Trip of a Lifetime - Machu Picchu, Amazon, Galapagos and more


Our team of South America and Central America travel experts take great pride in expertly crafting intricate and exceptionally well-executed revelatory travel experiences. But sometimes even we take a step back and marvel at the duration, breadth, complexity, and variety of experiences baked into the itineraries some of our guests have us build for them.
We’re talking about the kinds of trips that get multiple team members’ specific expertise involved. The kinds of trips that have all of us exchanging excited emails to say; “Look at how amazing this trip is going to be for these people, can you believe it!?”
Even though we live this life every day, there are still some works of trip crafting and operations execution that we’ll remember working on for the rest of our lives. It was with that in mind that we decided to start revealing some of the ultimate trips of a lifetime that our team has designed in the past. Who knows, maybe you’ll find some inspiration in them for your very own South America and Central America trip of a lifetime with Southern Explorations.
“Thank you for the trip of a lifetime”
We knew this particular trip was something special when we started putting it together. However, when our guests returned home after their epic odyssey and sent us the delightfully kind note saying “Everything was wonderful. Thank you for the trip of a lifetime,” we knew it was one itinerary we’d have to put in our hall of fame. 

This 25-day Latin America travel experience spanned multiple countries, included snow-capped volcanoes, deserts, rainforests, floating islands, colonial cities, ancient archeological sites, cloud forests, and remote islands. From private boat excursions to free days exploring vibrant cities, hiking through rugged Andean peaks, and explorations of artisan markets, this multi-faceted experience is almost enough to leave you feeling accomplished and fulfilled just having read about it.
It began in Lima where our guests were eased into the all-encompassing experience to come with a tour of the largest city in Peru. The next day they flew off to Arequipa, known as the “White City” because of the colonial buildings constructed from the area’s white volcanic rock.
From Arequipa it was on to Peru’s llama-packed highland savannah for an unforgettable view of Mt. El Misti and the snow-capped volcanoes in the distance, followed by a descent into the Colca Valley to soak in the thermal baths at the Coloca Lodge.
Next it was across the Andean plains and onto Puno, a high plain (altiplano) town near Lake Titicaca for an exploration of pre-Incan funerary tower ruins, and a historical boat museum. The next day they travelled to the legendary floating Uros Islands where the local population live on the floating reed islands, before continuing on to Taquille Island to visit a weaving collective.
Then it was back to Puno for a good night’s rest ahead of a morning flight to Cusco, where one of our guides met them to escort them for a visit of the beautiful Plaza de Armas hotel before a relaxing day adjusting to the 10,856-foot elevation at Cusco.
Officially into “phase 2” of this trip of a lifetime, the day started off with a walking city tour of Cusco and an evening orientation for the following day’s trek into the Inca heartland; the Sacred Valley. They spent that night in Ollantaytambo, a small traditional town at 9,185 feet.
The next day it was time for the first day of the Inca Trail trek, with stunning views of the Vilcanota mountain range and Mt. Veronica, a trek through the narrow Cuischaca valley, and eventually into the indigenous community of Huayllabamba to camp for the night, followed by another day of hiking among the archeological ruins through Runkuracay, Sayacmarca, and finally Phuyupatamarca for another night of camping.
Two weeks into this legendary itinerary they came to Machu Picchu, exploring the sacred peak of Huayna Picchu, followed by lunch in Aguas Calientes, and then an early afternoon train back to Ollantaytambo for a well-earned night of relaxation at their hotel.
That next day in Ollantaytambo was a day of leisure before heading back to Cusco for an overnight, followed by a morning flight to Pto. Maldanado, a local hub at the easternmost region of Peru’s piece of the Amazon Rainforest, for a canoe trip downriver to their Amazon jungle lodge accommodations.
After exploring the Amazon with naturalist guides through canopy walks and rainforest hikes, it was back down river by canoe for a flight to Lima, then Quito, and off to the Galapagos Islands!
This portion of the itinerary began with a trip to a farm in the Santa Cruz highlands for lunch, an expedition into the massive pit craters of Los Gemelos, and – of course – walking among the giant tortoises in their natural habitat. That was followed by sunset cocktails and dinner at Galapagos Safari Camp, where they settled in for the next couple of days of boat trips to uninhabited islands, unforgettable wildlife viewing, snorkeling, scuba diving, private boat excursions with local fishermen, and leisure time lounging on the pristine beaches.
Finally, it was back to Quito for a few days exploring Ecuador’s capital, home to one of the best preserved historic centers in all of the Americas and overflowing markets, and a vibrant culinary and nightlife scene, all before a final flight home.