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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled
Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

2017 Machu Picchu & the Galápagos

Lima • Cuzco • Machu Picchu • Galápagos • Quito

88% Traveler Excellence Rating Read reviews

16 Days from only $5995 including international airfare

Courtesy Dariusz Sepiolo
Galapagos

Witness the drama and beauty of animal life in the Galápagos.

Courtesy David Karg
Peruventure

Tap into the vibrant pulse of the Peruvian landscape and people in this moving portrait of daily life.

Courtesy BBC.com Travel
My City: Bogota

Catch a glimpse of contemporary Bogota, where centuries-old tradition meets modern flair.

Courtesy of Dylan Thuras
A Secret Waterfall: Gocta

Meet the locals who preserve the land around Peru’s Gocta waterfall, but won’t step foot on it.

Courtesy of David Conover & Paul Villanova
Travelogue: Ecuador 1949

In 1949, amateur filmmaker Watson Kintner traveled to Ecuador and captured raw footage of Quito. See the timeless scenes that endure even today, and notice the hints of global culture that were arriving in Ecuador even then.

FROM
$5995
16 DAYS
$375/DAY
including international airfare
15 DAYS FROM $5095 Small Ship Adventure Only
Extend Your Trip
 

Most referred: Our travelers
recommend this trip to friends
Read Traveler Reviews

 

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Start your adventure off in
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Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5

Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5

Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

Itinerary Overview

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel to Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands with O.A.T. to discover two of Latin America’s most important destinations. First, follow in the footsteps of the ancients as you walk among the impressive ruins of the “Lost City of the Incas" and experience Peruvian culture in the Andean landscape of the Sacred Valley. Then continue to Ecuador's Galápagos Islands, where you may swim in unspoiled coves with rollicking sea lions as your playmates. You'll also find a living laboratory of Darwin’s theory of evolution in these "Enchanted Isles."

From the city to the countryside, we'll delve into the cultural legacies of Peru and Ecuador. We stay overnight near Machu Picchu to give us ample time to explore the site. And in the Galápagos, we slip into secluded coves aboard our exclusively chartered small ship to land on pristine shores. Join us for a journey to South America as diverse as it is magnificent!

Make It Your Adventure

Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.

  • O.A.T’s team of Adventure Specialists makes every effort to provide you with non-stop flights and acceptable connection times to and from your destination. You also have several other options for personalizing your air itinerary, which include:

    • Choose your departure city and airline: We list the most popular gateway cities on our website, but not all of them. If you don’t see yours listed, or there’s one that better suits your needs, let us know. You can also tell us if you have an airline preference and we will try to accommodation your request.
    • Depart from one city and return from another: Just because your flight leaves from one city doesn’t mean you have to return there. Maybe you flew out of Boston and wish to visit friends in Los Angeles after your trip is over. Tell us where you want to go and we’ll do our best to get you there.
    • Fly the way you want to: We’ll gladly arrange a flight upgrade to business or premium economy class if it’s available. And when you fly economy class, we’ll do our best to see that you get your choice of seating preference or even add a special meal request if you have dietary restrictions or needs.
  • You can extend your time abroad and "break away" anywhere you'd like to do more exploring on your own. Stay for a day, a week, or even a month in a favorite locale. Or consider arriving a few days early in Lima for a fresh start or spending more time at the end of our adventure in Quito. You can also stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your adventure to break up a lengthy flight. Our Adventure Specialists can provide you with information on the accommodations we will use at the beginning of your trip so that you can make your own arrangements. That way, you'll know that you will be exactly where you need to be to meet your group.

  • Many of our travelers choose to take another trip directly after their first one ends. Think about it: If you’re already overseas, why not see more of the region and avoid the expense and length of another international flight? Many of our travelers have taken two or three consecutive trips before returning home. One of the most common adventures combined with Machu Picchu & the Galápagos is Amazon River Cruise & Rain Forest. And now you’ll save an additional $250-$350 per person when you reserve two trips right after one another.

  • Many O.A.T. travelers simply don’t want their trips to end. With an array of pre- and post-trip extensions to choose from, you have the chance to experience more of the places you’ve traveled so far to see, like Many O.A.T. travelers simply don’t want their trips to end. With an array of pre- and post-trip extensions to choose from, you have the chance to experience more of the places you’ve traveled so far to see, including The Amazon Rain Forest of PeruBolivia: La Paz & Lake TiticacaEcuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train, and Colombia: Villa de Leyva & Bogotá. Plus, you lower your average per-day costs because you’re taking advantage of your already included international airfare.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 6 nights from only $1145

    Experience the beauty and natural diversity of the tropical rain forest up close on this extension. In the Peruvian Amazon, with an experienced naturalist guide to reveal the jungle's secrets, you'll discover tropical birds winging through the forest canopy, bromeliads blooming on ancient trees, and Yagua villagers gliding down the river in canoes.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 5 nights from only $1595

    From the mystical shores of Lake Titicaca to the colorful blend of modern and ancient cultures in La Paz, countless discoveries await you in Bolivia. Journey here to explore majestic Andean landscapes, visit indigenous villages, and discover ancient ruins that pre-date the Inca Empire by thousands of years.

