Incan Culture and Wildlife Highlights of the Coasts of Chile and Peru

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Sailing along the west coast of South America gives you a unique opportunity to explore fascinating archaeological sites and the mysteries of lost cultures. Enjoy visits to the Sacsayhuamán fortress, the Incan town of Ollantaytambo, and magnificent Machu Picchu before ending the expedition in Lima.

March 19, 2019

Enjoy exploring some of the most fascinating ruins of the Inca Empire. This was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. Starting in Valparaíso, Chile, we head north along the coastline of this ancient kingdom to see some of the highlights and visit the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve to take a close look at penguins, turtles, dolphins, whales, and birds. 

See the Wildlife and Scenery of ’Peru’s Galapagos’ or the Nazca Lines

Join us for an excursion to one of this region’s most beautiful natural attractions, the Ballestas Islands. Often referred to as Peru’s Galapagos’, the volcanic islands are home to a wide array of wildlife and dramatic scenery. You also have an opportunity to discover the famous Nazca Lines on an optional excursion. These ‘lines’ – geoglyphs – have been a mystery for over 80 years. They are found in a region of Peru just over 200 miles southeast of Lima, near the modern town of Nasca. In total, there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures, and 70 animal and plant designs, called biomorphs.

Discover the Great Machu Picchu

You disembark in Lima for even more adventures on land: Explore the most amazing Incan constructions: the Sacsayhuamán fortress, the Incan town of Ollantaytambo, and then the ruins of spectacular Machu Picchu.

Your Voyage Price Includes:

Not Included:

This is an expedition where the elements rule, and the weather, wind and ice 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. The `Jewel of the Pacific´ - Valparaíso, Chile

    This expedition starts in the colorful city of Valparaíso. One of the best ways to see this scenic town is by riding its funiculars, which are scattered around the city and allow for sweeping views of the bay. From high up, the city’s multi-colored houses create a rainbow of color and light. Stroll Valparaiso’s narrow streets, climb its endless staircases, and discover something new at every turn: a beautiful building, a remarkable art gallery, or some little gastronomic ‘find’. Don’t forget to explore the port and fishing piers, where you’ll get a real feel for Chile’s quirky seafaring side. Buy or sample freshly caught seafood at the market and enjoy the fishermen’s banter. We also recommend a visit to the UNESCO-listed historic quarter before embarking on MS Fram.

    The `Jewel of the Pacific´ - Valparaíso, Chile
  2. Home of the Humboldt Penguin - Isla Chañaral

    Sailing north, we arrive at Isla Chañaral. Together with Isla Choros and Isla Damas, these three islands form the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve. There is an impressive variety of fauna on these islands, but their most famous inhabitants are the Humboldt penguins, who thrive in the current that gives them their name and who nest on these islands. There is also an important colony of sea lions, chungungos (feline otters), Magellanic penguins, llacas, and bottle-nosed dolphins seen frequently around Chañaral Island. In the summer season, it is possible to see more occasional visitors around the islands: marine turtles, dolphins, whales, albatross, and cormorants. There are also a wide variety of birds, such as the Peruvian diving petrel, the red-legged cormorant, and the Guanay cormorant, all of which are protected species.

    Home of the Humboldt Penguin - Isla Chañaral
  3. Lectures at Sea - At Sea

    Learn more about South America’s history, ancient civilizations, and cultures. The Incan Empire flourished in ancient Peru starting around 1400 B.C., and was spread across 2,500 miles – from Ecuador to southern Chile. It was the largest empire ever seen in the Americas, and the largest in the world at that time, before its destruction at the hands of Spanish conquistadors in 1532. Undaunted by the often harsh Andean environment, the Incas conquered tribes and exploited landscapes in such diverse settings as plains, mountains, deserts, and tropical jungles. Known for their unique art and architecture, they constructed finely built and imposing buildings wherever they conquered, and their spectacular adaptation of natural landscapes with terracing, roads, and mountaintop settlements continues to impress modern visitors. During these days at sea you can learn more about the Incas, and other ancient cultures, at the lectures presented by the expedition team held on board.

