Galapagos / Ecuador, Peru
Lima, Cusco, Sacsahuaman, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, Wayna Picchu, Quito, Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz Island,...
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
South America's cultural and natural history combines on this Machu Picchu and Galapagos tour. Wander the enigmatic streets of history as you journey to Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. Then, explore the Northern Galapagos on a lavish yacht and see giant tortoises, red-footed boobies, dazzling frigates, and unique marine worlds. The 5-day cruise offers an elegant connection of the archipelago's unusual and wonderful wildlife.
Relaxing in the Capital
Land in Lima and you're transferred from the airport to the Miraflores District, the city's cultural and commercial hub. Stretch your legs with an easy walk around streets that have many bars and restaurants, or take a peek into one of the museums located close to the hotel. After the flight, this calm and charming neighborhood is a great first glimpse of the continent and its atmosphere.
First Incan History in the Beautiful Andes
The Andes glisten beneath the wingtips as you fly south, a series of snowy peaks leaving an indelible impression from the window. Standing proudly beneath these mountains is Cusco, a World Heritage city that blends colonial and Incan architecture. Even on the private transfer from the airport you can spot huge Incan walls towering above more recent buildings.
A guided city tour then takes you through the centuries, from the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuaman overlooking the city to the vast palaces built by the Spanish. This is the ancient home of Incan culture and a fascinating introduction to their architectural excellence. A private guide narrates as you explore various churches and restored colonial buildings before there's a chance to wander at leisure in the evening.
Dramatic Ruins Set Amongst Snow-Capped Peaks
Machu Picchu is far from the only remains of the Inca Civilization. Perched beneath stirring snow-capped mountains, the Sacred Valley of the Incas presents a wonderful portrayal of culture and civilization from 1,000 years ago. Fascinating curves of stone fill the valley, an iconic sight when viewed from a distance. Get closer and there's intricate detail, memoirs of a civilization etched into every individual ruin. These are undoubtedly the best Incan ruins outside Machu Picchu, and you're guided through them on a private tour.
On route, you stop at two cute colonial towns, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Wander vibrant markets and have lunch with views of the Andes before continuing the tour through the valley. To complete the day, you'll sleep in one of the region's best boutique hotels, a quiet little spot for appreciating the valley's splendor.
Enchanting Train Journey to Machu Picchu
Ascending towards Machu Picchu, you can already sense the mystique. As the train slowly rises into the mountains, you can feel the isolation and otherworldly setting, each rumbling mile bringing another exceptional Andean vista. Disembark and continue on foot, climbing the final few meters to this world wonder. A few more steps and Machu Picchu appears like a dream, the lost city spilling out on the plateau below. While you'll spend two days exploring the ruins, it's often this first view that stays longest in the memory.
Accompanied by a guide, you descend into the streets, admiring how they've been preserved in such a pristine state. It feels like a city-in-waiting, with everything ready for its occupants to return. Wander the site, taking in its enormity and detail, as your guide takes you to both the famous and lesser-known spots amongst the ruins. After visiting Machu Picchu, you'll descend to spend the night in Aguas Calientes.
Another Day Exploring the World Famous Ruins
One day isn't enough for such a breathtaking spectacle. In the quiet morning hours, you have a chance to return to Machu Picchu on your own. It's a chance to explore with fewer tourists around and get lost in a city frozen in time. As the shadows gently disappear from the ruins, photographers also enjoy this opportunity to capture iconic shots without the crowds. The adventurous can also climb Wayna Picchu, the steep mountain behind Machu Picchu. The mountain offers wonderful vistas to the lost city below. Return by train to Cusco in the afternoon, where you're greeted at the train station and transferred to your hotel.
Overnight in Another Ancient City
Before the Spanish arrived in Quito, the Incas destroyed everything in the city, burying and burning it beneath the ground. Before the Incas arrived in Quito, 1,000 years of indigenous history was also buried beneath the city's floor.
From Cusco, you fly to Quito via Lima. You're picked up from the airport and transferred to a hotel in the heart of the old city. Snow-capped volcanic craters peer down from above as you take the opportunity to walk the old streets. Peer into golden churches, have a drink in old atmospheric plazas, and explore converted courtyards that were once home to bishops and conquerors. While Quito offers the largest collection of colonial buildings in South America, the old city is easy to walk and provides another opportunity to learn about the continent's history.
