Buffet breakfast daily (B), 6 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 Quito, Ecuador. Arrive in Quito, where you will be met by your Local Host.
Day #2 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 #3 Quito–Baltra (Embarkation)–Galápagos Cruising: Santa Cruz Island. Fly to Baltra in the Galápagos. Upon arrival, transfer to Santa Cruz Island, where you will embark the Santa Cruz and enjoy five days of cruising among various Galápagos Islands. Visit Las Bachas on SANTA CRUZ ISLAND, where abandoned WWII military barges can be found. Today, it is an important nesting area for the East Pacific Green Sea Turtle. You will also see brackish lagoons just steps away from the sea and the white-sand beach, a feeding ground for various wading birds—from stilts to flamingos. This evening, a lecture led by your onboard Naturalist will prepare you for tomorrow’s adventure. (B,L,D)
Day #4 Cruising: Santiago Island. After breakfast, join your Naturalist for a short panga ride to Espumilla beach on SANTIAGO ISLAND. In the nearby mangrove forest, watch where you step, as this is common nesting area for sea turtles. Also keep an eye out for Galápagos finches, marine iguanas, and sea lions, as well as flamingos and pintail ducks in the nearby lagoons. This afternoon, land at Puerto Egas, known for its black-sand beach and landscape of tuff-stone layers and lava flows. This is a great opportunity to see land and marine birds as well as a colony of fur sea lions and marine iguanas. You have the chance to snorkel or swim from the beach, or ride on the glass-bottom boat. (B,L,D)
Day #5 Cruising: Rábida & Bartolomé Islands. Disembark at RÁBIDA ISLAND on a red-colored beach, formed from the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. Here, your Naturalist points out large colonies of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers, and several species of Darwin’s finches. This is a wonderful place to snorkel from the beach, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. At BARTOLOMÉ ISLAND, hike to the summit for a stunning view of two beautiful bays and fascinating formations of lava flows and spatter cones, including iconic Pinnacle Rock. You will also have the chance to snorkel and possibly see Galápagos penguins in tropical waters and even some sharks! (B,L,D)
Day #6 Cruising: Genovesa Island. Upon arrival at GENOVESA ISLAND, your visit to Prince Philip’s Steps begins with a scenic panga ride along the cliffs to see the large number of shore and seabirds nesting in the cliffs’ ledges. Disembark at the base of Prince Philip’s Steps and climb up the stairs to a trail where birdlife abounds. A walk with your Naturalist reveals large colonies of masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, storm petrels, and even short-eared owls. In the afternoon, disembark at Darwin Bay to observe thousands of birds—mainly, frigatebirds, redfooted and masked boobies, gulls, herons, finches, and mockingbirds. Return to the beach for swimming and snorkeling in this beautiful natural harbor. (B,L,D)
Day #7 Cruising: San Cristobal Island (Disembarkation)–Quito–Lima, Peru. After breakfast, depart for Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where Charles Darwin first set foot in the Galápagos back in 1835. This island is home to seabirds like blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, herons, frigatebirds, and various shore birds. Also watch for the Chatham mockingbird and Chatham lava lizard—both species are endemic to this island and seen nowhere else in the Galápagos. Head to the airport for your return flight to Lima to begin the Peru portion of your vacation. (B)
Day #8 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 #9 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 #10 Cusco–Sacred Valley. Today, a short drive into 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. 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 is OLLANTAYTAMBO. Here, some of the finest examples of Inca masonry can be seen. (B,L)
Day #11 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 #12 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 #13 Cusco–Lima. Fly to Lima, where the remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B)
Day #14 Lima. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)