Want to see and do it all? Can’t decide whether to hike the iconic Inca Trail or discover the world’s number one destination for wildlife, the Galapagos? Well my friend, this is the trip for you. Say hello to giant tortoises, puffer fish & Peruvian llamas, before embarking on a once in a lifetime adventure to one of the man-made wonders of the world, Machu Picchu.
We’ve arrived in Ecuador’s largest city and are ready and raring to conquer it all. Getting out of here pretty early we’ll take to the skies, bound for the glorious Galapagos Islands. Excited much? You should be. On arrival we’ll appease our rumbling stomachs with some munch.
Giant tortoises roaming their natural surroundings and incredible old lava tunnels will welcome us onto the island of Santa Cruz. After lunch, we’ll take to the ocean and make tracks to our home for the night – the impossibly glorious Isabela Island, where we’ll sleep amidst the spellbinding beauty of the Galapagos National Park.
The inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’, Isabela Island is home to wildlife you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Picture the scene – sandy streets, palm trees, crystal waters and seal pups playing – can it really get any more perfect? Soak it all in, as it’s home for the next little while.
Well good morning paradise. The ocean is calling, and who are we to resist her? Our wildlife kayaking adventure will see us taking to the seas with beady eyes on the lookout for green sea turtles.
We’ll wake up hungry for the day this morning (that’s what island life does to you), and for good reason – Santa Cruz is on the horizon.
After settling in to the Santa Cruz way of life, we’ll stroll down to the beach and the cosy Tortuga Bay. Wildlife fanatics will be in their element – the island is known for sharks, rays, turtles, great blue herons, and even blue footed boobies. Spend your time sunbaking next to a marine iguana, or roam the streets stopping off in cute cafes for fresh juice pit stops.
Our stint on Santa Cruz wraps up this morning with a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station where one of the island's most famous residents once lived, Lonesome George, the now deceased 100-year old tortoise. The Research Station is something of a mini miracle in action, where countless species of tortoise and land iguanas have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
Back on our boat we’ll set sail for San Cristobal, keeping our eyes peeled for cute bathing sea lions (we won’t have to look too hard – they’re literally everywhere). Four extinct volcanoes sit across the island creating scenic highlands that are best experienced by bike – mainly cruising downhill, you'll be happy to know. The tiny town of El Progreso will add a splash of colour to our journey, and we’ll also cross five different vegetation zones before arriving at our seaside destination – La Loberia beach.
It’s our last day soaking up the natural beauty of the Galapagos, and what a day we’ve got planned. Bird-watching will kick us off, followed by a cruise to the 143-metre Kicker Rock – a natural phenomenon that protrudes from the ocean and is one of the greatest icons of the area. Our Local Guide will give us the low-down on the wildlife – both above and below the water – that surrounds the rock, then we’ll jump in and explore for ourselves. Keep a look out for chocolate chip starfish and a Galapagos Shark or two, but remember the golden rule – keep those toes off the coral, as you can do serious damage to the delicate eco-system. Back on board, we’ll make tracks for Puerto Grande beach. Here, we’ll eat lunch on board and enjoy a final afternoon of Galapagos fun, before rounding off the day with a feat to end all feasts. WHAT A DAY.
We’ll wave goodbye to Ecuador this morning, but the sad faces at leaving this beautiful country won’t last for long. Why? 2 words…Peru, baby!
Our included flight will land us in the seaside Peruvian capital of Lima. Arriving late, we’ll nevertheless be pumped at the prospect of what tomorrow brings – more of South American adventuring and yet more awesome people to enjoy the journey with. Life is pretty sweet right now.
Your Peruvian adventure starts today, meet up with your fellow explorers before your Inca Trail trek.
Heading out of Cusco and bound for the Sacred Valley on our private coach, this is where our journey into the ruins and mystique of this land truly begins. But first, llamas. An iconic symbol of Peru, we’ll be stopping off at a llama farm to show some love to these furry favourites up close, and we’re talking the whole humpback family – llamas, vicuna and alpacas. #llamaselfie achieved, we’ll then stop off to witness the ancient Incan art of weaving in practise by a group of talented local artisans
Our explorations of the Sacred Valley will begin with a guided tour of the Pisac and Ollantaytambo ruins. Our Local Guide will give you the d-l on both, visiting the circular terraced Pisac ruins first which date back to the 1400’s. Moving on to Ollantaytambo, base camp for where we start our trek tomorrow, we’ll appease dry mouths with some homemade Chica de Jora brew. This tiny town may be small in geographical terms, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in attitude, with artisan shops and cafes spilling out onto streets, and the roaring Urubamba river providing the perfect natural background noise. This will be our final chance to stock up on last minute essentials (socks, socks and more socks) for tomorrow trek so use your time wisely, and feel the anticipation brewing for what is about to be the adventure of a lifetime.
The moment you've no doubt been waiting for is almost here, as you prepare to take on what might just be the world's most famous hike to the pride of Peru. This morning we’ll rise early to drive to Piscacucho village, landing ourselves at kilometre 82 of the Cusco-Machu Picchu Railway. With our porters and Local Guides leading the way, we are in good hands as we take our first steps on the trail. We’ll take an easy paced hike through the Valley of Wayllabamba, allowing our bodies to get acclimatised to the altitude, reaching the first archaeological complex of Llactapata before we march on to our base for the night, which sits at an altitude of 3,000 metres above sea level. A good meal and a couple cups of coca tea will see us right, getting an early night to ensure we are fresh faced and raring to go come sun up.
Today will be something of a beast – roughly 7 hours hiking the 10.5 kilometre section of trail - but a totally epic beast that’s worth every second. Trekking through Yunca Chimpa, Llulluchapampa, and Warmiwañusca we’ll reach an altitude of 4,200 metres and observe dramatic changes in nature and ecology. There's nothing like passing through cloudforests, waterfalls and wildlife while climbing ancient ruins to leave you giving virtual high fives to the ancient Incas, wondering just the how the heck they did it back in the day. Descending into our campsite at Pacaymayo by the afternoon, which nests at 3,600 metres above sea level, we’ll devour dinner, relishing in the knowledge that this time it was well and truly deserved. Another early night beckons – tomorrow is another big push to the top.
The call of the Ruins of Runkurakay will rouse us out of bed this morning and see us departing from Pacaymayo. These ruins are an Inca resting place and will see us climb to Runkurakay Pass (3,860m aove sea level). Next up is the mysterious Inca outpost of Sayaqmarca, followed by Phuyupatamarca, quite aptly named the ”Town Above the Cloud". The Wiñay Wayna ruins (Forever Young) located at 2,650m will play host to us this evening after our 14-kilometres and 8 hours on foot. Tonight after our last night under the starts, we will sleep with smiles on our faces, knowing what tomorrow will bring...
Any body aches or all-consuming yawns will be quickly erased this morning by the knowledge that it's our last day on the trail, and our first glimpses of Machu Picchu are mere hours away. With just 3.5hours on foot and 6-kilometres to cover, the enchanting site that awaits us will make it all worthwhile. As we near the Sun Gate, cheered on by others who have similarly conquered the trail, Machu Picchu will reward you with one of the most incredible views you've ever seen - trust us on that. Descending into the site we’ll take in Wayana Picchu 'Little peak' – the iconic peak you’ll have seen in every picture ever – marvelling at the incredible handiwork of the ancient Incas. Satisfaction levels at an all-time high and with a big ol’ smile on your tired face, we’ll head back to the Sacred Valley and a squishy hotel bed you couldn’t be more deserving of.
Still living off yesterday’s dream we’ll farewell the Sacred Valley as we make our way back to Cusco.
Back in Cusco we’ll pay a visit to the Cusco Centre for Textile Traditions, a Contiki Cares & TreadRight Foundation supported centre that employs more than 500 artisans from across the region, each one working to preserve the 10,000 year old Andean tradition of weaving. Later on and after checking in to our hotel, why not ask your Trip Manager to point you in the direction of a masseuse – something you’re no doubt super deserving of! Tonight we’ll reconvene for dinner, re-living our shared experience of having conquered one of the biggest travel goals a human can have.
Having bonded deeply over the moving spiritual quest of the past week, our goodbyes today will be particularly heartfelt. We'll share one last breakfast together before going our separate ways and continuing on to our next adventure - armed with incredible memories that will stay with us for a lifetime.
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Trip Name: Trails Turtles and Treks
Duration: 14 Days
From Price: £3,545
Supplier Tour ID: 94/209863
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