Tour begins: Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel. A transfer is included from Lima's Jorge Chavez Int'l Airport to Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel.
Eclectic Culture in Lima
See pre-Columbian works of gold and silver from ancient Peru at the renowned Museo Larco; the museum is housed in an 18th-century colonial mansion built over a 7th-century pyramid. Head outside Lima to a hacienda where gracefully gaited Paso horses are bred and trained. Lima sightseeing continues with a visit to San Pedro Church (time permitting), where brilliant gold-leafed altars and colonial paintings live up to its onetime status as the church of the city's aristocracy. Join us tonight for a welcome cocktail reception and dinner.
Enter the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Take an early flight to Cusco, and travel into El Valle Sagrado, the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Explore the remains of the great fortress of Ollantaytambo, a well-preserved Inca settlement and stronghold, today a National Archaeological Park. Savor spectacular views of the enchanted Sacred Valley landscapes surrounding your eco-friendly hotel.
The "Lost City" of Machu Picchu
Walk the traditional canchas (blocks) of Ollantaytambo town; enter through a stone doorway leading to homes sharing a central courtyard. Next, complete your journey by rail then overland in the Andes to magical Machu Picchu. Nestled atop a 7,000-ft.-high mountain, and far from the nearest villages, it is theorized that the ruins may have served as a retreat for the elite of the Incan Empire. A sophisticated alignment of form, function and mountain slope make the site breathtaking, even without consideration of its cloud-level height. You'll have a different perspective of the Andes Mountains during your one-night stay at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, located close to the entrance.
Sites of a Sacred Valley & Cusco
Rise early for a return look at the ruins, made easy by the unique location of your lodge, before the return drive to Aguas Calientes. Visit the town's market, then board a train bound for Ollantaytambo (and on to Urubamba) to visit the ancient site of Korikancha. Meaning "courtyard of gold," it was once a sumptuous Incan temple and observatory complex.
Colonial Cusco & an Incan Fortress
Your trip continues with sightseeing in and around Cusco, once the center of the ancient, sophisticated Inca empire - and later a Spanish colonial city built atop the ruins of the original Incan capital. This morning, visit the remains of the nearby Incan fortress of Sacsayhuamán (Satisfied Falcon), constructed from massive blocks of stone fit expertly together without the use of mortar; how the blocks were cut, moved and placed without the assistance of devices or motors has long been subject to theories of enchantment and giants. Then enjoy an in-depth look at centuries-old local traditions with a weaving demonstration at a traditional farm where llamas and alpacas are raised. In Cusco itself, visit the city's Baroque cathedral - considered one of the most splendid Spanish colonial churches in America for the quality of its paintings and carvings, incorporating imagery from the Incan culture, such as the pumas carved on its enormous doors. Also view Plaza de Armas, a large square that was the center of the ancient city, as well as whitewashed, tiled-roof colonial buildings and cobbled streets dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, reflecting the city's Spanish colonial heritage. Spend the rest of the day at leisure, exploring more of the city as you wish.
Guayaquil, a Gateway to Cruising
Fly to Lima, then on to Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and commercial hub; overnight in the downtown business district of this major port city, featuring a pleasant tropical climate, at Oro Verde Guayaquil.
Cruising Begins in the Galápagos
From Guayaquil, fly to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island, 600 miles off the Ecuadorian coast and home to wildlife found nowhere else in the world - the starting point of your 6-night Galápagos cruise aboard Tauck's comfortable expeditionary-style yacht, Isabela II, topped by an observation deck. After boarding ship, an orientation briefing and lunch begin the afternoon. Then head out for a dry landing at Puerto Baquierizo Moreno to board a bus that takes you to the Cerro Colorado reserve, where efforts are under way to preserve and breed endangered giant tortoises. These fascinating and long-lived creatures can weigh up to 500+ pounds, but are dwindling in numbers. Back on ship, relax with a welcome cocktail, be briefed on tomorrow's activities and enjoy dinner aboard ship.
