Travel South America

South America Travel - Magical Ecuador and Peru with Bolivia 23 days Visit: Quito - Galapagos Islands - Lima - Cusco - Machu Picchu - Lake Titicaca and La Paz CODE: MPSA06

Day 1: Fly Hometown to Quito

Quito Ecuador South America

Depart your hometown for your flights to Quito, Ecuador, your first stop on our Magical Ecuador and Peru Holiday of a Lifetime Tour! After clearing Customs at Quito International Airport, you will be met by "Leading Peru Travel" local representative who will assist you with your transfer to the hotel. Nestled in an Andean Valley at an elevation of 9000 feet, the city is literally surrounded by volcanoes and is considered to be one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. As most flights arrive into Quito in the early to late evening there are no activities planned for today.
Accommodation: Hotel Le Parc

Day 2: Exploring Quito

Exploring Quito Soth America

After breakfast, we start our day with a visit to downtown Quito and the colonial quarter to explore the bustling streets and squares of the most well preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America which has also been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in the 16th century, Quito was built on the ruins of an Incan city. Our tour includes visits to some of Quito's most important churches such as the majestic Temple of La Compañía de Jesus and its awesome gilded interior as well as the Monastery of San Francisco, one of the great religious buildings of the New World; its impressive facade and atrium that lead to its Baroque interior are influenced by the Moorish style, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar. Our tour also includes views of Independence Plaza, the Presidential Palace and the Archbishop's Palace. We then travel via the traditional neighbourhood of San Juan en route to the Middle of the World complex.

Here we will visit the monument to the equatorial line or "parallel 0," latitude 0° 0'0" and be able to stand with a foot in each hemisphere. Lunch is included at "Crater Restaurant," located on the rim of an extinct volcano before returning to our hotel.

Tonight we enjoy a "Welcome to Ecuador" dinner at Rumilioma, a luxury Hacienda located on the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano.
Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 3: Fly Quito to Galapagos

After breakfast this morning, we are transferred to the airport for our flight to the awe-inspiring Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival at San Cristobal, we are met and transferred to our vessel, the M/V Galapagos Legend, which will be our home for the next 4 nights while we explore these magical islands. We will visit the Interpretation Centre to learn about the Natural History which exists in the Galapagos. Later we will visit Tijeretas Hill to view a frigate bird nesting colony amid beautiful landscapes.

This legendary, 90 passenger, first-class vessel offers all the amenities of a large cruise liner without sacrificing the intimacy you would expect on a small sailing craft. The luxurious Legend is equipped with five decks, a swimming pool, exercise equipment, a library, 24-hour/pay medical service, international phone/fax/internet service, a glass-bottom boat, the most technologically advanced safety system in the archipelago and much more.

Quito to Galapagos South AMerica Travel

Furthermore, realizing that the ideal trip to the Galapagos should combine comfort, relaxation, and education, the Legend has one of the Islands' largest and most qualified staff on board. Among its courteous, professional team of 55 employees are 6 multilingual naturalist guides (each speaking an average of four languages), a concierge, a chef who constantly endeavours to spoil you with inventive combinations of Ecuadorian and international cuisines, and an M.D. who is always on call.

The Galapagos Islands consist of 13 major islands of which five are inhabited. The Island's interesting volcanic geology, as well as its rich flora and fauna, have been admired and studied by numerous travelers, scientist, and nature-lovers. Scientists are still faced with the mystery of how such a large diversity of species could develop in a remote location like the Galapagos Islands. Charles Darwin's observations of the animals and the subtle variations between races of the same species living on different islands led directly to his theory of natural selection.

Galapagos National Park Service requires that all passengers return to their boats no later than 6pm. Each evening is one of relaxation and reflection on the day's activities. After our dinner sitting, we will join the naturalist's briefing on the next day's activities and then spend the evening with fellow passengers or perhaps reading or writing in one's journal.

