Depart to Quito. After passing through immigration and customs, proceed to the reception area, where our representative will be holding a sign with your name on it. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Quito.
Galapagos, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and Easter Island
Experience three of the most fascinating destinations in South America on this incredible journey to Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Enjoy the incomparable natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands on a five day cruise aboard the Santa Cruz II. Observe iguanas, giant tortoises, blue footed boobies and other animals found nowhere else on Earth. Challenge yourself with a four day hike of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and uncover the mysteries of the Moai statues on Easter Island.
Lodging and Meals: This tour includes accommodations for 20 nights (2 nights in Quito, 4 nights on the Santa Cruz II, 2 nights in Lima, 3 nights in Cusco, 3 nights on the Inca trail, 1 night in Machu Picchu, 2 nights in Santiago, 3 nights in Easter Island) and 37 meals (20 breakfasts, 10 lunches, and 7 dinners).
Best Time to Go: April-October.
Places Visited: Quito, the Galapagos Islands, Baltra Island, Bartolomé Island, Genovesa Island, Rábida Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santiago Island, Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Santiago, and Easter Island.
Note: The route and program may vary according to National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes, safety reasons and wildlife encounters.
Dry Landing: Guests step from the dinghy directly onto rocks or a dock.
Wet Landing: As the dinghy edges onto a sandy beach, guests step into knee-deep water and wade ashore.
This morning, you will visit to downtown Quito to relish in this urban jewel and its treasures of art and architecture. Quito’s colonial quarter, the largest and best preserved of South America, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stroll starts at the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Visit the temple of La Compañía de Jesús and its awesome gilded interior. Continue on to the Monastery of San Francisco, one the of great religious buildings of the New World; its impressive façade and atrium that lead to its Baroque interior influenced by Moorish style, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar.
Then continue to the Equatorial Monument, 16 miles north of Quito, which marks the exact Middle of the World, latitude 0º, where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. Visit the Ethnographic Museum inside the monument, which shows the different Native American groups living in Ecuador. Beside the monument there is a colonial-style town, complete with main square, church, post office, bullring, cafeterias, restaurants and many gift shops with postcards and souvenirs. You will get a certificate for having crossed the Equator. Overnight in Quito. (B)
Morning transfer to the airport in Quito for the flight to Galapagos. You land at Baltra Island by plane in the morning and transfer to the dock to board the Santa Cruz II, where you receive a welcome introductory briefing, and lunch.
Las Bachas. This beautiful visitor site is located on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, a glorious white beach with a couple of brackish lagoons only a few steps away from the sea. These lagoons are the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. Welcome cocktail, expedition plan for Tuesday and dinner. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
After breakfast, you explore the coastline along the impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove, learning about the area’s distant and recent history. The cove is home to a large number of marine birds, sea lions, and inter-tidal organisms. Enjoy fantastic natural formations such as the “Elephant Rock”, “The Bishop” and an impressive natural cave.
Puerto Egas. Once you disembark at the beach, you can enjoy a swim or snorkel amid a rocky shoreline, usually in the company of marine turtles. From here, you head off for a walk, a great opportunity to see land and marine birds amid landscape of tuff-stone layers and lava flows. At low tide, marine iguanas graze upon the algae beds and you can also observe a colony of fur-sea lions. Non-snorkelers can enjoy a longer walk. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Rábida. Some groups will go for a fascinating panga ride along the shores while others will disembark on Rábida Island’s red-colored beach, caused by the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. Your walk brings you close to a colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin’s finches. Very close to the beach, a salt pond hosts migrating greater flamingos at certain times of year. This is a great place to snorkel from the beach, both for beginners as well as for experienced snorkelers, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. During navigation to the next island, dolphins are sometimes spotted!
