Day 1 ARRIVE QUITO, ECUADOR.
Arrive in Quito, where you will be met by your Local Host.
Day 2 QUITO.
Your PRIVATE 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.
Day 3 QUITO–BALTRA–NORTH SEYMOUR–SANTA CRUZ.
Fly to Baltra in the Galápagos. Upon arrival, board a yacht bound for NORTH SEYMOUR, an island teeming with life. You might have to give way to a passing sea lion, marine iguana, or blue-footed boobies that nest here. As you walk along the shore, see large flocks of pelicans in a dive-bomb feeding-frenzy, and one of the largest nesting sites in the Galápagos of the magnificent frigatebird. In the bushes you can see the males up close with their puffed-up scarlet throat sacks. Return to the yacht and begin your journey to the Finch Bay Hotel. (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 beachfront access. All rooms offer twin beds, private restroom, and air-conditioning. Guests will enjoy boat excursions to various Galápagos Islands, kayaking, snorkeling, bicycle rides in town, and viewing the local flora and fauna._
Day 4 SANTA CRUZ. EXCURSION TO THE HIGHLANDS.
Transfer to the lush highlands of SANTA CRUZ to a farming area called El Manzanillo on the edge of the GIANT TORTOISE RESERVE. Here, tortoises can be seen grazing year-round, along with woodpecker finches, mockingbirds, and flycatchers. After lunch, visit a local FARM where coffee, sugar cane, and cocoa beans are grown, harvested, and prepared. Return to the hotel and perhaps spend time on the beach.
Day 5 SANTA CRUZ. EXCURSION TO SANTA FÉ.
Board a yacht bound for 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.
Day 6 SANTA CRUZ. EXCURSION TO DIVINE BAY.
Today’s adventure takes you to wildlife rich DIVINE BAY on Santa Cruz Island. Marine Iguanas, herons, noddy terns, blue-footed boobies, and tropicbirds are commonly seen here. While some may choose to explore by boat, the more adventurous can take to the sea by kayak. Keep an eye out for sea turtles, rays, and reef sharks as you cruise the tranquil waters. Return to the hotel for lunch, followed by an afternoon visit to the CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION, established to help conserve the Galápagos’ natural habitats and protect the area’s famous giant tortoises.
Day 7 SANTA CRUZ–BALTRA–GUAYAQUIL–LIMA, PERU.
This morning, depart the hotel and visit the TWIN PIT CRATERS, great depressions of volcanic material. Then, fly to Lima.
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.
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, amphitheater of KENKO, and the Red Fortress of PUCA PUCARA.
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.
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.
Day 12 MACHU PICCHU–CUSCO.
A morning at leisure allows you to wake up early to see the sunrise over MACHU PICCHU with your included second entrance to the ruins. 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.
Day 13 CUSCO–AREQUIPA.
Fly to Arequipa in the Chili River Valley and flanked by three snowcapped volcanoes: Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu. Known as the “white city,” Arequipa definitely does justice to its nickname, as its buildings are made of sillar, a white volcanic rock found throughout the area. The stone embellishes the facades of the city’s homes and churches. Upon arrival, a private city TOUR of Arequipa shows off the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral before visiting the Jesuit CHURCH, considered the best example of the mestizo-baroque style. Continue to the residential districts of Yanahuara and Chilina, where you enjoy a magnificent view of Arequipa’s countryside and the Mount Misti volcano.
Day 14 AREQUIPA–COLCA CANYON.
Depart for Colca Valley. Drive across Pampa Cañahuas within the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, the habitat of vicuñas and a variety of birds. Admire beautiful pre-Columbian terraces still being cultivated by native Collaguas. Stop for lunch in the town of Chivay. This afternoon, relax at LA CALERA hot springs.
Day 15 COLCA CANYON.
Today is free for independent exploration. Colca Canyon is an impressive geological formation carved out by the river as it descended between the mountains (made of largely volcanic materials) over millions of years. More than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world. Observe the spectacular terracing, considered among the most extensive in southern Peru. These terraces, which allow cultivation and meticulously controlled irrigation of the steep slopes of the canyon, were built by Collagua and Cabana ethnic groups between the 9th and 14th centuries.
Day 16 COLCA CANYON–AREQUIPA.
Proceed to CONDOR’S CROSS, an observation point where you have the possibility of observing the flight of the condor in its native habitat. From here, also enjoy the impressive COLCA CANYON panorama. Next, visit the towns of Yanque, Maca, Achoma, and Pinchollo. In the afternoon, return to Arequipa.
Day 17 AREQUIPA–LIMA.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Lima.
Day 18 LIMA.
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning.