Any trip to see the sights in South America is a great adventure, but when you add on a cruise around the amazing Galapagos Islands it becomes something special. On this wonderful 15 day tour you begin in the Ecuador capital Quito, then fly out to the islands made famous by Charles Darwin to see all the incredible wildlife. Then it's back to the mainland for a tour around Peru, which includes a visit to the famous 'lost' Inca city of Machu Picchu.
On arrival at Quito international airport you will be met by one of our tour representatives and driven to your hotel in the city. Relax after the journey then go out and explore on your own seeing some of the sights and trying the local cuisine. The city's colonial quarter is the largest and best preserved in all of South America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so there are lots of places of interest to visit before the tour begins in earnest tomorrow. Overnight Quito.
Today you have a three hour guided tour around the city. Begin with a stroll through the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Then visit the church of La Compañía de Jesús with its awesome gilded interior. Continue on to the Monastery of San Francisco, one the of great religious buildings of the New World, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar. Overnight Quito.
A full day excursion today to the land of the Otavalos and South America's most famous Indian fair. Travel along the Panamerican Highway through dramatic mountain scenery to the textile market of Otavalo, with its stalls full of ponchos, scarves, blankets, wall hangings, woven belts, hats, handbags and much more. Then stop at an Indian village where the artisans who do the weaving in their homes. Lunch is at one of the charming country inns or haciendas of the area.
Quito to the Galapagos Islands
Today you are picked up at your hotel in Quito and driven to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands to begin your seven day cruise around the Eastern islands on the boat Santa Cruz 11. When your plane touches down on Baltra Island you are met and taken to board your vessel where you will be given a briefing before lunch. Then sail off to Mosquera, a small volcanic island which is a rookery for young sea lions. Here you can walk along the shore and try snorkelling.
San Cristobel Island
After breakfast this morning you land at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, capital of San Cristobel Island.and drive 40 minutes to the southern shore where you find a breeding centre for the highly endangered giant tortoises and see dozens of bird species including mockingbirds. This area is also home to the San Cristobel lava lizard. In the afternoon you make another landing on the tip of the island at Punta Pitt where three species of boobies can be found. Here you can swim, snorkel or go kayaking.
Santa Fe Island
Take a dingy over to the idyllic sandy island of Santa Fe today where you find the endemic land iguana, which is unique to this island and can be seen during a walk amid the prickly pear cactus. Here you can swim or take a glass bottom boat trip. Later dock at South Plaza Island, whose turquoise waters contrast with the white sand and black lava. Yellow-grey iguanas sit beneath the cactus and along the coast you find sea lion colonies, white frigate birds and swallow-tailed gulls.
Santa Cruz Island
Today you make a dry landing on Santa Cruz Island for a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station's giant tortoise breeding centre. This is the headquarters of scientific investigation and the national park administration. Then have lunch in the cooler highlands of the island. There are various activities in the afternoon and you can discuss all the options with your tour leader before returning to your ship for dinner.
An exciting walk awaits today on Espanola Island where you can see unique sea bird colonies, including waved albatrosses, Nazca boobies, blue footed boobies as well as the famous blow hole and red-green-black marine iguanas. After lunch back on board land at the picture-perfect white coral beach of Gardener Bay and see mockingbirds and finches in this beautiful setting where you can also swim, kayak and go snorkelling.
North Seymour Island
Today after breakfast a panga ride takes you to a small island off the coast of Santa Cruz where you can see boobies diving into the water, reef sharks and frigates. Time for swimming or kayaking before lunch. North Seymour was lifted from the ocean floor by a volcanic event and is full of bird colonies, sea lions and iguanas. Here a tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing area waiting for the rains to burst them into bloom.
Galapagos to Lima
Today you say farewell to the amazing Galapagos Islands when your boat arrives back at Baltra Island where you catch your flight to Lima, the lovely capital city of Peru. On arrival you will be met by a tour representative and taken to your hotel in the city and provided with a detailed itinerary and all the information and vouchers you will need for the next stage of your South American adventure. Then go out and explore on your own. Overnight Lima.
Enjoy a half day guided sightseeing tour seeing the most attractive and important sites in Lima, the "City of Kings". Visit Lima's Historical Centre, passing by Plaza San Martin, Plaza Mayor, the Government Palace, the City Hall, the Banco Central de Reserva Museum with a representation of Peruvian Art dating from ancient times, and the Santo Domingo Convent. Also visit the Larco Herrera Museum to get a great insight into the country's past. Then enjoy a meal at Cafe del Museo Restaurant.
Lima to Cusco
Today you leave Lima and fly up to Cusco and then on to your hotel in the Sacred Valley. Visit the town of Pisac and Ollantaytambo with its famous ruins seeing the Temple of the Sun, baths, altars, water fountains and a volcanic ritual stone used as an Inca calendar. After a restaurant buffet lunch continue through the Sacred Valley seeing more of the sights and learning about the ancient traditions of this fascinating region.
Today you take the train to the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the great mountain-top city which was reclaimed by the jungle until its discovery in 1011. At Aguas Calientes you board a bus for the 20 minute ride up to the legendary 'lost city', one of the world's most impressive archaelogical sites, and spend the day exploring. Later, after lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, see more of the ruined city before returning by train through the Sacred Valley to Cusco where you spend tonight.
Today you discover the archaeological capital of South America - a city of amazing cobblestone streets and original Inca walls. Visit the Santo Domingo Church then head to the main plaza for a guided walk around the magnificent cathedral. Cusco is a delight and a must for photographers keen to capture images of an imperial city. After the tour go out in the evening and try one of the many fine restaurants. Overnight Cusco.
End of tour
Today you wonderful tour around Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Peru comes to an end. Possibly time for some more sightseeing or souvenir shopping in Cusco before you are picked up from your hotel and driven to the airport for your flight back to Lima. Here you can extend your holiday by staying on and seeing more of the sights, catch an onward flight and continue your South American adventure, or begin your journey home having had so many memorable experiences.