Frolic with sea lions, get up close to giant tortoises, watch albatrosses taking flight and gaze upon iguanas swimming – there’s nowhere quite like the Galapagos for a hefty dose of dazzling wildlife. The exploration of the natural world’s riches continues in the Amazon, where we check out the jungle’s astounding biodiversity, and opportunities to see the rare pink Amazonian dolphin. Further south, Peru’s Incan treasures take centre stage: exploring Cusco, and Sacred Valley gems such as Pisac and Ollantaytambo, whets the appetite for the area’s most glorious sight – the hidden, cloud-shrouded lost city of Machu Picchu. After that, we explore Lake Titicaca, home to Incan creation myths and fascinating, preserved island cultures, before moving on to La Paz, Bolivia’s crown jewel, a city ablaze with colour and spectacle, its elaborately dressed residents lending a carnival feel to our journey’s end.
Day 1 - Quito - Arrival day
On arrival at Quito international airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. There will be a pre-departure meeting in the evening at 6:00pm where you will meet others travelling on your cruise to the Galapagos. You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Note: Quito is located at 2,850 metres above sea level. At this altitude you may possibly experience some of the milder effects of altitude sickness, such as dizziness, insomnia and a shortness of breath. If this is the case we recommend that you avoid any strenuous activity.
Day 2 - Morning flight to Baltra, transfer to M.C. Queen Beatriz and visit Santa Cruz Island
This morning we are transferred to the airport for our flight to the Galapagos Islands.
Please note the pick-up time will usually be as early as 4am as the airport is a one hour drive and we must allow for delays and check-in times (Your Tour leader will confirm this time with you at the pre-departure meeting on day one
On arrival at Baltra Airport in the Galapagos you must pay the US$110 arrival tax for entry to Galapagos National Park. This is best done using cash, as using credit cards can be a time consuming process. We are met in the arrival hall of the airport by our National Park Guide, and transferred to our catamaran ‘M.C Queen Beatriz’. This afternoon we visit Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos, here we visit the highlands.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 3 - North Seymour and Mosquera Island.
Today we take a morning excursion to North Seymour. The trail on North Seymour crosses the inland through the island and then explores the rocky coast. Along the way the trail passes colonies of blue footed boobies and frigate birds.
The magnificent frigate bird, a large black bird with a long wingspan, and a hooked beak, is extremely fast and has excellent vision. Frigate birds are known for the large red pouch on their necks. During mating season the males thrown back their heads, inflate the pouch (sometimes to the size of a soccer ball), and shake trying to capture the attention of female frigates.
Boobies and frigates have an interesting relationship. Sharing the same nesting area on North Seymour, blue-footed boobies nest on the ground making their nests from the twigs of the palo santos trees, while the frigate birds nests just above them in the saltbushes.
After lunch we visit the small sandy island of Mosquera, it’s a relaxing, picturesque stop. Along the rocks and in the tide pool, sally lightfoot crabs (red lava crabs) scamper back and forth, skipping across small pools of water in search of food. These crabs with their bright red shell tops and blue under shells are stunning against the black lava.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 4 - Visit Black Turtle Cove and Cerro Dragón.
Today we take a morning excursion to Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) - a red mangrove wetland on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. We paddle among the cove’s peaceful waters, for our first taste of the underwater riches of these waters – it’s a wonderful place to see green turtle and is a nursery for rays and Galapagos sharks. There is also abundant birdlife, such as the yellow warbler and lava heron. This is also a breeding area for turtles, so it is not uncommon to see them mating.
Go for a walk on Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill) this afternoon, this is one of the best places to see land iguanas in the islands. We’ll walk along the trail from the beach and along with the land iguanas other sightings include marine iguanas, flamingos and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 5 - Rabida Island and Sombrero Chino.
Rabida, also known as ‘Jervis’ is a tiny island sitting roughly 5 kilometres south of Santiago and is one of the most striking of the archipelago. Introduced species were eradicated in 1971, meaning that the indigenous wildlife has now been returned to a state of splendid isolation. Additionally, volcanic activity here has produced vivid, fantastical colours, not least the beaches of red sand and cliffs of scarlet. From the shore, the trail leads through to what is one of the finest lagoons in the Galapagos for viewing flamingos. Rabida is also a wonderful place to spot nesting pelicans. Elsewhere, pintail ducks, marine iguanas and sea lions are all present.
Sombrero Chino is a small islet located near the south-east coast of Santiago. It's shaped like a Chinese hat (Sombrero Chino) when seen from afar and is geologically fascinating, with many lava tubes leading from the cone to the coast.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 6 - Punta Carrión/ Bachas Beach
Punta Carrion, located in north-eastern Santa Cruz. This is a shallow and protected cove, ideal for your first snorkel and swim in the Galapagos! Wildlife is plentiful; keep your eyes peeled for blue-footed boobies, Galapagos herons, great blue herons and underwater swim among rays and white-tipped reef sharks.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 7 - Isabela Island, including Tintoreras, Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and the Wall of Tears.
