Machu Picchu & Galapagos Islands Custom Combo Tour

  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Dates/Pricing
  • Activities
  • Accommodations
  • Photos & Video
  • Extensions
  • Testimonials
  • Physical Rating
This trip combines two of our most popular tours, exploring the mysterious lost city of Machu Picchu and cruising the famed Galapagos Islands. Your thrilling adventure takes you first to the bustling colonial town of Cusco, Peru to begin your Machu Picchu tour through the legendary Sacred Valley, stopping at villages and ancient Inca ruins along the way. A scenic train ride takes you to the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu where you’ll spend two days exploring the captivating ruins and the majestic mountains that surround them. Then you’ll fly to the magical country of Ecuador to embark on a Galapagos cruise of the "Enchanted Isles" that inspired Darwin's theory of evolution. The islands' unique ecosystem sustains extraordinary plant and animal diversity, where visitors on Galapagos tours may observe wildlife close up and take amazing photos. The combination of these two world-renowned destinations makes for the South America adventure of a lifetime.

Traveling to this Location
Passport and visa requirements
A valid passport is required to enter and leave Peru. A visa is not required for citizens of the USA, Mexico and most Central American, Asian and European countries if visiting Peru for less than 90 days. It is the passenger's responsibility to check with local immigration offices or the Peruvian consulate prior to departure for current entrance requirements. For more information see or
The following vaccinations are recommended when visiting any area of Peru:
  • Hepatitis B
  • Tetanus-diphtheria and measles (as needed booster doses)
  • Typhoid
  • For travelers to the Amazon, a vaccination for Yellow Fever is required.
  • For travelers to certain lower elevations of Peru including the Amazon and rural areas on the coast, the Centers for Disease Control also recommends taking an anti-malarial medication.
  • The Centers for Disease Control provides immunization information for travel in Latin America.
Entry During the flight to Lima, a flight attendant distributes a Peru entrance form to all passengers. At Customs, travelers are asked to show the completed form along with their passport and asked how many days they plan to be in Peru. Normally, the passport will be stamped indicating a permissible stay of 60 or 90 days and a copy of the Customs form will be returned to the traveler.
Exit The Customs document must be presented when exiting the country. Passengers leaving on an international flight pay a departure tax of $25US and a $5 airport departure tax on domestic flights. These taxes must be paid in cash in $US.
Exchanging currency
Peru's unit of currency is the Nuevo Sol. Current exchange rate information is available on our website under "Traveler Information." Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are the most recognized credit cards in Peru. American Express is not widely accepted. ATM machines (Visa/MasterCard/Cirrus/Plus), with directions in English, are widely available 24 hours a day in all major cities and large towns, providing a convenient and economical way to obtain soles. ATMs are the only reliable method to get money on Sundays. There are no ATMs and no place to cash Traveler's Checks in Aguas Calientes or Ollantaytambo. Travelers going to Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley should obtain cash before leaving Cusco. On trips of two weeks or less, we recommend carrying only US cash in $20 denominations to exchange as needed. Hotels exchange money, and most offer safe-keeping for valuables. Before departure, we send booked passengers a packet of trip information that contains operating hours for money exchange offices (Casas de Cambio) and more money tips.
Using electricity
In all of Peru, the electricity is 220 volts and 60 cycles, standard to Great Britain. To use 110-volt American-made electrical appliances in Peru (for a hairdryer or to recharge digital camera batteries, etc.), bring 2-pin plug adapters and a voltage transformer. For video cameras, we suggest packing an extra set of charged batteries. Some hotels have hair dryers for guest use, but most do not.
Peru is a diverse country. With beaches, mountains, rainforest and desert, there is no off-season. But it does pay to know a bit about where you're going, and what you'll need on your Peru tour:

The Andes - Though officially part of the dry season, April and May are considered the Andean spring, while June through October marks the Andean summer. Mid-day temperatures range from 70 to 80 F in the sun. Nighttime temperatures in Cusco range in the 40s F and can dip into the 30s F. Weather is usually clear in the morning with clouds accumulating in the afternoon. Rain can happen in any season, so quality rain gear is essential.

The Amazon - A rainforest environment, the Peruvian Amazon has varied weather conditions and frequent unpredictable rain showers. It is generally hot and humid during the day with more comfortable temperatures through the night. Daytime high temperatures average between 82° and 93° F, and the average nighttime low is between 62° and 73°. Nevertheless, in some areas cold fronts can sweep into the Amazon and push daytime high temperatures down to 50° F and nighttime lows to 43° F. Any time of year, one should always be prepared for cooler temperatures and rain showers. Around 80% of the annual average 79 inches of rainfall occurs during the rainy season (December through March) when heavy rain may continue for hours or days.

The Desert - the Atacama Desert is nearly rainless all year long. Expect hot days and warm nights.

Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches

Max. Air Temp 79 80 80 76 72 69 67 66 67 69 72 76
Min. Air Temp 68 69 69 67 63 61 60 60 60 60 62 64
Avg. Rainfall 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.0
*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches

Max. Air Temp 65 65 66 67 67 66 66 67 68 69 69 69
Min. Air Temp 44 44 43 41 39 33 32 35 39 42 43 44
Avg. Rainfall 6.3 5.2 4.3 1.8 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.9 1.9 3.1 4.7
*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches

Max. Air Temp 62 62 62 62 62 61 61 63 64 65 66 64
Min. Air Temp 38 38 38 33 25 19 18 22 29 33 35 37
Avg. Rainfall 5.2 4.3 3.8 1.5 0.4 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.8 1.5 2.0 3.6
*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches

Max. Air Temp 88 87 88 87 86 84 85 88 90 90 89 88
Min. Air Temp 71 70 70 69 66 63 62 64 66 69 70 70
Avg. Rainfall 13.6 12.8 11.9 6.1 4.2 2.3 2.2 2.5 3.9 6.5 9.3 12.1
*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches

When to Visit
  • jan
  • feb
  • mar
  • apr
  • may
  • jun
  • jul
  • aug
  • sep
  • oct
  • nov
  • dec
Q: When is the best time to go on a Peru tour?
A: Peru is a diverse country with beaches, mountains, rainforest and desert. For this reason, there is no off-season in Peru. One can travel to Peru any time of year and find good weather in certain areas
Q: How far in advance should I book a Peru tour?
A: When booking a Inca Trail Trek, we recommend that you book your tour 6 to 9 months in advance. For other Peru tours, we recommend 3 to 6 We recommend booking your tour before your international flight.
Q: Are these Peru tours suitable for children?
A: It depends on the trip. Our Peru tours have received rave reviews from families visiting the Amazon, Machu Picchu and even hiking the Inca trail. If children enjoy wildlife, learning about other cultures and meeting new people, Peru may be a great choice. To make family tours more flexible, we often recommend putting together a private group instead of booking one of our pre-set group trips. This works especially well with younger children. We are happy to answer all of your questions to give you the most accurate impression we can of what to expect.
Q: Can I extend my stay?
A: Yes. We offer many exciting extensions to suit the individual needs and interests of our passengers both in Lima and other areas from paragliding in the Sacred Valley to archeological tours. These trip extensions are described on our website. If you would like to discuss the options or arrange a trip extension on either end of your trip, please contact us.
Q: What airport do your passengers fly to?
A: Passengers fly into Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport. Our Peru tours all begin in Cusco
Q: How do passengers get from one tour destination to another?
A: In Peru, we use a mix of private and public transportation to get travelers to their destinations safely and efficiently. This includes local air carriers, trains, private vans/cars, comfortable tourist buses and canoes, etc. For short distances, we may get around in unusual ways such as rickshaw, bicycle taxi, "chicken bus" etc. to give travelers the local flavor.
Q: What are the accommodations like in Peru?
A: All of our Peru accommodations have private baths and hot water. They are located within walking distance of the town center, and most of the reception staff speaks English. Our standard adventures feature 3-star accommodations. If desired, 4 and 5-star accommodations are available upon request. We personally inspect the rooms and amenities of all potential hotels and lodges in each tour location and select only those that meet our rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort, convenient location, safety, customer service and ambiance. We support lodges and hotels that employ sustainability practices and are owned and operated locally.
Q: What are the meals like?
A: Meals served during all of our Peru adventures are nutritious and plentiful. Hotel breakfasts usually include fresh fruit, breads and eggs, as well as coffee, tea and juices. On the hiking portion of our trekking tours, our guests are awakened with a fresh cup brought to the tent and are served breakfast, lunch and dinner daily prepared by expert trail cooks with years of experience. Dinners usually consist of fresh vegetables and beef or chicken. During our Amazon adventures, the lodge menus generally include a variety of seafood, fish, beef, fresh salads and soups, as well as dessert and hot drinks
Q: How concerned should I be about the altitude?
A: Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and much of the Inca Trail are at high altitudes (at 11,600 ft, 6,000 ft, 12,600 ft and an average of 10,000 ft respectively). The highest altitude reached on the Inca Trail is the pass at (13,780 ft/4200 m). We sleep at approximately (11,811 ft/3600 m) for one or two nights. In planning trips to these destinations, we include sufficient days at the outset to allow the body to begin acclimatizing. We start with mild activities prior to hiking to give travelers a good indication of how they will feel on the hike since symptoms usually subside. We have never had a traveler who had to be evacuated to low altitude. Please see the "Safety Tips for South and Central America" article on our Home Page for more information about altitude.
Q: Is it possible to leave the Inca Trail in case of an emergency?
A: Any exiting of the Inca Trail due to emergency is by foot or horse (if available). No airlift options are available. In the event of a debilitating injury, two porters would carry the injured person to the nearest train station where they would then board the train to Ollantaytambo. A vehicle would be waiting to drive the injured person to the Cusco Hospital or other location. Please note that throughout the Inca Trail there are park rangers with walkie-talkies. Also, all Southern Explorations will have satellite phones with them while on the Inca Trail.
Q: How much should I budget for a Peru trip beyond the tour fee and international airfare?
A: Meals/beverages not included in trip price $20US - $25US per day Airport taxes $30US Tips, depending on activities and length of trip $60US - $150US The markets can be a shopper's paradise. Budget according to your tastes
Q: What bathing and toilet facilities are there at the Inca Trail camp sites?
A: There are some toilet facilities, depending on the campsite. Where there are no facilities, a toilet tent is set up for temporary use. Bowls of warm water are often provided for a quick wash in the morning and evening, but no showers are available while on the trek. The first warm shower comes on day four upon the arrival at your hotel in Aguas Calientes day four of the trek.
Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands Custom Combo Tour - 5D/4N Cruise
Day 1: Arrive Lima
Arrival and transfer to your hotel. If you arrive early, we can arrange optional tours to explore the city, including museum visits, and other sites of interests.
Day 2: Lima - Cusco
Morning departure for your flight to Cusco, center of the Inca Empire. Your Peru tour begins as Southern Explorations' guides pick you up at the airport, stopping for a quick tour of the colonial Plaza de Armas. From there, you will be taken to your hotel and be free for the rest of the day to explore the city and acclimatize to the altitude (10,856 ft). (B)
Day 3: Cusco
This morning, your Peru travels take you on a guided walking tour through the colorful markets of Cusco, the colonial cathedral and Koricancha, the impressive Temple of the Sun. After a lunch of regional cuisine, depart for an afternoon tour of prominent Inca sights in and around Cusco. You'll see the fortress of Sacsayhuamán, with its megalithic stone terraces; Kenko, with its carved stone surfaces and subterranean altars; the small Puka Pukara fortress that protected the royal capital from attacks; and the water temple, Tambo Machay. In the late afternoon, return to your hotel to relax or further explore the fascinating mix of Cusco cultures. (B)
Day 4: Cusco - Sacred Valley
Today's day-long guided excursion journeys through snowcapped mountains to the legendary Sacred Valley of the Incas. Along the way, your Peru tour takes you past Inca terracing that climbs steep valley walls, then on through the ruined temples of Pisac with panoramic views of the jagged granite peaks before stopping in the town to visit one of the best textile markets in the Andes. There, you'll be able to browse for souvenirs and learn about the local culture. After lunch, the next stop is Ollantaytambo (9,185 ft.), a small town with an impressive Inca fortress. Stay overnight at a hotel in Ollantaytambo. (B)
Day 5: Sacred Valley - Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and take a refreshing walking tour of the Ollantaytambo ruins and surrounding town before heading to the Ollantaytambo train station for today's unforgettable trip. Making its way toward the Amazon and Machu Picchu, the train follows the Urubamba River into a magnificent cloud forest, arriving at the station. Here take a traditional lunch before meeting the bus waiting to take you the rest of the way to Machu Picchu (7,875 ft.). Spend the afternoon exploring the famous ruins, returning in the late afternoon to nearby Aguas Calientes where you'll be spending the night. You'll have time for a soothing soak in the hot springs and a tasty dinner before turning in early. (B)
Day 6: Machu Picchu - Chinchero Artisan Market - Cusco
Today, take the opportunity to see an unmatched sunrise at Machu Picchu before the crowds arrive and spend the rest of the day among the numerous ruins a climb to the sacred peak of Huayna Picchu or a picturesque walk to the Temple of the Moon. Return midday to the town of Aguas Calientes for lunch and your early afternoon train back to Ollantaytambo. Meet your private van at the train station to travel to the collective Chinchero textile market, featuring an explanation of the traditional weaving methods of the Sacred Valley and some of the best textiles available in Peru. This is the ideal place for last minute shopping before returning to your Cusco hotel for the evening. (B)
Day 7: Cusco - Lima - Quito
In the morning you'll be taken to the airport for the return flight to Lima and your connecting international flight to Quito. Arrival and transfer to your Quito hotel. (B)
Day 8: Quito - Galapagos Islands
Morning transfer to the Quito airport for a flight to the Galapagos Islands to board your cruise. (B,L,D)
Day 9 - 11: Galapagos Islands Cruise
According to your chosen itinerary, you will visit between four and ten different islands. Each of the Galapagos Islands has its own particular topography, ecology and wildlife. Dinghies provide daily transport to shore for walking tours, enabling you to get closer wildlife views. All tours allow ample time for the activities included in the itinerary, whether snorkeling, scuba diving or swimming. If you prefer pure relaxation, you'll find it on the boat as well as under the equatorial sun on the beach. For more details, please refer to the individual vessel itineraries. (B,L,D)
Day 12: Galapagos Islands - Quito
Your final morning will include one last island visit before being transferred from the vessel to the airport for your return flight to Quito. Arrive in the late afternoon and transfer to your comfortable Quito hotel. (B)
Day 13: Quito - Home
Transfer to the airport for the international departure home, the end of Southern Explorations services. If you are interested in more Galapagos tours, trip extensions to other regions or extra days in Quito, we would be happy to arrange them. (B)

Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands Custom Combo Tour - 5D/4N Cruise

Starting at
Cruise Class 5D/4N 6D/5N 8D/7N
Tourist Superior $4775 $5025 $5475
First Class $5470 $5295 $5970
Cruise Ship $5540 $6290 $6895
Luxury Cruise $5890 $7240 $7295

This tour combines any Galapagos cruise of your choice with our classic Experience Machu Picchu trip  Your trip costs depend on which vessel and cruise duration you select.  Prices listed here are per person starting at rates.

Internal Airfare:
Round Trip Quito / Galapagos: $560
Round Trip Guayaquil / Galapagos: $515
Round Trip Lima/Cusco: $375
Airfare Lima/Quito $425

Entrance to Galapagos to National Park ($100 Adult / $50 Child)
Galapagos Transit Control Card ($20)

Peru Single Supplement: $590
A single supplement is the additional cost of a single traveler not sharing a room in double occupancy. A single supplement also applies to single travelers in a private cabin on Galapagos cruises. Single travelers willing to share a cabin with another passenger of the same gender can avoid the single supplement on certain vessels.

Trip Dates
Departure dates depend on the duration of your Galapagos cruise and the boat of your choice. Please contact us for more details.
Thursday, January 1, 2015 to Saturday, December 31, 2016
Included in tour cost
  • All airport/hotel transfers
  • All hotel accommodations
  • All listed activities
  • English-speaking certified guides
  • Entrance fees for all scheduled tours, national parks & archaeological sites
  • Meals as indicated
  • Southern Explorations pre-departure services
  • 2 nights' accommodations in Quito or Guayaquil
  • All meals on Galapagos cruise
  • Galapagos cruise
  • Local Quito or Guayaquil representative
  • Naturalist guide while on cruise
Excluded from tour cost
  • International airfare to and from Central & South America
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Medical & travel insurance (highly recommended)
  • Domestic airfare to and from Galapagos Islands
  • Galapagos National Park entrance fee ($100 Adult/$50 Child)
  • Galapagos Transit Control Card ($20)
  • Bar tab on cruise
  • Hiking boots and other necessary sports gear
Bucket List
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn."  (Dr. Seuss)

 At age 15, adventurer John Goddard penned a list of 127 things he wanted to do before he died. It included 16 mountains he planned to climb, 13 cultures he wished to study, 5 lakes in which he hoped to swim, and an eclectic assortment of other experiences, from playing the viola to catching a 10-lb lobster. By age 47, he had accomplished 103 of them. It is the magic of list-making, dramatically increasing our chances of accomplishing what it contains. It is the starting point for turning dreams into working plans.

Bucket lists are idealized versions of the experiences we desire. Some, like visiting the Amazon, we dream up in childhood. Others, like Machu Picchu, make the list after seeing extraordinary aerial photos. We envision these places without a tourist in sight. Though that won’t happen, there are ways to make the reality more closely resemble the dream. Traveling in small groups helps. So does choosing a tour that puts you at the destination when the crowds aren’t. Some of our Machu Picchu tours for instance arrive at dawn, allowing you to photograph the citadel at its most photogenic, before everyone else arrives. Sometimes it’s a matter of where you stay. The lodgings for our Argentina tours to Iguazu Falls are located right in Iguazu National Park so while most tourists are eating breakfast, packing up and driving to the falls, you’ll be gazing at rainbow mists.

When it comes to an area as varied and vast as Costa Rica to Antarctica, the possibilities for trips of a lifetime are limitless. Our bucket list category of trips of course contains destinations that appear on many people’s lists such as Machu Picchu. For cruises to the popular Galapagos Islands and the much less visited Antarctica, we’ve included some of the vessels that passengers seem to love. It’s at least a starting place for what can be an extensive search when contemplating a trip to either of these locations. Some trips on our list are there because we travel many roads less traveled. Though they are places you may not have considered visiting, they could end up on your list of “Best Trips Ever Taken.”

Some of our bucket list trips give you the best bang for the buck, fitting in one, two or three of South America’s top attractions. Of course, a bucket list is in the mind of the beholder. If you tell us a bit about your interests and dreams, we can suggest which of our trips you may wish to consider. We can also customize a trip that enables you to visit more of your bucket list destinations in one trip than you thought possible. Are the Galapagos and Machu Picchu on your list? We offer several itineraries that include both. What about walking among penguins and learning to tango in Buenos Aires? Easy-peasy. And perhaps in this life we should plan for a second visit to one or two of the places that left an indelible impression the first time. We’d be happy to help you arrange that trip too.
Though many of our trips spend time on boats, we offer ocean cruise itineraries at only two destinations, the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. In many ways, these are very different experiences. Yet because close-up views of astonishing wildlife is the star attraction at both, travelers who have taken a Galapagos Islands tour owe it to themselves to experience Antarctica and vice versa. It goes without saying that those who have experienced neither don’t know how much they are missing. On-board accommodations to both destinations range from basic to 5-star vessels, accommodating just a few travelers to over a hundred passengers. Both are trips of a lifetime, journeys like no other. Take a look at the bucket list of the traveler who has made it to one of these destinations and you’ll probably see the other.


From traveling to the Galapagos, you know that only one penguin species inhabits the archipelago. This may or may not have satisfied your desire to observe penguins. Seven different penguin species await you on your Antarctica tours in certain locations and in groups numbering into the thousands. Whales too aren’t generally what one writes home about during a Galapagos tour. But travel to Antarctica and you are sure to see many. It depends on location and time of year but several whale species spend time around Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands including blue whales and humpbacks. In Antarctica, such exotic formations as icebergs and glaciers are as common a feature of the landscape as the volcanic structures that comprise the Galapagos. And there is the silence, that isn’t just a matter of being in a place where only a few fellow-humans are allowed. Here it is silence at the ends of the Earth. A typical day in Antarctica involves two excursions going ashore or along the shore in small rubberized crafts called Zodiaks, to get as respectfully close to wildlife as possible. Some vessels have an open bridge policy that allows passengers to see as the captain sees. Most evenings include a wildlife lecture by naturalist guides. Itineraries are all ice and weather-dependent, a consideration that some travelers aren’t expecting. For penguin lovers, one unforgettable experience is the days spent at an Emperor rookery, ice conditions permitting.


Travelers may spend a great deal of time observing wildlife from Zodiacs in Antarctica but one, place they don’t go is into the water for some snorkeling. With air temperatures hovering around 32 degrees during Antarctic summer, neither will you find Antarctic passengers taking a daily ocean swim or enjoying dinner and cocktails on an open air deck. Antarctic alums are sure to enjoy that difference, along with all the snorkeling opportunities without a wetsuit. And there are all those exotic-sounding species one will encounter for the first time in the Galapagos, sally light foot crab, blue and red footed boobies, and of course all those species whose names start with “Galapagos” that you’ll find nowhere else. A typical day on a Galapagos cruise includes visiting two different visitor sites, getting from their ship to shore via small panga crafts. Passengers are given plenty of time to linger with the wildlife, take photos, and if they wish, swim and/or snorkel, depending on the destination. Meals are typically enjoyed onboard. Many vessels have libraries to give passengers opportunities to learn more about Galapagos wildlife and naturalist guides are a wealth of information on all topics related to the islands.

Take your pick or schedule both. They are equally divine.
The countries of South and Central America are filled with art, crafts and historical artifacts. Here are a few examples to whet your appetite, some of which are included in our itineraries. We also build in free time so our passengers can explore on their own according to their interests.


