If you’re a nature lover, our eight-night Natural Wonders of the Galapagos Islands tour has your name on it. From spotting iguanas to planting trees, it’s right up David Attenborough’s street, too – well, we think so anyway… On your first day, you’ll land in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. This buzzing city is high up in the Andes, so expect dramatic mountain views. We’ll give you some time to settle in here – check out the markets, overflowing with traditional goods like pan flutes and brightly-coloured jumpers, perhaps? – before taking you to an authentic Ecuadorean restaurant. On day two, we’ll take you on a guided tour of the city. You’ll tick off the historical UNESCO-protected heart of the city, which is home to an impressive gold-leaf-decorated Jesuit church, before finishing your day with a chocolate-making class – tasting not compulsory, but definitely recommended.
SWIMMING, SNORKELLING AND IGUANA SPOTTING
On day three, it’s time to get your cossie or your swim shorts ready. After jetting off to the Galapagos, you’ll take your first dip in the islands’ pristine waters. Snap photos of Los Gemelos – a duo of giant sinkholes – before swimming between crevasses at Las Grietas. Keep your eyes peeled for small schools of fish at the latter, they often dart through the glass-clear waters.
Day four is all about the wildlife. Swim, snorkel and spot iguanas in Tortuga Bay, before learning about the endangered sea turtles that nest along the beach. Then, enjoy a barbeque lunch with a local family, who’ll cook supplies from a local fish market, and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, which plays an important role in the conservation of the local area. Day five is set aside for free time on Santa Cruz Island. You can go for a stroll along the beach, relax on the soft sands or rent a kayak and explore the bay – the world, or day, is your oyster.
VOLCANOES, LUNAR-LIKE LANDSCAPES AND GENTLE GIANTS
You’ll switch islands on day six, after hopping on a speedboat to Isabela Island, which is four times as big as Santa Cruz. With two nights here, you’ve got plenty of time to see all of the best bits. We’re talking the Wall of Tears – a stone barrier built when the island was a prison colony – plus, untouched swimming spots. While you’re there, keep a lookout for penguins, herons and pink flamingos. Then, on day seven, you’ll don your walking boots and hike to the impressive Sierra Negra volcano and the lunar-like Volcan Chico. From the top, you’ll be rewarded with photo-ready views.
On day eight, the sights continue. It might be your last full day in the Galapagos, but it’s just as exciting as the rest. You’ll hop on a speedboat to Santa Cruz Island and visit the giant tortoise sanctuary there. Do your bit for the environment by planting trees here and watch the gentle giants roaming freely in their natural environment. Then, it’s time to say goodbye to the Galapagos. After a transfer to Ecuador from Baltra Island you’ll touch down in the UK.
Feeling inspired? Find out more about our Natural Wonders of the Galapagos Islands.
Culture vulture or history buff? Join our 12-night, Journey to Machu Picchu Tour. After landing in Lima, you’ll have some free time to get clued up on this lively city. Don’t worry if you just want to relax after your flight though because on day two we’ll take you on a guided, half-day tour. The sight-packed metropolis flaunts everything from historic churches to high-rise shopping centres. Top sights include Parque del Amor – AKA the Park of Love, with its kissing statue – plus, the Archbishop’s Palace and the photo-ready main square. After a night here, you’ll jet off to Arequipa and join a guided, half-day tour of the city and its famous Santa Catalina Monastery. Wander along the pretty streets and gawp at the main square, Plaza de Armas with its colonial churches, backed by a trio of cloud-brushing volcanoes. Our guide knows the best places to get the best views, so you’ll go to a prized point overlooking the city.
ALPACCAS, CONDORS AND CANYONS
Day four is all about Mother Nature’s best bits. En route to the dramatic Colca Canyon you’ll pass through the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, where you can spot everything from lagoons and volcanoes to wild alpacas and waterfalls. You’ll take a short break in remote Patahuasi before hitting the Colca Canyon – it’s one of the world’s deepest canyons. Keep your eyes on the sky for circling condors. With so much to see, you’ll stay the night here, and then on day five, you’ll visit a couple of remote villages, before finishing your day in Punto on Lake Titicaca’s shores.
POCKET-SIZED VILLAGES, FLOATING HOMES AND HANDMADE HATS
On day six, exploring Lake Titicaca – one of South America’s largest inland lakes – is on the cards. Watch islanders hand making hats here – they’re even recognised by UNESCO – before visiting the Huayllano community. Next up are the floating Uros Islands. Here, the locals make their unique homes and boats from the river’s reeds. Then, after a night’s sleep in Puno, it’s time to say hello to La Raya Pass, the highest highway point between Puno and Cusco. Plus, the Inca Temple of Wiracoch and the pocket-sized village of Andahuaylillas, with its intricately decorated church.
On day eight, you’ll swap rural landscapes for urban scenes – cue Cusco city. Here, the main square, Renaissance-style cathedral and Inca fort are just some of the top sights you’ll see. You’ll watch artisans making wood carvings and jewellery to time-honoured traditions, too – souvenirs, anyone? Then, on day nine you’ll head for the Sacred Valley. If you didn’t know this gem was there – luckily our expert guide does – as you might miss it, squirrelled away in Peru’s Andean highlands. But with its sweeping valley vistas, tiny villages and ancient Inca ruins you definitely wouldn’t want to.
ANCIENT INCA SITES AND MOUNTAIN VISTAS
Think you’ve seen all South America has to offer? Think again. Roll up, roll up… Machu Picchu, Peru’s most famous Inca citadel. On day 10, you’ll hop on a train from Cuses to Aguas Calientes and then walk up to this once-in-a-lifetime site. Once there, we’ll let the mountain views and ancient Inca ruins do the talking. The tour’s not finished yet, though. On day 11, you’ll discover Misminay, Maras and Moray – three more impressive Inca sites. We’re talking bright-green terraces and canyons dotted with salt pools. Locals will teach you how to plough, harvest or weave and you’ll attend an authentic thanksgiving ceremony to Pachamama, the Inca goddess of the Peruvian Andes. In the morning, it’s time to say goodbye to Cusco because you’ll fly back to Lima for a night’s rest, and then on to the UK – unforgettable memories in tow...
Ready to book your trip? Check out our Journey to Machu Picchu Tour
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We took five ‘energised adventurers’ to test out our brand-new tour of South Africa. From wildlife spotting on safari to hiking up mountains, watch their video diaries to find out exactly what they got up to. Look out for the moment that they found out that TV presenter Julia Bradbury would be coming with them to help guide the way…
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Author: Jessica Houtby
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