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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

2016 Machu Picchu & the Galápagos

16 Days from only $5795 including international airfare

Lima • Cuzco • Machu Picchu • Galápagos • Quito

Trip Experience

Explore natural wonders in the Galápagos, roam ancient Inca ruins, and meet weavers who are keeping traditions alive.

Trip Itinerary

Map your journey from colonial Lima, Peru to Ecuador's colorful capital city, Quito.

Trip Leader

Trip Leader Robert Peralvo talks growing up in the Galápagos and his favorite spot to cycle.

Trip Leader

Trip Leader Daniel Gordillo shares his family ties to the Galápagos Islands and how they grant him peace.

Trip Extension: Bolivia: La Paz & Lake Titicaca

Discover the timeless traditions and explore the breathtaking Andean landscape on our optional trip extension to Bolivia.

Trip Extension: The Amazon Rain Forest of Peru

Learn about the rituals and daily life of the Yagua tribe from their chief in this trip extension to Peru's Amazon Rain Forest.

Trip Extension: Ecuador

On this extension, wind your way to Cuenca via a thrilling ride through Ecuador's mountainous terrain.

A Day in the Life

Interact with students in Peru's Urubamba community and observe artisans at work at a local cooperative.

Foundation Site

Join our effort to give students with special needs a chance to discover their musical abilities in Ecuador.

Courtesy David Karg
Peruventure

Feel the pulse of contemporary Peru in this colorful film portrait.

Courtesy Mitchell Teplitsky
The Knitters

See how entrepreneurial Peruvian women are turning their traditional craft into a business venture.

Courtesy BBC.com Travel
A Quest for Luck in Mystical La Paz

Meet a Bolivian shaman and uncover the ancient spirituality of La Paz, which you can visit on a pre-trip extension.

Courtesy Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson
Peru – Its Coastal Cultural Heritage

Follow two women as they explore Peru’s Pacific coast, discovering its culture, cuisine, and arts scene.

Courtesy Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson
Peru – Cusco & Machu Picchu

Delve into the folk art of Cuzco and feel history come alive in Machu Picchu with the Grannies on Safari.

Courtesy Mitchell Teplitsky
Pedro e Ivan

Meet a father and son who left Lima for rural Peru to cultivate and live off the land.

Courtesy BBC.com Travel
Where to Really Find a Panama Hat

Now a relic of the past, authentic Panama hats were once a booming market for artisans of Ecuador.

Courtesy Ke Nguyen
Cuzco, Peru

Witness the iconic landscapes and the people who call Cuzco home.

Courtesy David Conover
The Shamans of Peru

Meet Peru’s shamans and learn how they dedicate their lives to ancient rituals in an increasingly modern world.

Courtesy Sandy Patch
The Last Ice Merchant

Times have changed, but an antiquated tradition still lives on for the last ice merchant of Chimborazo.

©2015 The New York Times
Intersection: Lima, Peru

Discover the Barranco district of Lima and meet the young, artsy generation who work and live there.

Produced by Kaila Taylor
Sigo Adelante

Learn how the perseverance of a young woman shines through despite her struggles, thanks to her education.

New Year, New Stories

Take a look at the films that inspire filmmaker David Conover—and preview the stories that await this year.

Climate Change & Travel

Travel with David Conover to see how people—from street protesters to Heads of State—respond to a changing climate and ocean.

Produced for CuriosityStream
Big Picture Earth Trailer

David Conover's newest television series takes us from Stonehenge to Petra, from Iceland to the Oracle at Delphi ... and beyond.

Sharing Travel Moments

Hear why visual storytelling helps to build a conversation about the world from filmmaker David Conover.

Solo Traveler Experience

Meet a solo traveler who shares her reasons for exploring the world with Overseas Adventure Travel.

The O.A.T. Experience

See what you can expect when you travel in your small group on the road less traveled with O.A.T.

Travel Protection Plan

Learn about the benefits of O.A.T.'s plan—and how you can protect your entire trip investment.

FROM
$5795
16 DAYS
$363/DAY
including international airfare
15 DAYS FROM $4895 Small Ship Adventure Only
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Itinerary Overview

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel to Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands with O.A.T. to discover two of Latin America’s most important destinations. First, follow in the footsteps of the ancients as you walk among the impressive ruins of the “Lost City of the Incas" and experience Peruvian culture in the Andean landscape of the Sacred Valley. Then continue to Ecuador's Galápagos Islands, where you may swim in unspoiled coves with rollicking sea lions as your playmates. You'll also find a living laboratory of Darwin’s theory of evolution in these "Enchanted Isles."

From the city to the countryside, we'll delve into the cultural legacies of Peru and Ecuador. We stay overnight near Machu Picchu to give us ample time to explore the site. And in the Galápagos, we slip into secluded coves aboard our exclusively chartered small ship to land on pristine shores. Join us for a journey to South America as diverse as it is magnificent!

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 6 nights from only $1095

    Experience the beauty and natural diversity of the tropical rain forest up close on this extension. In the Peruvian Amazon, with an experienced naturalist guide to reveal the jungle's secrets, you'll discover tropical birds winging through the forest canopy, bromeliads blooming on ancient trees, and Yagua villagers gliding down the river in canoes.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 5 nights from only $1395

    From the mystical shores of Lake Titicaca to the colorful blend of modern and ancient cultures in La Paz, countless discoveries await you in Bolivia. Journey here to explore majestic Andean landscapes, visit indigenous villages, and discover ancient ruins that pre-date the Inca Empire by thousands of years.

    View Extension Itinerary
Lima Quito Expand All
  • You depart from the U.S. and fly to Lima, Peru, arriving late in the evening or early morning. An O.A.T. representative will greet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel. 

  • After breakfast, you'll get acquainted with our Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those who took the optional pre-trip extensions to The Amazon Rain Forest of Peru or Bolivia: La Paz & Lake Titicaca.

    After some time to rest up in the morning and get lunch on your own, we set out to explore Lima's most interesting colonial sites. A local guide will join us as we explore the city's streets and architecture—evidence of the city's Spanish heritage—from its main square, Jiron de la Union, to the Lima Cathedral.

    We'll visit Lima's National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and history of Peru at Bolivar Square, which contains unmatched collections of Inca artifacts along with other antiquities from Peru's many intriguing ancient cultures. The museum contains an impressive collection of ceramics, gold and silver items, and textiles from the ancient cultures of Chavin, Mochica, Chimu, Tiahuanaco, Pucara, Paracas, Nazca, and Ica. Our tour continues to the city's Miraflores and San Isidro districts.

    This evening, get acquainted with your traveling companions during a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

  • The Knitters

    See how entrepreneurial Peruvian women are turning their traditional craft into a business venture.

    This morning, we fly to Cuzco, the center of the Incan world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We then drive to the Sacred Valley of the Incas with a box lunch along the way. We'll visit the mountain weaving village of Chinchero, which—at an elevation of 12,500 feet—is a literal high point of our exploration of the Sacred Valley, and provides excellent views of the surrounding mountains. Chinchero was the site of a 16th-century Inca emperor's estate, as well as a resting place on the Inca Royal Road. We'll explore the town and observe a demonstration of making traditional textiles, seeing how Peruvian weavers create complex patterns in colorful cloth as their ancestors have for centuries. Afterwards, we check in to our hotel in the Sacred Valley, which is at a lower elevation than Cuzco; staying here helps us acclimatize to the altitude. We enjoy dinner this evening at our hotel.

  • A Day in the Life

    Interact with students in Peru's Urubamba community and observe artisans at work at a local cooperative.

    This morning, we visit the massive Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo. This is one of the few places where the Spanish lost a battle during the conquest of Peru.

    In 1536, the army of Manco Inca held off a Spanish invasion company led by Hernando Pizarro. We can climb up the huge terraces guarding the ancient hilltop temple area.

    Then we’ll share A Day in the Life of the Urubamba community in the Sacred Valley. We’ll meet students at a local school (when in session) and spend time with their teachers. Donations from Grand Circle Foundation—part of the World Classroom initiative—have helped pay for classroom construction at the school. Then we’ll visit Urubamba’s market and pick up ingredients for the Home-Hosted Lunch we’ll share as guests of a Sacred Valley family. We’ll also sample locally brewed corn beer before returning to our hotel. Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening.

  • Explore Peruvian villages during a guided tour

    After breakfast this morning, we visit a pottery workshop. Then we continue to Ollantaytambo, where we’ll board the train to travel to Machu Picchu. The train ride takes a bit less than two hours and offers spectacular views into the gorge of the Urubamba River. We'll have a boxed lunch while we're riding the train.

    Most travelers visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, which makes for a hectic pace and only limited time at this unique archaeological wonder. We can take a closer look, and have a more relaxed pace, during our overnight visit to Machu Picchu. The train brings us to the town of Aguas Calientes, from which we then drive to the ruins. This drive takes about a half an hour, as we must follow a zigzag route up a steep hill. (The return trip by bus takes the same amount of time; or if you prefer, you can walk downhill and along the valley floor for about two hours.) When the day-trippers leave the ruins to catch the last train of the day, we remain longer and enjoy an uncrowded experience.

    Our expert O.A.T. Trip Leader gives us a complete and compelling look at the fabled “Lost City of the Incas,” which was discovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist (and later, U.S. Senator) Hiram Bingham. Subsequent discoveries (such as Bingham’s later unearthing of the Inca Trail and the 1941 discovery of nearby Huayna Picchu) suggest that Machu Picchu was not simply a “lost city” but part of a whole “lost region.” More than 172 tombs have been excavated, and in 2002 Peruvian archaeologists uncovered the first complete burial site, with a woman’s skeleton, bronze pins, and a clay pot. Here we can explore sites like the Ritual Baths, the Palace of the Princess, the Main Fountain, and the Temple of the Sun, quietly contemplating the achievements of this most fascinating and mysterious civilization. We then return to the town of Aguas Calientes. Dinner is included this evening.

  • We rise early to travel to Machu Picchu again after breakfast, arriving before the crowds. You can remain at the hotel if you wish, but most travelers appreciate this chance to see the ruins in a different light.
    You can wander the sprawling ruins on your own, or, depending on which trails are open, choose between two hikes. One brings you to the Inca Bridge, where a trail built with impressive Inca engineering crosses a cliff face. In one spot, the Incas left a deep gap, which they bridged with logs that could be removed to render the trail impassable to enemies. The second option is an ambitious hike to the Sun Gate at the Machu Picchu end of the Inca Trail, which offers a fine view over the ruins.
    We descend to the valley below to have lunch. Then, in the afternoon, we return by train through the spectacular Urubamba Gorge. Back at Ollantaytambo, we get off the train and take a bus to Cuzco, making stops at points of interest along the way. When we arrive in Cuzco, we check into our hotel. We have dinner at our hotel this evening.

  • After breakfast, join our optional tour to Tipon, a location south of Cuzco with well-preserved ancient agricultural terraces and an Incan irrigation system whose canals still carry water. These provide impressive evidence of Incan ingenuity and engineering skills. This optional tour includes lunch at local restaurant. Or, remain in Cuzco to make your own discoveries, with lunch on your own.

    In the afternoon, we explore Cuzco, starting with a walk to the Plaza de Armas. We’ll also discover the Qoricancha Sun Temple, the city’s most important ceremonial structure during the Incan era. Historical records of the time note that its walls were once covered with 700 sheets of gold studded with emeralds and turquoise; when the sunlight streamed through the windows, the reflection off the precious metals was blinding. In the late afternoon, we return to our hotel. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • Encounter a curandero ceremony during a tour of Peru

    We begin this morning’s explorations at the massive Sacsayhuaman fortress set on a hilltop overlooking Cuzco. Its double-zigzag wall is said to symbolize a puma’s teeth, and at one time, there were three immense towers and a labyrinth of rooms large enough to garrison 5,000 Inca soldiers.
    Today, the interior buildings are gone, having been dismantled by the Spaniards for their stone, but the imposing outer walls remain. Recent excavations have revealed this ancient stone complex to be much larger than previously thought. As we walk through, consider first that Inca workers built its walls entirely by hand, securely fitting boulders weighing as much as 125 tons without a drop of mortar. Next we visit the sacred ceremonial center of Kenko. At each site, we have plenty of time to walk around and take photographs.

    Then, we’ll witness a traditional healing ceremony conducted by a curandero, an Andean medicine man. This ancient healing tradition has deep roots in Incan culture and is not simply a cure for illnesses, but also a prayer for good health and well-being with an offering to Pachamama, a deity associated with fertility and Mother Earth. A curandero will often employ herbs and healing plants, and for some conditions, he may conduct a religious ritual with sacred objects and shamanic chanting (called icaros). Thought to possess a gift from God to heal the sick, the curandero also sees himself as a front-line soldier in the battle between good and evil on Earth—particularly when patients believe their physical ailments have supernatural causes.

    Afterwards, we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and the rest of your afternoon is free. We'll gather for our last dinner in Peru at a local restaurant this evening.

  • After an early breakfast at our Cuzco hotel, we bid farewell to our Peruvian Trip Leader and depart for our flight to Lima. From Lima we fly to Quito, Ecuador, arriving in the afternoon.

    In Quito, we will be met by our Ecuadoran Trip Leader. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is a city whose colonial splendor has earned it designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the older part of town, hundreds of colonial-era structures remain to this day, the largest being the 16th-century Monastery of San Francisco.

    This evening, we’ll enjoy our first dinner in Ecuador at a local restaurant.

  • After breakfast this morning, we enjoy a moving musical performance by the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra, whose members are physically or mentally disabled. Grand Circle Foundation is proud to provide Sinamune with financial assistance, helping to give these talented and dedicated musicians the support and encouragement they deserve.

    After the concert, we'll depart for downtown Quito. In Quito's historic section, we'll see La Basilica, with its impressive 377-foot Condor Tower—notice how the gargoyles represent indigenous animals. We also enjoy a walking tour of Quito's colonial nucleus: Independence Plaza (Plaza de La Independenzia), featuring a winged statue representing freedom. We'll see the Presidential Palace, with its stalwart guards in traditional uniforms keeping watch. Then we finish at San Francisco Square to see its church and mingle with local people in its plaza.

    Following lunch at a local restaurant, we continue exploring Quito with a stroll on La Ronda, a historic narrow lane where you can sample traditional candies, see work by local artists, and hear musicians. Then we return to our hotel and you have the rest of the afternoon free for making your own discoveries in Quito. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • After breakfast, we fly from Quito via Guayaquil to the Galápagos—an enchanted Pacific archipelago that straddles the equator some 600 miles west of Ecuador's coast, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Upon landing in mid-morning, we make a short bus transfer to the dock, where we board our boat. You can stow your gear in your cabin and orient yourself on deck. We’ll stay onboard in comfortable cabins for the next four nights, roaming the archipelago with the services of our boat crew and our expert Trip Leader, who is a certified Galápagos naturalist.

    Please note:The following description is meant only as a general guide to the cruise itinerary that you are likely to follow. The selection and order of islands visited cannot be guaranteed due to the Galápagos' frequently variable weather, marine, and environmental conditions, and changes in airline schedules between the mainland and the Galápagos. This is a carefully managed park with fragile ecosystems. To safeguard them (and to ensure your own comfort), ship and park authorities have the prerogative to revise our course at a moment's notice. Typically you’ll have two shore excursions a day (one in the early morning and one in the afternoon) lasting about 1.5-2 hours each. Depending on the island, there may be a specific timeframe allotted for our visit. Your Trip Leader will keep you informed of the schedule on a daily basis.

    During the summer and fall, the Humboldt Current moves through the Galápagos Islands, cooling sea and land temperatures, and creating a mist that covers the islands—locally known as garua (soft rain)—during the day. The Humboldt Current is strongest from July to October, delivering the choppy water that surrounds the islands.

  • Today we continue our exploration of the Galápagos. Our Trip Leader will give us an orientation briefing, including conservation techniques suggested by the Galápagos National Park.

    He or she is a graduate of the elite certification program conducted at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz by the Galápagos National Park Service. We file our Galápagos cruising itinerary with the conservation authorities of the Galápagos National Park. Park biologists periodically review it, and they have the authority to make changes to our plan to minimize our impact on the ecosystems of the islands. Our Trip Leader also provides the park with information on species behavior, and we are proud to work in cooperation with Park officials in preserving the priceless natural wonders of the Galápagos.

    During our cruise, we'll see unique wildlife and striking geological formations. We'll make numerous landings by small motor dinghies that involve wading ashore. Once on land, we'll walk with our Trip Leader along trails that bring us close to the many indigenous species. Wildlife sightings are unpredictable, but you may see species including land and marine iguanas, and exotic birds such as blue-footed and masked boobies. When we are not viewing wildlife on shore, we can swim, sunbathe, and perhaps go snorkeling among sea lions and vividly colorful tropical fish. We'll see remote white-sand beaches, sparkling clear water, and volcanic landscapes of black and red rock.

  • Here is a preview of the islands you may call on during your Galápagos cruise.

    Santiago (James) Tidal pools reveal a profusion of octopi, starfishes, and other undersea life. Rare fur sea lions that were once on the verge of extinction cavort nearby, and we often spot oyster-catchers, blue herons, and yellow-crowned night herons.

    Bartolome One of the youngest islands, Bartolome displays a fantastic landscape of lava formations—including its famous signature, Pinnacle Rock. Penguins are often spotted on the shore.

    Mosquera Beach Mosquera Beach is a very small, white-sand islet, located between Baltra and Seymour. It is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and sea lions often visit.

    Rabida (Jervis) A reddish beach and steep volcanic slopes give this island a distinctive look.

    Santa Cruz (Indifatigable) At the Charles Darwin Research Station, learn about pioneering ecological studies and the giant Galápagos tortoise-breeding program.

    Floreana (Charles) Like the other islands, Floreana has its coterie of remarkable creatures. But it’s the human stories that will engage you here as your guide tells of the first inhabitant, a shipwrecked Irishman, and the quirky “post office” in a barrel, where sailors since 1793 have been leaving letters for delivery. This “post office” still operates today.

    Santa Fe (Barrington) Hike through a forest of opuntia cactus where land iguana doze, and then snorkel in clear water with coral reefs, manta rays, sea turtles, and colorful schools of fish.

    North Seymour Here you’ll find the largest colony of frigatebirds in the Galápagos and a major nesting site for the blue-footed booby, depending on the season. On the beach, sea lions ride the waves.

    San Cristobal (Chatham) The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on this island is the sleepy capital of the Galápagos province. Nearby is Lobos Island, home to pelicans, frigatebirds, and a sea lion colony.

    Española (Hood Island)Sea lions, marine iguanas, and many kinds of birds are found here, including Darwin’s finches, Hood mockingbirds, and blue-footed and masked boobies. Along the southern shore, spectacular cliffs rise up from the sea. From April to November, the remarkable waved albatross, which can spend years at sea without touching land, can be seen performing their unique, perfectly choreographed mating ritual.

  • We continue our exploration of the Galápagos. As we take in their striking seascapes, we can consider how they have impressed great American writers in two different centuries. Herman Melville blended knowledge of the islands, gained from his days as a sailor, with fiction in his 1854 novella The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles. More than 100 years later, Kurt Vonnegut's 1985 novel Galápagos drew inspiration from the author's own visit to the archipelago. Unique and remote, the Galápagos Islands will no doubt continue to influence creative artists for centuries to come.

  • This morning, we disembark our ship and fly from the Galápagos via Guayaquil back to Quito, where we'll arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon. We have a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

    • Meals included:

    Today, we'll visit the colorful Inaquito produce market and then head to the Middle of the World Monument and the Intiñan Museum, located on the equator. Intiñan is the Quechua phrase for “Path of the Sun,” and the museum contains replicas of indigenous sun temples and other interesting artifacts. If your flight home is this afternoon, you'll make these visits in the morning. If your flight is in the evening, you'll have a free morning and then visit these Quito sites, with lunch and dinner on your own.

    If you are taking the post-trip extension to Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train, you will travel overland to Riobamba after breakfast today; the Quito activities mentioned will take place on the last day of your extension.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train

    5 nights from only $995

    Experience the Andean side of Ecuador, a region of snowcapped volcanoes, distinctive traditional cultures, and a dramatic rail route through the mountains. From traditional markets in the countryside to the city of Cuenca with its Spanish colonial heritage, you’ll meet the people who call this scenic region home. Join us to discover more of Ecuador’s cultural and natural diversity.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 6 nights from only $1095

    Experience the beauty and natural diversity of the tropical rain forest up close on this extension. In the Peruvian Amazon, with an experienced naturalist guide to reveal the jungle's secrets, you'll discover tropical birds winging through the forest canopy, bromeliads blooming on ancient trees, and Yagua villagers gliding down the river in canoes.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 5 nights from only $1395

    From the mystical shores of Lake Titicaca to the colorful blend of modern and ancient cultures in La Paz, countless discoveries await you in Bolivia. Journey here to explore majestic Andean landscapes, visit indigenous villages, and discover ancient ruins that pre-date the Inca Empire by thousands of years.

    View Extension Itinerary
Lima Quito Expand All
  • You depart from the U.S. and fly to Lima, Peru, arriving late in the evening or early morning. An O.A.T. representative will greet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel. 

  • After breakfast, you'll get acquainted with our Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those who took the optional pre-trip extensions to The Amazon Rain Forest of Peru or Bolivia: La Paz & Lake Titicaca.

    After some time to rest up in the morning and get lunch on your own, we set out to explore Lima's most interesting colonial sites. A local guide will join us as we explore the city's streets and architecture—evidence of the city's Spanish heritage—from its main square, Jiron de la Union, to the Lima Cathedral.

    We'll visit Lima's National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and history of Peru at Bolivar Square, which contains unmatched collections of Inca artifacts along with other antiquities from Peru's many intriguing ancient cultures. The museum contains an impressive collection of ceramics, gold and silver items, and textiles from the ancient cultures of Chavin, Mochica, Chimu, Tiahuanaco, Pucara, Paracas, Nazca, and Ica. Our tour continues to the city's Miraflores and San Isidro districts.

    We gather this evening at a local restaurant for a Welcome Dinner that features a folkloric show of traditional dances from Peru's various regions.

  • The Knitters

    See how entrepreneurial Peruvian women are turning their traditional craft into a business venture.

    This morning, we fly to Cuzco, the center of the Incan world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We then drive to the Sacred Valley of the Incas with a box lunch along the way. We'll visit the mountain weaving village of Chinchero, which—at an elevation of 12,500 feet—is a literal high point of our exploration of the Sacred Valley, and provides excellent views of the surrounding mountains. Chinchero was the site of a 16th-century Inca emperor's estate, as well as a resting place on the Inca Royal Road. We'll explore the town and observe a demonstration of making traditional textiles, seeing how Peruvian weavers create complex patterns in colorful cloth as their ancestors have for centuries. Afterwards, we check in to our hotel in the Sacred Valley, which is at a lower elevation than Cuzco; staying here helps us acclimatize to the altitude. We enjoy dinner this evening at our hotel.

  • This morning, we visit the massive Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo. This is one of the few places where the Spanish lost a battle during the conquest of Peru.

    In 1536, the army of Manco Inca held off a Spanish invasion company led by Hernando Pizarro. We can climb up the huge terraces guarding the ancient hilltop temple area.

    Then we’ll share A Day in the Life of the Urubamba community in the Sacred Valley. We’ll meet students at a local school (when in session) and spend time with their teachers. Donations from Grand Circle Foundation—part of the World Classroom initiative—have helped pay for classroom construction at the school. Then we’ll visit Urubamba’s market and pick up ingredients for the Home-Hosted Lunch we’ll share as guests of a Sacred Valley family. We’ll also sample locally brewed corn beer before returning to our hotel. Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening.

  • Explore Peruvian villages during a guided tour

    After breakfast this morning, we visit a pottery workshop. Then we continue to Ollantaytambo, where we’ll board the train to travel to Machu Picchu. The train ride takes a bit less than two hours and offers spectacular views into the gorge of the Urubamba River. We'll have a boxed lunch while we're riding the train.

    Most travelers visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, which makes for a hectic pace and only limited time at this unique archaeological wonder. We can take a closer look, and have a more relaxed pace, during our overnight visit to Machu Picchu. The train brings us to the town of Aguas Calientes, from which we then drive to the ruins. This drive takes about a half an hour, as we must follow a zigzag route up a steep hill. (The return trip by bus takes the same amount of time; or if you prefer, you can walk downhill and along the valley floor for about two hours.) When the day-trippers leave the ruins to catch the last train of the day, we remain longer and enjoy an uncrowded experience.

    Our expert O.A.T. Trip Leader gives us a complete and compelling look at the fabled “Lost City of the Incas,” which was discovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist (and later, U.S. Senator) Hiram Bingham. Subsequent discoveries (such as Bingham’s later unearthing of the Inca Trail and the 1941 discovery of nearby Huayna Picchu) suggest that Machu Picchu was not simply a “lost city” but part of a whole “lost region.” More than 172 tombs have been excavated, and in 2002 Peruvian archaeologists uncovered the first complete burial site, with a woman’s skeleton, bronze pins, and a clay pot. Here we can explore sites like the Ritual Baths, the Palace of the Princess, the Main Fountain, and the Temple of the Sun, quietly contemplating the achievements of this most fascinating and mysterious civilization. We then return to the town of Aguas Calientes. Dinner is included this evening.

  • Explore Machu Pichu on an overnight hiking adventure

    We rise early to travel to Machu Picchu again after breakfast, arriving before the crowds. You can remain at the hotel if you wish, but most travelers appreciate this chance to see the ruins in a different light.
    You can wander the sprawling ruins on your own, or, depending on which trails are open, choose between two hikes. One brings you to the Inca Bridge, where a trail built with impressive Inca engineering crosses a cliff face. In one spot, the Incas left a deep gap, which they bridged with logs that could be removed to render the trail impassable to enemies. The second option is an ambitious hike to the Sun Gate at the Machu Picchu end of the Inca Trail, which offers a fine view over the ruins.
    We descend to the valley below to have lunch. Then, in the afternoon, we return by train through the spectacular Urubamba Gorge. Back at Ollantaytambo, we get off the train and take a bus to Cuzco, making stops at points of interest along the way. When we arrive in Cuzco, we check into our hotel. We have dinner at our hotel this evening.

  • After breakfast, join our optional tour to Tipon, a location south of Cuzco with well-preserved ancient agricultural terraces and an Incan irrigation system whose canals still carry water. These provide impressive evidence of Incan ingenuity and engineering skills. This optional tour includes lunch at local restaurant. Or, remain in Cuzco to make your own discoveries, with lunch on your own.
    In the afternoon, we explore Cuzco, starting with a walk to the Plaza de Armas. We’ll also discover the Qoricancha Sun Temple, the city’s most important ceremonial structure during the Incan era. Historical records of the time note that its walls were once covered with 700 sheets of gold studded with emeralds and turquoise; when the sunlight streamed through the windows, the reflection off the precious metals was blinding. In the late afternoon, we return to our hotel. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • We begin this morning’s explorations at the massive Sacsayhuaman fortress set on a hilltop overlooking Cuzco. Its double-zigzag wall is said to symbolize a puma’s teeth, and at one time, there were three immense towers and a labyrinth of rooms large enough to garrison 5,000 Inca soldiers.

