The city of Colón lies by the entrance to the Panama Canal on the Atlantic coast. Here, you you’ll find high-quality hotels, a casino, hot springs, a thriving handicraft scene, and great restaurants featuring local delicacies. If you want to really explore the city or join a Pre-Program where you’ll spend time in a beautiful jungle lodge next to the Chagres River, you should arrange to arrive a couple of days earlier.
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 protocols with you.
We depart Colón early in the morning to start the process entering the Panama Canal. The complex canal network is over a hundred years old, stretching almost 50 miles through natural and man-made waterways. We’ll wait eagerly for our allocated slot to enter the first of a series of huge locks. In a feat of modern engineering, these ingenious locks effectively lift the ship more than 80 feet above sea level. If weather allows, the Expedition Team will be on deck to point out sites of interest around the canal and talk about the history of this ambitious project.
Roughly halfway through the 12-hour transit of the canal, the ship will enter the Gatun Lake section. Created after the nearby Chagres River was damned, it’s one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. In contrast, the surrounding rainforest is virtually untouched by any development. The flora and fauna native to Central America flourish here, undisturbed. If you’re lucky, you may spot a crocodile or alligator ashore. Watch the trees and you may also catch a glimpse of a monkey (and maybe even a sloth or two).
After a few more locks and lakes, the ship will pass under the Bridge of the Americas and emerge in the Pacific Ocean. In one day, you’ll have experienced the culmination of centuries of planning, hard work, and resourcefulness, and cross from one great ocean to another in the process. It’s sure to be an experience you won’t forget.
Spend some of your day at sea taking a relaxing walk on deck. Enjoy the seascapes and keep an eye out for marine wildlife like whales, sea lions, and seabirds. Want to feel closer to the water? Go for a dip in the infinity pool or one of the two outdoor hot tubs (where you can still admire the scenery).
Head to the Science Center and make the most of the Expedition Team’s lectures to learn about what you will experience in the following days. Participate in a Citizen Science project, where you will help contribute to ongoing research around the world. When darkness falls and it’s a starry night, you can also join the Expedition Team on deck for some stargazing.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to one of the three restaurants on board for varied and delicious meals. Afterward, grab a seat in the Explorer Lounge & Bar and raise a glass or two with your new-found friends.
We cross the Equator early in the morning. In a traditional ceremony, we’ll seek King Neptune’s blessing on board. If luck is on our side, he might even make an appearance before we reach our first call in Ecuador.
The main attraction of the day will be to Montecristi, located 5 miles inland from the tuna-fishing port city of Manta. It was established in the 16th century by manteños fleeing the frequent pirate raids on the coast. Even though it is located in Ecuador, Montecristi is the actual birthplace of the Panama hat, despite its name. The misnomer originated when President Roosevelt wore one of these hats on a visit to the Panama Canal in 1904, sparking their popularity worldwide. There are plenty of shops selling the genuine article, which local artisans have expertly handwoven from the leaves of the jipijapa tree.
When you’re done hat-hunting, browse the stalls at the town’s pretty plaza, admire the architecture of the church, and look at the varied street art. One prominent mural at the plaza depicts General Eloy Alfaro, two-time Ecuadorian President and a Montecristi native. If time allows, head to the top of the main hill, where there is a museum and a grandiose mausoleum in honor of Alfaro, who was also known as the Viejo Luchador (Old Warrior).
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 an opportunity to visit a local banana plantation, or try and spot hummingbirds, parakeets, and howler monkeys at 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.
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 could 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 fly nearby the ship, the Expedition Team might also help you spot and identify them from the deck. Our designated expedition photographer will also be available to help you learn the basics of expedition photography, in addition to documenting on our journey
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.
After you disembark in Callao and say farewell to the ship and crew, we’ll transfer you to the Lima airport for your flight to Juliaca. Juliaca is a city located on the windy Collao Plateau, also known as the ‘Antiplano’, which means ‘high plain’, sitting at 12,550 feet above sea level. Our local guide will meet you at the airport, then you’ll set off on a one-hour drive through Juliaca to your hotel. Keep your eyes peeled during the ride to glimpse such sights as the Santa Catalina Church in the Plaza de Armas, the Romanesque Franciscan Convent atop Cerro Santa Bárbara, and the White Christ effigy gazing over the city from Waynaruqi Hill.
Your hotel in Puno located on the shores of lovely Lake Titicaca will be your home for the next two days. Spend the rest of your day gazing at the lake’s deep-blue tones and exploring the area at your leisure. It gets chilly at night, so be sure to bring a jacket if you plan on taking an evening walk. Dinner is served at your hotel.
The time to explore Lake Titicaca by boat is here! This is the birthplace of the sun and the Incas, according to ancient Andean beliefs. Over 900 feet deep and 3,200 square miles across, this is the largest lake in South America. It is 15 times the size of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva and even bigger than Lake Tahoe in the U.S. At 12,500 feet above sea level, it is also the highest navigable body of water in the world. More than 25 rivers stream into this freshwater lake, which is surrounded by mountains and yellow grass reeds. When it is still and clear outside, it is the perfect mirror reflecting the blue skies above.
Our first stop of the day is to the floating islands, built by the Uru people to allow them to move away if they were threatened by their enemies. These incredible islands are entirely handmade, which the Uru weave together from the buoyant totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. Each small island houses between one and ten families and takes months to complete. A small island may last a decade or so, but requires continuous maintenance with new layers. Learn about the other fascinating ways the local community uses the reeds, ranging from huts to boats to toys. Even walking on the soft and springy ground is an unforgettable experience!
