Day 2: After a well rested night and hearty breakfast, we venture out into what is considered one of the most beautiful capitals in all of South America. Quito's historic center was one of the first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites announced in 1979. Transported back to colonial times, we walk amongst the oldest monuments of the city, which include: the 300 year old convent of San Francisco, the Jesuit church with baroque architecture, and the life-like paintings within the church of San Agustin. Take time during our lunch break to reflect on all the history and culture of Quito before we continue our journey with a walk through Ejido's local arts and crafts fair. Here we find handcrafted pottery, leather goods and vibrant paintings at a great value. We finish the night with a delicious dinner. Choose from fresh ceviches or hot home made empanadas and several refreshing drink options.
Day 3: The day truly begins as we land in the Galapagos. These remote islands are not only known as Charles Darwin's inspiration for the Theory of Evolution, but also as a fascinating example of geological activity. We arrive to San Cristobal, the easternmost island of the Galapagos. Once we drop our bags into our new hosteria, the day continues as we experience the island's refreshingly clear waters on a snorkeling cruise. Swim with the 2,900 different marine species that exist underwater near Isla Lobos. You will especially enjoy taking a dip with the playful sea lions. Did you know that the early visitors to the islands called sea lions, sea wolves? That's where name Isla Lobos came by its name, "Wolf Island". We continue to Leon Dormido, also known as Kicker Rock. With some imagination, this unique outcropping of rocks resembles a sleeping lion. We return to San Cristobal and have time to freshen up before dinner on the island.
Day 4: Wake up to crisp ocean air as we take a 2.5 hour boat ride to the small islands of Champions and Enderby. Plunge into the waters to explore the island's black coral bushes, keep an eye out for the Pacific Seahorse and green turtles lurking amongst the reef. On our ascent to the the top of the islets, we can observe the various breeds of iguanas, ranging in color from charcoal black to highlighter yellow. Don't get to close however, as these reptiles have a history of spitting if they feel they are being threatened!
Before lunch our trip continues with a true adventure as we explore a real Pirate Cave. Once inside the cave we see the moist dark walls are decorated with intricate carvings of the past. Our guide explains their origins and how pirates used these caves to find fresh water reservoirs. Too much excitement? Slow down at the turtle reserve with both small and giant tortoises alike. Our day of nature and adventure ends with dinner on Isabela Island, our home for the next 2 nights, and a stroll to the Flamingo Lagoon.
All Galapagos Island visits and activities depend on weather conditions and are at the discretion of the naturalist guide.
Day 5: We traverse gravel roads on a short 40 min bus ride to the Sierra Negra volcano. Our guide safely leads us to the top of hardened lava fields and a crater filled landscape, which are only a few years old. It is possible to catch a glimpse of geysers steaming from the earth's surface. Don't be surprised with the drastic temperature changes. The volcano's environment can produce dense, wet fog in one area and a pocket of sunshine and heat in another. Following the lava fields, we take a leisurely hike on the volcano's edge, at 9 miles in diameter, it is the second largest crater in the world.
We break for lunch amongst palm trees and hibiscus flowers in Villa Campo Duro, a nice change of scenery from the barren landscapes of the volcano. We return to the town port around 3 pm and set sail towards Concha Pearl. Concha de Perla is a shallow, calm bay with crystal clear water that allows you to enjoy the fascinating marine life of Galapagos. If you are lucky you will be able to swim with sea lions and penguins. Later that night we return to our hotel for dinner and to unwind.
Day 6: Starting the day early, we take a short boat ride to the smaller island of Tintoreras. Depending on the season we will likely see white tip reef sharks swimming in the coves. Known for their slender body frames, white tip reef sharks are rarely aggressive towards humans. Along the coastline, it's possible to find 2 of the islands' most popular birds the blue-footed booby and the Galapagos penguin. Later we cruise two hours by boat to Santa Cruz, where take a ride to the island's highest point for a BBQ lunch.
Following lunch we have an up-close encounter with the wild, gigantic Galapagos tortoises. Discover these primal creatures that weigh over 500 pounds, live to 150 years old, and roam free on the island. Take some time before dinner, to explore the town of Puerto Ayora. This is an excellent opportunity to pick up some souvenirs at the nearby shops or simply settle back in a hammock in the hotel's common room.
Day 7: Pack your bags, as today we leave the Galapagos and head back to Quito. Prior to our transfer out of Baltra airport, we have one final stop at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here we learn about the functions of the national parks and obtain an overall view of the vast wildlife species and vegetation that can be seen on the islands.
A visit to the station would not be complete without a peek at its most famous resident, Lonesome George. At over 100 years old, he is the last known Pinta tortoise in the Galapagos. Since his rescue in the 1970's, researchers have been trying to find a potential mate for George. Perhaps you will meet one of his many girlfriends on your visit. Once we arrive in Quito, you will have a free night that can be used at your discretion. Grab a drink in the nearest bar or visit an internet cafe to connect with friends and family members back home.
Day 8: Our journey to the Ecuadorian Amazon starts in the snow covered mountains tops of the highlands. Our first stop is the village of Papallacta. Make sure you have your bathing suit ready. The cool temperatures of the Andes don't bother us as we slip into the natural hot springs. We spend a couple of hours relaxing in the healing waters with the beautiful Antisana volcano as our backdrop.
Our adventure continues as we pass through small towns and lush green hills to the riverside pueblo of Coca. In town, we grab a motorized canoe and cross the river to our enchanting lodge in the Amazon Basin. Before dinner you can stroll around the property or enjoy a Sundowner cocktail at the bar as you appreciate the breathtaking sunset over the river. Tonight we fall asleep to the sounds of the forest nearby.
