Exploring South America: Planning a Tour of Machu Picchu and the Galapagos

Experience both the wildlife of the Galapagos and the culture of Machu Picchu on one unforgettable trip…

Machu Picchu and Galapagos

If you’re planning a vacation to South America, locations like Machu Picchu and the Galapagos should be at the top of your list.  

Machu Picchu is one of UNESCO’s Seven Wonders of the World - and it’s not hard to see why. Built in 1450 AD, this ancient Inca site is worth a visit if you want to learn more about South America’s cultural heritage and take in some stunning landscapes. For nature lovers, the Galapagos Islands are a real treat. This archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is home to a variety of unique animal and plant life, as well as geological wonders like lava tunnels.  

But which should you visit? If you’re struggling to choose between the two, there’s no reason you can’t visit both destinations in a single trip. For those looking to fully immerse themselves in South American Culture and see the best of the region’s unique wildlife, a trip to both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos is ideal.

It's easy to travel from The Galapagos islands to Machu Picchu and vice versa, as both locations are relatively close to each other, with flights between Quito and Lima taking just under two hours.

Scott Dunn Travel Specialist Renata Da Silva says: 

“Combining the Galapagos with Peru and Machu Picchu offers an excellent balance of wildlife, culture and history. Though it involves a lot of traveling, you really do end up seeing such a breadth of landscapes and iconic sites, so if you have time aplenty, it’s well worth the combination.” 

Things To Do in Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands 

With both destinations offering a range of experiences for everyone to enjoy, it can be hard to narrow down your ideal itinerary for a Machu Picchu and Galapagos trip. To inspire you, here are a few of our favorite things to see and do at each destination: 

What To Do in Machu Picchu 

While the ancient settlement itself is the main attraction at Machu Picchu, there are several ways you can experience this site. Starting from Cusco, there are multiple hiking routes to Machu Picchu, ranging from treks that take you through the jungle, to the famous Inca Trail. If you want to arrive in style, we’d recommend taking the Inca Rail train up the mountain for stunning views and ultimate convenience.  

Our travel specialist Eli at Machu Picchu

Once you’ve visited Machu Picchu, there is still plenty to explore in the region. Plan a trip to the nearby Sacred Valley, soaking up more impressive landscapes, or immerse yourself in Inca culture by spending some time in Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire. If you have more time, you could discover other destinations in Peru, such as the vibrant Amazon rainforest, or the bustling city of Lima.

What To Do in the Galapagos 

Since the Galapagos are a collection of islands, there’s an almost unlimited number of things to see and do in the Galapagos. For this portion of your Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands tour, you can fill your itinerary with a variety of experiences, from diving expeditions that get you up close and personal with the region’s unique marine life to visits to wildlife centers where expert guides will teach you all about the species that call these islands their home. Or, for those who want to experience a bit of everything, why not choose a luxury cruise that shows you the best of the islands?  

Scott Dunn Private Travel Specialist Hannah Dawson says: 

“Peru is a country bursting with stunning scenery, color, and culture - not forgetting one of the most iconic world wonders. It’s just full of diverse experiences and fascinating history. Then, add in the Galapagos for the ultimate trip of a lifetime discovering the incredible underwater world, walking around ruins, exploring lava fields, or meeting playful sea lions and giant turtles. No day is the same. Every day will feel like waking up on a new island with drastic landscapes set under beautiful starry skies; suddenly you are in a whole other world.” 

If you want even more inspiration, take a look at our guide on everything you need to know about the Galapagos islands.

Our travel specialist Hannah visiting the giant tortoises on the Galapagos

Luxury Tours of the Galapagos and Machu Picchu 

Eager for a Machu Picchu and Galapagos tour that encompasses the best of both destinations, as well as luxurious touches like a private, local guide? Try our expert-led Ultimate Peru and Galapagos tour

This comprehensive tour is 15 nights long and blends authenticity with luxury for an unforgettable vacation. Enjoy experiences such as up-close underwater encounters with some of the Galapagos’ incredible marine life and excursions through Inca ruins, led by an expert, local guide.   

