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The Best of South America: Machu Picchu, the Galapagos & the Andes 14-Night Itinerary

Consider an experience that takes you to THREE bucket list destinations: Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and the snow-capped Ecuadorian Andes. After a few days sampling the colorful Andean culture of mainland Ecuador, you’ll then fly to the alluring Galapagos Islands, which was the catalyst for Charles Darwin’s spectacular breakthrough in human understanding of biology. Here, you’ll swim and snorkel amidst some of the richest marine life on Earth, and come face-to-face with the 150-year-old Giant Galapagos tortoises that symbolize this living laboratory of evolutionary change. Traveling on to Peru, you’ll experience a number of astonishing and authentic sites in this “Land of the Inca,” eventually reaching the glorious Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. All and all, this multi-destination will provide a complete break from the day-to-day routine, while undoubtedly inspiring you to think differently about our world. 

Reviews

“My parent wanted to go to Peru and see Machu Picchu, Titicaca lake and Nazca Lines. Surtrek made a perfect customized plan for them. ”Nakyoung Park

Highlights

Sacred Valley, Private Tour of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu hike, Quito City Tour, Full Day Otavalo, Floreana Island, Santa Fe Island, North Seymour Island

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1: Welcome to Peru! Arrival in Lima
Day 2: Private Guided Half Day Tour of Lima
Day 3: Journey to the Andes – Fly to Cusco, Private Car through the Sacred Valley – Visit to the Pisac Market
Day 4: Train through the Cloud Forest, Private Tour of Machu Picchu
Day 5: Huayna Picchu hike and travel by train back to Ollantaytambo – return to Cusco
Day 6: Private Tour of Cusco’s Historic City Center
Day 7: Return to Lima – Return Home – Flight from Cusco to Lima – Flight to Quito
Day 8: Quito City Tour + Chocolate Tasting
Day 9: Full Day Otavalo Indigenous Market
Day 10: San Cristobal Island: Airport – Tortoise Breeding Center – Puerto Chino Beach
Day 11: Española Island: Suarez Point – Gardner Bay
Day 12: Floreana Island: Cormorant Point – Devil's Crown – Baroness Lookout Point – Post Office Bay
Day 13: Santa Fe Island - South Plaza Island
Day 14: North Seymour Island - Santa Cruz Island: Bachas Beach
Day 15: Mosquera Island - Baltra Island: Airport
South America Map

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Welcome to Peru! Arrival in Lima

You will find us waiting for you when your international flight arrives in Lima. Look for the sign with your name and the smile. We will escort you to your hotel, check you in and help you get settled. You will then be able to rinse away the feeling of a long flight and enjoy a good night’s rest!

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Day 2
Private Guided Half Day Tour of Lima

In the morning, you will visit the Lima Cathedral and the Convent of San Francisco. The catacombs under the convent house the skeletal remains of much of colonial Lima! We will also visit Casa Aliaga, a 1535 mansion - it is one of the oldest mansions in the New World and has been occupied by the Aliaga family since its construction.

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Breakfast
Day 3
Journey to the Andes – Fly to Cusco, Private Car through the Sacred Valley – Visit to the Pisac Market

You will wake up refreshed and enjoy a complimentary breakfast in your hotel before we escort you back to the airport for your morning flight to Cusco. Watch the windows as the desert coast rises into the snow-capped peaks of the Andes!

We will be waiting for you when touch down at our Andean airport and will bring you to the historic city center of Cusco for a delicious lunch. Then, before you can feel the altitude, we will whisk you into the Sacred Valley.

Just 15 minutes outside of Cusco, you will stop at the vibrant market in the pueblo of Pisac, where locals come from miles around to sell their wares. Upon conclusion of your market visit, we will bring you to your hotel in the heart of the Sacred Valley.

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Breakfast - Lunch
Day 4
Train through the Cloud Forest, Private Tour of Machu Picchu

Prepare for a climactic day! In the morning, we will board the train in Ollantaytambo for our journey to Machu Picchu. Watch the cloud jungle pass by through the large glass windows! After a bus ride to the gates of this wonder of the world, lunch will be served on-site at the Sanctuary Lodge. You will then ascend stone steps, through heavy tree cover to finally emerge at the top of the world – Machu Picchu. The incredible Inca stone construction will be spread below, alternately hidden and revealed by clouds. Your expert guide will give you a private tour of the ancient city.

