In The Footsteps of Darwin & Bingham

A journey of a lifetime uncovering the magical natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands and the magnificent treasures of the Inca Empire in Peru. This is a potent combination of nature, history and culture as we experience two lands of epic contrast in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and Hiram Bingham. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Stay in National Geographic Unique Lodges and Relais Chateaux

Experience the best of Galapagos & Peru

Savour exquisite cuisine in Galapagos and Peru

Stay in the 9 Suites only Ocean Spray luxury catamaran in Galapagos

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE GUAYAQUIL

Meet and greet at Guayaquil Jose Joaquin de Olmedo Intl Airport and transfer to the city for an orientation tour. Start with a visit at Parque de Simon Bolivar, known to locals and tourists as the Iguana Park - home to hundreds of these dragon-like creatures where they roam free and are used to humans. Spend some time admiring the beautiful La Rotonda area with the historic statues of Saint Martin and Simon Bolivar before continuing to the colonial neighborhood of Las Penas admiring the magnificent wood architecture where every house is a work of art. Witness the charming and atmospheric scenes of lively restaurants, art galleries and quaint shops showcasing beautiful handmade crafts, Climb the staircase to Cerro Santa Ana which allows you a panoramic view of Guayaquil. We then retreat to the charming Mansion del Rio, built in 1926 and on the banks of the lovely Guayas River

Overnight: Mansion del Rio, Guayaquil

Meals: Lunch & Dinner

DAY 2: GUAYAQUIL / SAILING THE GALAPAGOS

This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to the UNESCO-listed Galapagos Islands, a collection of 19 islands located at the confluence of 3 ocean currents and a melting pot of marine biodiversity. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands and with its isolated location, led to the development and thriving of many unusual animal life such as the land iguana, the Galapagos giant tortoise and many types of finch that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution following his visit in 1835. Arrive at Baltra Island Airport and then transfer to the Ocean Spray, a luxurious mega-catamaran with only 9 suites designed for speed, comfort and an intimate expedition of the Galapagos Islands.

 

We start sailing to the Sombrero Chino, so named after its shape formed by volcanic rock giving it its name, "Chinese Hat"; offering close encounters of the wildlife and well-preserved remnants of volcanic rocks. The islet is home to a colony of sea lions on the white coral sand beach and here you can also see the Galapagos penguins, the iconic Sally Lightfoot urchin crabs and marine iguanas

Overnight: Ocean Spray

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 3: ISABELA ISLAND & FERNANDINA ISLAND

We begin this morning with a visit to Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago. This seahorse-shaped island is also one of the youngest and most volcanically-active. We make a snorkelling stop at the Vicente Roca Point, comprising of two coves, the site is a large bay with spectacular sea life. Keep an eye out for seahorses, sea turtles and the strange yet fascinating Ocean sunfish. Thereafter, continue to Fernandina Island where the wildlife here are endeamic and one of the world's most pristine island ecosystems. The volcano "La Cumbre" dominates the landscape with lava fields reaching the ocean. One of the highlights here is we get a chance to witness the flightless cormorant nesting site

Overnight: Ocean Spray

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 4: TAGUS COVE & URBINA BAY

Our first visit of the day is Tagus Cove, located across from Fernandina Island, near the Bolivar Channel dividing the two islands. This spot is frequented by ships since the 1800s, using the area as an anchorage site. Trails winding by Lake Darwin up to a ridge displaying stunning views. We take a dinghy ride landing on the area for hike to witness the penguins, more flightless cormorants and stunning views of the Darwin volcano and lake. In the afternoon, continue to Urbina Bay, located at the base of Alcedo Volcano on the west coast, between Tagus Cove and Elizabeth Bay. This area experienced a major uplift in 1954, causing the land to rise over 16 feet and the coast expanded half a mile out, leaving marine life stranded on the new shore. We take a dinghy ride for landing and see the amazing Land Iguanas, the largest in the Galapagos as well as the Giant Tortoise. Consider snorkelling to witness turtles, stingrays and other tropical fish. 

Overnight: Ocean Spray

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5: ELIZABETH BAY & MORENO POINT

We stop by Elizabeth Bay for a dinghy ride to the many islets in the area viewing an abundance of penguins, the iconic Blue-footed Boobies on the rocky outcrops. This is also a perfect area for snorkelling and viewing of colorful fish, sea lions and reef sharks. This afternoon, we land at Moreno Point on Isabela Island where we hike along paths of lava rocks leading to tidal pools and mangroves where green sea turtles and white-tip sharks can be spotted. 

