Machu Picchu’s enigmatic ruins and the fascinating Galapagos Islands rank among South America’s greatest treasures, and small group touring is the ideal way to experience both. This singular 16-day adventure begins with Lima’s highlights. Traverse the magnificent Sacred Valley, then absorb Machu Picchu’s mystery on two tours. Encounter the history and beauty of Cuzco and Quito – both UNESCO sites. Spending four nights on beautiful Santa Cruz Island, cruise by private yacht with a naturalist guide to observe Galapagos islands’ unique wildlife. Discover the Amazon with an exceptional 4-day/4-night pre-tour option.
Day 1: Depart U.S. for Lima, Peru
We depart today for the Peruvian capital. Upon arrival tonight we transfer directly to our hotel.
Day 2: Lima
This morning we visit a prominent art museum in Lima. Then we encounter colonial Lima on an afternoon tour, followed by a welcome dinner at our hotel. B,D
Day 3: Lima/Cuzco/Sacred Valley
Arriving in Cuzco today, we stop at the important Incan site of Koricancha, dedicated to the Sun God. Then we continue on to Sacred Valley, a region of Inca sites and indigenous villages. We visit the colorful Indian market at Pisac before reaching our hotel late afternoon. B,L,D
Day 4: Sacred Valley
Today we explore Ollantaytambo, both a living town and site of massive Incan ruins that still inspire wonder. Then we visit the Incan farming town of Chinchero, where residents live much as their ancestors did and where we see a traditional weaving demonstration. Before dinner at our hotel tonight, we attend a native “Offering to the Earth” ceremony. B,L,D
Day 5: Sacred Valley/Machu Picchu
This morning we board a train for the 1½-hour journey to Aguas Calientes, where we transfer by shuttle bus to our hotel for lunch. Then we embark on our first guided visit of the stunning ruins at Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas.” Thanks to the small size of our group, we will be able to move nimbly through the ruins and have the leisure to absorb both the beauty and the mystery of this impressive site. With an overnight stay here, we have the rare privilege of seeing the ruins after the tourists have departed. B,L,D
Day 6: Machu Picchu/Cuzco
This morning before the day trippers arrive, we enjoy our second guided tour of this UNESCO site. Following lunch at our lodge, we return to Aguas Calientes with some free time before our mid-afternoon train to Cuzco. B,L
Day 7: Cuzco
Known for its Incan and Spanish colonial heritage, Cuzco is the archaeological “hub” of the Americas and the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. This morning we tour this UNESCO site then stop at the ruins of Sacsayhuaman fortress, a masterpiece of Incan architecture. We enjoy lunch today in the home of a gracious Cuzco family. B,L
Day 8: Cuzco/Lima/Quito
Early today we fly via Lima to the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, arriving late afternoon. We attend a briefing about our Galapagos adventure then dine at our hotel. B,D
Day 9: Quito
Nestled in Andes foothills, Quito boasts a well-preserved historic center, as we see on today’s city tour that includes the Intiñan Museum and the Middle of the World Monument. B,L
Day 10: Quito/Baltra/Santa Cruz Island
Today we fly to the island of Baltra then transfer to Santa Cruz, our island-based home for our Galapagos exploration. We reach our beautiful hotel set on 370 lush, unspoiled, and secluded acres in the highlands adjacent to Galapagos National Park in time for lunch. Then we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to see and learn about the giant Galapagos tortoises. B,L,D
Day 11: North Seymour Island/Bachas Beach
This morning we embark on our first excursion aboard the Santa Fe, our privately chartered yacht. We set out for North Seymour, a flat, low-lying island with ample opportunities for close encounters with the wildlife on our naturalist-led walk. After lunch, we head back to Santa Cruz island for a nature walk. B,L,D
Day 12: South Plaza Island/Punta Carrion
Today’s destination is the small in size but rich in flora and fauna island of South Plaza. Boasting abundant wildlife and colorful flora, and surrounded by turquoise waters, South Plaza ranks as one of the most popular (and colorful) of the Galapagos Islands. During our nature walk, we are on the lookout for such local residents as land and marine iguanas, bright orange Sally Lightfoot crabs, red-billed tropic birds, Nazca and blue-footed boobies, and a male colony of sea lions (“the bachelors”). Then we cruise to Punta Carrion, where we have the opportunity to snorkel in the calm waters of a shallow cove. B,L,D
Day 13: Santa Cruz Island
Today we explore Santa Cruz itself, the second largest of the Galapagos Islands. We see the giant Galapagos tortoises in their natural habitat; the huge twin craters of Los Gemelos; and Garrapatero, a secluded white-sand beach where we see an abundance of marine and terrestrial wildlife. B,L,D
Day 14: Santa Cruz Island/Baltra/Quito
This morning we transfer to Baltra for the flight to Quito, arriving mid-afternoon. Tonight we celebrate our adventure at a farewell dinner in a local restaurant. B,D
Day 15: Quito/Depart for U.S.
This morning we visit Quito’s Botanical Gardens, featuring an orchidarium with more than 1,200 species of orchids; and Iñaquito Market, a colorful riot of fresh produce and spices. Then we return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure before tonight’s transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to the U.S. B
Day 16: Arrive U.S.
We arrive in the U.S. this morning and connect with our return flights home.
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking on uneven terrain. Also, there are both wet and dry landings in the Galapagos. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to the fullest. In addition, Cuzco’s high altitude (11,150 feet) could pose problems for travelers with certain health conditions. Please consult your physician if you have concerns.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included