P29 Peru & The Galapagos

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Guided colonial Quito tour; Four-night Galapagos cruise; Darwin Research Station visit; Exploring Urubamba, "Sacred Valley of the Incas"; Mysterious Machu Picchu-a must see!; Scenic 'Vistadome' train to Cuzco

Full Itinerary


Day 1 Arrive in Lima
Today we arrive in Lima, Peru.

This city has had wonderful restorations in recent years to the plazas, ornate facades, and wooden balconies for which the city is famous. Lima, named the 'City of Kings' by the Spanish Conquistadors, is the capital of Peru. Founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, where the River Rimac meets the Pacific Ocean, this was the most important Spanish city during the colonial era with a population of about 100,000 inhabitants. Today the city is home to more than 7 million people.

Overnight in Lima (Miraflores).
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Lima: City Tour
This morning we start our tour with a visit to San Francisco's Church to visit the extensive catacombs that lie underneath. We then continue to the Plaza de Armas, the most important plaza in Lima. The oldest surviving part of the plaza is the impressive bronze fountain, erected in 1650. Surrounding the plaza is the exquisite Archbishop's Palace, the cathedral, and the Government Palace where handsomely uniformed presidential guards are on duty all day. We visit the cathedral where the great conquistador Francisco Pizarro's tomb lies.

We then proceed to the Larco Museum, which showcases remarkable chronological galleries and an excellent overview on 3,000 years of development of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. Located in a unique vice-royal mansion of the 18th century built over a 7th century pre-Columbian pyramid, is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Features the finest gold and silver collection from ancient Peru and the famous erotic archaeological collection, one of the most visited Peruvian tourist attractions. For an unforgettable experience, Larco is one of the few museums in the world where visitors can also choose to enter the storage area with its 45,000 classified archaeological objects.

Later we head to the trendy area of Miraflores where people stroll along the cliff tops and watch the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean. The best location is the new "Love Park," with its magnificent monument to lovers at its centre. We continue to the Hacienda Mamacona for an exhibition of beautiful Peruvian Paso horses, accompanied by a delicious dinner of Criollo food and a folkloric show.

Overnight in Lima (Miraflores).
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Lima - Cuzco - Urubamba Valley - Ollantaytambo - Yucay
Early this morning we fly to Cuzco, located in a fertile valley at 3354 m (11,004 feet). This is the archaeological capital of the Americas and the ancient capital of the Inca Empire that, at its height, stretched from Colombia in the north, through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and down to central Chile in the south. Although the empire already existed in the 12th century, it remained small until the mid-15th century. Over the next 100 years, it expanded massively but declined due to the civil war and the conquest by the Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro in 1533.

On arrival we will travel by road into the Urubamba Valley, or "Sacred Valley of the Incas," along one of the most scenic drives on our trip, to the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo located on a spectacular ridge with deep valleys on either side. We can admire the carefully constructed and maintained farming terraces on the surrounding hillsides.

We continue to the town of Yucay on the bank of the Urubamba River (2300m / 7,590 ft). This is an attractive little town of particularly fertile lands whose name translated into Spanish means "deceit" or "bewitchment". According to legend, in the middle of the 15th century, the Inca Huayna Capac was captivated by the incomparable magnificence of Yucay's setting and decided to settle here.

Overnight in Yucay.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Yucay - Machu Picchu Area
Today we take the early morning train from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. The train journey to Machu Picchu is a highlight of any trip to the Andes; the scenery is simply spectacular, and the train allows you to enjoy it in comfort. The +/- 3 hour trip takes us through a changing landscape with wonderful vistas of the mountains and, deep in its dramatic canyon, the beautiful Urubamba River. Our early arrival from Urubamba ensures that we are at the site before the tourist throngs arrive on the train from Cuzco later in the morning.

Upon arrival at the Aguas Calientes train station, a bus will take us on the 6 km (4 mile) twisting journey up the mountainside to the site of Machu Picchu. Having already dropped our baggage at our hotel, we proceed immediately for a guided 3-hour walking tour of the ruins (please be prepared with all that you need for our tour). We will enter the site through the House of the Terrace Caretakers, which flank the agricultural sector. Once on the site, we will see, among other features: the Temple of the Sun, the Fountain Caretaker's House, the Royal Sector, and the puzzling Temple of the Three Windows. We will also see the Common District, the Sacred Rock, and the prison-like Temple of the Condor.

Machu Picchu, popularly known as the 'Lost City of the Incas,' is an ancient city of stone palaces, towers, temples and staircases. It is a very mysterious place, and to this day our knowledge of it remains sketchy. There are no records or artifacts on the site to indicate what any of the buildings were used for. Archaeologists have ascertained that the site was most likely a ceremonial centre and possibly used for administrative purposes for the populous region.