    Today, the interior buildings are gone, having been dismantled by the Spaniards for their stone, but the imposing outer walls remain. Recent excavations have revealed this ancient stone complex to be much larger than previously thought. As we walk through, consider first that Inca workers built its walls entirely by hand, securely fitting boulders weighing as much as 125 tons without a drop of mortar. Next we visit the sacred ceremonial center of Kenko. At each site, we have plenty of time to walk around and take photographs.

    Encounter a curandero ceremony during a tour of Peru

    Then we’ll witness a traditional healing ceremony conducted by a curandero, an Andean medicine man. This ancient healing tradition has deep roots in Incan culture and is not simply a cure for illnesses, but also a prayer for good health and well-being with an offering to Pachamama, a deity associated with fertility and Mother Earth. A curandero will often employ herbs and healing plants, and for some conditions, he may conduct a religious ritual with sacred objects and shamanic chanting (called icaros). Thought to possess a gift from God to heal the sick, the curandero also sees himself as a front-line soldier in the battle between good and evil on Earth—particularly when patients believe their physical ailments have supernatural causes.

    Afterwards, we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and the rest of your afternoon is free. We'll gather for our last dinner in Peru at a local restaurant this evening.

  • After an early breakfast at our Cuzco hotel, we bid farewell to our Peruvian Trip Leader and depart for our flight to Lima. From Lima we fly to Quito, Ecuador, arriving in the afternoon.

    Discover the colonial splendor of Quito during a guided tour

    In Quito, we will be met by our Ecuadoran Trip Leader. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is a city whose colonial splendor has earned it designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the older part of town, hundreds of colonial-era structures remain to this day, the largest being the 16th-century Monastery of San Francisco.

    This evening, we’ll enjoy our first dinner in Ecuador.

  • After breakfast this morning, we enjoy a moving musical performance by the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra, whose members are physically or mentally disabled. Grand Circle Foundation is proud to provide Sinamune with financial assistance, helping to give these talented and dedicated musicians the support and encouragement they deserve.

    After the concert, we'll depart for downtown Quito. In Quito's historic section, we'll see La Basilica, with its impressive 377-foot Condor Tower—notice how the gargoyles represent indigenous animals. We also enjoy a walking tour of Quito's colonial nucleus: Independence Plaza (Plaza de La Independenzia), featuring a winged statue representing freedom. We'll see the Presidential Palace, with its stalwart guards in traditional uniforms keeping watch. Then we finish at San Francisco Square to see its church and mingle with local people in its plaza.

    Following lunch at a local restaurant, we continue exploring Quito with a stroll on La Ronda, a historic narrow lane where you can sample traditional candies, see work by local artists, and hear musicians. Then we return to our hotel and you have the rest of the afternoon free for making your own discoveries in Quito. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • After breakfast, we fly from Quito via Guayaquil to the Galápagos—an enchanted Pacific archipelago that straddles the Equator some 600 miles west of the Ecuador's coast, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Upon landing in mid-morning, we make a short bus transfer to the dock, where we board our boat. You can stow your gear in your cabin and orient yourself on deck. We’ll stay onboard in comfortable cabins for the next three nights, roaming the archipelago with the services of our boat crew and our expert Trip Leader, who is a certified Galápagos naturalist.

    Please note:The following description is meant only as a general guide to the cruise itinerary that you are likely to follow. The selection and order of islands visited cannot be guaranteed due to the Galápagos' frequently variable weather, marine, and environmental conditions, and changes in airline schedules between the mainland and the Galápagos. This is a carefully managed park with fragile ecosystems. To safeguard them (and to ensure your own comfort), ship and park authorities have the prerogative to revise our course at a moment's notice. Typically you’ll have two shore excursions a day (one in the early morning and one in the afternoon) lasting about 1.5-2 hours each. Depending on the island, there may be a specific timeframe allotted for our visit. Your Trip Leader will keep you informed of the schedule on a daily basis.

    During the summer and fall, the Humboldt Current moves through the Galápagos Islands, cooling sea and land temperatures, and creating a mist that covers the islands—locally known as garua (soft rain)—during the day. The Humboldt Current is strongest from July to October, delivering the choppy water that surrounds the islands.

