After the last two years of limited movement, travel is now back with a vengeance. While it may take a few more years for the world to reset, it is clear that for many, the freedom to voyage is not a luxury, but simply necessity. We can’t think of a better way to start off 2022 by planning to make it our best year yet! For us that means taking an epic adventure across Peru and Ecuador…care to join us?
Located on the central western coast of South America, Peru lies in the Southern Hemisphere and faces the Pacific Ocean. Covering over 1,285,216 square kilometers of South America, the republic borders Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil to the east, Bolivia to the southeast, and Chile to the south. It is a country that is characterized by its highland sierras in the Andes, the costa (coast) to the west, and the selva (jungle) – the Amazon rainforest to the east.
Lima, its capital, offers an unforgettable taste for visitors with its location thanks to its setting along the stunningly picturesque Pacific coast, majestic colonial-era plazas and elegant architecture that serve as a stunning preamble to the city’s excellent museums, as well as a local cuisine that has put the country on the world’s culinary map. Founded in 1535 by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, Lima is a culturally and socially vibrant gateway city to the rest of the country that demands to be explored.
On Top of the World
Talk of Peru conjures instant images of ancient Inca citadels, llamas and Andean culture. The spectacular peaks of the Andes are indeed famous, with Machu Picchu being the crowning glory of the sierras, along with the highest peak of the country, the 6,768 meter high Huascarán. But before journeying to the 15th century stone fort that has intrigued so many with its elaborate ancient technology, ornamental stone work, and ingenious design, travelers must access it through the old city of Cusco which sits on a narrow ridgetop at 2,430 meters in altitude.
Here, you will find a remarkably preserved Incan city that offers an insight into native Peruvian traditions that intersect with the country’s colonial past. We love Cusco’s charming cobblestone streets, art galleries, handicraft shops, and the stunning food scene that is fed by its range of native crops. Another highlight would be the city’s Spanish Baroque cathedral, featuring an altar made of pure silver, as well as the nearby archeological site of the Temple of the Sun, which was once home to 4,000 Incan priests.
Line Them Up
The arid coastal plains south of Lima is host to some of the world’s most puzzling mysteries – The Nazca Lines. These geometric giant ancient drawings were scratched into the dry earth between 500 B.C and A.D 500, representing creatures, plants and imaginary beings. Nobody knows why these million year-old graffitis were left in the ground, but their size, quantity, and aesthetic continue to captivate experts and tourists alike, prompting many to believe that these enigmatic geoglyphs may have been used for ritual astronomy.
The combined length of all the lines is over 1,300 km, and are typically 10 to 15 centimeters deep. They are best admired from the sky, where one can see hundreds of simple lines and geometric shapes, while more than 70 designs are inspired by nature, with trees, flowers, a hummingbird, spider, fish, money, dog, cat and humans among them.
In the Jungle
Did you know that the Amazon basin is the source of the Amazon River? At 6872 kilometers, it is the longest river in the world, and covers 75 percent of Peruvian territory, making Peru contain four percent of the planet’s freshwater! Encompassing an area that measures more than three times the size of Yellowstone National Park, the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is a vital part of the Amazonian rainforest and river system. Located between the Marañón and Ucayali tributaries at the head of the mighty Amazon River, the Reserve contains two large alluvial river basins, seasonal flooded forests, freshwater lakes and lagoons, gorges and canals, as well as tropical forest cover.
It is here that Aria Amazon and Aqua Nera set sail, bringing explorers deep into the jungle to experience the world’s largest and most diverse collection of plant and animal life. It is home to more than one-third of all recorded animal species in the world, the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, boasting 20 percent of all bird species, 40,000 plant species, 427 mammals, 1,300 birds, 378 reptiles, more than 400 amphibians and around 3,000 freshwater fish! It makes perfect sense to round off your Peruvian experience with the calm and soothing sights of the rainforest aboard one of our river vessels before hopping over to Ecuador to explore more stunning vistas and wildlife encounters!
