We start in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, boasting the best-preserved colonial district in South America, and just a few kilometers north of the city is latitude zero, the equator. Next is the Amazon rainforest, best experienced aboard our exclusive Amazon riverboats: Manatee and Anakonda, the only cruises in the Ecuadorian Amazon basin. Then it's back to the Andes to see Otavalo, one of the most prosperous indigenous communities in Ecuador, offering great cultural experiences through friendly natives that show you how they make their exquisite handicrafts, play their music and heal themselves with natural medicines. To top things off, the Galapagos, known as the Enchanted Islands, feature moon-like landscapes, emerald-green coves, long white-sand beaches and an array of unique animals, some found nowhere else on the planet and so tame you won't believe your eyes!
A country five times larger than Ecuador, Peru complements this adventure with its Machu Picchu Archaeological complex — the Lost City of the Incas — accessible partway by bus as far as Ollantaytambo and from there only by train or foot. Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, offers many attractions within and outside city limits, and it’s the perfect gateway to the Sacred Valley, bursting with agricultural variety and color. Other interesting places include Arequipa, the amazingly deep Colca Canyon, and the expansive Titicaca Lake.
22 day program
Day 1: Arrival to Quito
Welcome to Ecuador! Your guide greets you at the airport and takes you to your hotel. Then take time to relax, enjoy your first evening and get ready for the next exciting days.
Day 2: Colonial Quito & Equator
See historical Plaza Grande, a forgotten cloister, the dazzling gold-covered La Compañía Church (you won´t believe your eyes!), bustling San Francisco Square (as seen on National Geographic Explorer magazine), a bird's-eye view atop Panecillo Hill, plus some more great surprises. Then, drive north to have lunch at the brim of the second largest inhabited volcano in the world. In the afternoon, visit an interactive, open-air museum with “do-it-yourself” experiments that will prove you have arrived to latitude zero! Tonight enjoy at your own pace one of the many great restaurants in the city. (BL)
Day 3: Quito / Coca / Amazon Cruise Adventure
Depart from Quito in the morning for a 25-minute flight to Francisco de Orellana (Coca), named after the Spanish explorer that led the first European expedition into Amazonia in 1541. A motorized canoe will be waiting at the dock to ride downstream for approximately 90 minutes, packed with an entertaining lecture on route. Once on board the M/V MANATEE or M/V ANAKONDA, start navigating down the Napo River while relaxing on our sundeck and observing amazing flora and fauna of the region. After lunch, our first live experience with the Ecuadorian Amazon basin begins with a visit to a native home or canoe ride, depending on the water level, weather conditions, wildlife behavior and accessibility. After dinner, you are welcome to enjoy an optional night walk into the forest to discover the mysteries of this unique environment and see how life emerges in the dark right before your eyes. (BLD)
Day 4: Chaullacocha in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve
Explore another stretch of the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve that is managed by a local Kichwa community. Hike the forest in search of wildlife until we reach our camp for lunch. In the afternoon, explore the Chaullacocha black water lake and climb up the observation tower built around a tree to observe the different ecosystems and a wide variety of birds. See one of the tallest trees in the rainforest, the kapok, while your native guide reveals the use of medicinal plants. Return to the boat after searching for black caimans in the lake. (BLD)
Day 5: Kuri Muyu & Parrot Clay Licks
Early morning visit to the most accessible parrot and parakeet clay licks in Ecuador, where these birds use the clay as an antidote against poisonous fruits that comprise part of their diet. Without a doubt, this is the best place to enjoy this incredible show up close, for it is difficult to imagine hundreds, sometimes thousands of parrots and parakeets coming all together at once to these clay licks! Then, visit Kuri Muyu, an interpretation center dealing with the life and culture of local people, plus a chance to shop for handicrafts. In the afternoon, explore one of our local jungle trails as we head to a most unique water museum to learn about many of the creatures that inhabit this environment. Then, our last forest encounter: night walk or canoe ride in one of the small rivers. (BLD)
Day 6: Coca / Quito
After breakfast, we take the canoe upstream for about 2 hours to reach the city of Coca for your return flight to Quito. Remainder of the day is free to relax at your hotel or do some exploring of Quito on your own. (B)
Day 7: Quito / Baltra / Isabella
Departure transfer to the airport in time for your flight to Galapagos! Our English-speaking guide greets you at the airport in Baltra for your trip to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) for lunch. Then, take the public speedboat to Isabella (14:00); the trip lasts approximately 2.5 hours. After arrival at Isabella, enjoy a brief rest at the hotel before heading to the Flamingo Lagoon, the largest coastal lagoon found in the Galapagos and one of the major mating sites for flamingos. (LD)
Day 8: Isabella
Enjoy a full day excursion to Sierra Negra Volcano, located 13 miles from Puerto Villamil and the world’s second largest volcanic crater, measuring 6 miles in diameter and 300 feet deep! Hike the crater for a splendid view of the island before continuing on to Chico Volcano, still active as it warms the surrounding ground! A hearty box lunch will be provided. In the afternoon, return to the hotel before a great opportunity to snorkel at Concha Perla, along with sea lions and a variety of colorful fish, starfish, and sea urchins.
