Legendary Machu Picchu & the Galapagos Islands - 2019

Sacred Valley • Machu Picchu • Cusco • Lima • 4-night Galapagos Islands expedition cruise • Guayaquil
  • $537
  • 16
  • 22
17 DAYS FROM $9,398
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Nazca Lines & The Peruvian Desert

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Evolution — both cultural and natural — is the buzzword on this intimate, small-group adventure to two of South America’s most extraordinary marvels: Peru’s Sacred Valley and the Galapagos Islands. While time has left these remote destinations mostly intact, you’ll witness how Peruvian indigenous tradition and contemporary custom weave a culturally rich tapestry rivaled only by the Ecuadorian archipelago that ensnared Charles Darwin’s imagination, and where once-untouched nature now lures scientists and conservationists from around the globe. You’ll touch down in Lima, ride the rails to Machu Picchu, and discover everyday life and culture in Cusco before boarding the mv Santa Cruz II for a five-day safari wildlife cruise through the primeval wonders of the Galapagos Islands.

A series of naturalist-guided shore expeditions will introduce you to the archipelago’s wildlife — including 180 bird, 360 mammal, and 25 reptile species — and myriad isles, while snorkeling excursions bring you face-to-face with a kaleidoscopic pageant of sea life. Maximize your South American journey with a pre-trip extension into the Peruvian desert, where you’ll investigate the Nazca lines by plane and experience a prelude to the Galapagos on a wildlife exploration to the wildlife haven of the Ballestas Islands. Sixteen included tours and five UNESCO World Heritage Sites enhance this exhilarating expedition that’s nothing short of transformational.

Click here to get a glimpse of the wildlife you may encounter on this adventure — plus, tips on how to capture the perfect photo for a lifetime of memories.

Sacred Valley to Guayaquil

Pre-Trip Extension

Nazca Lines & The Peruvian Desert

FROM: $1599 PER PERSON | 6 DAYS | $266 PER DAY
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DAY 1:

Fly overnight to Lima, Peru

After arriving in Lima, you'll fly to Cusco and be transferred to the Sacred Valley of Incas, arriving on Day 2.

Day 2:

Enter the mythical Sacred Valley of the Incas and enjoy a Welcome Briefing and Dinner

Today you’ll check into the hotel and attend a Welcome Briefing and Dinner where you’ll get acquainted with your fellow travelers. Or, depart earlier on a pre-trip extension to explore the incredible Nazca Lines & the Peruvian Desert.

Included Meals:


DAY 3:

Meet schoolchildren and indigenous artisans in Chinchero, then hop a mototaxi to a chicheria

We’ll begin our adventure through the Sacred Valley beginning with a day of cultural discoveries in the small town of Chinchero. Located between Cusco and Urubamba, Chinchero is known for its weaving community, Incan ruins, and altitude, which soars above Cusco’s. Vantage Cares: In Chinchero, we’ll spend time with some children during a visit to a local school. Vantage Cares: Next, we’ll visit an adobe church built on top of the remains of an Incan palace before continuing to an indigenous weavers community. Here, we’ll participate in a weaving demonstration on a 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 (motorcycle taxi) to a typical chichería — often a rustic, family-owned speakeasy-type establishment — for some local flavor. Typically marked by a red flag or bag hanging from the door, a chichería is where we’ll sample Peruvian homegrown maize beer known as chicha. 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 an evening at leisure.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 4:

Board the scenic Vistadome train bound for Machu Picchu

After breakfast we’ll transfer to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to the citadel of Machu Picchu. Our small-group journey to the Lost City of the Incas will be even more memorable when we board the Vistadome train to get there, enjoying upgraded seats as we soar along the roaring Urubamba River into cloud forest, where the highland clouds meet the jungle.

We’ll tour Machu Picchu in the quiet of late afternoon, when the daytime crowds and larger groups have departed. Afterward, we’ll check into our hotel at the base of the mountain, an ideal location that affords us more time to explore. We’ll return to Machu Picchu in the morning before the day-trippers arrive; tonight’s dinner is included at the hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5:

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 to watch the sunrise over the ruins. Alternatively, you can join a guided hike along the Inca Trail to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, at dawn.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll again board the Vistadome train and set off to explore the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, a surviving example of Inca city planning that features cobblestone streets continuously inhabited since the 13th century. We’ll take a guided tour of the lower temple, with time to wander the 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.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 6:

Walking tour of Cusco and a home-hosted lunch with local family

This morning, delve further into Inca history during a visit to the fortress-temple of Sacsayhuaman. A walking tour of Cusco will next bring us to the Plaza de Armas, the Incan Temple of the Sun, and the 17th-century cathedral, an 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.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 7:

Discover Cusco’s ancient heritage on your own, or opt for a guided tour

Join a “Cusco Behind the Scenes” tour to learn how ancient practices still echo in present-day Cusco, with lunch included at a local restaurant. Or, opt for a day at leisure to further shop, explore, and lunch on your own in historic Cusco.

Included Meals:

Optional Tour: Cusco Behind the Scenes

Cusco Behind the Scenes

  • Approximate Cost: $89 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 6 hours
  • Location: Cusco, Peru
  • When: Full-day Tour

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 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 view tombs and mausoleums that exemplify the unique burial customs of this ancient region. You’ll then visit a local fruit and vegetable market, where the people of Cusco shop daily. 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.

