Tailor-Made

Galapagos Wildlife & Machu Picchu Adventure

Embark on a fortnightly odyssey through some off South America’s most iconic natural and cultural sites, from the wildlife-rich Galapagos Islands to the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, as well as the bustling cities of Lima, Quito and Cuzco.

Duration 16 Days
Price From $7,226
When Year-Round
Destination Peru, Ecuador & the Galapagos

Safari Overview

Over the course of 16 days, this trip takes in a tour of the Galapagos Islands – made famous by naturalist Charles Darwin’s research here in the 19th century – as well as a number of sites on the South American mainland. Beginning in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, you’ll experience a fascinating admixture of Indigenous and colonial cultures, before heading to the Galapagos for a week-long exploration of its natural treasures. After spending time with seabirds, shorebirds, tortoises, iguanas, sea lions and more, you’ll return to the mainland to wander the streets of Lima and Cuzco – two Peruvian cities steeped in history – and ascend to the top of a mountain ridge where the ancient Inca constructed the now iconic estate of Machu Picchu, one of the undisputed wonders of the world.

 

What makes this trip extraordinary

 

  • Spend two full days in the magnificent city of Quito, the Ecuadorian capital which was inscribed as one of the original 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Spend seven nights on board the luxurious Natural Paradise, a luxury yacht specifically designed for wildlife exploration in and around the Galapagos Islands.
  • Get up close with the incredible wildlife of the Galapagos, from iguanas and tortoises to penguins and frigatebirds.
  • Snorkel with playful sea lions, sea turtles and other colourful Galapagos marine life.
  • The geology of the Galapagos is like no other; explore lava tunnels, coral beaches, lagoons and more.
  • Enjoy two guided visits to the iconic ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu.
  • Admire the scenery of the Andes from your train’s panoramic windows.

If you have yet to visit South America, this trip serves as the perfect introduction to some of the continent's most exemplary destinations.

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Day by day

Day 1

Arrive Quito

Today your local guide will welcome you to Quito, Ecuador’s incredible colonial capital. As the city is located 2,800 metres above sea level, you may feel light-headed due to the altitude, so you should make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid heavy foods. After being dropped off at your hotel, you can spend your first evening settling in and discovering the history of the local area, while looking forward to your adventures over the coming fortnight.

Overnight: La Casona de la Ronda

Day 2

Quito

After your morning pickup, enjoy an exploratory half-day tour of Quito, which was the first city inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1978. The Old Town unquestionably features some of the finest examples of colonial architecture in Latin America and is a beguiling mix of both Spanish and Indigenous cultures. You will start your tour at a panoramic viewpoint to enjoy a bird's-eye view of the city. Get your bearings by understanding Quito's layout and fully appreciating its breathtaking valley setting. Strolling through the magical Old Town, you'll pause to admire some of the staggeringly well-kept architecture, from the Cathedral to the President's Palace on Plaza Independencia. Many of the colonial buildings were built atop an old Inca settlement and your guide will talk you through the history of the locale, while you weave your way through the streets and plazas observing the locals’ way of life.

Overnight: La Casona de la Ronda B

Day 3

Quito

Today is spent at your leisure. Before you fly to the Galapagos Islands tomorrow, why not enjoy the old colonial streets of Quito in one of the city’s many cafés. You can also book a day trip to the Equator – just a 30-minute drive away – or head off to admire the views of the majestic Cotopaxi volcano. You can make today as relaxed or as action-packed as you please, but whatever you decide, you are sure to be won over by Quito’s stunning charm!

Overnight: La Casona de la Ronda D

Day 4

Quito – Baltra Island

Prepare for an early-morning departure as you are picked up for your flight to the remote Galapagos Islands, located nearly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. After arriving at the airport on Baltra, you'll be met by the staff of the Natural Paradise, and transferred to the dock before checking into your cabin. Designed to carry 16 passengers, 10 crew and a certified naturalist guide, Natural Paradise is an intimate luxury yacht which combines comfort with great manoeuvrability around the Galapagos. You’ll need to attend an introductory briefing and safety drill before tucking into your delicious lunch and making your way to your first landing. Your first stop is Eden Islet, which sits off the western coast of Santa Cruz, offering visitors their first chance of wildlife sightings. Here you can get your first crack at snorkelling, with the possibility of spotting reef sharks and a variety of birdlife.

