Make a dent in your bucket-list with two of South America’s most iconic destinations: Machu Picchu, and the Galapagos Islands. Your exciting, one of kind adventure starts in Lima with its Spanish colonial architecture. Then discover many Incan delights as you fly to Cusco – the sacred valley of the Incas, a place of adventure, natural beauty, and rich history with remarkable ruins, lively markets, and beautiful rivers and forests; Machu Picchu by rail, through some of the most breathtaking landscapes imaginable. Last, swim, snorkel and hike at the renowned Galapagos Islands in the company of unique wildlife. Follow in Charles Darwin’s footsteps as you investigate his ‘living laboratory’ and decide whether his theory of Natural Selection holds true today
Very Active. May involve strenuous hikes, severe stair climbing, arduous activities, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
Peru: The only thing predictable about Peru's weather is its unpredictability. In fact, it's not uncommon to experience all four seasons in a single day. Generally speaking, Peru has two seasons, wet and dry, but in a country as geographically diverse as Peru, local weather patterns vary greatly. In the highlands, the dry season is between June and October. The desert coast is arid. From January to March the sky is clear and the air tends to be hot and sticky. Peruvians go to the beach at this time. The rest of the year the gray coastal mist known as garua moves in. For the Inka Trek, it’s best to travel during the drier season, between April and October. The Amazon experiences rain, heat and more rain and heat – the wettest months are December through May, but even then it rarely rains for more than a few hours at a time and the water levels are high, meaning you do more boat activities, as opposed to the dry month when you can do more trekking.
Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands: This is truly a destination that is great to travel to year-round. In the Galapagos, the climate is generally pleasant. Due to mist, cloud cover and cool Pacific breezes, conditions are rarely hot. In Quito, over 9,000 feet above sea level, the temperature ranges from 55ºF at night to 78ºF at noon. The Coast’s climate (Guayaquil) is generally warm and can be quite humid.
Fly to Lima and transfer to your luxury home in the trendy area of Miraflores. Next day, discover the patina of Lima’s beautiful Spanish colonial past on a guided tour, enjoy a curator-led tour of the Larco Museum renowned for its collection of ceramic, metal, and textiles and feast on traditional cuisine during your welcome dinner at La Huaca Pucllana, located in a pre-Columbian temple. CASA ANDINA PRIVATE COLLECTION. (B,D on day 2)
Explore the heart of the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas and find Ollantaytambo, an Incan temple turned fortress against the Spanish. Visit Pisac where views of the valley from its Inca citadel are magnificent and barter for handcrafted jewelry, leather, woolens, carpets and alpaca products in a colorful market. CASA ANDINA PRIVATE COLLECTION. (B,L Daily)
Board your train for a scenic journey to Machu Picchu, the mysterious mountain-top city of the Incas, which straddles a high ridge with sheer cliffs on three sides, with the Urubamba River curving around the precipice’s base. Andean peaks covered in cloud forest green create a spectacular setting for these ancient ruins. Your beautiful hotel offers a wide variety of ecotourism activities and implements projects for researching and conserving the local flora and fauna. INKATERRA MACHU PICCHU. (B,L,D)
Continue exploring Machu Picchu in the morning before returning to Cusco via rail and bus. Next day, discover Cusco’s archaeological treasures such as: the ancient Inca Temples of the Sun and the Moon; the gigantic Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman; the Kenko amphitheatre with its unusual stone carvings; and Tambo Machay, the traditional bathing place for Inca royalty with a mysterious water source. Enjoy dinner at Pacha Papa, where chefs recreate Peru’s regional foods using clay pots and wood burning ovens. ARANWA HOTEL. (B;B,D)
Your flight returns you to Lima where you connect to Guayaquil. Transfer to your luxurious hotel and have the rest of the day at leisure. COLON HILTON GUAYAQUIL. (B)
Fly to San Cristobal Island and get set for your Galapagos adventure. In 1825 Charles Darwin spent five weeks aboard the HMS Beagle exploring the Galapagos Islands. How he would envy your nights aboard the CORAL I or CORAL II, a 36 or 20-passenger vessel with private facilities, exceptional food and expert naturalists. First visit on the islands is to the Breeding and Rearing Center for young tortoises which opened in 2004. Located in Cerro Colorado, this state of the art center is dedicated to the reproduction of the giant tortoises. (B,L,D)
A wet landing at Cerro Brujo, a beautiful beach of white coral sand where you can swim and snorkel in the company of sea lions and birds. This is the first coast where Charles Darwin walked in 1835; in this marvelous lava landscape, he too must have seen seabirds as well as the endemic Chatham Mockingbird and San Cristobal lava lizards, the Pajaro Brujo tiny bird, and young tortoises in the wild. After lunch land at Punta Pitt. This is probably the only site where the three booby species of the Galapagos can be seen together: Nazca, Blue-footed and Red-footed, as well as the two species of frigatebirds. (B,L,D)
Explore Mosquera Islet, a flat, sandy island that has a large colony of sea lions. There is no trail on Mosquera, so visitors can truly enjoy the open area. In the afternoon, land at Bartolomé for a hike to the summit of this diminutive island that boasts fantastic views of the archipelago. This is a moderately steep climb aided by a wooden staircase, resting platforms and handrails – the view from the top is worth the effort! Then, take to the pangas for a ride around the colossal Pinnacle Rock, and land at the beach to enjoy swimming, snorkeling or just relaxing (possibly with Galápagos penguins in attendance). (B,L,D)
Land on Rábida Island’s red-colored beach, caused by the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. Your walk brings you close to a large colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers and several species of Darwin’s finches. During navigation to the next island, dolphins are often spotted! In the afternoon, land at Sobrero Chino, so named because of its shape when seen from the distance. Enjoy a scenic hike starting from a white sandy beach around the cove, then follow the trail through delicate well-preserved remnants of volcanic rock that are not found elsewhere in this condition. Snorkel among colorful tropical fish, sea lions, Galapagos Penguins and white-tipped reef sharks. (B,L,D)
Drop anchor at Puerto Ayora at Santa Cruz Island and head to the highlands to visit a private farm and natural tortoise reserve – ‘El Chato’, where giant tortoises are found in their natural habitat as well as land birds such as Tree and Ground Finches and Vermillion Flycatchers. Transfer to Baltra Island and fly to Guayaquil, where you enjoy dinner before returning to the airport for your flight home. (B,D)
Check off another bucket list item by flying to Coca to explore Ecuador’s Amazon basin. A motorized canoe takes you to Napo Wildlife Center, adjacent to 82 square miles of private reserve in the Yasuni National Park. Climb a 120-foot high canopy tower for a bird’s-eye view of the area; hike through pristine terra firme forest with towering 150-foot kapok trees; and, visit Ecuador’s most accessible parrot and macaw clay licks for a chance to see the colorful birds that flock there. After dark, search for night creatures in the jungle. End your adventure in Quito, Ecuador’s capital and walk in ‘Quito Antiguo’ – a World Heritage Site.
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