Today we wake up on the South Coast of Isabela Island, the largest of the Galapagos Archipelago. Isabela was formed by five giant volcanic craters, all of which are still considered active. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having been formed less than 1 million years ago. This southern coast of turquoise blue waters has the largest area of beaches in the Galapagos. We visit Las Tintoreras, where from the viewing walkway you can look down into this narrow channel to see a colony of white-tipped reef sharks swimming and sleeping, and the occasional playful sea lion among them! Blue-footed boobies and penguins, marine iguanas and crabs also make their home here, and the waters provide further opportunities to swim with turtles. Here we also visit the Giant Tortoise breeding centre and the Wall of Tears, constructed from lava by prisoners of the penal colony here between 1946 and 1959 as punishment.
Please note there's a US$20 fee to be paid upon entering Isabela Island.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 8 - Cruise to Floreana Island, exploring Post Office Bay, Devil's Crown and Punta Cormorant.
The island of Floreana is a highlight of any Galapagos cruise, rich in natural wonders and wildlife. We go ashore at Punta Cormorant where the sand is made up of fine olivine crystals, a glassy volcanic mineral, giving the beach an olive-green colour. It is the best place to see Galapagos sea lions. Today is also one of our finest opportunities to see pink flamingos and other water birds wading in the lagoons, including pintails and stilts. Just offshore, the Devil’s Crown is an old eroded volcanic cone and a popular roosting site for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans and frigates. Red-billed tropicbirds can also be seen nesting in the rocky crevices. The centre of the cone is an outstanding snorkelling spot, perhaps the most remarkable in the entire archipelago, full of sea lions and colourful fish. Floreana is also home to Post Office Bay, where 18th century whalers used a barrel as an unofficial mail drop. This custom continues to this day with visitors to the Galapagos – post one of your own, or see if there are any you could deliver back home!
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 9 - Charles Darwin Station/ Fly Baltra to Quito
The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic centre of the archipelago, and home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. As well as undertaking vital conservation work, the station also makes for interesting exploration and offers the best opportunities for close encounters with giant tortoises. We also observe baby tortoises and land iguanas.
This is our final excursion before we return to the airport in Baltra for our flight back to Quito. As you will be leaving the boat this morning, please remember that if you have enjoyed the services provided by your guide and crew, a tip would be very much appreciated by them. As a guideline we recommend each passenger consider US$15 per day for the crew and US$10 per day for your guide. You can leave tips in envelopes that are placed in your cabin on this last day of your journey. Upon arrival in Quito Airport you are transferred back to our hotel for an overnight stay
Day 10 - Quito
You have today free in Quito and it is always fascinating to wander around the cobbled streets of the Old City, which is full of impressive colonial architecture and character. The Monastery of San Francisco is a fine example of Spanish Baroque architecture and its initial construction dates to 1534, which was the year the city was founded. You can also arrange an excursion to visit the Equator line at Mitad del Mundo or visit the colourful market town of Otavalo, famous for its beautiful Andean handicrafts.
Day 11 - Fly from Quito to Lima. Free time in Lima.
Today you are transferred to the airport where you catch your flight from Quito to Lima, capital of Peru. Be aware the booking of this flight is your own responsibility. On arrival at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport you are transferred to our hotel in the well-known coastal suburb of Miraflores.
Day 12-13 - Iquitos - Amazon River
We make a very early start and fly to Iquitos in the heart of the Amazon. Our flight usually departs before dawn and takes about two hours. Upon arrival we enjoy a short sightseeing tour of the colonial parts of Iquitos. The economic heyday of of this city was from the late 1800s until the early 1900s, when its surrounding region was the world's foremost source of raw rubber. Vast fortunes were amassed during the rubber boom and evidence of this can still be seen in the assortment of charming historic buildings. Many of the mansions are adorned with elaborate Portuguese and Italian ceramic tiles. Iquitos is situated on the banks of the Amazon River and can only be reached by aircraft or riverboat. In the afternoon we board a motorised boat to our jungle lodge. On the way we visit Belén floating village, a major provisions centre for those living in this area of the Amazon Basin. Situated in the richly diverse Amazon Rainforest, our jungle lodge is a great base for exploring the area. During our stay we visit the Yagua native community, one of the oldest tribes in the region, as well as the natural reserve along the Yanayacu River. Our local guide leads us on a walk through this reserve, where we may come across some of the vast range of flora and fauna. If we are lucky we may see, on the river, some pink Amazonian dolphins and of course the infamous piranhas.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 14 - Iquitos to Lima
This morning we have the opportunity to take another jungle hike or we can decide to just relax in the lodge, before travelling on the river back to Iquitos. We have some free time to explore the town on our own, before taking the flight back to Lima airport. Upon arrival in Lima, you will will be transferred back to the hotel where, in the evening, you will join up with your new group.
