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This pre-trip extension whisks you away to El Lago Titicaca, South America’s largest body of freshwater. Situated high on the Andean plateau between Peru and Bolivia, this lake will literally take your breath away. Discover the Peruvian waterside town of Puno, where various cultures have left their mark.
Here, it’s as if time is at a stand-still. Just as they did hundreds of years ago, the Uros people maintain their crops by hand and live in man-made floating islands. Witness the ancient traditions of this indigenous people amidst remarkable scenery. We’ll visit markets, explore archaeological sites, and float around the famous isles. You may even get to see llamas as you journey through this incomparable slice of Peru.
Fly overnight to Lima, Peru
Your epic quest starts today when you board an overnight flight to Lima, Peru.
Arrive in Peru, stretch your legs, and enjoy a Welcome Dinner at Huaca Pucllana
After transferring from Lima’s airport to the hotel, you’ll have time to walk around and attend a Welcome Briefing. A Welcome Dinner will be held at the Huaca Pucllana, a local restaurant situated in a Pre-Incan site. Take the opportunity to get acquainted with your travel mates over dinner! If you joined the pre-trip extension to Lake Titicaca, you’ll join the base program today.
Explore Lima’s historic center, visit the Larco Museum, and watch a local cooking demonstration
After breakfast, we’ll depart for a full-day city tour of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the capital of Peru. We’ll visit key landmarks before heading to Museo Larco, situated in a royal 18thcentury building. With artefacts chronicling nearly 5,000 years of Pre-Columbian art, you’ll get a glimpse into ancient Peruvian life. We’ll head to a local restaurant for lunch and a cooking demonstration. The evening will be spent at leisure; walk around Lima and dine wherever you choose.
Fly to Cusco and enter the mythical Sacred Valley of the Incas
In the morning, we’ll fly from Lima to Cusco. On our way to Urubamba by coach, we’ll stop by the Pisac Ruins, one of Peru’s most intact sites that exemplifies ancient Incan architecture. Lunch will be held at the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness upon check-in. You’ll then have the chance to check out a nearby craft market and wander the Sacred Valley before dinner.
Meet schoolchildren and indigenous artisans in Chinchero, then hop a mototaxi to a chichería
Our adventure through the Sacred Valley continues 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 high altitude. Here, we’ll visit the local Huila School and spend time with local children. Next, we’ll visit an adobe church, built on the remains of an Incan palace, before continuing onward.
We’ll then meet up with an indigenous weavers’ community and participate in a traditional weaving demonstration. If you wish to support the local people, a colorful array of handmade blankets, garments, and rugs will be available for purchase. After the demonstration, we’ll sit down to eat with the weavers. On the menu is a traditional Peruvian meal, including potatoes baked underground — an ancient Incan custom. With our bellies full, we’ll catch a mototaxi for some freewheeling fun on the way to our next stop.
The chichería is often a rustic, family-owned establishment reminiscent of the speakeasy. Typically marked by a red flag or bag hanging from the door, the chichería is where we’ll sample chicha – a homemade Peruvian beer made from maiz. Our cultural interaction will continue as we move to an indigenous resident’s home, where you’ll hear their stories and learn more about their lives.
The evening will end in Urubamba, where we’ll arrive at the 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 Machu Picchu. Our small group will board the Vistadome train, enjoying upgraded seats as we ride along the roaring Urubamba River. The train will ascend into the cloud forest, where the highlands meet the jungle.
We’ll reach the Lost City of the Incas in the quiet of late afternoon, when the daytime crowds and larger groups have departed. After a guided tour, we’ll check into our hotel at the base of the mountain, which affords us more time to explore. Tonight’s dinner is included at the hotel.
Watch the sunrise over Machu Picchu before more archaeological explorations
Today, we’ll return to Machu Picchu in the morning long before the day-trippers arrive. We’ll be met with the once‐in‐a‐lifetime chance to watch one of the most picturesque sunrises in the world. If you’re feeling more active, you can alternatively join a guided hike at dawn. You’ll trek along the Inca Trail to the heights of Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, with spectacular panoramic views.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll set off on the Vistadome to explore Ollantaytambo. This village and archaeological site is a surviving Incan city that’s been inhabited since the 13th century. We’ll take a guided tour of Ollantaytambo’s lower temple. You’ll have time to wander the upper level’s temple remains and quaint shops.
In the evening, we’ll continue onto Cusco, the former capital of both the Incan and Spanish empires and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After checking into the hotel, you’re free to wander around or enjoy dinner on your own.
Tour Cusco by foot and visit Sacsayhuamán fortress
We’ll delve further into Incan history in the morning with a visit to Sacsayhuamán. This fortress-temple is a remarkable example of Incan stonemasonry.
Back in Cusco, a walking tour of its historic center will bring us to the Plaza de Armas, the Incan Temple of the Sun, and the 17th-century cathedral. With its baroque architecture, the colonial catedral provides a stark contrast to surrounding buildings.