    View Extension Itinerary
Lima Quito Expand All
  • Depart the U.S. today on an international flight to Lima, Peru, arriving late in the evening or early morning. An O.A.T. representative will greet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel. 

  • After breakfast, you'll get acquainted with our Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those who took the optional pre-trip extensions to The Amazon Rain Forest of Peru or Bolivia: La Paz & Lake Titicaca, during our Welcome Briefing.

    After a brief orientation walk, we'll travel by bus to the Monastery of San Francisco. This yellow domed church—one of the best preserved colonial churches in the city—sits atop a labyrinth of bone-lined catacombs. Venture into Lima's underbelly and discover a macabre side of the city's history. 

    Next, we set out to explore Lima's most interesting colonial sites. A local guide will join us as we explore the city's streets and architecture—evidence of the city's Spanish heritage—from its main square, Jiron de la Union, to the Lima Cathedral. During our guided walk, you'll have the opportunity to interact with locals and learn more about Peru's controversial child labor practices.

    This evening, continue exploring Lima with dinner on your own. Perhaps you will try Lima's most famous dish, ceviche, raw fish "cooked" in citrus juices. Your Trip Leader will be happy to provide dining suggestions.

  • The Knitters

    See how entrepreneurial Peruvian women are turning their traditional craft into a business venture.

    This morning, we fly to Cuzco, the center of the Incan world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We then drive to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Along the way, we'll enjoy a boxed lunch and stop to chat with local women who sell the region's famed coca leaves. Learn about the coca leaf's importance in Andean culture and have the chance to try the leaves for yourself.

    Next we'll visit the mountain weaving village of Chinchero, which—at an elevation of 12,500 feet—is a literal high point of our exploration of the Sacred Valley, and provides excellent views of the surrounding mountains. Chinchero was the site of a 16th-century Inca emperor's estate, as well as a resting place on the Inca Royal Road. We'll explore the town and observe a demonstration of traditional textile-making, seeing how Peruvian weavers create complex patterns in colorful cloth as their ancestors have for centuries.

    Afterwards, we check in to our hotel in the Sacred Valley, which is at a lower elevation than Cuzco; staying here helps us acclimatize to the altitude. This evening we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

  • A Day in the Life

    Interact with students in Peru's Urubamba community and observe artisans at work at a local cooperative.

    This morning, we'll share A Day in the Life of the Urubamba community in the Sacred Valley. We'll meet students at a local school (when in session) and spend time with their teachers. Donations from Grand Circle Foundation—part of the World Classroom initiative—have helped pay for classroom construction at the school.

    Then we'll visit Urubamba's market and pick up ingredients for the Home-Hosted Lunch we'll share as guests of a local family. Enjoy a typical Andean meal, explore the family's property, and see what life is like in the Sacred Valley. This afternoon, you may choose to visit the Seminario Pottery Workshop to see how local handcrafts are made. Then, sample locally brewed corn beer before returning to our hotel for dinner.

  • After breakfast this morning, we visit the massive Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo. This is one of the few places where the Spanish lost a battle during the conquest of Peru. In 1536, the army of Manco Inca held off a Spanish invasion company led by Hernando Pizarro. We can climb up the huge terraces guarding the ancient hilltop temple area.

    From Ollantaytambo we'll board the train to Machu Picchu. The train ride takes a bit less than two hours and offers spectacular views into the gorge of the Urubamba River. We'll have a boxed lunch while aboard.

    Most travelers visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, which makes for a hectic pace and only limited time at this unique archaeological wonder. We can take a closer look, and have a more relaxed pace, during our overnight visit to Machu Picchu. The train brings us to the town of Aguas Calientes, from which we then drive to the ruins. This drive takes about a half an hour, as we must follow a zigzag route up a steep hill. (The return trip by bus takes the same amount of time; or if you prefer, you can walk downhill and along the valley floor for about two hours.) When the day-trippers leave the ruins to catch the last train of the day, we remain longer and enjoy an uncrowded experience.

    Our expert O.A.T. Trip Leader gives us a complete and compelling look at the fabled “Lost City of the Incas,” which was discovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist (and later, U.S. Senator) Hiram Bingham. Subsequent discoveries (such as Bingham's later unearthing of the Inca Trail and the 1941 discovery of nearby Huayna Picchu) suggest that Machu Picchu was not simply a “lost city” but part of a whole “lost region.” More than 172 tombs have been excavated, and in 2002 Peruvian archaeologists uncovered the first complete burial site, with a woman's skeleton, bronze pins, and a clay pot. Here we can explore sites like the Ritual Baths, the Palace of the Princess, the Main Fountain, and the Temple of the Sun, quietly contemplating the achievements of this most fascinating and mysterious civilization. We then return to the town of Aguas Calientes. Dinner is included this evening.

  • We rise early to travel to Machu Picchu again after breakfast, arriving before the crowds. You can remain at the hotel if you wish, but most travelers appreciate this chance to see the ruins in a different light.

    You can wander the sprawling ruins on your own, or, depending on which trails are open, choose between two hikes. One brings you to the Inca Bridge, where a trail built with impressive Inca engineering crosses a cliff face. In one spot, the Incas left a deep gap, which they bridged with logs that could be removed to render the trail impassable to enemies. The second option is an ambitious hike to the Sun Gate at the Machu Picchu end of the Inca Trail, which offers a fine view over the ruins.


    We descend to the valley below to have lunch. Then, in the afternoon, we return by train through the spectacular Urubamba Gorge. Back at Ollantaytambo, we get off the train and take a bus to Cuzco, making stops at points of interest along the way. When we arrive in Cuzco, we check into our hotel, where we'll have dinner this evening.

  • After breakfast, we explore Cuzco, starting with a walk to the Plaza de Armas. We'll also discover the Qoricancha Sun Temple, the city's most important ceremonial structure during the Incan era. Historical records of the time note that its walls were once covered with 700 sheets of gold studded with emeralds and turquoise; when the sunlight streamed through the windows, the reflection off the precious metals was blinding.

    In the afternoon, join our optional tour to Tipon, a location south of Cuzco with well-preserved ancient agricultural terraces and an Incan irrigation system whose canals still carry water. These provide impressive evidence of Incan ingenuity and engineering skills. This optional tour includes lunch at local restaurant. Or, remain in Cuzco to make your own discoveries, with lunch on your own.

    In the late afternoon, we return to our hotel. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • We begin this morning's explorations at the massive Sacsayhuaman fortress set on a hilltop overlooking Cuzco. Its double-zigzag wall is said to symbolize a puma's teeth, and at one time, there were three immense towers and a labyrinth of rooms large enough to garrison 5,000 Inca soldiers.

    Today, the interior buildings are gone, having been dismantled by the Spaniards for their stone, but the imposing outer walls remain. Recent excavations have revealed this ancient stone complex to be much larger than previously thought. As we walk through, consider first that Inca workers built its walls entirely by hand, securely fitting boulders weighing as much as 125 tons without a drop of mortar. Next we visit the sacred ceremonial center of Kenko. At each site, we have plenty of time to walk around and take photographs.

    Then, we'll witness a traditional healing ceremony conducted by a curandero, an Andean medicine man. This ancient healing tradition has deep roots in Incan culture and is not simply a cure for illnesses, but also a prayer for good health and well-being with an offering to Pachamama, a deity associated with fertility and Mother Earth. A curandero will often employ herbs and healing plants, and for some conditions, he may conduct a religious ritual with sacred objects and shamanic chanting (called icaros). Thought to possess a gift from God to heal the sick, the curandero also sees himself as a front-line soldier in the battle between good and evil on Earth—particularly when patients believe their physical ailments have supernatural causes.

    Afterwards, we arrive back at the hotel and rest of your afternoon is free, with lunch being on your own in Cuzco. We'll gather at a local restaurant for our last dinner in Peru this evening.

  • After an early breakfast at our Cuzco hotel, we bid farewell to our Peruvian Trip Leader and depart for our flight to Lima. From Lima we fly to Quito, Ecuador, arriving in the afternoon.

    In Quito, we will be met by our Ecuadoran Trip Leader. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is a city whose colonial splendor has earned it designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the older part of town, hundreds of colonial-era structures remain to this day, the largest being the 16th-century Monastery of San Francisco.

    This evening, we’ll enjoy our first dinner in Ecuador at a local restaurant.

  • After breakfast this morning, we begin the day's discoveries at the Iñaquito market, a busy local market brimming with exotic fruits and colorful spices. We'll have the chance to interact with locals during our market visit—and perhaps even try the famously hot Aji pepper.

    Next, we'll depart for downtown Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We enjoy a walking tour of Quito's colonial nucleus: Independence Plaza (Plaza de La Independenzia), featuring a winged statue representing freedom. We'll see the Presidential Palace, with its stalwart guards in traditional uniforms keeping watch. Then we finish at San Francisco Square to see its church and mingle with local people in its plaza.

