DAY 1: Welcome to Lima!
Arrival in Lima
You will find us waiting for you when your international flight arrives in Lima to take you to your airport hotel for a rejuvenating night’s sleep.
DAY 2: Discover the Sacred Valley
Not only will we take you to the airport, but we will escort you to the correct airline desk and ensure you are checked in for your morning flight to Cusco. Upon arrival at Cusco’s small Andean airport, we’ll pick you up and bring you for a mouthwatering lunch. Then, before the altitude begins to take effect, we’ll chauffer you out to the Sacred Valley, where you can gently acclimatize in lower environs.
Though it’s not far from Cusco, the Sacred Valley feels much more laid-back and rural. The inhabitants live simple lives in small farming and weaving hamlets, guarded by the sheer-sided Andean pinnacles in the distance. We’ll stop off at the Awana Kancha Living Museum en route to learn about the timeless weaving techniques and to meet the photogenic Andean camelids, including endearing alpacas and llamas, who provide the wool for the weavers.
DAY 3: Ollantaytambo’s Inca Treasures
Hike in the Patacancha Valley to the Ruins of Ollantaytambo
Today, you’ll don your walking shoes for a hike through the Patacancha Valley, whose billowing hillsides are covered with Inca-built agricultural terraces, irrigation canals, watchtowers and more.
First, we’ll drive up to the seldom-seen ruins of Pumamarca, which functioned as a community religious center for the Inca. Trek down the valley on a pre-Columbian trail, along irrigation canals used to water the terraced fields of Pallata. Enjoy lunch al-fresco amid the gorgeous valley scenery and breathe in the crisp mountain air.
Next, you’ll enter the town of Ollantaytambo, a classic Inca valley village whose cobbled passageways still retain original Inca features, including trickling street canals and Inca-style doors. Continue your private tour of Peru’s Sacred Valley at Ollantaytambo’s ruins, which sit above the graceful terraces. As you take in the view, your guide will show you the food storehouses where the Incas kept their grains and the distance quarries from where they sourced there hulking boulders for construction.
At the end of the day, you’ll be dropped off back at your luxury hotel.
DAY 4: Biking Adventure to Inca Laboratories
Private Tours of Moray and Maras by Bike
After breakfast, you’ll meet your guide and driver and head up to the highlands overlooking the Sacred Valley. Keep an eye out the window; it’s a particularly scenic drive, with spectacular views of the mesmerizing mountain peaks.
First, point your handlebars in the direction of the Inca ruins at Moray. Though they may appear to look like crop circles, these ancient amphitheaters are thought to have been used as an agricultural testing ground, where the Incas could develop new farming techniques. This explanation is, however, still just a theory, so you may want to ponder the likelihood of alien involvement over a picnic lunch at the sight.
Continue cycling to Maras to see the functioning salt pans. Spread out on terraces covering an entire hillside are thousands of white pools, which are still harvested by local families who pass down ownership from generation to generation.
Give your legs a break on the last downhill leg to to the small town of Pichingoto. Here, you’ll hop off the saddle and travel by car back to your hotel.
DAY 5: Over the hills to Machu Picchu
Trekking the renowned Inca Trail
Fill up on a hearty breakfast, before taking the train to Km 104 of the Inca Trail. Follow your guide along an uphill path to the ancient ruins of Wiñaywayna. Marvel at the strength and ingenuity of the Incas’ constructions and be on the lookout for striking orchids and jungle plants that sprout up at the site. Rest your legs while you eat an al fresco lunch.
Hit the trail once more and walk for another two hours or so to reach the famous Sun Gate of Machu Picchu. The iconic stone portal is so called because the sun shines through the narrow stone passage here each day as it rises. Tourists flock to this entrance to see the iconic view of Machu Picchu spread out below – a scene that’s plastered across almost every promotional image of the site.
Think about the Incas who walked this path before you as you descend over the paving stones into the city itself. As you walk around the precision-cut stone constructions of this grandiose citadel, it’s impossible to not be in awe at the sheer audacity of constructing a site like this is such an improbable location.
Later, your guide will take you back to your hotel In Aguas Calientes, leaving you to relax for the evening.
DAY 6: The Ancient Citadel
Private tour of Machu Picchu
An early bus ride up to the New World Wonder, and you’ll find yourself trooping past the gates once again as the mist dissipates to reveal the most splendid of all Inca sites. Find a quiet corner among the stones to meditate and reflect on the city and the range after range of steep mountains surrounding it. If you want to see Machu Picchu from a whole new perspective, scramble up Huayna Picchu. From the summit of this peak, you can take in uninterrupted views of the site.
When you get hungry, we can break for lunch the Sanctuary Lodge. Should you want to re-enter the citadel after eating, you can do so. Otherwise, it’s back to Aguas Calientes for your return train journey to Cusco, where you’ll stay overnight.
