National Parks of South America & Galapagos Islands

National Parks of South America & Galapagos Islands

National Parks of South America & Galapagos Islands

National Parks of South America & Galapagos Islands

Travel information 14 days MS Fridtjof Nansen
Departure
October 12, 2023
Price from $ 10,639
$ 9,607
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Join this expedition cruise along the Pacific Coast as it heads south from Costa Rica to Peru. Uncover ancient archaeological sites and exceptionally beautiful national reserves and explore the unique Galápagos Islands that inspired the theory of evolution.

Our small ships can take you to places that larger ships can’t sail, opening the door to a wide range of places, from cities to remote islands. At times, due to weather, we may need to change or cancel our plan for that day. For an authentic adventure in this exotic region, this is par for the course.

Visits to paradise in Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador

From Puntarenas, we’ll journey to Quepos and Golfito, two ports that offer access to nearby Costa Rican national parks full of scenic habitats and diverse animal life, including toucans, iguana, sloths, monkeys, and a range of seabirds. We stop at Manta to visit Montecristi, where classic Panama hats were invented and are still handmade to this day. In Puerto Bolivar, we learn about the historical importance of the so-called ‘oro verde’ for the local economy.

Peruvian Pyramids

Our first call in Peru will be at Salaverry, where you can tour the ancient temple and city ruins around Trujillo. You will end the expedition cruise in Lima, the UNESCO-listed capital of Peru.

Quito and the Galápagos Islands

After flying to the Ecuadorian capital of Quito and wandering its UNESCO-listed historic center, we’ll continue to Santa Cruz Island in the Galápagos. Over the next two days, you’ll board boats and tour a new island in the archipelago each day, uncovering the supreme biological diversity these islands are known for. Keep your eyes peeled! You may spot the finches that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, and see native giant land tortoises in their natural habitat.

National Parks of South America & Galapagos Islands National Parks of South America & Galapagos Islands
  • Day 1
    Puntarenas, Costa Rica

    Beginning of your exotic expedition

    Your hybrid-electric expedition ship MS Fridtjof Nansen will be waiting to begin your expedition in Puntarenas, a city on a needle-thin strip of land on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. City folks from San José often try to slip away to Puntarenas for the day to bask in the relaxed coastal life and fresh ocean air. While it is still an active fishing port, Puntarenas is mainly a starting point for people heading elsewhere in the region, like to the white-sand beaches of Nicoya Peninsula or the waterfall-rich Tortuga Island.

    Once you board the ship, you’ll pick up your complimentary expedition jacket, settle into your cabin, explore the ship, and attend a mandatory safety drill. After the welcome dinner (featuring a toast by the captain), you’ll meet your Expedition Team, who will run through important health and safety aspects with you.

    Arrive early for an overnight in San José and explore the Tárcoles River and mangrove forest during a boat tour before embarkation. Another option is to join our four-day Pre-Program to the magnificent Volcano Arenal Area to explore Costa Rican flora and fauna and relax in natural volcanic hot springs.

    Day 1
    Puntarenas, Costa Rica

    Beginning of your exotic expedition

  • Day 2
    Quepos, Costa Rica

    A slice of paradise in Costa Rica

    You’ll find that the town of Quepos and its surroundings come packed with plenty of things to see and do. The many boats in the gorgeous Marina Pez Vela serve the big-game fishing industry for which Quepos is known. There are six blocks of restaurants, galleries, and shops around the central plaza, and an ample selection of water sports  along the mile-long Playa Espadilla.

    That said, the main attraction of Quepos is not the town itself, but rather its proximity to Manuel Antonio National Park. This is one of the most popular national parks in Costa Rica, and appears on Forbes’ list of top 12 most beautiful national parks in the world. In this park, you can catch impressive views of mountains, mangroves, lagoons, beaches, and tropical forest. With 350 birds species and 109 species of mammals, there’s a lot to keep an eye out for! By following the breathtaking Perezoso trail, you might spot scarlet macaws, toucans, hawks, four species of monkey, sloths, iguanas, and armadillos.

