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Peru and Chile: Ancient Sites & Natural Wonders

South America Cruise

  • National Geographic Explorer
  • Luxury Expedition Ship
  • 148 Capacity
  • 17 Days
  • View Departure>
  • Price from
  • $999,999,999

Summary : Voyage along the coasts of Peru and Chile to discover breathtaking archaeological and natural wonders, charged with amazing energy: the mysterious Nazca Lines, the wildlife-rich Juan Fernández Islands, and the extraordinary Atacama Desert—one of the most amazing places on Earth. Highlights are strung like rare beads on a wire, as you range from sophisticated, contemporary Lima ever further south to Chiloé, gateway to the Patagonia fjords, amazed at the sheer diversity of geographic highlights and forms of wonder you’ll encounter daily: desert, lagoons, diverse islandscapes, pink granite caves, cliffs, dunes. Discover colonies of seabirds, vibrant markets, seldom-visited islands, and much more.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling


Free Chronicle: Receive a free video chronicle of your trip, compliments of ExpeditionTrips!

Prices from
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Day 1
U.S. / Lima, Peru

Fly to Lima, the capital of Peru, founded by Spanish conquistador Pizarro as the City of the Kings. Check into your fine hotel.

Day 2
Lima / Callao / Embark

Explore Lima’s golden past. Visit the Indian market and the Larco Herrera Museum, with its exquisite Gold and Silver Gallery. Embark National Geographic Explorer in Callao.

Day 3
Paracas: Ballestas Islands

This morning, explore the scenic arches and pink granite caves of the Ballestas Islands by boat. The islands shelter hundreds of sea lions and seabirds by the tens of thousands. See Humboldt penguins, pelicans, and other seabirds including Inca terns and Peruvian boobies. On the way, you’ll see the “Candelabra,” a giant figure marked in the sand. In the afternoon, you may wish to stroll along the spectacular cliffs and dunes of the Paracas Peninsula Reserve, or visit the extensive Inca ruins at Tambo Colorado and learn about their significance to the Inca Trail system.

Day 4
Nazca Lines

This morning, drive from Puerto San Juan to Nazca, and take an included flightseeing excursion over the Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage site. From the air, you'll see some of the hundreds of enormous geometric and animal shapes—monkeys, hummingbirds and condors—cut into the stony desert by a long-departed civilization. Their purpose remains the subject of intense study and conjecture. Enjoy lunch at a fine local hacienda, with time to visit nearby archaeological sites if you wish.

Day 5
Mejía Lagoons or Arequipa

From the port of Matarani, visit the Mejía Lagoons National Sanctuary, a well-recognized refuge for migratory birds. More than 195 species have been recorded here, and you’ll look for flamingos, rails, skimmers and a host of other species from the beach and observation platforms. Alternatively, you may wish to take a stunning drive into the Andes to Arequipa, one of Peru’s greatest colonial towns and also a World Heritage site, one of whose museums holds the Inca mummy “Juanita” that was discovered by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Johan Reinhard.

Day 6 – 7
Arica / Atacama Desert, Chile

The city of Arica lies beneath dramatic 430-foot El Morro cliff, site of the 1880 Battle of the Pacific where Chile defeated Peru. You'll have time to visit some of Arica’s sites, including the Gustave Eiffel-designed cathedral, before you take a special flight to the Atacama Desert, for two nights in a fine lodge. This high desert averages about 7,000 feet above sea level. Atacama, considered the driest place on Earth, has some of the world’s most astonishing landscapes. Spend your days exploring, visiting the renowned, aptly named Valley of the Moon, with jagged mountains, a salt-covered surface, wind-created salt sculptures and sand dunes that give it an otherworldly appearance. Dinosaur Valley and Death Valley offer great views. You’ll have a choice of excursions, ranging from longer hikes to easier walks, with chances to see flamingo lagoons, geysers, and 12th-century archaeological sites.

Day 8
Atacama Desert / Antofagasta

After a morning further exploring the Atacama Desert, drive to the port city of Antofagasta and rejoin National Geographic Explorer.

Day 9
Isla Pan de Azúcar

Isla Pan de Azúcar is a national park with a large colony of Humboldt penguins. You’ll see them on Zodiac cruises and by kayak, conditions permitting, and you may also explore the habitat on the mainland if time permits.

Day 10

There’s a choice of excursions today from the inviting town of Coquimbo. Choose to explore the mist forest and wildlife of Fray Jorge National Park (a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve); or explore the green, fertile Elqui Valley, home of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Gabriela Mistral and with a museum dedicated to her; or see the superb colonial towns of Coquimbo and La Serena.

Day 11
At Sea

Grab binoculars and cameras and join the expedition team on deck scanning for marine mammals and seabirds.

Day 12 – 13
Juan Fernández Islands

Robinson Crusoe Island and Alexander Selkirk Island are remote—more than 430 miles off the coast of Chile—and rarely visited. They're famed for having been home to sailor Alexander Selkirk, who inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe. Home to a few hundred hardy souls, Robinson Crusoe Island is still rebuilding after a 2010 tsunami. On our days here, we’ll look for rafts of seabirds, an endangered red hummingbird, herds of endemic fur seals, and plants found only here.

Day 14
At Sea

Reflect on your adventures, relax, and enjoy the ship's amenities.

Day 15
Ancud, Chiloé Island

Chiloé, with verdant temperate rain forest and picturesque hillside farms, is the northern gateway to the Patagonian fjords. Anchor off the historic city of Ancud, capital of the last bastion of Spanish rule in the South Pacific. Visit the Chepu Reserve, taking small boats along a submerged forest, sunken by a 1960 earthquake. Hike through temperate rain forest to a long beach, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Austral parakeets, sierra finch, chucaos, rails, flycatchers, Chilean pigeons, and other birds, as well as forest with colorful flowers and other plants. Alternatively, explore some of the nearby historic towns, meeting their residents, enjoying panoramic views and seeing a church included as a World Heritage site.

Day 16 – 17
Puerto Montt / Disembark / Home

Disembark in Puerto Montt, and if time permits you’ll spend a little time exploring the city before you take a charter flight to Santiago and continue on overnight flights home, arriving the following day.


This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Photo Expedition:

The photo team, a National Geographic Photographer and a Photo Specialist, will enhance your voyage by working with you on photo composition and exposure; helping you develop your own unique vision; showing you how professionals edit and store images while on the go; and sharing the stories behind some of their greatest images. Whether expert or interested beginner, you'll find added benefits such as walks ashore and Zodiac cruises dedicated to photography, presentations on the creative and technical aspects of photography, and one-on-one mentoring and coaching in the field.

Cabin accommodations aboard ship; one night hotel accommodation in Lima; two night Atacama lodging; all meals and non-alcoholic beverages aboard the ship; most meals ashore; Nazca flightseeing tour; flight to Atacama; all shore excursions and sightseeing; transfers to and from group flights; tips (except to ship's crew); all port charges and service; entrance fees; services of a ship physician and expedition staff; use of kayaks; expedition parkas.

Not Included:
Air transportation (except as listed above); charter flight; extensions; passport and visa expenses; baggage/accident/cancellation insurance; immigration fees; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, email and laundry; gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion; fuel surcharge may apply.