Costa Rica, Peru and Ecuador - Incan Mysteries and Galápagos Islands (Itinerary 2)

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Our journey begins in beautiful Costa Rica and the pristine beaches at Bocos del Toro before transiting the amazing Panama Canal, to experience this engineering marvel up close. Next, we explore fascinating archaeological sites and lost cultures before arriving at one of the world´s great travel destinations: the Galápagos Islands.
16 days

Colorful Central America

We begin our expedition in beautiful Costa Rica, said to be the happiest place on earth and home to more than 50 species of humming birds.

Our first stop in Panama is at one of the sandy Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro. Enjoy the slow pace of life, unwind on the beach, or swim in the warm waters and explore coral reefs.

Continental Divide

As we enter the Panama Canal near the city of Colón, it's time to muster on deck to watch MS Fram manoeuvre through a series of locks and artificial canals interconnecting natural lakes. We cross the American continent at 85 feet above sea level!

Beaches and Blue-footed Birds

Once on the Pacific side, it's time to enjoy Puerto Piña where we may see whales. After a relaxing day at sea, step ashore at Isla de la Plata, known as Ecuador's "other Galápagos" because of the abundance of wildlife found here. Take a walk along one of the marked trails or head down to a sandy beach, either way be sure to keep a look out for blue-footed boobies, albatross and many other species.

Chimu Civilization

We arrive at the Peruvian port of Salaverry, near the city of Trujillo, and visit the ruins of the ancient Chimu kingdom, featuring the largest mud brick citadel of the Americas from the pre-Columbian era.

We then sail to Callao, and catch a flight from nearby Lima to Quito, Ecuador.

Historic Quito

We spend two days seeing the ancient to colonial historic sites in and around the more than mile-high Ecuadoran capital city nestled in an Andean valley.

Islands that Changed the World

Today we fly to one of the world's most remarkable destinations, the Galápagos Islands. Located about 590 miles west of mainland Ecuador, the archipelago is home to an astonishing variety of native species — enough to inspire an evolutionary theory that changed the world. The islands remain an irresistible destination for adventurers and nature-lovers today.

Absolutely Unforgettable

The mix of exceptional nature, fascinating cities, vibrant South American culture and captivating lectures make this expedition truly unique and unforgettable.


Tour start date: October 15, 2019 (San José, Costa Rica)
Departure date: October 16, 2019 (Puerto Limón, Costa Rica)
Ship arrival date: October 25, 2019 (Callao/Lima, Peru)
Tour end date: October 30, 2019 (Guayaquil, Ecuador)

Practical information

Tour start date: October 15, 2019 (San José, Costa Rica)
Departure date: October 16, 2019 (Puerto Limón, Costa Rica)
Ship arrival date: October 25, 2019 (Callao/Lima, Peru)
Tour end date: October 30, 2019 (Guayaquil, Ecuador)

Price includes: 

Not included: 

This is an expedition where the elements rule, so the weather and wind conditions will determine our final schedule. Safety is paramount and the captain will decide the sailing itinerary during the voyage. Therefore, this itinerary is just an indication of what you can experience, and why every expedition with Hurtigruten is unique.
Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.


  1. Better Things Ahead - San José, Costa Rica

    We arrive in the Costa Rican capital, San José, and transfer to our hotel in the city center. San José´s moniker – “towards better things” – aptly coins the spirit of our upcoming adventure. Stroll the streets and discover the neo-classical grandeur of this unique Central American metropolis. As Lonely Planet writes, “give this city a chance and you might be pleasantly surprised”. Get a good night´s sleep because we start the journey of a lifetime the next day.

    Better Things Ahead - San José, Costa Rica
  2. Caribbean Side of Costa Rica - Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

    After breakfast we head east towards the Caribbean coast to see the tropical rain forests near Tortuguero National Park. A boat ride along the Tortuguero Canals completes a lovely day of sightseeing before we transfer to MS Fram at nearby Puerto Limón for embarkation.

    Puerto Limón is the largest city on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast and one of the oldest cities on the continent. The port was established in 1502 when Christopher Columbus landed here during his exploration of the New World. 

    Caribbean Side of Costa Rica - Puerto Limón, Costa Rica
  3. Island Style - Bocas del Toro, Panama

    We begin our continent-crossing journey along the Caribbean coast of Panama, setting our course first for Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of nine main islands, 52 cays, and thousands of islets.

    Bocas del Toro is colorful and brimming with Caribbean-style clapboard houses. It is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site and Panama's first National Marine Park, and has become one of Panama's most visited eco-tourism destinations. Considered the “Galápagos of the Caribbean”,  it is also one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. 

    Island Style - Bocas del Toro, Panama
  4. Connecting Two Oceans - Panama Canal, Panama

    We leave the Caribbean and enter the Panama Canal near the city of Colón. Experience the thrill of canal transit and the intricacy of the locks system firsthand, as MS Fram is lifted more than 85 feet above sea level, from one body of water to the next. We enter the Pacific Ocean near the town of Balboa.

    Connecting Two Oceans - Panama Canal, Panama
  5. Day 5 - Puerto Piña, Panama

    We arrive midday at Puerto Piña, a small coastal community near the border with Colombia. The village lies beside the Bahía Piña, a narrow bay between two promontories that are frequented by humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins. Bahía Piña, in the province of Darien, attracts deep-sea fishermen from around the world. Numerous fishing world records have been broken here, more than anywhere else on earth. A diversity of marine species inhabit Bahía Piña, including sharks, dolphins, rays, and humpback whales. Rich in natural beauty, the area is ideal for hiking along trails in the jungle, kayaking, relaxing on the beach and swimming. 

    Day 5 - Puerto Piña, Panama
  6. Over the Bounding Main - At sea

    Enjoy a relaxing day at sea. Listen in as our experienced lecturers share their extensive knowledge, or spend time on deck fully enjoying the serenity of a day at sea.

    Over the Bounding Main - At sea
  7. The Other Galápagos - Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

    In the afternoon, we arrive at Isla de la Plata, part of Machalilla National Park, Ecuador’s only coastal national park. The island is known as Ecuador’s other Galápagos because of its abundance of marine birdlife. Isla de la Plata translates to Silver Island, and is the home to blue-footed boobies, nesting waved albatrosses and frigate birds, among others. The island is fantastic for hikers and features many bird watching trails. The island also offers great opportunities to swim and snorkel. 

    The Other Galápagos - Isla de la Plata, Ecuador
  8. Serenity at Sea - At sea

    Our Expedition Team continues its lecture program, sharing their extensive knowledge and experience, as well as summarizing the voyage so far and letting you know about plans for the exciting days ahead. Our onboard Expedition Photographer will also be available to help you with the basics of expedition photography.

    Serenity at Sea - At sea
  9. Temple of the Sun and Moon - Salaverry, Peru

    The small port of Salaverry, Peru, near the city of Trujillo, is the starting point for the excursion to the ancient Chimu kingdom (700-1400 A.D.), which built its capital by the banks of the Moche River. The ancient city of Chan Chan ("Sun Sun"), in Trujillo, covers an area of 12 square miles and was constructed with clay, mud, pebbles, straw and cane.

    Considered the largest mud-brick citadel of the Americas in pre-Hispanic times, it is a remarkable piece of architecture that was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1986. 

    Temple of the Sun and Moon - Salaverry, Peru
  10. Another Relaxing Day at Sea - At sea

    Kick back and enjoy another full day at sea. Take part in the lecture series presented by the Expedition Team or simply tune into the meditative rhythm of the ocean.

    Another Relaxing Day at Sea - At sea
  11. UNESCO Site and Ancient History - Callao, Peru/ Quito, Ecuador

    We have arrived at the port of Callao and start our day by transferring to a morning flight at nearby Lima to Quito. Here you are picked up and transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure and explore Quito, nestled at the foot of the Pichincha volcano and known for its eternal spring-like climate.

    Originally settled by the Quitu tribe in the first millennium, Quito was eventually integrated into the Inca Empire before being destroyed and re-founded in 1534 by Spanish conquistador, Sebastian de Benalcázar. Quito flourished for nearly three centuries under Spanish colonial rule, as evidenced by the historic center's splendidly restored colonial buildings and churches lining narrow, cobbled streets.

