Top 10 Ways to Combine Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands
If you’re thinking about traveling to South America, you don’t need to limit yourself to just one destination. Visiting Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands in the same trip lets you combine two iconic highlights for an unforgettable experience. Vaya’s Destination Specialists are experts in arranging seamless logistics, letting you maximize your vacation time without worrying about the details.
Unlike other small group tours to Machu Picchu and Galapagos, a Vaya trip includes private local guides for your entire land itinerary. Traveling with a private local guide gives you total flexibility to structure your time and travel the way you like to travel, spending more time on the things that interest you and skipping the things that don’t.
There are so many ways to structure your Machu Picchu and Galapagos Vacation, depending on your interests, your budget, and how much time you have. Here are our top 10 ways to arrange your Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands tour:
1. Peru Highlights + 8 Day Galapagos Cruise
The highlights of Peru with an 8 day Galapagos cruise is a classic, wonderful combination, and our #1 choice for a Machu Picchu and Galapagos trip. Fly into Lima, Peru, a coastal city with world-renowned restaurants and fascinating museums. Spend some time getting to know this former capital of the Spanish empire, or head straight out to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the lush and fertile river valley surrounded by snowcapped peaks that lies between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Here, explore Incan ruins and traditional villages, enjoying Peru’s superb cuisine along the way.
Travel by train through mountainous scenery to Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most iconic sites, where your private local guide will show you the mysteries of these spectacular ruins. Spend a night in the village at the base of the mountains, then return to the ruins in the morning for a spectacular hike up one of Machu Picchu’s towering peaks for a birds-eye view of the site.
Return by train to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incan Empire. Cusco is a fascinating city, with colonial architecture built over Incan ruins and stonework, surrounded by towering mountains. Explore the area with your private local guide, enjoying the combination of intriguing history, world class food, and a vibrant atmosphere with regular parades and city-wide celebrations.
Your Machu Picchu and Galapagos Tour will next take you to Quito, Ecuador, a UNESCO World Heritage Center. Walk the streets of this colonial city with your private local guide, then fly out to the Galapagos Islands, a glittering archipelago 600 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean. Galapagos is renowned for its incredible wildlife, natural beauty, and a fascinating history that includes pirates, whalers, Charles Darwin, and even an intriguing murder mystery.
Your 8 day Galapagos cruise will take you to explore the islands in depth, experiencing the different ecosystems of the archipelago. Eight days is the perfect length for a Galapagos cruise, letting you experience several of the different islands and landing sites. Unlike big cruise ships, on which a longer cruise can start to drag, Galapagos ships are small expedition vessels. You’ll be traveling with a small group of fellow adventurers, and each day you can enjoy excursions like snorkeling, hiking, and, depending on your vessel, other activities like kayaking, SCUBA diving, and standup paddleboarding. Each day on a Galapagos cruise will let you see a variety of plant and animal life unlike that found anywhere else in the world. At the end of your unforgettable cruise, fly back to mainland Ecuador and connect with your flight home.
2. Peru Highlights + 5 Day Galapagos Cruise
If you want a similar experience in a slightly shorter timeframe, our next recommendation is to combine the Highlights of Peru with a 5 day Galapagos cruise. While we consider an 8 day cruise the gold standard, a 5 day cruise is enough time to see a variety of Galapagos wildlife and natural sites.
3. Take Your Family to Peru and the Galapagos Islands
It’s never too early to instill a love of travel and culture in your kids, and Peru and the Galapagos are great options for family-friendly destinations. Our family trips are active and entertaining, combining adventure with education and fabulous outdoor fun. Enjoy unique activities like biking, surf lessons, climbing, ziplining, candy making, visits to a local honeybee sanctuary, and more! Less screen time, more memories!
4. Hike the Inca Trail
For an extraordinary addition to your Peru and Galapagos adventure, consider taking a few nights to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This famous path takes you through lush jungles and traditional villages, along towering mountain peaks and glittering rivers, ending at the iconic Machu Picchu. It’s a spectacular way to explore Peru.
5. Focus on the Food
Peru has emerged as a darling of the culinary world, with a focus on fresh local ingredients, unique fusion cuisine, and new takes on traditional dishes. Give your journey a tasty spin by exploring Peru’s culinary scene with restaurant tours, cooking classes, visits to local markets, and even a traditional Pachamanca on the shore of Lake Piuray.
6. Get Active
Traveling with Vaya means traveling your way, whether you like a relaxed trip with plenty of downtime or an action-packed journey full of activities. If you tend toward the latter, consider adding some more active excursions. There are plenty of options for every fitness level, including city walking tours and bike rides, day hikes, mountain biking, kayaking and paddle boarding, ziplining, camping, multi-day treks, and more!
7. Immerse Yourself in Wildlife
Peru and the Galapagos Islands are home to spectacular wildlife, from spectacled bears and monkeys in Peru to the famous finches, sea lions, iguanas, penguins, and tortoises of Galapagos. For an even more intense wildlife experience, add a few days in the Peruvian Amazon, the Ecuadorian Amazon, or the Manu Biosphere Reserve. Stay in a remote jungle lodge and seek out monkeys, birdlife, and an incredible variety of flora and fauna.
8. Consider a Land-Based Galapagos Vacation
As a general rule, we don’t promote land-based tours in the Galapagos Islands. Small ship cruises have proven to be superior in terms of environmental and cultural sustainability as well as local economic impact, and they allow travelers to experience more islands and visitor sites. That being said, there are land-based operators in the Galapagos who are offering an amazing experience in a locally respectful way. Our favorite is the Galapagos Safari Camp, which offers eco-luxury tents in the highlands of Santa Cruz, with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and daily excursions to the nearby islands. If you’re not interested in cruising and prefer a land-based experience, the Galapagos Safari Camp is a great way to visit this magical place.
9. Get to Know Mainland Ecuador
Many travelers pass quickly through Ecuador to get to the Galapagos Islands, but there is so much to see on the mainland also. The Avenue of the Volcanoes is a spectacular drive through the center of Ecuador, showcasing 11 volcanic peaks and breathtaking Andean scenery. Explore the lush Cotopaxi National Park, traditional villages and local artisan markets, and take the incredible Devil’s Nose Train into the mountains. Stay in historic haciendas and enjoy the Andean countryside before your flight out to the islands.
10. The Sky’s the Limit – Include Other Countries in Your Journey!
Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands are a great combination, with simple logistics that make it easy to see both in a relatively short time. If you have more time to explore, consider adding other destinations to your trip. South America lends itself to multi-country trips, and Vaya’s Destination Specialists are experts in combining countries with seamless logistics. Consider adding some time in Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina or Brazil. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, take on our one-month South America Grand Tour, which combines Ecuador and Galapagos, Peru, Chile and Argentina (including Patagonia), and ends on the beaches of Brazil. If you have your heart set on a destination, we can find the best way to include it in your Peru and Galapagos adventure!