Day 1 – Wednesday – Miami – Quito: Afternoon flight south to Quito. Upon arrival, meeting and transfer to the charming historic Casa Gangotena located on San Francisco Square in the heart of the historic district of the city for two night stay in Plaza View accommodations. Day 2 – Thursday – Quito: Full day visiting the highlights of one of South America’s most charming cities and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Drive through main streets, business sections and Avenida 24 de Mayo with its teeming public market. See the Legislative Palace, San Francisco Church and San Agustin Monastery among other places of interest. Then drive out of the bustling city through small villages to the “Mitad del Mundo” complex, 23 km from the city. There is a typical colonial town with restaurants and gift shops, international pavilions, an excellent ethno-graphic museum, a planetarium and the Equatorial Line where you can straddle two hemispheres at once! Lunch is included en route today. (B/L) Day 3 – Friday – Quito – Galapagos: Morning transfer for flight to the Galapagos Islands and transfer to the Yacht La Pinta for a 7-night cruise of these Enchanted Isles. NOTE: This itinerary is a combination of La Pinta’s Eastern 3 night and Northern 4 night itineraries which operate every other week. The alternate “Western” 7 night itinerary on La Pinta is available on alternate weeks and the program can be customized to use the 7 night itineraries of the Eclipse, Evolution, Grace and M/C Athala by Eclipse. Once aboard, briefing on the islands and the upcoming itinerary. This afternoon visit the highlands of San Cristóbal the National Park service has created a site to preserve and re-establish the population of giant tortoises of San Cristóbal Islands. Hike through a transition forest, where terrestrial birds such as finches, mockingbirds, doves can be seen. Later take a dinghy ride along the shores of tuff-stone layers to Cerro Brujo’s white coraline beach (wet landing). The beach is a large expanse, great for walking, with rewarding bird watching with good views of seabirds like blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, herons, frigate birds, and more shore birds. Also, look out for Galápagos sea lions. Highlights ashore include the Chatham (San Cristóbal) mockingbird, Chatham lava lizard; both species are endemic to this island, and seen nowhere else in the Galápagos. These are the same shores that Charles Darwin walked upon, back in September 1835, as San Cristóbal was the first island where he set foot in the Galápagos. Evening Cocktail, briefing and dinner. (B/L/D) ABOUT GOING ASHORE: Excursions ashore take place each morning and afternoon, with staggered debarking in groups of 20 based on language. Landings are “wet” (step out of the boat & walk ashore in the surf) or “dry” (using natural promontories as make-shift piers). Walks are generally not difficult though some sites, such as Hood can be challenging but not impossible for the average person. Essential gear for shore visits include hat with brim or bill, plenty of sun protection, insect repellent, good walking shoes (but not overkill mountain trekkers!) and plenty of films. Click here for Island map and additional information. SPECIAL NOTE: If you don’t like animals and you don’t like being an active ingredient in the wildlife experience, don’t visit the Galapagos. The sole reason to go to the islands is the flora and fauna, and you have to go ashore and exert energy to experience it. The guides teach you a motto the first day you arrive: “Take nothing from the islands but memories and leave nothing behind but footprints.” Day 4 – Saturday – Galapagos: Early morning disembarkation on San Cristobal Island at the Natural Galapauera (wet landing) for hike up the slopes of San Cristóbal’s well eroded shield volcano through the arid zone, a great place to see Darwin’s finches and other land birds including the endemic Chatham mockingbirds. Along the way, one can spot some of the last individuals of the San Cristóbal giant tortoise population, living in the wild — tortoises here were almost hunted to extinction during the late 19th century by local colonizers. After the invigorating hike, enjoy a swim to cool off before returning back on board for lunch. Afternoon ashore at Punta Pitt (San Cristóbal Island), an eroded tuff cone. The trail that ascends from the beach provides spectacular views of the shoreline. This is the only site in the Galápagos where the three species of boobies can be found together, as well as the two frigate species, plus a colony of bachelor sea lions along the beach. After the walk, if conditions are favourable, there is a chance to swim from the beach. (B/L/D) Day 5 – Sunday – Galapagos: Morning ashore on Hood Island at Punta Suarez (dry landing) for an exciting