Gold In colonial times, gold mostly left the New World for the old, but that which remained and is today housed in South America’s gold museums reflects the craftsmanship of the continent’s indigenous populations. The two most famous are located in Bogota and Lima. The Cuzco School Visitors on Peru tours will be able to view representative works of the Cuzco School, paintings from the 300-year colonial period that incorporated Roman Catholic themes, European painting styles and an indigenous slant, with bright colors and gold leaf plus native flora and fauna. The largest collections are housed in Cusco and Lima museums.


Chile Chileans call Pablo Neruda “the people’s poet” because they understood what he had to say about love and life. The Nobel Prize winner filled his three charming homes between Santiago and the coast with items he collected in his travels as writer, diplomat and rebel-on-the-run that today are popular museums. Uruguay Begun before paved roads, built over decades and today a prominent landmark on the Uruguayan Riviera, Casapueblo is the studio, gallery and guest lodgings of abstract painter, Paez Vilaro. It is also a divine spot for cocktails at sunset.


Brazil After a decade of prominence in the contemporary international art scene, Brazil’s distinctive grafite has begun to flourish at home, since the decriminalization of street art on buildings with the consent of the owner. To see the city’s largest street art collection, visit Rio de Janeiro’s upscale Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico) north of Ipanema Beach. Street art walls may also be seen in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. Another arresting street mural that has made international headlines is by French street artist, JR, and consists of realistic-looking eyes painted on many hillside buildings in the Providencia favela, a Rio slum. Another favela, Santa Marta, contains Tudo de cor para voce, a brilliant block-long recoloring of facades, painted by neighborhood residents with donated paint. Colombia: Travel to Colombia and you are bound to see renowned Colombian artist, Fernando Botero’s mammoth rounded human and animal sculptures. The best place is Medellin, Botero’s home town, where his works are everywhere. One spot is Botero Plaza in front of the Museum Antioquia where 23 of his bronze pieces are located. Uruguay: Dramatic 15-ft tall concrete Los Dedos, by Chilean sculptor, Mario Irarrazabal, resembles a partially buried human hand, fingers extended in the sand. It is located on the La Brava beach peninsula that divides Punta del Este’s calm waters on the Rio de la Plata side from the rough Atlantic waters.


Crafts are a way of life in some villages. To name a few, in some places, whole villages make their livelihood from crafts. From the Andes, you’ll find camelid fleece apparel, shigra totes and plenty of exquisite silver and gold jewelry; from the Amazon, carved tagua nut jewelry; from Panama’s Kuna Yala, one-of a kind molas; and from Ecuador, Panama hats for as much as you want to spend. In addition to stopping at craft markets in Ecuador, Peru and elsewhere, our tours also get you into studios where crafts are being made, continuing centuries-old traditions of indigenous cultures. The challenge will be how much you can pack into that suitcase.
Most Popular
Some destinations start off the beaten track and then as word of mouth and media coverage grow end up getting on to the beaten track. The number of visitors who travel to the Galapagos Islands has tripled over the last decade. Who could have imagined ten years ago that islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador could be attracting some 200,000 visitors annually or that a million people a year would want to visit so difficult a destination to reach as Machu Picchu? Fortunately, governments of the countries where this has happened (or before) have set limits so that these destinations won’t be overrun. Some places will always remain popular. No matter how many fellow-tourists surround you, who doesn’t want to watch skyscraper-size slabs of the Perito Moreno Glacier come splashing down into a lake or witness a waterfall made up of 275 waterfalls at Iguazu? Our category of popular trips does not mean the most popular of all our trips but rather, the most frequently-booked trips in each country.

Popular attractions have a way of opening up new worlds for travelers. Say you’re in  Buenos Aires and decide to pop over the Rio de la Plata by ferry to check out Uruguay for a day. You experience the beaches, have lunch in Montevideo’s 19th century Mercado del Puerto, do some wine-tasting and end up saying, “Let’s come back here next time.” Or the end of your two-day scheduled stay in Buenos Aires that  you thought would be enough draws near. You suddenly realize that you must return because you’ve just scratched the surface, that you missed the houses on stilts out on the Tigre Delta, didn’t see a performance at the Teatro Colon, the world’s most beautiful opera house, and didn’t get over to the Feria de Mataderos, a folk market with costumed entertainers and gauchos on horseback.

Many of our travelers are active so they tend to book trips that get them outdoors experiencing the sights rather than driving around in cars. We do our best to minimize car travel, not just because it’s boring, but because it’s also part of our environmental philosophy. Because of the distance and inaccessibility, driving to some places is the only logical alternative. To get from the prime Patagonia hiking areas of Los Glaciares National Park down to the south end where the park’s other big attraction is located, Perito Moreno Glacier, is a four-hour car ride, albeit a scenic one. Our multisport trips that offer a little of everything and mostly active excursions along with some other active trips are most popular. Even among our Antarctica tours, it is the adventure class vessels that people book most, though price may enter into that decision.

As we look at what are the most frequent trips we book and try to figure out why, it appears our travelers want to pack in a lot of top sights in case they don’t travel this way again. See Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires plus Iguazu Falls or Patagonia. Even destinations like Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Uruguay, the most popular trips tend to be those that travel to the most regions.

The most popular way that passengers book a trip with Southern Explorations is as a custom departure. They start with an itinerary, add on tour extensions according to their particular interests and travel in groups as small as two passengers on days that fit their schedule. We love making that happen.
Multi Country
Several of our trips visit two countries. Sometimes, the reason is geography. For instance, hiking in Patagonia is sublime. Once there, hikers shouldn’t have to miss some of the most famous trails, the W trek and Paine Circuit, if they are in Argentina; and the Fitz Roy sector if they are in Chile, just because these idyllic hiking spots lie on the other side of the border. For other travelers, it’s a matter of time. You may figure that your chances of getting to South America again soon (or ever) are slim, so if you are going to see the most famous of the continent’s sights, it had better be now, and in one, not multiple, trips.


