Machu Picchu, Ecuador Amazon & Galapagos Cruise

from $5,690.00

Visit three of the most fascinating destinations in South America in one trip. Explore the ancient ruins of the Inca civilization. Stay in a luxurious eco-lodge…

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Machu Picchu, Ecuador Amazon & Galapagos Cruise

Visit three of the most fascinating destinations in South America in one trip. Explore the ancient ruins of the Inca civilization. Stay in a luxurious eco-lodge in the Amazon amidst scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, and countless other animals. Cruise the Galapagos Islands and view wildlife that inspired Darwin to introduce his theory of natural selection.

  • TRIP LENGTH 14 days
  • STARTING AT $5,690
  • DEPARTURE DATES Every Sunday
  • BOAT CAPACITY 100 passengers

*Prices based on 2 travelers



HighlightsExperience destinations like never before
  • Explore the Sacred Valley & Cusco
  • Visit an ancient Inca Fortress
  • Trek through the Amazon rainforest
  • View the forest from a canopy tower
  • Watch parrots flock at clay licks
  • Observe endemic wildlife in the Galapagos
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.
  • Private tours in Peru and mainland Ecuador
  • Small group excursions on the Galapagos cruise
  • All lodging in double or triple occupancy
  • All activities per itinerary
  • Most meals
  • Airport transfers
  • Internal airfare (additional cost)
  • Detailed pre-departure materials
  • Dedicated Andean Discovery US & South American staff assisting you every step of the way!
What is not included in this tour?Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.
  • International airfare to and from South America
  • $120 per person Galapagos park fees
  • Gratuities
  • Travel insurance (available upon request)

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  1. Day 1 Welcome to Quito, Ecuador!

    Meet your Andean Discovery guide and transfer to your hotel.

    Quito, Ecuador, is a spectacular city positioned just a few miles shy of the equator in a narrow valley surrounded by volcanoes. At 9,350 feet above sea level, it is the second highest capital city in Latin America and maintains a pleasant spring-like climate all year round. Quito is also the cultural epicenter of Ecuador, with a plethora of museums, expansive outdoor parks, and colorful festivals and fairs. Upon evening arrival into Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, you will be met by Andean Discovery staff and transferred to your hotel to relax after the long flights.

    Meals: On your own

    Standard Lodging: NH Hotel Quito

    Superior Lodging: Swissotel Quito

    Options & Add-ons: Consider flying in a day earlier and enjoy a city tour or explore an Andean cloud forest.

  2. Day 2 Fly to Galapagos / Begin wildlife cruise

    Hike, snorkel, and observe Marine Iguanas, Penguins and Blue- footed boobies. Begin Legend Itinerary “C”.

    This morning you will be met by Andean Discovery staff and transferred to the airport in time for your morning flight to Baltra Island, Galápagos. Upon arrival in the Galapagos, you will be met by your Galapagos naturalist guide and have lunch and a welcome briefing on board the Galapagos Legend. This afternoon you will discover a fascinating lunar-like landscape formed by different volcanic parasitic cones as you hike to the summit of Bartolome for impressive views of the surrounding islands, including the eroded tuff cone Pinnacle Rock. The lack of vegetation is immediately noticeable, and you may encounter marine iguanas, lava lizards, and blue- footed boobies along the way. Enjoy some beach time and a great opportunity to snorkel and observe Galapagos Penguins, sea turtles and White-tipped Reef Sharks and a great variety of colorful fish. The water here is generally clear, without too much surf and full of marine life, making it one of the best snorkel sites in the Galapagos.

    Meals: B, L, D

    Lodging: Galapagos Legend – Standard Plus Cabin

    Cabin Upgrades: Junior Suite, Balcony Suite

    Options & Add-ons: If you prefer a smaller boat, opt for the 20 and 36-passenger Coral I & II vessels or upgrade to a luxury 16-passenger catamaran or yacht

  3. Day 3 Wildlife cruise: Plazas and North Seymour Islands

    See a cactus forest at South Plaza, then nature walk with blue- footed boobies, frigate birds, and sea lions on North Seymour.

    South Plaza (Plazas Island)
    Dry landing on the northern part of the Islet. The walk begins with an impressive cactus forest surrounded by land and marine iguanas, as we reach its highest point, be on the lookout for tropicbirds, a Nazca and blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls. In South Plaza there is a large colony of the smaller sized land iguanas. The population is approximately 300 individuals. They feed on all kinds of vegetation, but during the dry season survive on the fruits and flowers of Opuntia cacti. Due to their proximity with marine iguanas, this is the only place on Earth where we will find the Galapagos hybrid iguana. This afternoon disembark on North Seymour Island and enjoy a two-hour walk amidst large nesting colonies of blue-footed boobies, great frigate birds, and swallow-tailed gulls for an in-depth encounter with sea bird breeding cycles and as well as sea lions. You will also observe sea lions, land iguanas, and on a lucky day, you might even come across a Galapagos Snake.

    Meals: B, L, D

    Lodging: Galapagos Legend – Standard Plus Cabin

    Cabin Upgrades: Junior Suite, Balcony Suite

  4. Day 4 Wildlife cruise: San Cristóbal Island

    High intensity hike along green beach and a volcanic tuff. White sand beaches and snorkeling at Cerro Brujo.

    Pitt Point / Pitt Islet
    Wet landing followed by a high intensity hike on rocky terrain. The trail includes an olivine beach of 90 meters long and a path that climbs to the top of a volcanic tuff, through several magnificent viewpoints. This is probably the only site where the three booby species of the Galapagos can be seen together, as well as two species of frigate birds and a sea lion colony; it is also excellent for dinghy rides and snorkeling, where a good range of sea birds can be observed. Cerro Brujo is an eroding tuff cone* that at several locations is composed of AA lava formations, and a beautiful white sand beach, great for snorkeling and sunbathing. We visit a lagoon where migratory bird species can be seen: Black-necked Stilts, Ruddy Turnstones, Whimbrels, other sandpiper species and White-cheeked Pintails. Cerro Brujo offers beautiful views of Kicker Rock, the southern part of San Cristobal and the adjacent coast.

    Meals: B, L, D

    Lodging: Galapagos Legend – Standard Plus Cabin

    Cabin Upgrades: Junior Suite, Balcony Suite


  5. Day 5 Conclude cruise / Fly to Quito

    Visit giant tortoises and learn about conservation programs, stop in the port village, then begin the journey to Quito.

    Cerro Colorado Tortoise Reserve
    Dry landing in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Passengers visit the San Cristóbal giant tortoise Breeding Center to learn about the National Park’s conservation programs. Enjoy a beautiful landscape on the way to the Reserve. Passengers will also have the opportunity to visit the port village, have a drink or shop for arts and crafts and other souvenirs. Transfer to the airport in Baltra in time for your flight to Quito. A light lunch/snack will be served on the flight. Additional lunch not included. Upon arrival at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, you will be met by Andean Discovery staff and transferred to your hotel.