    Following lunch at a local restaurant, we continue exploring Quito with a stroll on La Ronda, a historic narrow lane where you can sample traditional candies, see work by local artists, and hear musicians. Then we return to our hotel, stopping along the way to witness La Basilica, with its impressive 377-foot Condor Tower—notice how the gargoyles represent indigenous animals.

    The rest of the afternoon is free for making your own discoveries in Quito. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • After breakfast, we have a very early morning flight from Quito via Guayaquil to the Galápagos—an enchanted Pacific archipelago that straddles the equator some 600 miles west of Ecuador's coast, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Upon landing in mid-morning, we make a short bus transfer to the dock, where we board our boat. You can stow your gear in your cabin and orient yourself on deck. We’ll stay onboard in comfortable cabins for the next four nights, roaming the archipelago with the services of our boat crew and our expert Trip Leader, who is a certified Galápagos naturalist.

    Please note: The following description is meant only as a general guide to the cruise itinerary that you are likely to follow. The selection and order of islands visited cannot be guaranteed due to the Galápagos' frequently variable weather, marine, and environmental conditions, and changes in airline schedules between the mainland and the Galápagos. This is a carefully managed park with fragile ecosystems. To safeguard them (and to ensure your own comfort), ship and park authorities have the prerogative to revise our course at a moment's notice. Typically you’ll have two shore excursions a day (one in the early morning and one in the afternoon) lasting about 1.5-2 hours each. Depending on the island, there may be a specific timeframe allotted for our visit. Your Trip Leader will keep you informed of the schedule on a daily basis.

    During the summer and fall, the Humboldt Current moves through the Galápagos Islands, cooling sea and land temperatures, and creating a mist that covers the islands—locally known as garua (soft rain)—during the day. The Humboldt Current is strongest from July to October, delivering the choppy water that surrounds the islands.

  • Today we continue our exploration of the Galápagos. Our Trip Leader will give us an orientation briefing, including conservation techniques suggested by the Galápagos National Park.

    He or she is a graduate of the elite certification program conducted at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz by the Galápagos National Park Service. We file our Galápagos cruising itinerary with the conservation authorities of the Galápagos National Park. Park biologists periodically review it, and they have the authority to make changes to our plan to minimize our impact on the ecosystems of the islands. Our Trip Leader also provides the park with information on species behavior, and we are proud to work in cooperation with Park officials in preserving the priceless natural wonders of the Galápagos.

    During our cruise, we'll see unique wildlife and striking geological formations. We'll make numerous landings by small motor dinghies that involve wading ashore. Once on land, we'll walk with our Trip Leader along trails that bring us close to the many indigenous species. Wildlife sightings are unpredictable, but you may see species including land and marine iguanas, and exotic birds such as blue-footed and masked boobies. When we are not viewing wildlife on shore, we can swim, sunbathe, and perhaps go snorkeling among sea lions and vividly colorful tropical fish. We'll see remote white-sand beaches, sparkling clear water, and volcanic landscapes of black and red rock.

  • Here is a preview of the islands you may call on during your Galápagos cruise. The islands visited depend on your ship's itinerary.

    Santiago (James) Tidal pools reveal a profusion of octopi, starfishes, and other undersea life. Rare fur sea lions that were once on the verge of extinction cavort nearby, and we often spot oyster-catchers, blue herons, and yellow-crowned night herons.

    Bartolome One of the youngest islands, Bartolome displays a fantastic landscape of lava formations—including its famous signature, Pinnacle Rock. Penguins are often spotted on the shore.

    Mosquera Beach Mosquera Beach is a very small, white-sand islet, located between Baltra and Seymour. It is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and sea lions often visit.

    Rabida (Jervis) A reddish beach and steep volcanic slopes give this island a distinctive look.

    Santa Cruz (Indifatigable) At the Charles Darwin Research Station, learn about pioneering ecological studies and the giant Galápagos tortoise-breeding program.

    Floreana (Charles) Like the other islands, Floreana has its coterie of remarkable creatures. But it’s the human stories that will engage you here as your guide tells of the first inhabitant, a shipwrecked Irishman, and the quirky “post office” in a barrel, where sailors since 1793 have been leaving letters for delivery. This “post office” still operates today.

    Santa Fe (Barrington) Hike through a forest of opuntia cactus where land iguana doze, and then snorkel in clear water with coral reefs, manta rays, sea turtles, and colorful schools of fish.

    North Seymour Here you’ll find the largest colony of frigatebirds in the Galápagos and a major nesting site for the blue-footed booby, depending on the season. On the beach, sea lions ride the waves.

    San Cristobal (Chatham) The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on this island is the sleepy capital of the Galápagos province. Nearby is Lobos Island, home to pelicans, frigatebirds, and a sea lion colony.

