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Also check out our Peru, Ecuador & the Galapagos 2015 tour.
|Style||Fully Escorted & Guided
Dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Highlights||Lima, Cusco, Quito, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, & Galapagos Islands. Optional Nazca Lines extension|
|Included in the Price||
|What to Expect||This fast-paced, partially escorted tour involves a significant amount of walking or hiking, often on uneven terrain, and reaches high altitudes requiring a high level of physical fitness to fully enjoy the trip. This tour also includes long scenic drives between destinations and may have limited rest stops.|
We took the trip to Ecuador in October. Absolutely fabulous trip, planning, lodging, food, transportation. Our tour guide, Patricio, could not have been a better guide. I would take the trip again in a minute!
Ann Ritchie, Midland, TX
Sorry, there are no currently available tour dates.
Transfers: Transfers for this package are provided on a group basis only. For passengers deviating in any way from the group program, transfers are not provided. Individual, private transfers can be arranged at a supplement in price. Taxis and other forms of transportation are also available and may cost less than private transfers. If you wish to arrange private transfers, please request this service at the time of reservation.
Join us on a fascinating voyage of discovery as we visit some of the most splendid and awesome sites in the world. First we'll tour Peru, which, like the Parthenon in Greece or the Pyramids of Egypt, provides an unforgettable glimpse of the genius of a past civilization, the Incas.
You'll have the opportunity to visit Lima, the City of Kings and the country's capital; Cusco, the ancient Incan capital perched at 11,000 ft; Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas and among the most impressive archeological discoveries of all times; and Lake Titicaca, among the highest and most beautiful lakes in the world, on Peru's border with Bolivia.
In Ecuador, we'll visit Quito, the lovely colonial capital city, whose Old Town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, Otavalo, whose colorful, charming market is known throughout the world. We'll even take a guided tour of the Galapagos Islands, a magical, unique, living laboratory, where Darwin and those who followed studied evolutionary changes that led to a new understanding of life on earth.
This is truly an unforgettable, once in a lifetime adventure, full of discovery, beauty, history, culture and more fun than you can imagine. And while there are no compromises in the quality of the hotels and the scope of touring included in our program, it's yours for a price that's as amazing as the trip itself!
Day 1: Depart USA/Arrive Lima. Your exciting journey to Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos begins today as you depart on your flight bound for Lima, Peru's diverse capital city, Lima, "City of the Kings." Upon arrival, after customs formalities, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Accommodations: Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores.
Day 2: Lima, Peru. Today embark on a city tour of both modern and colonial Lima. See the Monastery of San Francisco, famous for its library and catacombs, and the historical city center, based around the beautiful and sprawling Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas). The grand Cathedral of Lima, the ornate Archbishop's Palace, and the Government Palace, or Casa de Pizarro line the plaza. Both the Government Palace and the cathedral were first built by Francisco Pizarro when he founded the city in 1535 to govern the conquered Incan empire (though both have been rebuilt since). Visit the fashionable districts of San Isidro and Miraflores with their beautiful parks and elegant residences facing the ocean. Tonight join your fellow travelers for dinner at a local restaurant. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 3: Cusco, Pisac Market & Sacred Valley. After breakfast, transfer to the airport to board a short morning flight to Cusco, capital of the Inca Empire and located 11,000 feet above sea level. Upon arrival, travel to nearby Pisac, a picturesque Andean village with a wonderful market. Here you'll have a chance to buy locally made ponchos, sweaters and other handcrafted clothing, ceramics and hand-painted beads. Enjoy browsing the "locals" section of the market, where villagers come from miles around, dressed in their traditional clothing, to barter and sell their produce.
Continue to Ollantaytambo, located at the foot of spectacular Inca ruins which protected the strategic entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley, also known as the Sacred Valley. The temple area is at the top of a series of steep terraces which helped provide excellent defenses. Stone used for these buildings was brought from a quarry high up on the opposite side of the Urubamba River, an incredible feat involving the efforts of thousands of workers. The complex, still under construction at the time of the conquest by Spain, was never completed. Accommodations: Aranwa Sacred Valley. Breakfast provided.