    Meals: On your own

    Standard Lodging: Rincon de Puembo

    Superior Lodging: EB Hotel Quito Airport

  6. Day 6 The Amazon Rainforest

    Featuring the Napo Wildlife Center itinerary. Fly to the small town of Coca and make your way to your lodge by canoe.

    This morning a 30-minute flight takes you to Coca, a small town located in the upper Amazon Basin. From there embark on a 2-hour motorized canoe ride along the Napo River. Look for marine birds, including herons and kingfishers, along the way. Next board traditional, dugout canoes for a majestic and peaceful 1- to 2-hour ride surrounded by trees overhead. You will be paddled along a narrow creek that connects to the lagoon where your lodge is located. Keep your eyes out for monkeys, toucans, parrot, and macaws. After arriving at the lodge and enjoying dinner, opt to look for caimans around the lake as you take in the evening sounds of the jungle.

    Meals: B, L, D

    Standard Lodging: Sacha Lodge

    Superior Lodging: Napo Wildlife Center

  7. Day 7 Explore the Amazon Rainforest

    Visit two parrot clay licks, enjoy hikes through the forest, then relax at your lodge and observe all different wildlife.

    A native Anangu guide and a bilingual naturalist guide lead you during todays excursions, including visits to two parrot clay licks. Back at the lodge you may see a group of giant otters investigating near the dock, a large black caiman crossing the lake, a capybara looking for rest near the waters edge, or blue and yellow macaws soaring overhead.

    Meals: B, L, D

    Standard Lodging: Sacha Lodge

    Superior Lodging: Napo Wildlife Center

  8. Day 8 Explore the Amazon Rainforest

    See the Amazon canopy from a bird’s eye view a-top an observation tower, hike the forest, and end with a canoe ride.

    After an early breakfast, climb a 120- foot canopy observation tower and emerge on top of a huge Ceiba tree. Here you cross onto a wooden platform that is built into the tree to experience the view formerly reserved only for the birds. Flocks of colorful tanagers pass through the tree canopy, Spider Monkeys search for fruit in nearby trees, and toucans call in the early mornings and afternoons. This afternoon hike into the forest interior where you may see lizards, colorful manikins, or the unique and endemic Golden mantle tamarin monkeys. Afterward, explore the lake and creeks by dugout canoe with great possibilities of running into a Giant otter family.

    Meals: B, L, D

    Standard Lodging: Sacha Lodge

    Superior Lodging: Napo Wildlife Center

  9. Day 9 Conclude Amazon Stay / Fly to Lima, Peru

    One last canoe ride to conclude your amazon stay before beginning your journey to Lima, Peru.

    This morning board the canoes for a paddle upstream back to Coca for your flight to Quito. Upon arrival in Quito enjoy a late lunch at a nearby restaurant and transfer back to the airport in time for your international flight to Lima, Peru. Upon arrival in Lima, you will be met by Andean Discovery staff and transferred to your hotel.

    Meals: B, L

    Lodging: Wyndham Lima Airport

    Options & Add-ons: Add an extra day in Lima to explore this vibrant city, boasting some of the best restaurants in all of Latin America

  10. Day 10 Fly to Cusco / Explore the Sacred Valley

    Meet friendly llamas and alpacas and enjoy lunch at a private Andean estate.

    Wake up knowing the capital of the ancient Incan Empire awaits! An Andean Discovery staff member will ensure your journey to Cusco goes smoothly by assisting the check-in for your one-hour flight. After a spectacular trip over the Andes Mountains, your Andean Discovery guide and driver will greet you and you’ll begin your descent into the Sacred Valley. This area extends from Cusco, the Imperial City, to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. In this area, ancient civilization and modern life collide with an intriguing mix of archeological sites and vibrant small towns. Meet fluffy llamas and alpacas and learn about the important role of weaving in Peruvian culture. Enjoy a traditional lunch in a private estate and peruse its fine collection of Inca and colonial artifacts. Later this afternoon, you’ll check in to your room at an Andean paradise with fragrant gardens and mountain views.

    Meals: B, L, D

    Standard Lodging: Tierra Viva Sacred Valley

    Superior Lodging: Hacienda Urubamba. Enjoy stargazing, panoramic views and more with this upgrade

    Options & Add-ons: Visit a crafts market in Pisac and walk a trail up to ancient temples

  11. Day 11 Inca ruins / Train to Aguas Calientes

    Visit the fortress at Ollantaytambo and embark on the famous train ride through the cloud forest toward Machu Picchu.

    This morning continue down the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, home to the royal estate of the ninth Inca, Pachacuti, one of the most important Inca rulers because of his role in expanding the empire throughout South America. Today, Ollantaytambo is thought to be the only remaining example of pre- Colombian urban planning. It still retains the original street plan and foundations designed by the Incas. Later this morning, experience one of the world’s great train rides as you embark on the journey to Machu Picchu. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the views as the mighty Urubamba River carves its way through the Andean peaks outside your window. Descend into the cloud forest and arrive in Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. If you opt for the upgraded lodging, our staff will assist you to your boutique eco-lodge, Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, situated in 13 acres of cloud forest garden along the Urubamba River. This afternoon is free to spend as you desire, with opportunities to visit thermal hot springs, a natural sweat lodge sauna, and a serene orchid pavilion.

    Meals: B, L, D

    Standard Lodging: Casa Andina MP

    Superior Lodging: MP Pueblo Hotel. Enjoy hot springs, nature trails, and other activities in the cloud forest with this upgrade

    Options & Add-ons: Extra visit to Machu Picchu – Short Inca Trail trek to MP

  12. Day 12 Privately guided tour of Machu Picchu

    Travel back in time as you explore Machu Picchu with your guide and enjoy a hike up nearby Wayna Picchu.

    Take a short bus ride through tropical mountain forests to reach Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. Flanked by steep Andean peaks on all sides and the mighty Urubamba River gorge below, it’s no wonder the Spanish were never able to find this secret Incan hideaway. Journey back in time with a walking tour through the complex and learn about the mysterious origins of this other- worldly citadel, which once served as a private retreat for Inca royals and their families. Marvel at the intricate and sophisticated stonework of its dwellings, sculptures, terraces and waterways, all of which make Machu Picchu one of the greatest architectural achievements of all time. Visit the Temple of the Three Windows, the Sacred Plaza, and the famous Intihuatana stone, a sacred stone carved by the Inca to mark the solstice and determine the beginning and end of each agricultural year. After exploring Machu Picchu, relax and watch the clouds of mist roll in over the mountains or opt for an exhilarating hike up to the summit of Wayna Picchu for an unparalleled aerial view of the ruins. Return to Cusco this evening. Dinner on your own.

