Machu Picchu Tour and Galapagos Cruise — Day by Day
Arrive in Lima, Peru
Fly from your home city to Lima, Perú. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to the hotel for check-in and overnight.
Hotel: Wyndham Costa del Sol Lima
Lima to Cusco to Urubamba Valley
A quick flight over the snow-covered Andes brings us to the legendary city of gold—Cusco (alt. 11,200 feet)—the Center of the Inca Universe. Inca means "ruler," or "king" - an equivalent to the Roman Caesars.
Our guide will meet us at the airport and take us for lunch and a walking tour of Cusco. We set out along streets where the Incas and later the Spaniards walked. We will stop at Coricancha, the partially restored Temple of the Sun at the center of the Inca Universe, and try to envision its walls sheathed in gold foil. On the Plaza de Armas we visit theCathedral, one of the city's greatest repositories of colonial art.
In the late afternoon, on a plateau high above Cusco, we will visit the immense Inca ceremonial and "parade" grounds of Sacsayhuaman. These grounds were used by the Incas for major celebrations, pageants, and sporting events, including sacrifices. We will then enjoy a scenic ride through rich fields of quinoa and amaranth, before descending into the breathtaking Urubamba Valley. The balance of the afternoon will be spent exploring the agriculturally rich Urubamba Valley.
Hotel: Tambo del Inka or Sol y Luna, BLD
Train to Machu Picchu, hike to Machu Picchu Mountain
We catch the early train in Ollantaytambo for one of the most breathtaking rail journeys in the world. The rail line follows the river down the impressive Canyon of the Vilcanota to the foot of Machu Picchu.
If our accommodations are at Machu Picchu Pueblo, we leave the train at Aguas Calientes to check in to this lovely riverside inn. Then we head up the mountain by bus to Machu Picchu.
If our accommodations are at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge (special request only) on the mountain by the ruins, we transfer to a bus for an exhilarating 20-minute dash up the mountainside to Machu Picchu. We check into the hotel on arrival.
We start our exploration of Machu Picchu with an orientation stroll around the site. This helps us get a sense of the layout of the ruins.
Machu Picchu is truly a place to explore on your own. The elevation is about 7,500-ft., much lower than Cusco’s 11,500-ft., so you will feel much better. After lunch we will all have an extended guided walking tour.
Hotel: Machu Picchu Pueblo; Sanctuary Lodge by request, BLD
The park opens at sunrise, a magical time of the day as mist often shrouds the major peaks and floats onto the valley. The rising sun casts a golden glow into this fantasy land; it is not to be missed at this hour. Enjoy, and then return to the hotel for a breakfast.
We have an optional (weather-dependent) hike to the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain-a 5-6 hour round trip scenic workout! We'll bring our picnic lunch and feast on it as well as the sights.
Depending on the weather, we have another optional hike climbing the steep, challenging trail, hidden in crevasses and bushes, that leads to the top of Huayna Picchu. This is the slender, granite peak that appears in almost every photo of Machu Picchu. On top we will take in an overwhelming view of the ruins and the surrounding valleys and snow-capped peaks. The climb is impressive and requires no more than 1.5 - 2 hours, even if you are a very slow hiker. It is a challenging hike, but the reward of reaching the summit is one of the greatest views in the world! The descent is relatively quick and easy, but steep, and leads straight to lunch.
After lunch you will have the afternoon to yourself to explore the ruins, snooze in the sun, read and take photos. This is a special time that is all yours to savor Machu Picchu as you see fit.
Hotel: Hotel Pueblo de Machu Picchu or Sanctuary Lodge on request, BL
Machu Picchu, train to Cusco
This morning is all yours to enjoy Machu Picchu. You may hike up to the Sun Gate overlooking the ruins, or explore the Inca Bridge, take photos or muse about the wonders of this place until you meet the rest of the group for lunch.
After lunch we bus down to the train for Cusco. Once there we tumble into the Monasterio del Cusco for the night.
Hotel: El Monasterio del Cusco or La Casona, BL
Cuzco to Quito
Fly from Cusco to Lima and then on to Quito, Ecuador. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to the hotel for check-in and overnight.
Hotel: Hilton Colón Quito, B
To the Galapagos—Santa Cruz Island
Transfer to the airport for an early morning flight to Baltra, Galapagos. We transfer to the Island of Santa Cruz where we travel with our naturalist in a spacious air conditioned vehicle up into the highland rainforest.
We'll have lunch then explore the Santa Cruz highlands to view endemic Galapagos plant species and visit lava tubes and sinkholes. We'll hike through tall grasses among the grazing tortoises.
Depending on the season, we will be staying in the highlands or along the coast at either Royal Palm Resort, Galapagos Safari Camp, Finch Bay Eco Hotel, or Angermyer Waterfront Inn.
Hotel: Santa Cruz Hotel, BLD
Puerto Ayora, Darwin Station, board our yacht
We stroll through the town of Puerto Ayora to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we learn about conservation issues and the tortoise and iguana hatching and rearing programs. We'll even get to view some of the tiny hatchlings. Afterwards we lunch in Puerto Ayora. We board Integrity or Reina Silvia mid to late afternoon in Academy Bay.
Yacht: Integrity or Reina Silvia, BLD
Exploring the Galapagos Islands
We live aboard the spacious Integrity for a week, spending as much time ashore as the Park rules permit. With our licensed, INCA selected Class III naturalist, we learn about the birds and animals, geology, marine life and oceanic systems of the Galapagos Islands. We swim and snorkel with tropical fish, sea lions and sometimes with penguins!
Detailed cruising routes can be found on each yacht's page.
Yacht: Integrity or Reina Silvia, BLD
Galapagos to Quito to home or onward adventures
From our anchorage in the Baltra harbor, we say "adios" to the yacht and its dedicated crew, and adjourn to the Baltra airport to await our mid-morning flight to the Ecuador mainland and Quito. On arrival, we transfer to the Wyndham Quito Airport hotel to relax and freshen up before your transfer back to the terminal for check-in to your homeward bound flight. Dinner is on your own tonight.