Fun fact: The name Ecuador derives from the Spanish word for ‘equator’, which is exactly where the country lies. Quito, the country’s capital city, is only 1/4th of a degree south of the equator. The city itself is beautiful; the best-preserved historic center in the South Americas, and was the first to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on 18 September 1978. What makes it interesting is its location on the eastern side of the active volcano of Pichincha. The volcano itself is accessible via the teleferiQo, a cable car that travels 2,237 linear meters up to Cruz Loma mountain for magnificent views of the city. From this point, it is possible to hike to the peak of the volcano Ruku Pichincha, across some of the most beautiful Andean landscapes.
Rich in colonial charm and cultural heritage, visitors will love strolling around Quito’s cobblestone streets and discovering the representations of the ‘Baroque school of Quito’, which combines indigenous and European art forms and traditions, such as the church of San Francisco, la Compañía de Jesús, and Santo Domingo. Another must see is the Monument to the Equator, which highlights the location of the equator, although the actual latitude has been discovered to be located 240 meters north of the actual marked line.
Born of Fire
Much like Peru, Ecuador has similar geographic regions, but its sierras which contain most of the country’s volcanoes and all of its snow-capped peaks leave a striking impression. This mountain range stretches south through Ecuador, and was named the Avenue of Volcanoes by German geographer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century when he noticed it contained eight of the ten highest peaks in the country. Many of these volcanoes are still active, with Cotopaxi boasting a nearly symmetrical cone shape.
Other highlights include the Quilotoa volcano which is famous for its turquoise crater lagoon that rests in its crater, or head to Chimborazo, which is in fact the highest point from the center of the earth at 6310 meters, beating the Himalayas which are the highest from sea level!
A Walk in the Clouds
The mysterious cloud forests of Ecuador makes for the perfect complement to discovering Peru’s Amazon rainforest aboard Aqua Nera. Located on the slopes of the Andes at an altitude ranging between 900 to 2,500 meters), these dense and humid forests are a treasure trove for a variety of flora and fauna – the Chocó-Andean Forest is known to be one of earth’s most biodiverse hotspots, and is a wonderful spot for bird-watching thanks to over 500 species of birds that call it home including hummingbirds, the prehistoric golden-headed quetzal, and the legendary Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola Peruvianus).
Cloud forests are often shrouded in mists thanks to the condensation of moisture at this elevation. There is plenty to do in the cloud forests, adventure lovers will love exploring hidden waterfalls, zip-lining, horseback riding, river rafting, and mountain biking while leisure lovers can indulge in eco-luxury lodges like Mashpi Lodge and local chocolatiers in the town of Mindo.
Islands in the Sun
La Región Insular is the region that comprises the Galapagos Islands, located to the west of Ecuador, approximately 998 kilometers from the coast. Made of 18 main islands along with more than 100 smaller islets and rocks spread across an area of 45,000 square kilometers of ocean, the Galapagos Archipelago is quite literally a force of nature. Born from underwater volcanoes along the Nazca tectonic plate, the islands as we see them today are home to over 2,000 species of animals, many of which are endemic to the islands including giant tortoises, marine iguanas, lava lizards, flightless cormorants, and Galapagos sea lions.
The brand new Aqua Mare superyacht sails across the Galapagos National Park on four highly-personalized east, west and combined 7- and 14-night itineraries in ultimate comfort. Guests visiting the archipelago’s most iconic islands will have the rare opportunity to observe endemic wildlife go about their daily life completely undisturbed by human presence. Whether it is hiking along the natural volcanic formations of Los Gemelos, encountering the Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat, snorkeling with penguins, sea turtles, and marine iguanas at Espinoza Point, or witnessing the courtship dance of blue-footed boobies in Seymour Norte, we can guarantee an adventure you won’t soon forget!
Contact our reservations team at [email protected] to start planning your epic adventure across Peru and Ecuador by combining an expedition aboard river vessels Aria Amazon or Aqua Nera, then crossing over to the Galapagos Islands to discover the Archipelago in ultimate comfort and luxury aboard the stunning 50m superyacht Aqua Mare.