Day 1 ARRIVE IN SALVADOR, BRAZIL.
Welcome to Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia. Situated on a peninsula overlooking Todos los Santos Bay, this is thought by many to be the “Soul of Brazil.” Here you will be met by your Local Host.
Day 2 SALVADOR.
Private guided SIGHTSEEING showcases the Upper City. View the district’s well-preserved 17th and 18th-century buildings, representing some of the finest colonial architecture in all of the Americas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the 17th-century Jesuit CATHEDRAL; the baroque CHURCH OF ST. FRANCIS; and the AFRO-BRAZILIAN MUSEUM, housing objects highlighting the strong African influence on the Brazilian culture. The balance of your day is free to explore. (B)
Day 3 SALVADOR–RIO DE JANEIRO.
This morning, possibly visit the Mercado Modelo, a must for securing wonderful souvenirs and experiencing the true Bahian life. Later, transfer to the airport for your flight to Rio de Janeiro, South America’s capital of glamour! Your Local Host will be available with suggested activities during your free time. (B)
Day 4 RIO DE JANEIRO.
Today, a private tour takes you to the Cosme Velho district, where you board a cog-wheel train that will take you through the lush tropical vegetation of Tijuca Forest to the top of CORCOVADO Mountain. This rounded peak rising 2,300 feet from the bay below is one of the new Seven Modern Wonders of the World and home to the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer. Enjoy a breathtaking 360-degree panorama, which affords sweeping views of the city and beaches below. The afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B)
Day 5 RIO DE JANEIRO.
Enjoy a full day at leisure. Your Local Host will suggest an optional Jeep tour to the rainforest in the middle of the city, Tijuca National Park and its bird sanctuary. This afternoon you may elect to discover historic Petropolis, a mountain resort and site of the former summer palace of Emperor Dom Pedro II, or take an optional excursion to visit the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain. (B)
Day 6 RIO–IGUASSU FALLS.
Fly to IGUASSU FALLS. This masterpiece of nature encompasses 275 separate falls and spans almost two miles. This afternoon’s private tour is dedicated to enjoying the spectacle of this 2-mile-wide torrential downpour from the Brazilian side. (B)
Day 7 IGUASSU FALLS.
This morning, take the ECOLOGICAL JUNGLE TRAIN and tour the Argentine side of IGUASSU FALLS with numerous walkways that wind under the crashing water. (B)
Day 8 IGUASSU FALLS–BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA.
Fly to Buenos Aires, proud capital of the vast country that occupies most of the southern part of the continent. After arriving at your central hotel you will have time to become acquainted with the “Paris of South America” and its wide boulevards and outdoor cafés. Enjoy an evening at leisure. (B)
Day 9 BUENOS AIRES.
A private sightseeing TOUR this morning starts in the colorful La Boca district, site of the city’s first port. Take a short walking tour of this unique neighborhood, then on to San Telmo, famous for its late-colonial buildings and a popular gathering spot for artists. At the Plaza de Mayo, see La Casa Rosada (the President’s Pink House) and the Metropolitan Cathedral, which houses San Martin’s Mausoleum. Drive past the ornate Colon Opera House before reaching the CEMETERY of the Recoleta, burial site of Eva Peron. This evening, perhaps savor the city’s atmosphere on an optional dinner at a local restaurant, followed by a performance of Latin America’s most sensuous dance—the Tango! (B)
Day 10 BUENOS AIRES.
Today is at leisure. Your Local Host will suggest an optional excursion to the Pampas. Experience Argentine country life as you visit an estancia (ranch). Get acquainted with the lifestyle of the gauchos and enjoy a barbecue lunch and the warm hospitality of your hosts before returning to the city. (B)
Day 11 BUENOS AIRES–LIMA, PERU.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Lima, where you will be met by your Local Host. (B)
Day 12 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 13 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 14 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 15 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 16 MACHU PICCHU–CUSCO.
A morning at leisure in Machu Picchu allows you to wake up early to see the sunrise over MACHU PICCHU with your second included 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. (B)
Day 17 CUSCO–LIMA.
Fly to Lima, where the remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B)
Day 18 LIMA–QUITO, ECUADOR
. Fly to Quito, where you will be met by your Local Host. (B)
Day 19 QUITO.
Your included 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. (B)
Day 20 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 frigate bird.” 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 21 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. (B,L,D)
Day 22 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. (B,L,D)
Day 23 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. (B,L,D)
Day 24 SANTA CRUZ–BALTRA–GUAYAQUIL.
Depart the hotel this morning and visit the TWIN PIT CRATERS en route to Baltra. These great depressions of volcanic material were formed by a long process of slow sinking of the ground, where exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses, and orchids can be seen in the surroundings. Then, fly to Guayaquil on Ecuador’s Pacific coast and transfer to the hotel for your final night in Ecuador. (B)
Day 25 GUAYAQUIL.
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)