DAY 8:

Fly to Lima and discover its historic city center

Early this morning, we’ll head to the airport for our flight to Lima. We’ll 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 walking tour of fascinating hot spots including the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco and its catacombs. After arriving at our hotel this evening, enjoy dinner on your own and some free time to explore Lima.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 9:

Land in Quito for the next leg of your South American adventure

We’ll fly to Quito after breakfast and begin the next phase of our South American adventure: Ecuador’s nature-rich Galapagos Islands. The evening is at leisure for you to explore Quito’s restaurants with dinner on your own.

Included Meals:


DAY 10:

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 exact spot where the Equator passes through Ecuador. We’ll each get a certificate to mark the occasion before we savor an included lunch at a local restaurant.

An afternoon guided tour of Quito will introduce us to the architectural and cultural marvels found in the historic colonial quarter, recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the largest and most immaculately preserved Spanish colonial city centers. Other stops include Independence Plaza, the presidential palace, La Compañía de Jesús temple, and more. Your evening is at leisure with dinner on your own.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 11:

Quito on your own, or tour Cotopaxi National Park

Embark on an optional tour of Cotopaxi National Park, home to a variety of flora and fauna, including wild horses, wolves, foxes, pumas, and more. Here, you can enjoy views of the Cotopaxi Volcano on a hike, or from the historical hacienda where we’ll have lunch. Or, take this opportunity to explore Quito at your own pace.

Included Meals:

Optional Tour: Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi National Park

  • Approximate Cost: $149 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 8 hours
  • Location: Quito, Ecuador
  • When: Full-Day Tour
The most popular nature reserve in Ecuador is also its largest (and most grand!) Join us on an unforgettable excursion to Cotopaxi National Park, whose centerpiece is one of the world’s highest volcanoes. Active travelers will revel in the opportunity to explore the stunning natural beauty of the park and enjoy lunch in this serene setting.

DAY 12:

Follow in Darwin’s footsteps as you fly to the Galapagos Islands and embark ship

Channel the spirit of Charles Darwin on a morning flight to the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific archipelago that ensnared Darwin’s imagination during his inaugural visit.

After 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 where we’ll set off on naturalist-led guided shore and wildlife explorations. Our itinerary is determined by Galapagos National Park and is subject to change, and the schedule detailed here is not necessarily final. The plan today is to arrive on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, where we’ll explore the landscapes of Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill) and a brackish lagoon frequented by shorebirds, ducks, and flamingos. As we move inland, our route offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western islands of the archipelago, as well as the chance to observe land iguanas.

Scenic Sailing: Alongside the sunsets and sunrises in this part of the world, you’ll cruise from island to island through unspoiled waters and nature, including sightings of marine birds and the views of arriving at each unique island.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 13:

Return to nature as you survey wildlife on Isabela and Fernandina Islands

After breakfast, we’ll investigate the coast of Isabela Island by panga boat while our naturalist guide provides insight on the geology of the area. Watch for the many animal species that populate the island, from flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins to fur seals and boobies. Depending on the weather, we’ll snorkel along the cliffs of this marine life-rich area, seasonally visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sunfish.

Afterward, we’ll dedicate the remainder of our afternoon to exploring the archipelago’s youngest island, Fernandina. Here, we’ll find a high density of marine iguanas, sea lions, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, penguins, hawks, and more. This evening, we’ll return to the ship for a sunset cocktail before dinner. Cultural Discovery: We’ll capitalize on our remoteness with some stargazing from our safari vessel tonight (weather permitting).

Scenic Sailing: Observing the stars at night so far away from the big cities and light pollution is truly an unforgettable experience. You'll be able to see vibrant constellations and even shooting stars!

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 14:

Learn about tortoise breeding efforts at the Charles Darwin Research Station

We’ll disembark on Santa Cruz Island this morning on a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station’s giant tortoise breeding center. Located in the town of Puerto Ayora — set within a large prickly pear cactus forest that is home to many land birds — the center hatches and rears young tortoises before reintroduction into their natural habitat.

We’ll next head for the cooler highlights of Santa Cruz for lunch in a completely different ecosystem. The day’s highlight will be our visit to the El Chato Reserve to witness giant Galapagos tortoises in their natural environment before returning to the m/v Santa Cruz II for dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 15:

Continue island explorations on exhilarating panga and glass-bottom boats

Following breakfast this morning, we set off on a panga ride through the maze of channels on Floreana Island’s north shore. We’ll visit Baroness Cove to revel in breathtaking island views before landing at Post Office Bay. Here, we’ll see the historic barrel that’s served as the archipelago’s post office for more than 200 years. You’ll also have to opportunity to enjoy the beach or participate in snorkeling before heading back to the ship for lunch and 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 that’s regarded as one of the best snorkeling spots in the archipelago. From there, it’s on to Punta Cormorant, where we'll observe flamingos, pintail ducks, and other bird species that color the lagoons, as well as the sea turtles that wander the white sand beaches. Dinner will be on the ship this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 16:

Fly to Guayaquil for an afternoon at leisure, then say goodbye at a Farewell Dinner

After disembarking 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.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 17:

Fly home

After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight home. 

Included Meals:


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.

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Legendary Machu Picchu & the Galapagos Islands - 2019

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