Peru & Ecuador
En route through Ecuador's wonderful world of nature, you will be able to follow the courses of rivers broad and narrow; rest along the shores of pristine lakes; explore mysterious caves and marvel at unique plant and animal species. The traveler can move in a matter of hours from jungle rainforest to foothills and the high slopes of the Andes, and then down to the Pacific coast while observing a breathtaking panorama of scenery and nature.
From the highlands to sea level, its people, whose cultural origins and traditions continue to be formed by their geographic environment, echo Ecuador’s fascinating diversity.
The Galapagos Archipelago is situated 800 kilometers west of the Ecuadorian coast and lie directly on the equator. The archipelago encompasses over 50 islands of volcanic origin that are spread out over an area of about 4,500 square kilometers. The volcanic Galapagos platform originated probably not more than 15 million years ago and the oldest island not more than 2.4 million years ago. Volcanic eruptions still occur in the islands. Isla Fernandina and the Sierra Negra volcano on Isla Isabela have erupted within the past 10 years. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835 and made them famous in Origin of Species.
"Here, both in space and time, we seem to be brought near to the first appearance of new beings on this earth." A scientific collection expedition of The California Academy of Sciences in 1906 also helped bring the Galapagos to attention of scientists and the public. The Galapagos National Park was established in 1959 to protect the unique flora and fauna of the islands. That same year the Charles Darwin Research Station was founded in Academy Bay on Isla Santa Cruz. In 1979, the Galapagos Islands were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Day 01: Toronto – Quito, Ecuador
Depart Toronto for Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Upon arrival, transfer from the airport to the hotel. Quito is located at 2.800 meters above sea level and fits snugly in an elongated valley on the foothills of the Pichincha Volcano. Because of the magnificent blend of Spanish, Flemish, Moorish and pre-Columbian architecture, its churches, monasteries, narrow streets, rock and adobe buildings and Spanish patios, it has been declared by UNESCO “Patrimony of Mankind” and is known as the “Convent of America”. Overnight at Posada del Inca Hotel or similar.
Day 02: Quito (B/L/D)
Breakfast at the hotel.
This morning, head north across the equator to the famous indigenous market town of Otavalo. The Otavaleños have become the most prosperous and possibly the most famous indigenous group in Latin America. In part because of their economic success, the Otavaleños have managed to hold on to centuries-old traditions without adopting a 'quick get dressed, here come the tourists' cultural identity. They are proud people and it shows. Otavaleños are still easily identified by their distinctive dress: women wear intricately embroidered blouses and a wealth of beaded necklaces, while men have long, braided hair and wear calf-length white trousers, ponchos and sandals. Over 80% of the Otavaleños are involved in the textile industry. Products from Otavalo are found in markets around the world, from neighbouring countries such as Venezuela and Colombia to the United States, Europe, and even Asia. The market is centered on 'Poncho Plaza'. All day long, the whir of cotton candy machines, Andean pipe music, and Quechua, the native tongue derived from the Incas, drift across the square. A blinding maze of colored textiles spills from the square out across town. As you stroll through the streets you'll find everything from jumpers to armadillo shell guitars, wall hangings to ceramic fried eggs. Don't restrict yourself to Poncho Plaza, as you'll probably get better bargains away from the main square (the more items you buy, the lower the prices you can haggle), and the goods on display start to diversify as the market weaves its way through the side streets. After you have shopped till you have dropped or gorged yourself on one of the home made pies from the locally known “Pie Shop” we will venture into the surrounding rural country side and visit a few of the many villages that dot the picturesque area. As we weave our way through the surrounding mountains and volcanoes that make Ecuador distinct and famous, you will get an insight into how the new modern commercial practices of the local peoples sit side by side with the ancient and somewhat unchanged rural practices. After a full day, return to Quito for a welcome meal and overnight.
Day 03: Quito (B)
Entire day at leisure.
Day 04: Quito – Galápagos (B/L/D)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the start of your Galapagos Adventure. On arrival by air into Puerto Baquerizo Moreno Airport, we will go through the arrival formalities and pay the National Park fee of $100USD (not included in the trip price). From here we will be transported to the Galapagos Legend. Enjoy the Galapagos Islands paradise navigating on board a 90 passenger First Superior Class cruise vessel -totally converted in 2001. Guests can enjoy interiors with marine details and original pieces of art that talk about the nature of the Islands. You can also enjoy the added comfort of extra space in our fully carpeted luxurious suites and superior cabins, all with ocean views, wardrobes, vanity dresser, private facilities, hair dryer, safe deposit boxes and special amenities.
After transferring to the ship, move into Ochoa Beach on San Cristobal Island. Dinner and overnight on board ship.
Day 05: Española Island: Punta Suarez – Santa Cruz Island (B/L/D)
Disembark at Punta Suarez. Witness the highest rate of "endemism" in the Galapagos. Sea lions noisily greet us as we land on their beach. Curious mockingbirds peck at our shoelaces. From April to November waved albatross perform their wild mating rituals only on Espanola. Colonies of blue-footed boobies engage in "sky-pointing" while masked boobies busily care for their young. Stunning swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropic birds take shelter under the cliffs. Other species endemic to Galapagos and found on Espanola include Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Doves and Galapagos Hawks. Observe a unique species of marine iguana identified with traces of red and green colorings. Colourful light foot crabs crawl along the shoreline near to the famous "blow hole", where water shoots into the air at almost 23 m (75 ft.).
PM: Charles Darwin Station and Puerto Ayora visit or High Lands, Lava Tunnels and Wild Gian Tortoises, Santa Cruz Island.Santa Cruz Island: Watch the scenery change as we wind our way through all seven vegetation zones found in Galapagos. From June to January you can find giant tortoises on a private farm in the highlands. We also visit Los Gemelos "The Twins", a pair of large pit craters where we find the bright red male vermilion flycatcher. Afterwards, we head to "the tunnels", the largest lava tubes found in Galapagos. At a highland ranch, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. Scientists from all over the globe work at the station and conduct biological research from anatomy to zoology. Get your picture taken with the giant tortoises. Observe year-old tortoises and learn about the captive-breeding program. Next, stroll through the town of Puerto Ayora (population: 10,000) –the largest town in the Galapagos. Buy souvenirs, mail postcards and absorb local charm in the social heart of the Islands.
Return to the ship for dinner and overnight.
Day 06: Genovesa Island: Darwin Bay – El Barranco (B/L/D)Tower (Genovesa) Island is one of the most spectacular islands in Galapagos. After a wet landing on Darwin Bay’s coral beach, wind your way past tide pools where swallow-tailed and lava gulls gather. Enter a forest of mangroves where colonies of great frigate birds nest. The males inflate their red-throated pouches to attract females that fly overhead. Passengers never forget the beaches on this island. Take a "panga" or dinghy ride along the jagged shoreline. See the beautiful red-billed tropic bird. At Prince Philip’s Steps, find storm petrels and the elusive short-eared owl, and watch the famous red-footed boobies nesting in palo santo trees.
Overnight on board ship.
Day 07: Interpretation Center – San Cristobal Island – Quito (B)
San Cristóbal Island. Disembarkation (dry landing at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno). Visit the Interpretation Centre providing travellers an opportunity to learn about the natural and human history of the islands through an hour-long interactive presentation. There is some time to shop in town. The modern San Cristóbal Interpretation Center in the north of the island was donated by the Spanish Government in 1998. This state of the art facility is truly an extraordinary contribution to the information and education of both: the island community and the traveller. This afternoon, transport to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno Airport to take the return air flight to Quito.
On our arrival into Quito you have the remainder of the afternoon to explore or simply relax in the gardens of the hotel.
Overnight in Quito.
Day 08: Quito – Lima (B/L)
Today, a morning tour of Quito, introduces you to this culturally unique city. As the excursion leads you through the interesting streets of Quito, the local culture welcomes you with beauty and intrigue. See the stone-carved façade of Ecuador’s House of Congress, visit the Monastery of La Compañia, the Church of San Francisco (inside), Independence Square with the Government Palace and the Cathedral (outside). Your guide will take you on a 1 hour walk through the culturally diverse history of Quito. The rest of the tour will be a panoramic drive with stops at the Balcony of Guapulo and the hill of Panecillo for photographs. The tour goes on to the Equatorial Line Monument called “Middle of the World”. Here you get a truly rare experience to stand in both, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres simultaneously. The Equatorial Monument, located as focal point of the park, marks the spot where an 18th century French scientific expedition established the exact position of the Equator. The area has been built as a typical colonial town, with restaurants, gift shops and Post Office with philatelic sales. Visit the monument and the Ethnographical Museum, which shows the history of the Indian cultures of Ecuador. After the completion of the tour, transfer to the airport for your early evening flight to Lima Peru. On arrival into Lima, you are transferred to the hotel. The rest of the evening is free to explore parts of Lima.