walk on lava/boulder terrain to visit its unique sea bird colonies, including the waved albatrosses (April – December), Nazca (masked) boobies, blue-footed boobies, swallow-tail gulls, and the famous blowhole. Among its land birds, the Hood island mockingbird, and three species of Darwin’s finches are common highlights. Also, look for red-green-black marine iguanas. Back on board for lunch. In the afternoon disembark at Gardner Bay, Hood Island, (wet landing) at a white coral beach for a short walk to observe the sea lions, mockingbirds, finches or enjoy the beach. There is great snorkelling in this area (snorkelling equipment is available for guests at no extra cost), or ride the glass-bottom boat. Briefing and dinner. (B/L/D) Day 6 – Monday – Galapagos: Morning disembarkation (dry landing) to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the ‘rearing in captivity’ program for the giant tortoises. Here guests witness the efforts and results of all the field work done in the name of science. An impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest and many land birds can be also seen. After lunch, travel by bus to El Chato Reserve, one of the best places in the archipelago to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. The tortoises are easy to spot, lumbering around, eating grass and leaves and wallowing in the small pools that are common in the reserve. You may also spot some highland birds. Briefing and dinner on board. (B/L/D) Day 7 – Tuesday – Galapagos: Morning disembarkation at a beautiful olivine beach at Whale Bay, Santa Cruz Island. The area has historical relevance since a small community lived in this area in the late 1900s, collecting lichen (Rosella Tictoria), used in the textile industry. The trail leads guests to an old water hole used by the former settlers. There are also boobies, land birds and beautiful views of the northwest side of Santa Cruz Island to enjoy. Several activities are possible after the walk, such as snorkeling or a panga ride along the shoreline. Back on board for lunch. In the afternoon disembarkation at the island of Sombrero Chico to explore along its 400-metre long trail, which begins at a crescent-shaped white sandy beach. Several species of shore birds can be spotted, along with marine iguanas, lava lizards and sally lightfoot crabs. The cove offers excellent swimming and snorkeling opportunities with white-tipped reef sharks and tropical fish. Galápagos penguins also zoom past here sometimes. Briefing and dinner. (B/L/D) Day 8 – Wednesday – Galapagos: Morning ashore at Bartolomé Island (dry landing) for a hike to the summit. A great way to start the day! This is a steep climb up a wooden staircase with handrails and several resting and observation stops; the view from the top is worth the effort. Following the walk, a dinghy ride around colossal Pinnacle Rock, is rewarding, followed by time to enjoy the beach (wet landing) and some snorkeling, with possible Galápagos penguin sightings. Guests can also ride on the glass-bottom boat for great views of the underwater world. Lunch on board. In the afternoon board the panga for the short ride to the landing site at Sullivan Bay, James Island, for a wet landing on a white coral sand beach and a walk over lava that flowed here less than 100 years ago. This is the perfect place to see and feel the volcanic origin of Galápagos. Briefing and dinner. (B/L/D) Day 9 – Thursday – Galapagos: The morning starts with a very interesting panga ride along the cliffs of Tower Island and then disembark (dry landing) at Prince Phillip’s Steps for a steep climb (90 feet) up some stairs. Once at the top of the stairs, the land is flat, allowing for a stimulating walk of about a mile to the other side of this small island, observing large colonies of masked boobies, frigate birds and storm petrels. Those not wishing to disembark can enjoy a longer panga ride along the cliffs (depending on weather conditions). In the afternoon, a wet landing at Darwin Bay, Tower Island for an easy stroll observing thousands of birds, mainly frigate birds, red footed and masked boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds. Optional walk over sharp lava and uneven terrain for dramatic views, or else return to the beach to enjoy swimming and snorkeling at this beautiful natural harbor. The more adventurous can snorkel along the cliffs or paddle sea kayaks. Evening Farewell Cocktail, departure briefing and dinner. (B/L/D) Day 10 – Friday – Galapagos – Guayaquil and fly to Lima, Peru: After breakfast transfer to the airport to take the flight back to Guayaquil where you change planes and fly south to Lima. Upon arrival Lima, meeting and assistance with getting to the Ramada Costa del Sol airport hotel for overnight stay. (B) Day 11 – Saturday – Lima – Juliaca – Puno: Morning flight over the Andes to Juliaca where your private guide is waiting to take you an hour over the Altiplano to Puno, gateway to Lake Titicaca. You’ll stay two nights in a Superior Lake View room at the small lakeside Casa Andina Private Collection with breakfast daily. (B) Day 12 – Sunday – Puno: Today you will enjoy a full day excursion exploring Lake Titicaca, legendary birthplace of the Inca. Morning departure for motor launch excursion that takes you to the Uros Islands, inhabited by fisherfolk and hunters. The residents of the Uros use the totora reed which grows in the lake to fabricate the islands themselves. The island’s inhabitants are considered to be the oldest populations of the entire altiplano (high Andean plateau), and it is said that they withdrew to these floating reed islands in the middle of the lake in order to flee invading cultures and preserve their own. After this visit we head off to Taquile Island, inhabited by a peasant community that has managed to maintain their ancestral customs and traditions almost entirely intact. Following lunch we will walk around the area and visit various archeological remains and beaches, where we can take in the beauty and enormity of the highest navigable lake in the world. (B/L) Day 13 – Monday – Puno – Cuzco: Today you will enjoy one of the world’s great rail journeys crossing the Altiplano to Cuzco. Morning transfer to the train station to board the “Andean Explorer”, the only train of its kind in South America. It consists of a rake of four dining cars and an open-air observation-bar car. The coaches are exquisitely decorated in the style of the 1920’s and food and beverage service is provided. The first part of the journey across the Altiplano is gentle rolling Andean plains with herds of alpaca and llama and towns. Mid-way the train stops at La Raya, the highest point of the trip, where you can debark for photos and shopping with the Indians. Then the scenery turns dramatic and is dominated by the majestic snow-capped Andes and green valleys. Arrival into Cuzco is in the late afternoon. Meeting upon arrival and transfer to your hotel, the charming 11-suite boutique hotel La Casona in the heart of ancient Cuzco for two night stay. Day 14 – Tuesday – Cuzco: This morning visit to the main points of interest in Cuzco, considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere, Walk the historic district, visit the Korikancha and the Plaza de Armas among other places of interest and then drive to the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Kenkko and Tambo Machay. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure to explore this ancient Inca capital at your own pace. (B) Day 15 – Wednesday – Cuzco-Sacred Valley of the Incas: Today you will spend the day exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Stop by the Awanacancha Center, a center for llamas, alpacas and vicunas and learn about their wool, the curing and handling, and about weaving techniques. Then continue to the ruins of Pisac, cascading down the mountainside with commanding vistas of the Valley and the colorful Indian market in the town of Pisac with time to bargain for souvenirs, textiles and handicrafts. En route today you will enjoy lunch at the Hacienda Huayroccari, known for its cuisine and filled with the family’s art collection. Also make a stop at the studio and ceramics workshop of Pablo Seminario, an artisan who has dedicated many years to the study of Pre-Columbian pottery techniques and designs, incorporating them into his own works. Late afternoon drop off at your hotel in the Valley, the charming Hotel Sol y Luna, for two night stay. (B/L) Day 16 – Thursday – Sacred Valley: Begin the day with a visit to Ollantaytambo, called a Living Inca Town since the inhabitants maintain very old practices and customs. The Incas built it as a fort that included a temple, agricultural terraces, and an urban area and it was an important administrative center with probable military functions if one considers the walls and towers. From Ollantaytambo travel along a unpaved road 19 kilometers up along a narrow canyon lined with ancient agricultural terraces to the Village of Willoc, a native rural Quechua community, located at 12,129 feet and home to a group of families rich in cultural values. Here the Quechua-speaking inhabitants distinguish themselves from the rest of the region by wearing red clothing that identifies them as members of a unique family. Most men earn their living as porters for the Inca Trail and are known as “Huayruros”. Women, also strong and resourceful, are outstanding weavers known for producing the highest quality textiles in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Enjoy a boxed lunch en route with late afternoon return to your hotel. (B/L) Day 17 – Friday – Sacred Valley – Machu Picchu: Morning transfer to the train station at Ollantaytambo for scenic journey by VistaDome rail service to Machu Picchu Pueblo where mini-buses wait to take you up the 1200 foot serpentine road to the fabled Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. Never found by the Spanish Conquistadores and only rediscovered in 1911 by American archaeologist Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu is spectacularly set atop a mountain. Enjoy a guided tour of the ruins, lunch at the hotel and time to explore at your own pace. Then take the shuttle back down to Machu Picchu Pueblo for overnight at the charming InkaTerra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, in Junior Suite Deluxe accommodations. (NOTE: Your guide returns to Cuzco on the afternoon train.) (B,L,D) Day 18 – Saturday – Machu Picchu – Cuzco: Day at leisure to explore at your own pace. Re-entry tickets to Machu Picchu Ruins along with entry tickets for Wayna Picchu trail and roundtrip shuttle service will be given to you locally. Hike up Wayna Picchu in the morning and then have a leisurely lunch in Machu Picchu Pueblo – there are a variety of restaurants. At 6PM you’ll depart Machu Picchu Pueblo on the luxury Hiram Bingham train, with cocktails, hors-d’oeuvres, entertainment and four course dinner as you ride the rails back to the Poroy station, for final half hour transfer to Cuzco, arriving around 10PM for overnight stay at La Casona. (B,L,D) Day 19 – Sunday – Cuzco – Lima: Transfer for morning return flight to Lima. Meeting and transfer to the Miraflores Park for overnight stay. This afternoon you will enjoy a visit to this once royal city, founded in 1535 and originally named The City of Kings. Visit the Plaza de Armas, recently named by UNESCO as Cultural Heritage to the World, with the Cathedral and Presidential Palace, the 17th Century Church and Monastery of San Francisco and then drive out into the modern suburbs of Miraflores and San Isidro. You’ll also make a visit to the Larco Herrera Museum, founded in 1926, showcasing remarkable chronological galleries providing an excellent overview on 3000 years of development of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. Located in a unique vice-royal mansion of the 18th century built over a 7th century pre-Columbian pyramid, it is surrounded by beautiful gardens. The museum features the finest gold and silver collection from Ancient Peru, a large collection of pottery and an excellent collection of pre-Columbian weaving and the museum houses and, in a separate building, the famous erotic archaeological collection. (B) Day 20 – Monday – Lima – Iquitos and Embark ARIA: Morning at leisure with mid-afternoon transfer to the airport for your flight to Iquitos, in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest. Meeting by the staff from Aqua Expeditions and board an air-conditioned bus for transfer to the pier at Nauta, a drive of about 2 hours, where the M/V ARIA awaits you for your four night cruise to the bio-diverse Pacaya-Samaria Reserve. You’ll enjoy Deck 2 Design Suite accommodations, all meals, all activities and excursions, alcoholic and non-alcholic drinks (except premium brands) and Pacaya-Samiria Reserve. As you settle into your suite, the vessel will start on its journey toward the Maranon River, deep in the heart of Amazonia. Over the next three days you will also sail along the two largest tributaries of the Amazon, the Ucayali and the Maranon, as well as on the mighty Amazon itself. You are embarking on a spectacular adventure to a place visited by only a few of even the most experienced world travelers. Before dinner we will perform a routine safety drill. Following that, your Cruise Director and Guides will give a brief orientation talk about life on board, where you will go and what you will see on your Amazon journey. Then enjoy the Welcome Dinner and perhaps a nightcap on the Upper Deck, under the stars, before retiring. (B/D) NOTE: The itinerary detailed here is the “high water” itinerary applicable to travel during December through May. For travel between June and November, the itinerary has slightly different activities in the same areas. Day 21 – Tuesday – Maranon River – Choroyacu – Pacaya Samiria National Reserve: This morning board the skiffs to explore part of the vast Amazon flooded forest. Your guides will tell you about the rainforest and its dynamic life, as you explore what scientists call a “gallery forest,” because of its narrow vegetation, creating a tunnel of leaves. As you float through this tunnel, it is easy to spot parrots, macaws, and fluffy monk saki monkeys, very close to the skiff. Lunch on board and in the afternoon enjoy a jungle walk and visit to a village where your guides will introduce you to native people doing subsistence farming, and will tell you how they learned to cultivate wild plants and trees to earn farm income. As your adventure takes you deep into the primary forest, your guides will also show you the wealth of fruit trees and medicinal plants hidden in the jungle and will reveal some of the plants’ secrets. (B/L/D) Day 22 – Wednesday – Tacsha River – Pacaya Samiria – San Martin de Tipishca: Today you can choose between two options: OPTION 1: A full day primary forest excursion with picnic lunch Go deep into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, along the Samiria River. Along the route, we will have the opportunity to see various species of monkey, such as howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, saddleback tamarin monkeys and many bird species such as blue, yellow and scarlet macaws as well as toucans and some species of river hawks. We will arrive at the PV2 Tacsha watchpost, where we will follow a path deep into the rainforest. Enjoy a generous picnic lunch, before we begin our journey back to our vessel. Return to Aria around 1730. (B/L/D) OPTION 2: Morning jungle walk in the primary forest, lunch aboard the ARIA and afternoon Caiman expedition This morning your Naturalist Guide will tell you all about sustainable resource management projects in Amazonia, and will take you to one of these projects, where villagers are planting palms to obtain oil. Your Guide may also show you the artificial nests created on the sand to protect turtle eggs. Then we will take you deep into the jungle, where you will encounter wildlife and learn first-hand about the important medicinal value of many jungle plants. They will also show you famous Kapok Trees (ceiba pentandra), the tallest trees in the Amazon Basin. In the late afternoon, take a skiff excursion, keep your eyes directed toward the jungle canopy, where you can spot at least several kinds of primates—some of the 13 species of monkeys resident in the National Reserve. Perhaps you will catch a glimpse of tamarins and dusky titi monkeys, as well as pigmy marmoset monkeys. Watch for alligators, and keep your binoculars at the ready, as you are likely to see more than 200 species of birds. As the sun sets and our searchlight comes on, keep your eyes out for caimans, tree boas, tarantulas, and frogs. (B/L/D) Day 23 – Thursday – Yanayaquillo – Tahuayo – Charo Lake: Back on the river as the sun rises, you will see a treasure trove of wildlife, including parrots, macaws, toucans, and many kinds of monkeys, as well as some “surprise” species that you have never seen before. Enjoy a “bag breakfast” of light sandwiches and fresh juice. Since we will stop near a popular dolphin feeding spot, you will see quite a show as you enjoy your meal. This afternoon we will travel to this splendid “hot spot” lake, where you will be certain to catch some of the more than 3,000 species of tropical fish that live in the Amazon basin. Our key focus will be on piranhas, those small, sharp-teethed carnivorous fish with a big reputation for being scary. Catching one will make for great cocktail conversation back home. Once back onboard, the ship will continue its journey downstream, sailing toward Iquitos through the night. Farewell dinner and crew presentation of the crew members that you have not yet met, but who have been busy with the “behind the scenes” work that has helped to create a seamless experience. (B/L/D) Day 24 – Friday – Arrive Iquitos – Disembarkation and fly Iquitos – Lima: The excursions today depend on the level of the river. Weather and time permitting, this will be the last opportunity to see how people live along the Amazon—by floating in skiffs through the lively riverside community of Belen in Iquitos. Here, where the houses and shops actually float on the river during some months, you will see the bustling food market for the entire Peruvian Amazon. All local inhabitants throughout the region sell and purchase goods here. Return to M/Y Aria, finishing packing and have lunch. Debarkation will be around 1315. Before we head for the airport, we will take you to visit the Manatee Rescue Center, where biologists and volunteers care for endangered Amazon manatees that conservation authorities have seized from local people, including fishermen. Biologists will give a presentation about the project and its efforts to help these helpless mammals. You will also see how the manatees are cared for and are prepared for re-introduction into their natural habitat. After your visit transfer to the airport for your flight to Lima. Upon arrival meeting and assistance with getting to your airport hotel, Costa del Sol Ramada for overnight. (B,L) Day 25 – Saturday – Lima – Miami: Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your return flight to Miami, where you clear customs, immigrations and continue to your home city.