Andean Mountains Culture and the Enchanted Islands
Basking marine iguanas cling to the shining basalt rocks, which are the tips of huge volcanoes that rise out of the Pacific. The Galapagos Islands form an archipelago that is home to an immense variety of fearless creatures, many of them unique. Retracing Darwin's steps, we roam and swim amongst them in this delightful setting, before we explore the ancient Inca Empire. Option to continue to Lake Titicaca & Bolivia and cross to the stunning setting of Rio de Janeiro
Day by Day Summary
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Days 1 - 3
Day 1 - Departure
Daytime flight on Thursday (First class) or Saturday (Tourist class) to Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated between two ranges of the snowcapped Andes, Quito has a beautiful setting and temperate climate. You will be met at the airport by our representative who will take you to your hotel for 3 nights and give you a quick introduction to the area and your programme.
Day 2 - Quito City Tour
Half day tour, covering both the modern and colonial quarters of Quito including La Compañía Church with its ornate façade, and a visit to the Archaeological Museum which houses a fascinating collection of pre-Colombian ceramics & gold.
Day 3 - Otavala market
We visit Otavala, embracing an area of snowcapped mountains, lakes and terraced farmland. Visit the colourful and bustling Indian market where men and women with long plaited hair, dressed in their traditional clothes sell all types of weavings, tapestries and handicrafts.
Days 4 - 10
Days 4 - 10 Cruise the Galapagos Islands
Cruise the Galapagos Islands where Darwin observed the wildlife that would lead him to his theory of evolution for 7 nights. Flight to the Galapagos and transfer to the M/Y Eric (First) or M/Y Samba (Tourist) with daily morning and afternoon guided excursions to admire the tame wildlife endemic to each island. Basking marine and land iguanas, red and blue footed boobies, frigate birds, giant tortoises, and friendly sea lions abound.
Days 11 - 12
Day 11 - Flight to
Desembark, transfer to the airport and fly back to the mainland, connecting with a flight to Lima, where we stay for 2 nights.
Day 12 - Lima City Tour
With our local guide you will visit the main squares, surrounded by grand colonial buildings, the Anthropological Museum with its fascinating array of textiles, pottery and mummies spanning from 1400 BC to Hispanic time, and the Larco Herrera Museum, where a large collection of randomly arranged treasures is housed.
Days 13 - 14
Day 13 - Flight to Cusco
Flight to Cusco, where we stay for three nights. Afternoon free to acclimatise to altitude of 3,310m or walk to the main square to absorb the local atmosphere.
Day 14 - Cusco city
A fascinating half day tour of Cusco and the ruins surrounding the city. Within Cusco the evidence of Inca culture is still visible, despite the destructive tendencies of the conquistadores. The Cathedral, churches and numerous other buildings are erected on solid Inca stonework foundations, unchanged over the centuries. Outside the city stands the mighty fortress and religious site of Sacsayhuamán, an astounding megalithic structure, whose massive stones, weighing over 100 tons each, fit together with characteristic Inca precision.
Day 15 - Sacred Valley of the Incas Tour
A scenic, full day trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, affording great views of the valleys and Inca terracing. We visit the Maras salt mines, before we continue to Pisac market, a colourful affair where villagers come from miles around to barter and sell food and weavings. We visit Pisac ruins to see the remains of some of the finest examples of Inca masonry, and continue to the village of Ollantaytambo, with its ancient irrigation system, still in good working order, and with the ancient Inca temple fortress towering above. Return to Cusco.
Days 16 - 17
Day 16 - Machu Picchu by Vistadome Train
Set off by Vistadome train along the course of the Urubamba River to Aguas Calientes. This is a spectacular journey through a dramatic and changing landscape with some fantastic views. From Aguas Calientes, you will be met by your guide and take a bus up the steep mountain side to the magnificent citadel of Machu Picchu, which silently awaits. You will have a private guided tour of the ruins to learn about the Inca culture and history of the site, the rest of the afternoon is free.
Day 17 - Machu Picchu at Leisure
Early mornings offer an excellent opportunity for a quiet stroll around Machu Picchu, a walk along the Inca Trail to Intipunku (Sun Gate), or a strenuous climb to Huayna Picchu, the rocky escarpment overlooking the ruins. In the afternoon Vistadome train back to Cusco, where we stay for the last night.
Day 18 - Departure or Extension (see options below)
Afternoon flight from Cusco to Lima, connecting with return flight home in the early evening and arriving the following day on Day 19, or extend your holiday with options below.
Lake Titicaca & La
Day 18 - Cusco at Leisure
A full day at leisure in Cusco to explore the city, relax, take an optional extra excursion, or simply enjoy the surroundings and atmosphere of this magnificent city.
Day 19 - Andean Explorer Train to Lake Titicaca
Board the luxurious Andean Explorer Train at Cusco to cross the dramatic Andean landscape. You will sit at a table by the window, where lunch and afternoon tea will be served, as the route takes you through beautiful Andean landscapes, of snow covered mountains, past fields of grazing cattle, hot springs and small villages. The train stops at isolated railway stations where local people await to sell local food and handicrafts. On arrival on the shores of Lake Titicaca, we will be met and taken to our lakeside hotel in Puno, staying for 1 night.
Day 20 - Uros
We take a boat trip on the lake to visit the people living on the floating Uros Islands, which together with huts and rafts, are built out of the Totora reeds prevalent in the area. Leave Puno in the afternoon on a scenic bus ride, skirting the lake, past local farmers working their Inca terraces to the charming village of Copacabana, Bolivia's main pilgrimage centre. Continue by boat to Sun Island, where we take a short hike to our simple lodge overlooking the lake.
Day 21 - Sun Island & Transfer to La Paz
In the morning we have time to explore Sun Island before taking a boat back to Copacabana. From Copacabana our journey continues along the Bolivian lake shores, arriving at La Paz in the early evening where we stay for 2 nights.
Day 22 - La Paz City
Our tour of the city follows a maze of streets and alleyways to visit colonial squares, churches and streets lined with little shops selling wonderful weavings, traditional musical instruments and jewellery, before leading us to the witches' market, where charismatic ladies sell a range of herbs, bottled potions and amulets to cure all ills. We continue to the Moon Valley, an area of sandstone, sculpted by wind and rain to creat a surreal lunar landscape.
Day 23 - Departure or Extension (see option below)
Flight to Lima, connecting with overnight flight home arriving on Day 24, or extend your holiday with option below.
Day 23 - Flight to Rio de Janeiro
From Bolivia fly on to Rio de Janeiro, via Sao Paulo, staying for 3 nights in the cosmopolitan beach areas of Copacabana and Ipanema.
Day 24 - Christ the Redeemer Excursion
Morning excursion to Brazil's famous landmark, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, perched on Corcovado mountain. From here the views extend far out to tropical islands, Guanabara Bay with its beautiful beaches and the sea, and the city itself, surrounded by lush green forest. Afternoon visit to Rio's Botanical Gardens.
Days 25 - 26 - Rio de Janeiro at Leisure
One and a half day at leisure to explore the city, enjoy the beaches of Rio or take an option excursion, before late afternoon transfer to the airport on Day 26 for your return flight home arriving on Day 27. Or choose to extend your holiday to unwind on a beach resort near Rio de Janeiro.