Perched on the Equator, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands boast a wealth of Andean heritage and wildlife. Follow in Charles Darwin’s footsteps as you travel by boat between the Galápagos Islands, spotting the area’s legendary wildlife with guides who double as experts in the fields of biodiversity on the islands. Then travel across the border and through Cusco by horseback to sleep beneath the stars of the Sacred Valley. Trekking through some of South America’s finest trails in sub-tropical climates along the renowned Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, we couldn’t think of a better way to see the wonders of these two Latin American favorites.
Kick-start in Quito
Start your South American discovery in Ecuador in the historical hub of Quito, a capital city spread across a spectacular Andean valley making for some pretty impressive views. You’ll spend a few nights here holing up in the luxurious and colonial surroundings of Casa Gangotena whilst days will be spent exploring the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s brimming with museums and stunning cathedrals.
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Being in the heart of the world’s longest mountain range, you’re surrounded by dramatic volcanic peaks, so we say pay a visit to Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s second highest peak. Hop on horseback and explore the breath-taking Cotopaxi National Park before swapping mountain peaks for coastal waters on your next adventure. The Galápagos Islands are one of the world’s most famous ecological sites and represent the birthplace of modern evolutionary theory. As well as the wonderful array of wildlife, these volcanic islands floating in the midst of the Pacific Ocean also boast some of the most startling landscapes we’ve ever laid eyes on. More akin to the moon than the palm tree strewn islands of the South Pacific, the Galapagos Islands are characterized by dark volcanic rock set against incredibly clear, blue waters, it really is a photographer’s dream.
From when you land in Baltra, you’ll quickly learn that the Galápagos are all about wildlife-spotting. Visit the Charles Darwin Center and catch-up on the islands’ history before meeting your expert guide and hopping onboard the luxurious Galapagos Sea Star yacht, your floating home for the next few days. Explore the land and sea around the Galápagos Islands, stopping off at San Cristobal, home to the largest freshwater lake in the archipelago, Daphne Mayor and Seymour Norte before continuing on through Playa Santiago, Puerto Egas, Espumilla & Caleta Bucanero. Safe to say, you’re guaranteed to get up close and personal with some truly unique wildlife, both at sea and on land – and all alongside expert guides. When you’re not hiking over islands snorkel through crystal clear waters and discover the flourishing underwater world around the islands.
Leaving the Galapagos Islands behind, we’ll whisk you off to Lima, the vibrant capital of Peru. Once you’ve touched down in Lima, you’ll be driven by your guide to one of our favorite city boltholes; Hotel B in the artsy district of Barranco. For art and design lovers, this corner of Lima is bursting with museums and galleries and examples of colonial architecture. Lima also serves as Latin America’s culinary hub, so we’ll let you in on a few of our favorite restaurants in the city where you can dine on Ceviche, Cuy, and Lomo Saltado, all washed down with a signature Pisco Sour. Once you explored and tasted your way through the city, you’ll head up into the heartland of the Andes to the ancient Incan capital of Cusco.
At a breath-taking altitude of 3,300m above sea level, you’ll spend the first few days in Cusco relaxing and acclimatizing to the altitude – and where better to do it than the luxurious Palacio Nazarenas, a former monastery tucked away from the busy streets of Cusco yet still right in the heart of the city. Discover the fascinating history of the region on a short walking tour of this ancient former Inca capital before lounging by the pool or on one of the secluded terraces. From Cusco, you’ll then head out to the Sacred Valley of the Incas to visit indigenous markets and archaeological sites as well as explore the hills, valleys and villages surrounding Cusco by horseback.
Saving the best ’till last, in the morning you’ll catch the Vista dome train from Ollantaytambo up to Km 104 from where you’ll begin 3-4 hour walk through the remains of Chachabamba, with views of the Urubamba Valley and down to the archaeological site of Winay Wayna. From here, you’ll continue the hike through one of the best preserved sections of the trail, passing a cloud forest bursting with fascinating flora. Finally, you’ll come to Intipunkum, the Sun Gate, after which you’ll emerge onto a truly unforgettable view of natural beauty and human artistry: the magical city of Machu Picchu. Have the entire day to explore the sacred city of Machu Picchu before returning by train back to Cusco from where you’ll begin your journey home.