    Due to the city’s preservation of its mixed past, UNESCO declared Quito the first of its World Heritage sites in 1978. Quito is also the world´s second-highest capital city at 9,350 f). In the evening, enjoy a special welcome dinner at a local restaurant to kick off our visit to Ecuador.

    UNESCO Site and Ancient History - Callao, Peru/ Quito, Ecuador
  12. Explore the Quito Area - Quito, Ecuador

    After breakfast, we drive north to the equator and visit the Inti Ñan Museum.

    Afterwards, we ascend the Teleférico, one of Quito’s most popular attractions offering spectacular and easily accessible views of the city. The ride lasts only 10 minutes but takes us to an altitude of 13,300 ft. At the top, the lookout offers visitors incredible views of Quito and its surrounding valleys and snow-covered volcanoes (along with coffee, snacks, and oxygen for the short of breath). Bring a sweater or light jacket - it can get chilly up there!

    We then return to the city and enjoy lunch in the charming colonial quarter.

    This afternoon's sightseeing demonstrates some of the reasons why Ecuador's capital earned its honor as UNESCO's first World Heritage site. Dinner will be served at the hotel.

    Explore the Quito Area - Quito, Ecuador
  13. Glorious Galápagos - Quito/Baltra Island/Santa Cruz Island

    Breakfast at hotel. Depart the hotel and drive to Quito Airport for the flight to the Galápagos Islands (via Guayaquil).

    Upon arrival at Baltra's airport, we meet the local representative and board a bus for the short transfer to Itabaca Channel, which separates Baltra Island from Santa Cruz Island. Here, we board a small ferry that crosses the azure waters of the channel to Santa Cruz, a journey that takes about five minutes.

    On the other side, we travel through a rural agricultural area surrounded by wild landscapes and many different species of flora and fauna. We may well spot the finches that are famous for being the basis of Darwin's theory of evolution.

    See the famous Galápagos land tortoises in their natural environment and learn how private ranches help protect these special creatures and their habitat. Tortoises of all different ages and sizes gather here: Small young ones with shining carapaces, and older ones with weathered and worn shells. Lunch will be served in the highlands.

    The well-known Lava Tunnels are another amazing experience. Formed by lava flows from the volcanoes, they range from the highlands down to the sea. Join an amazing half-hour hike through one of the tunnels to where it gets too small to pass. A naturalist guide will share in detail the story of the origin of these fascinating tunnels.

    Afterwards, we continue to our hotel in the town of Puerto Ayora. Once settled, we walk to the nearby Charles Darwin Research Station, which hosts educational museums on both the history and development of the Galápagos Islands, and protection of their natural heritage. Native giant land tortoises can also be observed. Many different tortoise species exist in the Galápagos and the station is the only place where most of the species reside at one site.

    The afternoon is at your leisure to explore small yet picturesque Puerto Ayora and its many shops with local arts and crafts. We later enjoy dinner at the hotel's cozy restaurant.


    Glorious Galápagos - Quito/Baltra Island/Santa Cruz Island
  14. Galápagos Island Hopping - Galapágos Islands

    After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we have two full days to tour one of the nearby, uninhabited islands by boat.

    Please note that only one of the four islands listed below will be visited per day:

    Bartolomé Island, famous for Pinnacle Rock and Galápagos penguins; or South Plaza Island, home to a colony of land iguanas; or Santa Fe Island, known for having the islands´ most sea beautiful coves; or North Seymour Island, considered a microcosm of the entire archipelago.

    The visits are regulated by the Galápagos National Park and we are notified of permission 30 days prior to the visit. Regardless of the islands we visit, lunch is served on board the vessel during the tour.

    Later, we have dinner at the hotel and overnight.

    Galápagos Island Hopping - Galapágos Islands
  15. Homeward Bound - Baltra Island/Guayaquil, Ecuador

    After breakfast at the hotel, we transfer to Baltra’s airport for the flight to Guayaquil. En route to the airport, we stop at “The Twins” or “Los Gemelos”, two impressive volcanic depressions in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.

    After our flight from Baltra Island to Guayaquil, we are met by a representative, who assists with the international flight connection. A box lunch will be provided. Have a safe and pleasant trip home!

    Homeward Bound - Baltra Island/Guayaquil, Ecuador

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