    Meals: B, L

    Standard Lodging: Casa Andina Cusco

    Superior Lodging: Palacio del Inka

    Options & Add-ons: Hike to the summit of Wayna Picchu for a birds- eye view of Machu Picchu

  13. Day 13 Explore the city of Cusco / Depart

    Visit the Coricancha sun temple, Sacsayhuaman, and a local food market, then fly to Lima and depart.

    This morning you will explore Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire and known as the ”Navel of the World” in the Quechua language. Quechua- speaking descendants of the Incas fill the streets, proof that this ancient culture is still vibrant today. Meet your guide and wander down cobbled walkways admiring the architecture, a unique blend of Inca and Spanish influences. The first stop is a local, open-air market where Cusqueños buy their produce, meats, and cheeses. Discover exotic fruits, and several varieties of Quinoa, the Andean superfood, as well as unusual items like guinea pig and live frogs. Sample local delicacies, such as Chuta bread, which is cooked in traditional wood-burning ovens. Later this morning, visit the Coricancha, a temple dedicated to the sun that was once covered in sheets of gold and filled with golden figures and statues. This afternoon enjoy some free time to explore Cusco on your own. Explore the colorful artisan shops of the San Blas neighborhood and search for the famed twelve sided stone. Later this afternoon you will be transferred to the airport in time for your flight to Lima. Upon arrival in Lima, check in for your international flight. Dinner not included.

    Meals: B, L

    Lodging: Overnight flight

    Options & Add-ons: Peruvian cooking class and food market tour with a local Chef

  14. Day 14 Arrive Home

  15. Galapagos Legend Itinerary C


Swissotel | Quito, Ecuador

Cotopaxi from swissotel
Swissotel lobby
Swissotel restaurant and pool

The Swissotel Quito is a luxurious hotel located in the Floresta neighborhood of Quito. Overlook the city of Quito from your room and enjoy the view of the mountains. Enjoy a relaxing stay in the wellness area after a long adventure, the wellness area includes an outdoor and indoor pool and a sauna. If you want to work out they also have a sports area and a gym and fitness centre. Amenities include free internet connection, air conditioning, and other modern amenities.

Galapagos Legend Cruise Ship

Galapagos Legend Cruise
Galapagos Legend Cruise cabin
Galapagos Legend Cruise pool

The Galapagos Legend provides luxury without formality. It has many social areas, such as the sun deck, pool and piano lounge. Guests dine on exceptional local and international cuisine buffet style in indoor and alfresco dining areas. 24 hr. room service is available. The conference room can accommodate 90 people. Seven multilingual guides lead guests on expeditions by foot and aboard a glass bottom boat to the islands' most popular sites. Guests can relax in the sauna, spa or massage room. The "Kids Korner" playground, games room and mini cinema ensure that children won't be bored.

EB Hotel Quito Airport | Quito, Ecuador

Eurobuilding hotel
EB Airport Hotel room
EB Airport Hotel lobby

Conveniently located at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), the Eurobuilding Hotel is the perfect home base for day trips exploring Quito's historic district, or to spend a layover before heading to the Galapagos Islands or Amazon.

Napo Wildlife Center | Amazon, Ecuador

Napo Wildlife Center
Ecuador Amazon view from tower
Napo Wildlife center dinner

Located deep in Yasuní­ National Park, the Napo Wildlife Center is the most luxurious lodge in Ecuador's Amazon. It is 100% owned and managed by the native Añangu community, a pioneer in sustainable, culturally friendly tourism in Ecuador. The lodge consists of 12 luxury bungalows and a large dining hall with a library and a well-stocked bar. Attached to the bar is a 50-foot viewing tower from which you can see the Andes on a clear day! The surrounding rainforest is teeming with wildlife, including over 562 species of birds, troops of monkeys, giant river otters, and many other animals. Enjoy small-group excursions with a native guide and bilingual naturalist guide, both experts in spotting and identifying the wildlife of the Amazon.

Lima Airport Wyndham Hotel | Lima, Peru

Wyndham Lima Airport
Wyndham Lima Airport room
Wyndham Lima Airport pool

Conveniently located within Jorge Chavez International Airport, the Lima Airport Wyndham Hotel offers guests first class accommodations and services.

Hacienda Urubamba | Sacred Valley, Peru

Hacienda Urubamba exterior
Hacienda Urubamba Suite
Hacienda Urubamba Farm

Located in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the luxurious Hacienda Urubamba is a contemporary hacienda-style lodge. Set on a 100-acre property, the lodge is surrounded by imposing green mountains and boasts awe-inspiring panoramic views. All 12 rooms in the Casa Hacienda and 24 stand-alone luxury casitas feature breathtaking views of the valley, immersing guests in open space, serenity and relaxing solitude. The architecture and interiors are inspired by the area's cultural history, with colonial furniture, handcrafted woodwork, and authentic Inca masks that add to the hacienda's local charm. An "Earth to Table" culinary concept is operated with its own 10-acre organic plantation where guests are welcome to pick their own produce. Carbon-free crops such as quinoa, Urubamba giant corn, medicinal herbs and a variety of potatoes are farmed with traditional hand tools and oxen, as done centuries ago.

Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel | Urubamba, Peru

Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel front
Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel Suite
Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel springs

Inkaterra Machu Picchu is an intimate 85-cottage luxury hotel tucked within 12 secluded acres of cloud forest. Waterfalls and streams gently cascade through acres of orchids, and multiple species of hummingbirds whiz around the property. Guests follow stone pathways to their rooms, located in comfortable one- or two-story whitewashed casitas.

Palacio del Inka | Cusco, Peru

Palacio del Inka reception area
Palacio del Inka courtyard
Palacio del Inka suite

A storied mansion dating back nearly five centuries, Libertador Palacio del Inka Hotel is perfectly located in the historic center of Cusco. Directly across from the Koricancha, the temple of the sun, it is a five-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas main square and less than a mile from an array of museums, markets, and restaurants. Uniting the past and present, Palacio del Inka offers traditional spa treatments and an indoor therapy pool. The Inti Raymi restaurant offers authentic Peruvian and international dishes.

Napo Wildlife Center
Aqua Nera Amazon Cruise Monkey
Napo Wildlife center view tower

Napo Wildlife Center

Located deep in Yasuní­ National Park, the Napo Wildlife Center is the most luxurious lodge in Ecuador’s Amazon. It is 100% owned and managed by the native Añangu community, a pioneer in sustainable, culturally friendly tourism in Ecuador. The lodge consists of 12 luxury bungalows and a large dining hall with a library and a

Tourist Short Inca Trail Trek to Machu PicchuAndean Discovery
llama at Machu Picchu ruins
Machu Picchu ruins

Short Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu

Follow the footsteps of ancient Inca messengers to enter Machu Picchu through the famous Gate of the Sun, while sleeping in comfortable eco-lodges. This one-day trek allows you to enjoy the wonder and mystique of the Inca Trail in an abbreviated version. You’ll follow the final day of the classic 4-day Inca Trail Trek for a legendary introduction to the majestic citadel Machu Picchu.

Lima Peru old town
Lima Peru coty tour
Lima Peru bay

City Tour of Lima, Peru

Spend an afternoon visiting colonial-era Lima. Founded by the ruthless Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Lima went on to become a viceroyalty of the Spanish empire before it became the capital of the newly independent republic.

Nazca lines hummingbird
Libertador Paracas pool
Nazca lines flight

Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve

Fly over the mysterious Nazca Lines and explore Paracas National Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site. A boat trip to the Ballestas Islands offers great perspective of the desert coastline and up-close viewing of coastal birds, sea lions, and fur seals. Day 1: Depart Lima early this morning for Paracas, taking in magnificent coastal

Mindo zip line
hummingbird from Colombia

Mindo Cloud Forest & Equator

Just 90 minutes outside of Quito lies one of the world’s biodiversity "Hot Spots". With over 300 different species of tropical birds and numerous other animals, Mindo is one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet. Depart Quito early this morning for Mindo. Watch the landscape change dramatically as lush green forests and

Peruvian ceviche cooking class
Peruvian potatoes
Peruvian cooking class pisco

Peruvian Cooking Class | Cusco

Peruvian cuisine is at once incredibly varied and surprisingly unique. It draws on the nation’s rich confluence of cultures and its diverse geography, which provides chefs with an extensive natural pantry. Peruvians have long been deeply proud of their gastronomic tradition but more recently the rest of the world has caught on to the fact

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Best time to visit Colombia

Colombia is a great place to visit throughout the year because of its proximity to the equator. Although the official dry season is from December to March, the Caribbean coast and Medellin experience warm, dry weather all year round. The tourist high season is December to February and areas like Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park can be crowded during this time. Generally, Colombia requires light clothing suitable for warm to hot weather. Outside these months, the nights in highlands can become chilly in areas of higher altitude so travelers should pack layers for when the sun goes down.


The lowlands enjoy similar tropical temperatures year-round but more frequent rain showers occur in April to June and again in October and November.


The Amazon climate is wet all year long. Pack very light clothing but long sleeves and trousers to prevent mosquito bites during the evenings. It is also essential to have waterproof clothing in preparation for downpours.

Colombia Nature reserve

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What to Pack

The style of clothing worn by local Colombians generally depends on the region they inhabit . To fit in with the locals, pack a selection of light, summer-friendly options for visits to tropical Cartagena and a variety of big-city brights and fashionable nightwear for cities like Medellin and Bogota. Dressing in lightweight, easy-dry layers is a great way to stay cozy and comfortable throughout your trip to Colombia as the weather varies in each region depending on the time of day you travel.

Residents throughout Colombia pride themselves on being fashion forward and formal dress is often expected for fancy dinners and night-time activities. Male visitors may wish to purchase a Guayabera, or “fancy white shirt” after they arrive in Colombia as these garments are favored by locals and are considered acceptable attire for nearly any social situation within the country.

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Where You’ll Stay

Colombia is a popular hotspot for international tourists and South American natives alike and travelers have several options for accommodations during their stay. Our personalized Colombia tours offer a wide variety of lodging experiences and guests are able to choose from a huge selection of the best Colombia hotels available. We partner with several leading accommodation providers from small hostels to five star hotels to ensure you have the best experience possible on your trip to Colombia!

Santa Clara Hotel pool

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Colombia Force

Colombia’s tourism sector has experienced huge growth over the last decade – and for good reason! Read on to learn more about the top trips and tours in Colombia at Andean Discovery!


Coffee lovers curious about the origin of their morning buzz will love exploring eje cafetero, home to world-renowned Arabica coffee. The area’s mysterious scenery, assortment of flora and fauna, charming Andean villages, and tasty traditional trucha (trout) will captivate the interest of people who don’t even drink the famed beverage.


Colorful colonial history, tropical Caribbean setting and wonderful weather come together in Cartagena. Enjoy a laidback ambience as you explore Ciudad Amurallada, one of the world’s best-preserved walled cities containing a plethora of flowers, colorful buildings and intimate plazas. Make sure to pack your dancing shoes because Cartagena has a variety of authentic salsa joints where the bands play like their pay depends on getting people to dance.


View the Amazon rainforest from the comfort of a low-impact, small-scale settlement with easy access to natural marvels. The Calanoa Project promotes respectful tourism by working with nearby indigenous communities to preserve ancestral knowledge and cultural practices. They have planted hundreds of hardwood trees, fruits and palms have been planted in order to supply food, fibers and building materials for a self-sufficient operation. You will also enjoy Calanoa’s cuisine, a fusion of local Amazonian traditions with Brazilian, Colombian and Peruvian influences using organic and fresh local produce.


One of Colombia’s most popular national parks, Tayrona National Park, encompasses the Caribbean coast from the Bahí­a de Taganga near Santa Marta to the mouth of the Rí­o Piedras. Tayrona National Park includes beaches, a rainforest and even an arid landscape with cacti and light-brown hills in the western section. The park is home to at least 56 endangered species.


Birders and wildlife enthusiasts shouldn’t miss El Dorado Reserve, considered to be a Holy Grail for birding in the Americas. This 1,600 acre reserve hosts the highest concentration of continental, range-restricted bird species found anywhere in the world, just a two hours drive from the tourist city of Santa Marta. You can also find endemic and threatened amphibian specie, as well as local flora and fauna.


A historically infamous city, Medellin is now gaining attention for its incredible rebirth and inventiveness. Colombia’s second largest city even beat cities like New York and Tel Aviv to be awarded “World’s Most Innovative City” in 2013. Known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’, the area boasts pleasant temperatures year-round and supports lush botanical gardens in its picturesque location in the Aburra Valley. This vibrant city is filled with public art, modernist architecture and impressive museums, but the party really starts when the sun goes down and rhythms of Colombian Salsa and Vallenato music fill the air. This city likes to eat, drink, dance and watch soccer in its numerous bars and restaurants.


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Little is known about the natives who inhabited the area that is now Colombia before the Spanish arrived in 1500.

Shortly after arriving, the Spanish established the colony of New Granada and built the settlement of Santa Fe de Bogota, which subsequently becomes known as Bogota. These new colonies thrived and many African slaves were taken to these cities to assist with building and maintenance. After a 14-year struggle, Simí³n Bolí­var’s Venezuelan troops defeated the Spanish at the battle of Boyacá in Colombia in 1819. The resulting Republic of Gran Colombia united Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador as a single country under one central leader. Due to regional differences, Gran Colombia dissolved in 1829-1830 when Bolí­var lost Venezuela and Ecuador to separatists.

