarro are sealed in a wooden coffin and with its eerie burial crypts. (B)
Day #11 Lima–Cusco. Fly to Cusco high in the Andes. Your guided TOUR visits the Santo Domingo MONASTERY, previously the Koricancha Temple, one of the most important temples devoted to worship of the sun. It is said it was covered in gold leaf and filled with golden representations of nature. In the Plaza de Armas, see the Cathedral before taking a short drive outside the city to the ruins of SACSAYHUAMAN with its intricate stone walls, amphitheatre of KENKO, and the Red Fortress of PUCA PUCARA. (B)
Day #12 Cusco–Sacred Valley. Today, a short drive into the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, brings you to AWANAKANCHA, where you will learn about the importance of the alpaca (llama) for Inca cultures as well as the ancient weaving techniques still in use today. Continue to the market town of PISAC. Handmade rugs, alpaca sweaters, and jewelry can be bought here at bargain prices. At the other end of the valley, visit OLLANTAYTAMBO. Here, some of the finest examples of Inca masonry can be seen. Tonight, try out area cuisine at one of the many Cusco restaurants recommended by your Local Host. (B,L)
Day #13 Sacred Valley–Machu Picchu. Board a TRAIN bound for MACHU PICCHU and cut a path through the Sacred Valley to this “Lost City of the Incas,” discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. On a guided tour, explore this intact fortress with its temple remains, holy houses, and mile-long aqueduct. For hikers, a brisk one-hour walk leads to the Sun Gate, the ancient entrance used by the Incas. (B,L,D)
Day #14 Machu Picchu–Cusco. A morning at leisure in Machu Picchu allows you to wake up early to see the sunrise over MACHU PICCHU. Return to Cusco, where your Local Host will recommend options for your free time. Perhaps visit the Inca Museum or wander through the artisan district of San Blas. (B)
Day #15 Cusco–Lima. Fly to Lima, where the remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B)
Day #16 Lima–Quito, Ecuador. Fly to Quito, where you will be met by your Local Host. (B)
Day #17 Quito. Your included city TOUR showcases the rich legacy left by the Incas and, later, the Spaniards. See Independence Square dominated by its formidable Cathedral, San Francisco Plaza Church, and the BASILICA with its marvelous stained-glass windows. (B)
Day #18 Quito–Baltra–Santa Cruz. Fly to Baltra in the Galápagos. Upon arrival, transfer to the highlands of SANTA CRUZ and visit the Giant Tortoises RESERVE and the Twin Pit Craters. These great depressions of volcanic material were formed by a long process of slow sinking of the ground, where exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses, and orchids can be seen in the surroundings. (B,L,D)SPECIAL FEATURE: Named after the famous Darwin’s finches abundant in the surroundings, the Finch Bay Eco Hotel offers a private seaside location surrounded by mangroves. Amenities include a bar, lounge, restaurant, outdoor pool, and Jacuzzi—and beachfront access. All guestrooms offer twin beds, private facilities, and air-conditioning. Guests will enjoy daily boat excursions to various Galápagos Islands, kayaking, snorkeling, bicycle rides in town, and viewing the local flora and fauna.
Day #19 Santa Fé. Cruise to SANTA FÉ, where you will see the endemic Santa Fé land iguana and the large opuntia cactus forest. The beach area is covered with California sea lions, and the coastline is an excellent location for snorkeling with sea turtles. (B,L,D)
Day #20 South Plaza. Board a yacht bound for SOUTH PLAZA Island. Wildlife includes sea lions, land iguanas, and hybrid iguanas, which are the result of a cross between male marine iguanas and female land iguanas. This is also a bird-watcher’s paradise, where you will see nesting swallow-tailed gulls, masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, frigatebirds, pelicans, and Audubon’s Shearwaters. (B,L,D)
Day #21 Bartolomé Island. Today’s adventure takes you on a walk to the summit of BARTOLOMÉ for spectacular views of the Galápagos. Interesting lava formations and tuff cones can be observed as well as sea lions and penguins swimming in the vicinity of Pinnacle Rock. From the beach, enjoy snorkeling or swimming. (B,L,D)
Day #22 Baltra–Quito. Leave the hotel early this morning and visit the CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION, home to many Galapagos giant tortoises. Then, fly back to Quito and transfer to the hotel for one more night in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. (B)
Day #23 Quito. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning.