Tour Begins: Belmond Miraflores Park. A transfer is included from Jorge Chavez International Airport to the Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel, an elegant urban retreat set in a garden on dramatic cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Your five-star hotel is in the exclusive Miraflores district where colonial architecture, superb museums and glamorous shops, bars and restaurants are just moments away; within historic Miraflores are the ruins of a pre-Incan temple, one of several archaeological sites in the city.
Explore colonial Lima & meet Peruvian Pasos
This morning you'll visit the Larco Herrera Museum, featuring pre-Colombian treasures and artifacts. Housed in an 18th-century vice-royal palace, the museum's exhibits include ancient Peruvian jewelry, crowns, garments, masks, and pottery, and a gallery that offers a comprehensive view of cultures that existed in Peru for thousands of years before the arrival of Spanish settlers. After lunch, drive to a hacienda in Mamacona where you'll enjoy a performance of folk dancing and horsemanship featuring Paso horses, a breed famous for its smooth, elegant gait and athletic dancing ability. Return to your hotel for time at leisure, and then embark on a tour of local sights, including a visit to San Pedro Church, richly ornamented with gold, Moorish-style carvings, and paintings by Bernardo Bitti, an 18th-century Italian master. Join us tonight for a cocktail reception and dinner at Casa de Aliaga, the oldest colonial mansion in Lima.
The Sacred Valley and the Incas
Fly to Cusco, high in the Peruvian Andes, and drive through the Sacred Valley of the Incas en route to your Macchu Picchu tours. The valley is a stunning landscape of verdant farmlands, villages, and ancient ruins amid cloud forests, terraced hills, and towering mountain ranges. Enjoy lunch at a family-owned restaurant for a taste of regional cuisine before arriving at your hotel in Ollantaytambo, in the foothills of snow-capped peaks. The hotel is built to resemble an Andean village along a bank of the Urubamba River, in a tranquil setting of gardens and streams that echo Incan water channels. Nearby you'll explore the ruins of an Incan fortress containing a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, adobe houses, aqueducts, and the remains of a stone temple, the best example of Incan urban design in existence. This evening at the hotel, dinner is preceded by a performance of Andean music and dance.
By rail & land to mysterious Machu Picchu
Set out for Machu Picchu this morning by way of a scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes. The village is a former railroad camp in a gorge surrounded by cliffs and cloud forests, the closest access point to the mountaintop ruins. From here you'll ride up a winding mountain road of hairpin turns to reach the "lost citadel," steeped in legend and mystery. Its purpose and original name are unknown; when Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, he followed the directions he was given to the place beside the Old Mountain (Machu Picchu), which was the name he gave it. Guided by a local expert, tour this mystical complex of giant walls, stone terraces, steps, ramps, and astronomically aligned structures, described by UNESCO as "the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height," surrounded by breathtaking mountain landscapes. After the guided tour enjoy free time to explore on your own.
Machu Picchu and on to Cusco
You have a choice this morning of a second Machu Picchu tour, an early-guided walk through the citadel, or sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Return to Ollantaytambo by train, and then drive to Koricancha, site of what was once the most revered temple in the Sacred Valley. The name Koricancha ("place of gold") understates the sun temple the Conquistadors found here, which one colonist described as "opulence beyond belief." The Spaniards looted and demolished it and built the Church of Santo Domingo in its place, but incorporated some of the original stonework so the remains of the temple surround an inner courtyard of the convent. Continue on to your hotel in Cusco where dinner tonight is a la carte, at your leisure.
Sacsayhuaman, alpacas and Cusco
Discover Sacsayhuaman, a mountaintop Incan fortress overlooking Cusco, originally built by the Killkes, who preceded the Incas. Behind rows of massive stonewalls its plan centers around a giant solar calendar and includes citadels, cisterns, baths, and underground chambers. Drive to an alpaca breeding center in Awanakancha, and see a demonstration of traditional Peruvian weaving methods. Then return to Cusco for a visit to Cusco Cathedral, built in 1560, famed for its silver artifacts, its shrine of the black crucifix, and an 18th century painting of the Last Supper that integrates figures from Andean mythology. The afternoon and evening are free for you to explore the town and dine on your own. Your hotel is located in the heart of Cusco and close to the town's best attractions.
A day in Guayaquil, Ecuador
An early morning flight to Lima is followed by a flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador to begin your journey of exploration in the Galápagos Islands. Arrive at your hotel close to the Rio Guaya; Guayaquil is Ecuador's largest city and your hotel is located on the main thoroughfare in the business district, close to the historic barrio of Las Penas, rich in colorful colonial architecture and ambiance.
Fly to the Galápagos and cruise to Daphne Major
From Guayaquil, fly to Baltra Island, 600 miles off the Ecuadorian coast - the starting point of your 7-night Galápagos cruise aboard the expeditionary-style yacht, Silver Galapagos. After boarding the ship, an orientation briefing and lunch begin the afternoon. Then head out on a cruise around Daphne Major, a volcanic island devoid of trees, where only scientists are permitted to land. From the deck of the ship you can observe the island's bird population, which includes Nazca and blue-footed boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, brown noddies, brown pelicans, swallow-tailed gulls, and frigatebirds. Join us for the Captain's welcome reception followed by dinner.
A day on Genovesa Island
Take a panga* to Genovesa (Tower Island), a horseshoe-shaped volcanic island whose submerged crater is actually Darwin Bay. Genovesa is also known as "Bird Island" for its extraordinary avian population; the bay is home to the world's largest red-footed booby nesting colonies, the cliffs harbor seabirds that include swallow-tailed gulls, the only nocturnal gull species in the world; storm petrels swoop from the heights, and short-eared owls hunt the petrels; yellow-tailed night herons fish the tidal lagoons. Climb Prince Philip's Steps, a steep path named for the British prince who visited in 1965, and observe frigatebirds with their fiery red sacs, and the nesting grounds of Nazca boobies (also known as Masked boobies). You have an opportunity this afternoon to take a kayak adventure on Darwin Bay, enjoy the beach, or snorkel in the caldera. Back on board ship, enjoy a cocktail hour prior to dinner.
Intriguing wildlife & lava on Santiago Island
Visit North Seymour Island, formed by the uplifts of undersea lava. The plateaus are home to thousands of iguanas, blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, common noddies, and frigatebirds. This afternoon you'll head to Santiago Island for a wet landing at Sullivan Bay - then it's your choice. Take a coastal walk over tuff layers and black lava flows; the island and its settlement, Puerto Egas, was once a stopping place for whalers and buccaneers, and the pigs and goats they introduced wreaked havoc on the ecosystem for many years. Alternatively, enjoy the sandy beach where snorkeling may reveal eagle rays or sea turtles who come to lay their eggs.
Discover Rabida Island and Eden Island
Rabida Island boasts red cliffs, maroon beaches, and green Palo Santo trees, a breathtaking landscape against the turquoise sea. Hike for a look at the island's rich population of Darwin finches, lava lizards, Galápagos mockingbirds, brown pelicans, and Galápagos hawks. Sea lions snooze on the beach, and beyond the beach is a saltwater lagoon frequented by flamingos, pintail ducks, and common stilts. If you wish, snorkeling here reveals a vibrant undersea landscape of reef sharks, marine iguanas, colorful anemonies, and parrotfish. There is no landing at Eden Island but you have a choice of exploring by kayak or taking a scenic tour of mangrove forests and rocky beaches that feature lava gulls, frigatebirds, and striated herons, land iguanas and sea lions aboard a Zodiac. After dinner this evening, cruise along Fernandina Island, a refuge for flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins, and fur seals.
San Cristobal Island explorations
San Cristobal, created by the fusing of multiple volcanoes, is known for its giant tortoise habitat. This morning you'll visit La Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado, a station where tortoises are bred and raised as part of a conservation program to maintain and protect the population. At Punta Pitt you'll have a chance to see all three species of boobies - Nazca, blue-footed, and red-footed - as well as Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds, in colorful dramatic seascapes as well as Chatham and San Cristobal lava lizards. After a wet landing on an olivine beach where sea lions often repose, climb up a ravine for a stunning panoramic view of the island archipelago. Back on board ship this evening a cocktail hour precedes dinner.
Bahia Gardner and Punta Suarez on Española Island
Go ashore at Gardner Bay on Española, also known as Hood Island, where there are extensive nesting grounds for Waved Albatrosses and sea turtles, and a sea lion colony. Get a close up look at sea lions who love to bask and sleep on the glorious white sand beach, careless of the presence of humans. The bay and inlets provide swimming and kayaking opportunities today. At Punta Suarez, on the island's western point, sheer cliffs provide thermal currents on which seabirds soar; Galápagos Hawks, cactus finches, and Hood Mockingbirds, the only carnivorous members of the species, may be seen here. Waves crash against the rocky coast and a blowhole sends water spouts skyward, 75 feet high. This evening join us for a farewell cocktail reception followed by dinner.
Santa Cruz... tortoises and more
Keep a lookout for dolphins and whales en route to Santa Cruz, a large dormant volcano. At Puerto Ayora you'll visit the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center where Dome-shaped and Galápagos Saddle-backed tortoises are cared for and returned to the wild; the center also features an exhibit on the Galápagos Land Iguana which you'll find useful for your next stop, South Plaza, where the main attraction is a colony of Galápagos Land Iguanas. The landscape here is colored with giant prickly pear cacti and red sasuvium plan, and alive with a nesting colony of Swallow-tailed Gulls. Return to your fabulous ship for your final night in the Galápagos.
Return to Guayaquil
Your Galapagos Islands journey ends today as you disembark ship this morning at Itabaca on Baltra Island, then fly to Guayaquil where your room is waiting at the Oro Verde Hotel Guayaquil. The remainder of the afternoon is spent as you please; we invite you to join us this evening for a farewell reception and dinner at the hotel.
Tour ends: Guayaquil. A transfer is included from the Oro Verde Guayaquil to Guayaquil International Airport; please allow three hours for flight check-in.