  • Today we continue our exploration of the Galápagos. Our Trip Leader will give us an orientation briefing, including conservation techniques suggested by the Galápagos National Park. He or she is a graduate of the elite certification program conducted at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz by the Galápagos National Park Service. We file our Galápagos cruising itinerary with the conservation authorities of the Galápagos National Park. Park biologists periodically review it, and they have the authority to make changes to our plan to minimize our impact on the ecosystems of the islands. Our Trip Leader also provides the park with information on species behavior, and we are proud to work in cooperation with Park officials in preserving the priceless natural wonders of the Galápagos.

    During our cruise, we'll see unique wildlife and striking geological formations. We'll make numerous landings by small motor dinghies that involve wading ashore. Once on land, we'll walk with our Trip Leader along trails that bring us close to the many indigenous species. Wildlife sightings are unpredictable, but you may see species including land and marine iguanas, and exotic birds such as blue-footed and masked boobies. When we are not viewing wildlife on shore, we can swim, sunbathe, and perhaps go snorkeling among sea lions and vividly colorful tropical fish. We'll see remote white-sand beaches, sparkling clear water, and volcanic landscapes of black and red rock. 

  • Here is a preview of the islands you may call on during your Galápagos cruise.

    Santiago (James) Tidal pools reveal a profusion of octopi, starfishes, and other undersea life. Rare fur sea lions that were once on the verge of extinction cavort nearby, and we often spot oyster-catchers, blue herons, and
    yellow-crowned night herons.

    Bartolome One of the youngest islands, Bartolome displays a fantastic landscape of lava formations—including its famous signature, Pinnacle Rock. Penguins are often spotted on the shore.

    Mosquera Beach Mosquera Beach is a very small, white sand islet, located between Baltra and Seymour. It is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and sea lions often visit.

    Rabida (Jervis) A reddish beach and steep volcanic slopes give this island a distinctive look.

    Santa Cruz (Indifatigable) At the Charles Darwin Research Station, learn about pioneering ecological studies and the giant Galápagos tortoise-breeding program.

    Floreana (Charles) Like the other islands, Floreana has its coterie of remarkable creatures. But it’s the human stories that will engage you here as your guide tells of the first inhabitant, a shipwrecked Irishman, and the quirky “post office” in a barrel, where sailors since 1793 have been leaving letters for delivery. This “post office” still operates today.

    Santa Fe (Barrington) Hike through a forest of opuntia cactus where land iguana doze, and then snorkel in clear water with coral reefs, manta rays, sea turtles, and colorful schools of fish.

    North Seymour Here you’ll find the largest colony of frigatebirds in the Galápagos and a major nesting site for the blue-footed booby, depending on the season. On the beach, sea lions ride the waves.

    San Cristobal (Chatham) The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on this island is the sleepy capital of the Galápagos province. Nearby is Lobos Island, home to pelicans, frigatebirds, and a sea lion colony.

    Española (Hood Island) Sea lions, marine iguanas, and many kinds of birds are found here, including Darwin’s finch, Hood mockingbirds, and blue-footed and masked boobies. Along the southern shore, spectacular cliffs rise up from the sea. From April to November, the remarkable waved albatross, which can spend years at sea without touching land, can be seen performing their unique, perfectly choreographed mating ritual.

  • Today, we disembark our ship on Santa Cruz Island and explore Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galápagos. We’ll visit a local market, have lunch, and then meet the creatures that define these islands: Galápagos tortoises. We finish our day with an insider’s look at life on a working coffee and sugar plantation. We return to Puerto Ayora to check into our hotel. We have dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

  • This morning, we fly from the Galápagos via Guayaquil back to Quito, where we'll arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon. We have a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

    • Meals included:

    Today, we'll visit the colorful Inaquito produce market and then head to the Middle of the World Monument and the Inti Nan Museum, located on the equator. Inti Nan is the Quechua phrase for “Path of the Sun,” and the museum contains replicas of indigenous sun temples and other interesting artifacts. If your flight home is this afternoon, you'll make these visits in the morning. If your flight is in the evening, you'll have a free morning and then visit these Quito sites, with lunch and dinner on your own.

    If you are taking the post-trip extension to Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train, you will travel overland to Riobamba after breakfast today; the Quito activities mentioned will take place on the last day of your extension.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train

    5 nights from only $995

    Experience the Andean side of Ecuador, a region of snowcapped volcanoes, distinctive traditional cultures, and a dramatic rail route through the mountains. From traditional markets in the countryside to the city of Cuenca with its Spanish colonial heritage, you’ll meet the people who call this scenic region home. Join us to discover more of Ecuador’s cultural and natural diversity.

    View Extension Itinerary

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