If Charles Darwin and Hiram Bingham had ever planned a vacation together, it would have been one crazy wonderful experience. Out on the Galápagos Islands, Darwin would have taken his travel companion on a stroll through crowds of 100-year-old land tortoises as blue-footed boobies slapped out a mating dance in the background. Not to be outdone, Bingham would have led the biologist through the Andean rainforest, past llamas grazing in high meadows to an outlook above the lost Incan city of his discovery.
Almost a century separated the two explorers, but their hypothetical adventure is now as real as can be on an exciting new itinerary handcrafted by Classic Journeys. You get two of our most-requested bucket-list destinations in a seamless nine-day exploration full of rich experiences and mind-bending contrasts.
Your high points begin at sea level on the Galápagos leg of this Classic Journey that AFAR Magazine has named “The Best Wildlife Encounter in the World.” That’s no exaggeration! Our local naturalist-guides take you eye-to-eye with the Big Five: giant land tortoises, sea lions, blue-footed boobies, penguins and marine iguanas, not to mention other creatures found nowhere else on earth. The happy shock is how up-close-and-personal you are. Imagine playing sea-kayak tag with playful sea lions and walking so near to those land tortoises that you can hear their Darth Vader-ish breathing.
While cruise-ship visitors cram back into their off-shore cabins for the night, you stay on land in waterfront boutique hotels. And that means that you’re always in the right place at the right time, whether it’s to go snorkeling side-by-side with sea turtles or for a stroll in a lazy beach town. What an amazing privilege it is to spend such immersive days in this natural laboratory that time forgot.
Time played a completely different kind of trick to make Machu Picchu a place guaranteed to give you a shiver of wonder. From the Sun Gate, you look down at the ruins of the epic citadel, ringed by sharp peaks. It’s a view you’ve seen a thousand times in photos, but nothing compares to being there. The Incas could never have imagined that this grand act of civilization would evaporate from memory. As you learn from your expert local guide, Machu Picchu is about myth, and the fragile power of civilization, and unimaginable human ingenuity. Unlike most visitors, your time here stretches across two days, offering the rare opportunity to wander on your own, too, and to absorb the miracle of this place you’ve longed to see. As your time unfolds in Peru, you see that even if Machu Picchu is the most iconic site, there’s plenty more awe to go around, whether you are meeting the Incas’ descendants in the market of a Quechua mountain village or wandering the cobbled streets of Cusco.
Bingham and Darwin could only envy the ease of this trip, minus the sailing ships and trains of pack animals slogging up the Andes. Our team has finessed the logistics on decades of trips to the Galápagos and Peru. Whether you’re flying to the islands or settling into the scenic train through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, the experience is seamlessly smooth. Your local guides lead a terrific variety of curated activities that include everything from a coffee-tasting at a family-owned plantation on Santa Cruz Island to meetings with school children and llama herders in Peru. At every stop, you settle comfortably into award-winning hotels and learn that local cuisine is worth the visit, too!
You’ve returned from plenty of vacations with bragworthy experiences that were the envy of your friends. But this one beats every one of them. While other travelers toss a coin to decide whether to do the Galápagos or Machu Picchu, you have it all on the bucket-list trip that lets you live two of your biggest travel dreams on one amazing adventure.