Fantastic treasures await on this vacation to Peru and the Galápagos Islands. Enjoy a walking tour of Lima; guided sightseeing in Quito and Cusco, former capital of the Inca Empire; and an excursion to Otavalo’s famous Indian market. Also visit ancient Puca Pucara, the Temple of Sacsayhuaman, the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo, and mystical Machu Picchu. Then, fly to Baltra Island for a fantastic 4-night Galápagos Islands cruise. In the company of a local Naturalist, you’ll encounter indigenous plants and animals found only in the Galápagos Islands. For travelers who want to see ancient ruins, learn about new cultures, and be awed at the amazing natural world, this trip is not to be missed!
Day #1 Arrive in Lima. Welcome to Lima. This “City of Kings” was once the capital of the Spanish South American Empire.
Day #2 Lima. Today, 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, where the remains of Francisco Pizarro, founder of Lima, are housed. From here, stroll to the venerable SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY with its splendid 17th-century cloister murals. Also visit the LARCO HERRERA MUSEUM, housing an impressive collection of Peruvian pre-Columbian artifacts. This evening, meet your Tour Director and enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant 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. Continue into the Sacred Valley to AWANAKANCHA and learn the importance of the alpaca (llama) for Inca cultures as well as the ancient weaving techniques still in use today. Visit the semi-circular KENKO Amphitheater with its stone altars and labyrinth of passages, and see the ancient site of PUCA PUCARA before reaching 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. Next, visit PISAC, an old mountain village where you enjoy free time in the town center to browse the colorful stalls where vendors sell their handicrafts, ranging from fine alpaca sweaters and blankets to hand-painted ornamental dishes and vases. Enjoy a relaxing dinner at your hotel. (B,L,D)
Day #4 Sacred Valley–Machu Picchu. Begin the morning with a visit to the Inca fortress of OLLANTAYTAMBO, followed by a visit to a home to meet some locals and experience their way of life. Next, board your TRAIN for a short journey through the lush Urubamba Valley, then ascend to legendary MACHU PICCHU, the “Lost City of the Incas,” discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. 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. (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 while wandering the ruins at your own pace and experiencing the magic that is Machu Picchu. After lunch, return to Ollantaytambo by train and continue to Cusco. (B,L)
Day #6 Cusco. Today, learn more about the Incas and their struggle against the invading Spaniards. Visit the imposing CATHEDRAL and the SANTO DOMINGO MONASTERY on your guided tour. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant accompanied by ANDEAN FOLKLORIC MUSIC. (B,D)
Day #7 Cusco–Quito, Ecuador. Today, fly to Quito, the capital of Ecuador and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, and begin the Ecuadorian portion of your vacation. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant tonight. (B,D)
Day #8 Quito. Your local host introduces this city on an included sightseeing tour that showcases its treasures: the historic stone murals of the LEGISLATIVE PALACE, Independence Plaza and the 16th-century SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY, the Jesuit’s LA COMPANIA CHURCH with its stunning golden altars, and the impressive paintings at the WORKSHOP & MUSEUM of Oswaldo Guayasamin. Be sure to have your photo taken in front of the EQUATORIAL MONUMENT, the “Center of the World.” (B)
Day #9 Quito. Excursion to Otavalo. An in-depth experience into the traditional ways of the Otavalo people is in store for you today. First, visit OTAVALO’S famous INDIAN MARKET full of textiles, clothes, vegetables, and much more. Next, in Peguche, famous for its exquisite weavings, you have the opportunity to visit homes and observe handicrafts being made. Finally, enjoy Andean delicacies prepared the traditional way at a HOME-HOSTED LUNCH before returning to Quito. (B,L)
Day #10 Galápagos Islands (Embarkation) Cruising: Santa Cruz Island. Take a morning flight to Baltra, one of the remote Galápagos Islands. Upon arrival, board the sleek Santa Cruz and enjoy five days of CRUISING among various Galápagos Islands. Each day, travel ashore to the remote islands with your expert Naturalist, who introduces you to the unique fauna living free and fearless of man. Giant tortoises, Galápagos fur sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, frigates, and finches are just some of the many endemic species you will find on land. You will also have the chance to snorkel in the turquoise waters with colorful tropical fish, playful sea lions, and maybe even an equatorial penguin or shark! 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 white-sand beach, which is a feeding ground for various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. Return to the ship for a briefing on the next day’s adventure, followed by a Captain’s welcome cocktail and dinner. (B,L,D)NOTE:The ship’s itinerary may vary according to Galápagos National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, and seasonal changes to create the perfect cross-section of sites visited.
Day #11 Galápagos Islands Cruising: James Island. After breakfast, join your Naturalist for a coastal exploration along the impressive cliffs of BUCCANEER COVE on James Island. Learn about the history of the island, its relevance for the whalers, pirates, and early researchers, including Darwin’s epic voyage in 1835. The cove is home to a large number of marine birds, sea lions, and inter-tidal organisms, which makes this a great site for snorkeling, too! This afternoon, land at PUERTO EGAS on James Island, known for its black-sand beach and a 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, marine iguanas, and Sally Lightfoot crabs. You have the chance to snorkel or swim from the beach, or ride on the glass-bottom boat. (B,L,D)
Day #12 Galápagos Islands 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. Stroll along the beach of this small island as your Naturalist points out large colonies of sea lions, pelicans, boobies, yellow warblers, and several species of Darwin’s finches. Very close to the beach, hidden behind a strip of green saltbush, is a salt pond where, at times, greater flamingos migrate. This is a wonderful place to snorkel from the beach, due to the unique combination of underwater species like the Galápagos dolphin and submarine landscapes. After lunch, en route to our next island, dolphins are often spotted. 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 the iconic Pinnacle Rock. You will also have the chance to snorkel and possibly see Galápagos penguins in tropical waters and even some sharks and rays! (B,L,D)
Day #13 Galápagos Islands Cruising: Tower Island. Upon arrival at TOWER ISLAND, your visit to Prince Philip’s Steps begins with a scenic panga ride along the cliffs to see the large number of nesting colonies of Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, and shore and seabirds 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, red-footed and masked boobies, gulls, herons, finches, and mockingbirds. Return to the beach for swimming and snorkelling at this beautiful natural harbor. The more adventurous can snorkel below the cliffs. (B,L,D)
Day #14 Galápagos Islands (Disembarkation) San Cristobal–Quito. After breakfast, depart for SAN CRISTOBAL, where Charles Darwin first set foot in the Galápagos back in 1835. Visit the GALAPAGUERA at Cerro Colorado to see the breeding program of giant tortoises and learn about this endangered species and its promising recovery. While here, watch for the Chatham (San Cristobal) 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 Quito. This evening, gather with your fellow traveling companions as your Tour Director hosts a special farewell dinner to celebrate an unforgettable experience. (B,D)
Day #15 Quito. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)