Overnight: Ocean Spray

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 6: SANTA CRUZ ISLAND

Arrive at Santa Cruz Island today and we make a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station - home to turtles ranging from 3 inches to 4 feet long. Sub-species of turtles interact with one another and many of the older turtles are accustomed to humans, stretching out their heads for a pet. Thereafter, travel by bus from Puerto Ayora, the highlands of Santa Cruz are a deep green, contrasting beautifully with much of the dry lower lands. The dominant vegetation in the highlands is the Scalesia trees, creating the lush green color. The lava tubes, over half a mile long, are underground and walking through them is a unique and surreal experience. 

Overnight: Ocean Spray

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 7: SOUTH PLAZA ISLAND & SANTA FE ISLAND

In the morning, we head over to South Plaza Island, a small island with steep cliffs formed by rising lava and now covered by Opuntia cacti - home to one of the largest sea lion colonies as well as colorful yellow and red land iguanas. Then continue sailing to Santa Fe Island where along the voyage, you might spot some tunas. We land at Santa Fe for a hike spotting some land iguanas, stunning sceneries. 

Overnight: Ocean Spray

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 8: ESPANOLA ISLAND

Land on Espanola Island today at Suarez Point, a great area for spotting Blue-footed Boobies, albatrosses and Nazca Boobies. A beautiful site on the oceanfront, the large Waved Albatrosses use the cliff as a launching pad. The famous attraction here is the magnificent blowhole, spurting water hight into the air. Thereafter, chance for snorkelling and then a dinghy ride landing on Gardner Bay on the eastern corners of Espanola Island, the breeding site of nearly all of the world's 12,000 pairs of Waved Albatrosses. 

Overnight: Ocean Spray

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 9: SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND / BALTRA ISLAND / QUITO

We land in San Cristobal Island this morning for a visit to the Interpretation Center, opened in 1998 as a phase of the project "Interpretation and Environment Education Project". Visitors enjoy expositions on natural history, human history and conservation. The conservation efforts represent the movement to protect the wildlife and natural environment through means of population and tourist control. Thereafter in the afternoon, continue sailing to Baltra Island for your flight to Quito. 

 

On arrival in Quito, be met and transfer to your hotel for check in. 

Overnight: Casa Gangotena, Quito

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

DAY 10: QUITO

Today, we begin a tour of Quito, capital city of Ecuador and the world's first historical old city centre to be listed into UNESCO. Begin with a visit to the Panecillo Hill for a breathtaking panoramic view of the old city and then descend into the old town centre and the Basilica Church for a brief visit. We then head to San Juan Mirador for another great viewpoint of the colonial center and after that, enjoy a stroll through the old streets seeing sites such as Independence Plaza admiring the Cathedral, Government's Palace and Ronda Street. Make a fascinating visit to the Middle of the World monument where you can stand right in the middle of the imaginery equatorial line straddling the northern and southern hemispheres. Continue our visit to the Inaquito Market where vendors parade exotic fruits, fresh vegetables and produce and some of the most authentic insight into Ecuador's signature dishes and food. 

Overnight: Casa Gangotena, Quito

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

DAY 11: QUITO / LIMA / CUSCO

Today, we transfer to Quito Mariscal Sucre Intl Airport for a flight to Cusco via Lima. On arrival, visit the UNESCO-listed Sacsayhuaman Fortress, an amazing huge stone Inca construction overlooking the city of Cusco and served as an important military function and was the site of a major battle with the Spanish conquistadors in 1536. Thereafter, we head into the city and check in at the beautiful Inkaterra La Casona, a colonial 16th century manor house that has been meticulously restored in a fusion of timeless period setting and modern contemporary comfort. 

Overnight: Inkaterra La Casona, Cusco

Meals: Breakfast 

 

DAY 12: CUSCO

We take things slowly in Cusco (minding the altitude) as we make a visit to the vibrant bazaar and historic centre walking through the main streets with their characteristic Inca walls. Visit the UNESCO-listed Cusco Cathedral in Plaza de Armas admiring the intricate holy Christian artifacts and artwork derived from the "Escuela Cuzquena" (Cusco art school). We then continue to "Qoricancha" Temple of Sun, one of the most worshipped Incan sites where we learn about its historical past of how its walls were once covered in gold and after the invasion of the conquistadors. Next, head to the San Pedro Market where we get a glimpse of daily lives passing by the different stalls showcasing a wide variety of goods, local snacks and street food. 

