Galapagos and the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
16 Days/15 Nights
From $5,779 per person
(Dbl. Occupancy, Not Incl. Airfare)
Galapagos and the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu combines two of the most popular destinations in South America. Your tour begins in Quito, which has a well-preserved colonial center and spectacular views of the Andes and nearby volcanoes. You will then travel to the Galapagos Islands for a five day cruise aboard the Galapagos Legend, where you will enjoy plant and animal species that are found nowhere else on Earth. The final part of your tour will be an amazing hike of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the spectacular mountain top citadel known as the ‘Lost city of the Incas’.
Lodging and Meals: This tour includes accommodations for 15 nights (2 nights in Quito, 4 nights on the Galapagos Legend, 2 nights in Lima, 3 nights in Cusco, 3 nights on the Inca Trail, and 1 night in Machu Picchu) and 31 meals (15 breakfasts, 9 lunches, and 7 dinners).
Best Time to Go: April-October.
Category: Galapagos & Machu Picchu Tours.
Places Visited: Quito, the Galapagos Islands, Baltra Island, Fernandina Island, Isabela Island, Rábida Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santiago Island, Guayaquil, Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu.
Note: The route and program may vary according to National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes, safety reasons and wildlife encounters.
Dry Landing: Guests step from the dinghy directly onto rocks or a dock.
Wet Landing: As the dinghy edges onto a sandy beach, guests step into knee-deep water and wade ashore.
Day 1 (Tue): Quito.
Depart to Quito. After passing through immigration and customs, proceed to the reception area, where our representative will be holding a sign with your name on it. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Quito.
Day 2 (Wed): City Tour of Quito-Middle of the World.
In the morning, you will have a city tour of Quito. You will explore the bustling streets and squares of the largest historical centre in the Americas, and visit some of its most important churches such as the majestic La Compania and iconic San Francisco, guardians of a stunning multi-ethnic artistic and cultural heritage. You will drive through the traditional neighborhood of San Juan and finish the morning at the Panecillo hillside, with its breathtaking views of the old and modern parts of the city.
Following the city tour, you will be driven to the “Middle of the World City” complex, which is located 11 miles north of Quito. Here, you will see the monument of the equatorial line, a 98 ft high stone trapezoidal monument with a brass globe on top. The monument forms the focal point of a park and leisure area with gift shops and restaurants. Overnight in Quito. (B)
Day 3 (Thu): Quito-Baltra Airport-Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz).
Morning transfer to the airport in Quito for the flight to Galapagos. Passengers are picked up at the airport by our guides and taken on a ten minute bus ride to the pier to board the M/V Galapagos Legend.
Bachas Beach (wet landing). On the north side of Santa Cruz; behind the beach lies two small flamingo ponds where iguanas sunbathe, see coastal birds, Darwin finches, mockingbirds, and gulls, as well as interesting native vegetation like red and black mangrove, and salt bushes. This beach is one of the main sea turtles nesting sites in the Galapagos. A turtle can lay eggs 3 or 4 times per season with an average of 70 eggs each time. At this paradisiacal site, you will also find the remains of barges that sank a long time ago, when the United States Navy operated a base during World War II on Baltra Island. Local people modified the word barges to “Bachas”. (Duration: one hour walk / one hour snorkeling/beach time). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 4 (Fri): Egas Port (Santiago)-Rabida.
Egas Port (wet landing). Egas Port is a black volcanic sand beach, visited by Darwin in 1835. The first section of the trail is formed of volcanic ash (eroded tuff) and the other half is an uneven terrain of volcanic basaltic rock. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago shore is home to a variety of animals including the bizarre yellow-crowned night heron and marine wildlife including lobster, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally light-foot crabs. It is easy to see colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water volcanic rock pools. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour snorkeling).
Rabida Island (wet landing). Dark-red sand covers the unique beaches of this island, home to sea lion colonies; Rabida is considered the epicenter of the Galapagos Islands due to the diversity of its volcanic geology. Nesting brown pelicans are found from July through September plus nine species of the famous Darwin’s finches. Here a dinghy ride along marine cliffs is done, to observe nesting seabirds. Snorkel off the coast, where marine life is particularly active. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour snorkeling/one hour dinghy ride). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 5 (Sat): Urbina Bay-Tagus Cove (Isabela).