    Lectures at Sea - At Sea
  4. The Nazca Lines, Ballestas Islands, or Tambo Colorado - San Martin, Peru

    Puerto General San Martin is the gateway to the famous and mysterious Nazca Lines and geoglyphs. These lines were scratched into the surface between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. They are difficult to see from the ground, so they were not widely known until the 1930s, when aircrafts spotted them while surveying for water. The figures come in two types: biomorphs and geoglyphs. The biomorphs depict about 70 animal and plant figures, including a spider, hummingbird, monkey, and a 1,000-foot-long pelican. The geoglyphs are geometric shapes that include enormous straight lines, triangles, spirals, circles, and trapezoids. The longest straight line stretches nine miles across the plain. Join the optional excursion to see these impressive and mysterious lines from the sky. Or, you can join us for an excursion to one of this region’s most beautiful natural attractions. The Ballestas Islands are often referred to as 'Peru’s Galapagos’. These volcanic islands are home to a wide array of wildlife and dramatic scenery. Another interesting and educational option is an excursion to Tambo Colorado. This is the only Incan complex composed entirely of adobe and rammed earth. This is one of many Incan administrative centers scattered around the country, yet its adobe buildings are the best-preserved in Peru. The buildings have no roofs remaining, but the walls have niches painted in different colors, such as red (‘colorado’ means red), white, and yellow.

    The Nazca Lines, Ballestas Islands, or Tambo Colorado - San Martin, Peru
  5. See the Place of the `Satisfied Falcon´ - Callao/Lima

    Callao is situated just outside Lima and is a vital route for trade both in and out of Peru. This is where your cruise ends – and the land adventure begins! After disembarkation you are transferred to your flight from Lima to Cusco. Enjoy lunch before visiting one of the most amazing Incan constructions in the area, the Sacsayhuamán fortress. Sacsayhuamán means 'satisfied falcon'. Since it is possible to overlook Cusco from the hill where this fortress was built, the falcon 'guarded' the capital of the empire. The fortress' construction lasted for more than seven decades and required the work of 20,000 men to transport materials, build the foundation, and to carve and set the stones. It was constructed without mortar, like many other Incan structures. Yet the enormous stones fit so tightly together that not even a blade of grass can slide between them! The craftsmanship is a stunning example of the Inca’s sophisticated construction techniques and architectural skills. In the afternoon we continue to the Sacred Valley for dinner and an overnight stay.

    See the Place of the `Satisfied Falcon´ - Callao/Lima
  6. The Highlights of the Incan Empire - Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu

    After breakfast, you’re in for another day of highlights. First is the visit to Ollantaytambo. This Incan town shares its name with the formidable stone structure that climbs the massive cliff that looms over the town. The fortress was the valley’s main defence against the Antis, a collective term for the many varied ethnic groups living in the Antisuyu, the eastern part of the Incan Empire. It was the site of the Incas’ greatest victory against the Spanish during the wars of conquest. Constructed of rose-colored granite, this huge installation was once a thriving complex of baths, temples, and military barracks. Then, we’ll head to the nearby train station to board the deluxe Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu. A savory brunch will be served as we enjoy the spectacular views. Overlooking the raging Urubamba River and discovered in a hidden tangle of vines and trees atop the mountain, the city of Machu Picchu will forever hold the secret of its rise and fall – the Incas left no written records. Explore the city's ruins, feel its pulse, and visualize the lives of the priests, craftsmen, and servants who inhabited this incredible place. Excavations at the site have revealed skeletons, artifacts, and wool clothing, but no gold. The same precision of assembled stones exists here as it does in other Incan sites. After spending time exploring the ruins, you can enjoy tea at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge before we continue back to Hacienda Urubamba for another nice evening and overnight stay here.

    The Highlights of the Incan Empire - Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu
  7. Center of the Incan Empire - Cusco/Lima

    After breakfast we head to Cusco, once the center of the Incan Empire. Here you can see the splendid Baroque-style Cusco Cathedral, built in the mid-1500s, on the foundation of an Incan palace. Many of the stones used in its construction were looted from the nearby Sacsayhuamán fortress. We continue to Coricancha to admire the lovely Dominican Convent of Santo Domingo that was built on the foundations of the Temple of the Sun, the most important temple in the Incan Empire. The curved, mortarless masonry wall at the west end of the church is considered to be one of the greatest existing examples of Incan stonework. Then we will transfer you to the airport where you fly to back to Lima. Lima has an elegance, particularly in the colonial city center. Lima brims with culture and history and has excellent museums as well as fine Spanish churches in the city center, and some distinguished mansions in the wealthy suburbs of Barranco and Miraflores. Enjoy spending the evening here, and discover some of the outstanding restaurants and the city’s lively nightlife before spending the night at a hotel.

    Center of the Incan Empire - Cusco/Lima
  8. Flying Back Home - Lima

    Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before you fly home.

    Flying Back Home - Lima

Contact our travel experts for more details

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