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Cusco and Galapagos Islands in 12 days

12 Days

Embark on a 12-day journey through the cultural marvels of Cusco and the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands. Begin in Peru’s historic heartland, Cusco, exploring the Sacred Valley’s ancient sites like Moray’s terraces and Maras’ salt mines. Enjoy a traditional Andean Pachamanca meal in Ollantaytambo before experiencing the mystical Machu Picchu.

Then, discover Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its unique wildlife and pristine landscapes. Encounter sea lions on Santa Cruz, hike volcanoes in Isabela, and relax on Floreana’s secluded beaches. Each day brings new adventures and unforgettable experiences.

Overview

Embark on a 12-day journey through the cultural marvels of Cusco and the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands. Begin in Peru’s historic heartland, Cusco, exploring the Sacred Valley’s ancient sites like Moray’s terraces and Maras’ salt mines. Enjoy a traditional Andean Pachamanca meal in Ollantaytambo before experiencing the mystical Machu Picchu.

Then, discover Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its unique wildlife and pristine landscapes. Encounter sea lions on Santa Cruz, hike volcanoes in Isabela, and relax on Floreana’s secluded beaches. Each day brings new adventures and unforgettable experiences.

Highlights

  • Visit to Machu Picchu
  • Wildlife encounters in the Galapagos Islands
  • Snorkeling, hiking, and beach exploration
  • Cultural tours of Cusco's landmarks
  • Hiking in the Sacred Valley
  • Culinary experiences in local markets

Schedule

  • Day 1: Welcome to Cusco & transfer to the Sacred Valley (Sonidos del Ande experience on route)
  • Day 2: Exploring and hiking at the Sacred Valley (Salt mines of Maras and circular terraces of Moray)
  • Day 3: Ollantaytambo, Andean Pachamanca and train ride to Aguas Calientes
  • Day 4: Machu Picchu and train back to Cusco
  • Day 5: Exploring the outskirts of Cusco & culinary experience
  • Day 6: Transfer to Lima and Ecuador
  • Day 7: Quito City Tour & Middle of the World
  • Day 8: Arrive in Isla San Cristóbal – Interpretation Center & Tijeretas Hill
  • Day 9: Snorkel at Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido)
  • Day 10: Isla San Cristobal to Santa Cruz – Highlands of Santa Cruz Island
  • Day 11: Excursion to an uninhabited island
  • Day 12: Return flight

Itinerary

Upon arriving at Cusco Airport, our team will be waiting to greet you and drive you to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The perfect place to begin your exploration of Cusco while you acclimatize to the altitude of the Andes. On our way to your hotel, there will be some unique stops installed for you. First, as you cross the mountains, you'll enjoy some inspiring views of the valley from Taray viewpoint. You'll then stop shortly to explore the picturesque, yet fairly touristy, town of Pisac before heading off-beat towards Cuyo Chico. Here, you'll meet Vicente Rayo from “Sonidos del Ande,” a unique project dedicated to reviving the use prehispanic instruments and understanding their purposes. In prehispanic Peru, music was much more than a leisurely activity. Instruments were used for ceremonies, communication purposes and to replicate nature too. We'll join Vicente and his wife for a short walk to a secluded location close to a stream, just below old terraces that belong to the Pisac Archaeological site. Here we'll participate in a sound ceremony that, guided by Vicente and his instruments, will take you back to Inca times. We'll have a basic but delicious lunch together with Vicente and his family and then drive to our lovely hotel in the heart of the Sacred Valley.

Today, you'll explore some of the most impressive sites in the Sacred Valley, Moray, and Maras. Located on the beautiful Maras Plateau, where vast fields overlook many of the Sacred Valley's snow peaks, these two sites are quite different from the rest of the Inca remains you will see in your journey. First, you'll explore Moray, where large circular terraces have been constructed in a natural depression. The view, at first sight, might resemble that of a vast Roman or Greek Amphitheater. However, Moray served as an agricultural experiment station. There is a considerable ground temperature difference between the higher and lower terraces. This is believed to have been used to adapt crops to different temperatures. Next, we'll make our way to Unu, in Tiobamba. This charming countryside restaurant is the perfect setting for lunch. The restaurant uses local produce from the area to prepare delicious meals for its visitors. Our final stop for the day is Maras, a salt-extraction complex consisting of thousands of salt terraces hanging on the mountain slopes. This site predates the Incas and has been continuously used to this date. The landscape of Maras is taken by a photographer, and the unique pink salt extracted from here can be purchased directly from the villagers of Maras. Note: There are opportunities for free hiking on this day if you let us know in advance. It's possible to hike from Moray to Maras Village, Maras Village to Maras Salt Flats, and from the Salt Flats to the Valley base. Please indicate if you are interested in adding a hike. Highlights * Admire the thousands of white salt ponds in Maras * Walk through the terraces of Moray

Start your day by visiting Ollantaytambo, a village that has retained its original Inca character. Explore the Ollantaytambo archaeological site, known for its impressive Inca stonework, and enjoy the peaceful morning before the crowds arrive in the afternoon. For lunch, taste an Andean Pachamanca. This is a special local dish using preheated stones and leaves to prepare ingredients underground, resulting in a flavorful dish of tubers, beef or lamb, and aromatic Andean herbs. After lunch, take the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, enjoying stunning landscapes of green fields, lush forests, and majestic mountains.

Machu Picchu, here we come! This morning, a short 5-minute walk takes you to the shuttle buses for a 25-minute ascent up a steep mountain that will lead you to Machu Picchu. After ticket control, the exploration begins. Accompanied by your guide, delve into the ancient Inca citadel, discovering its history and hidden gems. Depending on interest, a visit to Machu Picchu can take between 2 and 3 hours. After the visit, return on the shuttle buses to Aguas Calientes, where you will have free time to have lunch and some time to relax. At the coordinated time, take the train back to Ollantaytambo. Here, your private driver will be waiting to transfer you back to your hotel in Cusco. This day promises to provide a comprehensive and insightful experience of Machu Picchu, offering a unique and enriching insight into this historically significant site.

Start your day visiting the Cascaparo Market, where you'll check the variety of local products that can be obtained from this region and the nearby Amazon. Taste exotic fruits such as lucuma, chirimoya, and granadilla and learn about the diversity of products used in our local cuisine. After, we'll head to Seledonia's Kitchen where, together, you will test your skills at preparing some Peruvian classics, or get creative and innovate with our local ingredients. This cooking class will be all about having fun, learning about local culture, and a bit of creativity too! After lunch, we'll continue to Sacsayhuamand and Qenqo forest perfect to spot the city and enjoy your sunset in thos magical city. Strap on our walking shoes and prepare for an easy guided stroll around Cusco's historical center. We will begin with a 10-minute drive to our first visit of the day: Sacsayhuaman, a massive Inca fortress overlooking the city. From here, our walking tour takes you not only through the top landmarks in Cusco, such as the Main Square, and the Koricancha or Temple of the Sun, but you will also walk into its lively neighborhoods and local markets where you'll discover the true magic of this city. This is the perfect way to get a more authentic feel of this fantastic place and its people. A spot we like to visit, where few others go, is San Francisco Church. It has impressive colonial architecture, catacombs, and excellent rooftop views of the city.

In the afternoon, at the coordinated time, we'll head to Cusco's airport to board your flight to Lima and connecting flight home. Hopefully, you will be heading back full of happy memories, new friends, and great pictures of your time with us!

Today, you have free time to explore the city of Cusco at your own. You can maybe take a last walk around Cusco's shops and markets. After, at the coordinated time, we'll head to Cusco's airport to board your flight to Lima and connecting flight to Ecuador.

Welcome to Ecuador! Upon arrival at Quito’s airport, a private driver will meet you for the ride to your hotel in the city center.

Quito City Tour

You will explore Quito's historic city center today! Quito stands at an altitude of 2,850 m, and the city center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Stroll through the narrow streets and visit some of the most important churches, such as La Compañía (its interior is covered in gold), a great example of the "Baroque School of Quito." Explore "La Ronda," one of the oldest streets, and enjoy the 360° view from Panecillo Hill.