We also offer a range of Galapagos-specific tours, as well as Peru tours that focus on the famous Inca sites, so you can choose an itinerary that suits you.  

When Is the Best Time To Travel to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos?

Since Peru and the Galapagos are below the equator, their seasons are the opposite of those in the US - while it’s winter in the US, it’s summer in South America and vice versa. Thankfully, both areas stay warm no matter the season, with temperatures in the 60s in Peru and the 80s in the Galapagos throughout the year.  

While there’s not really a ‘best time’ to visit the Galapagos - thanks to warm temperatures and sunny conditions most months - the best time to visit the Machu Picchu region of Peru is from April to November, between rainy seasons.  

We think the best time to visit both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos is between April and May or September and October, making the most of dry conditions but avoiding peak summer crowds, especially at Machu Picchu. If you plan on spending some time in the water during your visit to the Galapagos, springtime also brings calmer (and warmer) seas. You can, however, still enjoy activities like diving or snorkeling in the fall months - just don’t forget to pack a wetsuit.  

How Long Do You Need for a Trip to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu? 

A visit to both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos can be as long or short as you like. We suggest a minimum of eight days for this vacation, but the longer you can spend in this region, the better, with 12 or 14 days being a good amount of time to enjoy both destinations. 

When planning a trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos, how you divide your time between the two is again up to you. We recommend 5-6 days in the Galapagos and 6-7 days in Peru, giving you enough time to soak up the best that both these destinations have to offer. If you’re planning to hike the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu, this alone can take up to four days, so bear this in mind when planning your trip.  

Need some guidance? At Scott Dunn, our travel specialists can help you plan your ideal trip, no matter how much time you have. All of our tours and itineraries can be tailored to fit around what you want to see and do and where you want to spend the most time. 

FAQs About Travel to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos 

Here are some common questions our guests ask when looking at a Machu Picchu and Galapagos vacation.  

Which Destination Should You Travel to First? 

Which destination you visit first is entirely up to you, but if you’re traveling in April or November, you may want to consider the weather. 

While conditions are good throughout the season, if you’re traveling in the spring, we recommend visiting the Galapagos first to ensure the best weather conditions for your visit to Machu Picchu. Similarly, if you’re traveling at the end of the year, we suggest visiting the Galapagos second, so you miss the worst of the weather in Peru.  

What Should You Pack for the Galapagos and Machu Picchu?  

What you need to pack will depend on what activities you’ll be doing on your Machu Picchu/Galapagos islands tour. For both destinations, you’ll need clothing that’s suitable for hot weather and staying active. You’ll need some light layers for your time in Peru, as well as a waterproof jacket.  

If you’re hiking up to Machu Picchu, remember to pack appropriate shoes, as well as a water bottle and day bag you can take other essentials in. For the Galapagos portion of your trip, you won’t have access to shops, especially not if you’re on a boat, so be sure to bring any essentials and swimwear so you can take part in water activities like snorkeling.  

Aside from clothing, here are a few things we recommend packing:

  • A camera 
  • Sunscreen
  • Medications 
  • Toiletries
  • Bug spray/bite cream 

Are Trips to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Suitable for Families? 

The Galapagos is a great destination for family vacations, with plenty to see and do for visitors of all ages. Older children can enjoy more adventurous experiences like snorkeling or hiking through lava fields, while little ones can marvel at marine life on glass-bottom boat trips.  

Machu Picchu is better suited to a trip with older kids as the hike up to it can be physically demanding. But if you are traveling with younger children, you can still experience Machu Picchu together by taking a train to the top and enjoying beautiful views of the Sacred Valley on your way up.  

Can You Extend Your Tour To Include Other South American Destinations? 

Of course you can! At Scott Dunn, our travel specialists will help extend your tour and plan a vacation that’s bespoke to you. Whether you want to combine your tour with a visit to Chile’s Atacama Desert or travel further afield to Brazil’s buzzy carnival capital, we’ll help you arrange the trip of a lifetime.

Meet our South America Specialists

Call us on 858 523 9000 to start planning your holiday

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