Day 4: Machu Picchu. It's a short drive from your hotel to the Ollanta railroad station where you'll board the train that will take you through the lush Urubamba Valley, passing through stunning scenery en route to Machu Picchu, one of the most spectacular and enigmatic archeological sites in the world. Even those who aren't normally excited by archaeology will be impressed by this Lost City of the Incas.
Unknown to the outside world until archeologist Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1911, Machu Picchu is now the most recognizable symbol of the Inca Empire. Believed to have served as a country retreat town for Inca nobility, the complex consists of giant walls, terraces, and ramps constructed from precisely cut rock formations. This impressive architectural feat, in combination with its breathtaking natural setting amidst mist-covered green mountains above the rushing Urubamba River, makes for a visually stunning, and even mystical, experience. Return to Cusco for overnight. Accommodations: Aranwa Cusco. Breakfast provided.
Day 5: Cusco. This afternoon, explore the main sites of this impressive city. You'll see the Plaza de Armas, center of the Inca Empire, where Francisco Pizarro proclaimed the conquest of Cusco. Here, you'll find Cusco's beautiful 16th century cathedral. Then, just a few blocks away, you will see the ruins of the Koricancha, an important Inca temple to the Sun God. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors, this incredible wealth was all taken as treasure for Spain. The exploration continues to the outskirts of Cusco and the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman and the Red Fortress of Puca Pucara. Breakfast provided.
Day 6: Cusco & Puno. Take a drive of unbelievable beauty through the Andes and toward the Altiplano and Lake Titicaca. Driving from Cusco to Puno through the Andes, you reach an elevation of more than 14,000 feet at La Raya (the apex between the Andes and Altiplano) as you pass through tiny villages of craftsmen, potters and weavers, farms, waterfalls, clear blue sky, deep blue water and dry, reddish-brown landscape. Have cameras charged and ready for the incredible panoramic shots you'll want to take along the way. En route, enjoy a buffet lunch at a local restaurant.
Later today, arrive in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, 12,500 feet above sea level. Accommodations: Casa Andina Private Collection Puno or Sonesta Posadas del Inca Puno. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 7: Lake Titicaca, Uros & Taquile. This morning you'll visit beautiful Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and, according to Andean legend, the birthplace of civilization. Legend holds that Mama Ocllo and Manco Capac, the founders of the Inca Empire, appeared from the deep waters of this lake. A highlight of your tour is a visit to the floating island of Uros, where many of the inhabitants still practice the old traditions of fishing, trapping birds, weaving and sailing in boats and living in houses made of totora reeds which grow abundantly in the lake.
Continue to Taquile, the largest island on the Peruvian side of the lake. Taquileños, the Island locals, are famous for their beautiful woven goods, widely regarded as some of the highest quality handicrafts in Peru. Here, you'll also be able to take in breathtaking views of the lake, which looks like an ocean surrounded by mountains. Return to Puno this afternoon. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 8: Depart Peru/Arrive Quito, Ecuador. After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Ecuador, via Lima. Arrive in Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site whose elevation gives it a wonderful springlike climate despite being very close to the Equator. Your guide will greet you upon arrival and escort you to your centrally located hotel for check-in. Accommodations: Hilton Colón or similar. Breakfast provided.
Day 9: Quito. This morning, enjoy a panoramic city tour of Quito. Arguably one of the loveliest of South American cities, Quito enjoys a spectacular setting surrounded by mountains and several snow-capped volcanoes, including the still-active Mt. Pichincha.