Bartolome. Today’s activities begin with a wet landing on the golden beach of this famous island, dominated by the imposing Pinnacle Rock. There’s great snorkeling and swimming from the beach plus the chance to ride the glass bottom boat. After returning to the ship, you then split into two groups, the first lands for a hike to the summit of this diminutive island that boasts fantastic views of the archipelago. This is a moderately steep climb aided by a wooden staircase, resting platforms and handrails – the view from the top is worth the effort! The second takes to the pangas to explore the rugged and volcanic shoreline. The groups then swap activities. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Prince Philip Steps. The morning starts with a steep climb (90 feet) up some stairs to reach a flat rocky plateau. Along the walk, you can observe large colonies of Nazca boobies, red footed boobies, great frigate birds and storm petrels. Those not wishing to disembark can enjoy a longer panga ride along the cliffs (depending on weather conditions).
Darwin Bay. In the afternoon, you land at this beautiful beach to enjoy some swimming and/or snorkeling. Following the dip, you take an easy stroll to observe hundreds of birds, mainly frigate birds, red footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
You start the last morning at the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. After breakfast, your luggage will be taken to the airport, while you visit the Tortoise Reserve in the Highlands of Santa Cruz. A dry landing at a passenger’s wharf and a bus ride to the loftier region of the island will provide the last highlight of the cruise: giant tortoises in the wild. The windward slopes of the island are home to two species of giant tortoises. These lush highlands include dense forests of Galapagos daisies, orchids and bromeliads, and several endemic land birds.
After this visit you will be transferred directly to Baltra Airport for your flight to Guayaquil and then Lima, Peru. After passing through immigration and customs, proceed to the reception area, where our inbound services representative will be holding a sign with your name on it. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Lima. (B)
In the afternoon, you will have a city tour of Lima. You will visit downtown Lima and see several examples of the Spanish architecture of the colonial period including the Plaza de Armas, the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, and the Church of San Francisco and Catacombs. After that, you will see Huaca Huallamarca, a restored adobe pyramid dating from the pre-Inca period located in San Isidro. You will tour the upscale residential and commercial district of Miraflores and see the Parque del Amor, a seaside park with a huge statue of a kissing couple, before returning to your hotel. Overnight in Lima. (B)
Early morning transfer to the airport for the flight to Cusco. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Because of the high altitude (10,912 feet above sea level), we recommend that you rest for a short period. In the afternoon, you will have a city tour that includes a walk-through of the Cathedral, the Koricancha (‘site of gold’), typical streets, and the four ruins that surround the city: the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, Kenko, Puca Pucara, and Tampumachay. Overnight in Cusco. (B)
Today you will have a full-day excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The tour begins at Awanakancha, a living museum of the Peruvian Andes, where you can observe traditional textile dyeing and weaving techniques and the four types of camelids that are native to the region. You will also visit the Indian artisan market in Pisac and have lunch at a local restaurant (included). The last stop is the impressive Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo that served as both a fortress and ceremonial center, and is the site of a short-lived victory by the Incas over the Spanish. Overnight in Cusco. (B,L) Note: The Indian market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from October to March, and daily from April to September. On the days of the week that the market is not open, you will be taken to the Inca ruins above the village.
Early morning transfer by minivan to the town of Chilca (km. 82), the start of the Inca Trail. We begin escorted by native “quechua” porters going through semi-arid terrain along the Urubamba River with magnificent views of snowcapped mount Veronica (18,636 feet). We walk past the Inca hamlet of Huayllabamba, an ancient Inca citadel that protected the entry to two valleys. Overnight on the Inca Trail. (B,L,D)
We will begin to climb the first pass, Warmiwañusqa (13,776 feet), where there is a spectacular view of the valley below. At this pass we move from the dry puna ecology to elf forest, the highest of the tropical forest types where gnarled trees grow to two meters amid fog and low clouds, habitat for a profusion of orchids and strange animals. On this night, we will camp along river Pacamayo at the bottom of the pass. Overnight on the Inca Trail. (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we will hike towards Runku Rakay and traverse the second pass of the same name (12,464 feet). We will descend to Sayacmarca, an important archaeological complex, where we will have lunch. We will spend the night near the ruins of Wiñayhuayna, which means ‘city above the clouds’. Overnight on the Inca Trail. (B,L,D)
