Buffet breakfast daily (B), 7 lunches (L), and 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 Lima, Peru. Arrive in Lima, Peru, where you will be met by your Local Host.
Day #2 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 San Francisco MONASTERY with its eerie burial crypts. (B)
Day #3 Lima–Pisco–Nazca Lines–Paracas. Enjoy a scenic drive south along the Pan-American Highway to Pisco, the wine capital of Peru. Have your camera handy today as you board your aircraft for a FLIGHT over the Nazca plains, which can only be appreciated by air. Your pilot will point out the mysterious markings known as the Nazca Lines, a series of drawings of animals and geometric figures etched into the parched soil—some up to 1,000 feet long! Theories vary, but the most accepted belongs to German mathematician Maria Reiche, who dubbed the land the “astronomical calendar” of the ancient Peruvians. (B)
Day #4 Paracas–Ballestas Islands–Lima. Head north to the Bay of Paracas. CRUISE out to the Ballestas Islands, which are inhabited by a wide variety of sea mammals and exotic birds, including boobies, sea lions, and Humboldt penguins. The huge Candelabro, an unexplained candelabra-shaped etching on the Paracas cliffside, can also be seen as you cruise back to shore. Later, return to Lima. (B)
Day #5 Lima–Cusco. Fly to Cusco high in the Andes. Take a short drive into the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 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 the area cuisine at one of Cusco’s numerous restaurants recommended by your Local Host. (B,L)
Day #6 Cusco–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 #7 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 #8 Cusco–Juliaca–Puno. Your guided TOUR of Cusco visits the Plaza de Armas and its CATHEDRAL and 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. Later, fly to Juliaca, where you will be transferred to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. (B)
Day #9 Puno. Lake Titicaca. Today, enjoy a full-day sailing on LAKE TITICACA and take a motorboat to some of the lake’s more unique islands. Start with TAQUILE, once part of the Inca Empire and one of the last areas of Peru to be conquered by Spain in the 16th century. The Spanish banned traditional dress on the island, which is why the Spanish peasant dress can still be found today. Next, travel to the fascinating UROS ISLANDS, home to the Uros Indians who were forced to live on the lake as the Incas pushed farther into their territory. These islands are completely made from reeds, which are continually added to as they disintegrate to the bottom of the lake. (B,L)
Day #10 Puno–Sillustani–Juliaca–Lima. Depart for Juliaca this morning, visiting the ruins of SILLUSTANI en route. At this pre-Incan burial ground, see where the ancient Aymaras buried their high priests in chullpas, above-ground cylinder-shaped tombs dating back to the 1400s. Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Lima, where the remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B)
Day #11 Lima–Quito, Ecuador. Fly to Quito, where you will be met by your Local Host. (B)
Day #12 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 #13 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 #14 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 #15 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 #16 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 #17 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 #18 Quito. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)