Overnight: Natural Paradise B, L, D

Day 5

Isabela & Fernandina Islands

After breakfast, we visit Vicente Roca Point on Isabela, which is teeming with wildlife! This large bay is comprised of two separate coves and offers some spectacular snorkelling. Slip on your fins and keep an eye out for seahorses, sea turtles and perhaps even the curious-looking ocean sunfish – also known as the mola mola – which is the largest and heaviest bony fish in the world! After lunch on board in the afternoon, it’s time to head to Fernandina’s Espinosa Point. Here a short 2km hike will take you past sea lions and a colony of marine iguanas basking in the sun. But the true highlight here is the nesting site of the flightless cormorant. Other sightings may include Galapagos penguins and Galapagos hawks. After this eventful day of exciting wildlife sightings, return to the Natural Paradise for a delicious al fresco dinner on the deck.

Overnight: Natural Paradise B, L, D

Day 6

Isabela Island

In the morning, the dinghy will take you to Urbina Bay where you'll get a chance for more incredible snorkelling, with sea turtles, eagle rays, stingrays and an abundance of tropical fish. Take a short 1km hike to observe a colony of the archipelago's largest land iguana, as well as giant tortoises. In the afternoon, we head to the southwest of Elizabeth Bay, at Isabela’s Moreno Point. What makes this spot unique are the craters and tide pools left by past lava flow. These pools offer a stunning window into a vast array of marine life, such as whitetip reef sharks and sea turtles. Birdlife is also present here, so you may catch a glimpse of pink flamingos, white-cheeked pintails and common gallinules.

Overnight: Natural Paradise B, L, D

Day 7

Isabela Island

After breakfast on board, head to the slopes of the Sierra Negra Volcano. The volcano's caldera is immense, and sights from the top offer dramatic views as well as abundant birdlife and dense vegetation. You'll see evidence of volcanic activity, as well as seven different species of finch. Continue on to the Wall of Tears, which offers a glimpse into the human history of the Galapagos. Isabela used to serve as penal colony, and from 1945 to 1959 prisoners were forced to build this wall. The 25-metre-high construction claimed the lives of many workers, and locals claim the cries of lost souls can be heard here at this eerie site. The nearby network of swamps, mangroves and lagoons is also home to an impressive population of wildlife, including common stilts, whimbrels, white-cheeked pintails and gallinules. You'll then visit the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Centre, where more than 300 juvenile tortoises are bred and released into the wild once they have grown strong enough.

Overnight: Natural Paradise B, L, D

Day 8

Chinese Hat & Mosquera Islands

After breakfast, we visit Chinese Hat Island, a volcanic cone created relatively recently (in geological terms). The name Chinese Hat, or ‘Sombrero Chino’ as it is known in Spanish, will make perfect sense as soon as you look at its unusual shape. On the rocky shoreline of nearby Santiago Island, tiny Galapagos penguins are often seen. There is also a small sea lion cove on the north shore, where boats anchor and land at the visitor site. Later this morning there will be an opportunity to snorkel with sea lions and penguins, and to swim in the cove. This afternoon's stop is at Mosquera, located between the islands of Baltra and North Seymour. The rocky reef doesn't allow for a shore landing, but you will be able to observe the wildlife from your panga, a type of inflatable motorised dinghy. One of the largest populations of sea lions in the Galapagos resides here, as well as many shorebirds. If you are lucky, you might also see curious orcas coming in to hunt sea lions! Return to the Natural Paradise in the late afternoon and enjoy a fresh sundowner up on the deck.

Overnight: Natural Paradise B, L, D

Day 9

Floreana Island

There are two visiting sites on Floreana Island. In the morning, you’ll visit Post Office Bay and learn about its history. You will land on the beach and head to a spot where 18th-century whalers placed a wooden barrel to use as an unofficial mailbox. The story says that whalers were homesick here, so to send news to their families they would leave letters on the island waiting for passing ships to collect and deliver them, sometimes as far as Europe. In some cases, it would take years for the letters to arrive! This is how this spot of Floreana Island came to be known as Post Office Bay. Better yet, the custom continues to this day with Galapagos visitors, so don't forget your postcards. In the afternoon, head to Cormorant Point for a short hike to a saltwater lagoon which is home to flamingos. You will also get to swim in the crystal-clear waters of Devil’s Crown. This extinct volcano peeks out of the waters just off Floreana’s coast and offers a magnificent snorkelling experience.

