Discover Machu Picchu and Galápagos - Central Islands
Day 1 Lima
Arrive in Lima at any time. As your fellow travellers are arriving at various times throughout the day, there are no planned activities other than a group dinner and info session. Check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Look in the hotel lobby for notices on when and where the group meeting will occur. 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. Peru is frequently referred to as the 'Land of the Incas'. It is true that the Incas formed the greatest empire on the continent and left mysterious cities such as Machu Picchu. However, it is important to remember that the Incas were the only the last in a long series of Peruvian civilizations spanning several thousand years and the ruins of many of these earlier civilizations can also be visited. Peru is made up of three main geographical areas: the Andes, the Amazon and the desert coastal area. On this trip we concentrate on the Andes region of south-central Peru, and the ancient Inca capital of Cusco. 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 districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, which are on the coast, 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 2-3 Sacred Valley (2B,1D)
Early flight to Cusco then onto the Sacred Valley where we spend 2 days exploring with a local guide. We visit the Ccaccaccollo community and the Planeterra sponsored Women's Weaving Co-op. Explore the Pisac and Moray ruins and visit the local handicraft market. Also visit the pre-Incan salt pans of Las Salineras and enjoy a traditional Pachamanca-style dinner of local specialities. Planeterra has been working with the Ccaccaccollo community since 2005 to develop a viable economic alternative for women by creating a weaving cooperative to sell traditional textiles to travellers. Donations by travelers have helped build a community centre supplied with looms and sewing machines for the women to use to expand their production. This project allows the women of the Ccaccaccollo community to maintain their cultural heritage and benefit from the tourism industry. Starting in 2014 travellers will also have the chance to visit Huchuy Qosco, an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry, now running a community restaurant and tour in their own village. 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.
Day 4 Aguas Calientes (1B)
Early transfer to Ollantaytambo where we explore the ruins before catching the scenic train journey to Aguas Calientes with option to visit the market. Those who have chosen the option in advance for the '1-day Inca Trail' hike will disembark the train at 104 km and trek to the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu before re-joining the group at Aguas Calientes for the night. For serious archaeology buffs, there is time for an optional independent visit to Machu Picchu before the guided tour the following morning. Those who have chosen the option in advance to hike the "1-day Inca Trail" will disembark the train at km 104 to begin the trek. The trail rises steeply up into the mountains and will take hikers past the archaeological sites of Wiñay Wayna and Inti Pata, where the local guide will provide insights into the fascinating culture of the Incas en route to the trek's culmination at Machu Picchu. Enjoy a packed lunch along the way and reach the Sun Gate in the late afternoon with a chance for a preliminary exploration of Machu Picchu before the guided tour on Day 5. Transfer by bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes to rejoin the group and spend the night in a hotel. If time permits, take an optional visit to the nearby hot springs to soak the sore muscles. Approximate Distance: 43km Estimated Travel Time: 1.45 hours Those taking the 1-day Inca Trail option: Approximate Distance: 7km Estimated hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Day 5 Machu Picchu/Cusco (1B)
Early wake-up to take the first bus up to the historic spiritual centre of the Incas, the "Lost City" of Machu Picchu. Tour the ruins with our expert guide for about 2 hrs, explore on your own or hike up spectacular Wayna Picchu to get away from the crowds. In the evening return by train to Ollantaytambo or Poroy and will then be transferred by van to Cusco. Machu Picchu is both the best and the least known of the Inca ruins. It is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors and archaeologists today can do no more than speculate on its function. The local Quechua farmers in the area knew of Machu Picchu for centuries, but it was not until an 11-year-old boy led the American historian Hiram Bingham (who was in search of Vilcabamba) to the site on July 24, 1911, that the rest of the world became aware of its existence. At that time the site was covered in thick vegetation, and Bingham and his team returned in 1912 and 1915 to clear the growth. Over the years, much work has been done on excavating and studying the site. Despite these efforts, many unanswered questions remain. We return to Cusco for the final night. Approximate Distance: 118km Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hours
Days 6 Cusco (1B)
Today is free to walk around the Plaza de Armas (main square) and explore this city steeped in one of the world's most alluring and ancient cultures. Today allows you to pick optional activities according to your interest. They include horseback riding, mountain or motor biking, hiking or visits to Incan ruins around town. Note: If you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Theme Pack, your Cusco cooking class will be on Day 6 and the Lima cooking class will be on Day 10 (departure day). As this pack does not include extra on-trip time in Lima, it is necessary to bundle it with a pre- or post-trip stay. 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. Every year Cusco attracts thousands of travellers who come to delve into its noble but tragic past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations around the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. Relax and explore this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude. 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. The city itself offers many museums, shops, churches, cathedrals and so much more to pass the day away. An evening of rustic restaurants, local cuisine, fine dining or anywhere in between are available here as well. Eat, drink and enjoy as little or as much as you like on this last night in Cusco. 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.
