Day 1: Airport reception and transfer to your hotel. Overnight accommodations at the new (opened June 2007) Hotel Costa del Sol Ramada Lima, with daily buffet breakfast included. Conveniently close to the airport, this four star hotel features 130 rooms, restaurant, bar, business center, wireless internet, spa, and beauty salon. Includes: (B).
Day 2: Lima – Cuzco. Fly to Cuzco this morning (10,750 ft), the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America and capital of the Inca Empire. Much of colonial Cuzco was built on Inca foundations, and your guide will point out Inca stonework along the many streets. Overnight accommodations at the centrally located Posada del Inca Hotel. After settling in set off on a tour of Cuzco and the nearby Inca ruins.
Cuzco, the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent, was the capital of the Inca Empire and is considered by many Quechua peoples to be the spiritual center of the world. Much of colonial Cuzco was built on Inca foundations, and your guide will point out Inca stonework along the many streets. Visit the main square, the Cathedral, Santo Domingo Church, as well as a first introduction to Inca stonework at the ruins of Puka-Pukara, Qenqo, Tambo Machay, and the renowned fortress of Sacsayhuaman overlooking Cuzco and the surrounding valley. Includes: (B).
Day 3: Pisac and Ollantaytambo. This morning, depart with your guide for a full-day excursion to the village and ruins of Pisac located 20 miles from Cuzco. After exploring the ruins you will visit a colorful Indian market where you'll be able to trade with locals for a variety of handicrafts, including woolen sweaters and ponchos. Lunch will be served in Urubamba, followed by a tour of the town and fortress of Ollantaytambo located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 4: Cuzco – Machu Picchu. Set off on a scenic four-hour trip through the Urubamba Valley, followed by a 20-minute bus ride up to the breathtaking "Lost City of the Incas" - Machu Picchu. Set in the saddle of a mountain 1,000 feet above the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu escaped ransacking by the Spaniards. Explore the walls, stairways, temples and terraces with your guide. For the more energetic, a moderate 2-mile hike up to the Sun Gate offers fabulous views overlooking this ancient wonder. Overnight at Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, or for an additional charge, upgrade to the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, located adjacent to the ruins. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 5: Machu Picchu – Cuzco. Enjoy a full morning visit to the citadel and return to Cuzco in the afternoon. Overnight accommodations at the Posada del Inca Hotel. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Cuzco – Lima - Quito. Transfer to the Cuzco Airport for your flight to Lima. Upon arrival, proceed on your own to the international terminal for your flight to Quito, Ecuador. Airport reception and transfer to your hotel. Overnight accommodations at the Hotel Patio Andaluz, located in the heart of historic "Old Quito" and surrounded by churches, museums and national monuments. The hotel is an official National Treasure and holds centuries of history within its walls. It was part of the original Solaris that constituted the City of San Francisco of Quito at the time of its foundation. Includes: (B).
Day 7: Quito – Galapagos - Baltra, Santa Cruz. Transfer to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. Set sail on the M/Y Coral. Look from the deck for dolphins, whales and perhaps even a hammerhead shark. The boat is also likely to be accompanied by tiny Audubon’s shearwaters and playful sea lions. Arrive on Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the archipelago and location of the Charles Darwin Research Station. Plant species on this island include opuntia, croton, palo santo and cryptocarpus bushes. Keep an eye out for the Darwin finch as you hike aroung the “Los Gemelos” sink holes. Visit the “lava tubes”, fascinating tunnels over 1km in length. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Rabida (Jervis) - Santiago. You will arrive at Rabida (Jervis). This small island has plenty of things to see: pink flamingos, large-billed flycatchers, Galapagos doves and pelicans, boobies and Darwin finches. There is sparse vegetation here except for prickly pear cactus trees. On the northern coast, you may swim with the sea lions on a magnificent red sand beach, which offers an opportunity to observe their behavior. Dominant males mark out territories along the shore and patrol them noisily, defending against other males who might want to invade the "harem."
In the afternoon, you'll land at Puerto Egas of James Bay on the west side of the island of Santiago. Here, there is a long flat black lava shoreline, where eroded shapes form lava pools, caves and inlets which house a great variety of wildlife. This is a great place to see colonies of marine iguanas basking in the sun. These fascinating reptiles dive for extended periods feeding on seaweed and are the only lizard known to eat algae. The tide pools contain hundreds of brilliantly colored red sally-light foot crabs, which attract hunting herons of all the commonly found species. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Fernandina (Narborough) - Isabela (Albemarle). This 642 square km. island is the third largest and the most westerly in the Galapagos. It is also considered the youngest and its recently formed volcanic landscapes are most impressive. Punta Espinoza is located just across from Tagus Cove and is known for one of the greatest concentrations of endemic marine iguanas sharing the space with sally-light foot crabs, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins and sea lions.
A dry landing is required in order to reach the two paths - one to the point and the other to some recently formed lava fields. Here you can see various pioneer plants such as the Brachycereus cactus, as well as pa hoe hoe and lava formations and mangroves extending into the sea. At Point Vicente Roca, you will hike to the top of the Ecuador Volcano for a striking view and boobies, gulls and sea lions. Snorkeling is possible although the water is cold. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: Bartolome - Santa Cruz. Dry landing on Bartolome. Arriving on this island, passengers will see volcanic formations including lava bombs, spatter, and cinder cones. After a hike to the summit visitors will have an impressive view of the surrounding islands, including the eroded tuff cone of Pinnacle Rock. During the ascent travelers will often see a large colony of Marine Iguanas and Lava Lizards. Red Mangroves, Tiquilla, and various cacti all add to the experience.
Visitors also enjoy a chance to cool off while snorkeling. Here travelers often see the Galapagos Penguin, Sea Turtles, and White Tipped Sharks from a safe distance. Arrive in the afternoon at Black Turtle Cove located near Las Bachas beach in the north of Santa Cruz Island. This excursion provides passengers with a "panga" ride though the mangrove, during which the outboard motor of the small boat is turned off. This allows the close observation of Sea Turtles, White Tipped Reef Sharks, Spotted Eagle Rays, and Yellow Rays. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11: Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) - Baltra - Quito. This morning, enjoy a visit to the Island of Santa Cruz. This 968 square km. island is the second largest and the most populated of the Archipelago. Puerto Ayora is the main town along the south coast and it is just a 20-minute walk by road northeast to the Charles Darwin Research Station, one of your visit sites.
The Station is a center for research and conservation of the Galapagos species, especially the 11 surviving species of tortoise. Admire the impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest and many land birds. In the late morning, you will transfer to the airport for your return flight to Quito (or Guayaquil). Airport reception and transfer to your overnight accommodations at the Patio Andaluz, breakfast included. Includes: (B).
Day 12: Quito – Departure. Hotel pickup and transfer to the airport. Includes: (B).
Note: All itineraries are privately guided, and may be modified to suit personal travel dates, interests and budgets.
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