Day 9: It is a day of great choices! Our day of trekking through the Amazon tropical forest starts today. Get ready to examine diverse vegetation, unique creatures, and vibrant birds. With over 1,000 different species of birds living in the Ecuadorian Amazon, it is a prime location to bird watch. A visit to the Lake of the Hoatzin, will show us one of the most interesting birds to reside in this environment, the Hoatzin a bird with a blue face, and spiked feathers atop its head.
Today you have the opportunity to learn the ways of the natives with a cooking class. We learn how to use jungle spices to prepare unique Amazon dishes such as 'pango' a popular meat and banana dish. In the afternoon we are invited to visit a Shaman. The indigenous believe he is a messenger between the human world and the spirit world, watch in awe and intrigue as he conducts century old rituals. In addition, you will also be able to attend the local school that is funded by the Yuchana Foundation. Here you can meet the local children and experience how daily schooling works in the Amazon.
Day 10: Leaving Coca early, we take a flight to Quito where we spend the afternoon at a social project . Funded by viSocial, $30 of every Viventura tour is donated to this foundation. The project "Para Dar Esperanza" (to give hope) is a place where children and youth can come after school. We maintain a safe place where children can study. Thanks to this facility, children are given the opportunity to learn rather than work or spending their time in the streets. Today we have the chance to interact and play games with the children, or even learn more about how viSocial supports the entire community and its townspeople. Share your knowledge of the English language, practice your Spanish and learn the local customs before returning to our hosteria. Nearby you have a chance to grab dinner and reflect on the natural wonders of the past few days.
Day 11: We are on the first flight this morning to the coastal desert capital of Lima, Peru. After being greeted by our local guide we board our bus to explore this modern and colonial city. Weaving our way through the congested streets we reach our destination an affluent neighborhood called Miraflores. We should check in and leave our bags as we quickly travel to our next location of Parque del Amor. Its colorfully tiled benches and Pacific Ocean view is a perfect place for some romance. Making our way deeper into Lima's history, to the Plaza Mayor, we stroll around the traditional Spanish colonial square, complete with the city's famous Cathedral and the Presidential Palace. Follow the cobblestone streets to the grim San Francisco monastery. The catacombs are said to house (the bones of) over 70,000 residents from wealthy Peruvian families.
A quick ride to the bohemian and artistic neighborhood of Barranco for a criollo buffet lunch, where we will taste the blend of flavors from Spanish and indigenous peoples. Your new favorite dishes will be lomo saltado and ceviche. Like the taste of caramel or butterscotch? Choose a desert with lucuma, a typical Andean fruit. This afternoon is at your leisure to explore the city on your own.
Day 12: Our next journey takes us to the capital of the Incas; Cusco. As you exit the plane, be prepared to have your breath taken away, literally. With the high altitude of (11,200 feet) a gradual adjustment to the environment is necessary. Our local guide meets us at the airport and we immediately check into our hotel to get settled and let our bodies adapt.
After our break, we begin our circuit of the nearby Inca ruins. First stop is Sacsayhuaman (pronounced almost like sexy woman). The largest stone in this ceremonial complex weighs about 140 metric tons; the same mass as a small blue whale. On our route we'll also see the religious 'brewery' of Q'enqo, the fountains of Tambomachay, and the red Puka Pukara. Called back to the city center in Cusco, here we visit a Spanish colonial church built on top of the Inca temple of Coricancha. As we wind through the narrow passages we find the perfect symbol of Inca construction a 12-angled stone. Explore the town on your own or rest up for tomorrow's hike on the Inca Trail.
Day 13: This morning, get ready for one of the most memorable train rides in the world, the Andrea train. Journey through lush mountain tops until we reach our next adventure of climbing the Inca trail. We are transported through the Sacred Valley of the Incas and accompanied alongside by the winding Urubamba river until we reach the starting point of our hike, KM104.
Our hike begins as we follow a path set down approximately 500 years ago. The trek takes us through 8.7 miles of cliff side stairways and hard packed paths. The highest point of our 7 hour hike will be Wiñaywayna, known for its view of the Urubamba River and steep terraces. At this half-way point, we enjoy a picnic lunch before continuing on the orchid dotted path to the Puerta del Sol, where we get our first view of Machu Picchu. From the Sun Gate, we descend into the citadel. After catching the 20 minute shuttle into Aquas Calientes, we rest for the night. Before heading to bed, however, we recommend that you take a dip in the hot springs to relax your muscles after the long day's activities.
Do to high demand, all inca trail bookings must be made a minimum of 3 months in advance. All reservations are final and not eligible for refund.
Day 14: Our day starts early as we board one of the first buses to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Waking up early will be well worth it as you won't have to experience a tightly congested bus. Hopefully your hike yesterday cured you of any aversions to heights, as today we continue our adventure into higher elevation levels. The sharp drop offs surrounding this small archeological site, make it seem almost impossible to believe that the Inca could have built this elaborate religious haven. After hiking through the wide open agricultural terraces and to the House of the Guardians, we wind our way through the narrow and maze like corridors of temples, workshops and royal buildings. We won't miss the Temple of the Three Windows, which perfectly frame the Andean landscape and the sacred Urubama River. Finishing our tour at the main square, you will have some time to explore on your own before we return to Aguas Calientes. Hop aboard the train and then bus where we retire in Cusco for the evening.
Day 15: Today we head back to Lima, where you will catch your international flight home. You may have some time at leisure before your flight. If you feel like going into the city, we recommend stopping by the Museo Larco. After its renovation in 2009, the museum is better than ever. Peruse the intricate golden, pre-Colombian jewelry and hand made ceramic pots. The cafe is a great place to have a late lunch before returning to the airport.
Price includes only internal flights according to itinerary.
Also see tour packages in:
South America Ecuador Peru Nature & Wildlife Cultural Journey