Arrive in Santiago and connect with your flight to Puerto Montt. Upon arrival, transfer to the ship for lunch on board.
This morning visit Valdivia, a provincial capital and river port. Its European ambiance is due to an influx of German immigrants in the 1800s. Visit the fortress in the nearby beach resort of Niebla, the botanical garden, and a famous chocolate factory. After lunch at a local restaurant, board Zodiacs to explore the Río Cruces estuary to search for black-necked swans, snowy-crowned terns, and Chiloé wigeons.
Isla Mocha supports a lush, temperate rain forest of southern beech, fuschias, and large arrayan trees. Explore the island’s rocky coastline and continue inland, passing horses and cows grazing in fields of flowers, to a lovely forest trail for nature walks. Birders search for black-faced ibis, southern lapwings, and the pink-footed shearwaters that breed on this island.
Join naturalists on deck as you cruise along the coast. The cold waters of the Humboldt Current, rich in dissolved nutrients, support one of the most productive oceanic environments in the world, attracting a multitude of birds, including albatross, shearwaters, petrels, cormorants, and gulls, as well as dolphins and humpback whales.
Today, board Zodiacs to explore the Islotes Pajaros, home to a number of seabirds, including red-legged cormorants and Peruvian boobies, as well as sea lions.
This rugged island, a protected reserve, is home to the largest breeding colony of Humboldt penguins in Chile. From Zodiacs, watch the birds diving, swimming, and feeding. You may also spot marine otters, South American sea lions, pelicans, and Peruvian boobies.
Disembark in Antofagasta and drive inland to Hosteria San Pedro de Atacama, your overnight base while exploring the Atacama Desert. Visit the Valley of the Moon, an eerily beautiful landscape of eroded salt mountains and distant volcanoes soaring to over 19,000 feet. In the town of Lasana, view an ancient fortress, explore the pre-Columbian ruins of Pukara de Quitor, and in San Pedro de Atacama, visit the archaeological museum with its remarkable displays of 2,300-year-old mummies. The next day includes an early-morning stop at Lake Chaxa, where three species of flamingos may be seen feeding in the briny waters. Continue to Calama and board your flight to Iquique, where you re-board the ship in time for dinner.
Journey inland for a full-day exploration of Lauca National Park, a Global Biosphere Reserve situated high in the Andes at more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Witness a great variety of landscapes from lowland Arica to the towering, snowcapped Guallatiri Volcano and ice-blue Lake Chungará. View vicuñas, guanacos, viscachas, and Andean flamingos.
Attend informative lectures on the region’s natural and cultural history.
This morning board local boats for a cruise to Islas Ballestas, a haven for nesting seabirds and sea lions. Then, disembark in Pisco and transfer to Paracas National Reserve, which protects a variety of marine habitats and tropical desert. After seeking out the area’s resident wildlife visit Tambo Colorado, a well-preserved Inca village likely built at the end of the 15th century. Or, choose an optional flight to view the Nazca Lines, a World Heritage Site. These enormous geoglyphs, animal-motif remnants of a pre-Incan civilization that flourished between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D., are etched into the desert surface.
Spend the morning in Peru’s capital of Lima, dramatically-situated in the valleys of three rivers and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You have several options for exploration. Visit the Larco Museum which showcases the development of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. Tour the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and admire the city’s beautiful colonial Spanish architecture. Or, join an ornithologist for a birding excursion.
After breakfast disembark in Salaverry and take a short drive to Chan Chán, a World Heritage Site. Explore the ruins of this former imperial headquarters of the Chimú Empire (1000-1470), with the remains of palaces, temples, dwellings, and burial mounds, many sculpted with ornate decorative figures. The nearby Sun and Moon temples are South America’s largest pre-Columbian pyramids, representative of the Moche culture in the 5th century.
Board Zodiacs to search for Nazca, blue-footed, and Peruvian boobies, neotropical cormorants, Peruvian pelicans, Peruvian gulls, Inca terns, and Humboldt penguins.
Enjoy your last day in Peru with a visit to the seaport of Paita and its surroundings. Known for its picturesque coastline, you can choose to seek out the region’s birdlife with an ornithologist or opt for a cultural tour of Paita and the nearby fishing village of Colan.
Disembark in Salinas and depart overland for Guayaquíl. Enjoy an introductory tour of Ecuador’s largest city and main port, including the old district of Las Peñas and the restored Malecón Riverfront neighborhood. Dinner and overnight at the Hilton Colon.
Board your independent flight.