Day 09: Lima – Cuzco (B/D)
After an early breakfast we transfer to the airport for our quick flight up and over the Andes and into Cuzco. Cuzco is a city where past and present collides in an uneasy mix. This mythical capital of the Inca Empire preserves its wall and battlements of stone, which evoke the greatness of the sons of the sun. Cuzco is a city plentiful of historical monuments and relics and of myths and legends. Visiting Cuzco is an unforgettable experience that permits us to unravel some of the mysteries of the Incas, because Cuzco was the centre of the Andean world. After walking through Plaza de Armas, the famous central square of Cuzco and absorbing the Andean air we will take an afternoon tour of the city. Part of this tour will be a visit to a local orphanage where you can see first hand the other side of the tourist centre of Cuzco. Today, Cuzco, the archeological capital of Peru and the Americas is a city open to the world, welcoming its visitors who marvel at its unusual aspect, which integrates, in the same urban environment and with unique harmony pre-Colombian monuments such as the Korikancha (Temple of the Sun), the Ajlla Wasi, the Amaru Cancha (fence of the serpent), the Kiswar Kancha, etc. with gems of the "mestizaje" (mix of the Spanish and the native) such as the Cathedral, the Church and Convent of La Merced and the Temple of San Blas. Cuzco is surrounded by impressive archeological remains such as the citadel of Machu Picchu, the Fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the Ollantaytambo compound and picturesque towns such as Pisaq, Calca and Yucay, which still preserve the traditions of their ancestors.
Dinner and overnight in Cuzco.
Day 10: Ollantaytambo (B)
Today we venture down the famous Sacred Valley to the equally famous Pisaq town and ruins. This picturesque town with a blend of Mestizo and colonial architecture belong to the province of Calca at the entrance to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 32Km down a modern highway from the city of Cuzco. Founded during the reign of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, the town has both Western and Native features that make it an original and typical town of the region. Pisaq arts and crafts market: Here merchants offer for sale all sorts of handicrafts, the most important of which are the textiles and ceramic goods such as ceremonial goblets called "Q'eros", plates, ashtrays, necklace and replicas of pre-Hispanic pottery. There are also ponchos, sweaters and bags. The handicrafts fairs are held every Thursday and Sunday in the main square of Pisaq, as well as the Indian market, which is visited by inhabitants from the various native communities to stock up on supplies or sell their products. On Sundays, there is also the traditional Mass held in Quechua, which is attended by the Varayoc or village leaders from the surrounding communities. Pisaq Archaeological Complex: In the upper part there are the remains of this pre-Columbian settlement located a few kilometers from the Mestizo town. It takes up an entire mountain made up of different neighborhood or squares, the main one being Intiwatana, which is admired for the architectural skill with which its constructions were built. At the same time, the Pre-Hispanic cemetery is also of great interest as it is the largest found in this part of the continent. The complex is also famous for the colossal terraces that circle the mountains and the fabulous watch towers which were used as observation points as well as for control and military defense.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas, is actually the Vilcanota/Urubamba River Valley. It is located about 10 miles north of Cuzco, and extends northwest through Pisaq and Ollantaytambo. This entire region, highlighted by Cuzco, was the heart of the Inca civilization from the 14th to the 15th centuries. In reflection, there are numerous impressive ruins. Many of the villagers in this valley today live life much the same as they did prior to the Spanish Conquest in 1532. Continue further down the valley to Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is an attractive little town located at the western end of the Sacred Valley (about two and a half hours by bus from Cuzco). The town has been built on top of original Inca foundations and is the best surviving example of Inca town planning. The town is divided in canchas (blocks) which are almost entirely intact. Each cancha has only one entrance (usually a huge stone doorway) which leads into a central courtyard. The houses surround the courtyard.