Upon returning for an evening in Aguas Calientes. Enjoy an excellent dinner on-site at your hotel and fall into bed, lulled to sleep by the sound of the cloud forest around you.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 5
Huayna Picchu hike and travel by train back to Ollantaytambo – return to Cusco

After breakfast, we will go back to the entrance of the citadel to Hike to Wayna Picchu Mountain and get to see Machu Picchu one more time before heading back to the enchanted city of Cusco for overnight

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Breakfast - Lunch
Day 6
Private Tour of Cusco’s Historic City Center

This morning you will experience the lay of the land as only true world travelers know how: on foot traversing hidden alleyways, historic plazas, and local treasures. After breakfast on your own, your private guide will proceed to illuminate Cusco’s rich tapestry woven by its inviting cobblestone streets, charming neighbourhoods, and astounding landmarks.

Your first stop of the day will be to the Santo Domingo monastery, perched atop the most sacred of Incan sites, the Qoricancha temple of the sun. Once bathed in 24-karat gold long-since pilfered by Spanish conquistadors, this temple is now an astounding blend of Incan stonemasonry and colonial architecture. We will then climb up to the bohemian neighbourhood of San Blas, known for its whitewashed adobe buildings and quaint blue balconies, home to generations of renowned Cusco artisans, before dropping back down to Plaza de Armas for a stop in at the colonial Cathedral.

Top off your tour with a visit to a local indigenous market brimming with a rainbow of local fruits and traditional remedies, and make sure to pause to marvel at the 12-angled stone nestled in a wall that has withstood the test of time (as well as a couple of earth-shattering earthquakes!).

Upon conclusion of your tour your guide will leave you with suggestions as to where you find a delicious, local lunch, and you’ll have the remainder of the afternoon to explore the Imperial City at your leisure!

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Breakfast - Lunch
Day 7
Return to Lima – Return Home – Flight from Cusco to Lima – Flight to Quito

Wake up refreshed and enjoy breakfast in your hotel this morning. At the proper time, you will be taken to the airport to take your flight back to Lima. Assistance at the Lima airport for taking your flight to Quito

When you arrive in Ecuador’s capital of Quito, which lies at 2,800 meters above sea level at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano, you will find us waiting at the airport, look for the sign with your name and the smile! We will take you to your hotel, check you in and help you get settled.

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Breakfast
Day 8
Quito City Tour + Chocolate Tasting

On this one-day tour, we will visit the historic district of the Ecuadorian capital, enjoying this urban jewel and its artistic and architectural treasures. One of the largest and best preserved colonial centers in South America, Quito’s “Old Town” area was declared the first “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO, in 1978. The visit to the historic center begins with the Basilica del Voto Nacional, one of the largest churches in Ecuador and one of the most important works of Ecuadorian neo-gothic architecture. While the outside of the building stands out for its stone carvings that represent plants and animals of the country, the inside consists of 24 chapels.

We will continue on to the always vibrant Plaza Grande (“Independence Square”), which is surrounded by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. We will then visit the church of the “Compañia de Jesus” to find its impressive interior inlaid in gold. Your tour of historic Quito will end with a birds-eye view of the city from the panoramic “Virgin of Quito” monument atop El Panecillo Hill, which overlooks the capital. This will give you a chance to appreciate Quito from above, and – if the weather permits – to catch a view of the spectacular “Volcano Avenue,” two parallel mountain ranges containing eight of the country’s ten highest peaks.

This afternoon, you will visit the shop of one of the best Chocolate companies in Ecuador and also one of most awarded in the world, Pacari.

The organic cacao produced in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Los Rios and Manabi, is blended with Andean flavors like: lemon verbena, gooseberry and Andean blueberry. Likewise traditional flavors from neighboring countries are used: Chile merkén (Mapuche chili) and the pink salt Maras (an ancient salt from nearby Cusco).

As in any tasting process, first sight matters initially, where a glow over the chocolate showing its quality can be seen. In addition to the dark tone, the coverage of chocolate should be smooth, indicating that sugars have been well compacted.

Then comes the aroma, which can be perceived only by approaching the bar. However, to isolate the smell you should take the piece in both hands, cupping one over the other, with the piece of chocolate in the middle. Both hands are brought up to the nose in order to appreciate the aroma of the chocolate using tiny inhalations. On breaking the bar, the sound should be clear, precise and strong. A ‘crack’ lets you know that chocolate was produced correctly. Another way to perceive the different characteristics of chocolate is to cover the nose and let the chocolate melt in the mouth while letting some air in, so that it is possible to distinguish other aromas and flavors in greater detail.

At the end of the tasting the guide will drive you to El Panecillo hill, from where you will have an overlook of the Capital. This will give you a chance to appreciate Quito from above, and – if the weather permits – to catch a view of the spectacular “Volcano Avenue,” two parallel mountain ranges containing eight of the country’s ten highest peaks. Return to your hotel.

