5 DAYS FROM $1,499
Fly overnight to Lima, Peru
Your epic quest starts today when you board 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 Cusco and transfer by coach to the Peru’s Sacred Valley. Or, if you joined the pre-trip extension to Lake Titicaca, you’ll join the base program today. Check into your hotel and attend a Welcome Briefing and Dinner, where we have a chance to get acquainted with our travel mates.
Meet schoolchildren and indigenous artisans in Chinchero, then hop a mototaxi to a chichería
We’ll begin our adventure through the Sacred Valley 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. In Chinchero, we’ll spend time with some children during a visit to a local school. 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.
During our visit with the weavers, we’ll enjoy a traditional Peruvian meal, including potatoes baked in the Earth — an ancient, Inca-era cooking custom. Afterward, we’ll catch a mototaxi (motorcycle taxi) for some freewheeling fun, before visiting 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.
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 evaporated. 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.
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 village and archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, a surviving example of Inca city planning with charming cobblestone streets that have been continuously inhabited since the 13th century. We’ll take a guided tour of Ollantaytambo’s 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 in Cusco, 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 fortress-temple of Sacsayhuamán — a remarkable example of Inca stonemasonry. Back in Cusco, a walking tour of its historic center brings us to the Plaza de Armas, the Incan Temple of the Sun, and the 17th-century cathedral, which contrasts our surroundings with its colonial baroque architecture. We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant and then enjoy an evening 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
Join an optional “Cusco Behind the Scenes” tour to learn how ancient shamanic practices live on 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 this historic city.
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.
Fly to Lima and traverse 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.
Land in Quito for the next leg of your South American adventure
After breakfast, we’ll transfer to the airport for our flight to Quito, where we’ll spend a few days before beginning the next phase of our South American adventure: Ecuador’s nature-rich Galapagos Islands. Tonight we’ll convene for dinner at our hotel in Quito.
Trek to the “Middle of the World” and enjoy a guided Quito tour
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. Our stops include Independence Plaza, the presidential palace, La Compañía de Jesús temple, and more. Your evening is at leisure with dinner on your own.
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 enjoy some leisure time or to explore Quito at your own pace.
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 the naturalist’s imagination during his inaugural visit.
After landing on Baltra Island, we’ll transfer to the safari vessel 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 wildlife explorations. Our itinerary is determined by Galapagos National Park and is subject to change, so 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.
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 spend the rest of our afternoon 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 safari vessel for a sunset cocktail before dinner. We’ll capitalize on the benefits of our remote locale with some stargazing from the m/v Santa Cruz tonight (weather permitting).
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 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.
Continue island explorations on exhilarating panga and glass-bottom boats
Following breakfast this morning, we set off on a panga exploration 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 the opportunity to snorkel and enjoy the beach 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 and one of the best snorkeling spots. 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 m/v Santa Cruz this evening.
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 for an afternoon of leisure before our Farewell Dinner.
After breakfast, you’ll 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.