Bienvenidos! Welcome to Quito, Ecuador. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Quito is one of the most attractive cities in South America, sitting at an altitude of 2,850 metres with a view of Volcan Pichincha on the horizon. On day 1 there is a city tour to show the beautiful Colonial style buildings and help you explore the nooks and crannies of cosy Old Town. We’ll be back in Quito at the end of the trip, giving you a chance to further experience the city. Please Note: Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit, the air is thinner and some people can suffer altitude sickness, regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please see the 'Is This Trip Right For You?' and 'Health' sections in the trip notes for more information. You will need to book a flight from Lima to Quito for today (not included in the tour price) Please book an early flight as there will be a welcome meeting held at 2pm.
2 Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos
Early morning transfer to Quito airport (approximately 45 minutes - 1 hour) for our flight to San Cristobal Island, Galapagos. The flight will take approximately 3. 5 hrs including a stop in Guayaquil to pick up additional passengers (you will not need to disembark the plane) Departure time will be between 8. 20am and 10. 30am depending on flight schedule time. Welcome to San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos National Institute has introduced a Transit Control Card. This card has a cost of US$20 and it must be purchased by every person travelling to the Galapagos Islands. You will need to purchase this card upon arrival to the domestic airport on day 2, prior to checking in to your Galapagos flight. Our flight will stop once in Guayaquil to pick up more passenger's (approx 3.5 hours total). Upon arrival we will need to go through immigration and pay the Galapagos National Park entrance fee of US$100 in cash (small bills please). We transfer from the airport to the hotel (approximately 15 minutes) Soon after, travel to La Loberia where you'll put on snorkelling gear for the first time and go for a swim with sea lions, and maybe even some sea turtles. Continue back to town. Tonight you may wish to head out with the group and enjoy some of the fresh seafood available.
3 Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos
Today begins with a short boat ride to Leon Dormido (approx 45 mins) or Isla Lobos, observing along the way the abundant marine life that Galapagos is renowned for. On the way we might be able to spot nesting frigates and blue-footed boobies and/or might swim/snorkel with playful young sea lions. Here we can snorkel keeping an eye out below for sea turtles, manta rays and maybe the odd harmless Galapagos shark, to name a few. This snorkeling is in open sea, on occasion the currents can be quite strong so it's particularly important you are a confident swimmer for this activity. If you have any concerns, please ensure you speak with your leader. Included lunch today is a packed box lunch on board the boat! Unfortunately it is against National Park rules to eat on the beach. Later head we will head to the interpretation Center. Learn about the history of the 'Enchanted Islands' and the conservation projects which seek to preserve the unique Galapagos wildlife. Next, make our way to Frigatebird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas), which is located two kilometres from the Interpretation Center, southwest of Isla San Cristobal. It's quite a climb to the top, but well worth the amazing views of the bay. From here you can also see Kicker Rock, an eroded volcanic formation protruding from the sea which has become an emblem of the island. We'll return to town in the late afternoon/early evening.
4 Isla Floreana / Isla Isabela, Galapagos
Take an early morning boat ride today towards Floreana Island, which should take about 2.5 hours. Along the way keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as dolphins and whales. On arrival to the island, snorkel in the clear blue waters and then break for lunch. Afterwards venture to a black sand beach which belongs to the Witmers, decedents of some of the first settlers on the Galapagos. The town here, Puerto Velasco Ibarra, has about 150 residents and an intriguing history involving deaths, disappearances and murders. Later in the afternoon, wave goodbye to Floreana and continue to Isabela Island (approximately 2 hours) From Isabela Port it's a short transfer to the hotel where we will spend the night (approximately 15 minutes)
5 Isla Isabela, Galapagos
Start your second day on Isla Isabela with a short bus ride (approximately 15 minutes) to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center where you'll observe giant tortoises in all stages of development. The centre has almost a thousand giant tortoises training for life on their own. After our visit we take a short bus ride (approximately 15 minutes) to a brackish lagoon where we will be able to observe flamingos. In the afternoon after an informative visit, board a small pangas for Tintoreras or Shark Alley. On our way we will go along the coast line in the hope to spot blue-footed boobies and the famous Galapagos penguin who is home on the western part of the arquipelago. On arrival, hop off for a short walk on this isolated islet and popular iguana nesting site that’s home to hundreds of marine iguanas. Snorkel in a calm inlet with colourful fish and winding underground lava tubes. This area is frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom. Late afternoon, return to town in search of your own sandy resting spot and enjoy your first Isabela sunset, arguably the most beautiful of all the islands.
6 Isla Isabela, Galapagos
Start your last day on Isla Isabela by heading towards the Sierra Negra Volcano (approximately 45 minutes by bus), one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos and the second largest crater in the world. Weather permitting, take a challenging hike of around 17 kilometres up the rocky mountain, which takes between five and six hours. After the hike, make your way back to town in the late afternoon for some free time to curl up with a book or venture down to the water for a relaxing swim before dinner. Unfortunately, recycling isn't available on Isabela, so please take your plastic rubbish with you.
7 Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Today begins nice an early at about 5 am. Take a boat transfer to Santa Cruz at approximately 6 am. Upon arrival transfer to Puerto Ayora to have breakfast. After breakfast head to the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is a great opportunity to learn more about conservation efforts to preserve the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos. You can even get close to giant tortoises which are being raised for the repopulation program. Next, head to a restaurant that offers a typical Eduadorian lunch package, simply referred to as ‘Menu’. Usually this consists of a fresh juice, basic entrée (usually a soup) as well as a main meal. These lunch deals are very popular throughout Ecuador so it’s a great way to eat like a local. In the afternoon visit the higher part of the islands to observe the giant tortoise roaming in its natural habitat. Afterwards visit a locally owned Sugar cane farm. Here the farmers will show us the process in which sugar cane is processed and turned into alcohol. Take the opportunity to try some!
8 Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
This morning we will hike approximately 3. 5kms to Tortuga Bay beach where we will head out on a kayak excursion in a protected bay. Along the way, keep an eye out for eagle rays, sea turtles and blue-footed boobies. Later head back to Puerto Ayora. In the afternoon have free time to further explore the town. Tonight, enjoy an included group dinner.
9 Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos / Quito
We say goodbye to the Galapagos today and take a flight back to Quito (Please note the flight will make a stop in Guayaquil) You'll arrive back to Quito later afternoon. Perhaps head out for a final group dinner.
Today you will be transferred to Quito airport for your ongoing flight to Lima. Please note this Quito to Lima international flight is not included in the price of this trip and you must purchase it separately. Please contact us if you require assistance booking this flight. As this is a combination trip, your leader for the Peru section will change and, most likely the composition of your group will change too. Your Peruvian adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. Enjoy a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city's historical centre. Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. If you arrive early, we recommend you take a walk around Miraflores. Go from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to LarcoMar via Larco Avenue. Alternatively go to Parque del Amor (Love's Park) for a nice view of Lima's beaches. Other great things to see and do include a tour to Pachacamac (around 30 km from downtown Lima), the Museo de la Nacion and the Gold Museum. Limenos (Lima's residents) are friendly and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to sample ceviche, a local seafood speciality. Please Note: This trip visits places that are at high altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.
11-12 Amazon Jungle
Take an early morning transfer to Lima airport for a flight to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Jungle, where you'll be staying for two nights. The flight should take around three hours, including a 30-45 minute stop in Cusco (during this stop you will not disembark the plane). Upon your arrival at around midday, the lodge staff will take you to their office in town. Upon arrival at the Jungle lodge office you will be provided with a small duffle bag to pack your personal items required for the duration of your jungle stay. The remainder of your items will be stored securely in the office. From the office, you'll travel by private vehicle to the port, this drive is approximately 45 minutes. You’ll then take a motorised canoe upriver to your jungle lodge in the Madre de Dios area (approximately 2 - 2.5 hours). Lunch today is a packed lunch that you will be given during the boat ride. Once you arrive there is time to unpack and unwind before a short orientation and briefing. The next two days are packed with activities. Your full day in the jungle includes a trek which lasts approximately half a day. At times the paths can get quite muddy and some people can find the trek a little exhausting. Along the way there will be regular stops, and you'll encounter magnificent fauna and flora in their natural habitat. You might spot everything from macaws and monkeys to peccaries, jabirus, otters and thousands of butterflies. The guides can also teach you about the medicinal properties and practical uses of the plants. For lunch you will return to the lodge. For your night-time excursion, venture out on a night jungle walk!
