Breakfast daily, 8 lunches, 12 three-course dinners including a welcome dinner at a historic home and a farewell dinner in Lima
Inside visits and special features are shown in UPPERCASE in the tour description.
Day 1 Arrive in Lima, Peru
Arrive in Lima, where you will be met by your Tour Director.
Day 2 Lima
This afternoon, your Local Guide focuses on the city’s colonial heritage during a walking TOUR. Start at the Plaza de Armas to see the Government Palace and the cathedral. From here, stroll to the venerable SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY with its splendid 17th-century cloister murals. For a special treat, stop at a LOCAL PERUVIAN FOOD MARKET to get a real taste of the lives of the local people. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner with your fellow traveling companions at one of Lima’s finest historic homes, CASA GARCIA ALVARADO.
Day 3 Lima–Cusco–Sacred Valley
Fly to Cusco, the impressive Andean city that was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Head into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where you will experience an El Pago a la Tierra, or MOTHER EARTH CEREMONY, performed by a local shaman. These ceremonies thanking Mother Earth and asking for good health and safe travels have been practiced in Peru since before the arrival of the Incas. Next, stop at the semi-circular KENKO Temple with its stone altars and labyrinth of passages. See the ancient site of Puca Pucara before continuing to PISAC, an old mountain village where you will have free time to shop for local wares such as alpaca sweaters and blankets, jewelry, or hand-painted ornamental dishes and vases. Stay in the Sacred Valley tonight, and enjoy a special dinner outing with a PERUVIAN PASO HORSE SHOW.
Day 4 Sacred Valley–Machu Picchu
This morning, visit the Inca Fortress of OLLANTAYTAMBO, followed by the opportunity to visit a HOME, meet some of the locals, and experience their way of life. Next, board the Vistadome TRAIN for a short journey through the lush Urubamba Valley. Then, transfer to a motorcoach for the ascent to legendary MACHU PICCHU, the “Lost City of the Incas,” high above the steep valley overlaid with dense tropical jungle. Your Local Guide will bring you closer to the lives and mysteries still hidden in these amazing structures built by the pre-Columbian masters of this sacred land. Tonight, learn how to mix the perfect Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink, before dinner at the hotel.
Day 5 Machu Picchu–Cusco
Your entrance to MACHU PICCHU is included for a second day. Enjoy the tranquility of the morning, with free time to wander the ruins at your own pace and experience the magic that is Machu Picchu. After lunch, return to the Sacred Valley by TRAIN and continue on to Cusco.
Day 6 Cusco
This morning, learn more about the Incas and their struggle against invading Spaniards on your Cusco city TOUR, with visits to the imposing CATHEDRAL and the SANTO DOMINGO MONASTERY. Also visit the TEMPLE OF SACSAYHUAMAN, perched on a hillside overlooking Cusco. It remains unfathomable how and when this fortress of gigantic stones—with some blocks weighing more than 350 tons—was built. The remainder of your day is free to explore at your leisure. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 7 Cusco–Juliaca–Puno (Lake Titicaca)
Board a flight to Juliaca, where you will continue to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Day 8 Puno. Excursion to Lake Titicaca
Today, take a motorboat trip to some of the more unique islands of LAKE TITICACA. Start with TAQUILE ISLAND, which was once part of the Inca Empire and was one of the last areas of Peru to be conquered by Spain in the 16th century. The Spanish banned traditional dress on the island, which is why the Spanish peasant dress can still be found today. Next, travel to the fascinating UROS ISLANDS, home to the Uros Indians, who were forced to live on the lake as the Inca Indians pushed farther into their territory. These islands are completely made by reeds and are continually added to as they disintegrate to the bottom of the lake.
Day 9 Puno–Sillustani–Juliaca–Lima
Depart for Juliaca this morning, visiting the ruins of SILLUSTANI en route. At this pre-Incan burial ground, see where the ancient Aymaras buried their high priests in chullpas—above-ground, cylinder-shaped tombs dating back to the 1400s. While here, spend some time with the locals, see their HOMES, learn how they work, what they eat, and gain a better understanding of their lives. Fly from Juliaca to Lima this afternoon.
Day 10 Lima–Paracas. Ballestas Islands Cruise & Nazca Lines
Enjoy a scenic drive south along the Pan-American Highway to the Bay of Paracas. CRUISE out to the Ballestas Islands, which are inhabited by a wide variety of sea mammals and exotic birds, including boobies, sea lions, and Humboldt penguins. The huge Candelabro, a candelabra-shaped etching on the Paracas cliffside, can also be seen as you cruise back to shore. Continue to the town of Pisco, the wine capital of Peru. Have your camera handy today as you board your aircraft for a FLIGHT over the Nazca plains, which can only be appreciated by air. Your pilot will point out the mysterious markings known as the NAZCA LINES, a series of drawings of animals and geometric figures etched into the parched soil—some up to 1,000 feet long! Theories vary, but the most accepted belongs to German mathematician Maria Reiche, who dubbed the land the “astronomical calendar” of the ancient Peruvians. Enjoy dinner this evening at your hotel.
Day 11 Paracas–Lima
After some free time in Paracas, return to Lima today. Tonight, your Tour Director hosts a memorable farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 12 Lima–Quito, Ecuador
Fly to Quito, capital of Ecuador..
Day 13 Quito
On an included city tour, see INDEPENDENCE SQUARE with its CATHEDRAL and SAN FRANCISCO PLAZA CHURCH, and the BASILICA.
Day 14 Quito–San cristobal (Embarkation)–Cruising
Fly to San Cristobal and embark the Santa Cruz II for a 4-night CRUISE. This afternoon, arrive at PUNTA PITT, the easternmost point in the islands. A somewhat difficult trail leads you to the only place in the archipelago where all three types of booby exist, nesting next to both types of frigates.
Day 15 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, which are 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, red-billed tropicbirds, frigatebirds, pelicans, and Audubon’s shearwaters.
Day 16 Cruising: Santa Cruz Island
Today begins with a visit to 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. Here you are likely to see Galápagos rails, cattle egrets, and flycatchers.
Day 17 Cruising: Espanola Island
Today, join your Naturalist for excursions to Gardner Bay and Punta Suárez on ESPAÑOLA ISLAND, one of the oldest islands in the archipelago. Here you will see the famous blowhole, as well as unique sea bird colonies, including the waved albatrosses (April-December), Nazca and blue-footed boobies, and Darwin’s finches.
Day 18 Cruising: Baltra (Disembarkation)–Guayaquil
After breakfast, disembark and fly to Guayaquil.
Day 19 Guayaquil
Your tour ends with breakfast this morning.