In the 19th century, Colombia was a troubled country and suffered eight civil wars between its liberal and conservative parties as conservatives believed in a strong central government and a powerful church while liberals believed in a decentralized government, strong regional power, and a limited role of the church. Political instability continued through the late 19th century and culminated in the War of a Thousand Days which began in 1899 and resulted in the death of nearly 120,000 people.

In the early 20th century, social legislation was introduced and Colombia was generally peaceful and without conflict – trade unions were encouraged, the economy developed and the export of coffee increased. This period of rest was short lived however and the assassination of the well-liked and respected left-wing mayor of Bogota in 1948 caused riots and began a civil war that lasted until 1957.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the situation in Colombia improved. In 2000, the United States pledged $1.3 billion to fight drug trafficking with “Plan Colombia”. Violence in Colombia declined after 2002 when President Alvaro Uribe increased Colombia’s security, aggressively campaigned against the drug trade, and passed several economic reform bills.

In 2012, the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) went into effect. This agreement eliminated tariffs and other trade barriers for the exchange of goods and services between Colombia and the United States. In the early 21st century, the Colombian economy grew rapidly and poverty and unemployment declined. Today, Colombia is booming, tourism is increasing and the country has a bright future.

carthaginian women


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History of Peru

The history of Peru (before the Inca era) as we know it today has been uncovered, in large part, through large archaeological excavation endeavors. Historical artifacts including ceramics, textiles and cave drawings have been collected, sorted and displayed throughout Peru’s archaeological museums – a collection of clues as to the lives of Peruvian inhabitants who lived and worked nearly 20,000 years ago. Advanced hunting tools and well-planned irrigation systems lead many to believe that these early colonies were cutting-edge, organized and well-established.

The Incan empire ruled from around 1400 — 1500 and is widely considered one of the largest dynasties in American history before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. This small tribe of peoples were based out of Cusco, which served as the country’s capital city throughout Inca rule. Machu Picchu is one of the most well-preserved ruins left behind by the Incan peoples, and thousands of tourists flock to visit the historical site’s peak each year. The Incas grew to be one of the largest and most powerful forces in South America and had a complex and interesting society that is well studied to this day.

Spanish soldiers arrived in the South American land in 1532 and began plotting to take over rule of the fertile and bountiful country. These European soldiers brought smallpox and other illnesses into Peru, killing thousands of “New World” inhabitants including Huayna Capac who served as the 11th Inca or King. Capac’s sons were each given half of his kingdom and a civil war which began between the brothers helped to quicken the downfall of the Incan empire. Spanish rulers changed the capital of Peru from the land-locked Cuzco to coastal Lima to accommodate arriving soldiers and facilitate trade.

Peru’s Independence Wars were fought from 1810 until 1824 when a battle led by General Antonio Jose de Sucre secured freedom from Spanish rule. Peru continued to fight for freedom throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s – defeating Spanish rulers in 1866 and losing a large piece of land to Chile in a war that spanned from 1879 to 1883. A war with Ecuador in 1941 over borders wasn’t resolved until 1998 when Peru agreed to allow Ecuador access to the Amazon rainforest in exchange for keeping control over the land.

In 2001 Peru elected its first Native Indian President, Alejandro Toledo. The country has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of South America and thousands of tourists visit to hike, swim, shop and to learn more about Peruvian history first hand through the exploration of archaeological sites and artifacts each year.

peru girls in traditional outfit

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What to See in Peru

Peru is one of the most popular countries for tourist travel in South America. Although visiting Machu Picchu tops the bucket list of many adventurers worldwide, seasoned explorers know that this beautiful and eclectic country is not just a one-stop destination. Learn more about the top five things to do when visiting Peru below.


Machu Picchu is one of the most famous archaeological sites in all of South America and the popular peak has definitely earned its reputation for awe-inspiring views. Voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2001, the “lost city of the Incas�? contains so many historical monuments and examples of Inca architecture – it’s best to have a tour guide to walk you through the history, legend and folklore surrounding this mystical place. Travel to the peak of this historical mountain by hiking, or via a spectacular train ride via Ollantaytambo train station.


This colorful city was once the capital of the Incan empire and remains a cultural hotspot to this day. This exciting town is extremely close to Machu Picchu and provides an excellent resting point for travellers who are looking to spend a bit of down time before they hike the popular summit. Visit an indigenous market in Pisac to purchase handmade crafts and to sample authentic Peruvian foods or take a brief hike throughout the cities’ ruins that previously made up the Incas’ agricultural system.


This 26 mile trek isn’t for the faint of heart – but the satisfaction gained by finishing this challenging expedition more than makes up for the struggle of navigating a historical land. From beautiful mountain scenery to tropical jungle, hikers experience the beauty and wonder of many Peruvian landscapes. Begin your hike by crossing Cusichaca (aptly named “The Bridge of Happiness�?) and plan to spend around 6-8 hours hiking over a four day period to cross the finish line and enter Machu Picchu.


This large and diverse lake borders Peru and Bolivia and is home to over 500 species of aquatic life. Visit the floating islands of the Uros people to learn about a unique community with a spectacular way of living – or spend time in the small town of Puno, where folklore is cherished and celebrated in weekend festivals and markets.


Peru’s epic Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is home to large families of spectacular Andean Condors. Plan your trip from the comfort of Arequipa, a nearby town that offers hiking, hot springs and magnificent views.

Machu Picchu view

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Where You’ll Stay

Peru is one of the most popular destinations for travelers to South America and popular tourist areas offer a variety of hotels, hostels and lodges that are as diverse and eclectic as the country itself! Our local guides have an intimate knowledge of the Peruvian landscape and know which locations provide the best experience overall for tourists and travelers alike. We partner with high-quality hotels to make sure each and every guest has the adventure of a lifetime. Read on to learn more about some of the lodging options we offer for custom tours to Peru!

Hacienda Urubamba exterior

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What to Pack

Peru is one of the most diverse countries in Latin America – with warm coastal deserts, cool rainforests and even snowy mountain regions. Located south of the equator, Peru experiences weather patterns that are opposite to those experienced by individuals living on the East Coast of the United States – so cold and snowy weather in Boston is a likely indicator of warm and sunny skies in Lima. If you’re planning to see everything that this amazingly unique country has to offer, you’ll need a wide variety of clothing options to keep you comfortable throughout the trip.

The weight limit for checked luggage on most internal flights, including Cusco and the Amazon is currently 20 kilos (44 pounds) per person. If you are over that limit, you’ll likely need to pay a surcharge.

Large suitcases are not permitted on the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, although these cases can be stored securely at the lodge during excursions. A small weekend bag is recommended as you’ll need a change of clothes and essential items when travelling to Machu Picchu overnight.

The typical dress code throughout the country is functional and casual – female travellers may want to bring one dress and a pair of dressier sandals for night-time outings or fancy dinner reservations.