Day 15 - Lima
Today we continue our exploration of the Peruvian capital with a half-day city tour. Founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, it was from Lima that all Spanish territories in South America were governed. Few cities at that time could rival Lima’s power, wealth and opulence. However its glory days ended in 1746 when the city was virtually destroyed by an earthquake. Many of the colonial buildings were rebuilt and we get a first-hand look at several of them on our tour. The striking Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas), flanked by some of the most important buildings in town such as the cathedral, the huge Government Palace and the Archbishop’s Palace, constitutes the heart of the city. We visit the cathedral and the nearby San Francisco Monastery, with its catacombs containing some 70,000 human remains. We also visit the impressive National Museum of Anthropology, Archaeology and History of Peru, which is home to a wonderful collection of cultural exhibits tracing the history, arts and accomplishments of the people of Peru, ranging from the original inhabitants of the land through to the Inca Empire and the Spanish conquerors. The afternoon is free to do your own exploration of Lima. You may wish to wander around Miraflores or perhaps catch a taxi to visit the Gold Museum or the Larco Museum, which is renowned for its ancient pottery collection. Please remember that you must agree on a fare with the driver before catching a taxi, as the taxis here do not have meters. (Miraflores-Downtown approximately 10-15 soles)
Day 16-17 - Cusco - The Sacred Valley
Today we fly to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, where we take an afternoon walking tour to explore this fascinating city. Please remember to walk slowly and take it reasonably easy upon arrival, as you will no doubt feel the effects of altitude as we have travelled from sea level up to 3350 metres. Cusco is a favourite destination of many visitors to Peru. Its main sites radiate outwards from the Plaza de Armas, which is dominated by the 17th century Baroque cathedral. It was in this very plaza that the Spanish conquistadors put to death the last Inca king, Tupac Amaru I. As we wander the streets and side alleys of the city we witness the perfect tapering Inca stonework that provided the foundations for many of Cusco’s colonial and modern buildings. Our comprehensive sightseeing tour of the city’s main sights includes the cathedral and Koricancha Temple. We then take to the surrounding hills and visit the impressive ceremonial ruins of Sacsayhuaman, where massive stone blocks that form the walls of this site give us an awesome picture of how highly developed Inca engineering was. In our free time, it is also possible to visit the Inca Museum, Religious Art Museum, Church of San Blas and Santa Catalina Museum. The Sacred Valley, located between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, was greatly treasured because of its climate, fertile land and the presence of the Urubamba (Sacred) River. On our full day tour of the Sacred Valley, we will see evidence of the Incas' engineering skills in the ruins of ancient aqueducts, irrigation canals, dams on the Urubamba River, imposing sets of terraces and centres of worship dedicated to Pachamama (Mother Earth). At the Sacred Valley we visit the Awana Kancha tourist centre where we see llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco all in the one place, the ruins at Qenko, the colourful market town of Pisac and the towering Inca citadel at Ollantaytambo. Built on a steep mountainside this grand citadel served as both a temple and fortress. A walk up to the top is rewarded by fine views over the village and out further into the valley.
Day 18 - Peru's Challenge Community Project - Pumamarca Ruins - Cusco
This morning we enjoy a visit to the Peru's Challenge Community Project at Pumamarca, located in a beautiful valley just 10 kilometres from the centre of Cusco. The Peru's Challenge Program works to create opportunities for children living in the Andes region. The program was started by Australian, Jane Gavel and Selvy Ugaz from Peru. Since October 2003, Peru’s Challenge has helped nearly 1000 families and started to educate over 500 children in numerous communities. We are a sponsor of the Peru’s Challenge program at Pumamarca, providing support through the 'Small Loans for Community Development’ scheme and through the Peregrine Community Trust. The visit offers a rare look at the challenges faced by many small farming communities around Peru. It is both educational and inspirational. During our visit we wander through the fields and watch the locals tend their crops, whilst in the village we visit the local school and also see the women working in the handicraft centre. If you wish to make a donation to the Peru’s Challenge program, the Peregrine Community Trust is the easiest and most convenient way to do so. Details on our Trust can be found at http://www.peregrineadventures.com/community-trust. Afterwards, a short stroll through the fields takes us to the rarely-visited Pumamarca ruins. More than 500 years ago King Pachacutec ruled the Incas from the centre of his massive empire in Cusco. Here, surrounded by beautiful Inca terraces and fields where the locals grow their produce, we find the Pumamarca Hacienda, which at that time, was a palace built for his royal wife. Wandering through the ruins we can find great examples of classic Inca architecture best exemplified by careful stonework of exact proportions, providing evidence that the Incas were expert engineers. The gardens contain water channels and fountains with aqueducts and communication tunnels, which connect the palace to the town of Cusco. Peruvian archaeologists believe that this is the oldest Inca palace in existence, hence one of the reasons why the Institute of National Culture has plans to slowly reconstruct the structure as well as restore the gardens to their original glory. We return to Cusco in the early afternoon.