Giant Tortoises Welcome You to the Galapagos
A succession of shells dot the landscape of the Santa Cruz Highlands as hundreds of giant tortoises slowly chomp their way through a fertile floor. Necks poke from shells, tiny green shards drop from a mouth, and intriguing eyes watch as you approach. Go slowly, stay silent, and the tortoise just stares straight back at you, before dipping its head once more for a flurry of grass.
After flying from Quito to the Galapagos, your first wildlife site is this remarkable refuge for tortoises. They're all wild, some of them over a century old and weighing in at an impressive 550 pounds. Not only are the tourists symbolic of the evolution on the islands, but they're also indicative of how close you'll be getting to wildlife. Five feet is the national park rule, and the wildlife leaves an impression that ensures this is always obeyed. There's another dramatic site on route to the tortoises. Stop at Los Gemelos, two sinkholes redolently suggestive of the volcanic beauty to come.
Step onto one of the finest luxury boats in the Galapagos. Carrying 48 passengers, the boat’s greatest asset is its size. Cabins are extremely spacious, as are the dedicated dining area and downstairs lounge. An upper deck is equipped with sun-loungers and a small bar, where drinks and appetizers are served when you return from excursions. A library and jacuzzi offer further space to relax. These multiple areas mean that although there are many passengers, you've always got some personal privacy. After boarding Yacht La Pinta, you enjoy welcome cocktails with the crew before the first of four three-course dinners on board.
Marine Exploration and Unusual Species on Santiago
Wake to a sun-painted Pacific sky before a buffet breakfast in the restaurant. On each of the next three days, you enjoy morning and afternoon excursions to different Galapagos sites. Today is Eden Islet, where a dinghy ride and hike offers intimacy with blue-footed boobies and various land birds. You can snorkel or take a glass-bottom boat ride around with a chance to see reef sharks and wonderfully colorful reefs.
After lunch, you discover the stunning diversity of Sombrero Chino on Santiago Island. Hawks dive on marine iguanas while a colony of sea lions voices their rowdy approval. Pink flamingos contrast the intense red of magnificent frigates while tiny Galapagos penguins provide antics along the trail. An easy hike offers intimate encounters with all the creatures before there's an opportunity to swim or snorkel from the shore.
Dramatic Volcanic Remains at Bartolome and Sullivan Bay
Bartolome Island doesn't look real. Much like hiking to the summit of Machu Picchu, the ascent on this island seems to come from some distant mystical reverie. Everywhere is deep red, the enigmatic shades delivered by a volcanic eruption and offering the feeling of walking on Mars. Rise the wooden walkway to the top and you're greeted with the Galapagos fairytale panorama; two white-coralline beaches separated by the lava tower of Pinnacle Rock. After the hike, you can snorkel and swim in the waters around these beaches, with penguins and sea lions darting through the water. Sea turtles and reef sharks can also be seen, and there's a choice to explore with a glass-bottom boat.
Back on board, savor a big buffet lunch and lounge away the early-afternoon hours in any of the boat's social areas. On the east coast of Santiago, Sullivan Bay is an equally ethereal location for an afternoon excursion. Walking over a lava flow, you get a deep sense of the islands' volcanic history, with thousands of spirals and twists rolling across the landscape. There's no wildlife in such a desolate place, but the walk is an inspiring reminder of how these islands are formed. Then, enjoy dinner on board before you shift and cruise north. If it's a clear evening, you can enjoy some impressive star gazing from the upper deck.
Millions of Famous Birds on Genovesa Island
Genovesa is one of nature's great islands, home to a staggering collection of seabirds and mating displays. Today, you visit two sites, Darwin Bay, and Prince Phillip's Steps, both havens for the most iconic of Galapagos birds. Thousands of magnificent frigates look for a mate, pumping up their red chests to attract flying females. Each aims to be bigger and brighter than the next. Whenever there's interest, the birds must then demonstrate their ability to prepare a nest.
Nearby, you see lots of red. The unforgettable feet of red-footed boobies stand over single eggs, protecting the next colorful descendent of this bizarre looking species. There are approximately 200,000 of these iconic birds, many of them huddled together on large breeding grounds. Fur seals and storm petrels hang around the edge of the cliffs while marine iguanas betray their camouflage as they wander across the beach.
