from $6099.00

Absolute Peru & Galapagos North & Central Islands

Tour Map

Tour style - Sailing/Cruising, Active & Adrenaline, Trekking/Hiking, Wildlife & Nature, Culture & History

27 days

Explore Peru's southern coast and its Incan Highlands. From the soaring heights of the Inca Trail to the steamy jungle stay at the exclusive G Lodge Amazon, this epic journey includes an all-encompassing tour of Peru and four nights exploring the Galápagos. As one of the biggest tour operators in the region, our exclusively operated fleet of yachts offers great value, and in Peru, we run our own treks, ensuring the fair treatment of our porters and the quality of food and equipment as you follow the Inca Trail to majestic Machu Picchu.
  • Day 1 Lima

    Arrive in Lima at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Please note that if you booked the Culinary Theme Pack it does not include extra time in Lima and we highly recommend booking pre-trip accommodation. You will be picked up from your hotel at approx 10:00am and taken to a local market and restaurant to prepare and enjoy a traditional Peruvian meal. You will return back to your hotel around 13:00. Please note that hot water shortages and power outages can be fairly common in Latin America (even in upgraded hotels and private homes). We appreciate your patience and understanding that these occurrences are outside of our control. Known as the City of Kings, Peru’s capital city Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany) in 1535. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of old Lima, and it is here you find the Cathedral, Government Palace and Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral dates back to the 1700s and houses the remains of the conquistador Pizarro. To get a feel for colonial Lima, take a cab to the Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the Palace Guard in the afternoon. Walk the streets surrounding the Jirón de la Unión for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to get a taste for life in a large South American city. An optional city tour visits many of the city’s highlights. There are many fine museums in and around the city, including the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which houses an equally impressive collection of pottery, mummies and textiles from the Paracas and Nazca cultures. The more affluent coastal districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro offer good nightlife and cafés all within walking distance. Limeños (Lima’s residents) are friendly, and the city is filled with excellent restaurants; seafood lovers in particular should be sure to try a ceviche, for which Lima is well known.

  • Day 2 Paracas (1B)

    Take the morning to explore more of Lima before hopping on a bus for our short trip down the coast to Paracas. Walk the town’s lively peatonal (pedestrian avenue) and find a café to sample some Peruvian food, such as ceviche or papa a la huancaina (potatoes with a chilli cheese sauce). Paracas is just down the coast from the important port town of Pisco, which gives its name to the white grape brandy produced in the region. If you haven’t tried the national drink, don’t pass up this chance to sip on a tasty and frothy Pisco Sour in the heart of Pisco country. From here, opt to visit the Ballestas Islands, where we observe the sea lion colonies, Humbodlt penguins and a variety of other birds. Approximate Distance: 250km Estimated Travel Time: 4.5 hours

  • Days 3-4 Nazca

    There is time this morning for an optional excursion to the popular Ballestas Islands, an excellent chance to view a lively sea lion colony, pelicans, penguins and other varieties of bird life. Back on land, catch a bus south to Nazca. On the way we pass by the pleasant colonial town of Ica. Ica enjoys a dry, sunny climate year-round and is known for its huge sand dunes. In the nearby oasis of Huacachina, the dunes are perfect subjects for photography and for a favourite local past time: sandboarding. Apart from the dunes, Ica is famous for its wines and there are several wineries and distilleries in the area. Next visit one of the world's greatest archaeological mysteries, the Nazca Lines. The lines consist of patterns and pictures etched in the ground, crisscrossing a wide area of flat desert. Some of the lines measure up to 10 km (32 miles) in length, and yet remain perfectly straight. The depictions of birds, insects and animals are only recognizable from the air. Who drew the lines, and why, is something modern archaeologists can only theorize about, but current beliefs suggest that they may be part of complex agricultural calendar. From the ground we can make out very little, and the best view is from a light aircraft, which can easily be arranged. The entire desert area was also once the home for the ancient Paracas and the Nazca cultures, which preceded the Incas by more than half a millennium. Remains of the Nazca culture are still visible during our included tour of the ancient Pre-Inca desert cemetery site of Chauchilla, with 1500 year-old mummies, bones and pottery on the desert floor. The tour also includes a visit to an artisan’s workshop, where modern masters create Nazca style pottery. Approximate Distance: 210km Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours

  • Day 5 Arequipa

    Peru’s second most important city after Lima, Arequipa maintains a traditional colonial style and more laid back pace in comparison with the capital. Sitting at 2325 m (7626 ft) above sea level and surrounded by the Andes mountains, this delightful colonial town is well worth a visit. Arequipa was built from a very light coloured volcanic rock called sillar, so older buildings dazzle in the sun, giving the city its nickname, “the White City.” The main plaza with its cafés and nearby cathedral is a top draw for visitors. Those with an interest in history and architecture may take an optional visit to the Convent of Santa Catalina, offering a brief respite from the outside world and a unique view into a by-gone way of life. Spectacular mountains surround Arequipa, the most famous of which is El Misti Volcano, at 5822 m (19096 ft) with its beautiful snow-capped peak. Also looming nearby are the volcanoes Chachani and Pichu Pichu. Approximate Distance: 570km Estimated Travel Time: 8-9 hours

  • Days 6-7 Colca Canyon (1B)

    Travel a rough, rutted road through high plains flanked by extensive Inca and pre-Inca terracing that goes on for kilometres, en route to the Colca Canyon—one of the deepest canyons in the world. Our first stop is Chivay, a picturesque village near the canyon, where we can take a dip in the local hot thermal baths, watch live Andean music at a peña or go for a llama steak. Two nights gives us time to take short hikes to acclimatize to the altitude. Take a tour around the canyon, stopping in fascinating villages and at “miradors” (scenic lookouts), where with a little luck we see Andean Condors soaring over the majestic Andes. Other unusual animals we may see in the Andean landscape include 3 different species of camelids: alpaca, llama and vicuña. Approximate Distance: 158km Estimated Travel Time: 4.30 hours

  • Days 8-10 Puno/Lake Titicaca (2B,1L,1D)

    We climb over the mountains today, descending at Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Located at 3830 m above sea level, Puno is the highest altitude of any place we sleep on the tour. After spending a night in Puno, we head out by boat across Lake Titicaca. En route to Taquile Island we visit the floating reed islands of the Uros people. An overnight homestay in a small village on the shores of the Lake provides an opportunity to learn more about rural life in the Peruvian highlands and to participate in local traditions. Located at 3830 m above sea level, Puno is the highest altitude of any place we sleep on the tour. As a result the weather can be extreme with very cold nights and a strong sun during the day (don’t worry, if you get cold, buy an alpaca sweater from the market — they are inexpensive here). Puno is also known for its wealth of traditional dances: there are up to 100 different varieties, usually performed in the street processions celebrating Catholic feast days. If you are fortunate enough to be visiting at the right time you may even catch one of these celebrations. A popular optional activity in Puno is a visit to the spectacular chullpas (funerary towers) of Sillustani, a pre-Inca archaeological site only a short drive away. Titicaca is also the largest lake in the world above 2000m, and the views from both Amantaní and Taquile Islands are stunning. This morning we board a boat on Lake Titicaca. We head to Taquile Island for lunch in a local restaurant and the chance for some shopping in the local weaving cooperatives. From there we head to Amantani where overnight with a local family and enjoy typical music of the area. The following morning we will visit the floating islands of Uros en route to Puno. The Totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake are used for making everything from the islands themselves to the model boats that the islanders sell. The islands are made up of layers upon layers of reeds; as the layers closest to the water start to rot, they are replaced with fresh reeds on top. The reeds are also used to build their boats, which if constructed well will last up to 6 months. The people of Taquile Island's unique culture, style of dress and lifestyle make for a memorable visit. The men of the community do all the knitting, as this is strictly a male domain, while the women do the spinning. High quality, locally knitted goods are available for purchase at various cooperatives on the island. Despite the short distance that separates the two islands, Amantaní is quite distinct. Its soil is a rich terra cotta red, due to the high iron deposits, and the colour contrasts brightly with the deep azure blue of the lake and sky and the greenery of the local crops. For the night we split into smaller groups and billet into family homes to experience their style of living first-hand. The following morning we visit the Uros Islands on our way back to Puno. HEALTH NOTE: when you arrive in Puno, the altitude and resulting lack of oxygen may affect you. It may take a little time to acclimatize to this, but before long you probably will not even notice it. Just take it easy for the first day or two, and cut back on alcohol and cigarette consumption to minimize the effects. You may also find that your appetite is reduced. This is no cause for alarm, but simply a reaction to the altitude. Be sure to drink plenty of water and do not attempt too much in any given day. Approximate Distance: 250km Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours

  • Days 11-12 Cusco/Sacred Valley/Ollantaytambo (2B,1L)

    The trip from Puno to Cusco takes the better part of the day, with stark, beautiful scenery en route as you travel through the high Altiplano region. Cusco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts travellers who come not just to visit a unique destination but also to experience an age-old culture very different from their 20th century way of life; one could easily spend a week just in and around the area. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other major Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend. Cusco’s numerous colonial churches are one of the city’s most common sights. The Cathedral was started in 1559 and took 100 years to build; it is also one of the city’s greatest repositories of colonial art. Immediately in front of the entrance is a vault containing the remains of the famous Inca historian, Garcilaso de la Vega. Also worth visiting are the churches of La Compañía, La Merced and San Francisco. While most ruins are just outside of the city, the main ruin within is that of the Coricancha, once the Inca Empire's richest temple. Today the ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors this incredible wealth had all been melted down. It is left to the individual imagination to envision the magnificence of the original structure. There are several good museums in Cusco, including the Archaeological Museum, which also houses a small art museum, the Regional History Museum and the Religious Art Museum. Our best advice for exploring Cusco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore! Approximate Distance: 389km Estimated Travel Time: 7.30 hours

  • Days 13-16 Inca Trail/Machu Picchu (4B,3L,3D)

    Travel with our local guide through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. An important source of food for the Inca, the Sacred Valley is a lush agricultural region that continues to supply the city of Cusco with much of its produce. Visit the impressive Pisac ruins and the colourful artisan market (market days only). The day trip finishes in the picturesque village of Ollantaytambo, site of another large Inca ruin. Here we catch our breath and prepare for the hike ahead. Ollantaytambo is your first taste of what lies ahead on the Inca Trail. The town and fortress of Ollantaytambo are strategically situated overlooking the beautiful Urubamba River Valley. This major ruin site is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and engineering. It is admired for its huge steep terraces guarding the Inca Fortress and for being one of the few places where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest. We spend the night in this small town before heading out for the start of the hike the next morning. Approximate Distance: 95km Estimated Travel Time: 2.30 hours

  • Day 17 Cusco (1B)