Packing lightweight layers is an easy and effective way to make sure you’re prepared for any climate – fabrics should be waterproof whenever possible to allow for protection during short and sudden rainstorms.



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Best time to visit Peru

Peru is made up of three distinct geographical subsections, each with their own weather and temperature patterns. The country is split (N to S) by the Andes mountains and contains parts of the Amazon jungle in the East. Although each of these locals experiences slightly different weather patterns, November through March is generally considered to be the “Wet season�? and April through October is generally considered to be the “Dry season�? throughout the entire country. Read on to learn more about the best times to visit Peru on your next vacation!


Temperatures are generally warm throughout the year and the coastal region usually experiences little rainfall. High daytime temperatures (80+ F) and lower nighttime temperatures (50+ F) make for a relaxing vacation. The city of Lima can get quite foggy from April through October but the sun breaks through clouds the further out from Lima you travel. The capital city is warm and humid from November through March.


Expect high temperatures and dry climates from April through October – although temperatures vary by altitude so light layers are encouraged for those planning to visit the peaks of Machu Picchu. Sudden, heavy showers occur from November through March so raincoats are a must.


Humidity is high throughout the year and rainfall should be expected from November through March. Warm days and cool nights demand layers for travelers who expect to be outside for long periods of time.

amazon river canoe

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History of Ecuador

Ecuador’s written history as we know it today begins with the concentration of early cultures of indigenous peoples throughout coastal areas that supported the majority of inhabitants from as far back as the year 9000 B.C. These early pioneers lived relatively peaceful lives in small clans and large tribes who survived by fishing, hunting, and eventually farming on the region’s fertile land. These wandering tribes eventually settled down into permanent societies including the Valdivia peoples who created intricate ceramic pottery creations, the Quitus peoples (after whom Quito is named) and the Caras who enjoyed considerable power and prestige in the region until the mid 1400’s when the small country was invaded by the Incas of Peru.

The Incas were ruthless in their pursuit of power over Ecuadorian land and many lives were lost defending the area – to no avail. Quechua, an Inca language still widely spoken in Ecuador was introduced to natives at this time and many great buildings and cities were built throughout the region. The Inca empire enjoyed its rule over Ecuador until the mid 1500’s when Spanish forces took the land in yet another series of bloody battles that ultimately led to the total conquering of Ecuadorian peoples. A period of enslavement ensued, and Spanish rulers continued to profit from the work of Ecuadorian citizens until major worldwide financial depressions caused economic downfall in the period between 1700 and 1800.

This collapse allowed for the possibility of native revolt and Ecuadorians from all walks of life banded together to retake the cities once ruled by their ancestors. Ecuador became fully independent in 1830 – but internal power struggles created a period of instability and fear. Democratic leadership and free elections in the 20th century helped to create a more peaceful society that has prospered over time – and tourism quickly became one of the fastest growing industries in this small South American hotspot.

Centro Quito

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What to See

Ecuador is truly a place of beauty and of diverse landscapes – offering a wide selection of travel options that include epic volcano treks, wildlife-rich island hopping tours and mysterious jungle adventures. From the Andean Highlands to the Galapagos Islands, this small country is packed full of experiences that are hard to pass up. Learn more about the top five things to do in Ecuador below!


View the flora, fauna and wildlife of this unique and historical site on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands!

Galapagos Santa Cruz II Beach Visit


Travel throughout the colorful and welcoming indigenous villages that house generations of native Ecuadorian people. Visit authentic markets, view active volcanic peaks and discover the natural beauty of the land on a custom tour throughout the Highlands!

Horse back riding


Venture deep into the heart of the largest existing rainforest on this planet to view native flora, fauna and wildlife on a customized tour in the Ecuadorian Amazon!

Ecuador Amazon monkey


Be one with nature while visiting one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the Northern Hemisphere – the Mashpi Reserve! Located on the western slopes of the Andes, this three-thousand acre reserve is home to a comfortable lodge that acts as the perfect homebase for nature lovers!

Mashpi Lodge room


Truly experience nature in all of its spectacular glory on this five-day hiking trek through one of South America’s most scenic routes: The Quilotoa Loop.

Quilotoa Lake

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Where You’ll Stay

Ecuador is a small country with a big tourism industry and travelers generally have no problems finding accommodations that suit their specific travel style. Our customized Ecuador tours allow for a wide variety of choices in lodging that include everything from high-quality hotels to inexpensive hostels to luxury Galapagos cabin rooms! We work hard to ensure that each and every guest is given a safe and comfortable room that acts as a home-away-from-home throughout your stay. Read on to learn more about the lodging options we offer in Ecuador!

Galapagos Cruise Endemic Catamaran Golden Suite Twin Cabin

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Ecuador Packing List

Ecuador’s unique landscape includes four diverse subregions that all have individual weather patterns and climates – so travelers should consult with their individual itineraries to pinpoint which areas they will visit during their stay. Although some areas (like Guayaquil and the Ecuadorian Amazon region) experience extremely high, humid temperatures at times during the year, other locations (like the country’s’ capital city, Quito) have consistently mild temperatures that hover below seventy degrees (fahrenheit) throughout the year.

If you are travelling to several regions during your stay, packing a suitcase full of light layers can help to accommodate temperature changes and keep you comfortable during your stay. Some areas at high-elevations experience light snowfall during the winter months, so a fleece jacket is recommended for travel during that time. All fabrics should be quick-drying as short rainshowers are common in many areas around the country.

The primary currency used in Ecuador is the US dollar and many personal-hygiene items are available for purchase so don’t bother loading your suitcase full of shampoo, toothpaste or the like. Purchasing clothing and shoes can be difficult, especially large sizes, as the average Ecuadorian is shorter than US travelers. No matter what region you will visit during your stay, make sure to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes that have been broken in before your trip to ensure comfort throughout your visit.


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When to Visit Ecuador

Ecuador is a small country with a hugely diverse population and a wide variety of biologically unique plants and animals. The peak travel season for tourists runs from June through September and from December through January – although stable weather patterns create a friendly environment for visitors throughout the year. There are four major climate zones in Ecuador, so tourists are able to plan travel around the current climate of each zone.

The Andes Region, including Quito and the Andean Highlands experiences cool and dry temperatures throughout the winter season which lasts roughly from June through September. Warmer temperatures are enjoyed during the summer months (December through March) but this time period is also considered the country’s rainy season so visitors can expect to experience a few showers during their travels.

The Amazon region experiences rainfall year round but temperatures are generally high – reaching 90+ degrees fahrenheit throughout the year. Heading towards the Pacific Coast region, travelers can expect high temperatures and sunny days, mixed in with short rainshowers during the day. Cooler temperatures and cloudy skies from June to September mean it will be too chilly to swim during the dry season in this area.