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Breakfast - Lunch
Day 9
Full Day Otavalo Indigenous Market

After breakfast, we will visit the town of Otavalo, home to Ecuador's largest indigenous market and one of the best known in all of Latin America. The market sets up every day, allowing you to spend a few hours wandering through its bustling handicrafts market, in addition to its food markets. You will visit authentic small villages close to Otavalo. You will return to your selected hotel in Quito for the night.

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Breakfast - Lunch
Day 10
San Cristobal Island: Airport – Tortoise Breeding Center – Puerto Chino Beach

AM: In the morning you will fly from Quito to the Galapagos Islands. At the airport on San Cristobal Island, a member of the ship's crew will welcome you and accompany you to your yacht: the Odyssey.

PM: One of the main features on the San Cristobal Island is the Tortoise Breeding Center, where you will see enormous Galapagos tortoises, as well as iguanas. As the natural population of tortoises from San Cristobal Island is seriously threatened by animals introduced onto the island by humans – mainly wild goats, cats, and rats – the center is attempting to increase the number of tortoises as well as eradicate threatening species. Close to the center is an easy trail that covers a distance of 900 meters; along this trail, you will see different species of native and endemic plants of the Galapagos, like cat’s claw, manzanillo, romerillo, and acacia. Be careful not to touch or eat the manzanillo fruits as these are toxic. San Cristobal Island is also one of the few islands where you can see the plant calandrinia galapagosa, which is in danger of extinction. Later this afternoon, we will visit Puerto Chino, a remote beach on the southern edge of San Cristobal Island, and located not too far from the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Breeding Center. The trail from the road goes about a mile (1,500 meters) to the beach. The beach itself is small and surrounded by mangroves. It’s a great place for relaxing and surfing, but don’t touch or eat the fruit of the poisonous manzanillo trees. Also, make sure to drink a lot of water, use sunscreen, and wear a sunhat, since the sun’s reflection off the white sand is strong.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 11
Española Island: Suarez Point – Gardner Bay

AM: Española is the southernmost, oldest and one of the most bio-diverse islands of the Galapagos archipelago. Its English name is “Hood Island,” in honor of the British admiral Samuel Hood. Because of its isolated position, there is much endemic wildlife to be explored here – in addition to great snorkeling from Española’s remarkably beautiful beaches. After breakfast, we will go on an excursion to Suarez Point. One of the archipelago’s most outstanding wildlife areas, this site boasts a long list of species along its cliffs and its sand and pebble beaches. In addition to five species of nesting seabirds, the curious and bold Española Island mockingbirds are found here, as are other birding favorites that include Galapagos doves, Galapagos hawks, Swallow-tailed gulls and the world’s largest colony of Waved albatross – an unequivocal highlight during mating season (May-December). Several types of reptiles are unique to this island, including the marine iguana and the oversized lava lizard. In fact, this is also the only site where you will be able to see “red” sea iguanas. In addition, when heavy swells are running, Suarez Point is the site of a spectacular blowhole whose thundering spray shoots 30 yards up into the air. The trek here is on a stony path about a mile long, though the duration of this excursion is about 3 hours.

PM: On Española Island’s eastern shore, Gardner Bay is noted for its turquoise-colored waters and its magnificent beach, which we will visit in the afternoon. Around the bay’s small nearby islets, snorkelers will find an abundance of fish, as well as the occasional sea turtle and benign sharks. The bay is also frequented by a transient colony of Galapagos sea lions who love to swim with people. Birds, like the endemic Española mockingbird and different species of Darwin finches, are omnipresent.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 12
Floreana Island: Cormorant Point – Devil's Crown – Baroness Lookout Point – Post Office Bay

AM: Today we will visit Floreana Island, considered to be one of the most exotic in the Galapagos archipelago. Countless legends are part of the history of this island, as pirates and buccaneers were drawn to here in search of for food and water. Later the island was colonized by Norwegians, Brits, Germans and others who were in search of ways to make money from what they hoped to discover here. The name Floreana is in honor of Juan Jose Flores, Ecuador’s first president. This morning’s first excursion is to the Cormorant Point visitor site. After a wet landing on the beach, we will go down a 100-meter-long path to a mangrove lagoon that is home to Galapagos ducks, black herons, oystercatchers and plovers. With a little bit of luck, you might also see flamingos. Another path leads to a small beach that is an important nesting site for sea turtles. In the shallow water there, one can often find stingrays and Whitetip reef sharks. Afterwards, you will be able to take advantage of the great snorkeling opportunities at Devil’s Crown, a broken volcanic cone that is one of the most beautiful places for snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. The underwater world here includes reef sharks, starfish, sea turtles, sea lions and a host of tropical fish species.

