Arrive in tropical Guayaquil, gateway to the Galápagos, where you are met and transferred to your hotel.
The Galápagos Islands | Baltra & South Plaza
Fly to the remote Galápagos island of Baltra, where you transfer to the dock to board ‘La Pinta,’ your expedition ship for your four-night cruise through the Galápagos’ eastern islands. (Note: an alternate route exploring the Galápagos’ northern islands is also available on select dates). ‘La Pinta’ is built for adventure, offering spacious cabins, floor-to-ceiling windows and a comfortable atmosphere. The vessel is ecologically sound and comes equipped with pangas (rubber rafts), a glass-bottom boat and sea kayaks that allow for independent exploration. Cruise to South Plaza Island, through the turquoise waters of the channel and past white sand beaches and volcanic rocks. Note the island’s ground cover of scarlet-colored succulents and green prickly-pear cacti. Perhaps catch your first glimpse of yellow-brown land iguanas. Ride Like a Local by panga for your first shore excursion, strolling near sea lion colonies and watching seabirds wheel and turn over the island’s cliffs. Tonight, dine on board. (Note: An alternate route exploring the Galápagos’ northern islands is also available on select dates.)
Cruising the Galápagos | Santa Fe & San Cristobal
After breakfast, board a panga for a shore excursion to Santa Fe Island, beaching on the white sands in the midst of resident sea lions. Watch for Galápagos hawks, often found perched atop salt bushes, and spot the land iguanas, which range from tan colored to a vibrant yellow variant exclusive to this island. Explore off-shore as well, choosing from swimming and snorkeling along a natural wave barrier or a ride aboard a glass-bottom boat. Later, return to ‘La Pinta’ for lunch and make the brief jaunt to San Cristobal Island. Disembark and drive to Cerro Colorado, the island’s southern shore, to visit the Tortoise Breeding Center, where a variety of species of giant tortoises endemic to the Galápagos plod with their characteristic determination through a verdant forest. Here, you may also spot the San Cristobal mockingbird and the San Cristobal lava lizard. Return to your ship for the evening. The next day, land on Punta Pitt at the eastern tip of the island to hike up a trail from the beach to an overlook with spectacular shoreline views. Watch for frigate birds riding the wind and bachelor sea lions sunning on the sand. After lunch aboard ‘La Pinta,’ take a dinghy to the white coral beach of Cerro Brujo. It is the same shore Charles Darwin walked during his scientific explorations here in 1835 and today is a great site for birdwatching.
Cruising the Galápagos | Española
This morning, disembark at Punta Suarez on Española Island for an exciting walk across lava terrain to visit the unique seabird colonies that populate this area. Watch for waved albatrosses (present April through early January), blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls, and visit the famous “blow-hole” geological formation, where the incoming waves create an upsurge reminiscent of a spouting whale. Also, keep an eye out for the subspecies of red-and-green marine iguana, sometimes called the “Christmas” iguana, that is unique to this island. After lunch on board, disembark at Gardner Bay to observe its resident sea lions, mockingbirds and finches, and then take your choice — snorkel, kayak or simply enjoy the white coral beach.
Guayaquil & Lima, Peru | Santa Cruz
Conclude your explorations of the Galápagos today when you land on Santa Cruz Island. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on-site, and discover its breeding program for giant tortoises and learn about the progress on conservation efforts being made here. Afterward, ride by bus to the island’s opposite coast, where you board a ferry across the channel to Baltra Island. Transfer to the airport for a flight back to the mainland of Ecuador, and then take a connecting flight to Lima, Peru. Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel.
Cusco | Sacred Valley
Fly to Cusco, located more than 11,000 feet above sea level, where you are met and transferred to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. En route, visit Awana Kancha, a center where South American camelids, such as llamas and alpacas, are bred. Learn about the valuable fibers created from their coats. Then, visit the beautiful Hacienda Sarapampa, where you will enjoy a Chef’s Table experience. Sit down to lunch with the owner, who cordially shares his family’s history in farming and shows you around the farm.
Sacred Valley | Like a Journey Back in Time
Today, visit Moray, a fascinating archaeological site comprising a series of concentric agricultural terraces, some almost 500 feet deep. Then, journey to a remote village, where you experience ancient agricultural methods used for centuries in a challenging Andean mountain environment. Afterward, stop for lunch at Rancho Wayra, where you are treated to a spectacular equestrian performance of Paso horses and marvel at the graceful gait of these elegant animals. Return to your hotel to enjoy a relaxing Scenic Sundowner before dinner.
Machu Picchu | Bingham’s Stunning Find
Begin your day with a visit to the imposing fortress of Ollantaytambo, with its massive stone terraces that hug the mountain slopes. Next, Ride Like a Local, by train, journeying deep into the Andes toward Machu Picchu and gazing out at the verdant Peruvian countryside. Once on-site, explore the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu, guided by a local expert. Overlooking the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century at the height of the Inca Empire. Although this “Lost City” was revealed to the rest of the world by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, its location was long known to locals. Its original purpose, however, remains a matter of some conjecture, as the Incas left no written records. As you wander amid the age-old stone walls, picture life as it might have been in this mystical citadel, set some 8,000 feet above sea level. Tonight, stay in the only hotel on-site, designed to echo the soaring natural surroundings.
Machu Picchu & Cusco | Walk the Spectacular Ruins
Rise with the sun, and join your expert guide to walk through Machu Picchu in the early morning mist, before the crowds arrive. After your explorations, bid adieu to the Incan citadel and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Ollantaytambo by train, savoring incomparable views of the mountain scenery that surrounds you. On arrival, transfer to your hotel in Cusco, a 400-year-old architectural treasure that was once a monastery. Tonight, relax or stroll this ancient Incan capital on your own.
Cusco | Design Your Day
This morning, discover Cusco on a city excursion that includes the Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas and the Santo Domingo Temple, a Dominican church built on the foundations of the Koricancha, the Incas’ principal religious building. Later, visit the well-preserved ruins of Sacsayhuaman, a testament to Incan architectural skill. Compiled from colossal stones, the largest of which may weigh as much as 200 tons, the walls were cut and placed together with incredible precision and without a single drop of mortar to hold them in place. Back in Cusco, stop for lunch at a local restaurant near the plaza. This afternoon, enjoy one of these Design Your Day activities:
Visit the San Blas Neighborhood, a unique, bohemian enclave where you find the workshops of artisans.
Stroll San Pedro Market and visit the Inca Museum, for a taste of local fruits and cheese, and a glimpse into history.
Join a Photographer in Cusco, who helps you capture authentic images of the city’s architecture and people.
Tonight, enjoy a farewell dinner at the elegant MAP Café.
Relax on a morning at leisure in Cusco. Later today, fly to Lima and connect with your homebound flight.
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PREFER THE NORTHERN ISLANDS ROUTE?
View the itinerary for the version of this journey that visits the Northern Islands of the Galápagos.