Finally, the Galapagos Region experiences dry weather and cool temperatures from June to December with rainy conditions and warmer weather starting in late December and lasting until May.

Napo Wildlife Center

The 15 Most Iconic Species of the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands, named after the shells of saddleback Galapagos tortoises, is a mind-blowing experience. The animals have no instinctive fear of humans, allowing you amazingly close encounters with unique species. Nowhere else in the world can you experience such a diverse group of wildlife in such close proximity: swim and snorkel with sea lions, watch a penguin waddle into the water, scuba dive with hammerhead sharks, stand right next to two male iguanas fighting for a mate, view a waved albatross, with its 8-foot wingspan, soar along coastal cliffs, and ponder a 400-pound giant Galapagos Tortoises.

Andean Discovery has compiled this handy list of the 15 most iconic Galapagos species. Whether you choose to do a Galapagos land based tour or a Galapagos cruise, your are sure to have the wildlife experience of a lifetime.

Galapagos sea lionFur Seal
Galapagos Blue footed BoobyBlue-footed Booby
Galapagos PenguinGalapagos Penguin
Galapagos sea lionSea Lion
Galapagos HawkGalapagos Hawk
Galapagos FlamingoGalapagos Flamingo
Galapagos marine iguanaMarine Iguana
Galapagos nazca boobyNazcaBooby
Red footed boodyRed-footed Booby
Galapagos flightless cormorantsFlightless Cormorant
santa-fe-land-iguanaSanta Fe Land Iguana
Santa Cruz Galapagos TortoiseGalapagos Tortoise
Galapagos FrigatebirdFrigatebird
Galapagos land iguanaLand Iguana
Galapagos albatrossGalapagos Albatross


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Bartolome Island view point

Galapagos Islands Descriptions

Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are made up of 13 main islands and 48 islets. Scattered over an area of 36,000 square miles around the equator, none of the islands have ever been connected by land to any mainland area. The Islands are entirely volcanic and are considered to be one of the largest and most active sets of oceanic volcanoes in the world. The formation of the Islands began between three and five million years ago, very “young” in geologic terms. Volcanic eruptions broke through the ocean floor and initiated the building of underwater mountains, which continued to grow with successive eruptions and form the Galapagos Islands. The islands are still active today with new eruptions typically occurring in the western part of the archipelago.

Explore the Galapagos Islands visitor sites below and contact us to start planning your adventure!


Santa Cruz IslandSantiago IslandSanta Fe IslandNorth Plaza Island |Bartolome Island


Fernandina Island Isabela Island


Genovesa IslandDarwin Island


Floreana IslandEspanola IslandSan Cristobal Island


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History of the Galapagos

The first visitors to the Galápagos Islands were Native Americans from mainland South America. The islands bear no archaeological remains of dwellings or other structures, so it is quite unlikely that any native colonies were ever established there. Pirates and renegades first inhabited the islands during the early 1500s. They would hide and camp out on the islands after raiding Spanish colonial ports. Due to their inhospitable nature and lack of water, the Spanish paid the islands little attention, giving them the name ‘Las Encantadas’ or bewitched islands.

A new period began in 1832 when Ecuador proclaimed its sovereignty over the islands. There were only a handful of permanent settlers at that time but their number had increased to around 300 by 1835 when the HMS Beagle arrived with Charles Darwin on board. Darwin spent five weeks in the Galapagos collecting and preserving specimens from four separate islands. His field observations led him finally to conclusions published in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859. The first Galápagos colony was established on the island of Floreana. The archipelago experienced many attempted settlements from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century by individuals from Norway, the US, and the UK. During World War II, a United States Army Air Force base was established on Baltra Island. From Baltra, crews patrolled the eastern Pacific for enemy submarines and provided protection for the Panama Canal.

Paddle the shores while kayaking where Darwin first set foot on our Galapagos Multisport Adventure or board a Galapagos Cruise to navigate the archipelago.

Tourist with Galapagos tortoise

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What to See in Galapagos

Home to one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world, the islands of the Galapagos contain animals, flora and fauna that delight and mystify visitors and locals alike. Visiting the Galapagos Islands is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for travelers of all ages – but tourists will want to reserve more than just a day trip in their itinerary to ensure they get the most out of this beautiful and historic area!


Explore the islands at your own pace and take advantage of the many family-friendly activities available to travelers with Andean Discovery. Whether you want to head out for a bike ride to gain a scenic view of the coast or zip line through a cloud forest to get your adrenaline pumping – we offer a wide variety of fun and fabulous things to do on the Galapagos Islands!

Tourist biker at Isabela island


Experience the thrill of visiting pristine, white sand islands with all the comforts of home on a Galapagos Cruise! Travel in style on a cruise ship, luxury boat or first class boat where you’ll have a cabin to yourself, air conditioning, and spectacular views! For travelers looking to add a bit of unconventional excitement to their trips, consider booking a snorkeling or scuba diving tour to view the majestic and stormy Galapagos sea from below!


Isabela yacht tub


Visit both of these popular tourist destinations in the same trip with one of our fully customizable Machu Picchu & Galapagos tours! You’ll have the time of your life seeing history in action as you explore the home of the ancient Inca culture in Peru. Then hop on one of our luxury cruise ships to Galapagos and discover the natural atmosphere that inspired Darwin’s scientific breakthroughs. Our friendly local tour guides accompany you throughout the entire trip so you’re sure to have the time of your life!

machu picchu view


While some travelers prefer to sun themselves on the white sand beaches of the Galapagos, others like to get out there and get active! Thankfully, we offer several options for individuals who are hoping to make the most out of their time outdoors – ask about how you can kayak in the ocean along the Galapagos coast, hike through an active volcano or even snorkel with friendly Galapagos sharks when booking your trip with Andean!

canopy mindo


Travel back in history as you explore the famed islands once inhabited by Charles Darwin himself. Visit Isabela and Santa Cruz islands and observe the animals that led Darwin to discover the theory of evolution and that forever changed the world of science as we know it!


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Where You’ll Stay

Whether you’re looking to book passage on a luxury cruise ship, hoping to sign up for an intimate small-yacht tour or just trying to visit the islands during a day trip – our friendly and knowledgeable tour guides can help you pick out the perfect itinerary to create an island vacation that is sure to please!

Begin your adventure by deciding which method of travel you’d like to utilize to reach the islands – via luxury yacht, cruise ship, first class boat or airplane. Read on to learn more about the advantages of each and to find out how you can begin preparing for your travel today!


Luxury Boats boast deluxe sleeping cabins, spacious common areas, delicious international cuisine, and unmatched personal attention. An excursion aboard a Luxury Boat ensures you superior Galapagos Naturalist Guides who are eager to share the islands with you. Luxury Boats range in size from 100-passenger ships to 16-passenger yachts and catamarans. No matter which boat you choose, you will have access to several amenities, such as mini-pools, jacuzzis, glass bottom boats, and libraries.

