Machu Picchu and Galapagos Combined Tour
Despite being two remote destinations, a Machu Picchu and Galapagos combined tour is not as complicated as it may seem. The ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu, situated high in the spectacular Peruvian Andes, is a must-visit on any South American adventure. Meanwhile, the unique and mystical Galapagos Islands, populated with an incredible abundance and diversity of wildlife, also feature highly on many traveler’s bucket lists. If you are looking for ways to combine these two once-in-a-lifetime experiences into one unforgettable tour, then look no further. We’ve gathered all the information you need in one place, from advice on when to visit and how to travel, to accommodation options and an overview of what not to miss.
Machu Picchu and Galapagos Combined Tour: Practicalities
When To Go
The temperature in Machu Picchu remains within a fairly narrow and comfortable band of between 50 F (10 C) and 80 F (27 C) year-round, so at no times will you be subject to extreme temperatures – especially good news for those hiking the Inca trail! Peru does, however, have a dry season and a rainy season that may influence your choice of when to travel. The consensus in the travel community is that the best time to visit Machu Picchu and the surrounding region is during the South American winter (the dry season) which runs from May to September. During this time, you can expect very little to no precipitation, along with slightly lower temperatures. Weather or rains should not affect access to any of the ancient Inca sites.
Having said this, the distinction between the two seasons isn’t always so clear-cut. The wet season runs from October through to April, but the rains do not usually become a problem until January. This means another best time to go to Machu Picchu is during shoulder season. December, in particular, is still an excellent time to visit, with sporadic rains, pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds. Also bear in mind that the weather up in the mountains can be especially unpredictable, with the possibility of mist and fog surrounding the sites at any time of year.
This region of Peru is also home to several memorable events that may be worth planning your Machu Picchu tour around. A host of fantastic celebrations take place during the dry season, including the impressive Inca Festival of the Sun, also known as Inti Raymi held in June, as well as Peru’s Independence Day in late July. However, there are plenty of festivities taking place year-round as well, notably the Lord of the Earthquakes Festival held around Easter each year, as well as the mesmerising Santuranticuy Artisan Crafts Fair taking place just before Christmas, both held in Cusco. So, all in all (with the possible exception of January and February) we would say there’s no real off-season or “wrong” time for a Machu Picchu tour!
The Galapagos is another wonderful year-round destination, with the islands being sheltered from tropical heat and enjoying pleasant and relatively stable temperatures month to month. There are distinctive wet and dry seasons, which are differentiated in terms of rainfall though not temperature.
During the wet season (December to May), you will see a lot of sun, coupled with periodic heavy rains and slightly higher temperatures of around 26 C. The rains tend to come and go very fast, so you’ll find they won’t disrupt your day’s activities. On the plus side, the ocean is significantly warmer during the wet season, making it a great time of year for snorkelling and swimming with the marine life. The dry season, meanwhile, running from June to November, brings cooler air and ocean currents, an average temperature of 22 C, lighter rainfall, but significantly more overcast.
So whilst there are some differences in weather and seasons in the Galapagos Islands, the good news is that you’re guaranteed to enjoy a pleasant climate along with unrivalled wildlife encounters no matter when you travel.
How Much Time to Spend
We recommend spending a minimum 10 days to complete a Machu Picchu and Galapagos combined tour, ideally more. This would involve spending 3 to 4 days exploring Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Sacred Valley, before heading out to the Galapagos for a 4-day or 5-day cruise. A 7-day Galapagos tour will allow travelers to visit both, the Eastern and Western islands in the archipelago, and can be seamlessly tied in with a 3-day Machu Picchu tour. This is the bare minimum needed to complete the itinerary, and includes a couple of days for travel to, from and between the various destinations.
But of course, with such world-class destinations on your hands, we think the more time you can spare to really get to grips with these wonders, then all the better! How much time to spend on a Galapagos Tour? As much time as you can!
This is particularly true of the Galapagos due to the number of islands and the travel time involved in getting there and back. You can take your pick from our selection of 4, 5, 6 and 8-day cruises. Whilst the shorter itineraries are ideal for those with limited time, most travellers tell us that the week-long cruises provide the best opportunity to experience the islands in their full breadth, diversity and wonder.
How to Get There
Machu Picchu is situated high above the Urubamba Valley in the Peruvian Andes. It’s accessible from the beautiful city of Cusco, which in itself is a must-visit of any Peru tour. Travelers will first fly into Lima, before taking an ongoing flight to Cusco. The ancient Inca citadel can be reached by train or on foot via the spectacular Inca Trail. The option you choose will obviously be dependent on your time constraints, energy levels and appetite for adventure! If you’re operating on a tight itinerary, you’ll want to take the train straight up to the ruins from Poroy Station in Cusco. Travellers often combine a trip to Machu Picchu with a tour of the mesmerising Sacred Valley, which begins just 15 km outside of Cusco. If you’re heading out to the Sacred Valley before visiting Machu Picchu, then you can catch the train up into the Andes direct from Ollantaytambo Station.
Due to their remoteness several hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, there are no direct flights to the Galapagos. Getting there involves flying first to Guayaquil or Quito (usually connecting with Guayaquil) in Ecuador, before taking a brief connecting flight of an hour or two to one of the two airports on the islands, Baltra or San Christobal. Most travelers fly in the day before to spend the evening in Guayaquil or Quito, and head to the Galapagos first thing in the morning. There are usually several daily flights to the Galapagos, but be aware that they can get booked up quite far in advance during the high season.
Combining Your Adventure
So how do you organise a Machu Picchu and Galapagos tour? This is a trip of a lifetime taking in two of the world’s most iconic destinations. We recommend an itinerary along the following lines.
First, fly into Lima, Peru and take an ongoing flight to Cusco to embark on the Machu Picchu leg of the tour. You could also consider flying in from Iquitos, the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. The four-hour flight between Iquitos and Cusco (using a domestic airline such as LAN, Star Peru, Taca or Avianca) is straightforward and enables you to add yet another unforgettable experience to your trip: an extraordinary river cruise through the incredibly diverse Amazon rainforest.
After making your way through the sites of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, arrive back in Cusco to catch a flight to Guayaquil or Quito. Flights are around 5 hours and are offered by LAN, Avianca and Copa regional airlines. From here you can connect with a short flight to the Galapagos and finally arrive to join your unforgettable cruise through the islands!
Machu Picchu and Galapagos Combined Tour: Highlights
Cusco & The Sacred Valley
Upon arrival for your Peru tour, begin your fascinating trip through the remnants of the ancient Incan empire with an exploration of the beautifully-preserved old capital city of Cusco. This famed city is home to an astonishing array of historic and archaeological treasures just begging to be explored, including the Plaza de Armas, the impressive cathedral and the Qoricancha sun temple. After exploring the main sights, head to the atmospheric San Blas neighbourhood, populated with artists’ studios and trendy bars, and for sweeping views over the city take a trip up to the Sacsayhuamán ruins. At the end of the day, unwind and explore Cusco’s thriving culinary scene, dining in one of the many fine restaurants that populate its historic centre. There are plenty of things to do in Cusco to keep you busy.
After soaking up the rich heritage of Cusco, descend into the ancient Incan heartland of the Sacred Valley, an area of lush foothills, fertile farmland, and picturesque settlements. The Sacred Valley is filled with countless archaeological and cultural highlights. The area has its fair share of Incan citadels, as well as numerous trails awaiting exploration on foot, mountain bike or horseback. Highlights include the salt mines of Maras, the colourful market of Pisac and the impressive ruins of Ollantaytambo. This portion of the trip provides the ideal opportunity to acclimatise to the altitude before heading further up into the Andes. The sites to see in the Sacred Valley are often traveler favorites.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest archaeological wonders of the world, this awe-inspiring ancient Incan settlement is a definite highlight of any Peru tour. The well-preserved stonework, stunning backdrop and enigmatic aura of the site draw visitors in their thousands each year. Catching your first glimpse of the terraced ruins, set against a breath-taking backdrop of towering emerald peaks, is a moment you won’t forget. If you’ve got an appetite for adventure, hike the 33 km Inca trail high up into the Andes, traversing lush rainforests, raging rivers and high mountain passes, before receiving the ultimate reward for your efforts – several hours spent basking in the glory of one of the greatest wonders of the world.
