Combining South America’s cultural and natural mysteries, this 9-day tour unravels Machu Picchu and the Galapagos archipelago. Spend four days being immersed in history with intimate Incan experiences and expert guides that will narrate a surreal civilization and story. Partake in a small-boat cruise through the heart of the islands, discover the archipelago’s incredible wildlife, and traverse recent lava flows.
Urubamba Valley – Old Incan Culture
After flying to Cusco, you will head straight into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Halfway between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Urubamba Valley is packed with ancient settlements and indigenous markets. It will provide you with an instant introduction to the Incan world and a perfect preamble to the wonders of the Lost City. This day will be completely customizable. Upon your arrival, you will be transferred to a boutique hacienda in the heart of the valley. There are salt flats nearby that remain unchanged and in use since Incan times. Pisac also has a lovely market, and there are small Incan fortresses all over the valley.
Machu Picchu – Afternoon at Machu Picchu
You can take this morning to rest and relax. After lunch, you will travel by train along a jungle-shrouded track to the Lost City. Machu Picchu is a vast complex of giant stone steps and towering walls. Not everything is known about this place, and you will need an excellent guide to separate fact from fiction. As you explore, there will be no doubt that the Incas had a very unique idea of design and style. As people file away from the site, you may find yourself enveloped by the Incan world. You will be staying at the only hotel next to Machu Picchu.
Cusco – The Wonders of Cusco
This morning is when you can climb one of the two mountains on either side of Machu Picchu. Both offer incredible views of the mysterious world. Then, you will only need to leave the gate to be back at your hotel for a second breakfast. Later in the day, you will return by train and road to Cusco. Here, the old world is complete with Incan temples and colonial cathedrals. Entering courtyards and complexes, you can feel the power of the ancients and a strange enchantment that enchants almost every visitor. Your guide can recommend some excellent restaurants for an authentic Peruvian meal to complete your Incan stay.
Quito – Old-World Highlights
Perhaps you will get up early today and wander the cobbled Cusco streets before your airport transfer and flight to Quito via Lima. Ecuador’s capital is a stark contrast to Cusco. Its central streets are a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is reflective of early Spanish influence in the Americas. Today, you will explore the streets with a local guide, allowing you to marvel at gold-gilded cathedrals, charming lanes, and a viewpoint from the edge of a volcano. It will be a slow and relaxing day. Moreover, you will be staying in the country’s finest hotel, which is a luxury property inside a revamped colonial palace.
Santa Cruz – Encounter Giant Tortoises
An overnight stay in Quito is essential if you want to combine Machu Picchu and Galapagos. Today, you will be on the early flight to Baltra, where your island experience will begin with surreal sinkholes and lush pastures covered in tortoises. Every island is different, and there are 15 different giant tortoise species. You can walk past dozens of these tortoises and admire their slow-paced behavior before boarding a boat and cruising into the Pacific. For four nights, you will be traveling on a Galapagos cruise ship, which is a luxurious 40-person vessel that provides the most intimate wildlife experiences. Tonight, you will dock beside a small island in a bay that is frequented by seals and dolphins.
South Plaza – Sea Lions and Marine Bliss
From this stunning anchorage, you will be surrounded by life. This morning, you can venture out in a kayak or glass-bottom boat to drift past playful sea lions and a white beach, where sea lions bask in the morning light. The biggest Galapagos highlight is how close you can get to the wildlife. Much of the wildlife evolved without natural predators, so it does not flee when you get close. This morning, you will share the sand with the sea lions along with Galapagos hawks and land iguanas that perch on Santa Fe island. An afternoon wildlife visit will bring more nature to life at South Plaza. Here, black lava meets white sand, and Darwin’s finches are among the highlights.
Santa Cruz – Nesting Birds, Penguins, and Flamingos
On North Seymour, you can walk alongside incredible nesting sites with a naturalist guide. Visiting wildlife sites is carefully controlled on the Galapagos, and only one group is permitted at each site at a time. Instead of having to wait for everybody to disembark, on a smaller boat, you can get off quickly and maximize your time with wildlife. Frigatebirds and marine iguanas are other specialties on North Seymour, and this afternoon will reveal green sea turtles and flamingos. You will also be able to indulge in swimming and snorkeling on the beach.
Santiago – Volcanic History and Wildlife
This morning, you will climb a wooden staircase across the jagged lava flows of Bartolome island. While there is not as much wildlife on the land of this island, Galapagos animals also fill the water and the air. Riding a glass-bottom boat, you may pass Galapagos penguins and possibly frigatebirds. Reef sharks and rays will flit beneath the surface along with turtles and great schools of tropical fish. As with the other days, you will enjoy a morning and afternoon excursion in addition to options for kayaking and swimming. Back on the boat, you will continue to admire the islands.
Baltra – Departure
After a final breakfast, your boat will dock on Santa Cruz this morning. From here, you will have a short boat ride to Baltra, where the archipelago’s airport is located.
- Savor the ultimate Galapagos highlights on a five-day cruise around the best of the archipelago
- Journey into the wilderness for a majestic two-day experience at Machu Picchu
- Wander around magnificent nesting sites and get to know the islands’ incredibly rare birds
- Explore the old-world wonder of Urubamba, which is the Sacred Valley of the Incas
- Stand next to giant Galapagos tortoises and discover how they evolved to different shapes on each of the islands
- Marvel at more Incan history with an afternoon in Cusco, which is the original Incan capital
- Immerse yourself in the wonders of seals, turtles, sharks, rays, and others
- Step back into another time with an overnight stay in UNESCO World Heritage Quito, which is a delightful transit point between Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands
- Uncover volcanic history by walking on recent lava flows and exploring the breadth of island nature
Machu Picchu and Galapagos are two countries that represent the essence of South America’s culture and mysteries. Surreal and strange, these places are not like anything else on the planet. While they appear unreal in images, very few travel destinations can make you feel as alive as Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Nine days is the shortest amount of time required to combine these two destinations comfortably. You will travel in style with this handcrafted best-of itinerary to many of the best of South America’s destinations.
You will begin your adventure in Peru with a flight to Cusco and a short transfer to the Sacred Valley, where strange fortresses and local markets highlight impress the Incan world. The following afternoon, you will rumble into the jungle by train, descending toward the Lost City. Your afternoon Machu Picchu experience will reveal ancient narratives and the site’s architectural highlights in addition to a few llamas and alpacas. Spending the night next to the site means that you can return at sunrise for a second immersion in the incredible Incan world. You will even still have time to discover the best of Cusco before flying to Quito on day four.
You will then indulge in a five-day boat cruise that connects six islands and the full range of natural highlights. You can discover unusual iguanas and stand next to giant tortoises, wander across lava flows, and fully explore Galapagos’ volcanic diversity. Luxury is imbued in every experience as you cruise through the islands for majestic close-ups with some of the world’s rarest animals.
$6,745 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.
Reviews of Zicasso's Referral Service
4.84 stars based on 82 reviews
Reviewed By Elizabeth T.
Reviewed By David M.
Reviewed By Lois R.
Reviewed By Christian J.
Reviewed By Brook P.
Reviewed By Tammy E.
Get Weekly Inspiration and Expert Advice on Travel
during the COVID and post-COVID era