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Combine two of South America's most iconic destinations in this superb highlights trip. First discover the spectacular 'Lost City' of Machu Picchu, before spending six days exploring one of the best wildlife experiences on earth; the Galapagos Islands.
Explore Tour Leader
14 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 15 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Cusco, the old heart of the Inca Empire and the archaeological capital of the Americas. The Spanish-style city of today, with its attractive pink tiled roofs, arcaded plazas and steep winding alleyways, stands upon tremendous Inca foundation stones. Its links with the Inca Empire are everywhere to be seen, from the stone walls that line the city streets, to the museums filled with artefacts and relics of a long dead people.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Cusco at any time.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ), which is around 15 minutes' drive from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you arrive earlier in the day, you might choose to relax and acclimatise to the altitude at the hotel or take a gentle stroll to the Plaza de Armas.
Hotel Inkarri (or similar)
The old capital of the Inca Empire survives only in its ruins, imbued with an atmosphere of mystery and grandeur. The Spanish colonial city, with its attractive pink tiled roofs, arcaded plazas and steep winding alleyways, stands upon tremendous Inca foundation stones.
The morning is free to rest and get acclimitised to the altitude.
In the afternoon we take a walking tour of this lovely city to see important Inca and Colonial monuments, such as the Plaza de Armas (main square), the cathedral, the Inca site of Qorikancha and the Inca wall of Hatunrumiyoc with its famous twelve-sided stone. The stone, measuring some 1.5 metres across, has the typical bevelled joints which create the patterns of light and shadow on Inca walls.
Today we enjoy a tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We will visit the market town of Pisac, strategically located at the head of the Urubamba Valley. Pisac once controlled the road connecting the Inca Empire with Paucartambo on its eastern borders and the magnificent Inca ruins that once so dominated this valley still occupy the mountainside above the town, providing a worthy match for any of the temples of Machu Picchu. We will also stop at Ollantaytambo. During the Inca Empire it was the royal state of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region and built the town as a ceremonial centre. We will visit its majestic fortress.
Late this afternoon we transfer to the railway station to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to one of the greatest of all archaeological sites. The train slowly meanders down the valley, following the tumultuous waters of the Urubamba River through a series of rock cut tunnels before emerging at the small town of Aguas Calientes, serenely nestling amidst a lush landscape of cloudforests. This evening there is the chance to soak in the nearby natural hot baths.
Hatun Samay Hotel (or similar)
Early this morning we take a public bus up to the mountain complex of Machu Picchu, the fabled 'lost city' of the Incas and probably the most spectacular feat of engineering in ancient America. The existence of this exquisite masterpiece of ancient civilisation remained unknown to the outside world until it was 'discovered' by an American archaeologist, Hiram Bingham in 1911. Temples, stairways, palaces and gabled stone dwellings are scattered everywhere, testifying to the energy and ingenuity of the builders. Not without reason is this site probably the most revered tourist attraction in the Americas; its location alone is dramatic in the extreme, teetering on the saddle of a high mountain peak that towers above the valley below. Built in the mid-15th century by Pachacuti, the city was thought to have been a major agricultural centre for the Incan Empire and its inaccessibility seems to have preserved it from the looters of the intervening years, resulting in the remarkably well-preserved ruins that we see today.
In the afternoon, we return to Cusco, by train to Ollantaytambo and the rest of the way by bus.
Today is a free day with a wide choice of things to do including a tour of the South Valley including Tipon, Pikillacta and Andahuayillas.
Alternatively, you may wish to visit some of the outlying Inca sites including Cusco's temple-citadel, Sacsayhuaman which broods high above the town, its huge, zigzagging stone walls broken into 66 sharply projecting angles to catch attackers in a withering crossfire. 20,000 conscripted workers toiled for 90 years to finish it. You will also visit Quenqo, an immense rocky construction, similar to a maze, Pucapucara (red fortress) and Tambomachay (bath of the Incas).
There is also the opportunity to visit Maras and Moray. The amphitheatre-like terracing of Moray is a fascinating spectacle. Some believe the Incas used the terraces to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops of each species.
Today we transfer to Cusco Airport and fly via Lima to Quito. Quito is Ecuador's mountain capital and the second highest capital city in Latin America (2850m). One of South America's most beautiful cities, Quito lies in a narrow valley at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and extinct volcanoes.
Hotel San Francisco (or similar)
Today we explore Quito's Old Town on a walking tour. The fascinating UNESCO Heritage site of the Old Town, with its rich blend of colonial architecture, imposing churches and bustling local markets, make for a stunning introduction to this most enchanting of regions. We will visit some of the main sites, including the Plaza de la Independencia, the cultural heart of the colonial city, and La Compania Church with its magnificent gilded altars, walls and ceilings. At the church of San Francisco we are introduced to Quito's largest and oldest colonial church, built in 1553.