The best way to experience the Galapagos, especially for those with limited time, is on a multi-day cruise of the islands. We offer several cruise options, catering to a range of styles, budgets and interests. On every one, you’ll live on board the vessel, taking advantage of the excellent facilities, cuisine, entertainment and services, whilst being effortlessly transported between each island destination each night as you sleep. Every day, you’ll disembark to explore the ethereal and dramatic landscapes of each island, getting up close and personal with some of the planet’s most iconic and charismatic megafauna.
A cruise allows you to sample the incredible diversity of the islands, which also means observing a greater diversity of species. Each island has unique characteristics which have driven the highly specialized evolutionary adaptations that make the Galapagos the worlds ultimate laboratory of evolution. Whether you’re observing the elaborate mating ritual of the blue-footed booby, snorkeling with playful sea lions, trekking over rugged lava fields, or simply enjoying a sumptuous feast on the top deck of your boat at sunset, you’re bound to create memories to last a lifetime.
It’s also possible to travel independently in the Galapagos if you’re looking for more flexibility and freedom. Many of our customers choose to combine a cruise with an island stay to get the best of both worlds. Staying in one of the port towns or in a lodge also provides a great opportunity to get involved in more adventure activities outside of a cruise itinerary, whether it be scuba diving, sea kayaking, surfing, hiking or visiting a conservation centre.
Our Top Hotel and Cruise Picks
For the Peru leg of the trip, there are some world-class hotel options in Cusco and the Machu Picchu area. For a taste of luxury, a stay at the Inkaterra La Casona or the Palacio Nazarenas in Cusco will exceed all expectations in terms of facilities, services and creature comforts. Both offer spacious rooms, unbeatable settings, sleek swimming pools, outstanding views and tantalising cuisine. If you’re after a more authentic Peruvian experience, opt for one of Cusco’s charming boutique hotels, such as the Tierra Viva, renowned for their warm hospitality, inspired decor and impeccable service.
If you plan to stay overnight in the Sacred Valley, we recommend the luxury hotel Belmond Rio Sagrado or Tambo de Inka for pure decadence and unbeatable settings. For a more affordable option, Casa Andina Private Collection boasts an impressive range of modern amenities including a gym, spa, planetarium and upscale restaurant, not to mention beautiful gardens and stunning mountain views. An excellent choice for the Machu Picchu area is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo. Named amongst National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, a stay here offers the perfect combination of luxury and immersion in the stunning natural surrounds.
There are numerous cruise options for touring the Galapagos in ultimate style and comfort. Many cruises we offer are aboard catamarans, offering plenty of space and a greater degree of stability compared to traditional boats. The Petrel is one of the newest vessels servicing the Galapagos, boasting stylish surrounds, first-rate guides, impeccable cuisine and a glorious sundeck from which to admire the endless ocean vistas. Anahi is another stand-out option, particularly well-regarded for its environmentally-friendly design, superior facilities and social spaces, including open-air bar, relaxing Jacuzzi and entertainment room. Alternatively, the small passenger intake on the Nemo II is perfect for those looking for a more intimate atmosphere along with highly personalised service.
If you’re interested in combining a cruise with an island stay, consider planning to spend a few nights at one of the many appealing Galapagos Lodge accommodations that pepper the islands. Pikaia Lodge, perched high on the slopes of an extinct volcano on Santa Cruz Island, comes highly recommended. The lodge offer jaw-dropping panoramic views over the surrounding landscape, exquisite rooms, along with infinity pool, gourmet restaurant, spa and its own giant tortoise reserve. For a more rustic and budget-friendly option, Floreana Lava Lodge is a great choice, boasting an unbeatable location with the ocean, beach and a wide array of fantastic wildlife right on your doorstep.
Now you've read all the information needed to start planning a Machu Picchu and Galapagos combined tour. Contact us for more advice on when to visit, how to travel, where to stay and what not to miss. You can also give us a call at 1-888-215-3555 to start planning your once in a lifetime tour.