Explore two of the grandest highlights of South America: Peru and the Galápagos Islands. In the former, you'll follow the ancient Incas' footsteps as you tour Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and of course, Machu Picchu. Then jet off to the famous Galápagos Islands for eight days of adventures that include wildlife tours, diving excursions, boat trips, uninhabited islets, and much more.


  • Explore Cusco's historic colonial center and Machu Picchu's sprawling Inca ruins
  • Mingle with the giant tortoises in the fertile highlands of Isla San Cristóbal 
  • Scuba dive with sea lions and turtles and take island-hopping boat tours
  • Observe exotic animals, like blue-footed boobies on the beaches of the Galápagos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cusco (Peru), City Tour Cusco
Day 2 Visit the Maras Salt Mines & Moray Ruins Cusco
Day 3 Day Trip to Machu Picchu  Cusco
Day 4 Transfer to Quito (Ecuador), Evening Cocktail Class Quito
Day 5 Fly to Isla San Cristóbal & the Galapagos, Visit Isla Lobos Isla San Cristóbal
Day 6 Visit Tortoise Breeding Center & Puerto Chino Beach Isla San Cristóbal
Day 7 Scuba Diving Adventure in Wreck Bay Isla San Cristóbal
Day 8 Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Dinner by the Sea Isla Santa Cruz
Day 9 Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 10 Transfer to Isla Isabela, Visit Breeding Center & Wetlands Isla Isabela
Day 11 Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Tortoise Reserve & Charles Darwin Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 12 Day Trip to Cerro Mesa Reserve & Garrapatero Beach Isla Santa Cruz
Day 13 Transfer to Isla Baltra & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cusco (Peru), City Tour

Arrival to Cusco and Tour of the City
Welcome to Cusco, the high-altitude capital of the ancient Inca

Welcome to Peru! Upon arrival in the capital of Lima, you'll catch a connecting flight about 40 minutes north to the ancient city of Cusco. Located high in the Andes mountains, this area has been settled for thousands of years. However, it wasn't until 1200 CE that Cusco was officially founded as a center for Inca rule. It remained the capital of the Inca Kingdom until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Today this well-preserved historic city boasts an incredible mix of Spanish-colonial architecture and ancient Inca archaeological sites.

When you arrive in Cusco, you'll transfer to your hotel in the city. After checking in, head out on a guided tour to see the iconic buildings and archaeological sites. You'll visit Cusco's historic center, the 17th-century Cathedral, Iglesia Santo Domingo, and Koricancha, a 15th-century Inca temple. Continue to the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman, a 15th-century Inca fortress-like complex with temples dedicated to the sun god Inti.

Next, you'll visit Q'enco, an Inca archaeological complex on the city's outskirts. Translating to "labyrinth," this temple and network of rock tunnels is another spiritual site where ceremonies were performed in honor of the sun, moon, and stars. Finally, you'll visit Tambomachay. Situated near natural springs, Tambomachay consists of aqueducts and canals running through terraced rocks. It's uncertain exactly what the site was used for, but theories range from being a military outpost to a luxury spa for Inca VIPs. You'll return to your hotel in Cusco at the end of the day. 

Day 2: Visit the Maras Salt Mines & Moray Ruins

Exploring The Salt Mines of Maras & The Ruins of Moray
See the mysterious terraces of Moray on today's tour

Wake up for an early breakfast, after which you'll head out on a full-day tour outside of Cusco to visit Maras and Moray's archaeological and agricultural wonders. From Cusco, you'll travel about 24 miles (40 km) to Maras, known for its evaporation ponds used to extract salt since Inca times. The route here will take you through the Sacred Valley, a 37-mile (60 km) stretch of gorgeous Andrean highlands that once represented the heart of the Inca empire. The area is known for its fertile farmland dotted with traditional villages. 

When you arrive in Maras, you'll visit its famous salt mines. This UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises thousands of terraced salt wells on the slopes of Qaqawiñay mountain. Locals extract the salt in these pans from natural underground springs, as they have done so since the time of the Inca.

From there, you'll drive to nearby Moray. This captivating archaeological site sits on a high plateau and features a series of concentric agricultural terraces. It's one of the most famous Inca ruins outside of Cusco precisely because its exact function remains a mystery. Theories of what Moray was used for vary from it being an ancient agricultural research project, a ceremonial center, and even a UFO landing site. After the visit, you'll return to Cusco.

Day 3: Day Trip to Machu Picchu

See one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World today at Machu Picchu

While Cusco is a prime travel destination unto itself, most visitors come for excursions to Machu Picchu, the legendary Lost City of the Inca. And that's precisely where you're headed today. After an early breakfast, you'll board a bus for the two to three-hour ride out of Cusco, through the Sacred Valley, to the town of Aguas Calientes, which sits at the base of Machu Picchu.