    Day 2
    Quepos, Costa Rica

    A slice of paradise in Costa Rica

  • Day 3
    Golfito, Costa Rica

    Bananas to Bargains

    The laid-back town of Golfito is sheltered in the gorgeous Golfito Bay, which lies within the larger Golfo Dulce. Enjoy views from the seaside marinas or, better yet, follow the scenic hiking trails up the hill and into the wildlife refuge, ending in at Piedras Blancas National Park. Your exploration of the lush rainforest will bring you up close with picturesque waterfalls. Keep an eye out for toucans, macaws, blue morpho butterflies, anteaters, sloths, mantled howler monkeys, and more. The calm waters around the bay also make it ideal for touring the local mangroves and for joining an optional kayaking excursion to the isolated beaches.

    Once a prime region for banana exports, Golfito has since switched its economy to palm oil plantations and sport fishing. Anglers of all ages stay at boutique resorts and chic eco-lodges around Golfito, and set off on one of the many boats moored there in hopes of catching the iconic Pacific sailfish. Are you a bargain hunter? Check out the town’s duty-free center, which regularly attracts both visitors and locals alike.

    Day 3
    Golfito, Costa Rica

    Bananas to Bargains

  • Day 4
    At Sea

    Serenity at sea

    Enjoy the serenity of this day at sea. Relax and admire the scenery from the observation deck or from the lounge.

    Throughout your journey, the Expedition Team will give lectures in the Science Center and share their extensive knowledge of the region. Topics may include periods of pre-Columbian history, the geology of the surrounding mountains and islands, the folklore of the local communities, and much more. Not all of our lectures are indoors, though! If curious seabirds come fly alongside the ship, the Expedition Team might also help you spot and identify them from the deck.

    As we cross the Equator, it’s the tradition of Norwegian sailors to hold a ceremony to seek King Neptune’s blessing. If we’re in luck, he may even make an appearance.

    Day 4
    At Sea

    Serenity at sea

  • Day 5
    Manta, Ecuador

    Sea, sand, surf, and… tuna?

    Manta is a bustling and prosperous port city with high-rise buildings, resort hotels, and several casinos. It is well-known for its long stretches of beach whose blessed wind and waves draw surfers, body-boarders, and kitesurfers from across the globe. You can mingle with casual beachgoers at the shops, restaurants, and bars of Malencón Escénico at Playa el Murcielago. You can also head to San Lorenzo for surfer-sweet swells or go to Playa Bonita at Santa Marianita to watch kitesurfers take off from the sea into the sky.

    Aside from tourism, the city’s tuna fishing and canning industry is a successful and key industry here. As is typical for a coastal city, seafood is the specialty on the menu at most restaurants in the area. Try succulent wild-caught shrimp, black clams, octopus, red snappers, and much more. Make a point to try a bowl of the local encebollado broth made with fresh tuna, the pride of Manta. The Museo Municipal Etnográfico Cancebi showcases Ecuadorian art and artifacts from the local pre-Columbian civilization, including ancient fishing tools. You may also have the opportunity to visit the nearby town of Montecristi, famous for handicrafts, and where traditional Panamanian straw hats were first created and still hand woven to this day.

    Day 5
    Manta, Ecuador

    Sea, sand, surf, and… tuna?

  • Day 6
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

    Machala’s main claim to fame is Puerto Bolivar, an important Ecuadorian port where coffee, cocoa, shrimp, and bountiful bananas (which the locals call ‘oro verde’, or green gold) leave for export. As part of one of our optional excursions, you may have the opportunity to visit a local banana plantation, or to try and spot hummingbirds, parakeets, and howler monkeys in the Buenaventura Nature Reserve to the south. The nearby Puyango Petrified Forest has one of the largest collections of fossilized trees in the world, thought to be about 100 million years old—as old as the Andes Mountains themselves.

    Feast on fresh seafood at Puerto Bolivar at one of the harbor’s many restaurants, and enjoy views of the natural mangrove swamps of Isla Jambeli. Machala has all the charm you’d expect from a small coastal city. Stroll through quaint plazas filled with friendly locals, and admire unusual monuments dedicated to sorting fish and bananeros. The restaurants here are evolving and have started dabbling in the hip, modern cuisine for which Ecuador and Peru have increasingly become known.

    Day 6
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

  • Day 7
    At Sea

    At your leisure

    As we leave Ecuador behind and set sail for Peru, enjoy another day at your leisure aboard the ship. Continue to take advantage of the many onboard facilities and join in on lectures as we prepare you for the final days ahead.

