DAY 1: Welcome to Ecuador
Everyone likes a warm welcome after a long flight, and that’s just what you’ll get from Kuoda when you touch down in Quito. Your Kuoda host will be easy to identify; they’ll be holding a sign with your name and wearing a smile. After introductions, you’ll be brought to your hotel where you can freshen up after your long flight and catch up on any lost sleep.
DAY 2: Quito’s hidden secrets
After breakfast at the hotel, lace up your walking shows for a private tour of Quito, a charming and wonderfully preserved colonial-style city set high up on a volcano slope amid sky-scraping Andean peaks. During your private tour of Ecuador’s capital, you’ll see its historic central square, sumptuous Government Palace and its magnificent bleached-white cathedral as well as a few standout specimens from the city’s collection of 50 plus churches, chapels and monasteries. It won’t take long for you to understand just why its tidy and handsome historic center was recognized by UNESCO for its historical worth.
After working up an appetite wander the narrow city lanes, your guide will take you to one of the best restaurants in Quito to sample Ecuadorean fare at its finest. In the afternoon, the sightseeing continues as you pay a visit to the Equator. The Equator Line, or Mitad del Mundo, is marked by a monument and is located just 30 minutes north of Quito. If you still have time, you can browse the collections of some of the city’s most worthy museums.
Return to your comfortable hotel in the early evening and relax. This will be your final night on “terra firma,” before you take to the seas the following day.
DAY 3: On to the Galapagos Island
After an early breakfast, you will be brought to the airport for your flight out to the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago that shot to fame in the 19th century after Charles Darwin reported on the unique evolutionary development of the island’s animals in his groundbreaking “On the Origin of Species” book.
You’ll be met at San Cristobal (the easternmost of the Galapagos Isles) by a Kuoda representative who will escort you to the dock where you’ll board the boat for a luxury tour of the Galapagos Islands. The adventure begins almost straight away as the cruise vessel skirts around Leon Dormido, a striking rock formation that juts up vertically out of the water, extending hundreds of feet above the surface of the sea below. On closer inspection, you’ll see there are, in fact, not just one volcanic rock but two – divided from each other by a narrow channel. Although there is nowhere to land at Leon Dormido, kayaking and scuba diving allows travelers to get closer to the marine life here.
DAY 4: Cruising the Galapagos Islands
When you wake up, your luxury vessel will be on the shores of Española Island, one of the older Islands in the archipelago. You’ll disembark and head for Suarez Point, one of the prime places to spot blue-footed boobies, identifiable – as their name implies – by their bright-colored webbed feet, as well as the more understated Nazca boobies. Albatrosses, best known for their monumental wingspan, often use the cliffs here as a launch pad for flight. The real draw to Suarez Point, however, is the photogenic blowhole, which – almost like a natural fountain – shoots water high up into the air.
In the afternoon, you’ll make your way to Gardner Bay on the eastern side of the island. Another favorite albatross hangout, the feathered giants flock here to breed joining the myriad of sea lions who rendezvous on its rocky shore. The last destination for the day is Osborn Islet, where strolls across the white-sand beach – another common sea lion hangout – and swim with sea lion pups top the agenda for visitors.
Return to your cruise ship late in the afternoon and enjoy a delicious dinner on board.
DAY 5: Cruising the Galapagos Islands
Today’s first excursion will bring you to Cormorant Point on Floreana Island. Here, you’ll find large flamingo-filled lagoon, where other birds such as common stilts and white-cheeked Pintails can also be seen. Then you can check out the distinctive beaches on the island, whose names reflect their unique make-up. The sand of the Green Beach, for instance, contains a high percentage of olivine crystals, while Four Sand Beach is composed of white coral. Work up an appetite with a spot of snorkeling and a dinghy ride to the shores of the small rocky outcrop known as Champion Islet, before returning to the yacht for lunch.
The afternoon activities get started with a trip to Post Office Bay, named after the wooden barrel here which was used by whaling ships as an unofficial post box. The tradition lives on today, and you can even route through the letters to see if there are any you may be able to hand-deliver upon your return home. The last stop-off today is Baroness Viewpoint, which provides fantastic views over the island of Floreana and the ocean and connects to several easy trails. While most travelers come here to admire the view, some are curious about its connection with a murder; legend has it that the area was once the site of a mysterious killing, involving an indulgent local Baroness and her three lovers.
DAY 6: Return to Quito
Sail to Santa Cruz and disembark for a short hike in its highlands, observing the hills, ferns, volcanoes, and rich wildlife of the region. This area is also home to giant tortoises, so keep an eye out for the slow-moving creatures.
After your morning hike, you will be brought to Baltra airport, where you’ll leave the Galapagos behind and travel to the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. Your host will help you check into an airport hotel in Quito, where you can rest (and get used to life back on dry land!) before your trip to Lima in the morning.