Day 11: Machu Picchu (B)
Located in the department of Cuzco, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is Peru's most popular trekking route and possibly one of the most spectacular walks in the Americas. It forms part of more than 23,000 km of roads built by the Incas across South America. Each year, some 25,000 hikers from all over the world walk the 43 km stone-paved trail, built by the Incas to get to the impregnable citadel of Machu Picchu, deep in the Cuzco cloud forest. Today we depart early and board one of the most famous train rides in the world. That of Cuzco to Machu Picchu! Our choice of coach is the Vista Dome, which has bubble canopies over head allowing you to take in the truly magnificent and panoramic views as you travel down the Urubamba Valley. Dropping ever so slightly in altitude you wind you way along side the Urubamba River passing local villages, watching farmers till the mountainous fields while appreciating and knowing why the Incas worshipped the mountains (Apu) with so much reverence. On arrival into Machu Picchu station we take a short bus ride to the ruins themselves where your guide will take you on a fascinating account of the Incas and the conquest. After a day of amazing sites and new knowledge we retire to an oasis in the valley – Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. A quiet dinner in the true heart of the Andes and the Inca Empire is a must as you sit and listen to the silence of the valley and its ancient past.
Day 12: Machu Picchu – Ollantaytambo (B)
We rise early and venture back into Machu Picchu and a walk to the sun gate where you can experience the true mystical power of the ruins. This morning is a chance for you to take away from the ruins what you feel, as you are free to explore and even attempt Wayna Picchu the small mountain that sits behind the ruins themselves. We take the early afternoon train back to Ollyantytambo where we have the opportunity to further explore these famous set of Inca ruins or simply relax and take advantage of the many photo opportunities.
Overnight in Ollantaytambo.
Day 13: Ollantaytambo – Cuzco (B)
We return to Cusco in the early afternoon for some last minute shopping before meeting at a local restaurant to sample the traditional meal of Cuyi (Guinea Pig)...have no fear, there will be other offerings on the menu.
Overnight in Cuzco.
Day 14: Cuzco – Lima – Toronto (B/D)
Depart early for your return flight to Lima. On arrival, enjoy a city tour before being dropped off at a convent in the old part of town. The convent offers a beautiful dinner and at 7:00pm the nuns, who are also your servers, will sing Ava Maria. This is your “last supper” together before being transported to the airport.
The city tour includes a visit to the ruins of Pachacamac. Located at 19.26 miles (31 km) S of Lima, in the valley of Lurín. Pre-Inca and Inca archaeological construction. Main pre-Inca adoration and ceremonial centre of the inhabitants' of the valley of Rímac in which the God Pachacamac was venerated. The investigations presume that this place was inhabited since the year 200 up to 1533. From the pre-Inca constructions stand out the "Templo Pintado" (coloured temple) and the "Templo Viejo" (old temple), built with small adobes and pyramids with ramps. After the Inca conquest, they built next to them the "Templo del Inti" (Temple of sun) and an "acllahuasi" (house prepared for the chosen girls). The Temple of Inti has a flight of stairs made of stones and passages that go along the edge of the main structure, built with adobes. Pachacámac was the God creator of life and of the universe and it was not personified. The state of conservation of this location and its restoration offer a great show of cultural historical interest. Continue to the archeological Museum Larco Herrera, founded in 1926, on an old mansion built in 1707. This museum harbours the biggest private collection of pre-columbine art that exists in the world. Exhibition of archaeological pieces of ceramic, gold, stone, wood and textile of pre-Hispanic cultures, especially the Peruvian northern cultures. Outstanding the "Sala de Arte Textil" (Textile Art room), the "Gran Sala de la Cultura" (Great Room of the Culture), and the "Bóveda Sala de Oro" (vault Gold Room). It also exhibits the only collection of world of "Erotic Huacos".History library.
Transfer to the airport for your flight back to Canada.
Italia!Dawn broke early, banishing night’s darkness with a gentle nudge. Kissed the glistening snow-capped peaks of the majestic Swiss Alps; then beamed her golden smile far and wide to light the morning sky. Our Alitalia jet had just crossed the Italian border where the scenery was so breathtaking...