The logistics of planning a vacation to Machu Picchu and Galapagos may seem difficult, but some amount of research to choose the right itinerary can help you make the most of your vacation at these amazing South American travel destinations. Read our guide for more facts and information…
While Machu Picchu is a high altitude destination known for its Incan history, Galapagos is a tropical island that has some of the world’s most amazing wildlife. Many tour companies offer itineraries to visit both the places for a vacation or you can personally book everything in advance. Either place is flocked by tourists during the peak holiday seasons and hence, it is wise to book ahead of time, especially if you are planning on a Galapagos cruise.
Choosing the tour plan
The best plan is to take a 5-day cruise to Galapagos and then head to Machu Picchu. Plan the tour for 10 days or more to make the most of the trip. Having confirmed the available dates of hotels and flights, begin with a flight to Ecuador to arrive in Quito or Guayaquil, the only cities that have flights to Galapagos.
You can take a domestic flight to Galapagos from either city and if you’ve booked a cruise, you’ll be taken to the cruise ship right from the airport. Alternatively, you can take an island hopping tour depending on the islands you intend to visit and the activities you select.
After concluding your island tour, you will have to return to Ecuador and take a flight to Lima. From there you’ll take a flight to Cusco, the former capital of the Incan Empire. As Cusco is at an altitude of about 11,000 feet, you can spend a day there, visiting its numerous ruins, while preparing for the subsequent high-altitude journeys. From Cusco, you can make a scenic train journey to Machu Picchu.
Galapagos is known for its amazing wildlife, such as the blue-footed bobby, water iguana, flightless cormorant, Galapagos hawk and 600-pound tortoises. You can visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, which is home to ‘lonesome George’, known to be the only surviving Pinta Island tortoise. Galapagos is the place that inspired Charles Darwin to introduce the theory of evolution based on the unusual adaptation of plants and animals to the callous environment.
You may hike up volcanoes for remarkable panoramas or snorkel with sea lions to explore the underwater world. Santa Cruz Island has underground lava tubes formed from flowing molten rock in the past.
Cruise ships are ideal to explore the 13 volcanic islands that make up Galapagos, and many dock for walking tours. They have on board accommodations though day tours are also an option.
Machu Picchu highlights
Cusco, one the world’s highest cities, offers interesting tours to the Urubamba Sacred Valley, where you can learn about the Incan culture. The Hiram Bingham and Vistadome train services allow for exciting train rides to the town connecting Machu Picchu. The former is a luxury ride with high-class brunch and champagne, while the latter has windows on all sides for picturesque views.
At Machu Picchu, just walking around the ruins can be fascinating and there is lot to explore in the cloud forest. Tour operators also provide hiking tours to these ruins for the adventurous and spiritually-disposed, who aspire to walk through the originally paved path to the ‘Lost City of the Incas.’