The Galapagos are an isolated chain of volcanic islands supporting a distinct and unique flora and fauna, including prehistoric creatures found nowhere else on earth. Of the extraordinary animals to be found in the Galapagos many are reptiles, such as the giant tortoise, land iguana and three species of non-poisonous snake. There are also several species of turtle, which come ashore to mate. Up to three quarters of a million seabirds flock to the islands, including a third of the world's blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, cormorants, albatross and petrels. Of all the animals in this unique landscape, perhaps the most out-of-place is the penguin. Only 35 centimetres tall, the Galapagos Penguin can be seen swimming among tropical mangroves. Offshore it is common to see dolphins, sea lions and fur seals playing in the water.
The Galapagos National Park charges a visitor fee, payable on arrival, which funds park maintenance and supervision in the Galapagos, as well as ecological study, conservation and infrastructure development in Ecuador's other national parks. Entry fees and the funds they generate for the national park system are among measures taken by the Ecuadorian government to protect its natural heritage.
Today we fly to the island of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos. It also boasts the most varied of the islands' vegetation zones. We visit 'Los Gemelos', two volcanic depressions that give us a deeper understanding of the formation of the islands, as well as passing through the evergreen highlands, where we will have the chance to see the iconic giant tortoises. In the afternoon we're at leisure to discover the island's main town, Puerto Ayora.
Hotel Deja Vu (or similar)
This morning we leave Santa Cruz and journey west by speed boat for approximately 2.5 hours. Our destination is nearby Isabela Island, where we will spend the next two days.
The largest of the Galapagos Islands, Isabela is formed from five volcanoes, of which two are still active. An idyllic paradise of white sand beaches and swaying palms, it is home to the second largest caldera on earth and the highest point in the archipelago. We will base ourselves here, in the small town of Puerto Villamil on the southern coast.
On arrival we will visit the Arnaldo Tupiza breeding centre, approximately a 1.5km walk from Puerto Villamil. The walk itself is a nature experience through the wetlands, where we may see heron, flamingos and many other bird species as well as iguanas, lizards, crabs and other creatures. Once in the centre we will discover the history of the famous Galapagos tortoise, including the centre's ambitious aim to restore their numbers and release them back onto the islands.
Hostel Gran Tintorera (or similar)
The beauty of staying on land during a trip to the Galapagos is having the opportunity to explore its volcanic side. The geological formation of the Galapagos lends itself to hiking, and the scenery is just as impressive as the wildlife. Today we start by taking a walk up the Sierra Negra Volcano, an immense 12 kilometre mass that dominates the southern half of the island. The walk up to the top is three hours return, presenting us with some spectacular panoramic views of the Pacific, and across to the neighbouring islands.
In the afternoon we plan to snorkel at Concha y Perla and spot some of the many marine species that the Galapagos have to offer - sea lion, iguana, turtle, ray and a diverse array of reef species might be sighted, varying throughout the year depending on the tides, the weather and the season.
Formed from volcanic lava flow, the tiny islets of the Tintoreras Islets are fantastic for viewing wildlife, and accessible by a short boat trip from Puerto Villamil. On land, there is an array of birdlife and an abundance of the famous marine iguanas that are endemic and unique to the Galapagos. In the water, turtles, Galapagos penguins and sea lions may be spotted swimming around.
The wildlife's complete acceptance of our presence is a testament to the incredible diversity and unique quality of the Galapagos Islands. It makes it possible to view birds, reptiles and mammals from as close as a few feet.
In the afternoon, we come back together for a boat journey back to Santa Cruz Island, where we will spend the next three nights.
This morning we take a walk to Tortuga Bay (5km return walk) where we have the opportunity to swim at one of the most spectacular beaches of the entire chain, an important turtle nesting ground.
After lunch we will visit the nearby Charles Darwin Research Station which has been responsible for conservation projects within the islands since 1959 (the centenary of the publication of Origin of the Species). During our time here we will visit the centre to learn more about the unique collection of animal and plant life that resides here.
We will be discovering one of the smaller islands of the Galapagos today, and our plan is at the mercy of the yacht schedule departing from Santa Cruz. The island visited could be either Seymour, Bartolome, Santa Fe or Plazas Island - but no matter which island we will certainly have a display of wildlife. We may see sea lions playing in the water just off shore, land iguanas strolling around their land, magnificent red-throated frigate birds, blue footed boobies, swallow-tail gulls or Galapagos penguins. We should also have some time free for snorkelling or hiking about the island.
Depending on the boat schedules, we may change around the order of activities during your days in the Galapagos, and any change in daily schedule will be fully briefed to you in country by your Tour Leader. It's also possible that we will visit islands outside of the four above depending on the yacht providers, for example Floreana island.
Leaving the Galapagos behind we fly to Guayaquil on the mainland, and on arrival we're free to explore at our leisure. The largest city in Ecuador and its principal port, Guayaquil has a bustling, lively atmosphere. 20 years ago several areas of the city had a somewhat edgy reputation, but after years of regeneration, community safety drives and cultural projects, it has been transformed into a really likeable, characterful destination.