PM: After lunch, we will visit the Baroness Lookout point where the controversial Eloisa de Wagner, one of the first human inhabitants in the Galapagos Islands, would spend several hours’ daily observing whales and dolphins. Later we will visit Post Office Bay, where the legendary post barrel that whalers historically used to put their mail in is still kept. After a wet landing, you can walk just off the beach to leave a letter here in hopes that it will make to its destination via another tourist…so don’t forget to bring postcards along. Snorkelers can take a dip on the main beach among the playful sea lions and green sea turtles.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 13
Santa Fe Island - South Plaza Island

AM: Today we will visit Santa Fe Island, a tiny rocky island covered in small Palo Santo trees and six-meter-high opuntia cactuses. The island is inhabited mainly by large yellow land iguanas, Galapagos buzzards, Blue-footed boobies, and pelicans. While snorkeling in the wonderful blue-green bay in which the ship anchors, you can observe the many inhabitants of this underwater world, including countless tropical fish, rays, sea turtles and playful sea lions.

PM: This afternoon we will explore South Plaza Island, located just east of Santa Cruz Island. After a dry landing on the northern part of this life-filled islet, you will encounter colonies of sea lions and land iguanas. While on the steep banks, you can see numbers of birds – like nesting Tropicbirds and Fork-tailed seagulls – but most of all, you will enjoy the beautiful views from either atop the steep banks or while strolling along the base of the cliff. Opuntia cactuses grow on this island and the vegetation changes color throughout the year.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 14
North Seymour Island - Santa Cruz Island: Bachas Beach

AM: After a dry landing on North Seymour Island, we will take a short walk along its coast, where you will encounter Swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, and Cliff crabs. This part of Seymour Island is also known for being a major nesting site for Blue-footed boobies and one of the largest colonies of Magnificent frigatebirds (a species different from the Great frigatebird) As you enjoy this relaxing hike around various nesting sites, you can also spot both of the endemic species of iguanas: marine iguanas and land iguanas.

PM: This afternoon we will arrive on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island, where we will visit the long and sandy Bachas Beach, one of the most important nesting beaches for sea turtles. Here you can also find flamingos, Black-winged stilts, sea lions, herons, marine iguanas, and — with a little bit of luck — tiny Galapagos penguins. In addition, this beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galapagos. A female can lay eggs 3 or 4 times with an average of 70 eggs each, but they then spend 3 to 5 years without breeding. At this paradisiacal site, we will also find the remains of barges that sank long ago; these were once the property of the United States Navy when they operated an airbase on Baltra Island during World War II. In fact, the beach got its name because the English word “barges” was hard to pronounce for the local people – hence “Bachas” Beach. You will also have the opportunity to swim on this soft white sand beach or explore the fascinating underwater by snorkeling.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 15
Mosquera Island - Baltra Island: Airport

AM: Today we will anchor off Mosquera Island, which is located near Itabaca Channel and in between the Baltra and Seymour islands. The island consists of a long narrow stretch of white sand, rocks, and small lagoons with large populations of sea lions (in fact, this is one of the best places to take photos of these aquatic mammals). After a wet landing, a stroll down the beach will also permit views of Brown pelicans and Blue-footed boobies.

Concluding this amazing experience in the Galapagos Islands, you will be transferred to the Baltra Island airport for your return flight to the Ecuadorian mainland. Enjoy your last look back at the “enchanted islands,” a unique paradise with inspiring natural wonders.

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Breakfast

Prices

2019 - Price per person
RoomDouble
15 DaysUS$ 7,460 PP
*Price per person based upon double occupancy.
*PP (per person)
Included in the price:
  • A cruise on board the Odyssey
  • Accommodations in selected hotels
  • All meals indicated in the itinerary
  • All transfers in the Galapagos Islands
  • Services of an English/Spanish-speaking naturalist guide
  • Use of snorkeling equipment/wetsuit
  • Entrance fee to Galapagos National Park
  • Galapagos Immigration Control Card
  • Train transportation Vistadome Train
  • Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and back 
Not included in the price:
  • International flights
  • Domestic flight Lima-Cusco
  • Flight Lima - Quito
  • Flight to/from the Galapagos Islands
  • Meals not specified - bottled and alcoholic beverages
  • Tips & personal expenses
  • Travel or medical Insurance
  • Baggage fees and other extras not specified in the itinerary 
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8 UNFORGETTABLE DAYS IN QUITO & THE GALAPAGOS ISLA
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