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Combine the challenge of our uniquely paced four-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu with the curiosity and wonder of a week spent with the fearless wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.
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Fly to the Peruvian capital, Lima. Depending on your flight times, you may or may not need to spend the night in Lima. For daytime flights you would arrive very late and so probably stay at the airport hotel. For overnight flights you land early tomorrow and connect straight through to Cusco.
This morning fly up to Cusco. You are looked after by a Pura Aventura guide throughout your time in Cusco and on the Inca Trail so they will be there to meet you off the plane. Today is really all about acclimatising to the high altitude (3,326m). This afternoon take a guided stroll through the picturesque streets to get your bearings.
You will still be acclimatising today so the pace will be fairly relaxed. Spend all day in the company of your guide exploring some of the Inca sites around Cusco and the Sacred Valley. You might also like to visit the colourful and lively market in the town of Pisac, renowned for its local weavings and hand-painted pottery.
From Cusco drive into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, stopping to explore the Inca fortress at Ollantaytambo. Start your four day hike with a gentle afternoon walk that begins alongside the Urubamba River. The trail winds through green hills and passes tiny villages and Inca ruins, arriving at a campsite with lovely mountain views. You are at a lower altitude than Cusco for the first couple of days of hiking so you will be able to continue acclimatising. Enjoy delicious meals prepared for you by your cooks and sleep in comfortable tents.
Today's walk begins at a relatively low altitude (3,000m), heading uphill through a very pretty wooded landscape of native trees. As the day goes on you will be passing the tree line and start to get spectacular views of the valley behind you and the mountains beyond. By the end of the day you will be higher than you were in Cusco, camping in a lovely spot at around 3,800m. The drier season (April-November) coincides with winter in Peru so whilst daytimes are generally fairly pleasant, at night the temperature drops quickly.
Today is the hardest day of the trail as you cross over two high passes, effectively hiking an ‘m’ shape. Spectacular views of mountains accompany you throughout the day, the scenery changing as you descend from the second pass and enter the cloud forest. Look out for orchids and butterflies as the trail takes you past beautiful Inca ruins and winds around the edge of the mountainside, far above the Aobamba valley. By the end of the day, you should feel a great sense of achievement. Your campsite tonight is at 3,700m on a bluff overlooking the mountains.
The final day of the trail is perhaps the most beautiful, starting with what can be the most stunning sunrise. There is a long downhill section of steps as you approach the Inca site of Winaywayna, and the evidence of Inca masonry is everywhere as the trail continues through the cloudforest. Lunch is served at the Inca ruins of Winaywayna before the final push to the Sun Gate and your first views of Machu Picchu, arriving in the quiet of the afternoon when the light is at its best.
This morning if you are feeling energetic, you can catch one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu and head to a higher point to catch sunrise over the mountains. Enjoy a full guided tour of the site this morning. Afterwards you can continue to explore the extensive ruins on your own or climb the peaks of Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu for a ‘condor’s-eye’ view of the city. In the afternoon, return to Cusco by train and arrive to your hotel some time after nightfall.
You should arrive in the Ecuadorian capital early this afternoon so will have time to settle in to your charming and very comfortable hotel before heading off to discover some of Quito's nice bars and restaurants. The colonial heart of the city has been transformed in recent years to arguably the finest in South America.
Our guide comes to find you this morning and lead you through Ecuador’s capital and its surroundings. Quito is positioned on the flanks of the Pichincha Volcano, and is home to perhaps the best-preserved colonial centre in Latin America. Explore the historic centre to learn about the city’s colonial past, perhaps dropping into the Government Palace en route. Whatever your particular interests though, the day will evolve to suit you.
The Galapagos are around 600 miles off mainland Ecuador so the flight takes a good couple of hours. Meet your guide who takes you to board your chosen boat. After lunch, set sail the short distance to North Plaza where you walk close to the fearless wildlife: Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions and land iguanas. Note that here we describe a representative week in the islands rather than a specific boat's itinerary. Different boats follow different routes.
Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station first thing today to learn about its amazing breeding, conservation and education programs. Given how long they live, breeding these tortoises is a lifetime's work! After lunch, drive to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to an area where giant tortoises live. Walk amongst these lumbering giants to get an appreciation of how enormous they are.
Start today with a landing on ‘sea lion beach’, so called because, all along the sands are sea lions basking in the sun. Wander along the beach and enjoy watching them play in the surf, this is also your first chance to get into the water and have a swim alongside them. Return for lunch on board and an hour or so navigation to the next landing site on the west of the island which is famous for its wonderful marine birdlife.
Cross Floreana Island by foot to enjoy the somewhat incongruous sight of flamingoes feeding in a lagoon before coming to a sandy beach where you can spot rays and sea turtles. Return to the boat mid-morning to go snorkelling at the distinctive Devil’s Crown crater offshore. This afternoon land at Post Office bay to hear how this informal sailors' postal system has worked for hundreds of years - it's still very effective!
Isabela island is the largest of the Galapagos, there is amazing species diversity. Today you will explore on foot, by boat and swimming in the water. You might see sea lions in a mangrove tree or penguins swimming alongside sea turtles. Marine iguanas sharing a rock with a blue-footed booby. These are things that you can experience nowhere else in the world so enjoy it.
Start today with a walk on Isabela Island to see if you can see giant tortoises. You will almost certainly see land iguanas along the way. Return to the beach to swim or snorkel directly offshore possibly with rays, sea turtles and sharks.For those of you less inclined to swim, you can take time to simply relax and read a book on the beach. This afternoon discover the marine iguanas and flightless cormorants of Fernandina Island.
Walk along the coastline of Santiago Island to see Galapagos fur seal basking in pools along the shoreline. There is time for snorkelling at the end of the walk, through a reef which has some of the best and most varied marine life of the week. This afternoon, sail to the lava mound of Bartolomé. Here you climb 365 wooden steps to the top of the island - for the views.
Get up early this morning to paddle through mangroves in the dawn light. Observe the delicate marine life in the sheltered cove before returning to the boat for breakfast. Disembark at around midday to fly back to the mainland – either to Guayaquil or back to Quito. Depending when your international flights leave, you may need to spend the night on the mainland. Please note: international flights not included.
This is the best loved of our cross border journeys, combining the challenge of our four-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu with the curiosity and wonder of a week long trip around the Galapagos Islands.
Walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu without meeting the crowds. Explore the Galapagos Islands alongside the fearless wildlife, without feeling regimented. Discover the people, the nature, the history and food of Peru and Ecuador at your pace.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu covers 26 miles over four days, a distance that in itself is not great, though the high altitude and steep ascents and descents mean that the going can be slow and fairly tough. In return for your exertions you get four days of walking through the beautiful surroundings of the Peruvian Andes and cloud forest, ending with the sense of exhilaration and satisfaction as you arrive at Machu Picchu on foot in the quiet of the afternoon.
With a daily intake of 500 people onto the Inca Trail, the majority of hikers move along together and sleep at the same campsites. We pace our Inca Trail differently so that you can walk in peace and stay at quiet campsites with few others in sight.
This pace gives you extra time to acclimatise, with the first two days of walking at altitudes lower than Cusco. With each day carefully planned to ensure you see few other people, there is time to rest, enjoy the views, and take in the beauty of your surroundings without any sense that you need to hurry.
In the Galapagos, wildlife viewing is the main activity. There is some gentle walking though the islands are volcanic which means that you are often walking on quite sharp lava. If you enjoy swimming and snorkeling then you will find some incredible wildlife underwater too.
Temperatures and weather on this trip vary considerably. The Galapagos Islands lie on the equator so temperatures and weather conditions are generally warm and pleasant year round. The water temperature and conditions do vary with colder, choppier waters from June through October giving way to warmer and calmer seas for the rest of the year.
In Peru, the driest time of year is winter so April through October/November. In general you can expect daytime temperatures of somewhere between 10°-20° in Lima, Cusco and at Machu Picchu though temperatures plunge at night. On the Inca Trail you can and should expect temperatures to be sub-zero at night.
In terms of comfort, the Inca Trail involves three nights camping out at altitude. Our team of porters will pitch the tents for you and we also carry our own toilet tent, set at a discreet distance from camp. Our chef does an amazing job creating meals that are substantial and remarkably elaborate given how far you are from a kitchen.
This sample itinerary is based on a first-class Galapagos sailboat for 16 passengers with 8 small cabins, mostly bunk bedded, each with en suite bathroom. Levels of comfort vary greatly depending on the boat you choose, if indeed you choose to explore the Galapagos by boat (land based is also an option). There is a wide range of boat accommodation, from small cabins with bunk beds on the sailboats to balcony suites on premium catamarans.
In general, Galapagos boats carry 20 passengers or fewer, which means that cabins tend to be small. However, given the amount of time spent out and about exploring the islands or up on deck looking for wildlife, cabin size is rarely a critical element of your Galapagos holiday.
Elsewhere on this trip, we use our favourite small hotels, generally 3 to 3.5*, which we have chosen for their character, service and location. Full details of the included accommodation are in our detailed itinerary - call us for a copy.
The cultures, nature and landscapes on this holiday are fantastically varied. Lima has its own rich history of immigration which is reflected particularly in the cuisine. Around Cusco you are in the Andean heartland of the Incas, a region with incredibly rich customs, history and mythology. You have the same guide with you throughout your time in Cusco and onto the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. This consistency of guiding means you have a seamless narrative to link each place together, rather than the repetition which is inevitable with the usual set-up of different guides in each place. It also gives you time to get to know your guide and find out more about different aspects of life in Peru, be that history or food, music, culture or politics.
The Galapagos Islands are primarily about the wildlife, though the human history of the islands and the struggles of conservation create a fascinating context for the wildlife. Also, having a week in the company of Ecuadorian crew and an expert guide allows you time to also gain a wider understanding of your host country.
It is also fair to say that on this holiday, combining two of the greatest UNESCO world heritage sites in the Americas, you will almost certainly get a sense of just how important and precious these places are and how lucky we are that they have been, and are being, preserved for our enjoyment and that of future generations.
Please give us a call on 01273 676 712 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see a detailed itinerary for this trip. Every Pura holiday is unique, so we would love to have a conversation about the things that are important to you, and the things you don’t need, before we get started on a personalised proposal for you to consider.
For instance, if the four-day hike to Machu Picchu doesn't appeal to you, we can include the one-day Royal Inca Trail instead or you could take the train all the way. For the Galapagos Islands we discuss with you to select the best choice of boat or indeed, land-based trip for you.
In the form set out above, the holiday price includes flights within South America, good quality hotel accommodation, the full Inca Trail to Machu Picchu including permits, porters, entrances, etc., most meals plus a week long Galapagos cruise on board Cachalote yacht. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing.
Flights to and from South America are quoted separately for this holiday. Best flight routings are to fly into Lima (airport code: LIM) and out of either Guayaquil or Quito (airport codes GYE and UIO respectively).