In Aguas Calientes, you'll meet your guide and travel up the mountain to the famous ruins, which sit at 7,972 feet (2,430 m). Here, you'll enjoy a two-hour tour of this ancient Inca citadel as you visit the structures, take photos, and enjoy incredible panoramic views of the surrounding Andes peaks. Afterward, you'll head down the mountain and board a train back to Cusco.

Day 4: Fly to Quito (Ecuador), Evening Cocktail Class

Morning mist over the mountainsides of Quito

After one last morning stroll along the cobbled streets of Cusco, you'll transfer to the airport, where you'll catch a flight to Quito via Lima. The capital of Ecuador is your gateway to the famous Galápagos Islands, but it's also a fascinating destination in its own right, with a UNESCO-listed historic center nestled among volcanic peaks. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up for the ride to your hotel in the city. If it's early enough, feel free to then head out on a self-guided tour of the Spanish-colonial landmarks in the walkable center.

When the sun goes down, you'll participate in a workshop to help develop your party expertise: a cocktail class. The fun starts as soon as you walk through the door with a welcome drink followed by a demo from a professional mixologist. Learn the tricks of the bartending trade as you mix various cocktails using local ingredients. Examples of drinks you'll prepare include the Ecuadorian mojito, piña colada, and Cuba libre. During the workshop, you'll also learn a bit about the history of cocktails in Peru while enjoying delicious canapés. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel. 

Day 5: Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Visit Isla Lobos

Meet sea lions on today's boat trip to Isla Lobos
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, your driver will transfer you to the airport in Quito for the 3.5-hour flight to Isla San Cristóbal, the easternmost island in the Galápagos archipelago. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel.

After settling, you'll board a ship for an afternoon trip up the northern coast to Isla Lobos. Translating to "Island of the Sea Lions," this islet off San Cristóbal is aptly named due to the large colony of sea lions here. It's a great place to observe sea lion pups in the wild, as you'll see when you stroll the island's white-sand beaches. But sea lions aren't the only exotic wildlife—it's also a haven for fur seals, blue-footed boobies, and frigatebirds. In the water, you'll find trumpet fish, rays, and whitetip reef sharks. After spending time with the animals, you'll transfer back to the port and your hotel.

Day 6: Visit Tortoise Breeding Center & Puerto Chino Beach

Giant Galapagos Tortoise
Meet the locals: giant Galápagos tortoises at the La Galapaguera

Hop in the car this morning for the ride up into the fertile highlands of San Cristóbal, where you'll visit the La Galapaguera giant tortoise breeding center. On the way, you'll stop for a tour of El Junco Lagoon, a freshwater lake sitting at 2,296 feet (700 m) above sea level. This is one of the few permanent freshwater lakes in the Galápagos. It's a great destination for birders, as here you can spot waterbirds like white-cheeked pintails, common gallinules, and frigatebirds. There's also unique and beautiful flora to admire, such as highland miconia vegetation and endemic tree ferns.

Then, continue to the tortoise breeding center to witness the Galápagos' most iconic creature in its natural environment and at various stages in its life cycle (they can live 150 years or more). Here, the tortoises wander free in a semi-natural habitat, which you'll visit and enjoy some great photo opportunities. The reserve aims to help restore the threatened San Cristóbal tortoise populations and release them back into the wild. 

Afterward, travel to the southeast of San Cristóbal and Puerto Chino Beach. This remote stretch of white sand is located in a cove and is home to various winged and flippered inhabitants. These include sea lions, marine iguanas, and plenty of Galápagos birds like blue-footed boobies and Darwin's finches. Head to the mangroves behind the beach, where you'll likely spot some finches. After some wildlife spotting and swimming, you'll return to your hotel for the evening.

Day 7: Scuba Diving Adventure in Wreck Bay

Dive with Galápagos marine life in the famous waters of Wreck Bay

A day of underwater adventure awaits as you head to Bahia Naufragio (Wreck Bay). Its name derived from a shipwreck here last century, but today these waters are famous as a habitat for diverse marine life. Upon arrival at the pier, you'll meet the dive team, board a boat, and head out on the water.