Continue by boat to the rural community of Llachón, on the shores of the scenic Capachica Peninsula. Grab your camera and get ready for breathtaking panoramic views. Your included activity here is a guided kayaking tour, and you can admire the peninsula’s sandy beaches and keep your eyes peeled for Lake Titicaca’s 60 species of birds, 14 native fish species, and 18 types of amphibians. Join a guided walk through the village and learn the local agricultural way of life. Admire local handicrafts and share a typical Andean lunch with a local family. A relaxing evening with dinner at the hotel awaits you back in Puno.
After breakfast at the hotel, discover the area on a half-day excursion to Chucuito and Aramu Muru.
Chucuito was once an important Colonial-era town, where the Spanish collected royal taxes that they later shipped off to Lima. Today, its a quiet village. Its attractions include two beautiful 16th-century Colonial churches (Santo Domingo and Nuestra Señora de la Asunción), along with an ancient solar clock in the town square. Grab your camera and head to the lookout point just north of the square for splendid views of the surrounding landscape. You may visit a, nearby trout hatchery to see how the region’s specialty of trucha is raised, and then head outside of town for a horseback ride with a local family. Most visitors are also intrigued by the small archaeological landmark of Inca Uyo The site claims to be what remains of an ancient fertility temple, although experts aren’t all in agreement as to whether that’s true. Either way, the rows upon rows of phallic granite statues (86 in total) are an amusing sight to behold.
Before we head back to the hotel for lunch, we’ll stop over at the mysterious Aramu Muru, an unfinished T-shaped doorway carved into solid rock. The mystical site has inspired local legends of people disappearing through it and supposed sights of the doorway opening to tall men carrying glowing balls of light. Could it be a paranormal or extra-terrestrial portal? Some say so, sparking pilgrimages here by those who refer to it by its other name: Puerta de Hayu Marca, the Gate of the Gods.
After checking out of the hotel, we’ll head back to the airport. There’ll be time though to stop along the way at the Sillustani tombs, a pre-Incan cemetery over 12,700 feet above sea level, surrounded by Lake Umayo. The ancient, indigenous Colla people built these above-ground tombs, called chullas. They are tower-like structures up to 40 feet tall that hold entire families of its society’s elite. After exploring the cemetery, we’ll continue to the Juliaca airport for your flight to Lima, where our local guide will be waiting for your transfer to the hotel. Enjoy the evening at your leisure.
Sadly, your expedition officially ends after breakfast at the hotel, where you’ll bid a fond farewell to your fellow explorers. Seeing as you’re already here, we recommend extending your journey a few days to spend extra time in the Peruvian capital, which was known as La Ciudad de los Reyes (‘The City of Kings’).
The historic center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is full of Colonial-era architecture, such as the Plaza Mayor and San Francisco Monastery. In contrast, the clay ruins of the Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca ceremonial pyramids are remnants of the long-lost Incan civilization. There are at least four different museums you can explore for a deeper dive into pre-Columbian archeology. You might enjoy the bright and arty area of Barranco, complete with murals, creative cafés, and two of Lima’s contemporary art museums.
Many say the ultimate Lima experience revolves around the food. Cuisine from the capital has made a splash the world over. Try it in one of the many internationally recognized and award-winning restaurants found here. One of Peru’s all-time gastronomic greats is ceviche, fresh fish marinated in tangy lime juice and other seasonings. This staple dish can be savored in many locations around the city, from upscale restaurants in Miraflores to salt-of-the-earth cevicherías at the fishing docks over in Chorrillos.
Included in Your Expedition
Expedition Lake Titicaca/Peru after the cruise
- Two nights at GHL Puno Hotel, including half board
- One night in Lima, including breakfast
- Two three-course lunches (set menu) and one packed lunch
- Economy-class flights between Lima and Juliaca
- All transfers and train rides as described in the itinerary, including an English-speaking guide
- Entrance fee as listed in the itinerary
- Expedition cruise in a 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 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 organize and guide activities, both on board and ashore
- Range of included activities
- Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
- Use the ship’s Science Center, which features an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
- The Citizen Science program 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
- Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment needed for the activities
- Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
- Expedition photographers will help configure your camera settings before landings
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
- 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
- The Land-Program in Peru takes place at high altitudes (Lake Titicaca´s altitude is at 12,500 feet) and may require a certain level of physical fitness. The order of sights visited may vary.
MS Roald Amundsen
|Passenger capacity||530 (500 in Antarctica)|
|Gross tonnage||20 889 T|
In 2019, Hurtigruten added a brand new ship to its fleet: the MS Roald Amundsen. The state of the art vessel features new and environmentally sustainable hybrid technology that will reduce fuel consumption and show the world that hybrid propulsion on large ships is possible.
MS Fridtjof Nansen
|Shipyard||Kleven Yards, Norway|
|Passenger capacity||530 (500 in Antarctica)|
|Gross tonnage||20 889 T|
|Length||140 m / 459 ft|
|Beam||23.6 m / 77 ft|
MS Fridtjof Nansen is the latest addition to Hurtigruten’s fleet of custom-built ships – and represents the next generation of expedition ships. She will explore some of the most spectacular corners of the globe.
Sailing with MS Fridtjof Nansen or MS Roald Amundsen
- MS Fridtjof Nansen: Life on board and Practical information
- MS Roald Amundsen: Life on board and Practical information
- Meet Our Expedition Team
- Young Explorers’ Program: Bring your kids on board