3 DAYS FROM $899
Join us on a spectacular journey through South America that showcases the continent's most extraordinary works of nature and humankind. First, our small group explores the Sacred Valley of the Inca and Cusco, capital of the Inca and Spanish‐colonial empires. In between, we'll travel by rail on a breathtaking journey to the architectural marvel of Machu Picchu, which an overnight stay allows us to explore in depth on two guided tours. While here, we'll also have the opportunity to engage in a thrilling hiking adventure to nearby Inti Punko "Sun Gate". We also venture to the historic capitals of Peru and Ecuador, Lima and Quito, before embarking on an unforgettable five-day cruise of the Galapagos Islands, one of the most pristine natural areas on the planet. Your spacious Galapagos cruise vessel is a specially outfitted eco‐cruise ship that combines the stability and comfort of a large ship with a full array of naturalist‐guided shore excursions and small‐group wildlife encounters, as well as numerous opportunities for active adventures such as swimming, snorkeling, and "panga" rides. Plus, we've enhanced the Galapagos Islands cruise portion of your adventure with new ports for even more natural discoveries!
South America travelers especially appreciate the opportunity to combine Machu Picchu with a Galapagos cruise aboard a luxury expedition vessel. Add the chance to follow the final section of the Inca Trail, take in regional wildlife, observe authentic local culture, discover 5 incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and more — and you have a small‐group Galapagos adventure that is a wonder in itself!
Start your South American adventure a few days early with a pre-trip extension to the mystic Sacred Valley. Full of incredible Inca ruins and extraordinary landscapes, the valley is packed with one-of-a-kind historical and cultural marvels. With Sacred mountains topped by glaciers and colorful indigenous people surrounding you, you’ll uncover the heritage of the Pisac ruins, explore the largest market in the valley, and enjoy plenty of leisure time to soak in your incredible surroundings. This illuminating extension is perfect way to get acclimated to the environment and prepare yourself for the adventure ahead!
Fly overnight to Lima, Peru
Embark on an overnight flight to Lima, Peru
Enter the mythical Sacred Valley of the Incas and enjoy a Welcome Briefing and Dinner
After arriving in Lima, you'll fly to Cuzco and be transferred to the Sacred Valley of Incas, arriving on Day 2. Check in to your hotel and attend a Welcome Briefing and Welcome Dinner, where we have a chance to get acquainted with our travel mates. Or depart three days earlier to discover some of the best kept secrets of the Sacred Valley on our pre‐trip adventure and become acclimated with the higher altitude.
Meet schoolchildren and indigenous artisans in Chinchero, then hop a motortaxi to a chicheria
A remarkable day of cultural discoveries awaits us in Peru’s mythical Sacred Valley. Vantage Cares: We journey to Chinchero, where we’ll spend some time with local children during a visit to a school. Vantage Cares: Next, we’ll pay a visit to a local church before continuing to an indigenous weavers community. Here, we’ll participate in a weaving demonstration on the traditional backstrap loom and shop from a colorful array of beautiful blankets, garments, rugs, and other community-made goods.
Cultural Discovery: After an included lunch, we’ll catch a mototaxi ride to a typical chicheria, or family-run store, for some local flavor. Typically marked by a red flag or bag hanging from the door, a chicheria is the perfect spot to sample chicha, Peruvian homegrown maize beer. You'll also have time to share stories with the town’s indigenous residents during a home visit before continuing on to Urubamba this evening. We'll arrive at our hotel in time to enjoy the balance of an evening of leisure.
Board the scenic Vistadome train bound for Machu Picchu
Our small‐group journey to Machu Picchu is a highlight in itself. With Vantage Adventures, you'll enjoy upgraded seats aboard the Vistadome train for even greater comfort. Enjoy a spectacular trip along the roaring Urubamba River watching the landscape transition from highland plateau to forrest of clouds, with mountain peaks appearing around every bend. We arrive in Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu, “Lost City of the Inca,” where we will spend the night. Spending the night at the base of the mountain gives us more time to explore the magnificent citadel. Our first visit takes place in the quiet of the late afternoon, after daytime crowds and larger tour groups have departed. You'll also visit again tomorrow morning before the day trippers have arrived. Dinner is included at the hotel tonight.
Watch the sunrise over Machu Picchu before more archaeological explorations
Today, our early arrival at Machu Picchu will be rewarded with the thrilling, once‐in‐a‐lifetime opportunity of watching the sun rise magnificently over the ruins. Alternatively, you can join a guided hike along the Inca Trail to Inti Punko, the Sun Gate, at dawn. After enjoying lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll board the Vistadome train and set off to explore the archeological site of Ollantaytambo, a remarkable surviving example of Inca city planning. We’ll take a guided tour of the lower temple, with time to wander the impressive temple remains and shops found on the upper level.
This evening, we'll continue on to Cusco, the former capital of both the Inca and Spanish Colonial empires and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After arrival, you'll check into the hotel and enjoy dinner on your own.
Walking tour of Cusco and a home-hosted lunch with local family
This morning, delve further into Inca history during a visit to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, a massive walled fortress. Then, set out on a walking tour of Cusco that encompasses the Plaza de Armas, the Incan Temple of the Sun, and the 17th‐century cathedral, a fine example of colonial baroque architecture. Cultural Discovery: After our exploration of Cusco’s historic center, we'll experience life in the present as we join a local family in their home for lunch. Your evening is at leisure, with the option to tour a jewelry factory and do some shopping.
Discover Cusco’s ancient heritage on your own, or opt for a guided tour
Today is at leisure to explore this interesting city and have lunch on your own. If you like, join an optional "Cuzco Behind the Scenes" tour to learn how ancient practices carry their echo into the culture of today, with lunch included at a local restaurant.