    There’s no better place than the Wellness Center to fully relax during your downtime on board. Feel the knots in your muscles disappear during a massage or pamper yourself with skin-scrubbing treatments. And if the warm weather hasn’t opened up your pores, a session in the sauna is sure to do the trick. You can also slip into your bathing suit and lie back into the bubbles of one of the outdoor hot tubs or bask in a state of zen during a guided meditation class. Whatever you decide to do, there are plenty of ways to keep yourself relaxed and entertained on this day at sea.

    Day 7
    At Sea

    At your leisure

  • Day 8
    Salaverry / Trujillo, Peru

    An archeologist’s dream

    Pummeled by the Pacific’s wind and waves, Salaverry can be a hard port to access. If we are able to land there, though, it’ll be a good starting point to explore Trujillo, Peru’s third-largest city, and the array of archeological sites scattered throughout the region.

    Trujillo sits in a fertile valley oasis irrigated by the Moche River. It boasts a colorful Baroque 17th-century cathedral, 10 colonial churches, and many Neoclassical mansions, not to mention one of the longest mosaic murals in the world at the local university. It’s more likely, however, that your focus will be further back on the past.

    The city of Chan Chan was created by the Chimú Empire, which appeared in the region around 900 A.D. The vast ruins of the complex, measuring almost 8 square miles, include the Tschudi temple-citadel and Huaca Esmeralda. On the other side of Trujillo are you’ll find the Mochican pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. These pre-date Chan Chan by a few hundred years! Huaca del Sol stands out as the largest adobe structure on the continent, while Huaca del Luna is a more detailed specimen, with many of its pastel frescos still visible.

    Day 8
    Salaverry / Trujillo, Peru

    An archeologist’s dream

  • Day 9
    Callao/Lima, Peru/Quito, Ecuador

    On a high

    We dock in Callao and travel a short distance to the Lima airport for your flight to Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Upon arrival and after the transfer that brings you to the hotel, you’ll have the day to explore Quito at your leisure, with dinner served at the hotel.

    Originally settled by the Quitu people in the first millennium, Quito was eventually integrated into the Incan Empire before becoming the first Spanish settlement by conqueror Sebastian de Benalcásar in 1534. Stroll through the city’s historic center and view splendidly restored period buildings and Colonial-era churches lining the narrow, cobblestone streets. You’ll see why Quito’s historic center is described as the largest, least-altered, and best-preserved historic area in all of the Americas. That’s why in 1978, it was one of the first places in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Don’t be surprised if you feel a little short of breath when exploring the city, though. At 9,350 feet above sea level, Quito is the second-highest capital in the world, after La Paz (Bolivia), which is even 2,130 feet higher.

    Day 9
    Callao/Lima, Peru/Quito, Ecuador

    On a high

  • Day 10
    Quito

    Views from the ‘Middle of the World’

    After a nice breakfast, we´ll bring you to the charming colonial quarter for a sightseeing tour of the area. Starting from Plaza San Francisco, we´ll visit the church choir and the patios of the Franciscan order. Then we stroll through the handsome streets to the stunning gold-leaf interior of the Jesuit church of La Compañía.

    No trip to Ecuador is complete without a photo of one foot standing in the northern hemisphere and another in the southern hemisphere. Continue by bus to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (‘City at the Middle of the World’), located just 8.3 miles north of Quito. This stands to honor the Geodesic Mission that established latitude 0 in the 18th century. Depending on the time, you can visit the surroundings of the small village. You will also have the chance to visit the Intiñan Museum, a space of ecological and scientific discovery that transports visitors back to ancient times. Learn about the worldview, customs, and traditions of ancient cultures.

    Lunch is served at El Crater restaurant, which overlooks Pululahua Volcano. In the afternoon, you´ll return to your hotel in Quito. Dinner will be served at the hotel, and then you’ll have the evening to spend at your leisure.

    Day 10
    Quito

    Views from the ‘Middle of the World’

  • Day 11
    Quito/Baltra Island/Santa Cruz Island 

    Arriving at Santa Cruz Island

    Start the day with breakfast at the hotel before being driven to Quito’s airport for our flight to the Galápagos Islands (via Guayaquil). When we arrive at Baltra’s airport, our local guide will be waiting to transfer you to the Itabaca Channel, where a small ferry awaits you to bring you to the island of Santa Cruz.