Day 19-20 - Machu Picchu - Aguas Calientes - Cusco
We board an early morning train to the town of Aguas Calientes and take a bus up the steep, zigzagging road to the impressive Lost City of the Incas - Machu Picchu. Built around 1450 the city was deserted less than a century later following the Spanish invasion and ‘lost’ for hundreds of years before it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The architecture of Machu Picchu is quite extraordinary, with the mortar-free design particularly earthquake resistant and the stones so precisely cut that to this day not even a knife fits between them. We tour the site with our guide and then have some free time to explore by ourselves, before taking the bus down to the small town of Aguas Calientes where we spend the evening. There are some small shops and restaurants in the town where we can while the time away. Alternatively you may choose to relax in the hot thermal baths located on the edge of town. In the late afternoon we take the train back to Cusco.
Day 21 - Puno
We travel by bus today to the town of Puno, situated on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3810 metres. This scheduled tourist service takes us on good roads initially through some spectacular mountain scenery and we stop at several sites along the way, including Inca adobe ruins. Lunch is included on a stop in the small town of Sicuani. Along the way we also make a short roadside stop at La Raya, which at 4335 metres is the highest point on our journey. We also drive through the large sprawling town of Juliaca on our way to Puno, which is a colourful and lively place renowned for its traditional street dancing, often performed in celebration of Catholic festive days in February each year. An important agricultural centre, Puno is reasonably compact and centred around the pedestrian part of Calle Lima, which is full of restaurants and bars. The town is a launching pad for excursions out on Lake Titicaca whilst on the surrounding plateaus, grazing alpacas and llamas are familiar sights.
Day 22 - Lake Titicaca - Sillustani - Puno
This morning we leave our hotel by local trishaw and head for the lake and board our boat. One of our first stops is on one of the floating reed islands of the Uros people, who still live as they have done so for centuries. The islanders use totora reeds for many things, from building their homes and boats to producing hand-woven mats. We then make our way across the lake back to Puno and continue by road to Sillustani, where located on a small peninsula are well-preserved burial towers called ‘chullpas’. Constructed by the Colla people in pre-Incan times, these ‘chullpas’ often have lizards carved into their stone exterior; lizards are considered a symbol of life because of their ability to regrow their tails. The complex engineering feat involved in the construction of these conical towers, which stand up to a height of 12 metres, continues to amaze archaeologists even today. We return to our hotel in Puno in the late afternoon.
Day 23 - Tiahuanaco - La Paz
Peru and Bolivia both share the waters of Lake Titicaca, and today we follow the shores of the lake to the Bolivian border at Desaguadero. Here we complete our immigration and customs formalities. The journey by road to the Bolivian capital, La Paz, takes us via the ancient ruins of Tiahuanaco. This was the base of a great civilisation that began around 500 BC before mysteriously 'disappearing' around 1200 AD. It is believed that the ceremonial complex dates back to the 8th century AD and was once at the centre of a powerful and self-sustaining empire based in the southern Central Andes. The sprawling ruins comprise of temples, courtyards, terraced pyramids, monolithic stone statues and gateways. The most famous structure is the Puerta del Sol (Gateway of the Sun). From the ruins it is less than a two-hour drive to La Paz, where we spend the night. We enjoy spectacular views of the city on our approach, due to its unique location in the middle of a vast volcanic crater that resembles a bowl.
Day 24-25 - La Paz
We spend a half day visiting the sights of La Paz - the highest capital in the world. Towering over the city is Mount Illimani, which reaches a height of 6439 metres with its snow-covered peaks. Much of La Paz is modern, however, there are still some examples of late 19th century architecture such as the Presidential Palace, La Paz Cathedral and National Congress. We view these and visit a few of the city's small, but fascinating museums as well as wander around the Witches Market, where they sell some unusual medicinal potions. A short distance from the town centre is the Valley of the Moon - an eroded maze of canyons and pinnacles that form a bizarre landscape. Our adventure comes to an end after breakfast the following morning. If you wish to extend your stay in La Paz, additional accommodation can be arranged for you. Please ask your travel agent at the time of booking your holiday.