After our tour, you may choose to proceed to the hotel or remain on the site for some independent exploration (your ticket is good for the day), and return to the hotel on your own using the return portion of your bus ticket.

Overnight at Agua Calientes (near Machu Picchu).
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Machu Picchu Area - Cuzco
A large part of the beauty of Machu Picchu is created by its setting on a mountain top surrounded by deep valleys. By staying for a second day to visit Machu Picchu, rather than visiting as a day trip from Cuzco, we are able to savour the atmosphere of this very special place.

In the early morning of our second day at Machu Picchu, most group members choose to take the bus back up to the site with the weather-dependent hope of seeing the mist-clad mountains greet the morning sun. Weather notwithstanding, the best thing about going up the second day is being there early when there are fewer people, allowing time to "soak it in," as well as the opportunity to climb Huayna Picchu and/or to the Sun Gate (approximate optional costs to revisit the site today: bus 12 USD round trip, and 40 USD site entrance, payable locally).

During our time at Machu Picchu, we will also include a visit to the Manuel Chavez Ballon Site Museum, which focuses on the "discovery", excavation, and history of Macchu Picchu. On display are historical photos, including photos of Hiram Bingham at Machu Picchu shortly after he came across the ruins, informative write-ups on the construction of Machu Picchu and the life of the Incas, and artifacts found at the site. Outside the museum is a very lush botanical garden running along the river; some plants are labeled and there are a few short trails. This is a nice shady area to rest on a hot day and is an easy 25 minute walk from Aguas Calientes down the road leading to Machu Picchu.

Later in the afternoon we board the VISTADOME train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo Station (1.5 hours) from where we bus back to Cuzco.

Overnight in Cuzco.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Cuzco Area
This morning we visit some of the most important Inca sites in the Cuzco area.

Sacsayhuaman is an impressive complex which, like so many others of that time, had both a religious and military purpose. The fortress known as the 'storehouse of the sun' incorporates some of the largest stones ever used in a building. The zig-zag walls represent the teeth of the sacred puma and provide an excellent defensive structure. The stones fit so perfectly together without mortar that not even moss can grow in the cracks!

In the afternoon we return to Cuzco and enjoy a tour of the town. We visit Coricancha, the temple of the sun which was the most important location in the Inca empire. Entombed in the closed cloister of the Sto Domingo Church, these sacred walls were hidden from modern civilization until the colonial walls were brought down in 1950 by a powerful earthquake. We also visit the church of San Blas with its fabulously carved pulpit. Wandering the narrow streets of the San Blas artisan region we make our way to the cathedral which towers impressively over the Plaza Mayor. Inside we find precious paintings from the Cuzco School of Art, one of the most prolific of its era.

This Inca city was laid out around a great central square in the shape of a puma, the god of lightning. Today, stone walls built by the Incas line most of Cuzco's central streets and form the foundations of colonial and modern buildings. The Inca buildings were so well built that the Spaniards simply knocked down the upper parts of the Inca temples and palaces and built their churches and mansions on top of the Inca walls. Shortly after the Spanish conquest, the capital was moved to Lima on the coast. Thus Cuzco has retained a wonderful, untouched colonial atmosphere. The culture is also very much alive here, and is evident in the music, clothing and handicrafts of the people.

We have dinner at a local restaurant where we can try some typical Peruvian dishes. One may wish to try the "Pisco sour", a powerful drink made with a Peruvian liquor distilled from white grapes.

Overnight in Cuzco.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Cuzco - Pisac - Cuzco
This morning we visit the ruins at Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara and Qenko. The latter is an Inca sacrificial site carved with inscriptions.

We continue to Pisac with its lively market where you will encounter traditionally dressed locals with whom you can barter for colourful craft items. You will see many unique Andean musical instruments as well as dazzling textiles. Peruvian woolen items are justifiably famous for their imaginative designs, based on Inca art and the local flora and fauna. You can buy sweaters and caps made from the extremely warm wool of alpacas and llamas.

We return to Cuzco with balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Cuzco.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Cuzco, Peru - Quito, Ecuador
Today we transfer to the airport for our flight to Quito (via Lima).

Quito (2788 m / 9,200 feet) is Ecuador's lovely capital city, nestled against Pichincha Volcano high in the Andes.

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Quito: City Tour
Today we tour old Spanish Colonial Quito, preserved by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As we enter the streets of Old Quito we step into the past, surrounded by centuries-old architecture. We stop at the commanding Legislative Palace, whose murals record Ecuador's history. We will see Quito's most beautiful religious buildings, including the cathedral, the Independence Plaza, San Francisco Church, and visit one of Quito's most impressive religious buildings, La Compania church, whose ornate facade and solid gold altars make it one of the most famous of South American churches. We visit the famous Panecillo Hill with its towering winged statue of the Virgin of the Apocalypse with views of north and south of Quito and the surrounding mountains.

