Opulent Machu Picchu & Galapagos

Travel back to ancient empires and the origins of nature …

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Sunset, Machu Picchu, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

It’s a marriage made in heaven — the remarkable heritage of the Inca Empire and the dramatic natural spectacle of the Galapagos Islands. With the Opulent Machu Picchu & Galapagos itinerary, I invite you to experience both of these ancient South American marvels. Cruise the Galapagos aboard a storied yacht, and then travel on to trace the history of the Incas from the glory of Cuzco, their imperial capital, to the Sacred Valley and fabled Machu Picchu. Beginning with the colorful colonial quarter of Quito, and ending in Lima, the capital of the New World for three centuries, this is the adventure of a lifetime. Throughout your private journey, enjoy all the expertise of a premier tour company, relax in regal accommodations and savor cuisine by the great chefs of Ecuador and Peru.

 

Land & Cruise Price (18 days/17 nights)

US$ 19,650 per person

 

The land and cruise price includes escorted transfers, private excursions with a professional guide and chauffeur on the mainland and semi-private excursions with a certified naturalist on the Galapagos Islands, entrance fees, specified accommodations, gourmet cuisine, all land and water transportation, and travel insurance for U.S. residents through the age of 59 years (over that age, there is a supplementary fee). Residents of other countries receive a 6% price reduction to purchase coverage in their home country. All prices are per person based on two people sharing a guest room. The price quoted assumes payment by wire transfer. If paid by credit card, there is a 3% surcharge, which is our cost of processing such transactions. Air fares are in addition to the land price.

 

Highlights

 

Day 1: Flight to Quito, Ecuador

International arrival this afternoon or evening in Quito. Reception and escorted transfer to the palatial Casa Gangotena. Dine on the 7-plate tasting menu at Zazu. Overnight in the Casa GangotenaPlaza View Room.

Day 2: Quito (Colonial Quarter & the Equator)

Breakfast. This morning, drive to the top of El Panecillo. Begin your walking tour of the colonial quarter at the Museo Casa del Alabado, Continue to La Plaza de la Independencia. On one side is the Cathedral (1640), considered to be the oldest in South America. Down Calle de las Siete Cruces (Street of the Seven Crosses) is La Compañia de Jesús (1605), one of the great baroque masterpieces of the continent. Also in the baroque style is the oldest of South America’s colonial churches, La Iglesia de San Francisco (1535). It was constructed over the Inca Palace of Atahualpa and decorated with images of the sun to lure in the native people. The Moorish style of La Iglesia y Convento de la Merced is most likely explained by artists seeking refuge in South America after the expulson of the Moors from Spain. Started in 1538, the church was rebuilt in 1737. An à la carte lunch of Ecuadorian or international cuisine by chef Carlos Alvear at El Crater. Our afternoon destination is Rumicucho, a late 15th century Inca fortress, observatory and temple of the sun. Before returning to Quito, go to the equator. This evening, return to El Panecillo for a panorama of the beautifully illuminated colonial quarter. Though not of colonial vintage, the neo-Gothic La Basílica is the place to see bizarre and fascinating gargoyles. Admire the night view of the Spanish monuments along Calle de las Siete Cruces, on the way to La Plaza de la Independencia. Passing through the narrow streets of Old Quito, arrive at Theatrum to savor one of the two tasting menus of Ecuadorian cuisine by chef Mauricio Acuña. Afterward, return to your hotel. Overnight in the Casa Gangotena. – Plaza View Room.

Intra-tour flight Quito – Baltra Island, Day 3, 10:20 am – 12:50 pm, Avianca AV-1634, Record locator: TBA

Day 3: Quito – Galapagos Cruise (Baltra Island & Daphne Major Islet)

Breakfast. Rise early this morning to catch your flight to the Galapagos. Upon arrival, transfer via panga (dingy) to the waiting M/Y Grace, once owned by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, a wedding gift from Aristotle Onassis. Soon, this historic yacht, limited to 18 guests, will start her engines and set off into the archipelago. À la carte lunch and dinner. Overnight aboard the M/Y GraceAlbert Deck Master Suite.

Day 4: Galalpagos Cruise (Santa Fe Island & South Plaza Island)

Day 5: Galapagos Cruise (Genovesa Island: Prince Phillip’s Steps & Darwin Bay)

Day 6: Galapagos Cruise (Fernandina Island: Punta Espinosa & Isabela Island: Urbina Bay)

Day 7: Galapagos Cruise (Isabela Island: Tagus Cove & Punta Vicente Roca)

Day 8: Galapagos Cruise (Santiago Island: Espumilla Beach & James Bay)

Day 9: Galapagos Cruise (Santa Cruz Island: Highlands & Charles Darwin Research Station)

Intra-tour flight San Cristóbal Island – Guayaquil, Day 10, 12:30 pm – 3:25 pm, Avianca AV-1637, Record locator: TBA

Intra-tour flight Guayaquil – Lima, Day 10, 6:27 pm – 8:22 pm, Avianca AV-7390, Record locator: TBA

Day 10: Galapagos Cruise (Baltra Island airport – Guayaquil – Lima, Peru

As we head down the southwestern coast of San Cristóbal, you will want to rise early to view León Dormido (Sleeping Lion), a spectacular formation that rises 152 meters (500 feet) out of the Pacific. We continue on to Wreck Bay for a dry landing at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center presents a complete and documented history of the Galapagos, its ecosystems, flora and fauna. À la carte breakfast.

Important note: The Galapagos itinerary is subject to change without notice for various reasons, including but not limited to safety, weather, mechanical breakdown, unforeseen emergencies, and the discretion of the captain, guide, yacht operator and Galapagos National Park.

Continue to the airport for the flight to Guayaquil, where our airport representative will meet and assist you. Relax in the VIP Club of the International Terminal and enjoy a buffet of light fare and beverages while awaiting your connecting flight to Lima. Arrival in the five-century-old colonial city of Lima, “City of the Kings” and the capital of Peru. Reception and escorted transfer to the Belmond Miraflores Park. This evening, explore the 10-plate tasting menu of Astrid & Gastón, No.3 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 (No. 14 in the world). Overnight in the Belmond Miraflores ParkOcean View Deluxe Junior Suite.

Day 11: Lima (Colonial Quarter & Museo Larco)

Breakfast. On your walking tour, enter the 1674 La Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, the most spectacular of Lima’s colonial-era churches. View the exterior of the 1599 La Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo, Lima’s oldest convent, and enter the 1758 La Catedral for a short visit. In contrast to the religious structures, the 1735 Torre Tagle Palace, with its gorgeous baroque stone doorway and carved-wood balconies, is the city’s best surviving example of secular colonial architecture. Seven-plate tasting menu of traditional Peruvian cuisine at the Café del Museo, located in the gardens of the Museo Larco and directed by Peru’s most prestigious chef, Gastón Acurio. Founded in 1926, the Museo Larco exhibits the world’s largest private collection of pre-Columbian art. Return to your hotel to relax. For dinner, choose among three tasting menus of creative Peruvian cuisine by chef Virgilio Martinez at Central Restaurante, No.1 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 (No. 4 in the world). Overnight in the Belmond Miraflores ParkOcean View Deluxe Junior Suite.

Intra-tour flight Lima – Cuzco, Day 12, 8:00 am – 9:20 am, LAN Airlines LA 2023, Record locator: TBA

Day 12: Lima – Cuzco – Sacred Valley (Chinchero, Moray, Maras & Urubamba)

Breakfast. Early transfer to the airport for the flight to Cuzco. Arrival, reception and drive to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. On the way, visit Chinchero, the birthplace of the rainbow, according to Inca legend. Traditional weaving is preserved, in part, through the efforts of The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, which has arranged a private demonstration by one of the finest weavers. Another tradition that traces it roots back to the Incas is the barter, or “trueque”, market. The pueblo exhibits a peculiar Andean-Hispanic architectural style, and paintings by the famous native artist Chiwantito hang in a beautiful colonial church. Afterward, visit the impressive archaeological site of Moray. Nearby, below the colonial town of Maras, are age-old, terraced salt mines. At a scenic place along the route, we’ll set up a table and chairs for a picnic lunch prepared by chef Tatiana Mendoza of Cuzco. If you like, take a three-quarter-hour walk down rural paths to the Urubamba River, where your driver and car will be waiting. Arrival at your hotel, the gracious Belmond Rio Sagrado. À la carte dinner and overnight in the Belmond Rio SagradoGarden Junior Suite.