Galapagos Elite Catamaran golden suite


Galapagos cruise ships are the largest vessels to sail the Islands and tend to be more luxurious and more stable in the water than most smaller yachts in the Galapagos. Cruise ships carry between 40 and 100 passengers, so they are still small compared to cruise ships that sail in other parts of the world, though it enables you to enjoy the Galapagos free of crowds.



Take a cruise through the Galapagos Islands in one of our Galapagos first class boats, yachts and catamarans such as the Galapagos Archipell I Catamaran, Millennium CatamaranEric, Letty and Flamingo and more. First class level cruises offer an excellent combination of value for your money and quality. Relax on the sun deck and soak in the beauty of the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy the unique wildlife that the Galapagos has to offer in a more private setting.

Galapagos Coral I & II Yachts

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Galapagos Packing List

Perfecting a packing list for the Galapagos can be difficult – even for the most seasoned traveler. The close proximity of these small islands to their home country of Ecuador mean that domestic flights will likely be utilized at some point during the trip – so packing light is a must for individuals who wish to make weight limits for their flights! Individuals who will be flying from Quito should dress appropriately for the cool weather in the Ecuadorian town – a waterproof jacket is ideal and can be used several times throughout your trip.

The fewer things you actually bring on your trip to the Galapagos, the better – but tours often begin or end in other destinations that might require more substantial luggage arrangements. Packing a small, lightweight backpack that can act as a weekend bag is a great way to make sure you aren’t stuck with a ton of luggage on your trip. The Island’s proximity to the equator make them a prime target for harsh sun rays, so a high UV blocking sunscreen is absolutely essential for any traveler who visits during the day.

Water shoes can be useful in protecting feet from coral and plant life so plan on packing an already-broken-in pair of comfortable sandals. If you’re heading out on a Galapagos cruise or chartered boat, make sure to speak with the captain to learn more about the luggage storage options available during your trip!

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Galapagos Cruise vs. Land-Based Tour

The Galapagos Islands, archipelago of about 19 islands and smaller islets sprinkled 620 miles off Ecuador’s coast, is a bucket list destination for many. You don’t need to be a zoologist to dream about encountering animals found nowhere else on the planet. You’ll see lava lizards darting between rocks and get close to friendly sea lions and the islands’ famous gigantic land tortoises. The Galapagos also boast some of the world’s best scuba diving. A trip to this wildlife wonderland allows you surprisingly close interactions with unique creatures such as marine iguanas, Galapagos Penguins, the Flightless Cormorant, and Blue-footed Boobies. Adventure travelers can hike on dormant volcanoes, sea kayak, mountain bike and more.

When making this once-in-a-lifetime trip, travelers have two main options to explore the islands: either through a land-based trip or a boat-based cruise through the islands. Find out what to expect and the relative advantages of each so you can choose the best option for making your Galapagos dreams come true.

What to Expect on A Galapagos Cruise

Your home for the duration of your Galapagos visit will be a live-a-board boat of your choice, ranging in size from 16-100 passengers. You will eat, sleep and relax on this vessel, which you will be your base for the duration of your 4, 5 or 8-day expedition. Each morning, after a hearty breakfast, you will disembark into a 16-passenger dinghy, known locally as a “Panga.” The Panga will take you for wildlife excursions, either on shore, or at snorkel sites. Your Galapagos naturalist guide will deepen your understanding and appreciation of the local wildlife, either on land or in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. After a morning of close encounters with some of the famous species of the area, you return to the boat for lunch and to prepare for the next excursion as the vessel navigates to another visitor site. Usually, your afternoon excursion will take you to a completely different island to add a whole new perspective to your Galapagos experience.

Galapagos Tourists in a boat

Advantages of A Cruise:
  • Once you arrive in the archipelago, you can unpack your bags once and for all- you’ll stay in the same room on the vessel for the entirety of your stay
  • Cruises are the most efficient way to visit the archipelago, especially remote islands without any human habitation
What to Expect on A Galapagos Land Based Trip

On land-based trips, you stay in eco-lodges or hotels in the port towns on the islands of Isabela, Santa Cruz and San Cristí³bal. While you don’t visit as many islands as a cruise-based trip, land-based trips allow you to explore fewer islands in greater depth. Choose from superior accommodations including oceanfront boutique lodges, like Iguana Crossing and Finch Bay Eco Hotel. From your land base, you can get intimately acquainted with the island, independently exploring the wonders of the Galapagos in a small, private group with Galapagos naturalist guide. Although it is impossible to visit as many islands as you would by sea, land-based trips will allow you to enjoy a variety of activities. For example, in the evenings relish fresh seafood at a family-run eatery then go for a sunset walk on Isabela’s beach and observe marine iguanas crawling out of the ocean onto pristine white sand. During the day, active explorers might opt for sea kayaking, hiking on a dormant volcano or mountain biking among coastal mangroves.

Walking with Galápagos Tortoises

Advantages of a Land-Based Trip:
  • Land-based excursions allow you to spend more time on each island, with opportunities to visit multiple sites and engage in a variety of activities.
  • You will have more flexibility to experience the islands according to your own schedule and interests.

Both of these modes of exploration will allow you to meet most, if not all, of the iconic Galapagos species and expose you to many of the island’s distinct treasures. While your preference may depend on whether you prioritize flexibility or efficiency in visiting multiple islands, you cannot go wrong with either way of experiencing this extraordinary place.

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Best Time to Visit Galapagos

Wildlife Year-Round

Because most of the wildlife remains on the islands year round, there’s always a lot to see. No matter when you visit, you’re guaranteed to encounter one of the highest concentrations of wildlife on the planet!


The Galápagos Islands have a sub-tropical climate with two seasons, the Hot Season and the Dry Season. The seasons on the islands are set and defined entirely by the ocean currents that surround them. The Hot Season starts in December and gradually works its way until May. During this season, warm waters from the Panama Current move south and bath the islands creating tropical conditions. Seas are generally calm, and the warmer temperatures and evaporation cause occasional tropical showers, which turn the islands green and lush. Air temperatures are hot and humid and range from 79 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature averages 77 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a great time to enjoy the warmer waters for snorkeling and to view green sea turtles that come into the islands to breed.

From June to November, the cooler Humboldt Current runs up the west coast of South America carrying rich oceanic upwellings from Antarctica that stimulate the breeding season for sea lions and sea birds. A desert spreads gradually in this tropical paradise. Evaporation decreases and this forms a thin layer of clouds over the islands that opens and closes throughout the day. This is known as the Dry Season with air temperatures ranging from 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit and sea temperatures averaging 67 degrees Fahrenheit (a wetsuit is recommended for snorkeling). This is the best time of year for observing dancing boobies, courting albatrosses, baby sea lions, whales, dolphins, and whale sharks.

Galapagos sea lion at beach