Where the timeless natural world of the Galápagos Islands combines with exploration of the ancient empire of the Incas...
Unravel the mysteries of the centuries on a visit to Machu Picchu, the spectacular "Lost City of the Incas" – one of the must-see destinations on any world-traveler's list. Enjoy a six-night cruise aboard one of the finest expeditionary-style yachts in the Galápagos, the Isabela II – where you'll be accompanied by naturalists who inform and inspire with insights into the amazing wildlife including the giant Galápagos tortoises, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, marine iguanas, and penguins. Meet the famed Paso horses on a Peruvian ranch... a weaving demonstration at a local farm... and a scenic rail journey to the gateway to Machu Picchu for an overnight stay next to the ancient Incan site.
Tour begins: Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel. A transfer is included from Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport to the five-star Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel, located in an oceanfront section of Lima – the perfect place to begin one of our most popular Peru tours, paired with a Galápagos cruise.
Eclectic Culture in Lima
Your exploration of Lima begins in the city's Barranco ("cliff") district, known for its historic houses painted in bright colonial colors, and its iconic wooden Puente de los Suspiros ("Bridge of Sighs"). The bohemian heart of the city since the end of the 19th century, it became a favorite haunt of writers, poets, sculptors and painters drawn by its lovely coastal scenery. In Barranco, visit MATE (Museo Mario Testino) – a non-profit institution established in 2012 by acclaimed Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino to develop and promote Peruvian heritage and culture in his hometown. Housed in a restored 1898 colonial mansion, the museum features a permanent exhibition of Testino's photographs, along with temporary exhibits showcasing Peruvian as well as international contemporary art. After lunch at Casa Garcia Alvarado – a restored Art Deco mansion in Lima's Miraflores district – enjoy some free time before visiting one of several surviving colonial period homes in the city's historic center. Later, join us for a welcome cocktail reception and dinner at the Larco Herrera Museum, which features pre-Colombian treasures and artifacts housed in an 18th-century vice-royal palace – including 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 Spanish arrived.
Enter the Sacred Valley of the Incas
A flight to Cusco, high in the Peruvian Andes, leads you to the Sacred Valley of the Incas – a stunning landscape of verdant farmlands, villages, and ancient ruins amid cloud forests, terraced hills, and towering mountain ranges. Enjoy lunch and a performance of folk dancing and horsemanship featuring Peruvian Paso horses – a breed famous for its smooth, elegant gait and athletic dancing ability – at Casa Orihuela in the Sacred Valley. Arrive at your hotel, 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. Dinner at your hotel this evening is preceded by a private performance of Andean music and dance.
Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu
Head for Machu Picchu this morning, stopping first at the town and archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, and its 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. Then board 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.
A Farm, Weavers, & an Incan Fortress
You have a choice this morning of exploring Machu Picchu further on a second tour, taking an early-guided walk through the citadel, or sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. Return to Ollantaytambo by train, and then drive to 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. Also visit an alpaca breeding center in Awanacancha, and see a demonstration of traditional Peruvian weaving methods. Continue on to your hotel in Cusco where dinner tonight is at your leisure.
Your Choice in Cusco
Today choose from two excursions – one to the highlands outside Cusco, visiting several villages and the Maras salt fields; or a tour of southern Cusco and the valley south of the city. The highlands adventure begins with a visit to Chinchero – an authentic Andean village with a colonial church housing a large collection of painting from the Cusqueñan School of Art; a bartering system in which townspeople gather in the main square to trade their products; and lots of character. Next, visit the salt fields of Maras and its seemingly never-ending terraces, where salt has been extracted from springs and stored for local use for centuries, even before the time of the Incas; the variety of colors created by the reflection of the sun’s rays in the salt deposits – and the Incas’ striking ability to generate resources – is impressive. Continue on to the rural community of Mullak’as Misminay – where your local hosts, dressed in their outfits used for special occasions, will greet you with a traditional welcome prior to an agricultural experience, a cooking lesson and a textile demonstration. Should you choose the Cusco tour, you’ll visit the San Pedro Market, a typical mercado offering local produce ranging from fruits, vegetables and meats to hand-woven sweaters other apparel and crafts. Then drive south of Cusco through the South Valley, which runs parallel to the Vilcanota River, to visit three ancient churches along the “Andean Baroque Route”… Andahuaylillas, Huaro and Canicunca. Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening as you wish.