Several of our Patagonia tours include two of the world’s top hiking destinations by combining Chile’s Torres del Paine and Argentina’s Los Glaciares national parks in Southern Patagonia. Another trip, which should perhaps be called the Patagonia Grand Tour, travels from one end of Patagonia to the other. Passengers get to walk among thousands of penguins at Punta Tombo on the Valdes Peninsula, hike and kayak in the northeasterly and most southerly national parks, Nahuel Huapi and Tierra del Fuego, explore Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares and see one of South America’s biggest attractions, the Perito Moreno Glacier. In a sense, because Argentina and Brazil share Iguazu Falls, any of our Iguazu trips that start in Brazil are multi-country trips because they also travel to Argentina to get a different view. The ones that start in Argentina give the option of traveling over to the Brazil side if arrangements are made in advance through Customs.


Our most popular combination of destinations is Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Some of these trips include a Galapagos cruise with a choice of vessels. On others, the Galapagos segment is land-based and multisport, designed for the active traveler. For the really active traveler, we even make the Machu Picchu segment multisport too. We also offer trips that travel to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos and the Amazon, destinations that sound much farther apart than they actually are. 


Sometimes, our off-the-beaten-track itineraries cross borders. On our 9-day Atacama and Mendoza wine and sun trip, you will photograph flamingos taking flight in Chile’s Atacama Desert and taste wines in Argentina’s premium wine region of Mendoza, a unique itinerary for the senses. We offer another winetasting itinerary to both countries that builds in time for hiking on Mt. Aconcagua or whitewater rafting and gets you to a museum once the home of Chile’s beloved poet, Pablo Neruda. We now combine any of tours to Uruguay with any of our Argentina or Patagonia trips. You can taste wine in all three countries if you like.

Since our specialty is putting together customized tours from our itineraries that suit our every passenger’s every need, we’re sure we can design a multi-country itinerary to your liking. We offer a wide range of tour extensions that helps fit these trips together in a way that gives you what you are looking for. And of course, just because we don’t usually combine them, doesn’t mean we can’t. Perhaps you’d like to travel to Panama and neighboring Colombia in the same trip. We can do that.
Humans have always loved penguins, but never so much as since they became the darlings of the media a decade ago, animated with the voices of Hollywood actors, and celebrities in their own right as the stars of the 2005 Oscar-winning French documentary, La Marche de lEmpereur. This new-found fame has made plenty of travelers want to include penguins in their itineraries. In the western hemisphere, you’ll find penguins on two continents, South America and Antarctica.


Placing penguins into your South America trip is easy. Penguins don’t roam much north of the Equator, and the further south you travel, the more you’ll see. If you are list maker or a birder, you may want to see as many different species as possible. Those penguin-watchers should travel to Antarctica and better yet, select a tour that also visits the sub-Antarctic Islands and the Falklands, since some species find these warmer climes more to their liking. Doing so will better your chances of seeing Chinstraps, Macaronis, Rockhoppers and Gentoos. In all, it may be possible to see seven species of penguins during your Antarctica tours. In South America, on the other hand, at most you are likely to see one or two species. Humboldts, for example, stay between southern Chile and northern Peru.


Like us, many penguin species travel to get out of the cold. Humboldt penguins come to breed on the wildlife-rich Paracas peninsula where many people visit during their travel to Peru on tours to one of the country’s biggest attractions, the mysterious Nazca Lines. You can even see penguins on Galapagos Island cruises, although most penguin fanatics are looking for the species that inhabit colder regions. To see penguin species that migrate, encountering them is a matter of timing. Galapagos penguins have no reason to leave home, so visitors are almost certain they to see the species during their trip. You’ll encounter the most during the breeding season between May and January. Galapagos penguins prefer the waters around some islands better than others so make sure you choose an itinerary that travels to some of these locations if penguins are important to you. We offer trips and tour extensions to many places where penguins may be observed. If you time it right, you may encounter penguins during your South America tours in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay or Brazil. Sightings are most common in Northern and Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.


For close-up views, you can’t beat the Punta Tumbo Reserve on the Valdes Peninsula, an hour south of Buenos Aires by air. It protects South America’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins, where over half a million penguins come each year to breed. They start arriving in September, give birth by November and stay until about mid-March. While keeping a respectful distance, here you may walk among thousands of them. Some of our Patagonia tours stop at Punta Tumbo. Magellanic rookeries are also located in the Strait of Magellan and further east in Tierra del Fuego National Park.


Alas two penguin viewing experiences you won’t have. The Emperor’s nesting habits captured in the French film take place during the coldest of Antarctic temperatures, a period without Antarctica tours. Neither will you see the tallest of the penguins, of human height, which is among the 40 varieties that have gone extinct.
Of the countries where we travel, all are located on one ocean or two, so wherever waters are calm, you will find snorkeling on our trip itineraries. Some places, like Costa Rica and Panama, you expect to snorkel. We can also suggest places you may have never considered.


