Combine two of South America's most iconic destinations into a single trip on this 10-day tour of the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu. You'll start in Ecuador, spending several days island-hopping, snorkeling, hiking, and wildlife viewing in the Galapagos. Then you'll cross the border to Peru, spending a night in Lima, another in Cusco, and finally taking the scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. A visit to the famed "lost city of the Incas" is the perfect way to end this diverse adventure.

Highlights

  • See giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island
  • Go snorkeling with penguins, seahorses, and rays
  • Explore native wildlife on islands in the Galapagos
  • Hike to the top of a volcano to see a massive crater
  • Discover the ancient city of Machu Picchu

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive at Santa Cruz Island & Visit Charles Darwin Station Puerto Ayora
Day 2 Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island Puerto Ayora
Day 3 Ride a Speedboat to Isabela Island & Los Tuneles Isabela
Day 4 Hike Sierra Negra Volcano  Puerto Ayora
Day 5 Spend the Afternoon & Evening in Quito Quito
Day 6 Transfer to Lima & Try Peruvian Cuisine Lima
Day 7 City Tour of Cusco  Cusco
Day 8 Discover the Sacred Valley Aguas Calientes
Day 9 Spend the Day at Machu Picchu Cusco
Day 10 Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Santa Cruz Island & Visit Charles Darwin Station

A giant tortoise on Santa Cruz Island

Welcome to the Galapagos Islands! You'll start the adventure on Santa Cruz Island. Enjoy lunch at a local farm in the highlands, followed by the observation of giant turtles in the wild. Then continue to the port in Puerto Ayora to check into your hotel. In the afternoon, visit the Charles Darwin Station, where scientists from all over the world meet and work together. Environmental projects include water analysis, protection of endemic wildlife, analysis of the effects of tourism on nature, and other pressing issues. Visit the turtle rearing station to see where animals are raised before being released into the wild. Make sure to look around for the land iguanas who live around the station.   

Day 2: Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island

Marine iguanas sunbathing on the shore
Marine iguanas sunbathing on the shore

Today, you'll travel by yacht to an uninhabited island near Santa Cruz. Depending on the weather, scheduling, and permissions granted by the national park, you'll visit one of the following islands: Santa Fé, South Plazas, Bartolomé, or North Seymour.

Each island is unique, offering spectacular scenery and opportunities to see rare wildlife. Santa Fé and South Plazas are home to endemic land iguanas, while Bartolomé is known for its beautiful lava sceneries. On North Seymour, look for frigate birds, land iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora to enjoy some free time. 

Day 3: Ride a Speedboat to Isabela Island & Los Tuneles

Snorkeling with sea turtles
Snorkeling with sea turtles

Early in the morning you take a public speedboat from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island. Then you will go on an excursion to Los Tuneles, a perfect snorkeling spot. A series of lava flows have produced unique geological formations here, including arches and tunnels underneath and above the water. This makes the area a uniquely interesting place to swim around. In the shallow waters, you can see tropical fish, rays, turtles, seahorses, and white-tipped reef sharks. Keep your eyes open for penguins sitting on the rocks and be ready for the possibility of swimming alongside majestic sea turtles. In the afternoon, return to Puerto Villamil, where you will spend the next night.

Day 4: Hike Sierra Negra Volcano 

Sierra Negra volcano
The crater at Sierra Negra volcano

The majestic Sierra Negra Volcano is a highlight of today's agenda. You'll hike to its summit to see the second-largest volcanic crater in the world. Walk around spectacular lava landscapes, taking in the northern volcanoes in Isabela and Fernandina Islands. During your climb, make sure to be on the lookout for the unique vegetation that inhabits the area. In the afternoon, you will take the speed boat to Santa Cruz Island and spend the night there once more.

Day 5: Spend the Afternoon & Evening in Quito

Beautiful sunset in the Galapagos
Beautiful sunset in the Galapagos

Do some last-minute souvenir shopping in Puerto Ayora before transferring to the Itabaca Channel, which you will cross by ferry to make the connection to the airport. Check in for your flight to Quito. On arrival in Ecuador's city, you'll be taken to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for sightseeing, hiking, or just enjoying the city's many shops, bars, cafés, museums, and restaurants. Get some rest at your hotel before the next day's flight to Peru.

Day 6: Transfer to Lima & Try Peruvian Cuisine

Miraflores
The gorgeous coastline of Miraflores, Lima

Welcome to Peru! You'll arrive in Lima on a flight from Quito. Transfer to your hotel and take some time to get oriented in the afternoon. If you have the energy, Miraflores is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon and evening. Walk on the waterfront promenade and sample traditional Peruvian dishes and drinks — ceviche with a pisco sour is a sure bet — in the district's many eateries. 

Day 7: City Tour of Cusco 

Cusco Plaza de Armas
Cusco's famous Plaza de Armas

Early in the morning, you'll catch a flight to Cusco. In the afternoon, a city tour is on your agenda. You will visit the Cathedral and Koricancha (Temple of the Sun) and the nearby ruins. These include Qenqo (where sacrifices were made), Puca Pucara, Tambomachay (also called “The Bath of the Inca”), and Sacsayhuaman Fortress, where Inca festivals like Inti Raymi and Warachicuy take place. After your city tour, have dinner in a family-run restaurant and head to your hotel for an overnight stay.

Day 8: Discover the Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley
The green expanse of the Sacred Valley

Join your Peruvian guide today for a jaunt through the Sacred Valley’s most remarkable places. The Sacred Valley was the spiritual center of the Inca Empire, where all-powerful emperors built private estates, temples, fortifications, and thousands of agricultural terraces. You'll explore the Pisac ruins and shop at the famous artisan market in the village plaza. Scale the heights of the Ollantaytambo fortress and take some time to wander the stone-lined streets of the village where water still flows through Inca-built channels. After the tour, you will catch a train for the impossibly scenic ride to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu.

Day 9: Spend the Day at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
Looking down at Machu Picchu

Your day begins with an early morning bus ride up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Your tour guide will lead you on an unforgettable walk through the old city's stone-lined paths, along the terrace edges to the base of structures that testify to the extraordinary skill of its builders. For 400 years, the so-called “lost city of the Incas” remained hidden atop a mountain ridge until it was revealed to the world on the pages of National Geographic in 1911.

If you have time and energy to spare, hike Huayna Picchu for a bird’s-eye view of the ruins. Later, descend back down to Aguas Calientes and catch the train back to Cusco. You'll enjoy one last night on the town before flying out the next day.

Day 10: Depart Peru

Plaza San Martín
Plaza San Martín in Lima, Peru

The trip ends today as you transfer back to Lima to catch an international flight out of Peru. Safe travels!

More Great Galapagos Islands Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galapagos? Check out these other 10-day Galapagos Islands itineraries, with island-hopping cruises, land-based trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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