Day 7 Lima (1B)
The last full day of this memorable visit to Peru is spent back in the bustling capital. We transfer to the Cusco airport and board our plane for the short flight to Lima. Your G Adventures Tour Leader will gladly help you set up a requested activity. Approximate Distance: 572km Estimated Travel Time: 2.20 hours
Day 8 Lima to Quito
Included in this trip is your transfer to the airport and your flight to Quito. Please note that this flight is unescorted and your 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, including nearby Pichincha, 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.
Day 9 San Cristóbal Island (B,L,D)
Transfer early to the airport for our flight to the Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival in San Cristóbal, meet our naturalist guide, who will assist with the transfer to the Queen of Galapagos. In the afternoon visit Isla Lobos to see the sea lions and walk on the beach. 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. 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. The National Park charges a visitor fee of $100 USD, 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.
Day 10 South Plaza Island & North Seymour Island (1B,1L,1D)
In the morning, we explore 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. Set sail in the afternoon for North Seymour, just north of Baltra, home to sea lions, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, magnificent frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. Seymour Island is probably the most exciting island photographically. Bird life abounds, and close to the trail you will find many nesting pairs and young chicks. Seymour is also home to the Galapagos’s largest colony of Magnificent Frigate Birds. Their mating ritual is an ostentatious display: males expand the red sack at the base of their throat and perch atop a bush with wings fully extended, flapping furiously. Interested females circle overhead, and if so inclined, may join the male on terra firma. Further along the trail we can observe a colony of sea lions.
Day 11 Chinese Hat & Las Bachas (B,L,D)
In the morning the boat arrives to a small little island off the southern tip of Santiago called Chinese Hat, for it's unique shape. Here it is often possible to see Galapagos penguins and the marine life is fantastic for snorkelling. There is also a large sea lion colony here as well as many marine iguanas that can be seen on our guided walk amongst the volcanic scenery, with good views to the cone of the island's volcano. Visit Bachas Beach in the afternoon, located on the northeastern tip of Santa Cruz Island. A great beach to stroll on with crystalline waters perfect for swimming, Bachas Beach also gives us the opportunity to see frigate birds, blue-footed boobies and sea lions.
Day 12 Santa Cruz Island & Quito (B)
In the morning we arrive in Puerta Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island where we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. Santa Cruz is the second largest in the island group, and has the largest population, with Puerto Ayora as its main town. It also boasts the most varied of the islands’ vegetation zones: coastal, transition, scalesia, miconia and pampa. The Charles Darwin Research Station is a 10 minute walk from the centre of the town. Here, an exhibition centre displays photos of recent volcanic eruptions, charts outlining geological formations and drawings of the evolutionary development of endemic species. A corral houses adult Galapagos Tortoises, and a nursery cares for young tortoises until they are about three years old, when their shells have hardened enough to resist attack from feral dogs. Following this we transfer to the airport on Baltra Island for our flight to Quito. Transfer to our hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure. Enjoy one last night in historic Quito.
Day 13 Quito (B)
Depart at any time.