The Galapagos is snorkeling heaven for beginners and aficionados alike. Who can come home from their Galapagos tours and say they didn’t snorkel? You can’t, even if you have never snorkeled before. At some locations, you may be joined by marine iguanas and turtles grazing on pastures of algae, sea lion pups, Galapagos green sea turtles or Galapagos penguins at another, be passed by vast schools of colorful tropical fish, golden and spotted eagle rays, and in colder waters, sea horses. Some species that are the province of divers elsewhere may be seen by snorkelers in the Galapagos. Manta rays, fur seals, Galapagos sea lions, marine iguanas and green sea turtles are a spectacular and unexpected pleasure for a snorkeler accustomed to just seeing tropical fish. Visibility is better in some locations such as Genovesa Island, where snorkelers may be fortunate enough to observe some moray eels. Many snorkelers prefer the archipelago’s wet season between January and April when water temperatures are warmer and seas are calmer. Some vessels provide snorkel equipment, but many Galapagos passengers prefer to bring their own. Snorkeling is especially good on the northern tip of Floreana Island where some 50 different species of fish are found including moray eels, green sea turtles, marbled rays and white-tipped reef sharks. Isla Lobos on the west side of Isabela Island is an excellent spot to snorkel with sea lions. Travelers to Brazil compare Florianopolis and its surroundings to the Hawaiian Islands. Our 8-day Brazil multisport trip spends a day on Campeche Island where the snorkeling is divine, and the waters are popular with sea lions and sea turtles. Depending on the time of year, you may encounter the shallow-swimming southern right whales or migrating Magellanic penguins.


An hour by boat from Colombia’s Caribbean coast lies Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo Natural National Park, the country’s only marine national park. Comprised of 30 islands with pristine, white sand beaches, the archipelago is surrounded by sea prairies and shallow, clear waters. Here you will snorkel in an area of multicolored sea grasses inhabited by 215 different tropical fish and innumerable invertebrates as well as 52 species of coral and 45 sponge varieties. This blissful experience is a day-trip from the walled-city of Cartagena, and included in our 6-day Cartagena and Tayrona National Park Colombia tour. If you love snorkeling and have never tried warm-river snorkeling, you have a treat in store. You can experience river snorkeling on either the Cardosa River during our 12-day Brazil’s Northern Beaches tour or on some of the world’s clearest waters, the Rio Sucuri, south of the Pantanal, on our 13-day Water Paradises of Brazil trip. It doesn’t get much more blissful than snorkeling in Panama. Some of the best spots on the Caribbean side are at the Isla Bastimentos Marine National Park at the country’s north end and the Kuna Yala on the south end where snorkeling is best around the region’s most the remote islands. On the Pacific side,there are numerous locations including the little-visited Azuero Peninsula and Coiba National Marine Park, comprised of many islands on the Pacific.
Trekking and Hiking
Some hiking routes are famous because of what you see along the way, like the famed Patagonia treks in Chile’s Torres del Paine Park, the many orchid species in Ecuador’s misty cloud forests, the monkeys swinging through the trees of Costa Rica and Panama’s rainforests. Others are famous for what you see when you arrive, like Machu Picchu. Of the seven South American countries that share the Andes, we arrange hiking trips to five, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. South America’s landscapes are so varied that you can hike in both the Andes and the Amazon in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Although we arrange for passengers to hike famous trails, many itineraries include ones you’ve never heard of but will be telling everyone about when you get home. Los Nevados National Park in Colombia, for instance, is located in an area of eight volcanoes and Andean forests with 100-ft trees. Our two trips to Argentina’s northern canyon country hike among red variegated cliffs where geology is the star attraction and in an exotic landscape comprised of thousands of huge Cardon cacti. Two of our new Ecuador trips hike into Pululahua, a dormant volcano so large people live and farm there, though active volcanoes such as Costa Rica’s Arenal as well as Ecuador’s Cotopaxi are also among our destinations.


Our itineraries that require stamina and conditioning all contain the word “hike” in the trip name. Five of our Patagonia tours, ranging from 11 to 15 days are hiking adventures. The most famous of the Patagonia routes, Torres del Paine’s W hike takes four days and the Paine Circuit six days, both with refugio camping along the way. Age restrictions also apply on some of our glacier hiking excursions. The same is true for those who choose to travel the longest segment of the Inca Trail. Machu Picchu isn’t the only place to hike in the Peruvian Andes. Huascaran National Park in the Cordillera Blanca attracts trekkers from throughout the world where we offer a 10-day hiking trip. Some Antarctica trips provide an optional 3 to 4-day tour (depending on the weather) for those who wish to trek across South Georgia Island as British explorer, Ernest Shackleton did.


South America’s most famous hiking regions aren’t just for the intrepid. Some of the most memorable Patagonia hikes are day-hikes such as those in the northerly Mt. Fitz Roy sector of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park or are divided into day-long segments, with stays in scenic estancias. Several of our Patagonia tours are lodge-based. We tuck day-hikes of various lengths into many of our itineraries as one of several activities. Though we don’t call it a hiking or multisport tour, our 13-day Bahia Rhythms, Canyon and Beaches Brazil tour hikes virtually every day to one destination or another, including Salvador’s Pelourinho neighborhood where South America’s largest complex of colonial architecture is located, deserted white sand beaches surrounded by coconut plantations along the Coconut Coast and waterfalls in Chapada Diamantina National Park. On some routes in Florianopolis, Brazil, a delicious seafood lunch on a pier is the destination. All Rio de Janeiro itineraries include an option to hike in the Tijuca rainforest, a national park within the city limits and climb instead of travel by conveyance to the city’s two famous monuments, Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain. We even offer day-hike excursions on the Western Hemisphere’s highest peak, Mt. Aconcagua in the central Andes of Argentina.
Virtually every trip Southern Exploration arranges includes wildlife sure to awe travelers from the most experienced birder to ten-year olds seeing their first monkey outside of a zoo. These are some of the species and destinations that our passengers have in store.