    Our travels will take us through a rural agricultural area surrounded by wild landscapes, where we can see many different species of flora and fauna. If you are lucky, you might spot a few of the famous finches that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution based on natural selection. The highlands are one of the best places on the island to observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat. They are easy to spot. They lumber around eating grass and leaves and wallow in the small, muddy rain-formed pools. Younger giant tortoises tend to be smaller with shinier carapaces, while the larger, older giant tortoises proudly don weathered and worn shells—distinguished armor in a long life that can span over 100 years in the wild. Enjoy lunch in the Highlands.

    After settling into your hotel in Puerto Ayora, we’ll walk to the nearby Charles Darwin Research Station. The station hosts educational museums about the history and development of the Galápagos Islands and the different ways of protecting its unique natural heritage. You can also observe the giant land tortoises native to the islands. The station is the only place in the Galápagos where most of the different species reside at one site.

    Spend the afternoon at your leisure and explore the small, picturesque town of Puerto Ayora and its many local handicraft shops. Observe the colorful murals at the churches around town or stroll over to Tortuga Bay to look for marine iguanas, crabs, and white-tip reef sharks among the mangroves. Dinner will be served at the hotel´s restaurant.

    Day 11
    Quito/Baltra Island/Santa Cruz Island 

    Arriving at Santa Cruz Island

  • Day 12-13
    Santa Cruz Island

    Island-hopping in the Galápagos

    After breakfast, we'll begin to explore the islands that have become synonymous with the theory of evolution and hailed as a natural laboratory for natural selection. The range of wildlife on display in the islands is mind-boggling. The islands are teeming with endemic species and subspecies ranging from the wonderful to the weird and everything in between. On each of our two days here, we’ll visit one island by boat, meaning we’ll see two of the possible six islands. We don’t know which islands we’ll see, as that is at the discretion of the park authorities, who regulate and assign visitors one month beforehand.

    Could it be Bartolomé Island, famous for the dramatic Pinnacle Rock and the rare colony of Galápagos penguins at its base? How about North Seymour Island, with its large populations of hilarious blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and magnificent frigatebirds? Another possibility is Santa Fe Island, known for having the most beautiful coves in the archipelago, with beaches covered in lounging sea lions. Perhaps we’ll head to South Plaza Island, where a growing colony of land iguanas roam among prickly pear cactus trees.

    It’s clear that wherever you set foot to explore, you’re in for a real treat! You’ll go on walks to learn about the island’s geology, human history, and its exceptionally diverse wildlife. After two days, you’ll understand why these islands impressed Darwin so much and why they inspired his world-changing theory of evolution by natural selection.

    Day 12-13
    Santa Cruz Island

    Island-hopping in the Galápagos

Departures

2023

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What's Included

Included in Your Expedition

Galápagos Island Land-Program after the expedition cruise

  • Economy flight from Lima to Quito, and Quito to Baltra 
  • Two nights in Quito, including breakfast and dinner
  • Three nights at a hotel in Santa Cruz Island/Galáapagos, including full board
  • Economy flight from Baltra to Guayaquil 
  • All transfers, excursions, and meals are as described in the itinerary, including an English-speaking guide
  • Galápagos National Park entrance fee

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in the cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurants Aune and Fredheim
  • Fine-dining in À la carte restaurant Lindstrøm is included for suite guests
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organizes and guides activities, both on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard activities

  • Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center, which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • The Citizen Science program, which allows guests to contribute to current scientific research projects
  • The onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • The ship has hot tubs, an infinity pool, a sauna, an outdoor and indoor gym, and an outdoor running track
  • Participate in informal gatherings with the crew, such as daily recaps and the next day’s preparations

Landing activities

  • Escorted landings with small boats (RIBs)
  • Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment needed for the activities
  • Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition photographers help you configure your camera settings

Not Included In Your Expedition

  • International flights
  • Travel protection
  • Baggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team
  • Optional treatments in the onboard wellness and spa area

Notes

  • All planned activities are subject to weather conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please ensure you can meet all entry and boarding requirements.
  • No gratuities are expected
Pool area on MS Fridtjof Nansen
Photo: Oscar Farrera
Your Ship

MS Fridtjof Nansen

Year built 2020
Shipyard Kleven Yards, Norway
Passenger capacity 528 (500 in Antarctica)
Gross tonnage 20,889 T
Length 459 ft
Beam 77.4 ft
Speed 15 knots

MS Fridtjof Nansen is a next-generation expedition ship, just the latest in Hurtigruten’s fleet of custom built ships. She explores some of the most spectacular corners of the globe.

Read more about MS Fridtjof Nansen

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