*Snorkeling equipment is included in this visit: tube, mask, fins. (BLD)
Day 9: Isabella / Santa Cruz
Early in the morning (06:00 am), take the public speedboat from Isabella to Puerto Ayora, where you are greeted by your guide and in time for breakfast and check-in. We then continue our visit to the Santa Cruz highlands to see the amazing giant tortoises in their natural habitat. After lunch, return to Puerto Ayora to enjoy sea lions up close at Punta Estrada where you can also snorkel. Continue to Tintoreras channel, Canal del Amor, and Las Grietas for a fun-filled afternoon. (BLD)
Day 10: Day trip to Bartholomew
Departure from Puerto Ayora at 5:00 am to the Itabaca channel to board our yacht and sail to Bartholomew Island, famous for its pinnacle obelisk that rises from the edge of the ocean and is without a doubt the most representative icon of the archipelago. Feast your eyes on Galapagos penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, plus a variety of tropical fish. Enjoy lunch on board the yacht in the company of penguins! After some leisure time at the beach, return to Santa Cruz. (BLD)
Day 11: Baltra / Quito
After breakfast, travel to Baltra Airport, visiting en route "The Twins" which are similar to craters, but formed by a collapse of the earth underneath due to lava flows that passed below it. We will also walk through the “scalesia forest” to encounter Galapagos fly-catchers and other endemic birds. You arrive in the afternoon to Quito where you are picked up at taken to your hotel. You can choose to relax the remainder of the day or again check out the local nightlife. (B)
Day 12: Quito / Otavalo
We head northeast and our first stop is Calderón, a small town famous for its bread-dough figurines. Then, continue to San Pablo del Lago and enjoy great views of Imbabura Volcano, known as the “Father Mountain” that watches over its people. We drive around the lake via seldom seen back roads until we arrive at our hotel in Peguche. After lunch, visit an artisan workshop, a family of musicians and, possibly, a traditional native healer that uses ancient medical arts to treat the local people, or even you! (BLD)
Day 13: Otavalo / Quito / Lima
Markets in the Andes are unique. Visit the animal market in Otavalo (Saturdays only), where people gather to exchange goods: pigs, sheep, chickens, guinea pigs, and more. Then, take a stroll to the fruit and vegetable market to indulge in the colors and smell of fresh produce, as well as the famed handcraft square (these last two markets are open 7 days a week). On the way back to Quito, there`s a chance to even visit a rose plantation.