The real beauty of Quito is in its wonderful Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you'll find blocks of colonial architecture, some of it dating from the mid-1500s when the Spanish founded the city. Before the Spanish arrived, Quito was an important Inca settlement, and before the Inca, other tribes lived at the site. Vintage facades line the streets and large open plazas are surrounded by cathedrals and stately public buildings. Even more breathtaking are the interiors of some of the buildings, particularly the churches, many of which gleam with real gold leaf.
Begin your walking tour at Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, Municipal Building and the Archbishops’ Palace. The next stop, La Compañía de Jesús, has an ornate and richly sculptured facade and interior, with colored columns, 10-sided altars, and gilded balconies. Several of its most precious treasures, including a painting of the Virgin Dolorosa framed in emeralds and gold, are kept in the vault of the Banco Central del Ecuador and appear only at special festivals. Continue to the Monastery of San Francisco, built in the 16th century and Quito's oldest church, which is an exact replica of the Escorial Palace of Madrid.
Next, drive 16 miles north of Quito to the Equatorial Monument, the Mitad del Mundo ("Middle of the World"), where you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere straddling latitude 0º. Visit the Ethnographic Museum inside the monument, which depicts the different Native American groups living in Ecuador. Then, stroll through the colonial-style town, complete with main square, church, post office and bullring. Breakfast provided.
Day 10: Quito, Galapagos Cruise: San Cristobal & Punta Pitt. Transfer to the airport for your flight to San Cristobal Island, gateway to the Galapagos Islands to begin your adventure. Upon arrival, transfer to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to board your first-class cruise ship, the M/V Santa Cruz, your home for the next 4 nights. Settle into your cabin, and enjoy an introductory briefing and lunch.
In the afternoon, disembark on the eastern tip of the island at Punta Pitt, an eroded tuff cone, and walk along the trail with spectacular views of the shoreline. This is the only site in the Galapagos where the three species of boobies can be found together, and you may be lucky enough to view all three! After a walk along the trail, weather permitting, there will be a chance to swim from the beach or snorkel at the nearby islets. Accommodations: M/V Santa Cruz. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 11: Galapagos Cruise: Sante Fe Island & South Plaza Island. After breakfast, take a dinghy to Sante Fe Island, where you'll find an idyllic sandy white beach populated by many sea lion harems. The endemic land iguana, unique to this island, may be spotted during the morning walk amid the giant prickly pear cactus. Here, you may snorkel and swimming from the beach, or explore the water from a glass-bottomed boat.
After lunch on board and a chance to rest, disembark in the South Plaza Island channel, whose turquoise waters contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. A carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents serves as ground cover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus. You may see yellow-grey land iguanas patiently waiting for pears to drop. Along the coastline you may find sea lion colonies, while frigates, swallow-tailed gulls, and shearwaters glide above, playing with the thermals. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 12: Galapagos Cruise: Santa Cruz, Puerto Ayora & Darwin Research Station. In the morning, disembark (dry landing) to visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoises within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest, also home to many land birds. The Research Station is the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Later, board our transport to travel to the cooler highlands of the island, a completely different ecosystem, to enjoy lunch.
This afternoon, there are several options to choose from, which can be discussed in advance with your Expedition Leader:
1) Trek along trails amid the miconia forests in the highlands, home to many elusive birds including the dark-rumped petrel.
2) Mountain bike (mostly downhill) to Garrapatero Beach.
3) Sea kayak and relax on a beautiful, sandy beach.
4) Experience sustainable agriculture at an organic coffee plantation.
At the end of the afternoon’s activities, return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the M/V Santa Cruz. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 13: Galapagos Cruise: Española (or Hood) Island, Punta Suarez & Gardner Bay. This morning, enjoy an exciting walk at Punta Suarez, to see its colonies of unique sea birds, including waved albatrosses (April-December), Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, and swallow-tail gulls. You'll also see the famous Galapagos "blow-hole," and keep an eye out for the famous marine iguanas with their interesting red, green and black coloration. Return to the ship for lunch on board.
