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
As the site opens at sunrise, you'll have an early breakfast and catch the bus up to the ruins. 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.
There is an optional (weather-dependent) challenging hike up Machu Picchu Mountain—a 5-6 hour round trip scenic workout! It's a steady climb, gentle stairs all the way up. The view of the site is awe inspiring. Your camera will give you astounding images. It's one of the most spectacular picnic sites you may ever enjoy.
There's another optional hike up a steep 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, the view of Machu Picchu, the archeological site, the surrounding valleys and snow capped peaks is truly breath taking. 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, not for everyone, 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 which you'll have the option for further guided exploration of the ruins or you may also hike up to the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu, explore the Inca Bridge.
You'll enjoy dinner aboard the evening train back to Ollantaytambo and transfer back to Cuzco.
Hotel: El Monasterio del Cusco or La Casona, BL
Following breakfast, you will venture up 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 on 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. You will be treated to a special ceremony with plants and herbs conducted by a shaman before your return to Cusco for lunch.
Following lunch, you will visit the Inca Historical Museum for a fine overview of the history of the Inca Empire from its beginning to its demise. You will visit 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, you pass walls of stone so precisely fitted that they remain in superb condition centuries later, even after many earthquakes. You may look into the University, churches and shops that face onto the Plaza de Armas.
Hotel: El Monasterio del Cusco or La Casona, BLD
Cuzco to Guayaqil
Fly from Cusco to Lima and then on to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to the hotel for check-in and overnight.
Hotel: Oro Verde Hotel, B
To the Galapagos—Santa Cruz Island
Transfer to the airport for a 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.