We depart the lodge early this morning. Fly from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco, the true heart and soul of Peru (approximately 35 minutes). Spend a little time acclimatising to the high altitude (3,450 m) and then head out on an orientation walk with your tour leader. You’ll visit the facade of Qoricancha temple, the local San Pedro market, the main square, past the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. Finally you’ll visit the Chocolate museum where there will be an opportunity to sample a hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. This might be a good opportunity to purchase some gifts or souvenirs. There’s a small store where you’ll find various handicrafts and a variety of artisanal chocolate products. Tonight is free, perhaps head out for dinner your fellow travellers. Your leader will be able to recommend some good places to eat!
14 Sacred Valley / Ollantaytambo
Hop on a private bus in the morning and travel through the lush terraces of the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, one of the few places where the Inca defeated the Spanish. On the way, stop at a village and enjoy lunch and conversation in a community that still practices many Inca traditions. Why not head to the archaeological park that lies to the left side of the main square? If you're feeling energetic you can climb to the top of the squared terraces and gaze down over the valley. Just remember, if you have chosen to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu you will begin your trek tomorrow, so don't push yourself. Tonight, perhaps enjoy a quinoa and alpaca stew at one of the many local restaurants.
15 Inca Trail, Inca Quarry trail or Train option
During the next four days, you'll do one of the following, depending on what you've arranged: Route 1: Hike the Classic Inca Trail;
Route 2: Hike the Inca Quarry Trail;
Route 3: Take the train to Aguas Calientes, after staying in Cusco for two extra days. While away from Cusco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cusco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (5 kg maximum). Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cusco and only travel with the necessary items during the excursion by train.
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: Travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite (located 3,100 m above sea level). On the way you’ll see the Inca sites of Ollantaytambo, Huillca Raccay and Llactapata, and catch incredible views of the snow-capped Veronica Peak. In the evening, unwind at the campsite with a nourishing meal. Please Note: The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 km long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of 7 hours of walking (uphill and downhill) with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and inflatable camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.
Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite (3,700 m above sea level). You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas. Please Note: The Inca Quarry trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 km long in total and its highest pass is at 4,450 meters above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping, and on the third night you'll stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and inflatable camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.
Route 3 Train: After spending the night in Ollantaytambo, leave around 9.30 am and take a short drive to the town of Pisac, which is well known for its market. Here you’ll have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and perhaps try some local Empanadas. Arrive back in Cusco in the afternoon, where your leader will take you to the San Pedro Market in order to buy some things for a picnic tomorrow. Please Note: The included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca Quarry trail only. Travellers taking the train option spend the night at a hotel in Cusco.
16 Inca Trail / Inca Quarry trail / Train
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: This is the most challenging day of the trek as you ascend a long steep path (approximately 5 hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4,200 metres above sea level, giving amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3,650 metres.
Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes you to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4,370 m high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4,450 meters. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, only a stone’s throw away at Choquetacarpo.
Route 3 Train: Today, take a taxi to Tambomachay, an archaeological site just outside of Cusco. From here you’ll take a short downhill walk (1–3 hours) back to Cusco. On the way, stop to admire some of the archaeological sites including Puka Pukara, Qinqu Quenqo and Saksaywaman. Arrive back in Cusco in the afternoon and enjoy some free time to go shopping, or perhaps visit Merida, Mendivil and Olave art galleries and workshops. Your tour leader will be able to give you some suggestions. Please Note: The included lunch and dinner on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca Quarry trail only. Travellers on the train option spend the night at a hotel in Cusco.
17 Inca Trail / Inca Quarry trail / Train
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3,980 m). Enjoy beautiful views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending to the ruins of Sayacmarca (approximately 2–3 hours). Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3,850 m), also known as the 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the descent down the Inca steps to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site (approximately 2 hours).
Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Today’s hike is all downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata Inca Quarry trail, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, your trek comes to an end. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.