This afternoon we travel 22 km (14 miles) north of Quito to the Equator line monument, known as the "middle of the world," where you can stand with one foot in the Northern and the other in the Southern Hemisphere. We also visit the excellent on-site ethnographic museum with exhibits pertaining to the many indigenous peoples of Ecuador.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to logistical reasons, this is a "floating day" that may occur at a different point of our programme.

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Quito - Otavalo - Quito
Today we have a day trip to the Otavalo Valley region.

In early years the Otavalo Valley was filled with farmers who raised crops in fertile lands where they lived. In the 14th century the Inca expansion reached north into the Otavalo area. The Caraquis who inhabited the area resisted the invaders. For 17 long years fierce fighting continued as the defiant Caraquis refused to be subjugated by the Incas. The Spanish arrived a few years after the Incas. They established a Hacienda system of workshops where Otavalenos were forced to work 15 hour days weaving fabrics. Today this weaving tradition forms the basis of a lucrative industry that has allowed the Otavaleno indigenous peoples to join the world economy while retaining their traditional values and skills. During our time in the valley we will have a chance to visit with the local Otavalenos and see them working their craft. We visit a traditional home with adobe walls and visit with the owners who raise guinea pigs, a local delicacy.

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Quito - The Galapagos / Baltra / Santa Cruz Island
This morning we fly from Quito to Baltra Island and board our cruise vessel for our exploration of the unique and beautiful Galapagos Islands.*

An archipelago of 12 large and several hundred smaller volcanic islands occupying a 4800 sq km (3,000 sq mile) area about 1000 km (620 miles) west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands have become one of the world's premier adventure travel destinations. Over the course of your visit, you'll enjoy up-close views of unusual, specially-adapted animals, plants and terrains including sea lions, tortoises, iguanas, land and sea birds, volcanic landscapes, unusual cacti and vegetation. Little has changed about the islands since Charles Darwin's visit in 1835 to "this little world within itself" inspired his first theories of evolution. Nearly the entire archipelago is a natural sanctuary where you'll have thrilling encounters with some of the world's last completely untamed wildlife that has never learned to fear the presence of humans.

We will be navigating the Galapagos on board the M/V Galapagos Legend, a 110-passenger expedition-style ship totally converted in December 2001. The M/V Galapagos Legend has all-new passenger accommodations with 1800 sq m of social areas and was built with marine certified materials qualifying with Safety of Life at Sea specifications. All cabins are booked in outside 'superior' class (Junior Suite cabin upgrades available; view cabins on www.gogalapagos.com). Private bathrooms feature hot and cold water, shower, and a hair dryer. Also aboard, a highly trained crew, 24 hour physician, and naturalist multilingual guides. An auditorium for conferences, spacious social areas, dining room, 24 hour coffee bar, swimming pool and sun decks, observation platforms, cocktail bars, long distance calls, fully air-conditioned.

Return to ship for passenger welcome and briefing; there is a presentation of the crew. At this time a safety drill is practiced. Free time on board. After dinner a guide's briefing on next day activities in the auditorium.

PM - Black Turtle Cove
On the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, accessible only by sea where four species of mangrove crowd from the shore out into the lagoon, turtle enjoy swimming in the calm waters, peaking their heads above the surface while fish, rays and small sharks circle below. White tipped reef sharks can be seen beneath the boat, sea birds, including pelicans, herons and egrets, all feed in the cove. This cove has been declared as a "Turtle Sanctuary." Difficulty level: easy. Duration:
1h00

PLEASE NOTE: Most of our 2015 dates will operate itinerary "D", except for January and the earlier October dates, which will operate on itinerary "B" (shown in this itinerary). You may visit www.gogalapagos.com for more information on the itineraries and vessel.

* The cruise portion of this itinerary has been provided provided by the cruise operator and should be taken as guidance only. Last minute operation considerations and national park policies can result in alterations and deviations from this schedule, sometimes at late notice. Such changes are the prerogative of the cruise operator over which Adventures Abroad has no control.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 12 Galapagos Cruise / Sullivan Bay (Santiago) / Rabida
AM - Sullivan Bay (Santiago), Wet landing. This visitor site located at the southeastern portion of Santiago Island, and of important geologic interest, features extensive lava flows believed to have been formed during the last quarter of the 19th century. Difficulty level: difficult, 1.5 km path.
Type of terrain: flat volcanic lava. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling/swimming.

Return to ship; the crew will welcome you with canapes followed by lunch.