We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant and enjoy an evening at leisure. Alternatively, you can join a jewelry factory tour and do some shopping. AMA Jewelry is known for their quality gold and silver pieces.
Discover Cusco’s ancient heritage on your own or join a guided tour
Today, you’ll have the chance to explore Cusco on your own. You’ll also have the option to join the “Cusco Behind the Scenes” tour. Learn how ancient shamanic practices live on in present-day Cusco and enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Please note that the cost of this tour is additional.
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 Quito
Early this morning, we’ll head to the airport for our flight to Quito, which is included in the base price. Upon arrival at our hotel, you’ll receive a typical Ecuadorian welcome drink, made with local fruits. After an included dinner at the hotel, the rest of the night is yours to explore.
Trek to the Middle of the World and tour downtown Quito
This morning, we head north of Quito to bestride the hemispheres at La Mitad del Mundo. The Middle of the World Monument indicates where the equator passes through Ecuador, dividing the northern and southern hemispheres. We’ll each get a certificate to mark the occasion before we savor lunch at a local restaurant.
A guided afternoon tour of Quito will introduce us to the architectural and cultural marvels found in this historic quarter. Recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one of Latin America’s largest and best-preserved Spanish colonial city centers. Our stops include Independence Plaza, the presidential palace, La Compañía de Jesús temple, and more. The evening will be at your leisure, with dinner on your own.
Follow in Darwin’s footsteps as you embark on your Galápagos Islands adventure
This morning, we’ll take a flight to the Galápagos Islands, the Pacific archipelago that captured Charles Darwin and changed history as we know it. After landing on Baltra Island, we’ll board the deluxe safari vessel m/v Santa Cruz II. Over the next five days, this ship will take us through a variety of fascinating islands. Upon arrival, we’ll set off on naturalist-guided wildlife explorations.
Please note that our itinerary is determined by Galápagos National Park and is subject to change. As such, the schedule detailed below is not necessarily final.
The plan today is to arrive on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island and explore the landscapes of Cerro Dragón, or Dragon Hill. We’ll then head to a brackish lagoon frequented by shorebirds, ducks, and flamingos. As we move inland, our route offers stunning views of the bay and the archipelago’s western islands. Keep your eyes peeled, as we might spot land iguanas moving about!
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 incredibly unique vistas.
Survey wildlife on Isabela and Fernandina islands
After breakfast, we’ll investigate the coast of Isabela Island, also known as Punta Vicente Roca, by panga boat. A naturalist guide will provide insight on the area’s geology. Watch for the island’s many endemic animals, from flightless cormorants and Galápagos penguins to fur seals and blue-footed boobies. Depending on weather conditions, we’ll snorkel along the marine-rich cliffs, seasonally visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sunfish.
Afterward, we’ll spend the afternoon exploring the archipelago’s youngest island, Fernandina, or Punta Espinoza. Here, we’ll encounter a high density of marine iguanas, sea lions, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, penguins, hawks, and more. We’ll return to our safari vessel for a sunset cocktail before dinner.
Observing the night sky in such a remote environment is an unforgettable experience. Away from the light and pollution of larger cities, you’ll be able to see vibrant constellations and possibly even shooting stars tonight!
Learn about tortoise breeding efforts and observe wild Galápagos tortoises
We’ll disembark on Santa Cruz Island this morning to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. Located in the town of Puerto Ayora, the station is home to a giant tortoise breeding center. Young tortoises are hatched and reared before being reintroduced into their natural habitat. Set within a large, prickly pear cactus forest, many land birds can be spotted here.
Our next stop is lunch in the cooler heights of Santa Cruz, with a distinct ecosystem. The day’s highlight will be our visit to the El Chato Reserve to witness giant Galápagos tortoises in their natural environment. We’ll return to the ship for dinner.
Explore Floreana’s north shore, visit Post Office Bay, and witness Champion Islet in glass-bottom boats
Following breakfast this morning, we set off on a panga exploration of Floreana Island’s north shore. Through the maze of channels, we’ll visit Baroness Cove to revel in breathtaking 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 have the opportunity to snorkel and enjoy the beach before returning to the ship for lunch and siesta.
This afternoon, we’ll set out on glass-bottom boats to explore the underwater wonders of Champion Islet. After passing an extinct shield volcano, our next destination is an incredible snorkeling spot. It’s then on to Punta Cormorant, where we'll observe flamingos, pintail ducks, and other colorful bird species along the lagoons. It’s also common for sea turtles to wander these white-sanded beaches. Dinner will be aboard the m/v Santa Cruz II.
Disembark to fly to Guayaquil, enjoy the city, and say goodbye with a Farewell Dinner
This morning, we’ll bid adieu to the m/v Santa Cruz II as your Galápagos cruise comes to an end. After disembarking at Baltra Island, we'll board an included flight to the colorful seaport of Guayaquil. We’ll check into our hotel and the afternoon will be at leisure. We’ll say our goodbyes over an exclusive 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.