We will arise very early so that we may watch the sunrise from Inti Punku and have our first breathtaking view of Machu Picchu ‘the Lost City of the Incas’ (7,900 feet). This mountaintop citadel, which served as both a center of worship and an astronomic observatory, is located in the middle of the cloud forest overlooking the Urubamba River. There are both agricultural and urban areas constructed with the precision stonework that the Incas are known for. The agricultural area consists of terraces and food storehouses, and the urban area contains temples, squares, and royal tombs. Guided tour followed by lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Aguas Calientes. (B,L)
This is a free day to explore Machu Picchu on your own. You may want to hike Huayna Picchu or enjoy another activity. Mid-afternoon, you will depart from Machu Picchu by train to Poroy Station in the Sacred Valley, and then be taken to your hotel in Cusco. Overnight in Cusco. (B)
Morning transfer to the airport for your flight back to Lima and then Santiago, Chile. After passing through immigration and customs, proceed to the reception area, where our inbound services representative will be holding a sign with your name on it. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Santiago. (B)
In the morning, you will have a panoramic city tour of Santiago, which will include Parque O’Higgins, Plaza de Armas (the city’s historic center), Palacio de la Moneda, ex-National Congress, Mapocho Station Cultural Center, Santa Lucia Hill, the place of Santiago’s founding in 1541,and the Bohemian district of Bellavista. In the afternoon, you will visit your choice of one of the following vineyards around Santiago (included in price): Concha y Torro, Cousino Macul, and Undurraga. Overnight in Santiago. (B)
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Easter Island. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Easter Island. (B)
Full day excursion visiting the archaeological site of Akahanga and the quarry at Rano Raraku volcano, where all of the moai on the island were carved. You will see over 300 statues in various stages of completion, and one giant moai, 21 meters (69 ft.) tall. You will also visit Ahu Tongariki, the largest ahu (burial site), whose moai were re-erected after a tsunami flattened the statues, Ahu Te Pito Kura, site of the largest moai moved from the quarry, and the ahu Nau Nau at Anakena Beach. Picnic lunch at Anakena Beach. Overnight in Easter Island. (B,L)
Morning visit to the Rano Kau extinct volcano crater (1.6 km in diameter), the ceremonial village of Orongo, which features the largest concentration of Petroglyphs on the island, with images of post-moai deity’s, such as Tangata Manu (birdman), Make Make (the creator), and Komari, and then to Ahu Vinapu. After lunch (not included), the tour continues on to Ahu Akivi, site of the seven moais overlooking the sea, the Caves of Ana Tepahu, among the largest on the island, and Pun-a-Pau quarry, the sole source of red scoria that was used to carve the pukao (topknots) of some of the moia. Overnight in Easter Island. (B)
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Santiago and your final destination. (B)
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
About the Inca Trail
The Incas built a vast network of roads to communicate with the four regions of their vast empire. The network was called Qapaq Ñan (the sovereign’s highway) or Inca Road, and was made up of stone paths suitable for two or three people with trains of llamas. Rivers were crossed by hanging bridges and the steep slopes were mastered with steps and ramps. There are remains of the Qhapaq Ñan throughout Peru that are still used to this day by local villagers and farmers. One of the most impressive and best preserved roads is the trail that links Cusco and Machu Picchu. Today, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu allows the visitor to step back in time and walk through a variety of eco-systems and dazzling scenery. The length of the 39 kilometers (24 miles) includes unforgettable views, archaeological remains; 400 different species of orchids and begonias, exotic trees like the pisonay, the queñual and innumerable species of fauna in their natural habitat, such as the cock-of-the-rocks, llamas and vicuñas, the white-tailed deer, the vizcacha and, if visitors are lucky, the endangered and vegetarian spectacled bear. The Inca Trail is one of the world’s leading trekking and camping routes. (Source: PromPeru)
A Note About Your Free Day in Machu Picchu
On your free day, you will be on your own. If you choose to revisit Machu Picchu, you will need to purchase a second entrance ticket, which currently costs $74 per person. If you are staying in Aguas Calientes, you will also need to purchase a round-trip bus ticket ($28 per person) for transportation to the site. The first bus departs at 5:30 AM. As an alternative to visiting Machu Picchu again, you can hike Huayna Picchu (a +/- 60 minute hike), or partake in another activity. The cost for hiking Huayna Picchu is $13 (in addition to the second entrance ticket). At the end of the day (mid-late afternoon), you will walk to the train station for the return ride to Poroy train station, where our local representative will be waiting for you to take you to your hotel in Cusco.
