In Peru you’ll walk through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, you’ll see the astounding city of Machu Picchu – once the capital and most forbidding citadel of the Inca Empire – and you’ll visit the colonial Baroque fantasy that is Cusco.
Then, after Quito, come the Galapagos Islands, starring creatures so specialised that they inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The indigenous birds, the giant land tortoises, the marine iguanas, the sea lions…completely unmissable.
London – Madrid – Lima
Fly out of London to meet your connecting flight in Madrid – taking you to Lima, where you’ll be met and shown to your hotel, just a short walk from the airport terminal. Alternatively, you can fly direct from London Heathrow to Lima Airport.
Stay: One night in a standard room at Ramada Costa del Sol Hotel.
Cusco and Urubamba Valley
Another flight takes you from Lima to Cusco where you transfer to Urubamba – the famous Sacred Valley of the Incas. Here your journey into the ancient civilisation of the Incas begins as you explore the Urubamba River and the numerous archaeological sites in the region. You’ll visit the complex at Pisac with its astonishing stairway of terraces climbing above Indian Market and Colonial Square. You’ll wander around the fortress at Ollantaytambo and behold the massive views stretching towards the Gorge of Torontoi.
Stay: One night in a superior casita at Hotel Sol y Luna.
A breathtakingly scenic train ride takes you to the world famous Machu Picchu – the hidden city of the Incas. You will be awe-struck as you survey the ancient citadel, the terraces of time-forgotten buildings tumbling down the side of the mountain, the temples, staircases, palaces and fountains. Absolutely unforgettable.
You could even choose to alight from the train early and walk through the Winay Wayna ruins to the Gateway of the Sun – the traditional way into Machu Picchu.
Stay: One night in a classic room at Inkaterra Machu Picchu.
After revisiting Machu Picchu (once is never enough) you take the Vistadome train back to Cusco. Once the capital of the Inca Empire and now on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List, you’ll find Inca remains – like the Temple of the Sun – mingled with Andean Baroque-style architecture, colonial mansions and period cobbled streets. The mighty walls of the Sacsayhuaman Fortress stand just 10 minutes from the city centre.
Stay: Two nights in a patio suite at Hotel La Casona.
Today a quick flight takes you to the second highest capital city in Latin America (after La Paz in Bolivia). Quito stands at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano and was the northern capital of the Incas. Your visit here includes a guided tour of the city so you’ll be able to take in the monuments and museums of the historic centre, as well as Independence Plaza, the Presidential Palace, the cathedral and the gilded interior of the Church of La Compania. Make sure you have plenty of battery life in your camera – the tour also takes in the Monastery of San Francisco and ends at a lookout point that encompasses all of Quito.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at Hotel Patio Andaluz
Now for wonders of a completely different nature. This morning you’ll fly to Baltra Island, gateway to the Galapagos and the extraordinary creatures that so excited Charles Darwin. You’ll board The Darwin for a choice of cruises that will give you a lifetime of memories and take you to an unforgettable series of islands. You’ll visit the amazing Plaza Sur sea lion colony and Espanola to see seabirds like frigates, waved albatrosses, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropicbirds and masked boobies. You’ll encounter giant tortoises on Santa Cruz and swim with penguins or visit a volcano’s impressive lava fields on Bartoleme. And you’ll moor in Darwin Bay on Genovesa in the far north of the Archipelago.
Stay: Seven nights in a twin cabin aboard The Beagle.
Galapagos – Guayaquil – Madrid – London
All too soon it’ll be time to leave the fantastic creatures of the Galapagos Islands. You’ll fly overnight from Baltra to Guayaquil. The following day you’ll board your international flight to Madrid and then on to London, arriving at Heathrow in the early evening.