Celebrating the Holidays in South America

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(Last Updated On: March 20, 2020)

Joining friends, we spent the Christmas/New Year’s holidays on a tour of Peru and Ecuador, including time in the Galapagos Islands.

Around Miami

Christmas in Miami (December 25)
Marvelous Miami Deco (December 26)

Peru

Arrival in Lima (December 27)

Early morning arrival in Lima, Peru’s diverse capital.

The earth is obscured by clouds until we begin our approach into Lima. At first all I can see is water.

Touring Lima

After settling into our hotel, the itinerary for the day promises:

This afternoon enjoy a tour of both colonial and modern Lima, founded in 1535. . . See the historical center and the San Francisco Church as well as Plaza de Armas and the Government Palace. Later, see the fashionable districts of San Isidro and Miraflores with their beautiful parks and elegant residences facing the ocean.

This is the only day we will have in Lima.

A few thoughts about Lima

The conventional tourism advice is to get out of Lima as fast as possible. But I LIKE Lima.

Introduction to Cuzco (December 28)

A short morning flight to Cuzco, the fabled capital of the Inca Empire, perched at 11,000 feet above sea level. On a guided afternoon tour visit the main Inca and Colonial monuments. See the Plaza de Armas, center of the Inca Empire and the impressive 16th century cathedral, built on the ruins of the Inca Palace. In the old town view magnificently restored colonial buildings.

What the itinerary doesn’t indicate is that the morning flight from Lima requires a 3:30 A.M. wake up call. Ugh.

But the flight is pleasant and Cuzco is a lovely, interesting spot. After breakfast, a nap, and some coca tea I am ready to begin exploring it.

Sacsayhuaman (December 29)

Cuzco is a vibrant town, dotted with archaeological sites. Venture this morning to the outskirts of Cuzco to visit the amazing ruins of Sacsayhuaman, an Inca architectural masterpiece. From this fortress enjoy fabulous views of the city below.

stone walls

Sacsayhuaman was the site of a large Inca fortress. While many of its stones were hauled away by the Spanish for use elsewhere, the site is still impressive.

A shopping trip

We visit a “knitting factory,” where I learn to tell the difference between various fibers. But it feels like a discount warehouse store – but without the discounts.

It’s much better outside in the village.

local family with alpca

On our own in Cuzco

We finally have time to wander Cuzco and explore at our own pace.

Along the way to Machu Picchu (December 30)

Today we travel to Machu Picchu. The itinerary gets shuffled a bit  to accommodate people who don’t want to get up as early as required, but the sights along the way are fascinating.

passenger train along a river through the mountains

Machu Picchu in the Rain

Our guide leads us through Machu Picchu as a gentle rain comes and goes.

ruins at Mach Picchu

The mist and rain make it magical.

A Perfect Morning at Machu Picchu (December 31)

We awake to heavy low clouds. But that all changes once we get up to the ruins!

overview of Machu Picchu with a few clouds

Aguas Caliente Village

Because we have volunteered to take the later train and switch to a bus at Ollantaytambo (while the others take the “dome train” all the way back to Cuzco), we have some time to wander around Aguas Caliente – or Machu Picchu village, as the local officials insist it should be called.

New Year’s Eve in Cuzco

After a lovely late dinner with Mark and Kathy at Map Café (the glass box that sits in the courtyard of the museum near our hotel), we walk to the plaza.

Chincheros in the Sacred Valley (January 1)

We make a stop in Chincheros to learn about spinning and weaving.

spinning wool in Chincheros Peru

After those demonstrations, we visit the colorful local market.

Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley

We get a second chance to explore Ollantaytambo.

Lunch in the Sacred Valley

Lucho promises we will like the place he is taking us for lunch.

We stop at what looks like an old hacienda (although I think it is actually new construction). It is surrounded by gardens that slope down to the Urumbamba river.

 

The structure, the gardens, and the location are all perfect.

Oh, and the food (served buffet-style) is wonderful too.

Pisac’s Market

The Pisac market is known for it’s Sunday market and its ruins. We get to visit the market, but not the ruins.

And we meet a few yayas who have finished their meetings and started celebrating.

men in traditional clothing

Ecuador

Quito (January 2)
North of Quito (January 3)

The Galapagos Islands

To the Galapagos (January 4)

The area where we are waiting for our flight to the Galapagos is fairly small and, although it is still early when we arrive, it is already quite crowded. Luckily, there are a lot of chairs, so we settle in to wait.

Over the next four days cruise along and visit the enchanted Galapagos Islands, where you’ll see a variety of exotic wildlife. Fly from Quito to San Cristobal, the easternmost gateway to the islands. There, you’ll board your first class cruise boat, the Galapagos Explorer II, your base while exploring the islands.

Aboard the Galapagos Explorer (January 4)
The Galapagos: Morning on Espanola Island (January 5)
The Galapagos: Afternoon on Santa Cruz Island (January 5)
The Galapagos: Morning on Genovesa Island (January 6)
The Galapagos: Afternoon at Darwin Bay (January 6)
Leaving the Galapagos (January 7)
Quito’s Basilica (January 8)
A Parade Through Quito (January 8)
Old Town Quito (January 8)
Above Quito (January 8)
To the Cloud Forest (January 9)

The Details

Notes and Comments (January 10)

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted.

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