- South American Vacations’ expert pre-departure planning services and documentation.
- Airport/hotel transfers including baggage handling.
- Hotel accommodations including taxes and service charges.
- Accommodations on board the M/V Santa Cruz II.
- All meals scheduled on board and others as indicated on the itinerary.
- Excursions to the islands conducted by English-speaking naturalist guides, and all other excursions as indicated on the itinerary including all applicable entrance fees.
- Evening briefings and lectures.
- Use of snorkeling equipment and kayaks.
- Double occupancy tents.
- Camping equipment: Bathroom tent, kitchen tent, dining tent, chairs, tables, and comfortable mattresses.
- Cook, porters to carry food, tents, and cooking gear.
- Porters for personal belongings (one for every two passengers).
- Coffee breaks during the trek, first aid kit/oxygen.
- Local, English-speaking tour guides.
Price Does Not Include
- International airfare.
- Domestic airfare.
- Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee ($100).
- Transit control card ($20).
- Meals not indicated on the itinerary.
- Gratuities to ship crew and naturalist guides, tour guides, porters, drivers, and hotel staff.
- Bar, gifts, and personal items.
- Travel insurance.
We will be happy to quote the cost of airfare and travel insurance, and to make these arrangements for you.
First Class – Santa Cruz II
Group Private: In Quito, all transfers are private and the city tour and Middle of the World excursion is a group tour. All services in the Galapagos are operated on a group basis. In Peru, all airport/hotel transfers are private, and the city tour of Lima, city tour of Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas excursion are group tours for single passengers and 3 star accommodations, and private for 4 Star, 5 Star, and Deluxe accommodation levels. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu hike is a group tour. In Santiago, all airport/hotel transfers are private, and the city tour and winery tour are group tours for single passengers and 3 star accommodations, and private for 4 Star, 5 Star, and Deluxe accommodation levels. All services in Easter Island are operated on a group basis for single passengers and 3 Star accommodations, and are private for 4 Star, 5 Star, and Deluxe accommodations.
Elevations: Quito is 9,350 feet above sea level, Cusco is 10,912 feet, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is 8,944 feet, the Inca Trail varies from 8,528 feet to 13,776 feet, and Machu Picchu is 7,900 feet.
IGTOA’S Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund: South American Vacations is an active member of IGTOA (International Galapagos Tour Operators Association). In support of IGTOA’s Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund, we contribute $20 for each passenger that we send to the Galapagos Islands. You’ll travel knowing that you support the lasting protection of Galapagos Islands.
Sixty percent of the funding of this program goes directly to the Charles Darwin Foundation for science, conservation, and education. Their work, carried out through the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapagos National Park, is vital to the preservation of the islands. You can visit their web site to learn more www.darwinfoundation.org. The remainder goes toward IGTOA’s mission of creating a model of responsible and sustainable tourism.
Passport/Visa: For Ecuador, U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Ecuadorian embassy in their country before traveling. For Peru, U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Peruvian embassy in their country before traveling. For Chile, U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens (except Greece) require a valid passport (for the duration of your visit) and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Greek citizens can stay for up to 60 days. Australian, and Canadian citizens are required to pay a reciprocity fee (considered a multiple entry visa) of $95 and $132 respectively upon arrival (subject to change without notice due to currency fluctuations or other reasons). Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Chilean embassy in their country before traveling.
Travel Insurance: In order to protect your travel investment from unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance. We offer Allianz Global Assistance’s Classic Comprehensive and other plans. The Benefits and Coverage Limits are summarized on our Travel Insurance page. Call your travel counselor if you have any questions or to purchase a plan.
To Book This Trip: Call or email us to confirm the availability of a cabin on this ship for your desired dates of travel. The non-refundable deposits for single, double, and triple passengers are $1,350, $1,450, and $1,450 per person, plus the cost of the airfare (if we arrange it for you).