It is progressively becoming trendy: combination of Galapagos and Machu Picchu. Why not? These are not only highlights of South America, but sites that are on almost everyone’s “bucket list” as well. For such revered destinations, we have put together (rather, tailored) a sample itinerary which will not only allow you to experience it beyond expectation, but also make you always cherish and never forget. So, correcting the phrase, way: introducing the best tour combining Galapagos and Machu Picchu.
This almost three week journey will take you on a pilgrimage – it is not your typical tour to Galapagos and Machu Picchu. You will begin in the Andean city of Quito (Ecuador), dramatically situated at over 2,700 meters (1.7 miles!) above sea level, and hemmed in by volcanoes and mountain peaks that are even higher. Declared the planet’s first “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO, this character-rich colonial city is packed with architectural treasures, picturesque plazas and the vibrant pulse, sounds and sights of everyday indigenous life. After a couple days of sampling the colorful culture of Quito, you will fly to the alluring Galapagos Islands, which were the catalyst for Charles Darwin’s spectacular breakthrough in human understanding of biology. For four+ days, you will swim and snorkel among some of the richest marine life on Earth, become transfixed by the wealth of birdlife that populates stunning forests, and come face-to-face with the 150-year-old giant tortoises that symbolize this living laboratory of evolutionary change – an experience that will undoubtedly inspire you to think differently about our world.
The next leg of your journey will be to the intoxicating and heady nation of Peru, where our principal goal will be to experience the glorious Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Along the way, though, you will visit a number of astonishing sites in this “land of the Inca.” We will land first in Lima (Peru), which – while substantially modern – evidences a civilization that dates back millennia, not to mention a culinary tradition that ranks this capital as one of the world’s best cities for gourmet dining. From the capital we will proceed to Arequipa, a 500-year-old city that was also declared a UNESCO “World Heritage Site” for its rich mix of the indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures. This tour will also take you to the nearby Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world and home to the largest flying land bird in the world: the majestic condor. Of course, a well-rounded tour of Peru is incomplete without an extended trip across Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, with a surface altitude of 3,812 meters (2.36 miles) above sea level). Other visits in the Peruvian Andes will take us most notably to the city of Cusco, which is fused with the finest colonial and religious splendors of Spanish conquest, and later to the Sacred Valley, where the Andean countryside is dotted with indigenous villages, high-altitude hamlets and stupefying ruins. All of this leads up to the country’s biggest draw – Machu Picchu. For most people who travel to South America, a visit to this “Lost City of the Incas” is the much-anticipated highpoint of their trip. The best-known archaeological site on the continent, this awe-inspiring ancient city clearly retains its air of grandeur and mystery, and is a must for all visitors to Peru.
Combining these two destinations is no easy task. If it was a matter of putting together bookings and logistics, you would come up with a rather superficial sightseeing that will not make the most of your time while in South America. This is why we say tailoring – it requires designing and selecting the appropriate “materials” for a journey fit for you – just for you.
“Everything about Surtrek was amazing. The hotels, the food, the tours. Everything exceeded our expectations. I cannot recommend Surtrek highly enough!”
Upon your arrival in Quito — the capital of Ecuador, situated in a dramatic mountain setting at 2,800 meters above sea level — you will be welcomed by our guide and driven to your hotel to rest and acclimatize to the high altitude.
After breakfast, we will tour the city’s historic district – rich in colonial and republican architecture, and possessing museums that are full of history and tradition. You will visit amazing places such as the Church of the Society of Jesus, with its interior covered with gold leaf; Independence Square, the Government Palace, the Cathedral, the Church of San Francisco; and El Panecillo Hill, with its panoramic view of the city.
After touring the historic district, we will head to the north of the city to find the place Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World”) complex, where the planet is divided into its two hemispheres. There, you can straddle the Equatorial line – a great photo op..!! At this complex, we will also visit the monument that honors the 18th-century French Geodesic Mission that came here to measure the roundness of the Earth and pinpoint the equator.
Later, we will have lunch at the Cochabamba Restaurant before visiting the nearby Intiñan Solar Museum to learn about the indigenous worldview of life at the middle of the world.
In the afternoon, you will be driven back to your hotel.
In the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel in Quito and driven to the airport for your flight to the Baltra airport in the amazing Galapagos Islands.
Upon arrival in the archipelago at Baltra airport, you will travel by shuttle bus to the Itabaca Channel, followed by a 5-minute ferry ride to Santa Cruz Island, and then an hour’s drive to the town of Puerto Ayora. En route, we will stop at a Highlands Reserve to see amazing Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild. You will also have a chance to walk through lava tunnels before having lunch at a local restaurant.
We will reach Puerto Ayora in the afternoon, where you will check in at your selected hotel and still have plenty of free time to explore the town at your leisure. Later that evening there will be a welcome dinner for you at a local restaurant.
To protect the fragile environment of the Galapagos Islands, the park administrators control the flow of visitors to the various islands. Consequently, just in case one site reaches is visitor limit for this day, and therefore becomes unavailable for us to visit, we are proposing three alternative sites for day four.