Route 3 Train: After a drive to Ollantaytambo (approximately 1.5 hours), catch a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes (also approximately 1.5 hours). The city is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want a sneak peak, there is time to visit Machu Picchu independently before a guided tour the following day (dependent on ticket availability). Please Note: The included lunch on this day is for people trekking the Inca or Inca Quarry trail only. Travellers on the train option spend the night at a hotel in Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu town)
18 Inca Trail / Inca Quarry trail Train (Machu Picchu)
Route 1 Classic Inca Trail: This is the final and most spectacular leg of the trek to Machu Picchu. The day starts before dawn, with breakfast at 4.30 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and begin hiking by 5.30 am. Walk to Intipunku, aka the Sun Gate (approximately 2.5 hours). Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over Machu Picchu, ‘Lost City of the Incas’
Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail: Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5.30 am along the winding road to Machu Picchu (approximately 30 minutes). At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who hiked the Classic Inca Trail. If the skies are clear, enjoy spectacular views over the ancient city from the Sun Gate before going on a guided walk around the ruins.
Route 3 Train: Take an early bus up to Machu Picchu at 5.30 am. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy free time afterwards to wander around on your own before the group returns to Cusco. Visiting Machu Picchu: According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted. For all routes: After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cusco for a well-deserved shower and a Pisco sour. Your evening is then free for the last night of your adventure. Please Note: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy, our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking trips to the mountaintop ruins of Wayna Picchu.
Enjoy free time to relax, shop and explore more of Cusco's sights. Perhaps rest you weary legs at a cafe on Plaza de Armas or head to the San Pedro Market where you will find vegetables, meats, local cheeses (which you should certainly try), local chocolates, herbal medicines and many local handicrafts. It’s a great place to purchase some souvenirs. The market is also a place where many locals go to eat ‘mystery soups’. Some may be just chicken; however, the most popular amongst the locals are usually the more unusual ones like frog soups or soups that contains nose to tail of various animals. For those who can't get enough active adventure, why not try mountain biking in the hills that surround Cusco?
Travel by local bus through the dramatic scenery of the high altiplano to Puno, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approximately 6 hours). You'll be at an altitude of 3,820 metres. There will be a couple of stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers. Take in glorious views of the seemingly endless water stretching into the horizon. This place is a melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan Indian culture and traditional Andean customs, and it wears its traditions on its sleeve. If you're lucky your trip will coincide with one of the many cultural festivals here.
21 Lake Titicaca Homestay
Embark on a tour of the lake by slow motor boat, stopping off to visit the Titinos floating islands. The Titinos originally built their islands to isolate themselves from rival tribes. The islands are built from many layers of totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. To get a closer look at daily life in the Lake Titicaca region, you'll be welcomed into local homes for an overnight stay with the community. Make the most of your visit by helping your host family with their daily activities or trying to chat in the local language, Quechua. A game of soccer is also a great way to make local friends. Please Note: Your homestay tonight is a mud brick house. Rooms have beds and many blankets, and there are shared drop-toilets but no showers.
This morning after breakfast you'll board the boat again and head to Taquile Island (approximately 1 hour). Here, the tradition of knitting is strictly a male domain, and women do the spinning. It's a great place to pick up some high quality, locally knitted goods. An uphill trek (approximately 1 hour) brings you to the main area of the island. After the visit, you will descend about 500 steps back to our boat. Then travel back to Puno by boat (approximately 3 hours). Puno is the hometown of Kusimayo, a terrific local organisation that works towards improving the living condition of children and adults affected by poverty and malnutrition in this part of the world you have now come to know so well.
23 La Paz
Travel by comfortable local bus to Desaguadero and cross the border into Bolivia. At the border you will say goodbye to your Peruvian leader and a local Bolivian leader will take over for the last portion of your tour. After border formalities at the Peruvian migration office, you'll walk across a bridge to the Bolivian side, submit your passport at the Bolivian migration office, then board the bus again. Head for La Paz, and after 30 minutes or so there's another stop where your documents will be checked by authorities. The journey to La Paz takes about 5 hours (don't forget that Bolivia's timezone is 1–2 hours ahead of Peru!). When you arrive, you might feel like you're on top of the world at around 3,600 metres above sea level. Discover the colonial architecture and browse the markets – you'll see this town is a interesting mixture of the indigenous and modern.
24 La Paz
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning. There isn't a huge amount of time included in Bolivia on this itinerary. If you wish to further explore this wonderful country and perhaps head out to Uyuni to see the Salt Flats, then check out the 'Bolivian Salt Flats' Short Break Adventure (GGAU) The full itinerary can be viewed on our website.