Inside visits and special features are shown in UPPERCASE in the tour description.
Day 1 Lima, Peru
Welcome to Lima, Peru. Heralded as the “City of Kings” by Spanish conquistadors, Lima retains vestiges of its opulent past with its colonial buildings and world-class museums.
Day 2 Lima
Sightseeing today focuses on Lima’s colonial heritage. Founded in 1535, Lima was once capital of Spain’s South American Empire. Visit the baroque 11th-century SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY, with Spanish and Moorish architecture throughout. Continue to Plaza Mayor, where you will see the Government Palace that houses the presidential palace and was once the home of Francisco Pizarro, founder of Lima and conqueror of Peru. Nearby, see the Cathedral where Pizarro’s remains are buried. The remainder of your day is free to explore. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant this evening.
Day 3 Lima–Cusco–Sacred Valley
Fly to Cusco high in the Andes and upon arrival, descend into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Stop at AWANAKANCHA and learn about the importance of Camelids (llama, vicuña, alpaca, and guanaco) for Inca cultures. See them up close and learn how their coats are transformed into precious weaving fibers used in ancient weaving techniques still in use today. Continue to PISAC, a charming village with an infamous INDIAN MARKET, where you have plenty of time to browse the many colorful stalls selling handicrafts ranging from alpaca sweaters and blankets to painted vases and sterling silver. Later, arrive at your hotel in the peaceful Sacred Valley.
Day 4 Sacred Valley
Start the day with a visit to the village of OLLANTAYTAMBO and the Inca ruins of the same name. Explore the archaeological site that was the scene of the Inca resistance during the Spanish conquest—the only place ever to resist Spanish attacks. See how the temple area at the top of the terraces was the perfect defensive stronghold, then visit a LOCAL HOME in this Incan town to experience life in a traditional village, which has been remarkably well preserved. Next, visit the SEMINARIO CERAMICS WORKSHOP to learn about Peruvian ancient and modern art. End your day at a local chicheria for a taste of a chicha, a typical Inca drink in Peru.
Day 5 Sacred Valley–Machu Picchu
Board the VISTADOME train that cuts a path through the picturesque Urubamba Valley bound for Aguas Calientes, the quaint town closest to the “Lost City of the Incas.” Ascend the mountainside through tropical forest to the sacred refuge of MACHU PICCHU. Listen as your guide recounts the many accomplishments of the Incas as you tour the terraced ruins dating back to the 15th century. The ruins went undiscovered for nearly 400 years after they were abandoned when the Inca Empire fell to the Spanish. Many mysteries surrounding Machu Picchu remain to this day.
Day 6 Machu Picchu–Cusco
Awaken early and use your included second entrance to MACHU PICCHU to see the sunrise over the ruins. You will be awe-struck as the sun first illuminates the ruins, free of crowds. Later, return to Cusco, former capital of the Inca Empire. The remainder of your day is free to relax.
Day 7 Cusco
Embark on a guided sightseeing tour of Cusco that focuses on the city that was once the political, military, and cultural epicenter of the Incas until the Spanish toppled it. In fact, Inca foundations can still be found in Cusco, with the Spanish baroque structures built on top. Visit the SANTO DOMINGO MONASTERY, where these two forms of architecture are melded together with the temple of both cultures atop one another. Also see the CATHEDRAL in the Plaza de Armas, housing a magnificent collection of artwork, including a depiction of The Last Supper that portrays the apostles dining on cuy (guinea pig). Continue to the hillside overlooking Cusco for a visit to the TEMPLE OF SACSAYHUAMAN. Some of the best examples of Inca masonry can be found at this fortress, where stones weighing up to 350 tons are pieced together to form a complex that could house up to 10,000 men. Learn about the ceremonies and battles that took place here, then see the ruins of Kenko and Puca Pucara before returning to Cusco.
Day 8 Cusco–Juliaca–Puno
Fly to Juliaca, then transfer to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Legend says the first Inca, Manco Capac, arose from the waters of the lake by the power of the Sun God to found the Inca Empire.
Day 9 Puno. Excursion To Lake Titicaca
Experience fascinating LAKE TITICACA today as you embark on a motorboat tour of the highest navigable lake in the world and its manmade islands. On TAQUILE ISLAND, see how the local people integrate their Inca and Spanish past. This is evident by the Spanish peasant dresses made of Andean textiles—the islanders make some of the finest in all of Peru. Continue to the UROS FLOATING ISLANDS, a group of approximately 40 artificially made islands. Learn how the Uros Indians construct their islands, homes, boats, and many other resources completely of tortora reed, a centuries-old practice. Enjoy a farewell dinner hosted by your Tour Director this evening.
Day 10 Puno–Juliaca-Lima
Return to Juliaca, stopping at the pre-Incan burial grounds of SILLUSTANI en route. See the above-ground tombs, chullpas, in which the Aymara Indians buried their high priests. You will be welcomed into one of the locals’ HOMES for an inside look at life here. Later, a short flight returns you to Lima, where you will transfer to your hotel.
Day 11 Lima–Quito, Ecuador
Board a flight for Quito.
Day 12 Quito
Included sightseeing showcases Quito’s treasures: Independence Plaza and the 16th-century SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY, and the Jesuit’s LA COMPANIA CHURCH with its stunning golden altars.
Day 13 Quito–San Cristobal (Embarkation)–Galapagos Cruising
Fly to San Cristobal in the Galápagos, embark the Santa Cruz II and enjoy five days of cruising among various Galápagos Islands. This afternoon, arrive at PUNTA PITT, the easternmost point in the islands, the only place in the archipelago where all three types of booby exist (blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca), nesting next to both types of frigates.
Day 14 Galapagos Cruising: Santa Fe & South Plaza Islands
Wake up at SANTA FÉ Island, where you are met by sea lion harems and the endemic land iguana. The beach offers great snorkeling. At SOUTH PLAZA, wildlife includes sea lions, land iguanas, and hybrid iguanas—the result of a cross between male marine iguanas and female land iguanas. This is also a bird-watcher’s paradise, where you will see nesting swallow-tailed gulls, masked and blue-footed boobies, and many more.
Day 15 Galapagos Cruising: Santa Cruz Island
Visit the CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION, established to help conserve the famous giant tortoises. Next up: the highlands of SANTA CRUZ, marked by extinct volcanoes and astonishing plants.
Day 16 Galapagos Cruising: Española Island
Excursions to Gardner Bay and Punta Suárez on ESPAÑOLA ISLAND, one of the oldest islands in the archipelago, feature the famous blowhole, as well as unique sea bird colonies, including the waved albatrosses (Apr.-Dec.), Nazca and blue-footed boobies, and Darwin’s finches.
Day 17 Galapagos Cruising: Baltra (Disembarkation)–Guayaquil
Disembark and fly to Guayaquil.
Day 18 Guayaguil
Your vacation ends after breakfast this morning.