Our Legendary Machu Picchu & Galápagos Islands provides a thorough expedition into some of the Western world’s most ancient cultures and wildlife. Over the course of 16 days, you’ll encounter a world where the past and present overlap in everyday Andean life. Enjoy modern luxury in boutique hotels and opulent cruise ships while delving into timeless culture and wildlife. With 30 included features and Cultural Discoveries, as well as five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this journey is sure to transform you.
This intimate, small-group voyage begins with a whirlwind tour of Lima, Peru’s capital. Venture into the renowned Sacred Valley, where you’ll dine with indigenous weavers and sip chicha, a fermented corn spirit. Hop on a Deluxe train ride for scenic views of the Urubamba River, heading to the legendary Machu Picchu. You’ll have two days to soak in the magic of the Incan Empire’s historic capital, learning about each building’s purpose on a guided tour. Enjoy the stillness as birds chirp, llamas graze, and the Andean clouds part for an unforgettable, wondrous sunrise. You’ll swear the spirits of the Incan were sitting beside you. Head to the neighboring Incan city of Ollantaytambo before roaming the colonial streets of Cusco.
Once you’ve flown to Ecuador, you’ll get acquainted with Quito’s historic quarter on a walking tour. Step in both hemispheres in La Mitad del Mundo before the next leg of your journey brings you to Baltra Island. Here, you’ll kick off an illuminating five-day wildlife cruise through the Galápagos Islands. Think like Charles Darwin as naturalist experts guide you through wildlife expeditions on pangas and glass-bottom boats, revealing the archipelago’s unparalleled biodiversity. Keep your eyes peeled for fauna — including 180 bird, 360 mammal, and 25 reptile species — and learn about tortoise breeding efforts before you see these giant animals in the wild. As you hop the islands, you’ll have the chance to swim, snorkel, kayak, and stargaze in one of the world’s most important ecosystems.
For a more complete journey through the Andean region, join our thrilling pre-trip extension to Lake Titicaca and Puno. On the border of Bolivia and Peru, you’ll discover more indigenous traditions along the world’s highest altitude lake and a man-made floating village — one of Peru’s most unique locations!
Click here to get a glimpse of the wildlife you may encounter on this adventure — plus, tips on how to capture the perfect photograph.
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 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 artifacts 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 moto taxi 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 to 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
We’ll delve further into Incan history on a full day tour of Cusco with a morning 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 cathedral 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.
Cusco to Quito via Lima
Today, we’ll head to the airport for our flight to Quito, which is included in the base price. Upon arrival at our hotel, the Hilton Colon Quito (or similar) 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
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.
Visit to the Valleys of Guayllabamba and Cayambe
Departing from Quito to the north, we will ride across the colorful valleys of Guayllabamba and Cayambe. Savor a delicious lunch at a local restaurant before preparing for a busy afternoon. A ride through this breathtaking Andean setting offers great photo opportunities and after two hours of traveling through the riveting countryside, we will arrive at the province of Imbabura. Savor a delicious lunch at a local restaurant before preparing for a busy afternoon.
Take a walk through the famed craft market of Otavalo, which is the most famous and picturesque in South America. For visitors, the market offers the possibility of approaching Ecuadorians at a more intimate level as you negotiate prices of a variety of woven goods, bags, hats, flutes or simply appreciate the skillful and generous people responsible for the elegance and beauty of the clothing and handicrafts. 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 2.5-hour flight to the Galápagos Islands, the Pacific archipelago that captured Charles Darwin’s fascination and changed history as we know it. After landing on Baltra Island, we’ll board the Deluxe safari vessel m/v Galapagos Legend. We’ll set sail from Baltra, and in the evening, arrive at the Mosquera Islet.
This tiny, low-lying islet, covered in coral sand, is set between North and South Seymour Islands. It is home to a group of sea lions that come to laze on the soft white sand. It is a good spot to observe shorebirds as well as herons, lava gulls. and boobies. Snorkeling or diving here one can often see sharks, rays, and barracudas.
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.