In the afternoon, the picturesque white coral beach of Gardner Bay provides a beautiful setting for observing sea lions, mockingbirds, and finches. Enjoy an opportunity to snorkel or a ride aboard a glass-bottomed boat. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 14: Galapagos Cruise, Baltra Island & Quito. Your cruise comes to an end as you disembark at Baltra Island and transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Accommodations: Hilton Colón or similar. Breakfast provided.
Day 15: Quito, Otavalo, & Departure. This morning, check out from your hotel and then set out on the Panamerican Highway to Otavalo. After driving through dramatic Andean scenery, arrive at the famous Indian fair and the textile market of Otavalo, undoubtedly one of the best in all of Latin America.
The beauty of Otavalo lies in its people, the Otavaleño Indians. Unlike other indigenous groups who have given up their traditional dress for modern jeans and t-shirts, Otavaleños are true to their ancestral cultural heritage, and are still easily identified by their distinctive dress. Women wear intricately embroidered blouses and a wealth of beaded necklaces, while men have long, braided hair and wear calf-length white trousers, ponchos and sandals. Stroll by their many stalls filled with ponchos, scarves, blankets, hats, handbags and more, and observe as the Otavaleños barter in silence.
Then proceed to Peguche, a nearby Indian village, where local artisans weave in their homes and learn about their culture and everyday life.
Later, return to Quito for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 16: Arrive USA. Your exciting South American adventure ends as you touch down in Miami today.
Take advantage of your already-included international airfare by joining our pre-tour extension to Paracas, Peru for a special opportunity to visit the Nazca Lines, one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world! Passengers taking the Nazca Lines Extension will depart the U.S. 3 days before the departure dates listed and join the main tour on Day 1 of the itinerary above.
Day 1: USA/Lima. Your exciting journey to Peru begins today as you depart on your flight bound for Lima, Peru's diverse capital city, Lima, "City of the Kings." Upon arrival, after customs formalities, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Accommodations: Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores.
Day 2: Lima & Paracas. After a leisurely breakfast, depart mid-morning for Paracas, taking the Pan-American Highway south along the Pacific coast. Upon arrival, check into your hotel. The rest of the day is yours to explore the town of Paracas or enjoy the amenities of your seaside resort. Accommodations: Hacienda Bahia Paracas. Breakfast provided.
Day 3: Nazca Lines & Paracas. This morning transfer to the Pisco airport for a breathtaking flight over the famous Nazca Lines, one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world. Debate surrounds the origin, function, and creators of these large-scale geoglyphs. However, consensus exists on at least two characteristics of these designs-that they are pre-Inca, and that they are fascinating. Ranging in size from about 300ft to several miles in length, these designs depict not only abstract geometrical figures, but also different plants and animals, such as fish, hummingbirds, and condors. Because of their large size, the designs are best viewed from above. You'll have the opportunity to experience this superb vantage point on a small plane that flies over the Nazca Lines. After this unforgettable experience, return to Paracas for overnight. (The Nazca Lines flight is subject to weather conditions.) Breakfast provided.
Day 4: Ballestas Islands, Paracas & Lima. This morning transfer to Paracas Bay port to board your boat to the Ballestas Islands. As you sail, be on the lookout for the strange cactus-like engraving on the sand cliffs, believed to be created by the designers of the Nazca Lines. Sail along the coast of the Paracas National Reserve, the best shorebird sanctuary in South America. Numerous species of birds (cormorants, gannets, gulls, terns, pelicans, Humboldt penguins and other species), as well as a large colony of sea lions, populate these islands. (The Ballestas Islands boat excursion is subject to weather conditions.)
This afternoon, return to Lima in preparation for the next exciting leg of your journey. (See Day 1 of the tour itinerary above for the continuation of your touring program). Accommodations: Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores. Breakfast provided.
Dry landing: guests step from a dinghy onto rocks or a dock.
Wet landing: as a dinghy edges onto a sandy beach, guests step into knee-deep water and wade ashore.