Fly to Guayaquil, Galápagos Gateway
Get set for your Galápagos cruise as you fly back to Lima, then take a connecting flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and the gateway to the Galápagos Islands. 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 Baltra at Santa Cruz, 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 the ship, an orientation briefing and lunch begin the afternoon. Then head out for a wet landing on "Las Bachas Beach" (named for the US military barges, referred to as "bachas," that were beached and abandoned there after WWII) – an important nesting area for the green sea turtle. On a guided hike around a saltwater lagoon today, look for flamingos, pintail ducks, sandpipers and stilts. Back aboard ship, relax with a welcome cocktail, be briefed on tomorrow’s activities and enjoy dinner aboard ship.
Tortoises on San Cristóbal Island
A morning panga* ride takes you to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno; after a short drive to the island's southern shore, visit Cerro Colorado, a breeding center for highly endangered giant tortoises set amidst a deciduous forest that is home to dozens of species of animals including the San Cristóbal mockingbird and lava lizard. After lunch aboard the ship, a wet landing this afternoon takes you to Punta Pitt (for the adventurous, an optional walk over uneven terrain is rewarded with dramatic views of the surrounding landscape). Here is the only place in the Galapagos where the three species of boobies (blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca) can be found together. Weather permitting, you have a choice between swimming, kayaking or snorkeling at the beach or, you can hop onto the panga for a relaxing ride along the coast.
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. Following lunch onboard Isabela II, a mid-afternoon wet landing brings you to Punta Suarez, on the island’s western point, where 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.
Gems of Floreana Island
Today Isabela II makes her way to Floreana Island, the southernmost island within the Galapagos. Board a panga for a wet landing on Punta Cormorant and its radiant green beach, caused by the drifting of Olivine crystals from nearby volcanic sites to the beach's edge over the years. Walk along this rare, global phenomenon as you make your way to the other side of the island, a white sand beach famous for being a nesting point for the local sea turtles. At Champion Islet, you have choice of activities; Snorkeling, a panga ride or a ride in a glass-bottom boat, viewing the beautiful aquatic ecosystem below you! This afternoon, a dry landing takes you to Post Office Bay for a visit to the historic barrel that has served as an informal post office within the archipelago for over two centuries! Enjoy snorkeling off the beach before returning to your ship for the evening.
Explore Isabela & Fernandina
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 underwater marine life stranded ashore. After a wet landing at Punta Moreno, join us for a walk along the rugged trails of the island, a perfect opportunity to view the unique lava formations, lava cacti, scalesia tress and of course, the abundance of wildlife that calls this place home; such as the Galapagos penguins, sea lions, herons, marine iguanas, brown pelicans and Sally Lightfoot crabs. After lunch aboard the ship, board a panga for an adventure along the coastline of Punta Mangle, the archipelago's youngest ecosystem. Filled with tiny bays, tall mangroves and tranquil coves, stay on the lookout for the Galapagos penguins and green-eyed flightless cormorants or the sea turtles and rays gliding beneath the ocean surface. Depending on the conditions of the waters, snorkeling and a glass-bottom boat ride may be possible.
Santa Cruz & North Seymour
This morning, board a panga for a wet landing on Eden Islet. Located off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, this small island (less than 2,000 square feet) is perfect to observe the blue-footed boobies, reef sharks and frigates that inhabit this island. Your Galapagos adventure takes you to North Seymour Island this afternoon for one of the archipelago's hidden gems. Disembark for a walk along the interior of the island, passing by nesting frigatebirds and witness the males display their vibrant, balloon-like red gular sacs (you also have the option to explore the coast by panga). Please join us tonight for a farewell cocktail aboard your ship.
Return Flight to Guayaquil
Disembark Isabela II in Baltra then fly back to Guayaquil for another night at the 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 the Oro Verde Guayaquil to Guayaquil International Airport; allow 3 hours for flight check-in.