PM - Rabida, Wet landing. Dark red sand covers these unique beaches with incredible landscape Rabida is considered the epicenter of the Galapagos Islands due to the diversity of its volcanic geology. Nesting Brown Pelicans are found from July through September and nine species of the famous Darwin’s finches can be seen. We will also take a dinghy ride along cliffs to observe
nesting seabirds, and snorkel off the coast, where marine life is particularly active. Difficulty level: easy. Type of terrain: sandy. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling / 1 hour dinghy ride.

Return to ship; the crew will welcome you with canapes. Free time on board. Guides briefing on next day activities.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 13 Galapagos Cruise / Urbina Bay (Isabela) / Tagus Cove (Isabela)
AM - Urbina Bay (Isabela). Wet landing on a volcanic black beach. Depending on the season, we may find giant tortoises, land iguanas, and the unusual Flightless Cormorant. After a short walk inland, snorkeling time is allotted, giving you yet another chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions and countless tropical fish. Urbina Bay features a wide variety of plant life that changes depending on the season. We can observe the beautiful colours of plants that attract different insects, birds and reptiles. We will explore the uplifted coral reef that resulted from 1954 volcanic activity, with a spectacular view of Alcedo Volcano. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: flat. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling.

We may also encounter Darwin's finches, Yellow Warbler and lava lizards. Great snorkeling opportunities with Green Pacific Sea Turtles as well, this island is best known for its endemic vegetation: Scalesia villosa, Lecocarpus pinnatifidus, and Galapagos milkwort. Snorkelers can practice on the main beach among playful sea lions.

Return on board, the crew will welcome you with canapes. Lunch.

PM - Tagus Cove (Isabela). Dry landing on Galapagos's largest island where we will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that form it. The trail leads to Darwin's salt-water crater Lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations. We will return by the same path for a dingh y ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where we will admire a variety of seabirds, such as Blue-footed Booby, Brown Noddy, terns, Flightless Cormorant and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos Penguins which are only 35 cm tall ; the only penguin species in the world to extend its range into the northern hemisphere along the equator. They are monogamous and lay their eggs in small cracks of lava, on the lower parts of the island near the shoreline not reached by the ocean waves. The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000 individuals, most of which live on this western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south on the island. We will have an opportunity to snorkel in deep water. Graffiti believed to have been left by19th-century pirates is a curious reminder of an intriguing past. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: steep. Duration: 2 hour walk / 40 minutes dinghy ride / deep water snorkeling 1 hour.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 14 Galapagos Cruise / Espinosa Point (Fernandina)
AM - Espinosa Point (Fernandina) Dry landing. Espinosa Point is the only spot that we visit on Fernandina, and from it we can see the island of Isabela across the Bolívar Channel, an area that boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. The largest, most primitive looking race of marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and Sally Lightfoot Crabs; a wonderful opportunity to encounter Flightless Cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos Penguins and the "King" of predators on the Islands, the Galapagos Hawk. Pa-hoe-hoe and AA lava formations cover the majority of the terrain. Vegetation is thus scarce inland, but we encounter Brachycereus cacti and extensive mangrove beds lining the shores. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: rocky. Duration: 2 hours walk / 1hour snorkeling

PM - Vicente Roca Point (Isabela). Great deep water snorkeling at one of the richest marine havens on Earth (Bolivar Channel). We take a dinghy ride along the coast to observe a great diversity of sea and coastal birds; Nazca and blue-footed boobies, noddies, brown pelicans, penguins, flightless cormorants. The upwelling of coldwater currents in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life. Duration: 1 hour snorkeling / 1 hour dinghy ride.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 15 Galapagos / Highlands (Santa Cruz) - Quito
AM - Highlands (Santa Cruz) Dry landing. A 45 minute bus ride will take us to the Santa Cruz highlands, located to the northwest of Puerto Ayora, where we will find a natural reserve with giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles are responsible for the island's name and therefore approaching them in their humid and forested abode is always an inspiring adventure. They can weigh between 250 and 300 kg and can live up to 150-200 years. Difficulty level: easy. Type of terrain: flat & muddy sometimes (depending on season). Duration: 45 minutes drive / 1h30 walk.

Return to the M/V Galapagos Legend, check out* and depart to the airport for our flight to Quito (via a stop in Guayaquil).

* PLEASE NOTE: As an exception to our general policy regarding the inclusion of tips in our tour pricing, gratuities for the ship's crew are NOT included in tour price. (We have found that trying to pre-pay tips on your behalf is not practical, for a number of reasons). Accordingly, we suggest that you allow approximately USD 90-100 total per passenger for satisfactory service.

Overnight in Quito.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 16 Departure
Departure from Quito.

BUEN VIAJE!
Meal plan: breakfast