This is only the second island in the archipelago where you can see red-footed boobies, and they're joined by Nazca boobies. Perhaps over a million birds are found here, and you're not glimpsing them from a distance. Nesting sites are practically on the hiking trail, and the colorful mating displays don't require a zoomed camera lens. It's an intimate and unending display of nature's intricacies, whether you're watching frigates posture or admiring a tiny fluffy chick stand flightless on a nest.
Snorkeling and kayaking are also possible in Darwin's Bay, and there's also some snorkeling with sea lion opportunities in the morning. After the day on Genovesa, have farewell cocktails and the last dinner of your cruise.
Sea Lions Wave You Farewell From the Island
Airport transfers don't get much more memorable than in the Galapagos. As you disembark the boat, there's a colony of sea lions hanging around the jetty. It's like they've come to wave farewell and offer a blubbery grunt to send you back to the mainland.
From Baltra Island and its airport, you fly back to Quito where you're transferred to a nearby spa hotel. Two pools and a massage room offer a tranquil last evening in South America before your flight tomorrow.
Departure from South America
Your private transfer takes you to the airport for your departure from the continent. Natural and cultural memories compete as you soar back home and mentally argue about the trip's highlight. Machu Picchu? Or Galapagos? You’ve enjoyed two iconic experiences that reflect the ingenuity and beauty of our planet.
- Explore the Northern Galapagos Islands on the luxury Yacht La Pinta with five days of cruising, combining elegance with endemic wildlife
- Marvel at the Incan city of Machu Picchu and wander enigmatic streets lost in time, including two visits to the ruins
- Spot millions of birds on Genovesa Island, the huge breeding ground bringing astonishingly intimate scenes of red-footed boobies and giant frigates
- Take the train through the Andean Mountains before hiking the final steps for the unforgettable first view of Machu Picchu.
- Discover other fabulous Incan ruins with a day trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas
- Admire how colonial and indigenous architecture blends in the World Heritage city of Cusco, your base for the Machu Picchu excursion
- Walk across lava flows and wander onto dramatically red islands that revel in their volcanic history
- Snorkel and enjoy a glass-bottom boat ride to discover an eclectic marine world, including sea turtles, rays, and white-tip reef sharks
- Come face to face with most of the Galapagos's iconic wildlife, like giant tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions, and vivid red magnificent frigates
South America's unique history is epitomized by two contrasting destinations on this Machu Picchu and Galapagos tour. Fascinating indigenous history is celebrated in Machu Picchu, an abandoned town perfectly preserved in the Andes. Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas continue the iconic narrative, allowing you to explore fully the remains of an almost-forgotten culture during your five days in Peru. Equally unique in their portrayal of an untouched world, the Galapagos Islands offer a surreal journey through endemic wildlife and evolutionary natural history. Aboard the luxury Yacht La Pinta, you encounter everything from red-footed boobies to giant tortoises, and white-tip reef sharks to the outrageous mating displays of magnificent frigates. The northern itinerary offers an eclectic overview of the islands' wonder and there's always an elegant view as you traverse the archipelago. By combining Incan and evolutionary history, this tour blends the continent's most fascinating attractions.
After an initial overnight in Lima, you spend your second day discovering the World Heritage Site of Cusco. Colonial charms mix with Incan ruins on the streets of this tranquil town, the eclectic architecture taking you on a journey through the centuries. Spend a day in the Sacred Valley of the Incas with a private guide. The Sacred Valley is Peru's second most important archaeological site, and you will have a chance to learn more about a forgotten civilization.
Next is Machu Picchu, accessed via a beautiful train ride through the Andes. You are guided around the famous ruins, and you will have another day to explore at your leisure. As you then travel from Cusco to the Galapagos, you overnight in another UNESCO-designated city, Quito. The old city streets make for an enchanting evening and another look at the history of the continent.
A Northern Galapagos itinerary on Yacht La Pinta offers a sublime blend of luxury and iconicity. The route connects habitats of many renowned species, culminating in a day on Genovesa Island, a nesting site for red-footed boobies and other flamboyant seabirds. Twice-daily excursions allow you to explore land and sea, with snorkeling and glass-bottom boat rides accompanying the hikes across redolent volcanic landscapes. Multiple social areas offer downtime on board, with the sun deck offering a prime view as you cruise between the islands. Three naturalist guides provide the intriguing narrative while a team of chefs continue to surprise with their three-course meals. This is one of the islands' most luxurious vessels and an ideal opportunity to discover nature in comfort.
$8,995 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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