    The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is physically challenging but worthwhile, and the excursion is within the ability of most reasonably fit people. It is a 44km (27 mile) hike, with three high passes to be crossed, one of which reaches an elevation of 4200m (13,776 ft). The trail is often steep, and it may rain even during the dry season. The temperatures at night may fall below freezing, so it is important to come prepared. NOTE: We offer two alternatives to hiking the Inca Trail. If Inca Trail permits are sold out, travellers will be given the option to hike the Lares Trek (details below). Travellers not able to hike or not interested in hiking, can opt to spend two extra days in Cusco (details below) before travelling to Machu Picchu. If you do not want to hike, we need to know at the time of booking in order to obtain train tickets. Once Inca Trail permits are confirmed there will be fee for any changes made. The fee may vary depending on the changes that are made to your itinerary. Please advise your agent or G Adventures. Also note the Inca Trail is closed for general maintenance every February for the entire month. Travellers will be hiking the Lares Trek during this time. Other closures to either trek may occur at anytime throughout the year due to inclement weather or other conditions beyond our control. In these instances, itineraries will be reworked to provide the best and safest possible experience. INCA TRAIL DETAILS Day 1 of the Inca Trail: Depart Ollantaytambo by van to km 82 where the hike begins. This takes about 40 mins. Our crew of local porters, cooks and guides will take care of all the details for the duration of the hike. Porters carry the majority of the gear so you’ll only need to carry a small daypack with water, rain gear, snacks, a camera, etc. You’ll trek through beautiful scenery with a variety of flora, changing with the seasons, passing several smaller ruin sites like Llactapata. Start point Km 82 to Wayllambama Approximate distance: 11km/6.8mi Estimated hiking time: 5-6 hrs Day 2 of the Inca Trail: Start early to climb the long steep path to Warmiwañusca, better known as Dead Woman’s Pass. This is the highest point of the trek at 4198m (13,769ft). Most hikers reach camp by early afternoon, with ample time to rest and relax. Wayllabamba to Paqaymayo Approximate distance: 12km/7.5mi Estimated hiking time: 6-7 hrs Day 3 of the Inca Trail: Today we cross two more passes and more ruins along the way. The first pass is at 3998m (13,113ft) where, on a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba. You’ll hike through cloud forest on the gentle climb to the second pass of the day where you walk through original Incan constructions. The highest point of this pass is 3700m (12,136ft). On a clear day, enjoy the views of the Urubamba Valley. At 3650m (11,972ft) you’ll reach the ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the ‘Town Above the Clouds’. We either camp here or an hour and half further along, near the Wiñay Wayna ruins (Forever Young). Paqaymayo to Wiñaywayna Approximate distance: 16km/10mi Estimated hiking time: 8 hrs Day 4 of the Inca Trail: The final day of the hike starts pre-dawn to reach the Sun Gate before the sun rises. When the morning is clear, you soak in your first views of the breathtaking ruins of Machu Picchu as the mist rises off the mountains and the sun begins to illuminate the site. Hike down to Machu Picchu about 45 minutes more where you’ll have a guided tour of the site and free time to explore. Travellers can opt to visit the Inca Bridge (15 min walk) for no additional charge, if time allows. After your visit, catch the bus from outside the Machu Picchu gate and take it 15 mins downhill to Aguas Calientes where you’ll meet your CEO and any non-hiking members of your group. Eat and relax before your train back to Cusco this evening. Wiñaywayna to Intipunku (Sun Gate) Approximate distance: 4km/2.5mi Estimated hiking time: 1.5 hrs Aguas Calientes to Cusco Approximate Distance: 118km/73mi Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hrs LARES TREK DETAILS: The Lares Trek is one day shorter than the Inca Trail, but higher in elevation (33km/20.5 miles, with a high point of 4600m/14,928ft). Travellers hiking the Lares Trek will start the same day as those hiking the Inca Trail. The 3-day hike starts with a van ride from Ollantaytambo to the trekking start point and returns back to Ollantaytambo by van from the trekking end point. From there, hikers will take a scenic train to Aguas Calientes for one overnight stay. In most cases, your CEO will hike the Lares Trek with you. From Aguas Calientes you will take the bus (15 mins) to Machu Picchu early the next morning for a guided tour of Machu Picchu. After the tour and some free time, catch the bus down to Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Cusco with the rest of the group. NOTE: The locations and distances may change on this hike as we will camp in different locations depending on pace, ability and weather. Starting in 2014 travellers will stay in a newly established community-owned and managed campsite in an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry. Details on this IDB/MIF and Planeterra project can be found in the Associated Planeterra Project section of our “Before You Go”. Day 1 of the Lares Trek: Start early and take a van (3 hrs) to Lares town where the hike will start with a leisurely pace through the valley of Cuncani. Hike 4km (2.5mi) to Chancachaca where we stop for lunch. Altitude here is around 3480m (11,417ft). Continue on to Wacawasi where we camp for the night at 3825m (12,549ft). Lares town to Wacawasi Approximate distance: 11km/6.85mi Estimated hiking time: 4 hrs Highest point: 4200m/13,780ft Day 2 of the Lares Trek: Start early and hike for about 4 hrs from Wacawasi to Wacawasi-Ccassa for a total of 7.5km (4.6mi). Head downhill another hour or so before stopping for lunch in Auroracocha. Continue down for another 2.5 hrs to Mantanay where we stay the night (3200m/10,499ft). Wacawasi to Mantanay Approximate distance: 11km/6.8mi Estimated hiking time: 6.5hrs Highest point: 4600m/15092ft Day 3 of the Lares Trek: Today we hike about 2.5 hrs (9km/5.6mi) to Punta Carretera where we stop for lunch. Take a bus about 30 mins back to Ollantaytambo were we catch the train for a relaxing, scenic ride to Aguas Calientes. Mantanay to Punta Carretera Approximate distance: 9km/5.6mi Estimated hiking time: 3.5 hrs Highest point: 4100m/13451ft Punta Carretera to Ollantaytambo Estimated travel time (bus): 30 mins Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes Estimated travel time (train): 2 hrs Day 4: Rise early to catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu with your guide. Enjoy a guided visit to the ruins followed by free time to explore. When you’re ready, head back down by bus to Aguas where you’ll meet up with the rest of the group and take a train back to Cusco. Aguas Calientes to Cusco: Approximate distance: 118km/73mi Estimated travel time: 3.15 hours CUSCO STAY DETAILS: Anyone electing to do the Cusco Stay will have two extra days to explore this ancient Inca capital city. You will travel with your group, CEO and local guide through the Sacred Valley, visiting the Planeterra-supported Ccaccacollo Women’s Weaving Co-op on the way. Stay the night in Ollantaytambo. When the hikers leave the next morning, travellers doing the Cusco Stay will return to Cusco with their CEO, visiting the sites of Maras and Moray Salt Mines on the way. The next day, enjoy an included tour of the archaeological sites around Cusco, including Saqsaywaman. The next day, travel by van to Ollantaytambo where you catch the scenic train to Aguas Calientes. The next morning, rise early to catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu with your guide. Enjoy a guided visit to the ruins followed by free time to explore. When you’re ready, head back down by bus to Aguas where you’ll meet up with the rest of your group and take a train back to Cusco.