DAY 7: Exploring the Imperial City of Cusco
Private Walking Tour of Cusco
Having gotten used to the altitude, you’ll be ready to explore Cusco during a private tour. You guide will show you around, introducing you to the city’s appealing mix of Inca and colonial architecture. See all that remains of the ancient Inca temple of the sun, which the Spanish plundered for gold and replaced with its own Santo Domingo monastery. Learn about Cusco’s history prior to the arrival of the Spanish at the Pre-Columbian Art Museum. Get feel for 21st-century life in the city at the buzzy and bohemian San Blas neighborhood and shop for local products at the San Pedro open-air market.
Before you and your guide part ways for the afternoon, be sure to ask them if you need any dinner recommendations – Cusco is one of Peru’s gastronomic hotspots.
DAY 8: On to Ecuador
Fly from Cusco to Lima, then on to Ecuador
Today you’ll swap the Inca heartland of Peru for Ecuador’s stunning capital, Quito. You’ll be transferred to the airport in Cusco and will fly to Ecuador via Lima, before being transported to your luxury hotel there.
DAY 9: Quito’s Secrets
Private Tour of Colonial Quito. Visit the Equator?
Today, you’ll delve into Ecuador’s thriving capital. During your private guided tour, you’ll discover its main plaza where a number of grand stately buildings, including the Government Plaza, Quito Cathedral and several key 16th and 17th-century churches, are situated. After you’ve worked up an appetite pounding the cobbled pavements, your guide will take you to one of the finest restaurants in town to feast on traditional Ecuadorean cuisine.
Next up? The Equator! Just 30 minutes north of Quito is the ‘Middle of the World’ monument, which was designed to honor the Equator. Except the people who built it got their calculations wrong; the true Equator is actually a few hundred feet north. Never mind, there’s lots of fun to be had here anyway as you pose for pictures astride the yellow line that supposedly marks the delineation between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
After that, you’ll escape the urban environs of Quito and hide away in to the cloud forest of Mindo, where you will spend the night in peaceful surroundings.
DAY 10: Welcome to the Galapagos!
Transfer to Airport, Flight to Galapagos, Start of Island Tour
Today you’ll begin you pilgrimage to the famous Galapagos Islands, flying from Quito out to San Cristobal.
After lunch, you’ll start getting to know the Galapagos with a tour of the Interpretation Center, which provides a comprehensive introduction to the islands’ unique wildlife. From there, it’s out to Darwin Bay – where Galapagos champion Darwin’s first set foot on the islands – for swimming and snorkeling. You won’t be alone in the water, with tropical fish, rays and even sharks often patrolling these shores.
DAY 11: Isabela Island
Flight from San Cristobal to Isabela, tour of Los Tuneles
Return to the airport on San Cristobal for your flight to Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago. After settling into your hotel, you’ll be brought to Los Túneles, a maze-like series of arches and tunnels formed over many years as the waves eroded the lava rock. Don your mask and flippers for a spot of snorkeling or just swim around with your head above water waiting for the wildlife drama – starring feeding and courting iguanas, penguins and sea lions – to unfold. Alternatively, you might want to take a front-row seat on the sandy beach where you can watch the equally gripping flightless cormorants put on a show. Later, return to the hotel for dinner.
DAY 12: Isabela Island
Sierra Negra Volcano and Tintoreras Island
Day 12 gets off to a striking start with a trip to the Sierra Negra Volcano at the southern end of the island. Hike along the rim of one of the most impressive and most active volcanoes in the region. So active, in fact, that you’ll likely find yourself trekking across ‘fresh’ lava field which were only recently formed. After lunch, step aboard a boat for a short trip over to Tintoreras Island, a small but beautiful islet just off the coast of Isabela. Go snorkeling or swimming in the clear waters and wait for the endemic Galapagos penguin, white tipped sharks and baby iguanas to show their faces.
DAY 13: Santa Cruz Island
Boat to Santa Cruz; Visit Los Gemelos and Tortuga bay
Today begins with 2.5 hour boat trip to the Island of Santa Cruz. Upon arrival, we’ll head to the highlands to look for the famous Galapagos giant tortoise, who can be often seen plodding around this area. Then we’ll peer inside the twin sinkholes of Los Gemelos, before breaking for lunch.
Spend the afternoon on the baby-soft sands of the heavenly Tortuga Bay. The gorgeous setting is only outdone by the wildlife; fearless sea lions and marine iguanas often join humans here for a spot of sunbathing. Later, you’ll check into your luxury hotel in Puerto Ayora for the last night of your private tour of the Galapagos Islands.
DAY 14: Bidding farewell to South America
Visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, Fly to Quito and return home
Your final Galapagos stop-over will be at the Charles Darwin Research Center, where you can learn about the research and conservation work taking place here and see a gaggle of endangered tortoise species, which are safely in the center and later repatriated into the wild in an effort to increasing the islands’ tortoise population.
Afterward, you’ll be taken to the airport for your flight to Quito. Your host will help you check in for your international flight and wish you Buen Viaje!
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