Day 13: Sacred Valley (Pisaq & Ollantaytambo)

Breakfast. Drive along the Urubamba River to the colonial town of Pisaq, where a popular handicraft fair take place under the main square’s century-old tree. High on a mountain above, tower the imposing remains of an ancient settlement. The Pisaq ruins take up the entire mountain and are made up of different neighborhoods, or squares, the main one being Intihuatana, which is admired for the architectural skill of its constructions. For lunch, the 6-plate tasting menu of nouvelle Andean cuisine by chef Ricardo Behar at 3 Keros. Continue to the Ollantaytambo archeological site, with innumerable Inca constructions, such as magnificently-crafted temples and terraces. At a nearby hacienda, an honored shaman will conduct an ancient ceremony still observed by the indigenous people of Peru. After this memorable experience, you will return to your hotel. À la carte dinner and overnight in the Belmond Rio SagradoGarden Junior Suite.

Arrive like the Inca.

Consider an unforgettable arrival on the Royal Inca Trail

(Trek must be requested in writing at the time of booking your tour.)

Day 14: Sacred Valley – Belmond Vistadome – Machu Picchu

Breakfast. Early transfer to the station to meet your guide and board the train for a descent into the Urubamba Valley to reach Machu Picchu (Old Peak), the “Lost City of the Incas”. An à la carte lunch of regional cuisine by chef Paulino Huaman in the Sanctuary Lodge’s Tampu Restaurant. On your private tour this afternoon, you will ponder the many theories about this mysterious citadel. An à la carte dinner of Peruvian-Mediterranean cuisine by chef Huaman in the Tampu Restaurant. Overnight in the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge – Choose a Deluxe King Mountain View Room or a Deluxe Twin Mountain View & Terrace.

Day 15: Machu Picchu – Belmond Hiram Bingham – Cuzco

Breakfast. Entrance into the ruins for a day of exploration with your guide or on your own, as you prefer. Another à la carte lunch in the Tampu Restaurant. Descend from Machu Picchu in the late afternoon and walk to the station for the departure of the Hiram Bingham, Belmond’s 84-passenger luxury train. The return trip, which arrives at the Poroy Station, on the outskirts of Cuzco at 10 pm, offers cocktails, live entertainment and a four-course, à la carte dinner by chef Federico Ziegler. Evening arrival at the Poroy Station, on the outskirts of Cuzco, reception and transfer to your hotel, the Belmond Hotel Monasterio. Overnight in the Belmond Hotel MonasterioJunior Suite.

Day 16: Cuzco (Inca Monuments)

Breakfast. This morning, see all four species of South American camelid — the llama, alpaca, vicuña and guanaco — at Awana Kancha. From Awana Kancha, drive to the nearby Inca monuments of Tambomachay, Puka Pukara, Qenqo and Saqsaywaman. An à la carte lunch of Peruvian cuisine by chef Coque Ossio at Limo. A few blocks away, visit an artisan’s workshop and the Church of San Blas (built in 1562). Afternoon walking tour in the imperial city of the Incas to their ancient monuments, including the Stone of Twelve Angles, Huacaypata (Leisure Square — now called the Plaza de Armas and dominated by the Spanish colonial Cathedral). the fine Inca walls of Inti Q’ijllo, the Ajlla Wasi (the House of the Virgins of the Sun) and the Qorikancha (the Temple of the Sun). All of these constructions date from the era of 1440 A.D., when Inca Pachakuteq, desiring a capital befitting his great empire, pulled down the adobe city and rebuilt Cuzco in stone. The Palacio Arzobispal, or Archbishop’s Palace, was erected in the 16th century in an Arabesque style on the walls of Hatunrumiyoc, the palace of Inca Sinchi Roca, which contains the Stone of Twelve Angles. The Church of Santo Domingo (begun in 1534), was built over the Qorikancha, the most important religious structure in the Inca Empire. Return to your hotel. This evening, at the Museo de Arte Precolombino, you will see 450 pre-Inca and Inca masterpieces dating from 1250 B.C. to 1532 A.D. Afterward, the 7-plate tasting menu of nouvelle Andean cuisine by chef Manuel Cordova at the Map Café, in the museum’s courtyard. Overnight in the Belmond Hotel MonasterioJunior Suite.

Intra-tour flight Cuzco – Lima, Day 17, 7:50 am – 9:20 am, LAN Airlines LA 2010, Record locator: TBA

Day 17: Cuzco – Lima (Pachacamac & Barranco)

Breakfast. Transfer to the airport for the flight to Lima. Arrival, reception and transfer to your hotel. Morning drive to Pachacamac, the most reknowned pre-Inca and Inca pilgrimage site of the coast, dating back to 200 AD. Upon returning to Lima, an à la carte lunch at the extraordinary Huaca Pucllana restaurant. Afterward, continue to Barranco for a visit to one of the country’s finest crafts shops, Mari Solari’s Las Pallas, and the Museo de Arte Colonial Pedro de Osma, La Puente de los Suspiros (The Bridge of Sighs) and La Iglesia de La Ermita (The Church of the Hermitage). After arrival back at the hotel, have a farewell drink at the bar, order from room service or just rest before the transfer to the airport for your Overnight Flight Home. Relax in the VIP Club while awaiting departure and enjoy a buffet of light fare and beverages, including Peru’s famous pisco sour. Day Room in the Belmond Miraflores ParkOcean View Deluxe Junior Suite.

Day 18: Lima – Home

Flight and arrival home.

 

 

La Compañia de Jesús, Quito, Ecuador.
Photo: Diego Delso.

 

Details

 

Day 1: Flight to Quito, Ecuador

International arrival this afternoon or evening in Quito. Reception and escorted transfer to the palatial Casa Gangotena, internationally recognized as one of the finest hotels in South America. Dine on the 7-plate tasting menu at Zazu, a Relais & Chateaux restaurant, where chef David Pico creates a fusion of South American and international cuisine. Overnight in the Casa GangotenaPlaza View Room.

 

 

Barrel vault of La Compañia de Jesús, Quito, Ecuador.
Photo: Diego Delso.

 

“Palaces more beautiful than the Alhambra were erected …”

 

Under the diadem of the Incas, Quito assumed a magnificence which it never saw before and has not displayed since. It was the worthy metropolis of a vast empire stretching from the equator to the desert of Atacama, and walled in by the grandest group of mountains in the world. On this lofty site, which amid the Alps would be buried in an avalanche of snow, but within the tropics enjoys an eternal spring, palaces more beautiful than the Alhambra were erected, glittering with the gold and emerald of the Andes. But all this splendor passed away with the sceptre of Atahuallpa …

– James Orton, Andes and the Amazon, 1870

 

 

La Iglesia de San Francisco, Quito, Ecuador.
Photo: Diego Delso.

 

Day 2: Quito (Colonial Quarter & the Equator)

Breakfast. Quito has the best-preserved historic district in South America. It is located on an active volcano, 9,300 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains. The city’s origins date back to the first millennium, when the Quitu tribe occupied the area and eventually formed a commercial center. The Quitu were conquered by the Caras tribe, who founded the Kingdom of Quito about 980 AD. In 1462, the Incas conquered that kingdom and created a majestic capital for their northern empire. In 1533, Rumiñahui, an Inca war general, razed the city to prevent the Spaniards from taking it, thereby destroying any traces of the prehispanic metropolis. In 1534, the Spanish conquistadores invaded, and Francisco Pizarro founded San Francisco de Quito. Walking along its cobblestone streets through centuries-old parks and plazas to churches filled with gold, you will imagine you’ve gone back in time to the astonishing colonial world.

 

 

Ceiling of La Iglesia de San Francisco, Quito, Ecuador.
Photo: Diego Delso.

 

This morning, drive to the top of El Panecillo. The significance of this hill dates back to Inca times, when it was known as Shungoloma (“hill of the heart”) and used as a place to worship the sun. Its summit overlooks Old Quito and is crowned by a winged statue of the Virgin. Begin your walking tour of the colonial quarter at the Museo Casa del Alabado, located in a Spanish residence built in 1671. The museum is devoted exclusively to pre-Columbian art, and will transport you into Ecuador’s past, thousands of years before the arrival of the Spaniards. Continue to La Plaza de la Independencia, where the country’s history was written. On one side is the Cathedral (1640), considered to be the oldest in South America. Down Calle de las Siete Cruces (Street of the Seven Crosses) is La Compañia de Jesús (1605), one of the great baroque masterpieces of the continent. Also in the baroque style is the oldest of South America’s colonial churches, La Iglesia de San Francisco (1535). It was constructed over the Inca Palace of Atahualpa and decorated with images of the sun to lure in the native people. The Moorish style of La Iglesia y Convento de la Merced is most likely explained by artists seeking refuge in South America after the expulson of the Moors from Spain. Started in 1538, the church was rebuilt in 1737.

 

 

La Plaza de la Independencia, Quito, Ecuador.
Photo: Mylene d’Auriol Stoessel.

 

An à la carte lunch of Ecuadorian or international cuisine by chef Carlos Alvear at El Crater, inside the Pululahua Volcano. Our afternoon destination is Rumicucho, a late 15th century Inca fortress, observatory and temple of the sun. It was built near the equator, which the Incas called Intiñan (Path of the Sun). Rumicucho was strategically located to allow communication by smoke signals with the ceremonial center of Cochasqui, 9 miles to the east, and with Quito’s El Panecillo and the Palace of Atahualpa, 17 miles to the south. Before returning to Quito, go to the equator, where you can stand with one foot in the southern hemisphere and the other in the northern hemisphere. Don’t be fooled by the Equatorial Monument, which isn’t in the true position.

 

 

Casa Gangotena, Quito, Ecuador.
Photo: Casa Gangotena.

 

This evening, return to El Panecillo for a panorama of the beautifully illuminated colonial quarter. Though not of colonial vintage, the neo-Gothic La Basílica is the place to see bizarre and fascinating gargoyles in the form of giant tortoises, iguanas, anteaters, monkeys, pumas, condors and other Ecuadorian fauna. Admire the night view of the Spanish monuments along Calle de las Siete Cruces, on the way to La Plaza de la Independencia. Passing through the narrow streets of Old Quito, arrive at Theatrum to savor one of the two tasting menus of Ecuadorian cuisine by chef Mauricio Acuña. Afterward, return to your hotel. Overnight in the Casa Gangotena. – Plaza View Room.

 

 

M/Y Grace, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Quasar Expeditions.

 

“We seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact

— that mystery of mysteries —

the first appearance of new beings on this earth …”

 

The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are aboriginal creations, found nowhere else; there is even a difference between the inhabitants of the different islands; yet all show a marked relationship with those of America, though separated from that continent by an open space of ocean, between 500 and 600 miles in width. The archipelago is a little world within itself, or rather a satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and has received the general character of its indigenous productions. Considering the small size of the islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact — that mystery of mysteries — the first appearance of new beings on this earth.

– Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle, 1845

 

 

Land iguana, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Ron Dahlquist.

 

“From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful

have been, and are being evolved …”

 

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

– Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1859

 

Intra-tour flight Quito – Baltra Island, Day 3, 10:20 am – 12:50 pm, Avianca AV-1634, Record locator: TBA

 

Day 3: Quito – Galapagos Cruise (Baltra Island & Daphne Major Islet)

Breakfast. Rise early this morning to catch your flight to the Galapagos. Upon arrival, transfer via panga (dingy) to the waiting M/Y Grace, once owned by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, a wedding gift from Aristotle Onassis. Soon, this historic yacht, limited to 18 guests, will start her engines and set off into the archipelago. Daphne Major Islet, a tuff cone, sits off the north coast of Santa Cruz Island, west of Baltra Island and North Seymour Island. We will navigate around the islet to witness bustling colonies of blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, magnificent frigate birds, short-eared owls and red-billed tropic birds. As the sun sets on your first day in this enchanted archipelago, toast the voyage ahead with a welcome cocktail. À la carte lunch and dinner. Overnight aboard the M/Y GraceAlbert Deck Master Suite.

 

 

Blue-footed boobie, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Day 4: Galalpagos Cruise (Santa Fe Island & South Plaza Island)

Santa Fe offers one of the more beautiful and sheltered coves in the islands. Its turquoise lagoon is protected by a peninsula of tiny islets forming an ideal anchorage. Geologically it is one of the oldest islands in the archipelago. A wet landing on a sandy white beach brings us into contact with one of many sea lion colonies. Galapagos hawks are sometimes easily approached, perched atop salt bushes. You will be struck by the forest of giant prickly pear cactus. At the top of the trail, our goal is to spot one of the large species of land iguanas endemic to Santa Fe. Beige to chocolate brown in color, with dragon-like spines, these big iguanas truly resemble dinosaurs. After the hike, there is nothing more inviting than snorkeling in the calm waters of the bay where sea lions play, sea turtles swim and tropical fish hide amidst the islets that form the natural reef.

South Plaza Island is one of the smallest yet richest islands in the archipelago, known for its lush and diverse flora. A grove of luminescent-green prickly pear cacti, a ground cover of red sesuvium, the turquoise waters of the channel and fiery sally lightfoot crabs combine to create a colorful palette. One of the big attractions are the yellow land iguanas waiting for lunch to drop from a cactus in the form of a prickly pear. We follow a trail up the tilt of the island to cliffs that look out over the ocean. Swallow-tailed gulls with red banded eyes nest atop the overlook where you may spot marine life, such as manta rays. We may see red-billed tropic birds, Nazca and blue-footed boobies catching rides on the wind currents. À la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight aboard the M/Y GraceAlbert Deck Master Suite.

 

 

Male frigate bird displaying, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Day 5: Galapagos Cruise (Genovesa Island: Prince Phillip’s Steps & Darwin Bay)

The southwestern part of Genovesa Island (also known as Tower Island) is an ocean-filled caldera ringed by the outer edges of a sizeable and mostly submerged volcano. Our first landing is Prince Phillip’s Steps. The dry landing begins at the base of this 25-meter (81-foot) stairway leading up to a narrow stretch of land that opens out onto a small plateau inhabited by red-footed boobies, masked-boobies, two species of storm petrels and short-eared owls. After completing the two hour hike, we return to the vessel to change into our wetsuits for some snorkeling at one of the best sites in the islands to see a rainbow assortment of tropical fish.

Landing across the bay to the north, on the white coral sands of Darwin Bay and walking up the beach, you find yourself surrounded by the bustling activity of great frigate birds. Puffball chicks and their proud papas — who sport bulging scarlet throat-sacks — crowd the surrounding branches, while yellow-crowned herons and lava herons feed by the shore. Farther along you will discover a stunning series of sheltered pools set into a rocky outcrop. Watch your step for marine iguanas, lava lizards and Galapagos doves that blend with the trail. The trail beside the pools leads up to a cliff overlooking the ocean-filled caldera, where pairs of swallow-tailed gulls, the only nocturnal gulls in the world, can be seen nesting at the cliff’s edge. Lava gulls and pintail ducks ride the sea breezes nearby. A brief panga ride brings us to the base of those same cliffs to reveal the full variety of bird species sheltering in the ledges and crevices created by the weathered basalt. The center of the caldera is very deep and attracts hammerheads and large manta rays. Right around sunset we will leave Genovesa to set out across the archipelago to the far western islands. À la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight aboard the M/Y GraceAlbert Deck Master Suite.

 

 

Red and turquoise-blue zayapas crab, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Day 6: Galapagos Cruise (Fernandina Island: Punta Espinosa & Isabela Island: Urbina Bay)

Fernandina is the youngest and westernmost island in the Galapagos. It sits across the Bolivar Channel opposite Isabela. Our destination is Punta Espinosa, a narrow spit of land in the northeast corner of the island, where a number of unique Galapagos species can be seen in close proximity. As our panga driver skillfully navigates the reef, penguins show off by throwing themselves from the rocks into the water. Red and turquoise-blue zayapas crabs disperse across the lava shoreline, while great blue and lava herons forage through the mangrove roots. The landing is a dry one, set in a quiet inlet. A short walk leads to a large colony of marine iguanas resting atop one another in friendly heaps along the rocky shoreline, spitting water to clear their bodies of salt. Nearby, sea lions frolic in a sheltered lagoon. Dominating this landscape from high overhead looms the summit of La Cumbre, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Farther down this stretch of shore, the world’s only species of flightless cormorants have established a colony near an inviting inlet frequented by sea turtles. Galapagos hawks survey the entire scene from overhead. The snorkeling off Punta Espinosa offers some real treats, as many of the creatures you just saw on land, including the marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins and sea lions await you in the waters off the point.

 

 

Baby Sea Lion, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Urbina Bay is directly west of Isabela’s Volcano Alcedo, where we will make an easy, wet landing. A highlight of this excursion is the giant land iguanas, whose vivid and gaudy yellow skin suggests that dinosaurs may have been very colorful indeed. Giant tortoises inhabit this coastal plain during the wet season before migrating to the highlands when it turns dry. Our landing beach provides a nesting site for sea turtles and also will provide you with opportunities to snorkel amongst marine creatures, or just relax on shore. This evening you have a real treat as the M/Y Grace sits at anchor in the Bolivar Channel, where you will be spectacularly surrounded by the towering shield volcanoes that form Fernandina and Isabela. Sunset in the channel is also an excellent time to spot whales and dolphins. À la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight aboard the M/Y GraceAlbert Deck Master Suite.

 

 

Los Tuneles lava formations, Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Day 7: Galapagos Cruise (Isabela Island: Tagus Cove & Punta Vicente Roca)

Isabela is the largest island in the archipelago. It is formed from six shield volcanoes that merged into a single landmass. We head north along the western coast of Isabela Island to Tagus Cove. The cove’s quiet waters make for an ideal panga ride beneath its sheltered cliffs, where blue-footed boobies, brown noddies, pelicans and noddy terns make their nests, and flightless cormorants and penguins inhabit the lava ledges. From our landing, a wooden stairway rises to the trail entrance for a view of Darwin Lake; a perfectly round saltwater crater. While one does not normally think of greener pastures when planning to go snorkeling, that is exactly what you will find at Tagus Cove. The carpet of green algae that covers the floor of the cove gives the impression of a submerged pasture, and really that is just what it is. You can find marine iguanas grazing the algae along with numerous sea turtles gliding and munching their way along. Because the cove opens to the rich waters of the Bolivar Channel this is one of the best snorkeling sites in the island. You also have a good chance of snorkeling with underwater feathered friends, including Galapagos penguins and rare flightless cormorants.

 

 

Marine iguana, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

The entire area of Punta Vicente Roca lies on the flank of 2,600-foot Volcano Ecuador. This is the island’s sixth largest volcano. Half of Volcano Ecuador slid into the ocean leaving a spectacular cutaway view of its caldera. At the far northern reaches of Isabela Island lies Punta Albemarle. Albemarle is a prime nesting site for the rare flightless cormorant. The largest marine iguanas in the Galapagos also make their home here, perhaps selected for their size by the rough waters off the point fueled by an abundant food supply. There is also a small colony of fur sea lions that reside here. Mangroves form a green oasis in this otherwise ruggedly-volcanic habitat and its calm waters offer a refuge for sea-going turtles and rays. À la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight aboard the M/Y GraceAlbert Deck Master Suite.

 

 

Pink flamingos, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Day 8: Galapagos Cruise (Santiago Island: Espumilla Beach & James Bay)

As you prepare to go ashore, imagine a young Charles Darwin in 1835 eager to make his landing. Darwin would spend nine days here, exploring the terrain while collecting specimens, including finches. The short walk up the beach leads inland to a mangrove typically inhabited by the common stilts. Beyond the mangroves is a brackish lagoon where flocks of pink flamingos and white-cheeked pintails wade in search of mollusks. The trail makes a pass over a tiny hilltop through a sparse Palo Santo forest before looping back to the beach. Galapagos finches and vermilion fly catchers inhabit the area. The tuff formations that form the cliffs that surround the cove have created a natural sculpture gallery rising from the sea.

In the afternoon we make our way along the northwestern shore of Santiago Island to South James Bay (Puerto Egas), which offers access to three unique sites. One landing is on a black beach. A trail crosses the dry interior and rises to the rim of an extinct, volcanic crater. Darwin describes his visit to South James Bay in Voyage of the Beagle. Another path leads south, where hikers are treated to a series of crystal-clear grottos formed of broken lava tubes. These are home to sea lions and tropical fish. Further to the north, another landing and path lead to a series of inland lagoons, home to flamingos. Birders coming to James Bay will have the opportunity to spot vermillion flycatchers, Galapagos hawks and the tool-wielding woodpecker finch. James Bay is a snorkeling site that is accessed from the shore instead of a dinghy. The sandy beach slopes off into a rocky bottom where a multitude of sea turtles like to hide by blending in with the rocks. But these rocks move and will swim right up to you. At certain times of the year large schools of golden rays and spotted eagle rays also glide by. Both fur sea lions and California sea lions occasionally pass through as well. À la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight aboard the M/Y GraceAlbert Deck Master Suite.

 

 

Giant tortoise, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Day 9: Galapagos Cruise (Santa Cruz Island: Highlands & Charles Darwin Research Station)

Santa Cruz, our next stop, is the second largest island in the Galapagos archipelago. Baltra, where your flight landed, is on the far north end of the island. Puerto Ayora, where we dock, is in the south. A highlight of any trip to the archipelago is a visit to the Santa Cruz Highlands, where the sparse, dry coastal vegetation transitions to lush, wet fields and forests overgrown with moss and lichens. Our destination is the Wild Tortoise Reserve, where we will have chances to view these ancient creatures in their natural setting. Next, we return to Puerto Ayora, home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, the center of the great restorative efforts taking place in the park. Here, we visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding & Rearing Program, which began by rescuing the remaining 14 tortoises on the island of Española in 1970. This program has restored the population of animals there to over 1,000. We return to the M/Y Grace for lunch, after which you will have time to return to Puerto Ayora to shop, visit an Internet café or simply enjoy this little port town. À la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight aboard the M/Y GraceAlbert Deck Master Suite.

 

 

León Dormido, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Intra-tour flight San Cristóbal Island – Guayaquil, Day 10, 12:30 pm – 3:25 pm, Avianca AV-1637, Record locator: TBA

Intra-tour flight Guayaquil – Lima, Day 10, 6:27 pm – 8:22 pm, Avianca AV-7390, Record locator: TBA

 

Day 10: Galapagos Cruise (León Dormido & Galapagos National Park Visitor Center) – Guayaquil – Lima, Peru

As we head down the southwestern coast of San Cristóbal, you will want to rise early to view León Dormido (Sleeping Lion), a spectacular formation that rises 152 meters (500 feet) out of the Pacific. It takes the form of a sleeping lion, but from another angle you can see that the rock is split, forming a colossal tablet and, piercing the sea, a great chisel ready for etching. Small vessels can navigate through the narrow channel between the rocks. We continue on to Wreck Bay for a dry landing at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center presents a complete and documented history of the Galapagos, its ecosystems, flora and fauna. À la carte breakfast.

Important note: The Galapagos itinerary is subject to change without notice for various reasons, including but not limited to safety, weather, mechanical breakdown, unforeseen emergencies, and the discretion of the captain, guide, yacht operator and Galapagos National Park.

 

 

Cristóbal Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Continue to the airport for the flight to Guayaquil, where our airport representative will meet and assist you. Relax in the VIP Club of the International Terminal and enjoy a buffet of light fare and beverages while awaiting your connecting flight to Lima. Save your appetite for tonight’s tasting menu at one of the world’s best retaurants.

Arrival in the five-century-old colonial city of Lima, “City of the Kings” and the capital of Peru. Reception and escorted transfer to the Belmond Miraflores Park, in the garden district of Miraflores, high above the Pacific Ocean and home to the city’s grand 19th century mansions. This evening, explore the 10-plate tasting menu of Astrid & Gastón, No.3 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 (No. 14 in the world). When the restaurant was founded a decade ago by chefs Gastón Acurio and Astrid Gutsche, the restaurant’s cuisine was largely French. Both chefs had studied in Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu. Gradually, though, as they rediscovered Peruvian flavors and culinary traditions, the kitchen began to incorporate local dishes and ingredients, moving towards the sophisticated Criollo concept that characterizes the restaurant today and makes it one of the highest notes in the Peruvian culinary scene. Overnight in the Belmond Miraflores ParkOcean View Deluxe Junior Suite.

 

 

Plaza de Armas, Lima, Peru.
Photo: Mylene d’Auriol Stoessel.

 

The capital of the New World for a period of three hundred years …

 

Day 11: Lima (Colonial Quarter & Museo Larco)

Breakfast. Lima, founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, came to be the capital of the New World for a period of three hundred years, and reached its grandest splendor in the 17th and 18th centuries. This morning, walk with your guide in the heart of the city, which preserves its colonial heritage. It was Pizarro who determined the area for the Plaza de Armas as well as the location of the structures around it. In the center of the plaza is a splendid bronze fountain of 1650. Surrounding the plaza and originally dating back to the city’s beginnings in 1535 are the Cathedral, destroyed in the earthquake of 1746 and rebuilt in 1758; the Archbishop’s Palace, rebuilt in 1924; and the Presidential Palace, rebuilt in 1937. Surviving intact is La Casa de Aliaga. Built in 1535 by Don Jeronimo de Aliaga, a member of Pizarro’s conquering forces and co-founder of the city, it is still inhabited by the original family. Your visit to this antique-filled mansion is to go back in time to the earliest years of the conquest of Peru.

On your walking tour, enter the 1674 La Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, the most spectacular of Lima’s colonial-era churches. It features cloisters and interiors of Spanish tiles; Moorish-style, carved-wood ceilings; a fine museum of religious art; a 17th century library of twenty-thousand books, many dating from the first years of the city’s founding; and catacombs begun in 1546. View the exterior of the 1599 La Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo, Lima’s oldest convent, and enter the 1758 La Catedral for a short visit. In contrast to the religious structures, the 1735 Torre Tagle Palace, with its gorgeous baroque stone doorway and carved-wood balconies, is the city’s best surviving example of secular colonial architecture.

 

 

Colonial-era woodwork and stonework, Archbishop’s Palace, Lima, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Seven-plate tasting menu of traditional Peruvian cuisine at the Café del Museo, located in the gardens of the Museo Larco and directed by Peru’s most prestigious chef, Gastón Acurio. Founded in 1926, the Museo Larco exhibits the world’s largest private collection of pre-Columbian art — a treasure trove of gold, silver, semi-precious stones and textiles. The collection’s predominant strength is in Mochica ceramics, of which the erotic ones are the most famous. Their notariety ought not to obscure the fact that the museum presents a complete view of the cultural development of ancient Peru through a selection of its 45,000 pieces, housed in a colonial building of the 18th century.

Return to your hotel to relax. For dinner, choose among three tasting menus of creative Peruvian cuisine by chef Virgilio Martinez at Central Restaurante, No.1 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 (No. 4 in the world). Overnight in the Belmond Miraflores ParkOcean View Deluxe Junior Suite.

 

 

Terraces of Pisaq, Sacred Valley, Peru.
Photo: Mylene d’Auriol Stoessel.

 

“In this delicious valley …”

 

But the favorite residence of the Incas was at Yucay, about four leagues distant from the capital. In this delicious valley, locked up within the friendly arms of the sierra, which sheltered it from the rude breezes of the east, and refreshed by gushing fountains and streams of running water, they built the most beautiful of their palaces. Here, when wearied with the dust and toil of the city, they loved to retreat, and solace themselves with the society of their favorite concubines, wandering amidst groves and airy gardens, that shed around their soft, intoxicating odors, and lulled the senses to voluptuous repose. Here, too, they loved to indulge in the luxury of their baths, replenished by streams of crystal water which were conducted through subterraneous silver channels into basins of gold. The spacious gardens were stocked with numerous varieties of plants and flowers that grew without effort in this temperate region of the tropics, while parterres of a more extraordinary kind were planted by their side, glowing with the various forms of vegetable life skilfully imitated in gold and silver! Among them the Indian corn, the most beautiful of American grains, is particularly commemorated, and the curious workmanship is noticed with which the golden ear was half disclosed amidst the broad leaves of silver, and the light tassel of the same material that floated gracefully from its top.

– William H. Prescott, The History of the Conquest of Peru, 1847

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Man of Huilloc, Sacred Valley, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Intra-tour flight Lima – Cuzco, Day 12, 8:00 am – 9:20 am, LAN Airlines LA 2023, Record locator: TBA

 

Day 12: Lima – Cuzco – Sacred Valley (Chinchero, Moray, Maras & Urubamba)

Breakfast. Early transfer to the airport for the flight to Cuzco, the capital of the ancient Inca Empire, called Tawantinsuyo. The name of Cuzco is a Spanish version of the native word Q’osqo, which means the “Navel of the Universe”. Arrival, reception and drive to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. On the way, visit Chinchero, the birthplace of the rainbow, according to Inca legend. The village is on the altiplano, or highlands, above Cuzco and the Sacred Valley, at an elevation of 12,340 feet, and rises against a superb Andean landscape dominated by eternally snow-capped peaks. This late 15th century agricultural center maintains its Inca traditions, one being its composition of “ayllus”, or groups of indigenous, related families that work communally in the cultivation of their fields.

Traditional weaving is preserved, in part, through the efforts of The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, which has arranged a private demonstration by one of the finest weavers. Another tradition that traces it roots back to the Incas is the barter, or “trueque”, market. In Chinchero, people still meet to trade good for goods, just as in ancient times, when money did not exist. The market, noted for its textiles, takes place in the main square, at the foot of an Inca wall. Such traditions are not unique to Chinchero; they still exist throughout the altiplano of Peru. The pueblo exhibits a peculiar Andean-Hispanic architectural style, and paintings by the famous native artist Chiwantito hang in a beautiful colonial church. The canvases are in the Cuzqueña style, dating back to the early Spanish period.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Agricultural terraces of Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Afterward, visit the impressive archaeological site of Moray. These circular terraces were built by the Incas in natural sinkholes on a limestone plateau overlooking the Sacred Valley and, according to experts, were used to grow crops in different microclimates. Nearby, below the colonial town of Maras, are age-old, terraced salt mines. At a scenic place along the route, we’ll set up a table and chairs for a picnic lunch prepared by chef Tatiana Mendoza of Cuzco. If you like, take a three-quarter-hour walk down rural paths to the Urubamba River, where your driver and car will be waiting. Arrival at your hotel, the gracious Belmond Rio Sagrado, on the banks of the Urubamba, the Inca’s sacred river. For your à la carte dinner, chef Federico Ziegler presents a delicious fusion of Urubamba’s best kept culinary secrets, Peruvian traditional zest and international delicacies. À la carte dinner and overnight in the Belmond Rio SagradoGarden Junior Suite.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Agricultural terraces of Pisaq, Sacred Valley, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Day 13: Sacred Valley (Pisaq & Ollantaytambo)

Breakfast. Drive along the Urubamba River to the colonial town of Pisaq, where a popular handicraft fair take place under the main square’s century-old tree, with wares displayed on vividly patterned and colored textiles. On Sundays, the traditional mass is held in Quechua, the Inca language, at the local church, which is attended by the village leaders from the surrounding communities. They wear their typical costumes and carry their traditional scepter of authority, or vara, that gives origin to their name of Varayoc.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Solar calendar of Pisaq, Sacred Valley, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

High on a mountain above, tower the imposing remains of an ancient settlement. The Pisaq ruins take up the entire mountain and are made up of different neighborhoods, or squares, the main one being Intihuatana, which is admired for the architectural skill of its constructions. Its central feature is a monumental solar calendar on a promontory from which there are spectacular outlooks. At the same time, the pre-Hispanic cemetery is of great interest, as it is the largest found in this part of the continent, containing thousands of tombs. Pisaq also is famous for the colossal terraces that circle the mountains and the fabulous watchtowers, which were used as observation points as well as for control and military defense.

 

 

Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

For lunch, the 6-plate tasting menu of nouvelle Andean cuisine by chef Ricardo Behar at 3 Keros. Continue to the Ollantaytambo archeological site, a gigantic agricultural, administrative, social, religious and military center in the era of Tawantinsuyo. According to legend, the fortress belonged to a powerful lord, Ollantay, who fell in love with Princess Cusi Coillor, daughter of Inca Pachakuteq. It later served Manco Inca after his defeat by the Spaniards at Saqsaywaman.The architectural style of its streets and squares reflects Inca town planning, with enormous polyhedral stones forming the walls and trapezoidal doorways of temples and palaces set along rectilinear and narrow streets, which have been inhabited continuously since Inca times.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Temple of the Sun, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Above the town, a mountain rises with innumerable Inca constructions, such as magnificently-crafted temples and terraces. One striking construction is the partially-destroyed main temple, believed to be the Temple of the Sun, whose carved-stone facade is made up of six perfectly-sculpted, red monoliths. The mountainside on which this enormous fortress is built is strategic: it dominates three valleys that come together at this point. Across one valley, tremendous blocks of stone lie abandoned along the route from the quarry site to Ollantaytambo, their uncompleted journey marking the arrival of the “Conquistadores”.

At a nearby hacienda, an honored shaman will conduct an ancient ceremony still observed by the indigenous people of Peru. To perform this ritual, the shaman, Hubert Lazarte, gathers such traditional items as coca leaves and wine for a simple offering. Each participant selects three coca leaves and chews them while making wishes for health, well-being and luck, then adds the leaves to the tribute, which includes medicinal and aromatic plants. The shaman prays in the Inca language of Quechua, asking Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) and the Apus (mountain spirits) to grant the wishes as he burns the offering on an altar before burying it in the earth. After this memorable experience, you will return to your hotel. À la carte dinner and overnight in the Belmond Rio SagradoGarden Junior Suite.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Machu Picchu as seen from Putucusi, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Arrive like the Inca.

Consider an unforgettable arrival on the Royal Inca Trail

(Trek must be requested in writing at the time of booking your tour.)

 

Day 14: Sacred Valley – Belmond Vistadome – Machu Picchu

Breakfast. Early transfer to the station to meet your guide and board the train for a descent into the Urubamba Valley to reach Machu Picchu (Old Peak), the “Lost City of the Incas”. The Belmond Vistadome’s carriages have panoramic windows, offering enhanced photographic opportunities. Refreshments will be served. Upon arrival, your guide will accompany you to the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, near the top of Machu Picchu and next to the ruins.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Temple of the Three Windows, Machu Picchu, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

An à la carte lunch of regional cuisine by chef Paulino Huaman in the Sanctuary Lodge’s Tampu Restaurant. On your private tour this afternoon, you will ponder the many theories about this mysterious citadel, including the latest — that it was Inca Pachacuti’s winter palace. The word “ruins” is misleading, as the site is actually in a remarkable state of preservation — only the wood and palm-frond roofs have decomposed over the centuries. Surprisingly, the Spaniards never discovered the sanctuary, and it remained unknown to the outside world until Hiram Bingham’s expedition of 1911. Its discovery captured the world’s imagination, and its allure has never diminished.

Walk back to the hotel. From its terrace and nearby lookouts, you will be able to watch the sunset, southern constellations and sunrise over the citadel, from high above the canyon of the Urubamaba River. An à la carte dinner of Peruvian-Mediterranean cuisine by chef Huaman in the Tampu Restaurant. Overnight in the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge – Choose a Deluxe King Mountain View Room or a Deluxe Twin Mountain View & Terrace.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Temple of the Intihuatana (solar calendar), Machu Picchu, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

“The temples and royal chambers, throughout the Empire, were lined with gold …”

 

The temples and royal chambers, throughout the Empire, were lined with gold, and, in preparing the stone, they left niches and empty spaces in which to put all sorts of human or animal figures: birds, or wild beasts, such as tigers, bears, lions, wolves, dogs and wildcats, deer, guanacos, vicuñas and even domestic ewes, all of which were made of gold and silver …

Imitation of nature was so consummate that they even reproduced the leaves and little plants that grow on walls; they also scattered here and there, gold or silver lizards, butterflies, mice and snakes, which were so well made and so cunningly placed, that one had the impression of seeing them run about in all directions …

In all the royal mansions there were gardens and orchards given over to the Inca’s moments of relaxation. Here were planted the finest trees and the most beautiful flowers and sweet-smelling herbs in the kingdom, while quantities of others were reproduced in gold and silver, at every stage of their growth, from the sprout that hardly shows above the earth, to the full-blown plant, in complete maturity. There were also fields of corn with silver stalks and gold ears, on which the leaves, grains, and even the corn silk were shown.

In addition to all this, there were all kinds of gold and silver animals in these gardens, such as rabbits, mice, lizards, snakes, butterflies, foxes, and wildcats … Then there were birds set in the trees, as though they were about to sing, and others bent over the flowers, breathing in their nectar. There were roe deer and deer, lions and tigers, all the animals in creation, in fact, each placed just where it should be.

– Garcilaso de la Vega, The Royal Commentaries of the Inca, 1609

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Temple of the Three Windows, Machu Picchu, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Day 15: Machu Picchu – Belmond Hiram Bingham – Cuzco

Breakfast. Entrance into the ruins for a day of exploration with your guide or on your own, as you prefer. Start by ascending Machu Picchu for sunrise, which due to the high, surrounding mountains does not occur until around 7 am. It takes an hour to walk up to Intipunku (Sun Gate), the end of the Inca Trail and the ancient entrance into the sanctuary. Its majestic panorama of the citadel, seen from on high, is the first view the Incas had upon arriving from Cuzco. Other memorable hikes lead to the top of Huayna Picchu (a strenuous, two-hour round-trip), the Temple of the Moon (a moderate, four-hour round-trip), the Inca Drawbridge (an easy, one-hour round-trip) and Machu Picchu’s multitude of hidden nooks and crannies. Another à la carte lunch in the Tampu Restaurant.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Huayna Picchu as seen from Machu Picchu, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Descend from Machu Picchu in the late afternoon and walk to the station for the departure of the Hiram Bingham, Belmond’s 84-passenger luxury train, consisting of two dining cars, a bar car and a kitchen car, all refurbished in 1920s Pullman style.

 

 

Hotel Monasterio, a national monument, Cuzco, Peru.
Photo: Genivs Loci.

 

You will have a longer stay at the citadel than others, not leaving for Cuzco until 6:30 pm. The return trip, which arrives at the Poroy Station, on the outskirts of Cuzco at 10 pm, offers cocktails, live entertainment and a four-course, à la carte dinner by chef Federico Ziegler. Evening arrival at the Poroy Station, on the outskirts of Cuzco, reception and transfer to your hotel, the Belmond Hotel Monasterio. Overnight in the Belmond Hotel MonasterioJunior Suite.

 

 

A view of the tile roofs and cupulas of Cuzco, Peru.
Photo: Mylene d’Auriol Stoessel.

 

Day 16: Cuzco (Inca Monuments)

Breakfast. This morning, see all four species of South American camelid — the llama, alpaca, vicuña and guanaco — at Awana Kancha, a living museum of Andean culture. From Awana Kancha, drive to the nearby Inca monuments of Tambomachay, Puka Pukara, Qenqo and Saqsaywaman. Tambomachay is believed to have been dedicated to the worship of water and its aqueducts are fed by springs all year long. The site includes a liturgical fountain and three terraces with structures made from polyhedral blocks of stone, joined without mortar. The setting is bucolic and the spring water is cold, pure and delicious. Drink from the sacred fountain and make your devotions to one of life’s essential elements.

Puka Pukara (Red Fortress) is located at a strategic point along the road to Antisuyo (the jungle quarter of the Inca Empire). It served as a checkpoint and was a military and administrative center. The Inca’s retinue received food and lodging here when he stopped at Tambomachay, on his way to the Sacred Valley.

Qenqo is a vast, rocky hilltop carved into staircases, holes and channels, probably built to store the chicha (fermented maize beer) used in Inca rituals. The site features a semi-circular patio studded with several large niches surrounding a stone figure embedded within a chamber, rather like an idol inside its own shrine.

 

 

Temple and fortress of Saqsaywaman, Cuzco, Peru.
Photo: Mylene d’Auriol Stoessel.

 

To truly appreciate the fortress of Saqsaywaman, one must realize that what may now be seen is only the base of a colossal construction of a series of three successively-higher, defensive structures made from enormous blocks of stone, joined together with great precision.

 

“It would have been in the interest of the Spaniards to maintain this fortress …”

 

Inside this triple enclosure, three tall towers were erected on a large narrow ground. The largest of them was called Mayac Marca, which means the round tower. It was built over a clear, abundant spring, fed by underground canalizations, concerning which nobody knew from where or how they came... This round tower contained rooms with gold and silver paneled walls, on which animals, birds, and plants figured in relief, as though in a tapestry. It was here that the king lived when he came for a rest in the fortress ...

The two other towers, which were round, not square, in shape, were called Paucar Marca and Sacllac Marca, and were used to house soldiers of the garrison, which was composed only of Incas by privilege, ordinary men, even combatants, not being allowed inside this fortress, which was the house of the Sun, both its arsenal and its temple ...

An underground network of passages, which was as vast as the towers themselves, connected them with one another. This was composed of a quantity of streets and alleyways which ran in every direction, and so many doors, all of them identical, that the most experienced men dared not venture into this labyrinth without a guide, consisting of a long thread tied to the first door, which unwound as they advanced....

It would have been in the interest of the Spaniards to maintain this fortress, and even to repair it at their own expense, because, quite alone, it gave proof of the grandeur of their victory and would have served as a witness to it for all eternity. And yet, not only did they not keep it up, but they hastened its ruin, demolishing its hewn stones, in order to construct their own Cuzco homes at less cost.

They made their portals and thresholds with the big flat stones that formed the ceilings, and to make their stairways, they did not hesitate to tear down entire walls, provided they were based on a few stones that could be used for steps.

And so, that is how the Spaniards destroyed the Cuzco fortress.

– Garcilaso de la Vega, The Royal Commentaries of the Inca, 1609

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Fortress of Saqsaywaman, Cuzco, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Saqsaywaman was considered a fortress by the Spaniards, since it was a place of defense, weapons and war. It was considered the House of the Sun by the Incas because, at the same time, it was a place of worship and sacrifice. Notably, it was the site of the most important ceremony of the empire, Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun. Its name means “Satiated Hawk” and it was built in approximately 77 years (1431–1508), during the reign of Inca Yupanqui and Wayna Qhapaj. It began being destroyed from 1537 until 1561, becoming the base for the building of the Spanish Cathedral, churches and homes. “Neither the bridge of Segovia, nor the buildings built by Hercules or the Romans, are so worthy of being admired, as this” says the Spanish chronicler and soldier Pedro Sancho de la Hoz, who saw Inca Cuzco intact, along with Pizarro in 1533.

An à la carte lunch of Peruvian cuisine by chef Coque Ossio at Limo. A few blocks away, visit an artisan’s workshop and the Church of San Blas (built in 1562). It houses an imposing pulpit from the late 17th century that, for many, is the finest example of a carved wooden structure in the world. Chiseled from a single cedar trunk, the pulpit features angels, demons, saints, virgins and beasts. A native artist, Juan Thomas Tuirutupa, is believed to have been the sculptor. The main altarpiece is Baroque and exceptionally beautiful.

 

 

The Stone of Twelve Angles, Cuzco, Peru.
Photo: Mylene d’Auriol Stoessel.

 

“The most renowned of the Peruvian temples,

the pride of the capital, and the wonder of the empire, was at Cuzco,

where, under the munificence of successive sovereigns,

it had become so enriched, that it received the name of Coricancha,

or the Place of Gold.”

– William H. Prescott, The History of the Conquest of Peru, 1847

 

Afternoon walking tour in the imperial city of the Incas to their ancient monuments, including the Stone of Twelve Angles, Huacaypata (Leisure Square — now called the Plaza de Armas and dominated by the Spanish colonial Cathedral). the fine Inca walls of Inti Q’ijllo, the Ajlla Wasi (the House of the Virgins of the Sun) and the Qorikancha (the Temple of the Sun). All of these constructions date from the era of 1440 A.D., when Inca Pachakuteq, desiring a capital befitting his great empire, pulled down the adobe city and rebuilt Cuzco in stone.

 

 

Machu Picchu tours Machu Picchu travel

Incan stonework, Palace of Inca Roca, Cuzco, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

The Inca palaces were in the form of “canchas”, or enclosures, formed by massive stone walls with living quarters, temples and courtyards within. Throughout Cuzco, you will see the Inca walls, built upon by the Spaniards in colonial style. The Cathedral was built over the Inca Wiracocha’s palace. The Palacio Arzobispal, or Archbishop’s Palace, was erected in the 16th century in an Arabesque style on the walls of Hatunrumiyoc, the palace of Inca Sinchi Roca, which contains the Stone of Twelve Angles. The Church of Santo Domingo (begun in 1534), was built over the Qorikancha, the most important religious structure in the Inca Empire. When the earthquake of 1950 collapsed much of the superimposed colonial architecture, it revealed the ancient Temples of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, Thunder and Lightning, and the Rainbow.

 

“The tears wept by the sun …”

 

The interior of the temple was the most worthy of admiration. It was literally a mine of gold. On the western wall was emblazoned a representation of the deity, consisting of a human countenance, looking forth from amidst innumerable rays of light, which emanated from it in every direction, in the same manner as the sun is often personified with us. The figure was engraved on a massive plate of gold of enormous dimensions, thickly powdered with emeralds and precious stones. It was so situated in front of the great eastern portal, that the rays of the morning sun fell directly upon it at its rising, lighting up the whole apartment with an effulgence that seemed more than natural, and which was reflected back from the golden ornaments with which the walls and ceiling were everywhere incrusted. Gold, in the figurative language of the people, was “the tears wept by the sun,” and every part of the interior of the temple glowed with burnished plates and studs of the precious metal. The cornices, which surrounded the walls of the sanctuary, were of the same costly material; and a broad belt or frieze of gold, let into the stonework, encompassed the whole exterior of the edifice.

