West Coast of South America: Ecuador, Peru, Andes, Atacama, Chilean Coast
This expedition has no scheduled departures at this time.
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.
An itinerary from a previous expedition is displayed below.
Day 1 USA / Quito, Ecuador
Depart on your independent flight to Quito; transfer to the JW Marriott upon arrival.
Day 2 Quito
Situated at 9,350 feet, Quito is nestled in a valley surrounded by magnificent snow-capped volcanoes. After a morning at leisure and lunch at the hotel, visit the old colonial section with its Spanish-style cathedral and palace—a World Heritage Site—stroll down winding cobblestone streets, and explore spacious plazas before driving to a panoramic view of the city and surrounding mountains. Return to the hotel for a welcome dinner and overnight.
Day 3 Quito / Guayaquíl / Salinas / Embark Sea Adventurer
Board our flight to Guayaquíl this morning, and 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. After lunch at a local restaurant, transfer to the port at Salinas to board the Sea Adventurer.
Day 4 At Sea
Join ornithologist Peter Harrison on deck as you cruise along the coast toward Peru. The cold waters of the Humboldt Current, rich in dissolved nutrients, support one of the richest oceanic environments in the world. The abundant sea life, in turn, attracts a multitude of birds including albatross, shearwaters, petrels, cormorants, and gulls. You may also spot pods of dolphins or humpback whales.
Day 5 Salaverry, Peru / Chan Chán
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.
Day 6 Hormigas De Afuera
After a morning at sea, visit these tiny islands known for their abundant wildlife, particularly Peruvian boobies and vast numbers of southern sea lions.
Day 7 Pisco / Paracas National Reserve (Optional Nazca Lines Excursion)
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 that was 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 A.D. 500, are etched into the desert surface and can only be fully appreciated from the air.
Day 8 At Sea
Attend informative lectures on the region’s natural and cultural history.
Day 9 Arica, Chile
This afternoon, dock in the colorful Chilean town of Arica. Peruse a variety of handicrafts at the Poblado de Artisans, then enjoy a drive through the scenic Azapa Valley, a fertile oasis framed by hills where ancient geoglyphs can be found. Birders search for the rare Chilean woodstar, a hummingbird endemic to this valley. This afternoon there is free time to explore Arica on your own.
Day 10 Arica / Lauca National Park
Journey inland for a full-day exploration of Lauca National Park, a Global Biosphere Reserve. Situated high in the Andes, more than 14,000 feet above sea level on the altiplano (plateau), Lauca is one of South America’s most spectacular parks. Witness a great variety of landscapes from lowland Arica to the towering, snowcapped Guallatiri Volcano and ice-blue Lake Chungará. Lauca has an abundance of wildlife including vicuñas, guanacos, viscachas, and Andean flamingos. You will also make a stop at a supremely photogenic highland village.
Day 11-12 Iquique / Atacama Desert / Antofagasta
From Iquique, board a short flight to Calama, then drive further inland to Hosteria San Pedro de Atacama, your 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. Cross the Tropic of Capricorn this afternoon, en route to Antofagasta, where you board the ship in time for dinner.
Day 13 Isla Pan De Azúcar
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.
Day 14 Islotes Pajaros / Coquimbo / La Serena
In the morning board Zodiacs to explore the Islotes Pajaros, home to a number of seabirds including red-legged cormorants and boobies. The islands are also the site of a major sea lion rookery. After brunch on board go ashore at the port of Coquimbo. A short drive takes you to La Serena—established in 1544, for a beautiful hilltop view of the city and surrounding coastline. Here, visit La Recova market and the archaeological museum. Returning to Coquimbo, stop at the local market to peruse a variety of handicrafts, including woven baskets, pottery, sweaters, and jewelry.
Day 15 At Sea
Attend lectures, or relax on deck as you cruise south along the Chilean coast.
Day 16 Isla Mocha
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.
Day 17 Valdivia
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.
Day 18 Chiloè Island
After breakfast set out for a tour of historic Chiloé, whose churches are a World Heritage Site. Make a stop at the seaside community of Dalcahue and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch at a local restaurant.
Day 19 Puerto Montt / Disembark / Santiago
Birders depart early this morning to search for the recently discovered, and not yet officially named “Puerto Montt storm petrel.” After breakfast, disembark the Sea Adventurer and set out for a sightseeing tour of Puerto Montt and its environs. After lunch in Puerto Varas, located at the foot of the Osorno Volcano, depart for the airport for your independent flight to Santiago, connecting with homeward flights.
Day 20 USA
Arrive in the USA.