    Española (Hood Island) Sea lions, marine iguanas, and many kinds of birds are found here, including Darwin’s finches, Hood mockingbirds, and blue-footed and masked boobies. Along the southern shore, spectacular cliffs rise up from the sea. From April to November, the remarkable waved albatross, which can spend years at sea without touching land, can be seen performing their unique, perfectly choreographed mating ritual.

  • We continue our exploration of the Galápagos. As we take in their striking seascapes, we can consider how they have impressed great American writers in two different centuries. Herman Melville blended knowledge of the islands, gained from his days as a sailor, with fiction in his 1854 novella The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles. More than 100 years later, Kurt Vonnegut's 1985 novel Galápagos drew inspiration from the author's own visit to the archipelago. Unique and remote, the Galápagos Islands will no doubt continue to influence creative artists for centuries to come.

  • This morning, we disembark our ship and fly from the Galápagos via Guayaquil back to Quito, where we'll arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon. We have a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast this morning, we enjoy a moving musical performance by the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra, whose members are physically or mentally disabled. Grand Circle Foundation is proud to provide Sinamune with financial assistance, helping to give these talented and dedicated musicians the support and encouragement they deserve.

    Next, we’ll visit the Inti Nan Museum. Inti Nan is the Quechua phrase for “Path of the Sun,” and the sun quite literally charts a path through the museum—it sits directly on the equator. Explore the museum's replicas of indigenous sun temples and other interesting artifacts, then enjoy a final afternoon at leisure to make your own discoveries in Quito; lunch is on your own.

    This evening, dinner is on your own, then transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to the U.S. If you are taking the post-trip extension to Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train or Colombia: Bogotá & Medellín (depending on departure date), travel overland to Riobamba, or fly to Bogotá after breakfast and the Quito activities mentioned will take place on the last day of your extension.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train

    5 nights from only $1195

    Experience the Andean side of Ecuador, a region of snowcapped volcanoes, distinctive traditional cultures, and a dramatic rail route through the mountains. From traditional markets in the countryside to the city of Cuenca with its Spanish colonial heritage, you’ll meet the people who call this scenic region home. Join us to discover more of Ecuador’s cultural and natural diversity.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    NEW Colombia: Villa de Leyva & Bogotá

    4 nights from only $1395

    Experience the colonial gems of Colombia in two contrasting cities ... from Villa de Leyva, a cobblestone village untouched by time, to Bogotá, the urban, cultural soul of the country. Wander past whitewashed buildings peppered with preserved fossils, then explore the pulsing markets and graffitied streets of Colombia's capital city. 

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 6 nights from only $1145

    Experience the beauty and natural diversity of the tropical rain forest up close on this extension. In the Peruvian Amazon, with an experienced naturalist guide to reveal the jungle's secrets, you'll discover tropical birds winging through the forest canopy, bromeliads blooming on ancient trees, and Yagua villagers gliding down the river in canoes.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 5 nights from only $1595

    From the mystical shores of Lake Titicaca to the colorful blend of modern and ancient cultures in La Paz, countless discoveries await you in Bolivia. Journey here to explore majestic Andean landscapes, visit indigenous villages, and discover ancient ruins that pre-date the Inca Empire by thousands of years.

    View Extension Itinerary
Lima Quito Expand All
  • Depart the U.S. today on an international flight to Lima, Peru, arriving late in the evening or early morning. An O.A.T. representative will greet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel. 

  • After breakfast, you'll get acquainted with our Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those who took the optional pre-trip extensions to The Amazon Rain Forest of Peru or Bolivia: La Paz & Lake Titicaca, during our Welcome Briefing.

    After a brief orientation walk, we'll travel by bus to the Monastery of San Francisco. This yellow domed church—one of the best preserved colonial churches in the city—sits atop a labyrinth of bone-lined catacombs. Venture into Lima's underbelly and discover a macabre side of the city's history. 

    Next, we set out to explore Lima's most interesting colonial sites. A local guide will join us as we explore the city's streets and architecture—evidence of the city's Spanish heritage—from its main square, Jiron de la Union, to the Lima Cathedral. During our guided walk, you'll have the opportunity to interact with locals and learn more about Peru's controversial child labor practices.

    This evening, continue exploring Lima with dinner on your own. Perhaps you will try Lima's most famous dish, ceviche, raw fish "cooked" in citrus juices. Your Trip Leader will be happy to provide dining suggestions.

  • This morning, we fly to Cuzco, the center of the Incan world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We then drive to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Along the way, we'll enjoy a boxed lunch and stop to chat with local women who sell the region's famed coca leaves. Learn about the coca leaf's importance in Andean culture and have the chance to try the leaves for yourself.

    Next we'll visit the mountain weaving village of Chinchero, which—at an elevation of 12,500 feet—is a literal high point of our exploration of the Sacred Valley, and provides excellent views of the surrounding mountains. Chinchero was the site of a 16th-century Inca emperor's estate, as well as a resting place on the Inca Royal Road. We'll explore the town and observe a demonstration of traditional textile-making, seeing how Peruvian weavers create complex patterns in colorful cloth as their ancestors have for centuries.

    Afterwards, we check in to our hotel in the Sacred Valley, which is at a lower elevation than Cuzco; staying here helps us acclimatize to the altitude. This evening we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

  • This morning, we'll share A Day in the Life of the Urubamba community in the Sacred Valley. We'll meet students at a local school (when in session) and spend time with their teachers. Donations from Grand Circle Foundation—part of the World Classroom initiative—have helped pay for classroom construction at the school.

    Then we'll visit Urubamba's market and pick up ingredients for the Home-Hosted Lunch we'll share as guests of a local family. Enjoy a typical Andean meal, explore the family's property, and see what life is like in the Sacred Valley. This afternoon, you may choose to visit the Seminario Pottery Workshop to see how local handcrafts are made. Then, sample locally brewed corn beer before returning to our hotel for dinner.

  • After breakfast this morning, we visit the massive Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo. This is one of the few places where the Spanish lost a battle during the conquest of Peru. In 1536, the army of Manco Inca held off a Spanish invasion company led by Hernando Pizarro. We can climb up the huge terraces guarding the ancient hilltop temple area.

    From Ollantaytambo we'll board the train to Machu Picchu. The train ride takes a bit less than two hours and offers spectacular views into the gorge of the Urubamba River. We'll have a boxed lunch while aboard.

    Most travelers visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, which makes for a hectic pace and only limited time at this unique archaeological wonder. We can take a closer look, and have a more relaxed pace, during our overnight visit to Machu Picchu. The train brings us to the town of Aguas Calientes, from which we then drive to the ruins. This drive takes about a half an hour, as we must follow a zigzag route up a steep hill. (The return trip by bus takes the same amount of time; or if you prefer, you can walk downhill and along the valley floor for about two hours.) When the day-trippers leave the ruins to catch the last train of the day, we remain longer and enjoy an uncrowded experience.

    Our expert O.A.T. Trip Leader gives us a complete and compelling look at the fabled “Lost City of the Incas,” which was discovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist (and later, U.S. Senator) Hiram Bingham. Subsequent discoveries (such as Bingham's later unearthing of the Inca Trail and the 1941 discovery of nearby Huayna Picchu) suggest that Machu Picchu was not simply a “lost city” but part of a whole “lost region.” More than 172 tombs have been excavated, and in 2002 Peruvian archaeologists uncovered the first complete burial site, with a woman's skeleton, bronze pins, and a clay pot. Here we can explore sites like the Ritual Baths, the Palace of the Princess, the Main Fountain, and the Temple of the Sun, quietly contemplating the achievements of this most fascinating and mysterious civilization. We then return to the town of Aguas Calientes. Dinner is included this evening.

  • We rise early to travel to Machu Picchu again after breakfast, arriving before the crowds. You can remain at the hotel if you wish, but most travelers appreciate this chance to see the ruins in a different light.

    You can wander the sprawling ruins on your own, or, depending on which trails are open, choose between two hikes. One brings you to the Inca Bridge, where a trail built with impressive Inca engineering crosses a cliff face. In one spot, the Incas left a deep gap, which they bridged with logs that could be removed to render the trail impassable to enemies. The second option is an ambitious hike to the Sun Gate at the Machu Picchu end of the Inca Trail, which offers a fine view over the ruins.

    We descend to the valley below to have lunch. Then, in the afternoon, we return by train through the spectacular Urubamba Gorge. Back at Ollantaytambo, we get off the train and take a bus to Cuzco, making stops at points of interest along the way. When we arrive in Cuzco, we check into our hotel, where we'll have dinner this evening.

  • After breakfast, we explore Cuzco, starting with a walk to the Plaza de Armas. We'll also discover the Qoricancha Sun Temple, the city's most important ceremonial structure during the Incan era. Historical records of the time note that its walls were once covered with 700 sheets of gold studded with emeralds and turquoise; when the sunlight streamed through the windows, the reflection off the precious metals was blinding.

    In the afternoon, join our optional tour to Tipon, a location south of Cuzco with well-preserved ancient agricultural terraces and an Incan irrigation system whose canals still carry water. These provide impressive evidence of Incan ingenuity and engineering skills. This optional tour includes lunch at local restaurant. Or, remain in Cuzco to make your own discoveries, with lunch on your own.

    In the late afternoon, we return to our hotel. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • We begin this morning's explorations at the massive Sacsayhuaman fortress set on a hilltop overlooking Cuzco. Its double-zigzag wall is said to symbolize a puma's teeth, and at one time, there were three immense towers and a labyrinth of rooms large enough to garrison 5,000 Inca soldiers.

    Today, the interior buildings are gone, having been dismantled by the Spaniards for their stone, but the imposing outer walls remain. Recent excavations have revealed this ancient stone complex to be much larger than previously thought. As we walk through, consider first that Inca workers built its walls entirely by hand, securely fitting boulders weighing as much as 125 tons without a drop of mortar. Next we visit the sacred ceremonial center of Kenko. At each site, we have plenty of time to walk around and take photographs.

    Then, we'll witness a traditional healing ceremony conducted by a curandero, an Andean medicine man. This ancient healing tradition has deep roots in Incan culture and is not simply a cure for illnesses, but also a prayer for good health and well-being with an offering to Pachamama, a deity associated with fertility and Mother Earth. A curandero will often employ herbs and healing plants, and for some conditions, he may conduct a religious ritual with sacred objects and shamanic chanting (called icaros). Thought to possess a gift from God to heal the sick, the curandero also sees himself as a front-line soldier in the battle between good and evil on Earth—particularly when patients believe their physical ailments have supernatural causes.

    Afterwards, we arrive back at the hotel and rest of your afternoon is free, with lunch being on your own in Cuzco. We'll gather at a local restaurant for our last dinner in Peru this evening.

  • In Quito, we will be met by our Ecuadoran Trip Leader. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is a city whose colonial splendor has earned it designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the older part of town, hundreds of colonial-era structures remain to this day, the largest being the 16th-century Monastery of San Francisco.

    This evening, we’ll enjoy our first dinner in Ecuador.

  • After breakfast this morning, we begin the day's discoveries at the Iñaquito market, a busy local market brimming with exotic fruits and colorful spices. We'll have the chance to interact with locals during our market visit—and perhaps even try the famously hot Aji pepper.

    Next, we'll depart for downtown Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We enjoy a walking tour of Quito's colonial nucleus: Independence Plaza (Plaza de La Independenzia), featuring a winged statue representing freedom. We'll see the Presidential Palace, with its stalwart guards in traditional uniforms keeping watch. Then we finish at San Francisco Square to see its church and mingle with local people in its plaza.

    Following lunch at a local restaurant, we continue exploring Quito with a stroll on La Ronda, a historic narrow lane where you can sample traditional candies, see work by local artists, and hear musicians. Then we return to our hotel, stopping along the way to witness La Basilica, with its impressive 377-foot Condor Tower—notice how the gargoyles represent indigenous animals.

    The rest of the afternoon is free for making your own discoveries in Quito. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • After breakfast, we have a very early morning flight from Quito via Guayaquil to the Galápagos—an enchanted Pacific archipelago that straddles the equator some 600 miles west of Ecuador's coast, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Upon landing in mid-morning, we make a short bus transfer to the dock, where we board our boat. You can stow your gear in your cabin and orient yourself on deck. We’ll stay onboard in comfortable cabins for the next four nights, roaming the archipelago with the services of our boat crew and our expert Trip Leader, who is a certified Galápagos naturalist.

    Please note: The following description is meant only as a general guide to the cruise itinerary that you are likely to follow. The selection and order of islands visited cannot be guaranteed due to the Galápagos' frequently variable weather, marine, and environmental conditions, and changes in airline schedules between the mainland and the Galápagos. This is a carefully managed park with fragile ecosystems. To safeguard them (and to ensure your own comfort), ship and park authorities have the prerogative to revise our course at a moment's notice. Typically you’ll have two shore excursions a day (one in the early morning and one in the afternoon) lasting about 1.5-2 hours each. Depending on the island, there may be a specific timeframe allotted for our visit. Your Trip Leader will keep you informed of the schedule on a daily basis.

    During the summer and fall, the Humboldt Current moves through the Galápagos Islands, cooling sea and land temperatures, and creating a mist that covers the islands—locally known as garua (soft rain)—during the day. The Humboldt Current is strongest from July to October, delivering the choppy water that surrounds the islands.

  • Today we continue our exploration of the Galápagos. Our Trip Leader will give us an orientation briefing, including conservation techniques suggested by the Galápagos National Park. He or she is a graduate of the elite certification program conducted at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz by the Galápagos National Park Service. We file our Galápagos cruising itinerary with the conservation authorities of the Galápagos National Park. Park biologists periodically review it, and they have the authority to make changes to our plan to minimize our impact on the ecosystems of the islands. Our Trip Leader also provides the park with information on species behavior, and we are proud to work in cooperation with Park officials in preserving the priceless natural wonders of the Galápagos.