Drop-off at the airport for your evening flight to Lima. Welcome to Peru! Your guide will be greeting you at the airport in Lima to take you to your hotel. (BL)
Day 14: Lima / Arequipa
You will fly to Arequipa in the morning. Upon arrival, enjoy a walking tour to see, among other things, the Santa Catalina monastery that is practically “a city within a city”, plus the Andean Museum, where you will meet “Juanita the Mummy”, that was discovered in the Ampato Mountain. Arequipa is indeed a delightful small town at the foot of Mount Misti and where the local people are most traditional and at the same time warm and friendly. Mind you, no too many travelers visit this town, hence it is quite unspoiled and culturally pristine. Overnight at your hotel. (B)
Day 15: Colca Canyon
Take a private mini van for a 5-hour journey to the Colca Canyon. You will arrive to Chivay to have lunch, and then transfer to your hotel. After such a long but fascinating trip, you can soak your bones in the town’s thermal springs! (B)
Day 16: Colca / Puno
It is worth getting up early in the morning and head out to “Cruz del Cóndor” (Condor Cross), where you patiently wait for condors that usually come when there are warm wind currents – so cross your fingers! We will have lunch and continue our way towards Puno and your overnight hotel. Puno is right on the edge of famed Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake! (B)
Day 17: Titicaca Lake
Perhaps the most unique inhabitants to meet at Titicaca are the Uros, living man-made floating islands, just 45 minutes from port. These extraordinary islands are living examples of the ancient resource-management techniques that are still used by local people, given that when a reed boat comes to its functional end, it is incorporated to these “islands”; hence, recycling is nothing new here! We then continue our sojourn for another 3 hours to reach Takile Island and climb to the top to find a community thriving there. Here we even find small shops with lovely hats and other souvenirs to purchase. We will go back to Puno after lunch. (BL)
Day 18: Puno / Cusco
You are taken to the bus station for your overland journey to Cusco, stopping on the way to visit some museums, including the Pucara Racchi and Andahuylillas. Arrival to Cusco and your hotel will be around 5 pm. Though you may feel a bit tired, it might be difficult not to explore this World Cultural Heritage Site on your own that always has something to fascinate any and all explorers. (B)
Day 19: Cusco and the outskirts
Your hotel will serve a magnificent Peruvian buffet, after which your guide will escort you to the outskirts of Cusco for a private guided tour of the ancient archaeological sites of Sacsaywaman, Quenco and Tambomachay. These visits will complement your understanding of the history and drama of the European Spanish and indigenous Inca cultures and how they fused into the modern Peruvian society we know today. (B)
Day 20: Sacred Valley
Your guide will arrange your transport into the Sacred Valley, the agriculture heart of the Andes. Visit amazing Inca sites, including Chincheros, famous for its textiles, Maras, Moray and Ollantaytambo, the latter considered the oldest inhabited Quechua city in the country. After lunch, arrive at the trailhead where you can enjoy spending the afternoon exploring local paths. The comfort of your hotel awaits you in Ollantaytambo and your appetite will be sated at the restaurant of your choice. (B)
Day 21: Ollantaytambo / Machu Picchu / Cusco
Depart early from Ollantaytambo and travel by train, along the winding Urubamba River, to Aguas Calientes. Notice the transition from one climactic zone to another as you descend to the warmer Andean valleys. From Aguas Calientes, the bus will be the final leg to the archaeological citadel, Machu Picchu! For most travelers, arriving here is a dream come true, as this ancient city is nestled in the most impressive towering mountains hard to imagine. See if your photographs do it justice! Your knowledgeable guide will give you a private tour through the interior of the site, followed by a short rest and sunset as we return to Cusco and your now familiar hotel in the early evening. (B)
Day 22: Cusco / Lima / Home
Early morning flight to Lima and connection to your flight back home. (B)
− Private airport transfers.
− Transportation throughout trip.
− Accommodations in double occupancy.
− Activities as per itinerary.
− Snorkeling equipment in Galapagos.
− Private English-speaking guides.
− Meals as specified (B breakfast, L lunch, D dinner).
− Galapagos flights.
− Galapagos Transit Card.
− Entrance fees to museums and nature reserves (except Galapagos).
Does not include:
− International flights.
− Domestic flights in Peru.
− Drinks with meals & meals not specified.
− Entrance fee to Galapagos National Park, US$ 100 per person (payable in cash only).
The itinerary allows for flexibility in regards to activities and visits, depending on weather conditions, clients’ interests, and other circumstances. If changes take place prior or after your arrival, you will be duly notified beforehand.
Galapagos, Pacific Coast, Andes & Amazon
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Quito and the Middle of the World
Otavalo and other indigenous markets
Cuenca via the Central Andes
Quilotoa circuit hike and drive
Amazon cruises and lodges
Volcano watch and mountain climbing
Shamanism and natural healing
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