From Machu Picchu to the Galápagos Islands—the Ultimate Travel Itinerary for Adventurers
Journey through Lima and Cusco in Peru, followed by the 15th-century Inca citadel of Machu Picchu before embarking on a small-ship cruise to see the wildlife of Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands.
Machu Picchu—the “Lost City of the Incas”—and all its ancient mysteries are one of many highlights for travelers on this South American trip of a lifetime. Before a special overnight stay in Machu Picchu, you’ll explore Peruvian culture in Lima and fly high into the Andes Mountains to Cusco to immerse yourself in ancient Inca history. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, hop aboard an intimate small ship to sail to the Galápagos Islands, where awe-inspiring hiking, snorkeling, flora, fauna, and beautiful lagoon vistas await.
ItineraryPLAN YOUR TRIP
Days 1-2:Enjoy Lima’s Culture and Neighborhoods
The city’s colorful Barranco (“cliff”) district will kick off your tour, as you weave your way through the historic houses painted in the brightest hues before reaching the iconic wooden Puente de los Suspiros (“Bridge of Sighs”). A bohemian hub since the end of the 19th century, Barranco is a favorite haunt of artists and writers of all genres.
Next, soak up Peru’s vibrant artistic heritage at the Pedro de Osma Museum, dedicated to preserving the customs and cultures of Peru’s diverse people. The private collection of the late philanthropist Pedro de Osma Gildemeister is the heart of the museum, which is housed in what was once his private residence.
Discuss all you’ve learned over a private lunch at Casa Garcia Alvarado, a restored art deco mansion in Lima’s Miraflores district. As you digest, visit one of Lima’s only surviving colonial homes, followed by some free time.
That evening, toast Peru and your transformative trip there during a welcome cocktail reception and private dinner at the award-winning Larco Museum, which features pre-Columbian treasures and artifacts housed in a stunning 18th-century palace. This priceless collection includes ancient Peruvian jewelry, crowns, garments, masks, and pottery—a veritable history lesson of the cultures that existed in Peru for thousands of years before the Spanish arrived.
Days 3-6:Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru
Checking into your hotel, the Tambo del Inka, will be the first step in ensuring an enriching experience. With dramatic views of the Andes and the Vilcanota River from your private balcony, it truly feels on top of the world. You’ll have plenty to chat about over dinner at the hotel, which follows a private performance of traditional Andean music and dance.
And then…Machu Picchu awaits. The highlight of your trip to the mountains will be an overnight stay in the Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel in Machu Picchu. This allows two amazing days of touring the ancient Incan citadel and diving deep into its secrets.
On your way there, you’ll visit the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo and its ruins of an Incan fortress before taking a scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes. All other local hotels are located here, but you’ll continue the mountainous ride to your hotel, located at the gates of one of the world’s most famous sites, Machu Picchu. That day’s tour of the “Old Mountain” will teach you its legends and mysteries. Afterward, wander on your own through the mystical complex of stone terraces, high walls, and astronomically aligned structures.
You can follow your special night in the celebrated Sanctuary Lodge with a second Machu Picchu tour to see its early-morning splendor or choose to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Then head back to Ollantaytambo by train for a tour of Sacsayhuaman, a mountaintop Incan fortress, and a visit to a camelid breeding center to meet traditional weavers from 12 communities of southern Peru and see how they make textiles from camelid hair.
Continue to your hotel in Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, for dinner at your leisure. The Monestario hotel, inside a lovingly restored 16th-century monastery, is within walking distance of the city’s main square where you’ll find its iconic cathedral.
Your last day in the Andes boasts two options. One, a Cusco tour, includes a trip to the San Pedro Market, a typical mercado offering everything from fresh local produce to hand-woven sweaters, and a drive down to three ancient churches along the “Andean Baroque Route.” The other choice is a highlands adventure, which stops at Chinchero, an authentic Andean village with a colonial church with a bartering arts program, before reaching the salt fields where saline deposits reflect the sun’s rays to create an otherworldly array of colors. Both trips include some end-of-day free time and dinner at your leisure.
Days 7-13:Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Board the elegant Silver Origin, your all-suite home base for the rest of your trip, with a team of local expert guides. Day one allows time for orientation (your ship has butler service, a stylish interior, eco-friendly design, and stellar dining) and lunch. Relax and unpack while the ship sails the storied oceanic path toward your first nature-packed stop. Your captain will officially welcome you over sunset cocktails before a delicious dinner aboard the Silver Origin.
The next few days exploring the glorious archipelago will be a blur of pristine natural beauty, diverse flora and fauna, and guided tours of all kinds that share the history of this untouched slice of paradise. A stop at Darwin Bay on the volcanic island of Genovesa offers magnificent birdwatching. Also known as “Bird Island,” it’s home to red-footed booby nesting colonies, short-eared owls, and swallow-tailed gulls—the only nocturnal gull species in the world. North Seymour Island, formed by the uplifts of undersea lava, also has an extraordinary avian population, plus thousands of majestic iguanas.
Throughout your cruise, opportunities abound for weather-permitting hikes to dramatic vistas and kayaking in the sapphire water. Feeling less sporty? Zodiac boats often offer a more relaxed way to cruise around. Going ashore on the islands will yield close-up views of an array of animals, from sea lions to Galápagos penguins. Grab a snorkel to see eagle rays and sea turtles.
And check out the sights! Think sparkling waves crashing along rocky coasts, sheer cliffs that form rugged backdrops to the bluest of waters, a 75-foot blowhole, and the black-lava flows of Sullivan Bay. Fernandina Island alone, the archipelago’s youngest ecosystem, is a tropical maze of sea lion colonies, moody mangroves, and picturesque coves and bays to explore. Nearby Isabella Island gives you the chance for a fascinating tour by Zodiac boat of the harsh conditions that steered the creation of a unique ecological niche.
A stop at the Fausto Llerena breeding center to see the highly endangered tortoises illustrates the need for continued wildlife preservation. Guests interested in the unusual vegetation of the islands can explore via Zodiac at Isla Santa Fe—also home to the Santa Fe Land iguana, found nowhere else in the world.
After a full day of sightseeing, swimming, sea lion-spotting, and birdwatching on one last island, Española, you’ll toast your extraordinary trip with a farewell cocktail that evening. This means it’s time to start your journey home, but the memories you’ve made will last a lifetime.
Days 14-16:San Cristóbal and Guayaquil, Ecuador
The next morning, disembark from the grand Silver Origin at Itabaca on Baltra Island and fly back to bustling Guayaquil. There, you’ll return to the Hotel del Parque to relax in the amenity-packed boutique hotel. That evening, cap off your adventure with a celebratory cocktail party and dinner. After breakfast the next morning, you’ll enjoy your seamless airport transport to Guayaquil’s international airport to catch your flight home.