Adjoining the principal structure were several chapels of smaller dimensions. One of them was consecrated to the Moon, the deity held next in reverence, as the mother of the Incas. Her effigy was delineated in the same manner as that of the Sun, on a vast plate that nearly covered one side of the apartment. But this plate, as well as all the decorations of the building, was of silver, as suited to the pale, silvery light of the beautiful planet. There were three other chapels, one of which was dedicated to the host of Stars, who formed the bright court of the Sister of the Sun; another was consecrated to his dread ministers of vengeance, the Thunder and the Lightning; and a third, to the Rainbow, whose many-colored arch spanned the walls of the edifice with hues almost as radiant as its own …

All the plate, the ornaments, the utensils of every description, appropriated to the uses of religion, were of gold or silver. Twelve immense vases of the latter metal stood on the floor of the great saloon, filled with grain of the Indian corn; the censers for the perfumes, the ewers which held the water for sacrifice, the pipes which conducted it through subterraneous channels into the buildings, the reservoirs that received it, even the agricultural implements used in the gardens of the temple, were all of the same rich materials. The gardens, like those described, belonging to the royal palaces, sparkled with flowers of gold and silver, and various imitations of the vegetable kingdom. Animals, also, were to be found there —among which the llama, with its golden fleece, was most conspicuous— executed in the same style, and with a degree of skill, which, in this instance, probably, did not surpass the excellence of the material.

– William H. Prescott, The History of the Conquest of Peru, 1847

 

 

The Church of Santo Domingo, built by the Spaniards over the Qorikancha (the Incan Temple of the Sun), Cuzco, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

“In the time of the Incas, this garden … was entirely made of gold and silver …”

 

In the time of the Incas, this garden … was entirely made of gold and silver; and there were similar gardens about all the royal mansions. Here could be seen all sorts of plants, flowers, trees, animals, both small and large, wild and tame, tiny, crawling creatures such as snakes, lizards, and snails, as well as butterflies and birds of every size; each one of these marvels being placed at the spot that best suited the nature of what it represented.

There were a tall corn stalk and another stalk from the grain they call quinoa, as well as other vegetables and fruit trees, the fruits of which were all very faithfully reproduced in gold and silver. There were also, in the house of the Sun, as well as in that of the king, piles of wool made of gold and silver, and large statues of men, women, and children made of the same materials, in addition to storerooms and recipients for storing the grain they called pirua, all of which, together, tended to lend greater splendor and majesty to the house of their god the Sun.

All of these valuable works were made by the goldsmiths attached to the Temple, from the tribute of gold and silver that arrived every year from all the provinces of the Empire, and which was so great that the most modest utensils used in the temple, such as pots and pans, or pitchers, were also made of precious metals. For this reason, the temple and its service quarters were called Coricancha, which means the place of gold.

– Garcilaso de la Vega, The Royal Commentaries of the Inca, 1609

 

 

Night life around the Plaza de Armas, Cuzco, Peru.
Photo: Beto Santillán.

 

Return to your hotel. This evening, at the Museo de Arte Precolombino, you will see 450 pre-Inca and Inca masterpieces dating from 1250 B.C. to 1532 A.D. Afterward, the 7-plate tasting menu of nouvelle Andean cuisine by chef Manuel Cordova at the Map Café, in the museum’s courtyard. Overnight in the Belmond Hotel MonasterioJunior Suite.

 

 

House of the Virgins of the Sun, c. 1500 AD, Pachacamac, Lima, Peru.
Photo: Mylene d'Auriol Stoessel.

 

“He who gives life to the universe”

 

At ancient Peru’s most exalted pilgrimage site, eroded temples speak of the pre-Columbian cultures that worshipped the earth god Pachacamac (“he who gives life to the universe”). When the Incas arrived, they respected the temples and religion of those people, allowing them to worship that god alongside the Incas’ own god, the Sun. For their deity, the Incas erected a great stone temple on a cliff above the sea. When the Spaniards arrived, they destroyed the holiest place of that temple in their lust for gold but found that the only treasure it contained was spiritual.

 

Intra-tour flight Cuzco – Lima, Day 17, 7:50 am – 9:20 am, LAN Airlines LA 2010, Record locator: TBA

 

Day 17: Cuzco – Lima (Pachacamac & Barranco)

Breakfast. Transfer to the airport for the flight to Lima. Arrival, reception and transfer to your hotel. Morning drive to Pachacamac, the most reknowned pre-Inca and Inca pilgrimage site of the coast, dating back to 200 AD. It was originally devoted to the worship of the earth god Pachacamac: “he who sustains or gives life to the universe”. Upon returning to Lima, an à la carte lunch at the extraordinary Huaca Pucllana restaurant, located on the grounds of a 1,500-year-old adobe pyramid built by the original inhabitants of Lima. The cuisine is a reinterpretation of the Peruvian Criollo tradition by chef Marilú Madueño, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

Afterward, continue to Barranco for a visit to one of the country’s finest crafts shops: Mari Solari’s Las Pallas. Once Lima’s beach resort, this district is now the home of Peru’s most prestigious artists and writers. Among its colorful, colonial mansions is the Palacio de Osma, now the Museo de Arte Colonial Pedro de Osma, which focuses on colonial Peruvian art from the country’s cultural centers of the day. La Puente de los Suspiros (The Bridge of Sighs) is a romantic outlook over the ocean in the loveliest part of the quarter, said to inspire artists. Next to it is La Iglesia de La Ermita (The Church of the Hermitage), built on the spot where legend has it that a glowing image of Christ appeared to guide sailors home from a tempest at sea. After arrival back at the hotel, have a farewell drink at the bar, order from room service or just rest before the transfer to the airport for your Overnight Flight Home. Relax in the VIP Club while awaiting departure and enjoy a buffet of light fare and beverages, including Peru’s famous pisco sour. Day Room in the Belmond Miraflores ParkOcean View Deluxe Junior Suite.

 

Day 18: Lima – Home

Flight and arrival home.

 

Regal accommodations

 

Regal accommodations featuring Belmond hotels.
Photomontage: Inka’s Empire Tours.

 

About the tour designer …

 

Martin Haggland.
Photomontage: Inka’s Empire Tours.

 

If the art of travel were an opera, Inka’s Empire Tours

would be one of its most moving arias …

– Kimberly Fay, LuxuryLink.com

 

Fabled Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, imperial Cuzco and mythic Lake Titicaca made a lifelong impression on Martin Haggland. He believes that Peru’s ancient civilizations, monolithic ruins, Andean landscapes and native cultures ought to be experienced in a manner befitting their grandeur. And so, he created a private journey in the land of the Incas — a work of art, really — that combines expert guides, masterfully designed itineraries, regal accommodations and gourmet cuisine. At the time, 1990, the country was suffering severe social and economic problems. Tanks were rolling in the streets of Lima and soldiers armed with rifles patrolled that city, Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Things did not look promising for luxury tours. Yet Haggland persisted, making sure his travelers were safe as they discovered the Empire of the Sun. Twenty-five years later, his company, Inka’s Empire Tours, remains dedicated to his original vision. As LuxuryLink.com put it: “There is no more refined way to enjoy the wonders of Peru.” And the hundreds of letters from his guests prove it.

During the decades, he added tours to the Galapagos, mainland Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, with the same hallmark quality and commitment to guest satisfaction. In collaboration with Dr. Charles A. Munn, Inka’s scientific advisor and one of the world’s leading conservation biologists, wildlife tours presented under the Arcana Mundi Expeditions trade name have become a major focus. In fact, sighting Jaguars in Brazil’s Pantanal has become the company’s most popular tour. Whether it is archaeology or wildlife, Inka’s Empire Tours offers a return to the gracious, golden age of travel. Their hospitality begins with all of the luxuries you would expect, but it is the personal attention that will make you feel like a treasured guest.

 

Email

 

jaguars, pantanal, tours, brazil, photography, wildlife, southwild, jaguar flotel, jaguar extreme

Arcana Mundi Expeditions

© Inka’s Empire Corporation 2015. All rights reserved.