After receiving safety instructions and inspecting your dive gear, you'll arrive at some of the best scuba sites in the area. Then it's time to hop in the water for an easy 32-foot (10 m) dive. During this outing, you'll spot all manner of exotic marine life, such as tropical fish, sea turtles, rays, and various species of shark, including hammerhead, Galápagos, and whitetip reef sharks (not to worry, as there's never been a fatal shark attack in the islands). At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 8: Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Dinner by the Sea

Welcome to the white sands and turquoise waters of Isla Santa Cruz
After breakfast, head to the marina and hop in a boat for the 2.5-hour ride west to Isla Santa Cruz. After checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day free. There are plenty of colorful cafés you can stop at for a coffee on your way to the Samay Latin Art Gallery or the interactive Maprae Museum. The latter is the first museum of pre-Columbian art to utilize augmented reality in its exhibits. In the evening, change into your formal wear because you have a reservation at one of the best restaurants in the archipelago's largest town of Puerto Ayora, where you'll enjoy an unforgettable meal overlooking the water

Day 9: Day Trip to Uninhabited Islands

Venture to untouched Isla Bartolomé or another uninhabited island today
Wake up early for a full-day boat tour to some uninhabited isles around Santa Cruz. Depending on the permit granted by the park authorities, you'll get to visit either Santa Fé, Plaza Sur, Plaza Norte, Seymour Norte, or Bartolomé—the Galápagos uninhabited islands. To experience one of these isles in their unspoiled state, home only to endemic wildlife, you'll see the Galápagos the same way Darwin did on his arrival in 1835. After exploring some wildlife habitats, you'll enjoy lunch on the deck of the boat and then cruise back to Puerto Ayora.   

Day 10: Transfer to Isla Isabela, Visit Breeding Center & Wetlands

Breeding Center & Wetlands of Isabela Island
See flamingoes in Isla Isabela's biodiverse wetlands

It's time to switch islands again, as you hop on a speedboat for the two-hour ride west to Isla Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos. You'll arrive in the port village of Puerto Villamil, where you'll check in to your hotel.

Then head out for a visit to the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center. Leave from Puerto Villamil on a short, scenic trail that passes wetland scenery and prickly pear cactus fields. Once at the breeding center, you'll see significant populations of Galápagos tortoises that have been bred and raised on-site. Around 330 juvenile and adult tortoises are here, comprising five different subspecies. All are native to Isabela but have had their habitats threatened by volcanic eruptions and other animals; the breeding center ensures their survival. At the end of the day, return to town.

Next, you'll take a walk around Isabela's famous Humedales (wetlands), which are a mere 30-minute hike from the breeding center. This habitat is one of the only places where you can see all four Galápagos mangrove species, which play a vital role in preserving the coastline and protecting marine ecosystems. Besides visiting the mangroves, other tour highlights include walks along the coast to see exotic birds like flamingoes and finches. Afterward, you'll return to Puerto Villamil.

Day 11: Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Tortoise Reserve & Charles Darwin Station

Learn about the cutting-edge environmental projects of the Charles Darwin Research Station

A 2.5-hour boat ride takes you back to Isla Santa Cruz today. Upon arrival, a local guide will meet you for a half-day nature excursion into the island's highlands. It's an excellent opportunity to spot giant tortoises roaming free in the wild. You'll see dozens of these animals and walk right alongside them. Afterward, you'll return to Puerto Ayora and check in to your hotel.

A little while later, you'll visit the famous Charles Darwin Research Station. Scientists from all over the world come to this nonprofit to meet and work together on environmental projects such as water analysis, animal protection, the effects of tourism on nature, etc. It's also a center for conservation where Galápagos tortoises are raised before being released into the wild. A very special part of the tour is visiting the breeding center, where you'll get to view live baby tortoises. There's also an educational aspect in which you'll learn how these animals have adapted to the environments of the various islands.

Day 12: Day Trip to Cerro Mesa Reserve & Garrapatero Beach

Garrapatero Beach
While away the afternoon on the white sands of Garrapatero Beach

Today, you'll return to the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz. The first stop is at the Cerro Mesa Ecological Reserve, a natural habitat for Galápagos tortoises. Also, the reserve's location on a hill at 1,607 feet (490 m) above sea level offers some incredible viewpoints over the coast.

Then head down to the coast and the lovely Garrapatero Beach, where you can spend your final afternoon in the Galápagos relaxing, sunbathing, and swimming. If you like, take a kayak ride along the coastal mangroves, and keep an eye out for exotic birds like flamingoes and mallards. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 13: Transfer to Isla Baltra & Depart

Goodbye, Galápagos
Wake up early for one last breakfast at the hotel. If there's enough free time before your transfer to the airport, do some last-minute souvenir shopping or take a leisurely stroll through Puerto Ayora. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up for the transfer to the Itabaca Channel, which you'll cross via a short ferry ride to reach the airport on Isla Baltra. Adiós!

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos Islands? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, explore other ways to spend 13 days in the Galápagos, or learn about the best time to visit the Galápagos.


Map of Peru & the Galápagos Islands - 13 Days
Map of Peru & the Galápagos Islands - 13 Days