Urbina Bay (wet landing). Volcanic black beach, depending on the season, it is possible to find giant tortoises, land iguanas, and the unusual flightless cormorant. After a short walk inland it´s snorkeling time, a chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions, and countless tropical fish. Urbina Bay features a wide variety of plants with the different range of colors in flowers, attracting different insects, birds, and reptiles. One of the highlights of the island is the uplifted coral reef that resulted from the 1954 seismic activity; here the views of Alcedo Volcano are remarkable. When navigating from Urbina to Tagus Cove whale watching is possible from May to December. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour snorkeling).
Tagus Cove. Dry landing on Galapagos’ largest island where you will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that form it. The trail leads to Darwin’s salt-water crater-lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations. You will return by the same path for a dinghy ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where you will admire a variety of seabirds, such as Blue-footed Booby, Brown Noddy, terns, Flightless Cormorant and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos Penguins which are only 35 cm tall; the only penguin species in the world to live in the tropics.
The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000 individuals, most of which live on this western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south. You will have an opportunity to snorkel in deep water. Graffiti believed to have been left by 19th-century pirates is a curious reminder of an intriguing past. (Duration: 2 hour walk/40-minute dinghy ride/one hour deep water snorkeling). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 6 (Sun): Espinosa Point (Fernandina)-Vicente Roca Point (Isabela).
Espinosa Point (dry landing). From Espinosa Point, it is possible to admire a wide view of Isabela Island across the Bolivar Channel. This area boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. Here, the largest, most primitive-looking marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Fernandina offers a wonderful opportunity to encounter flightless cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos penguins and the “King” of predators on the islands, the Galapagos hawk. Pa-hoe-hoe and AA lava formations cover the majority of Fernandina terrain. Vegetation is scarce inland, with few brachycereus cacti and in the shore mangrove can be found. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour snorkeling).
Vicente Roca Point. Experience great deep-water snorkeling at one of the richest marine havens on Earth, the Bolivar Channel. Accessible by water, you take a dinghy ride along the coast to observe a great diversity of sea and coastal birds; Nazca and blue-footed boobies, noddies, brown pelicans, penguins, and flightless cormorants. The upwelling of cold water currents in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life, a perfect place for deep snorkeling. (Duration: one hour snorkeling/one hour dinghy ride). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 7 (Mon): Highlands Tortoise Reserve (Santa Cruz)-Baltra Airport-Guayaquil.
Highlands Tortoise Reserve (dry landing). In the mountains of Galapagos you can observe different kinds of birds, including tree and ground finches, vermillion flycatchers, paint-billed crakes, yellow warblers, and cattle egrets (usually standing on the tortoises’ shell). The journey to the reserve also offers a great opportunity to see contrasting ecosystems. The road goes from the coast through the agricultural zone and straight up to the dense humid forests. Often, Galapagos Giant Tortoises are seen on the way, wandering through pastures in the paddocks. This spot is a bird watchers’ haven since almost every land bird present on the island lives or migrates here. (Duration: 45 minute drive/1.5 hour walk).
After the visit, you will be transferred to Baltra Airport for your flight to Guayaquil. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Guayaquil. (B)
Day 8 (Tue): Guayaquil-Lima-City Tour.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Lima, Peru. After passing through immigration and customs, proceed to the reception area, where our inbound services representative will be holding a sign with your name on it. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel.
In the afternoon, you will have a city tour of Lima. The tour begins in Miraflores with a stop at the Parque del Amor, a seaside park with a huge statue of a kissing couple and continues with a drive by of the Huaca Huallamarca, a restored adobe pyramid dating from the pre-Inca period located in San Isidro. The next stop is the Plaza de Armas in downtown Lima, where you will visit City Hall (Palacio Municipal), the Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno), and the Cathedral of Lima. The last stop is the Convent of Santo Domingo. Following the tour, you will be returned to your hotel. Overnight in Lima. (B)
Day 9 (Wed): Lima-Cusco-City Tour.