A walk down the Malecon, or seafront, is a great introduction to the city, and at the end you'll come to the old district of Las Penas. This area of cobbled streets, painted houses and cafes is full of charm, and a perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.
Please note your leader may not fly with you to Guayaquil; if not you will be met by a local representative on arrival at the airport who will give you a brief for your stay in Guayaquil.
Unipark Hotel (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Guayaquil.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Guayaquil at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Guayaquil's Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport (airport code: GYE), which is approximately a 20 minute drive from our hotel.
Why not extend your trip and add on four days in the depths of the Ecuadorian Amazon learning more about its unique flora and fauna. Sleeping in a community-run lodge within the remote area of the Yasuni National Park, immerse yourself in the rainforest as you explore on foot, by canoe and from treetop towers. The profits from the lodge go to the local Quichua community, home to the local staff and guides, making it the perfect place from which to discover this wild area, home to 550 species of tropical birds, 13 species of monkeys and 1000 species of butterflies.
Spend three nights at the first class Napo Cultural Centre with all meals included.
Temperature ranges are similar all year round. In the highlands: the dry season lasts from June to mid-September. November and December are partially dry. The rainy months are October and from January to May, but showers are short and mostly in the afternoons. Temperatures range from 12°C to 24°C. Nights are cold at altitude (4°C - 10°C). The Coastal Region: from December to May it is hot and wet. From June to November it is generally cool and misty with sudden light showers. Temperatures range from 16°C to 32°C. The Amazon Area: it is humid all year round. Temperatures range from 16°C to 32°C. From April to August the rainfall is heavier. The Galapagos: On the Galapagos, the hot season is January to April with largely sunny days and the possibility of heavy showers; the cool season runs from May to December and is generally more cloudy with much cooler seas. Please note that although it is windier from July to November the sea can be rough at any time of the year. On the mainland the dry season lasts from June to October, though September can be wet.
2 Pin Flat
There is a rainy season from Dec - Mar however on the coast it rarely rains. Jun-Oct is damp and misty, but temperatures never drop below 10°C. At high altitudes although there are sunny days temperatures can drop dramatically, and conditions can change suddenly.
Aguas Calientes - Thermal baths US$4 Cusco - Half day visit to 4 ruins inc. Sacsayhuaman US$90; Chinceros, Moray and Maras Salt mines US$94 (min 3 pers); South Valley excursion US$80 (min 3 pers) Snorkel equipment - Snorkel/ Mask and Fins hire - US$10 per day plus US$20 deposit ; Kayak rental per hour US$30 for 2 pers.
Daytime clothing should be lightweight and loose fitting, but warmer clothing is needed at altitude and at sea, particularly at night, so bring something to wrap up in, including a pair of gloves, hat and scarf. Long-sleeved lightweight clothes are useful for protection against sunburn. Bring a swimsuit, sunhat and a thick sweater or fleece. Lightweight waterproofs are essential.
Comfortable walking boots or shoes and trainers or sandals with a good grip. Plastic sandals (not flip flops) are useful for wet landings.
One main piece of luggage and a daypack.
You will need an overnight bag for the two nights on Isabella Island, your main luggage will be stored in your hotel in Santa Cruz.
A torch, water bottle, sunglasses, insect repellent, high factor sunscreen, beach towel, waterproof bag for camera, and motion sickness tablets / patches for the boat. Snorkel equipment is available for rent locally, but you may wish to take your own if you're a keen snorkeler.
Bus, Boat, Flight
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Peru: Visas are not required for UK, New Zealand, Australian, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. Please note we require a photocopy of your passport 3 month pre departure. Ecuador: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. In order for your visa to be granted on arrival, you will be required to show proof of travel insurance valid for the duration of your trip. Please also ensure your passport is stamped with the T3 permit (for 30 or 90 days) on arrival in Ecuador. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry; this is a strict legal requirement from the Ecuadorean government. Without this minimum validity entry to the country will be denied. Galapagos Islands: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. USA: (including those in transit) Citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and passport holders from several EU countries can enter the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) - where you apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), which applies if you enter the country by sea or by air. This must be done on line - https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov no later than 72 hours prior to travel. Travellers who have not registered before their trip are likely be refused boarding. You must have an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner. UK passports which are biometric feature a small gold symbol (camera) at the bottom of the front cover. If you have visited Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan since 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries, you cannot travel with an ESTA and instead you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If you are unable to provide a valid visa before boarding flights to the US, or entering via another method, you may not be permitted to travel. Please note for your ESTA application you will be required to supply Point of Contact information. Explore' s USA contact information will be listed on your final documentation which you will receive approximately 3-4 weeks before departure. If you are leaving for the USA before this, please call the Explore team to get this information.(Not necessary if in transit) For further information please check out the US embassy website. Visa applications - http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/apply.html Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
We recommend protection against malaria, Tetanus, Infectious Hepatitis, Typhoid and Polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Yellow fever in only recommended for those travelling east of the Andes (Amazon Extension). Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.