  • Days 18-20 Amazon Jungle (3B,2L,2D)

    Today is free to relax, explore and shop in Cusco, or discover its surroundings on any number of optional excursions. Please note that if you booked the Culinary Theme Pack, on Day 17 you will be picked up from your hotel at approx 12:30 and taken to a local market and restaurant to prepare and enjoy a traditional Peruvian meal. You will return back to your hotel around 16:00. Cusco is considered the mecca of Peru and rightly so. This beautiful colonial town offers much to the visitor with its nearby ruins, cobble-stoned streets, museums, churches and lively atmosphere. Among the more adventurous optional activities available in Cusco are: horseback riding around archaeological sites such as Sacsayhuaman, Tambo Machay and Puca Pucara; white water rafting on the Urubamba River; and mountain biking down to the Sacred Valley, perhaps visiting an Inca ruin along the way.

  • Day 21 Lima/Quito

    Fly from Cusco, high in the Andes, to Puerto Maldonado, deep in the lowlands of the Amazon jungle. Travel by motorized canoe to our lodge in the Tambopata Rainforest Area, which holds the world record for the most bird sightings in one area. Explore the jungle with local guides before flying to Lima for a final night out. About half of Peru is located within the Amazon Basin, however, due to its isolation, not a lot of it is available to the casual traveller. Puerto Maldonado is the region’s principal city and is serviced by air from the capital and from Cusco. The town is situated at the confluence of the Madre de Dios and Tambopata Rivers, and is a bustling, booming tropical frontier town. Its principal activities are gold mining, Brazil nut collecting, timber extraction, agriculture and ecotourism. After a brief stop in the town we depart on an afternoon boat trip by motorized canoe to our jungle lodge. Depending on flight arrival times we have either a boxed lunch aboard the boat or lunch upon arrival at the lodge. During our voyage you will have the chance to see bird species typical of the river or forest edge such as Black Skimmers, Pied Lapwings, Capped Herons, Jabiru Storks, Roadside Hawks and several species of kingfishers, swallows, and flycatchers. The Tambopata area includes habitats ranging from the Andean highlands around the rivers' headwaters through some of the last remaining intact cloud forests to the lowland rainforests of the Amazon basin. The area is renowned for its diverse plant and animal populations and include over 1,300 bird species (including 32 parrot species - 10% of the world’s total), 200 mammal species including 4 species of primates, 90 frog species, 1,200 butterfly species and 10,000 species of higher plants—all protected within the reserve. Some of the more famous residents are the Harpy Eagle, the prehistoric looking Hoatzin, tapir, peccary, jaguar, ocelot and playful river otters who live in the area’s oxbow lakes. The lodge itself combines native architectural style and materials with low-impact eco-friendly technology. Rooms are simple but comfortable, with mosquito netting for individual beds, flush toilets, showers (no hot water), and kerosene lamps for lighting (no electricity). Local community members make up the majority the lodge staff, including multilingual Naturalist Guides. Here you have the opportunity to learn from them not only about the area’s rich flora and fauna, but also about their extensive practical uses for medicinal plants and other forest plant resources, through traditional techniques for building, fishing, and hunting. After exploring the jungle with local guides, fly to Lima for the final night and one last Pisco Sour. Cusco to Jungle Lodge: Approximate Distance: 320km Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Jungle Lodge to Lima: Approximate Distance: 856km Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours

  • Days 22-25 Galapagos (4B,4L,4D)

    Included in this trip is your transfer to the airport and your flight to Quito. A transfer will be waiting for you at Quito airport and will transfer you to your hotel. Overnight in Quito. Located 2850m (9348 ft) above sea level, the Ecuadorian capital of Quito enjoys a wonderful spring-like climate, despite the fact that it is only 22 km (14 miles) south of the Equator. Nestled in a valley flanked by mountains, on a clear day several snow-capped volcanoes are visible from the city centre. Add to its beautiful location a rich history and well-preserved colonial district, and you begin to understand Quito’s appeal to thousands of tourists every year. In 1978 UNESCO declared Quito a World Heritage site, and any new development in Quito's old town is now strictly controlled. Life in Quito tends to be peaceful, though the drivers are fond of using their car horns! There are approximately 2,000,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area, but the pace is relaxed and the residents hospitable. Quito is separated into two basic sections, the old and the new cities. The old city is full of historical buildings and churches. One of the more noteworthy is the Catedral de Quito, located on the Plaza de la Independencia. Built between 1550 and 1562, it was one of the first neoclassical works in Quito. La Compañía de Jésus Church is considered one of the most beautiful in the Americas. The decorations in the Compañía contain approximately one and one-half tons of gold, and construction of the church took 170 years (1605-1775). The small, rounded hill dominating the old town is El Panecillo or 'the Little Bread Loaf,' a major Quito landmark. From here there are marvellous panoramic views of the entire city and surrounding volcanoes. You can easily take a trolley (streetcar) or a cab between the Old Town and New Town. Quito’s large foreign population and steady stream of travellers have given it a varied and vibrant nightlife, and salsotecas and other dance clubs abound. For a real Ecuadorian experience though, be sure and drop by a peña if you can; these are great places for meeting locals and dancing, as well as enjoying local cooking.

  • Day 26 Quito (1B)

    Early flight to San Cristóbal the capital of the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival meet our naturalist guide who will assist with the transfer to our boat. After lunch we will visit the San Cristóbal's Interpretation Centre to learn more about the natural history, human history, and conservation efforts of the Galapagos Islands. Flights from Quito to San Cristobal depart between 8:10am and 10:10am depending on the day of the week. These will arrive into the Galapagos between 10:40am and 12:40pm with a refuelling stop in Guayaquil (you will not disembark the plane). You will generally arrive onto the boat in time for lunch on Day 2 before your afternoon activity. Please note: The National Park charges a visitor fee of USD100, payable on arrival, which funds park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study, conservation and infrastructure development in Ecuador's other National Parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the national park system are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage. Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours (By flight) The Galapagos Islands are located about 1000 km (620 miles) off the Pacific coast of South America. The archipelago is comprised of 13 major islands and scores of islets that served as a living laboratory for Charles Darwin, the renowned evolution theorist. Long before Darwin arrived in the Galapagos, seafarers knew these isolated islands as home to some of the strangest and most wonderful wildlife imaginable, including birds that could swim but no longer fly, aquatic iguanas, dragon-like lizards left over from prehistoric times, and the giant Galapagos tortoises for which the islands were named. Covering nearly 5000 square km (3100 square miles), the Galapagos Islands are now a National Park. The Galapagos National Park is the institution that controls the preservation of this environment, assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. Inaugurated in 1964 and based in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is the one place where visitors can easily see the famous Galapagos Tortoises, which may live up to two hundred years. This is also the training centre for naturalist guides who accompany all visitors landing at more than 40 approved sites on the islands, and members of the international scientific community often come to study at the station. San Cristóbal is the easternmost island of Galapagos and one of the oldest. The principal town is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galapagos.

  • Day 27 Quito (1B)

    Set sail and reach Santa Fé Island, a fairly small and dry island. Also called Barrington, Santa Fé Island is well-known as a great place for watching (and swimming with) sea lions. Along the island's northern shore you can view the forest of giant Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia). Santa Fé is also home to a number of endemic species which have bounced back from various threats to their survival. You may get a chance to see the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake, a variety of finches and the Galapagos mockingbird. In the afternoon, visit South Plaza Island. One of the smallest islands in the Galapagos, South Plaza has one of the largest populations of land iguanas. Walk along a path through a cactus forest and view a combination of dry and coastal vegetation.

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