Early morning transfer to the airport for the flight to Cusco. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Because of the high altitude (10,912 feet above sea level), we recommend that you rest for a short period. In the afternoon, you will have a city tour that includes a walk-through of the Cathedral, the Koricancha (‘site of gold’), typical streets, and the four ruins that surround the city: the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, Kenko, Puca Pucara, and Tampumachay. Overnight in Cusco. (B)
Day 10 (Thu): Cusco-Sacred Valley-Awanakancha-Pisac Market-Ollantaytambo.
Today you will have a full-day excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The tour begins at Awanakancha, a living museum of the Peruvian Andes, where you can observe traditional textile dyeing and weaving techniques and the four types of camelids that are native to the region. You will also visit the Indian artisan market in Pisac and have lunch at a local restaurant (included). The last stop is the impressive Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo that served as both a fortress and ceremonial center, and is the site of a short-lived victory by the Incas over the Spanish. Overnight in Cusco. (B,L)
Note: The Indian market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from October to March, and daily from April to September. On the days of the week that the market is not open, you will be taken to the Inca ruins above the village.
Day 11 (Fri): Cusco-Chilca-Inca Trail.
Early morning transfer by minivan to the town of Chilca (km. 82), the start of the Inca Trail. We begin escorted by native “quechua” porters going through semi-arid terrain along the Urubamba River with magnificent views of snowcapped mount Veronica (18,636 feet). We walk past the Inca hamlet of Huayllabamba, an ancient Inca citadel that protected the entry to two valleys. Overnight on the Inca Trail. (B,L,D)
Day 12 (Sat): Inca Trail-Warmiwañusqa-Pacamayo.
We will begin to climb the first pass, Warmiwañusqa (13,776 feet), where there is a spectacular view of the valley below. At this pass we move from the dry puna ecology to elf forest, the highest of the tropical forest types where gnarled trees grow to two meters amid fog and low clouds, habitat for a profusion of orchids and strange animals. On this night, we will camp along river Pacamayo at the bottom of the pass. Overnight on the Inca Trail. (B,L,D)
Day 13 (Sun): Inca Trail-Runku Rakay-Sayacmarca-Wiñayhuayna.
After breakfast, we will hike towards Runku Rakay and traverse the second pass of the same name (12,464 feet). We will descend to Sayacmarca, an important archaeological complex, where we will have lunch. We will spend the night near the ruins of Wiñayhuayna, which means ‘city above the clouds’. Overnight on the Inca Trail. (B,L,D)
Day 14 (Mon): Inca Trail-Inti Punku-Machu Picchu.
We will arise very early so that we may watch the sunrise from Inti Punku and have our first breathtaking view of Machu Picchu ‘the Lost City of the Incas’ (7,900 feet). This mountaintop citadel, which served as both a center of worship and an astronomic observatory, is located in the middle of the cloud forest overlooking the Urubamba River. There are both agricultural and urban areas constructed with the precision stonework that the Incas are known for. The agricultural area consists of terraces and food storehouses, and the urban area contains temples, squares, and royal tombs. Guided tour followed by lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Aguas Calientes. (B,L)
Day 15 (Tue): Machu Picchu-Cusco.