Overnight: Inkaterra La Casona, Cusco

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 13: CUSCO / MACHU PICCHU

This morning, be transferred to Cusco Poroy Railway Station for one of the most inspiring train journeys in the world on the famed Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu (3.5hrs). Enjoy an intimate ride on the Hiram Bingham, named after the renowned explorer who discovered Machu Picchu; in a 1920s vintage-styled train, enjoy a sumptuous brunch, live and atmospheric Peruvian music as you admire the changing Peruvian landscape unfold before you. Arriving in the afternoon, transfer to the inspiring environments of the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Lodge and in the early evening, have the opportunity to explore Machu Picchu at its best without the crowds. 

Overnight: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo, Machu Picchu

Meals: Breakfast & Brunch

DAY 14: MACHU PICCHU

Rise early today to catch a breathtaking sunrise over Machu Picchu. Enjoy a guided tour of the ruins where you will learn about the Inca's impressive construction feats and day to day life in the ancient city. Thereafter, spend the rest of the day at leisure to fully immerse yourself in the spectacle of this astonishing citadel. 

Overnight: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo, Machu Picchu

Meals: Breakfast

DAY 15: MACHU PICCHU / SACRED VALLEY

Spend the morning at leisure where you may consider a climb to the Sun Gate or the Huayna Picchu. In the afternoon, we hop onboard the Vistadome train to the Sacred Valley where we will visit the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, which displays the best example of city planning by the Incas where its excellent construction with strong walls was both a temple and a fortress. Then, arrive at the Hotel Sol y Luna, a Relais & Chateaux lodge. 

Overnight: Hotel Sol y Luna, Sacred Valley

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 16: SACRED VALLEY / CUSCO

This morning, we visit the impressive Inca archaeological site of Pisac, with terraces built on its hills. To visit the site, you must walk along winding paths along a mountain cliff. Amongst the most important buildings are Pisaq, which is a curved wall; the Intihuatana, a solar clock among a group of temples and the military zone called "Q'allaqasa". Thereafter, worth a visit is the Pisac Market where locals parade their handicrafts and fresh produce and is a colorful spectacle to capture your last moments before transferring to Cusco Alejandro Velasco Astete Intl Airport for your onward journey. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Mansion del Rio, Guayaquil

Mansion del Rio is a boutique hotel in Guayaquil, Ecuador first built in 1926 under the name of Villa San Antonio and its restoration started in 2007. Rooms are decorated with antique European style, enabling guests to experience opulence of the 20th Century with the comforts of the present. 

Ocean Spray is a new mega-catamaran offering the best performance and comfort in Galapagos cruising. The elegant design includes a huge sundeck, jacuzzi and spacious cabins each with private balcony. 

Ocean Spray, Galapagos Voyage

Since its opening in 2011, Casa Gangotena has won many accolades and awards and included in Conde Nast Traveler's Hot List, Travel + Leisure amongst many. The boutique hotel is situated overlooking Plaza San Francisco harboring 31 rooms with eye-catching mix of classic architecture, contemporary interior design and modern comforts. 

Casa Gangotena, Quito

Inkaterra La Casona is an exquisite 16th century manor house that has been carefully restored to retain its historical heritage and offering guests contemporary luxury without sacrificing authenticity. It is rated and featured in Hot Listed Best New Hotel by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine US and UK as well as Travel + Leisure. 

Inkaterra La Casona, Cusco

Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo is an intimate 81-casitas luxury hotel in sprawling Andean style village within the secluded 12 acres of exquisite beauty. Follow stone pathways along the terraced hills, melding with the sacred energy of the mountains. Indulge in its spa services which uses sublime natural essences. A first class restaurant boasts stunning views of the rushing Vilcanota River. 

Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo, Machu Picchu

Hotel Sol y Luna is a charming hotel surrounded by beautiful gardens in Peru's magical Sacred Valley of the Incas. The hotel is located near spectacular Inca ruins and has been built in the local rustic style reflecting the spirit of the Andes. 

Hotel Sol y Luna, Sacred Valley

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