- Hike the Inca trail or a backroads jungle route to Machu Picchu
- Visit ancient ruins amid stunning Sacred Valley scenery
- Head to Cusco for culture, textile markets, and authentic cuisine
- Enjoy a four-night luxury cruise exploring the iconic Galápagos Islands
|Day 1||Welcome to Cusco!||Cusco|
|Day 2||Pisac and Ollantaytambo||Ollantaytambo|
|Day 3||Chinchero, Moray, and Salineras||Ollantaytambo|
|Day 4||Ollantaytambo to Santa Teresa||Santa Teresa|
|Day 5||Coffee farm tour||Aguas Calientes|
|Day 6||Machu Picchu||Cusco|
|Day 7||Fly to Ecuador||Guayaquil|
|Day 8||To the Galápagos!||Galápagos Legend|
|Day 9||Isla Española||Galápagos Legend|
|Day 10||Isla Floreana||Galápagos Legend|
|Day 11||Isla Santa Cruz||Galápagos Legend|
|Day 12||Depart Galápagos!|
Day 1: Welcome to Cusco!
Welcome to Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire and one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. Start with a traditional Peruvian lunch at a local favorite restaurant. In the afternoon, your guide will lead a relaxed walking tour around Cusco's stunning historic center. It's important to take it easy if you've arrived from sea level today, as you need to acclimatize to Cusco's altitude—you'll be touching the clouds at over 11,000 feet!
Day 2: Pisac and Ollantaytambo
The sunny floodplain between Pisac and Ollantaytambo in the valley of the Urubamba River is known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Our first stop here is Pisac, a tiny Inca village that is home to the largest handicraft market in the region and a huge Inca fortress. You'll explore both, then set off through the Sacred Valley.
With frequent stops for photos, the next leg of your journey passes still-working Inca terracing, irrigation canals, fertile farmland, and awesome mountain vistas. Stay the night in Ollantaytambo, perhaps the most charming and perfectly preserved of all Inca towns, with a maze of cobbled alleyways and sun-drenched plazas presided over by a spectacular, llama-shaped ruin.
Day 3: Chinchero, Moray, and Salineras
You have two options today. If you plan to hike the Inca Trail, you'll start your trek this morning. If not, head to Chinchero, a quiet town known for its outdoor weaving studios, terraced Inca ruin, and intricately-frescoed colonial church. Next is Moray: three massive Inca amphitheaters built with incredibly sophisticated engineering. In the afternoon, take a stroll through rolling farmland with views of the high Andes. You'll end up at Salineras, a surreal and beautiful patchwork of pools and paths that still produces salt using Inca technology.
Day 4: Adventures on the Jungle Trail - Ollantaytambo to Santa Teresa
Today, cross one of the world's more drastic topographical divides: from the arid Pacific side of the Andes to its lush western slope and the uppermost reaches of the Amazon Basin. The differences become more and more obvious as we descend from the icy high pass of Abra Malaga (14,000 feet) all the way down to the steamy heat of the ceja de selva (eyebrow of the jungle).
Our destination, sleepy Santa Teresa, is home to one of our favorite places in Peru, the Baños Termales de Cocalmayo, natural mountain hot springs beside a raging river. It's the perfect place to soak away the road dust of today's journey from one side of the Andes to the other. If you're into biking, you might want to ride some or all of the day's long descent to the high jungle. It's an incredibly fun, freewheeling downhill ride suitable for anyone who can ride a bike. We provide the bikes, so you can ride as much or as little as you like.
Day 5: Coffee farm tour & Aguas Calientes
Coffee, grown at the cottage-industry level and exported to the world through growers' co-operatives, is the backbone of this area's economy. This morning, a local coffee producer will show you around their plantation, explain how they harvest and mill beans, and host a fun coffee tasting.
In the afternoon, take a short train ride to Aguas Calientes. There's time to explore the market and admire the scenery—the isolated little town has one of the most beautiful settings you'll see in Peru, in a riverside jungle gorge.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Machu Picchu
An early start rewards us with sunrise at Machu Picchu, a highlight of the trip. A spectacular stone city surrounded by incredibly steep, green mountains, Machu Picchu needs no introduction and is deservedly one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Your trip leader will take you on a guided tour—a necessary start to orient you in this massive site. You'll have plenty of time to explore the site and some of the surrounding peaks on your own before we catch the train back to Cusco for the night.
Day 7: Fly to Ecuador
Fly from Cusco to Guayaquil in Ecuador, where you'll stay one night and rest up, ready for the next stage of your South American adventure!
Day 8: To the Galápagos!
Head back to the airport for a two-hour flight to Isla San Cristóbal airport in the Galápagos. Here, your naturalist guide will meet you and take you on a ten-minute drive to the pier to board the Galápagos Legend—your luxury floating home for the next five days. The first stop is the Museum of Natural History in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galápagos Islands. Here you'll get oriented on the geography, climate, and volcanic origins of this group of islands that has led over millions of years to a unique abundance of flora and fauna.
Later, hike an hour or so up Tijeretas Hill to the foot of a frigatebird nesting colony and enjoy the panoramic views.
Day 9: Isla Española
This morning you'll land on a white sandy beach to observe sea lions, lava lizards, iguanas, and many species of birds, including hawks, oystercatchers, mockingbirds, and three species of Darwin's finches. Then you'll take to the crystalline water to swim and snorkel among king angelfish, creole fish, damsel fish, parrotfish, manta rays, and whitetip reef sharks.
Next, set sail for Suarez Point. Volcanic formations, including a blowhole that shoots water up to 75 feet in the air, provide the dramatic backdrop to a 2.5-hour hike past large sea lion colonies and the nesting grounds of colorful birds. During mating season (May to November), this place also offers an unsurpassed opportunity to get close to waved albatrosses.
Day 10: Isla Floreana
This morning's wet landing at Post Office Bay offers the opportunity to post a letter in the famous barrel that gave the bay its name, check out endemic vegetation such as Galápagos milkwort, and snorkel among playful sea lions.
In the afternoon, head for a beautiful white sandy beach, one of the most important nesting sites of green Pacific sea turtles. Hike through black mangrove beds and a lagoon that’s home to one of the largest flamingo flocks in the Galápagos. There's also time to snorkel or swim among sea turtles, reef fish, sea lions, and, on a good day, white-tipped reef sharks.
Day 11: Isla Santa Cruz
In the morning, pay a visit to the Darwin Station, home of the Galápagos giant tortoise breeding program as well as a prickly-pear cactus forest and an impressive variety of land birds. After some free time to visit the town of Puerto Ayora and pick up gifts and souvenirs, set off on a drive that highlights the contrasting ecosystems of the island, from the coast through the agricultural zone and up to the humid forest. Along the way, you may see Galápagos Giant Tortoises wandering through the paddocks and just about every land bird that lives in the entire Galápagos.
Day 12: Depart the Galápagos
This morning you'll take a dinghy ride in a turquoise lagoon where we can observe sharks, blue-footed boobies, and different kinds of fish. Then you'll get you to Baltra Airport in time for your flight back out to Guayaquil and on toward home.
More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos Islands? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, explore different ways to spend 12 days in Galápagos, or discover the best time to visit Galápagos.