Accommodation: M/V Galapagos Legend - Click below for more information
Note: For the October 2016 Tour, the following amendments have been made to Days 3 to 7
More Details: Meal Plan  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 4: Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands South America Travel

Today we will land on the white coral sand beach at Gardner Bay on Isla Espanola. We will see Galapagos hawks, American Oystercatchers, ground Doves, Hood mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers, lizards, iguanas and Darwin's Finches. Swimming and snorkeling are possible here. Later we visit Suarez Point to explore volcanic formations and amazing wildlife including sea lions and seabirds such as Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies plus the world's largest colony of Waved Albatross.

Meal Plan:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 5: Galapagos Islands

Islas Galapagos

We continue our journey with a visit to the Isla Floreana where the tradition of sending unstamped postcards was first introduced for sailors passing through. Today visitors can send cards for free but should not expect them to arrive in a hurry. Here we will see Yellow Warblers and lava lizards. There are opportunities to snorkel and view Green Pacific Sea Turtles. Later, land on an olive green sand beach and hike from the black mangrove beds to a lagoon which holds one of the largest flamingo populations in the Galapagos and one of the most important nesting sites of Green Pacific Sea Turtles. We will se Blue-footed Boobies plunging into the water and small reef sharks floating along the shoreline. Once again, there will be time to swim or snorkel. photo: Isla Santa Cruz

Meal Plan :  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 6: Galapagos Islands

Galapagos National Park South America

Today we continue cruising to the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Isla Santa Cruz. Dedicated to scientific research, education and conservation efforts, the Charles Darwin Research Station is a biological research centre created in 1964 with the aim of assisting the Galapagos National Park Service and the Galapagos Marine Reserve Service to safeguard this vulnerable habitat. With a team of over two hundred scientists, researchers, students, and volunteers from all across the globe, the Darwin Research Station is committed to preserving this sensitive ecosystem. Natural science subjects are taught here as well as more complex topics such as climatology, population genetics and evolutionary biology. (photo: Galapagos National Park)

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 7: Fly Galapagos Islands to Papallacta

Galapagos Islands South America Travel

This morning, we circumnavigate the islet of Daphne, an eroded tuff cone formation that was created by successive volcanic activity and which gives the opportunity to see Darwin's finches and many other tropical birds. We end our adventure to the Galapagos Islands at Isla Baltra where we will board our flight to Quito. Upon arrival, we will be met and transferred to Papalllacta famous for its thermal spas for our overnight stay.

Meal Plan:  Breakfast and Dinner
Accommodation: Termas de Papallacta

Day 8: Papallacta to Otavalo

A morning to relax in the thermal baths or indulge in pampering spa treatments. Ecuador is where the best and the largest roses of the world are grown. Spend time viewing beautiful samples as well as learning how the local environment enhances the final stunning results. It is then on to the famous market town of Otavalo and our Stay of Distinction.

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Accommodation: Hacienda Pinsaqui

Day 9: Chaski Rail Excursion

Chaski Rail Ecuador

An exhilarating day today as we board the famous Chaski Train at Ibarra for our journey from the northern highlands to the tropical coast. From Ibarra, the train climbs down to the warm, dry valley of Ambuqui through sugarcane plantations, over bridges that span vast canyons and through tunnels - all viewed from the comfort of our rail carriage. The 26-km ride to Salinas plunges from 2,200 down to 1,500 meters above sea level (7,216 to 4,920 feet) in only about two hours.

After disembarking, we board our coach and head to the Kichwa Karanki Indigenous Community of Magdalena located at approximately 3100 metres above sea level. The area, once home to Atahualpa, the last of the Incan emperors, inhabits a paradise lost in time with its setting amongst tranquil mountains and the patchwork slopes of Imbabura Volcano. Here in this breathtaking idyllic setting, the Karanki people have lived for centuries, tending their livestock and cultivating their land. We enjoy lunch with the community and spend the afternoon with the artisans, or, if interested, even horseback riding or doing a short hike in the area. Later this afternoon we return to our hotel in Otavalo. (photo: Chaski Rail )

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 10: Otavalo to Quito

Parque del condo South America

An early rise to visit the Condor Park, a rescue centre for the famous Andean bird. Then on to Otavalo Market, one of the most spectacular markets in all of Latin America. All day long, the whir of cotton candy machines, Andean pipe music, and Quechua (the native tongue derived from the Incan language), drift across the square. We return to Quito and our Stay of Distinction late afternoon. This evening, we dine at the Theatrum Restaurant. (Photo: Parque del condor)

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Accommodation: Hotel Plaza Grande

Day 11: Quito to Lima

Transfer to Quito airport for your flight to Lima, Peru, your first stop on our Cradle of the Incas Holiday of a Lifetime Tour! On arrival at Lima International Airport, we will transfer to our hotel. There are no activities planned.

Meal Plan: Breakfast
Accommodation: Miraflores Park Hotel

Day 12 Lima

Huaca Pucllana South America

Lima, Peru's national capital was one of the first to be established in South America by the Conquistadores. It is filled with many amazing colonial buildings and historic streetscapes to be discovered. This morning we'll enjoy a tour of the city including the Larco Museum with its interesting collection of ceramics, textiles and gold and silver work. Lunch is included at the Café Larco Museum.

Our tour also includes visits to both the colonial and modern sections of Lima. Colonial sites include the lovely Plaza Mayor, the Government Palace, San Francisco Church and the exquisite Torre Tagle Palace, the modern day seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In modern Lima, we'll drive along the exclusive residential areas of Miraflores and San Isidro. We return in the late afternoon to our hotel in time to rest and refresh before our dinner at Huaca Pucllana.

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 13: Fly Lima to Cusco

Sacred valley South AMerica Travel

Today we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Cusco. In the afternoon, we gather for a guided walking tour of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incan Empire. Our guide will take us to the main plaza to see the Cathedral and Santo Domingo Church as well as take us on a leisurely stroll along some of the side streets to view the magnificent stone walls that line these historic streets. After our walking tour, we journey out into the surrounding valleys of Cusco to visit one of the many local villages. While Peru is considered a developed country in many regions, local infrastructure is still lacking or lagging behind other parts of the country. (Photo: Plaza de armas Cusco)

Meal Plan: Breakfast
Accommodation: Libertador Palacio del Inka

Day 14: Cusco to Sacred Valley

SAcred Valley Cusco

After breakfast, we transfer by road to the Sacred Valley, Once the centre of the vast Incan Empire. Today we learn to cook like a Peruvian with some of the local Quechan descendants, who still maintain the same customs and ties of their ancestors. Lunch at a nearby hacienda before checking in to our Stay of Distinction hotel.

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Accommodation: Libertador Tambo Del Inka

Day 15: Sacred Valley Sightseeing

Ollantaytambo South America Travel

After breakfast, we transfer by road to Ollantaytambo, to the north end of the narrow valley and the citadel of Machu Picchu. Flanked by the Urubamba and Vilcanoca Rivers, the beautiful landscape of the Sacred Valley is also home to Quechan descendants who still maintain the same customs and rites of their ancestors. We enjoy lunch with the Sacred Valley as a backdrop before heading to the famous Pisac markets where we will have time to shop and bargain with locals for Peruvian handicrafts. We transfer back to our hotel for dinner and our overnight.

Meal Plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 16: Machu Picchu

Coastal town of Viña del Mar

This morning we leave from our hotel to board the Vistadome 101 train for the ride through the Sacred Valley to the "Lost City of the Incas," Machu Picchu. Two thousand feet above the rumbling Urubamba River, we visit the cloud shrouded ruins of Machu Picchu ("old mountain" in Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas). It was both a centre of worship and astronomic observatory as well as the private retreat of the family of Inca ruler Pachacutec. It is split into two major areas: the agriculture zone, made up of terracing and food storehouses, and the urban zone, featuring the sacred sector, with temples, squares and royal tombs which have been carved to an extraordinary degree of perfection. The stone staircases and canals are found throughout this unique archaeological site. After touring the ruins, we board the famous Hiram Bingham 5 star luxury train and return to Cusco.