This is a free day to explore Machu Picchu on your own. You may want to hike Huayna Picchu or enjoy another activity. Mid-afternoon, you will depart from Machu Picchu by train to Poroy Station in the Sacred Valley, and then be taken to your hotel in Cusco. Overnight in Cusco. (B)
Day 16 (Wed): Cusco-Lima.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Lima and your final destination. (B)
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
About the Inca Trail
The Incas built a vast network of roads to communicate with the four regions of their vast empire. The network was called Qapaq Ñan (the sovereign’s highway) or Inca Road, and was made up of stone paths suitable for two or three people with trains of llamas. Rivers were crossed by hanging bridges and the steep slopes were mastered with steps and ramps. There are remains of the Qhapaq Ñan throughout Peru that are still used to this day by local villagers and farmers. One of the most impressive and best preserved roads is the trail that links Cusco and Machu Picchu. Today, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu allows the visitor to step back in time and walk through a variety of eco-systems and dazzling scenery. The length of the 39 kilometers (24 miles) includes unforgettable views, archaeological remains; 400 different species of orchids and begonias, exotic trees like the pisonay, the queñual and innumerable species of fauna in their natural habitat, such as the cock-of-the-rocks, llamas and vicuñas, the white-tailed deer, the vizcacha and, if visitors are lucky, the endangered and vegetarian spectacled bear. The Inca Trail is one of the world’s leading trekking and camping routes. (Source: PromPeru)
A Note About Your Free Day in Machu Picchu
On your free day, you will be on your own. If you choose to revisit Machu Picchu, you will need to purchase a second entrance ticket, which currently costs $74 per person. If you are staying in Aguas Calientes, you will also need to purchase a round-trip bus ticket ($28 per person) for transportation to the site. The first bus departs at 5:30 AM. As an alternative to visiting Machu Picchu again, you can hike Huayna Picchu (a +/- 60 minute hike), or partake in another activity. The cost for hiking Huayna Picchu is $13 (in addition to the second entrance ticket). At the end of the day (mid-late afternoon), you will walk to the train station for the return ride to Poroy train station, where our local representative will be waiting for you to take you to your hotel in Cusco.
- South American Vacations’ expert pre-departure planning services and documentation.
- Airport/hotel transfers including baggage handling.
- Hotel accommodations including taxes and service charges.
- Accommodations on board the M/V Galapagos Legend.
- All meals scheduled on board and others as indicated on the itinerary.
- Excursions to the islands conducted by English-speaking naturalist guides.
- Evening briefings and lectures.
- Use of snorkeling equipment.
- Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, and other excursions as indicated on the itinerary including all applicable entrance fees.
- Double occupancy tents.
- Camping equipment: Bathroom tent, kitchen tent, dining tent, chairs, tables, and comfortable mattresses.
- Cook, porters to carry food, tents, and cooking gear.
- Porters for personal belongings (one for every two passengers).
- Coffee breaks during the trek, first aid kit/oxygen.
- Local, English-speaking tour guides.
Price Does Not Include
- International airfare.
- Domestic airfare.
- Fuel surcharge for the ship ($50).
- Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee ($100).
- Transit control card ($20).
- Meals not indicated on the itinerary.
- Gratuities to ship crew and naturalist guides, tour guides, porters, drivers, and hotel staff.
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Gifts and personal items.
- Travel insurance.
We will be happy to quote the cost of international airfare, domestic airfare within Peru, and travel insurance, and to make these arrangements for you.
Group Private: All services included in Quito and Galapagos are operated on a group basis. The city tour of Lima, city tour of Cusco, and the Sacred Valley excursion are group tours for single passengers and 3 star accommodations and private for 4 Star, 5 Star, and Deluxe accommodation levels. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu hike is a group tour.
Elevations: Quito is 9,350 feet above sea level, Cusco is 10,912 feet, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is 8,944 feet, the Inca Trail varies from 8,528 feet to 13,776 feet, and Machu Picchu is 7,900 feet.
IGTOA’S Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund: South American Vacations is an active member of IGTOA (International Galapagos Tour Operators Association). In support of IGTOA’s Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund, we contribute $20 for each passenger that we send to the Galapagos Islands. You’ll travel knowing that you support the lasting protection of Galapagos Islands.
Sixty percent of the funding of this program goes directly to the Charles Darwin Foundation for science, conservation, and education. Their work, carried out through the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapagos National Park, is vital to the preservation of the islands. You can visit their web site to learn more www.darwinfoundation.org. The remainder goes toward IGTOA’s mission of creating a model of responsible and sustainable tourism.
Passport/Visa: For Ecuador, U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Ecuadorian embassy in their country before traveling. For Peru, U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Peruvian embassy in their country before traveling.
Travel Insurance: In order to protect your travel investment from unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance. We offer Allianz Global Assistance’s Classic Comprehensive and other plans. The Benefits and Coverage Limits are summarized on our Travel Insurance page. Call your travel counselor if you have any questions or to purchase a plan.
To Book This Trip: We require a non-refundable deposit of $1,250 per person plus the cost of the international airfare (if we make the arrangements for you). The balance of the trip cost is due 60 days prior to departure.
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