DAY 7: Exploring the City of Kings
In the morning, it’s time to wave goodbye to Ecuador as you set off for the Peruvian portion of your trip. Meet your Kuoda host at Lima airport – they’ll bring you to your luxury hotel in Miraflores, where you will be able to drop your luggage off and freshen up.
You’ll have the rest of the day to explore Lima at your leisure. Keep things local with seafront strolls around Miraflores’ parks or perhaps browse the shops. If you’re feeling a little braver, venture into the colonial center where you can see the sights on Lima’s central Plaza de Armas and walk among the eerie bone sculptures of Lima’s Catacombs of the San Francisco Convent. When hunger hits, you’re won’t be stuck for options; Lima is the culinary capital of South America and there are more restaurants than you could possibly imagine.
DAY 8: Over the Andes to the Sacred Valley
Day eight begins with a short and scenic flight to Cusco. We’ll meet you as soon as you touch down and take you straight into the easier-to-acclimatize-to environs of Cusco’s peaceful Sacred Valley. A real rural wonderland, this valley exudes a kind of stuck-in-time ambiance with lots of small weaving villages and farming hamlets.
We’ll whisk you off to the town of Pisac to visit its awesome Inca ruins, which are precariously perched on an elevated plateau. With a private guide to explain the history of the sight, you can examine the original Inca constructions and marvel at the almost artistic execution of their agricultural terraces, which sweep across the mountainside. Back in town, you’ll wander around the market, where vendors in traditional dress sell everything from embroidered textiles to artfully made ceramics.
Remember, your Kuoda guide and driver there to help you, so if you see a particularly photogenic scene you’re desperate to capture or just want to pause and enjoy the moment, just let them know and they’ll be happy to stop.
DAY 9: Climbing to the heights of the Sacred Valley and toward Machu Picchu
After breakfast, we will pick you up for the day’s adventure that is guaranteed to speed up the pulse: rock-climbing. A guide will give you a safety briefing, before you start to scale the 1,300-foot sheer cliff face via metal ladders and bridges. At the top, give yourself a moment to soak up the beauty of the Sacred Valley surroundings, before you send your pulse into overdrive once more as you fly down on six adrenaline-inducing zip lines, ranging from 492 feet to 1,640 feet in length.
After all that activity, you’re bound to be hungry so we’ll arrange for you to enjoy a delicious picnic before boarding the Aguas Calientes-bound train in Ollantaytambo. Get a glimpse of the cloud forest through the train windows en route and then enjoy a restful night in your stylish hotel, ready for your adventure tomorrow.
DAY 10: The Lost City of the Incas
Today is the day you’ve been waiting for – it’s time to see Machu Picchu! In the morning, you’ll travel by bus to the gates of this Inca wonder. Ascend the stone steps through a woodland canopy, before finally emerging at the cloud-swirled ancient city, which seems to occupy a level somewhere between Earth and heaven. You’ll then begin a private tour of Machu Picchu, during which you’ll get to admire the visually stunning landscape from every angle, learn about the perplexing structures and ponder just how the Incas, without wheels or load-bearing animals, managed to construct a mountaintop citadel of this magnitude.
Whenever you get hungry, we can break for a buffet lunch, which will served at the nearby Sanctuary Lodge. You can then re-enter the citadel and continue surveying the huge site. Later in the afternoon, you’ll return to Aguas Calientes and catch the train to Ollantaytambo. We’ll pick you up from the station there are take you to your Cusco hotel.
DAY 11: Exploring the Imperial City
Today is all yours to discover Cusco as you see fit. You might want to sleep in and take a lazy day meandering around the city’s streets or you head out to discover more of the must-see sights. Perhaps you’ll amble around the quaint cobblestone streets of laid-back San Blas or pick up souvenirs at the traditional San Pedro Market. If you want something a little more cultural-focused, stop by the Casa Garcilaso Museum, which is devoted to the city’s colonial past or look for the Santo Domingo church, which is built on top of one of the most glorious Inca temples ever constructed: Qorikancha. Those on family tours of Peru might want to pick something more kiddie-friendly, in which case we recommend a visit to Cusco’s Planetarium or the Chocolate Museum. If you’re feeling extra energetic, you could even walk up to the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuamán and the nearby Cristo Blanco (White Christ) statue, which overlooks the city.
DAY 12: The path less-traveled to Huchuy Q’osco
Leave the city behind as you’re transferred out just beyond the town of Chinchero for hike along a crowd-free uphill trail. Trek up to the highest pass for panoramic views of the Vilcanota mountains. After a rest and a snack, begin the descent to the remote ruins of Huchuy Q’osqo. You’ll see tell-tale signs of the Incas presence – both in the sweeping terraces and the jigsaw stone walls – as you approach. Your guide will fill you in on the site’s backstory: it was believed to have been a refuge for an Inca emperor who fled Cusco during an attempted Wari invasion. Later, you’ll complete the final downhill section to Lamay in the Sacred Valley, where your car will be waiting to collect you and take you to your hotel for the evening.
DAY 13: Bidding farewell to Peru