    During our cruise, we'll see unique wildlife and striking geological formations. We'll make numerous landings by small motor dinghies that involve wading ashore. Once on land, we'll walk with our Trip Leader along trails that bring us close to the many indigenous species. Wildlife sightings are unpredictable, but you may see species including land and marine iguanas, and exotic birds such as blue-footed and masked boobies. When we are not viewing wildlife on shore, we can swim, sunbathe, and perhaps go snorkeling among sea lions and vividly colorful tropical fish. We'll see remote white-sand beaches, sparkling clear water, and volcanic landscapes of black and red rock. 

  • Here is a preview of the islands you may call on during your Galápagos cruise. The islands visited depends on your ship's itinerary.

    Santiago (James) Tidal pools reveal a profusion of octopi, starfishes, and other undersea life. Rare fur sea lions that were once on the verge of extinction cavort nearby, and we often spot oyster-catchers, blue herons, and
    yellow-crowned night herons.

    Bartolome One of the youngest islands, Bartolome displays a fantastic landscape of lava formations—including its famous signature, Pinnacle Rock. Penguins are often spotted on the shore.

    Mosquera Beach Mosquera Beach is a very small, white sand islet, located between Baltra and Seymour. It is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and sea lions often visit.

    Rabida (Jervis) A reddish beach and steep volcanic slopes give this island a distinctive look.

    Santa Cruz (Indifatigable) At the Charles Darwin Research Station, learn about pioneering ecological studies and the giant Galápagos tortoise-breeding program.

    Floreana (Charles) Like the other islands, Floreana has its coterie of remarkable creatures. But it’s the human stories that will engage you here as your guide tells of the first inhabitant, a shipwrecked Irishman, and the quirky “post office” in a barrel, where sailors since 1793 have been leaving letters for delivery. This “post office” still operates today.

    Santa Fe (Barrington) Hike through a forest of opuntia cactus where land iguana doze, and then snorkel in clear water with coral reefs, manta rays, sea turtles, and colorful schools of fish.

    North Seymour Here you’ll find the largest colony of frigatebirds in the Galápagos and a major nesting site for the blue-footed booby, depending on the season. On the beach, sea lions ride the waves.

    San Cristobal (Chatham) The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on this island is the sleepy capital of the Galápagos province. Nearby is Lobos Island, home to pelicans, frigatebirds, and a sea lion colony.

    Española (Hood Island) Sea lions, marine iguanas, and many kinds of birds are found here, including Darwin’s finch, Hood mockingbirds, and blue-footed and masked boobies. Along the southern shore, spectacular cliffs rise up from the sea. From April to November, the remarkable waved albatross, which can spend years at sea without touching land, can be seen performing their unique, perfectly choreographed mating ritual.

  • Today, we disembark our ship on Santa Cruz Island and explore Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galápagos. We’ll visit a local market, have lunch, and then meet the creatures that define these islands: Galápagos tortoises. We finish our day with an insider’s look at life on a working coffee and sugar plantation. We return to Puerto Ayora to check into our hotel. We have dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

  • This morning, we fly from the Galápagos via Guayaquil back to Quito, where we'll arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon. We have a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast this morning, we enjoy a moving musical performance by the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra, whose members are physically or mentally disabled. Grand Circle Foundation is proud to provide Sinamune with financial assistance, helping to give these talented and dedicated musicians the support and encouragement they deserve.

    Next, we’ll visit the Inti Nan Museum. Inti Nan is the Quechua phrase for “Path of the Sun,” and the sun quite literally charts a path through the museum—it sits directly on the equator. Explore the museum's replicas of indigenous sun temples and other interesting artifacts, then enjoy a final afternoon at leisure to make your own discoveries in Quito; lunch is on your own.

    This evening, dinner is on your own, then transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to the U.S. If you are taking the post-trip extension to Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train or Colombia: Bogotá & Medellín (depending on departure date), travel overland to Riobamba, or fly to Bogotá after breakfast and the Quito activities mentioned will take place on the last day of your extension.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train

    5 nights from only $1195

    Experience the Andean side of Ecuador, a region of snowcapped volcanoes, distinctive traditional cultures, and a dramatic rail route through the mountains. From traditional markets in the countryside to the city of Cuenca with its Spanish colonial heritage, you’ll meet the people who call this scenic region home. Join us to discover more of Ecuador’s cultural and natural diversity.

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  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    NEW Colombia: Villa de Leyva & Bogotá

    4 nights from only $1395

    Experience the colonial gems of Colombia in two contrasting cities ... from Villa de Leyva, a cobblestone village untouched by time, to Bogotá, the urban, cultural soul of the country. Wander past whitewashed buildings peppered with preserved fossils, then explore the pulsing markets and graffitied streets of Colombia's capital city. 

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Machu Picchu & the Galápagos

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