Survey wildlife while cruising through Santiago and Rabida Islands
After breakfast, we’ll explore Egas Port on Santiago Island. The black volcanic sand sets this landing apart from most. It is best known for the dramatic shoreline where we meet a host of species that chose to live between land and sea. The most spotted species here are the Galapagos fur seals, which maintain a small colony at the end of our walk. Other species of note include American oyster catchers, sea lions, waders, herons, lava lizards and even Galapagos hawks.
An optional visit takes us to an abandoned salt mine famous in its day for supplying salt to mainland Ecuador.
In the evening, we’ll head to the beautiful Rabida Island for even more natural exploration and discovery. Lying at the heart of the archipelago, this dramatic island with its distinctive red-sand beach is home to sea lions, mockingbirds, finches, endemic Galapagos doves and vermillion flycatchers. A brief walk takes us through a forest of palo santo and cacti to a beautiful overview of the bay. Snorkeling here can be excellent, often with large schools of black-striped salemas, sea lions, and the ubiquitous turtles of the region.
Isabela and Fernandina Island natural wonders
In the morning, we’ll start our adventure at Urbina Bay on Isabela Island. At the far end of a long, level hike we arrive at a strange phenomenon where large blocks of coral lie completely exposed after a dramatic geological uplift in 1954. Located at the western base of Alcedo Volcano we hope to run into a few very impressive land iguanas as well as some of the volcano´s endemic Galapagos giant tortoises during the wet season.
In the evening, we’ll head to Tagus Cove, which sits on the northwest coast of the island, just across the channel from Fernandina Island. As a well-known hideout and deep-water anchorage in the days of pirates, Tagus Cove was also one of the few sites visited by Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle in 1835. A beautiful hike leads us past an overview of Darwin Lake and on to a stunning volcanic landscape revealing Isabela Island´s dramatic northern volcanoes.
Once back at sea level the perfect activity is to snorkel along a submerged wall with turtles, lots of fish, penguins, and potentially flightless cormorants. You might even be tempted by a dinghy ride or kayak!
Marine iguanas and volcanic cliffs from Punta Espinosa to Punta Vicente Roca
We begin our day with breakfast in Punta Espinosa, before heading out on a wildlife tour to see the famous local marine iguanas on Fernandina Island. As the youngest island of Galapagos and one of the most pristine in the world, Fernandina is truly a treasure for expedition travelers. Known simply as the “marine iguana capital of the world”, this desolate volcanic backdrop is home to a huge concentration of these enigmatic reptiles. You’ll also find the diminutive and adorable Galapagos penguins sharing the same shoreline, often present as tours pass.
Additionally, we’ll have the exciting opportunity to snorkel with marine iguanas here as they feed underwater, along with opportunities to witness penguins, turtles and the bizarre, endemic, flightless cormorants in the wild. We will hike volcanic terrain today, so make sure to prepare with proper hiking shoes, poles, and other active hiking resources and equipment.
Our afternoon adventure brings us to Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela Island. This spectacular site is surrounded by the immense cliffs formed over time from the eroded volcano. Studded with resting sea birds like brown noddies and Nazca boobies, we will enjoy them up close from our dinghies. Snorkeling here is superb too, with certain species only found in the west of the archipelago. We also have a very real chance of swimming with penguins and potentially a plethora of green turtles, which is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Santa Cruz Island tortoises, disembark, and fly to Guayaquil
We’ll disembark on Santa Cruz Island this morning to visit the Highlands Tortoise Reserve. Here in the central highlands of Santa Cruz Island, we have our best opportunity to interact at close quarters with totally wild Galapagos giant tortoises. A short walk among these huge, 600lb, reptiles will also offer the chance for more highland species, especially several species of the famed finches.
After disembarking at Santa Cruz Island, we'll have a meet and greet at the airport, then board an included flight to the colorful seaport of Guayaquil. We’ll check into our hotel and the evening will be at your leisure as you prepare to end your incredible journey and head back home. Some flights may depart after our farewell dinner, while other guests may stay on for a final overnight at our hotel in Guayaquil.
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.