Day 1 ARRIVE QUITO, ECUADOR.
Arrive in Quito, where you will be met by your Local Host.
Day 2 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.
Day 3 QUITO–BALTRA (EMBARKATION)–GALÁPAGOS CRUISING: SANTA CRUZ ISLAND.
Fly to the Galápagos Islands and board the Santa Cruz II. Visit Las Bachas on SANTA CRUZ ISLAND, an important nesting area for the East Pacific green sea turtle. See brackish lagoons just steps away from the sea, a feeding ground for various wading birds—from stilts to flamingos.
Day 4 CRUISING: SANTIAGO ISLAND.
Arrive at Buccaneer Cove on SANTIAGO ISLAND to explore the dramatic coastline inhabited by a large number of marine birds, sea lions, and inter-tidal organisms. You will also have the opportunity to snorkel and take a ride on the panga or the glass-bottom boat. Later, at Puerto Egas, known for its black-sand beach, tuff-stone layers and lava flows, see land and marine birds, as well as a colony of fur sea lions, marine iguanas, and marine turtles.
Day 5 CRUISING: RÁBIDA & BARTOLOMÉ ISLANDS.
On RÁBIDA ISLAND with its red-colored beach, caused by the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material, your Naturalist points out large colonies of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers, and several species of Darwin’s finches. Very close to the beach, a salt pond occasionally hosts American flamingos. Snorkel from the beach to see the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. At BARTOLOMÉ ISLAND, hike to the summit for a stunning view of Pinnacle Rock. Take a snorkel or a ride on the glass-bottom boat and possibly see Galápagos penguins in tropical waters!
Day 6 CRUISING: GENOVESA ISLAND.
On GENOVESA ISLAND, take a walk up Prince Phillip’s Steps as your Naturalist reveals large colonies of masked boobies, blue and red-footed boobies, frigatebirds, storm petrels, and short-eared owls. In the afternoon, disembark on a beautiful beach at Darwin Bay to observe frigatebirds, red-footed and masked boobies, herons, finches, and mockingbirds. Return to the beach for snorkeling, kayaking, and swimming.
Day 7 SANTA CRUZ (DISEMBARKATION)–BALTRA–QUITO–LIMA, PERU.
Disembark at the north shore of SANTA CRUZ ISLAND for a visit to a TORTOISE RESERVE in the highlands. Here, you will see and learn about the Giant Galápagos Tortoises living in the wild and what is being done to help preserve these ancient creatures. Later, fly to Lima, Peru.
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 to 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, where you can buy handmade rugs, alpaca sweaters, and jewelry at bargain prices. Later, visit OLLANTAYTAMBO and see some of the finest examples of Inca masonry.
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–SACRED VALLEY–CUSCO.
A morning at leisure 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.
Day 13 CUSCO–LIMA.
Fly to Lima, where the remainder of the day is at your leisure.
Day 14 LIMA–PISCO–NAZCA LINES–PARACAS.
Enjoy a scenic drive south along the Pan-American Highway to Pisco, the wine capital of Peru. Have your camera handy today as you board your aircraft for a FLIGHT over the Nazca plains, which can only be appreciated by air. Your pilot will point out the mysterious markings known as the Nazca Lines, a series of drawings of animals and geometric figures etched into the parched soil—some up to 1,000 feet long! Theories vary, but the most accepted belongs to German mathematician Maria Reiche, who dubbed the land the “astronomical calendar” of the ancient Peruvians.
Day 15 PARACAS–BALLESTAS ISLANDS–LIMA.
Head north to the Bay of Paracas. CRUISE out to the Ballestas Islands, which are inhabited by a wide variety of sea mammals and exotic birds, including boobies, sea lions, and Humboldt penguins. The huge Candelabro, an unexplained candelabra-shaped etching on the Paracas cliffside, can also be seen as you cruise back to shore. Later, return to Lima.
Day 16 LIMA.
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning.