Ancient Peru and the Wild Galapagos
An unforgettable luxury South America vacation tracing the evolution of both the natural world and, human history, from Peru to the far-flung Galapagos Islands.
This 15-day voyage begins in Lima, Peru’s coastal capital, where you’ll sample the distinctive flavors of Peruvian cuisine with a relaxed market visit and authentic, private cooking class. Then, in the charming district of Barranco, you’ll enjoy privileged access to two of the best private collections of influential Peruvian art – a must-see for those seeking cultural South American travel.
Leaving the Pacific coast behind, you’ll fly high into the Andes mountains, tracing the enchanting history of the ancient Incas. Exploring the fascinating ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo – with overnight stays in some of the best luxury hotels in Peru – you’ll alight a luxury train to Machu Picchu on day four of this private South America tour. A wonder of the ancient world, Machu Picchu tops travel bucket lists globally, and with two days set aside to explore this man-made marvel, you can take in its sublime beauty without haste.
Back in the city of Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, you’ll unearth the history of a city that echoes secrets of the past, before trying your hand at Cusquenian art in a unique workshop led by a professional Peruvian artist. Then, after a full week in Peru, this luxury South America tour will take to the ocean to explore the evolution of the natural world.
Arriving from Peru in Guayaquil, Ecuador, you’ll alight a plane to the island of Baltra in the Galapagos. Now step aboard a luxury Galapagos cruise, a purpose-built yacht with all the amenities of a luxury hotel, and your home for the next seven nights. Settling into your 5* cabin, you’ll set sail on a once-in-a-lifetime voyage around the Galapagos Islands.
Comprising some of the most iconic of the thirty-five volcanic islands, a luxury vacation to the Galapagos offers a rare, close encounter with some of the world’s most extraordinary creatures accompanied by trained biologists and ecologists. By day, you’ll snorkel, trek, and explore one of the most biodiverse places on the planet – and by night, you can sip cocktails in the top-deck jacuzzi, before dining on Ecuadorian delights as the sun sets over the equator…
Please note, the following is a sample itinerary for a private South America tour, please contact our team of luxury travel specialists in Peru to learn about alternatives including bespoke Galapagos family vacations, private Galapagos cruises and charters, as well as shorter or longer Galapagos vacations, or combining land-based stays on one of the inhabited Islands.
- Explore the delights of foodie Lima with an authentic cooking class and market visit
- Visit the charming district of Barranco and enjoy privileged, private access to two of the best private collections of influential Peruvia
- Alight a luxury train to Machu Picchu and spend two days taking in the sublime beauty of this ancient wonder
- Wander the cobbled streets of Cusco, and discover its fascinating history, before trying your hand at Cusquenian art
- Fly to Guayaquil, Ecuador, before reaching Baltra in the Galapagos Islands to board your luxury Galapagos cruise for a once-in-a-lifetime
- Spend 7 nights and 8 days aboard a luxury Galapagos Cruise, accompanied by an expert team of naturalists and biologists
- Spot some of the world’s rarest species, only found here in the Galapagos, from orcas and giant tortoises to magnificent birds and reptile
LimaView on map
Welcome to Lima
Your Aracari representative will welcome you to Peru, should you wish - greeting you on the runway tarmac as you alight from your plane.
Presented with your welcome pack, containing a variety of gifts carefully selected from all over Peru, you’ll then be whisked off to your hotel where we will assist with all check-in procedures.Accommodation options
- Day 2
LimaView on map
Discover the delights of Peruvian cuisine, with a relaxed guided market and authentic cooking class, before heading to the charming district of Barranco to witness two rarely visited private collections of influential Peruvian art.
For the first morning of your luxury South America vacation, you will be whisked away on our experience ‘Friendly foodies: the social chefs of Lima’ - ideal for small groups due to its relaxed nature, and because the Lima cooking class takes place in a private kitchen.
