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.
The Sacred Valley & Peruvian Pasos
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.
The “Lost City” of Machu Picchu
Head for Machu Picchu this morning, stopping first at the town and archeaological 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.
Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman, Awanacancha & Cusco
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.
Curious Cusco or highlands discoveries
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 bartering system in which townspeople gather in the main square to trade their products; with 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.
Guayaquil, a Gateway to Cruising
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 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 the ship, an orientation briefing will include information on daily excursions ashore*, which may include wet landings on sandy or rocky beaches and wading ashore in shallow water. Enjoy free time in San Cristóbal, perhaps visiting the San Cristóbal Interpretation Center. Back onboard, 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 at Darwin Bay 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, on the Galápagos cruise portion of Tauck's Peru tours, 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. After a wet landing 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, make a wet landing and 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; after a stop at Santa Cruz to visit Los Gemelos (twin collapsed volcanic lava domes that resemble craters) and perhaps see giant tortoises in the highlands, 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.