Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu: Ancient Ecology and Human History

“The natural history of these islands is eminently curious,” wrote Charles Darwin of the Galápagos.

For anyone interested in ecology and zoology, a trip to the Galapagos Islands is the dream. This trip’s itinerary, designed specifically for the Minnesota Zoo, will allow us to explore two of the wonders of South America: the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and Machu Picchu in the Andes of Peru. It is a spectacular combination of nature at its best, human history, and archeological sites: the very best of South America.

Dates: April 17th-29th, 2017
Age: Adults age 21+
Cost: $3,800, plus all airfare (additional $525 for solo travelers if you need your own room, otherwise solo travelers will be paired up in double rooms)*
Deposit: $500 is due at the time of registration. Final payments for land cost are due in full by February 1, 2017.
CEUs: Available upon request
Registration deadline: January 15, 2017

*If you want the solo room option, please email us and we will add that add-on to your order after you register.

Register Online 

The Galapagos is a World Heritage Site and has been called “the Enchanted Isles”. The islands contain lush rainforests, deserts, and volcanic lava flows, providing a haven for wildlife of all kinds. In fact, a full fifty percent of the species on these islands are found nowhere else on earth. And, due to their isolation from natural predators, they are approachable by humans. Animals do not run off and birds do not fly away, providing magical opportunities for wildlife lovers, scientists, and photographers.

The archipelago boasts colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions, land iguanas, and lava lizards. A prolific bird population includes frigate birds, penguins, boobies, mocking birds, doves, albatross, hawks, gulls, cormorants, herons, warblers, flamingos and the world famous Darwin finches. There are three-feet long marine iguanas, the only known sea-feeding lizard on Earth – and, of course, the Galapagos tortoises, who can weigh up to 600 lb, grow to six feet in length, and live 150 years.

We will be visiting both inhabited and uninhabited islands in the Galapagos. By taking “fast boats” between islands, we will have a chance to spot sea life, such as sea birds, dolphins, sea turtles, rays, sea lions, and maybe even a whale. We will snorkel to get a close look at the marine life. On land, we will observe the landscape with its fascinating geologic features, including active volcanos; do some hiking and birding; visit the Darwin Research Center on the island of Santa Cruz and the Giant Turtle Center; and relax at the beach. Our days will be filled with activity, but you’ll also have the freedom to just relax. An English-speaking, certified Galapagos naturalist will accompany us and help us understand the amazing relationships between plants, animals, people, and their environment.

After Galapagos, we will travel to the city of Cusco in Peru.  Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire, located on the high Andes at ten thousand feet elevation. From Cusco we will head to the Urubamba River and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where agricultural richness help them became powerful. We will visit the Inca fortress above the colonial town of Pisac (9,700 feet) and hike an hour down from the Temple of the Sun to the market in town. We will also tour the ruins at Ollantaytambo (9,200 feet) where the Incas laid out a cobblestoned village below a massive, terraced fortress/temple.

We will take the famous train bordering the Urubamba River to Machu Picchu, one of the finest architectural achievements of the early Americas. We will also have an opportunity to hike from the citadel to popular hike destinations as the Temple of the Moon; or up the Inca Trail to Intipunku, the Gate of the Sun.  We will learn about this great civilization that once ruled from what is now Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and northern parts of Chile and Argentina. The city is perched on a high plateau deep in the Amazonian jungle and it is considered to be one of the most extraordinary examples of landscape architecture in the world.

Throughout the trip, you’ll be accompanied by an accomplished Minnesota Zoo naturalist and trip leader, an experienced South American trip leader from Ruta Verde Nature Tours, and other local experts and naturalists. We have developed a unique itinerary rich in educational experiences, adventure, and moments of peace and relaxation. We can’t wait to have you join us as we explore these wonders of the world.

If you would like more information, or to be placed on the interested list for any future trips, please e-mail Liz Dengate at