Over the next 4-hours you’ll be led by one of our wonderful professional chefs, beginning with the many different stalls and vendors of one of Lima’s popular markets. Your chef guide will explain more about the exotic fruits, vegetables, seeds, and street foods that laden the tables, stopping to purchase traditional fruits, which will later become part of your dessert.
Traveling to a private, purpose-built kitchen in the heart of Miraflores, you’ll start your cooking class with a cocktail in hand. The menu will consist of a variety of seasonal, traditional Peruvian dishes with plenty of options to choose from. Whichever dishes you choose to prepare, each will comprise the freshest ingredients, all sourced locally, and you’ll be taught to prepare the plates just as a Peruvian would!
Sitting down to your lunch in this relaxed setting, your chef guide will tell you more about the social and cultural aspects of Peru's rich culinary history – and you can ask any questions that may have piqued your interest over the last few hours.
In the afternoon, you’ll journey via private transfer to the charming Lima district of Barranco before arriving at two rarely visited private collections of influential Peruvian art, displayed in the home, and former home, of the collectors themselves. You’ll be accompanied by an Aracari subject specialist, people who aren’t simply guides, but rather leading researchers and professors in their subject area. They have written books, held lectures, and made ground-breaking discoveries about the many different cultural antiquities displayed at Pedro de Osma Museum and Casa Liébana.
Your first stop will be the Pedro de Osma Museum, a beautiful early 20th-century mansion that was once the home of a Peruvian aristocrat and passionate collector of viceregal art, Pedro de Osma. Today, the house has been lovingly restored into a private museum, housing an invaluable collection of Peruvian art, spanning from the 5th to the 18th century.
This intimate, family-run museum is most famously known for its collection of viceregal art – with whole rooms dedicated to different features of the style, such as Madonna’s and archangels. As you navigate through the corridors and rooms of the mansion built by Pedro de Osma's father, our Specialist will point out the pieces belonging to Pedro de Osma's private collection including colonial paintings, sculptures, and silver from the period. However, the museum also has an incredibly rare and exclusive display of antiquities that remains relatively undiscovered by the public. This collection of fascinating artifacts contains pottery, metalwork, and textiles from multiple Peruvian cultures, dating from as far back as 500BC – such as the Quero ceramic vases of the Tiwanaku culture – making it one of the best art experiences in Lima.
Leaving Pedro de Osma Museum behind, you’ll walk with our specialist guide through the charming streets of Barranco to arrive at your next artistic adventure: Casa Liébana. It’s at the gates of the magnificent Liébana villa, that you’ll be received by Joaquin Liébana – a prominent artist in his own right, and one of the sons of the late Jaime Liébana, owner of this exquisite home and its fine collection of Peruvian art.
The Liébana family have been longtime friends of Aracari for many years, and so our guests are afforded the luxury of visiting this appointment-only art collection, accompanied by the unrivaled knowledge of Joaquin Liébana himself. Inside the family mansion, you’ll be guided around its many rooms – brimming with one-of-a-kind objects.
As well as his expansive collection of work from other artists, Jaime Liébana was himself an artist and master carpenter – receiving critical acclaim for his work, especially his wooden furniture designs. In fact, one of the first rooms you’ll visit inside Casa Liébana will be a space showcasing his pieces, some of which are available for sale. And alongside Jaime’s own pieces, you’ll also find a selection of contemporary artworks by his successful artist sons, Mateo and Joaquin, who followed in their father’s creative footsteps as a painter and sculptors respectively.
Your Aracari Specialist and driver will then take you via private transfer back to your hotel or leave you to explore more of this wonderful part of Lima.Accommodation options
- Day 3
Lima – Sacred ValleyView on map
Fly to the historic city of Cusco in the Sacred Valley and visit ancient Pisac, exploring the sights and smells of the famous market in the mountains.
Today you’ll fly to Cusco on this private tour of South America, assisted by our representatives in Lima who will take care of all check-in procedures for your domestic flight. Upon arrival in the mountainous region of Cusco, you will be met by another member of our team and be driven to the Sacred Valley. On route, you will stop at Awanacancha camelid ranch, a traditional Peruvian farm where you will be invited to meet the herds of native llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos.
Once back on the road, you will continue onto the famous Pisac market and ruins. As you meander through the sights and smells of the market stalls, you’ll be able to purchase fresh produce and street food, as well as traditional handmade art and crafts. The Inca masonry at Pisac is also wonderfully preserved, and you’ll learn about its history as you take in views of the incredible mountain terraces below.Accommodation options
- Day 4
Sacred Valley - Machu PicchuView on map
Explore the fascinating Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo, before catching a Vistadome train to the ancient wonder of the world: Machu Picchu.
On the fourth day of your luxury vacation to Peru, you’ll explore the ruins of Ollantaytambo – it was here that one of the greatest battles of the Conquest was fought - and one of the few instances in which the Incas defeated the Spaniards. Before dining on a delicious dinner, where herbs and plants from the hotel’s organic garden can help you acclimatize to the high-altitude setting.
In the afternoon, you’ll board a Vistadome train headed for Machu Picchu. Featuring spectacular panoramic windows offering impressive views of the surrounding Valley, this is an incredible experience during any luxury South American vacation. The journey takes approximately 1.5hrs to Aguas Calientes, where you’ll then be taken by private transfer to your hotel – Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. Alternatively, you can upgrade to the Hiram Bingham luxury train to Machu Picchu – and of course, we can also arrange private charter train services.Accommodation options
- Day 5
Machu Picchu - CuscoView on map
Take in the sublime beauty of Machu Picchu and hike Huayna Picchu.
Spend the day exploring the iconic ruins of Machu Picchu, one of the world's most important archaeological sites. Set among mist-shrouded mountains, this man-made marvel has become a symbol of the ingenuity and prosperity of one of the most expansive empires in Latin American history: the Incas. Your expert guide will explain the history and purpose of this awe-inspiring site.
You can also opt to hike to Huayna Picchu. Offering spectacular panoramic views, Huayna Picchu rises 260 meters (850 ft) higher than Machu Picchu, and you’ll see how the Incas built a trail up the side of the mountain, and on its top, temples, and terraces.
Afterward, you’ll take the bus back to the town of Aguas Calientes to catch the Vistadome train to Ollantaytambo for your private transfer to Cusco, taking approximately 2 hours. Or, upgrade to the luxurious Hiram Bingham train for your ride to the ancient city.
- For small groups we recommend privately chartering the Private Machu Picchu train
- Day 6
CuscoView on map
Explore the charming, cobbled streets of ancient Cusco and discover its fascinating history, before trying your hand at Cusquenian art in a workshop led by a professional Peruvian artist.
As luxury travel specialists in Peru, no private tour of South America is complete without exploring the city of Cusco. So today you’ll begin with an expert guide at the Plaza de Armas, the Main Square. One of the most historic plazas on the continent, you’ll find exquisite Spanish Colonial architecture and ornamentation imposed by Spanish colonists to exert religious and political influence. The Inca relics remain in the city too, your expert guide will point out the original Incan solid stonework that lines the cobbled streets.
Next, visit Koricancha, the most fascinating ‘Sun Temple in the Inca Empire, along with the breathtaking Cathedral, a repository for Cusco’s colonial art, as well as many other important archaeological relics and artifacts. You will also stop by the colorful San Pedro market and pass through the charming neighborhood of San Blas.
After lunch, you’ll spend the afternoon learning about Cusquenian art from a professional Peruvian artist belonging to the local art group Totemiq, before trying the technique of colonial Cusquenian gilding for yourself.
Arriving at the Florencia y Fortunata Café – a warm and welcoming place in the city of Cusco – you’ll be greeted by your guide, an artist belonging to the Totemiq collective, a group of artists inspired by Peruvian nature and cultural richness. As you take your seat in the café, your guide will begin the experience by telling you the story of Cusquenian art and syncretism, as well as about Andean culture.
You’ll hear about the Toritos de Pucará and its importance in the local traditions. The Torito de Pucará – or bull of Pucara – is a characteristic ceramic piece of art from the Pucara district of Peru. Initially used in marking ceremonies and for the procreation of livestock, protection, happiness, and fertility in married life, this ceramic piece has become a symbol of the southern Peruvian Andean identity.
You will then receive your very own Torito de Pucará and art materials inside a beautiful little box, ready to begin the workshop. With a delicious coffee in hand, provided by one of the best local producers in Cusco – or, an infused version for the younger participants – you’ll learn the famous technique of Colonial Cusquenian gilding. Using sheets of bronze, copper, and aluminum, you will work with both traditional and contemporary techniques to decorate your own little bull. Once finished, you will have created your very own Cusquenian art, which you can now carry with you as a guardian of the Peruvian Andes.
For your final evening in Peru, you’ll dine at the atmospheric Cicciolina. A Cusco institution for almost 20 years, this tapas restaurant and wine bar can be found in a magical setting overlooking the terracotta tiles of the city. Expect a menu of European dishes made with local Andean ingredients, making for delicious fusion and a wonderful way to spend the final night of your luxury Peru vacation.Accommodation options
- Day 7
Cusco - Lima - GuayaquilView on map
Leave Peru as you journey from Cusco to Lima, and onto Guayaquil in Ecuador, the gateway to the majestic Galapagos Islands.
Today you’ll set off for Ecuador, where you will pick up your luxury Galapagos cruise in Guayaquil. Aracari representatives will assist you throughout the journey, beginning with a private transfer to Cusco airport, and then with your layover in Lima, before greeting you in Guayaquil and taking you via private transfer to your hotel.
- For the Galapagos portion of the itinerary there are many luxury cruise options. The following is a sample itinerary. Please contact us to learn about alternatives including special family departures, charters, shorter or longer duration or land-based hotel options on one of the Galapagos Islands. Flights to the Galapagos are available from Quito or Guayaquil.
- Day 8
Guayaquil – Galapagos IslandsView on map
Endemic Cruise (8 days/7 nights)
Today you will board your luxury Galapagos cruise Baltra Island in the Galapagos archipelago. The Endemic is a purpose-built luxury Galapagos cruise catamaran launched in the summer of 2018. Designed to offer unrivaled luxury alongside sustainable operations, it has one of the best crew-to-guest ratios in the archipelago.
After passing through immigration and baggage claim you will be met by Endemic staff and transferred to the yacht and shown to your cabin where you will have some time to settle in before lunch and a welcome briefing. Endemic offers remarkable features you can’t find on other vessels, including stunning full-height, full-width panoramic windows and a private balcony for every suite. Thanks to its twin-hull design it is much more stable on the water than traditional yachts, making it a perfect choice for a luxury Galapagos cruise vessel.
Once ready, you’ll begin your once-in-a-lifetime voyage to the Galapagos Islands. A treasure trove of unique marine and animal life, the Galapagos Islands is one of the world’s foremost destinations for seeing wildlife. An archipelago made up of a total of 35 volcanic islands, Charles Darwin famously visited this isolated terrain located off the coast of Ecuador where this natural environment, home to species found nowhere else, inspired his theory of evolution.
This afternoon, you’ll make your first stop in Galapagos during your private vacation to South America. Las Bachas is a beautiful white-sand beach, located on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island. There you can go for a stroll or do some easy snorkeling in the gentle surf. Sea turtles lay their eggs at the edge of the vegetation, and you can also look for a rusted pontoon, a relic of the Second World War. In fact, ‘bachas’ is a poor pronunciation of ‘barges,’ two of which were wrecked offshore at that time: the locals mispronounced the name and it stuck.
- 7 nights aboard the Ocean Spray
- Day 9
Galapagos IslandsView on map
After enjoying a delicious Ecuadorian breakfast onboard, you’ll visit the beach at Darwin Bay. This white-sand coral beach heads a trail (1/2 mi / 3/4 km) that winds through mangroves that are filled with land birds. You may see Nazca Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, and Swallow-tailed Gulls. Further down the path, you could also see sea lions playing in tidal pools. Arriving at the cliffside, you’ll take in the spectacular views while the Boobies and iguanas keep you company.
In the afternoon, you’ll head to El Barranco or The Cliff, also known as Prince Phillip's Steps, a steep and rocky path leading you up 25 meters (82 ft.) cliff-face. After marveling at the view, you will have the opportunity to take a short trek through Palo Santo vegetation. Here you will once again be dazzled by all the birds: Red-footed Boobies, Short-eared Lava Owls, Galapagos storm petrels, and Galapagos Doves.
Back on board, you can enjoy Endemic’s Sky Deck, featuring a huge circular jacuzzi, luxurious loungers, a bar, and an al fresco dining area, the perfect place to unwind and enjoy an equatorial sunset.
- Day 10
Galapagos IslandsView on map
The tenth day of your private South American vacation will begin with a visit to the Los Gemelos (Twin Craters) in Santa Cruz. Located in the highlands of the island, the scenic Twin Craters are approximately 30 meters deep. These two huge land depressions are surrounded by a scalesia forest with abundant birds such as the yellow warbler and the vermilion flycatcher.
Continuing the day, you’ll next head to Sullivan Bay, named for the channel where the yacht will be anchored. Back in 1897, the island fired up its own internal kiln giving birth to a field of pahoehoe (“rope-like” in Hawaiian) lava reaching out into the channel toward Bartholomew. The results gleam in the sun like a gigantic, obsidian sculpture. It stirs the imagination to envision the once-molten lava lighting up the earth, flowing into the sea, and sending plumes of superheated steam skyrocketing into the air as pockets of gas in the flow exploded when the lava hit the water.
The flow created a new land as it engulfed vegetation, leaving some plants forever etched into the earth – an unmissable sight for those seeking a luxury South American adventure. Today the flow stands as a great walkway gallery of abstract shapes resembling braids, curtains, and swirling fans. Brightly colored painted locusts and lava lizards punctuate the black volcanic canvas, as does the occasional finger of lava cactus and spreading carpetweed. Accompanied by your expert guide, you’ll hike the flow, taking time to admire the Earth’s craftwork, before returning to Endemic’s upper deck for an evening cocktail.
- Day 11
Galapagos IslandsView on map
The Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela Island boasts the largest basaltic caldera in Galapagos at 9 x 10km. During this luxury Galapagos cruise, you’ll explore the impressive views, observing up to seven species of finch and a rich display of vegetation. Over on the north side of the caldera, you’ll spot evidence of its most recent volcanic activity in 2005.
In the afternoon, you’ll next visit the Wetlands and Wall of Tears. The Wetlands are comprised of lagoons, swamps, and various mangroves that are home to unique bird species. The so-called ‘Wall of Tears’ is an interesting visitor site in the Galapagos, built by previous prisoners kept on the island as a cruel way to keep them busy, it stands about 3 meters wide, 100 meters long, and 5-6 meters high.
For the final activity of the day, you’ll head to the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center on Isabela Island. It’s here that infant and juvenile giant tortoises can be seen until they are ready to be released and survive in the wild. Then, on the way back to the yacht for an evening of relaxation, be ready to spot flamingos and other water birds.
- Day 12
Galapagos IslandsView on map
After a delicious breakfast and a morning coffee on the upper deck, you’ll head to Elizabeth Bay on Isabela Island. Here there are a series of islets, a lagoon, and mangroves surrounding it. The mangroves provide a great place to observe many birds and at the lagoon, it is possible to see sea turtles resting and feeding.
Continuing South, you’ll next visit Urbina Bay – an interesting site due to the uplifts of the island caused by volcanic and tectonic activity. When it rose, so did the coral reefs that were under the surface. You can still see them although they are beginning to deteriorate due to air exposure. There are chances of seeing giant tortoises too, as well as land iguanas, and flightless cormorants nearer the coast.
- Day 13
Galapagos IslandsView on map
Day thirteen of this private South American tour will see you head to Tagus Cove on Isabela Island. The cove is located on the upper west part of the island and was named after an English warship that frequently sailed by in the 1800s. This was a famous spot for many pirates and sailors who have left their names, and the names of their ships, inscribed on the volcanic rock still visible today. You’ll see many kinds of rock here from various volcanic activities such as large volcanic rocks or small little balls of petrified rain. From here, you’ll join a magnificent hiking path that crosses the island and down to Darwin Lake.
In the afternoon, you’ll visit Espinosa Point. It’s found within fascinating scenery created by lava, with Lava-Cactuses and mangroves which thrive on the surface of this lava lake. The highlights are sea lions, penguins, the flightless cormorant (especially in spring and summer), and one of the biggest iguana colonies in the Galápagos.
- Day 14
Galapagos IslandsView on map
The penultimate day of this luxury Galapagos vacation will include a visit to Espumilla Beach on Santiago Island, where marine iguanas lounge and the Sally Lightfoot crabs attract hunting herons performing their predator and prey dance right before your eyes. Snorkeling is highly recommended here, with octopus, moray eel, sharks, and a variety of other species of tropical fish in abundance.
Next, you’ll travel to Buccaneer Cove, which is a testament to the fact that Santiago Island was once a refuge for British buccaneers. These pirates would anchor in the protected bay to make repairs to their ship and stock up on tortoise meat. The cliffs, where hundreds of seabirds perch, set against the dark red sand of the beach, is a magnificent site to behold. It’s here you’ll spot the famous cactus groves and rock formation scenery, alongside many more native and endemic species. During the walk on the red sand beach, you will see brown pelican nests and a lagoon where flamingos are seen from time to time.
After a magnificent day exploring, you’ll journey back to Endemic for your final night of this luxury Galapagos food, enjoying a wonderful dinner and toasting a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
- Day 15
Galapagos Islands - GuayaquilView on map
Santa Cruz Island - Departure
Your final morning of this luxury South American vacation will include a visit to Mosquera, a small islet found between Baltra and North Seymour Islands. Here lava gulls, sea lions, and sally light foot crabs inhabit a sandbank that extends over 600 meters. It also hosts the largest populations of sea lions and orca whales which can be witnessed depending on the season.
After this last stop, you’ll head to Baltra airport for your return flight to mainland Ecuador. An Aracari representative will be waiting for you at your connecting airport, where they will assist you with all check-in procedures and escort you to the departure area to catch your international flight home.
Aracari specializes in tailormade travel. Here are just some of our further trip suggestions. Contact us for more bespoke ideas to inspire your travels.
Journey pricing as of 2022
Basic Pricing - US$15,200 per person
This is a sample journey and can be tailored to your interests and travel style.
- Based on two people travelling together in double or twin occupancy
- Cost per person for this 15-day itinerary.
- Discounted children's rates on request
This journey is based on two people travelling together in double or twin occupancy, excluding flights (international and domestic).
- Includes all specified services in the journey description
- All transfers and entrance fees
- A welcome pack on arrival including: a pre-loaded cell phone to contact your travel consultant at any time, a printed booklet packed with insider tips alongside your detailed journey and up-to-date recommendations on dining and shopping
- Hand-selected English-speaking guides
- Specialist guides (where noted)
- 24-hour support from our locally based team
- 14 nights in a hand-picked and personally tested selection of Peru and Ecuador’s finest hotels and cruise ships
Ancient Peru and the Wild Galapagos
- Domestic flights (quoted separately).
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Travel Insurance.
- International Flights and airport taxes.
- Neither personal expenses nor any other service not specified in the itinerary.
- Day 2