Meal Plan: Breakfast and Lunch
Accommodation: Libertador Palacio del Inka

Day 17: Cusco and Local Village visit

Today is an opportunity for us to visit one of the nearby communities who are struggling to maintain the basics. Often what is required are the simplest of things. School supplies, soccer balls, books in English, writing or dental supplies, many of the things we take for granted, can have a huge impact on communities that dot the Urubamba valley. We ask our travelers to consider bringing with them a donation for the village that we will visit. Past experience has shown that this village visit is often the highlight of the trip for many as there is no greater joy than being able to actively change the life of not one person but an entire community.

Lunch is with the local residents of Misimay. After our community visit, we return to Cusco where our evening is free.

Meal Plan: Breakfast and Lunch

Day 18: Cusco to Puno

raqchi South America Travel

After breakfast at our hotel, we transfer to the train station and board our 'Andean Explorer' express train for our scenic journey to Puno. Lunch and afternoon tea are included on board as we make our way through the heart of the Altiplano to Puno, gateway to famous Lake Titicaca. The scenery is dominated by the magnificent Andean mountains which tower over the deep valleys of the meandering Huatanay River until it reaches the gentler, rolling Andean Plains. Upon arrival, we will be transferred to our hotel for the evening. After a full day of travel, we will be able to relax over a delicious dinner at our hotel.

Meal Plan:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Accommodation: Libertador Isla Esteves

Day 19: Lake Titicaca and The Uros Islands

Uros Islands South America Travel

This morning we transfer down to the lake's edge and board our touring boat to spend the day visiting the Uros Reed Islands and Amantani Island on Lake Titicaca. Located between Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is one of the most fascinating lakes in the world. It is situated at a very high altitude over 3800 meters above sea level which provides an unforgettable experience for any visitor. We will see locals fishing in its icy waters, growing potatoes, and even herding llamas and alpacas. The lake was the most sacred body of water in the Inca Empire and has more than 30 islands. The reed islands dotting Titicaca's surface are the Uros Floating Islands and named after the Indians who inhabited them.

Legend has it the Uros Indians had black blood that helped them survive the frigid nights and safeguarded them from drowning. Amantani Island has no running water or electricity and night time temperatures drop to freezing even in the summer. Some Amantani residents live and die without ever leaving the island. Lunch at a local restaurant is included today while on the lake and dinner is included at our hotel on our return.

Meal Plan:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 20: Puno to La Paz

Coastal town of Viña del Mar

Today we leave Peru and travel overland and cross over into Bolivia. En route to its capital, La Paz, we stop at Copacabana where we visit a church and the famous "Virgen Morena". We then continue on to La Paz. The city that touches the sky is an apt description of La Paz. Located high above sea level, the legislative capital of Bolivia sits in a bowl surrounded by the high Altiplano. It literally climbs the hills resulting in varying elevations from 3000 to 4100 metres (9000 to 13,500 feet) Overlooking the city is the towering triple-peaked Illimani, always snow covered and majestic. On arrival, we check in to our hotel for overnight accommodation. (Photo: La Paz Bolivia)

Meal Plan:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Accommodation: Hotel Europa

Day 21: La Paz Sightseeing

Coastal town of Viña del Mar

Today, we will have a city tour to see the old Colonial area which includes a typical Indian market, the San Francisco church, the Gold Museum, Murillo Square where the Cathedral, Government Palace and National Congress are located. We then continue to the famous colonial street "Calle Jaen".  Tonight we will have our Farewell to the Inca Civilization at a local restaurant. (photo: typical Indian market)

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 22: La Paz to North America

Today is at leisure until it is time to transfer to La Paz airport for the return overnight flight to North America. Please note some flights will arrive same day in North America.

Meal Plan: Breakfast

Day 23: Arrive North America

Today you arrive back home.