Visitors to Cusco marvel at the city’s amazing Inca ruins and stroll the charming Spanish colonial heart, but most come away wondering what the lives of the inhabitants are really like when, behind the “tourist curtain.”
Join us on this unique optional tour, and you’ll glimpse a different side of life in Cusco. This special “behind-the-scenes” experience includes a fascinating visit to the local cemetery, where you’ll see tombs and mausoleums that serve the unique burial customs of this ancient region. You’ll then visit a local fruit and vegetable market, where the people of Cusco do their daily shopping. You’ll also have the opportunity to witness a traditional Andean healing ceremony conducted by a shaman. Plus, you learn about local cuisine at a cooking lesson, followed by lunch.
Please note: This tour is only available to travelers who have purchased the post-trip extension on the Amazon River Cruise: Peru's Wildlife Wonders tour.
Fly to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lima and traverse its historic city center
Early this morning, we head to the airport for our flight to Lima. We arrive in time for lunch at a local restaurant, then explore the historic center of the Peruvian capital — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — on a fascinating walking tour, where we'll visit the San Francis Church and Catacombs, watch the changing of the guards in the main square, and more. After arriving at our hotel this evening, enjoy dinner on your own and some free time to explore Lima.
Land in Quito for the next leg of your South American adventure
We fly to Quito after breakfast this morning to begin the next phase of our South American adventure. The evening is at leisure for you to explore Quito's famous restaurants or relax in your hotel. Enjoy dinner on your own tonight.
Trek to the “Middle of the World” and enjoy a guided tour of Quito
We straddle the hemispheres this morning as we journey north of Quito to La Mitad del Mundo, the "Middle of the World" — a monument marking the spot where the Equator passes through Ecuador. Lunch is included at a local restaurant.
This afternoon, enjoy a guided tour of Quito, including the historic town center, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the largest intact Spanish colonial city centers. Stops include Independence Plaza, the presidential palace, La Compañía de Jesús temple, and other important sites. Your evening is at leisure with dinner on your own.
Quito on your own, or take a optional tour of thrilling Cotopaxi National Park
You may explore Quito at your own pace today. If you wish, you can join us on an optional tour of Cotopaxi National Park, where you can admire views of one of the world’s highest volcanoes by hiking or from the historical hacienda where we'll enjoy lunch.
Follow in Darwin’s footsteps as you fly to the Galapagos Islands and embark ship
This morning, we fly to the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin during his 1835 visit. Upon landing on Baltra Island, we'll transfer to the M/V Santa Cruz II. Our Galapagos voyage takes us to a variety of unique and fascinating islands. On each, set out on naturalist-led guided shore excursions. Our itinerary is determined by Galapagos National Park and is subject to change, and the schedule detailed here is not necessarily the final one. The plan today is to arrive on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, where we'll explore the fascinating landscapes of Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill). Our excursion will take us past a brackish water lagoon frequented by shorebirds, ducks, and flamingos; further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western islands of the archipelago, as well as the chance to observe land iguanas.
Return to nature as you survey the islands of Isabela and Fernandina for wildlife
After breakfast, we'll explore the coast of Isabela Island by Panga while our naturalist guide provides insight on the dramatic geology of the area. Watch for the many species that populate the island, from flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins to fur seals and boobies. Weather permitting, you'll have the change to snorkel along the cliffs of this marine life-rich area, seasonally visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sun fish. Our afternoon is dedicated to exploring the unique environment of youngest island of the archipelago, Fernandina Island. Here, you'll find a high density of marine iguanas, sea lions, Sally light-footed crabs, penguins, hawks, and many other fascinating species. This evening, we'll return to the ship for a sunset cocktail before dinner. Cultural Connection: This evening on board, observe the stars (weather permitted).
Learn about the efforts to breed tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station
This morning, disembark on Santa Cruz Island for a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station's giant tortoise breeding center in the town of Puerto Ayora, set within a large prickly pear cactus forest that is home to many land birds. Here at the center, young tortoises are hatched, reared, and readied for reintroduction to their natural habitat. Then, head to the cooler highlands of the island for lunch in this completely different ecosystem. The highlight of the day will be a visit El Chato Reserve to see the giant Galapogos tortoises in their natural environment before returning to the M/V Santa Cruz II for dinner.
Continue island explorations on exhilarating panga and glass-bottom boats
Following breakfast this morning, enjoy a panga ride along the maze of channels on the north shore of Floreana Island. We'll visit Baroness Cove to revel in breathtaking island views before landing at Post Office Bay. Here, you'll wee the historic barrel that has served as the post office of the archipelago for over two centuries. You'll also have to opportunity to enjoy the beach or participate in snorkeling before heading back to the ship for lunch and a special siesta. This afternoon, we'll set out on pangas and glass-bottom boats to explore the underwater wonders of Champion Islet, an extinct shield volcano, regarded as one of the best snorkeling spots in the archipelago. From there, it's on to Punta Cormorant, where we'll observe the flamingos, pintail ducks, and other bird species that color the brackish water lagoons and the sea turtles that wander the white sand beaches. Dinner will be on the ship this evening.
Fly to Guayaquil for an afternoon at leisure, then say goodbye at a Farewell Dinner
After disembarking the ship at Baltra Island, we'll board a flight back to the colorful seaport of Guayaquil, where we'll enjoy an afternoon at leisure before our Farewell Dinner.
After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.
Please Note: The Galapagos Islands portion of this itinerary is subject to change based on requirements of the National Park Authorities and the order of site visits can be different than as outlined above. This is to preserve the environment and limit any impact by tourists.