Overnight: Natural Paradise B, L, D

Day 10

Española Island

In the morning we visit Punta Suarez, Española, where we witness the highest rate of endemic species in Galapagos. Sea lions noisily greet us as we land on the beach, while curious Hood mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to December, waved albatross, which breed primarily on Española, perform their wild mating ritual. Colonies of blue-footed boobies will also engage in “sky-pointing” to show off for potential mates, Nazca boobies busily care for their young, and red-billed tropicbirds take shelter under the cliffs. We also find Darwin’s finches, Galapagos hawks, marine iguanas and brightly coloured Sally Lightfoot crabs. After lunch, we walk along a seemingly endless stretch of white sandy beach at Gardner Bay where you’ll find large colonies of sea lions. There is no trail to follow so this is a chance to explore or take a long walk.

Overnight: Natural Paradise B, L, D

Day 11

San Cristobal Island – Quito

Our final visit this morning is to Lobos Island, just off San Cristobal. Lobos is named after the sea lions (sometimes known as sea wolves, or ‘lobos marinos’) that rest and play on its rocky shores. It is also home to blue-footed boobies, great frigatebirds, brown pelicans, lava gulls, common noddies, yellow warblers and ground finches. There is good snorkelling in the clear waters of the channel, and this is one of the best sites at which to swim with sea lions underwater. Please keep in mind that your morning visit will be early and short since we need to be prepared before heading back toward the airport for your returning flight to Ecuador’s mainland. On arrival, you will be transferred back to your Quito hotel, before flying to Peru tomorrow morning.

Day 12

Quito – Lima

Today you’ll be picked up and transferred to the airport, where you’ll fly from Quito to Peru's bustling capital of Lima, the former home of the Spanish Inquisition during colonial times. Upon arrival, you’ll be met and taken to your hotel, which is located near the airport – ideal for your early flight to the Andes tomorrow morning.

Day 13

Lima – Cuzco

After breakfast, you’ll be picked up and transferred to the airport where you’ll fly towards the Andean highlands and the city of Cuzco. Here you will be transferred to your hotel before your guide takes you out to explore this fascinating city, as well as the nearby ruins. Widely considered to be the archaeological capital of South America, Cuzco has many examples of pre-Columbian ruins and colonial architecture. It is an intriguing mix of where the two cultures collide and the ideal place to learn and understand Inca culture. The main sites on this tour include the Plaza de Armas and its main cathedral, and the Inca ruins of Kenko, Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, Sacsayhuaman and Korikancha Temple, each with their own significance and historical context, which your guide will explain.

Overnight: Casa Andina Premium Collection, Cusco B

Day 14

Cuzco – Machu Picchu

Your day will start with a buzz, as you contemplate the thrilling prospect of visiting one of the undisputed wonders of the world, Machu Picchu. You’ll embark on a scenic Vistadome train journey through the picturesque Sacred Valley and beyond, starting in the luscious Andean highlands and descending through the Sacred Valley until you arrive at Aguas Calientes, your gateway to this magnificent ancient Inca cultural site. Lost until its rediscovery by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, this is the most famous of all Inca sites in South America, and justifiably so. It appears to have been carved out of the granite of the mountain upon which the citadel sits. During your tour of the citadel you will learn about the historical context and mystery that shrouds the site. Make sure your camera is charged! Please also carry your passport with you and ensure it has six months’ validity from the date you depart Peru.

Day 15

Machu Picchu – Cuzco

This morning you return by bus to Machu Picchu, for a second tour of the site. After your tour, you will have some free time for lunch and to continue exploring. Later this afternoon it will be time to board the train back to Ollantaytambo before being transferred back to Cuzco. Once again, please ensure you are carrying your valid passport with you today.

Overnight: Casa Andina Premium Collection, Cusco B

Day 16

Cuzco – Lima – Depart

This morning will be yours to spend at leisure in Cuzco, before transferring to the airport for your flight to Lima. You’ll arrive in time to connect with your onward flight home.

Trip Details

About Tailor-made Safaris

A tailor-made safari is one designed according to your specific requirements, including budget, dates, personal interests, the number of people travelling, and more. This itinerary is just an example and can be refined and altered to make it perfect for you.

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