Southern Explorations goes where the wildlife goes. To be awed by the most exotic of wildlife, the jaguars, the ocelots, the primates, the tapirs and all those other rainforest species one sees in books, most everyone wants to travel to the Amazon. We offer many Amazon tours to get them there. South America’s other top wildlife destination is the extraordinary Galapagos Islands, and we offer countless options for making that dream come true too. And then there is Antarctica, home to a multitude of species, including a preponderance of penguins. One place we don’t send many people but would if they knew what they were missing is the little-visited Pantanal, an area of Brazil’s interior the size of France where wildlife is just as diverse, profuse and unafraid of humans as in the Galapagos. Our 13-day Brazil Water Paradises trip goes there.


We get asked about several animals more than others. Turtles Southern Explorations travels to several locations where turtles nest. Three top locations to have the once in a lifetime experience of watching this nighttime phenomenon are Panama, Costa Rica and Brazil’s Praia do Forte. In all of these places, poaching has been replaced by eco-tourism in local projects that are helping to bring back these mostly endangered species. Whales From Costa Rica to Antarctica, whales are in our itineraries. The baleens and many toothed species inhabit these waters at certain times of year.


Birds together Seeing large groups of birds all in one place is an unforgettable experience. There are clay licks in the Amazon that attract hundreds of macaws, with hidden nearby places for humans to watch. Visitors who travel with Southern Explorations will probably see more penguins together than any other bird species where in places they number into the millions. Big birds South America is home to many large species. You’ll find three different species of flamingos in some places such as the National Flamingo Reserve Chile’s Atacama Desert and elsewhere in the Atacama Desert where vicunas, the tiny, soft wild camelids congregate too. If flamingoes are on your bird bucket list, the Atacama is the place to go. We offer several short trips to this region of Chile that may be added on to Patagonia tours. Fortunate is the traveler to South America who gets to see the largest of the vultures, the Andean condor. Two most likely spots are Colca Canyon where parents teach their wee ones to fly, and Colombia’s Los Nevados National Park where the government is working with the San Diego Zoo to reintroduce the species. To see the world’s largest population of black-necked swans, the Uruguayan coast, east of Punta del Este is the place. The signature bird of Brazil’s Pantanal is the jabiru. The ibis may be seen in many parts of Argentina. Pretty birds The world’s most beautiful bird, the Resplendent Quetzal, resides almost exclusively in Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Panama’s Volcan Baru National Park.

We go all these places. You just tell us what wildlife you want to see and we’ll tell you where to go.
Aguas Calientes
Sacred Valley

One Day


Great trip -- we had a wonderful time. Thank you for the help in organizing a wonderful trip.   -Dennis and family (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)


This was the first organized tour that we have ever taken, but now that we have experienced what a great job Southern Explorations does, it will not be the last. We are now spoiled and will expect any other trip we take to measure up to their standards.   -Dan & Randy Busch, Arkansas (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)


We cannot tell you how much we appreciated the extraordinary job Southern Explorations did to coordinate the logistics of the complicated travel arrangements required for our Peru and Galapagos trip (and you did it all on very short notice). The travel, accommodations, and food arrangements were generally seamless and the guides where knowledgeable, resourceful and fun!
Thank you for the adventure of a lifetime!   -Becky Jessen & Tom Moore (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)

We were amazed how Marissa had it all so organized. We traveled with 4 couples for the first half of the trip and then 4 of us went on our separate way. It all worked perfectly. There was always someone there to meet us and guide us to our next step. All of the guides were great!   -Caroline Pettit, Washington (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)

The all day hike to Machu Picchu was one of the hardest things I've done physically. The guide paced us really well, I always felt safe and nothing could have prepared me for how awesome the view was when we came through the Sun Gate. It was worth every inch of the trek and all the more satisfying that I had worked hard to get there. Breathtaking! Best guide we could have asked for. Thanks Southern Explorations for making this trip of a lifetime everything I'd hoped it could be.   -Karin & Michael Johnston, USA (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)

I just wanted to thank whoever set us up with our guide. He was an absolutely incredible guide!! We all felt so blessed to have him with us to show us Peru. He was extremely knowledgeable, organized, prepared, willing to share recommendations for our dinners out, approachable, and warm. Our entire experience was enhanced by his passion for his country, his history, and his people. One more "Thank You" for the experience of a lifetime. I would also like to give a shout out to the Southern Exploration agent. Without exception, every time I called SE to talk with her, about something concerning the trip, she was very helpful, and truly and assisted me in creating a trip that was fashioned to my particular wants and expectations. Thank you for your guidance, it was greatly appreciated.   -Ellen & Ronald Blickenstaff, USA (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)

Our trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos arranged by Southern Explorations was a trip of a lifetime. We were looked after every step of the way in a professional and caring manner. Thank you Southern Explorations!   -Karen & Dwight Guy, Canada (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)


Our guide in Cusco and Machu Picchu, was one of the best guides I have ever had. He was knowledgeable, accommodating, and gracious. He made the trip extra special with his considerable knowledge.   -Mary Helen Smith (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)

We just wanted to let you know we had a great time on this trip. We saw the birds in the Amazon, the Incan history in Cusco/Machu Picchu and all the animals/landscape in Galapagos. The highlights were the macaws in the Amazon, and the dolphins (hundreds), penguins, turtles and birds in the Galapagos. The food was excellent the entire trip. The guides were fantastic.  -Joseph Polli, USA (Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Cruise)

This Trip is Rated: Moderate

Our moderate trips require an average level of fitness. Itineraries may include walks or short hikes of up to two to three hours with little elevation gain, sustained walking at higher altitudes, and/or other similar level physical activities. Many activities are optional.
    Most Difficult

Contact Us