Wet & Dry Landings / Isla Genovesa
A morning panga* ride along the cliffs of Genovesa (Tower) Island stops for a dry landing on the rocks of Prince Philip's Steps. It's your choice: continue exploring by panga or join us for a climb of about 90 ft. up rock-hewn steps. Once at the top, a walk of across flat land brings remarkable views. Among the bird colonies that live here are Nazca and red-footed boobies, great frigate birds, storm petrels, lava and swallow-tailed gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds. Snorkeling* or kayaking* are available. After lunch, a wet landing on the island leads to an easy stroll. You can continue walking with our naturalist over over sharp lava and uneven terrain for the reward of dramatic views, or if you prefer, return to the beach for swimming or snorkeling.
Buccaneers Cove on Santiago Island
Climb aboard a panga this morning to explore Buccaneers' Cove on Santiago Island; back in the 17th and 18th centuries, the cove was known as favored stashing grounds for pirated gold and other booty. When you visit Buccaneers Cove today, however, the treasures you'll find are the natural kind: marine birds, anemones, barnacles and sea stars, marine iguanas and fur seals. This afternoon, join us for a wet landing at Puerto Egas, where a walk along the coastline lets you experience the porous texture of tuff stone and rocky lava flows, formed long ago by volcanic activity. Afterward, enjoy a refreshing swim on the beach.
Royal views on Islas Isabela & Fernandina
Today, Isabela II makes her way to Isabela and Fernandina, the youngest of the Galápagos Islands (they're only about 5 to 10 million years old). The day begins on Isabela Island with a guided mile-long walk from Punta Espinoza through lava flows. You can expect greetings along the way from the locals, who may include: blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, penguins, martins, terns, marine iguanas and sea lions. Next, take an opportunity to go snorkeling from Fernandina, one of the Galápagos most pristine islands; keep an eye out for Sally Lightfoot Crabs and flightless cormorants. This afternoon, it's off to secluded Tagus Cove on Isabela, a favorite anchorage spot for pirates and whalers in the 19th century. Join us for a hike to view scenic Darwin Lake from above and then explore the volcanic cliffs along the cove on a panga ride. Swimming, snorkeling or kayaking are all options this afternoon.
Isabela Island and volcanic Urbina Bay
In the 1950s, geological activity on Isabela Island caused a mass of land to lift up some 15 ft., leaving the coastline pushed further out to sea and the marine life stranded ashore. At Urbina Bay, walk across terrain that was once the ocean floor - treading carefully around delicate coral and shells. Share the sunshine with sunbathing land iguanas, penguins, Nazca Boobies and flocks of Darwin's finches as you observe coral reef formations with our naturalist. This afternoon, explore by panga off Punta Vicente Roca on northern Isabela Island, known for abundant sea life. Depending on the conditions, snorkeling is possible.
More Wildlife - Rabida & Santa Cruz
Choose an early morning wake-up call this morning if you'd like to join us on the lookout for whales. After breakfast, go exploring along the sandy beach of Rabida (Jervis) Island to spot sea lions, marine iguanas and yellow warblers. Snorkeling here is a pleasure, but another option is a ride by glass bottom boat or kayak. Later, after a dry landing and a trail walk on Cerro Dragon (named after the land iguanas that inhabit the area), you'll find lagoons that are home to stilts, pintail ducks and sandpipers. This evening, join us for farewell cocktails aboard Isabela II and bid farewell to the crew before your final night of sailing.
Return Flight to Guayaquil
Disembark Isabela II in Baltra - an island that served as a secret U.S. military base during WWII - today for your return flight to Guayaquil for another night at Oro Verde Guayaquil; spend some free time at your hotel or perhaps a stroll along the city's waterfront promenade, El Malecon. Tonight, we invite you to share favorite experiences from your Galápagos cruise with your fellow travelers at our farewell cocktail party and dinner.
Tour ends: Guayaquil. A transfer is included from Oro Verde Guayaquil to Guayaquil International Airport. Allow 3 hours for check-in.