Peru Tour and Galapagos Islands Cruise — Day by Day
Arrive in Lima, Perú
Fly from your home city to Lima, Perú. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to the hotel for check-in and overnight.
Hotel: Miraflores Park Hotel or Hotel B
Lima is a large city with a population of over 9 million in its metropolitan area. It also has flower gardens, great plazas, huge cathedrals, elegant colonial homes, fine museums, surfing, hopping nightlife, unique cuisine, and excellent hotels and restaurants. We tour historic Lima, including the Plaza de Armas, where you'll see elegant carved wooden balconies and colonial architecture.
We visit the National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History which has one of the largest collections of Pre-Hispanic art and relics including exceptionally well preserved mummies. From here we proceed to Museo Larco to see an impressive collection of pottery, gold and silver.
Now with our work for the day almost completed, we have earned a sumptuous lunch that will take care of both you and the rest of the afternoon! We return to the hotel for the night. Dinner is on your own this evening.
Hotel: Miraflores Park Hotel or Hotel B, BL
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.
After check-in, we have breakfast and sip coca-leaf tea while acclimating to the elevation. We begin our walking exploration of Cuzco after lunch (on your own), walking along streets where the Incas and later the Spaniards walked.
In the course of the day we will stop at Coricancha, the partially restored Temple of the Sun at the center of the Inca Universe, where the gold-covered walls were stripped by the Conquistadors. Along narrow cobblestone streets, we pass walls of stone so precisely fitted that they remain in superb condition centuries later, even after many earthquakes. We look into the University, churches and shops that face onto the Plaza de Armas.
Hotel: El Monasterio del Cusco or La Casona, BD
We visit the bustling Cusco "Mercado Central", a traditional market were we will get a sense of the daily rhythm of Cusqueño life. From open air stalls, everything from coca leaves, carrots, rubber boots, jeans, padlocks, beef, live chickens and ducks, to cuys, Band-Aids, and a range of familiar and unfamiliar fruits and vegetables are sold -sometimes for cash, sometimes in the traditional manner-barter.
Later we will be admitted to view an archbishop's private collection of colonial and Indian art. After lunch we will visit the Inca Historical Museum for a fine overview of the history of the Inca Empire from its beginning to its demise.
In the late afternoon we will venture to Sacsayhuaman to explore the spectacular ceremonial and "parade" grounds used by the Incas for major celebrations, pageants and sporting events. Inti Raymi, the Incan "Festival of the Sun," is still celebrated here beginning every June 24. Cusco fills with colorfully dressed, chicha-drinking Indians from villages all over the Andes, who come for this week-long festival of folk-dance competitions, pageantry and renowned debauchery.
We will be treated to a special ceremony with plants and herbs conducted by a shaman before we descend into Cusco.
Hotel: El Monasterio del Cusco or La Casona, BLD
Pisac, Sacred Valley of the Incas
Our first stop on the way out of town is the fountains of Tambo Machay right outside of Cusco. After a scenic ride through rich fields of quinoa and amaranth, we descend into the scenic Urubamba Valley, cross the river and drive high above the valley floor to explore the ruins of the Inca fortress of Pisac.
On our return drive we make a short stop to explore the typical, indigenous village of Pisac (or if you are inclined, you may hike down from the Fortress through the terraces to the village where we will meet you), before continuing to lunch at Huayoccari Hacienda Restaurant, an elegant farmhouse filled with exquisite antiques and art in the hills above the Sacred Valley. Following lunch we continue through the valley to our hotel, where you will have the rest of the afternoon to enjoy the gardens, spa and property.
Hotel: Tambo del Inka or Sol y Luna, BLD
Ollantaytambo, Chinchero Market
We begin our day with a visit to the spectacular temple-fortress and village of Ollantaytambo, a site that is little changed from the days of the Incas.
We then climb out of the valley to a very scenic 12,000-ft. plain en route to the Sunday Indian market at Chinchero. There we will observe how the local population shops for the week. You may find a few things that you simply must have!
We have planned a weaving demonstration orchestrated by Nilda Challañaupa, the founder, and director of The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco. This organization is dedicated to preserving ancient textile designs and weaving techniques from all over the Andes. Some designs are more than 2000 years old and were thought to have been lost. Textiles created at the Center may be available for purchase.
We return to our hotel for a late lunch and possibly a Peruvian Paso horse show.
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. Mist often shrouds the major peaks and floats onto the valley. The rising sun casts a golden glow into this fantasyland; it is not to be missed at this hour. Enjoy, and then return to the hotel for a quick 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, the slender granite peak that appears in every photo of Machu Picchu. On top we have an overwhelming view of Machu Picchu 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 have the afternoon to yourself to explore the ruins, snooze in the sun, read and take photos. This is the special time that is all yours to savor Machu Picchu as you see fit.
Hotel: Machu Picchu Pueblo; Sanctuary Lodge by request, BLD
Machu Picchu, train to Cusco
This morning is all yours to enjoy Machu Picchu. You may hike up to the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu or explore the Inca Bridge, take photos or muse about Machu Picchu 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 our hotel 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 our spacious yacht 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.
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.