Middle of the World

Have you always wanted to stand on both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres at the same time? Today's your opportunity! You will visit "Mitad del Mundo," the "Middle of the World." Inti Ñan Museum is an interesting and interactive site where you will participate in funny experiments and learn about ancient Ecuadorian culture. Will you be able to balance an egg on the nail? Try it out!

Upon arrival at San Cristobal Airport, your driver will welcome you and escort you to your hotel in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Learn about the islands and their conservation efforts, by visiting an interpretation center. Then, start to see some of the archipelagos' wildlife in their natural habitats while hiking Las Tijeretas Hill, named for tijeretas (frigatebirds), that inhabit and nest in the area and are known for males with bright red features. Finish the day snorkeling, to see sea lions, sea turtles, and colorful fish.

A 50-minute boat ride will bring you through blue waters to one of the most iconic places on Galápagos: Kicker Rock, also known as León Dormido (sleeping lion). While snorkeling around this spectacular rock formation, you can encounter sea lions, rays, turtles, and an array of fish. If you are lucky, you might even spot hammerhead sharks. A lunchbox will be served onboard. Afterwards, visit to a pristine beach for time to relax, swim, and snorkel.

In the afternoon, return to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where you can enjoy the evening while walking along the promenade or watching the sunset at Playa Mann.

This activity is recommended for children eight years and up, but if your little one is three years old or older and a confident swimmer, they can join in with parental supervision.

Public speedboat Isla San Cristóbal - Santa Cruz

Take the public speedboat from San Cristobal Island to Santa Cruz Island today (approx. 2-2.5 hours).

Highlands of Santa Cruz Island

Travel with your guide into the Santa Cruz highlands, where you can observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat. You can also explore lava tunnels and make another stop at the "twin craters," which are home to various bird species.
After a healthy meal on a farm in the highlands, your guide will bring you back to Puerto Ayora.

Of the many islands in the Galápagos Archipelago, only four have permanent settlements. The others are wild and the habitat of many endemic species. Visits to these islands are highly regulated by Park Authorities and are limited to small groups.

Today, visit one of these untamed islands. Aboard a modern yacht, and with only 15 more others, take a 1.5 to 2.5-hour ride to one of the following islands: Bartolomé, Seymour Norte, Plazas Sur, or Santa Fé. The island visited will depend on park permits and the boat's schedule. We will try to consider your preferences when booking the limited spaces.

Every island has a different landscape and unique flora and fauna. For example, on Santa Fé island, see the Santa Fé iguana. Whereas colonies of sea lions, frigate birds, and blue-footed boobies populate Seymour Norte. On board the yacht, a warm will be served, and in the afternoon, snorkel at a nearby bay or beach.

After an exciting day, you will return to Puerto Ayora around 4-5 pm.

Visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station

Puerto Ayora is the seat of the Charles Darwin Foundation and its research station, where you can observe giant tortoise and iguana species. Witness the tireless efforts of conservationists and learn about how they are helping to repopulate the island with different tortoise species.

Transfer from Puerto Ayora to Seymour Airport
On time for your flight back to mainland Ecuador, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and bring you back to Itabaca Channel, which you will cross by ferry. We hope that you have enjoyed your time on Galapagos!

Included

  • Accommodation
  • Transportation and activities
  • Meals mentioned in the program

Excluded

  • Domestic and international flights
  • Galapagos National Park entrance fee (US$ 200 per person)
  • Galapagos Migration Card TCT (US$ 20 per person)
  • Travel insurance
  • Optional excursions
  • Personal expenses such as tips
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Any other meals, drinks, and/or services not mentioned in the program

    From $3550
    / Adult
    • Location Highlights

    Trip Info

    • 12 days
    • Cusco, Sacred Valley, Quito and Galapagos Islands
    • Starting at $3550

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    Authentic Ecuador

    Discover the essence of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands through immersive experiences. From classic attractions to off-the-beaten-track adventures, expect the unexpected as you become an active participant in this unforgettable journey.