Option 1: BARTOLOME ISLAND*
Departure: 6 a.m. bus pick up.
Travel time: After being picked up from your hotel, a 40-minute bus ride will take you across the island to the Baltra Channel, where we will embark onto a passenger boat that has a restroom and plenty of room to relax for the one-hour journey to Bartolome Island.
The Tour: The tour begins with a hot breakfast on board the boat, along with a short introduction and tour briefing by a National Parks-accredited bilingual (English/Spanish) guide. Once we reach the island, we will disembark and take a short 40-minute walk up to the 114-meter-high summit of the island. The dramatic views here make this a fantastic spot for group photos. The trail leads through a wild and unearthly moon-like lava landscape, a walk that advances along a wooden boardwalk built to protect visitors and the erosion of the trail.
A hot lunch and refreshments are provided back on the boat. After this, you will have a chance to go snorkeling in a small sandy cove in which you can try to keep up with the speedy Galapagos penguins there. Numerous varieties of colorful reef fish, green sea turtles and various rays are also often spotted around this snorkeling site. The best way to photograph the penguins, however, is during the ride in a "panga" (a small boat), which will take you close to the rocks and around Pinnacle Rock. It's possible to get within 3 or 4 meters of the birds while they look on, seemingly uninterested in your fascination with them.
A light snack will be provided on the return trip to Baltra Channel, where the bus will drive you back to your hotel.
Return: Approx. 5 p.m.
(*) Bartolome Island is situated just off the east coast of Santiago Island and is one of the younger islands in the archipelago. This island and Sullivan Bay (off Santiago Island) were named after naturalist and lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan, who was a lieutenant on board the HMS Beagle. Though having a total land area of just 1.2 sq. km., Bartolome Island offers some of the most beautiful landscapes in the archipelago. The island consists of an extinct volcano and a variety of red, orange, green and black glistening volcanic formations.
Option 2: PLAZAS ISLAND*
Departure: 8 a.m. bus pick-up
Travel Time: A 40-minute bus ride, followed by a 30-minute boat ride
Tour: Once on the island, we will follow a path through a forest of Opuntia cactus, which often reach heights of 10 meters. Sometimes it's difficult to know where to step due to the large numbers of land iguanas that inhabit the island; they feed on the succulent flowers of the cactus plants here. A 1 km.-long trail will take us through sea lion colonies and along a cliff top where Swallow-tailed gulls and other species nest. This is an excellent vantage point for photographing a variety of sea birds. Lunch will be served on the boat before we proceed to Punta Carrión (near the Baltra Channel) to go snorkeling with sea lions and non-aggressive whitetip reef sharks.
Return: Approx. 4:30 p.m. (depending on sea conditions)
(*) Isla Plazas consists of two small islands just off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island, though visitors can only visit the south island.
Option 3: NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND*
Departure: 8 a.m.
Travel time: After being picked up from your hotel, a 40-minute bus ride will take you across the island to the Baltra Channel, where you will embark onto a passenger boat that will have a restroom and plenty of room to relax for the 20-minute journey to North Seymour Island.
The Tour: The tour begins with a guided tour by a National Parks-accredited bilingual (English/Spanish-speaking) guide. We will trek along a 2.5 km trail through the nesting sites of the largest breeding colonies in the islands. Here you will find Blue-footed boobies, Magnificent and Great frigate birds, and swallow-tailed gulls. This will also present a chance to see sea lions, Galapagos land iguanas, marine iguanas, lava lizards and pelicans. At the conclusion of the land tour you will return to the boat for a hot lunch and refreshments, before travelling to Las Bachas Beach on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island. Here you can go snorkeling or take a relaxing walk along the beach. During the snorkel, it's possible to see many colorful types of reef fish, various rays, benign Whitetip reef sharks and Green turtles.
Returning to the Baltra Channel, the bus will then transport you back to your hotel.
Return: Approx. 4 p.m. (depending on sea conditions)
(*) North Seymour Island — 1.9 sq./km. and located approximately 7 km. north of Baltra Island — is the site of one of the largest and most active sea bird breeding colonies in the islands. It is a very dry island with no natural sources of water, leaving the animals, namely the land iguanas, to rely on the succulent flowers of the cactus plants for nourishment. Whatever time of year there is always some kind of courtship, mating, nesting or chick rearing to observe.
After enjoying your included breakfast at the hotel, the morning adventure will start. We will go on a trip to Tortuga Bay, a white-sand beach stretching alongside natural emerald-green ponds filled with thousands of colorful fish. It's also common to see turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas and pelicans.
After lunch, we will leave for to Isabela Island by speed boat, a voyage of about 21/2 hours, depending on sea conditions. Upon our arrival, you will check in at Hotel and still have time to leisurely explore the town.
Following breakfast, we'll head out for the Sierra Negra Volcano. After driving to the highlands of Isabela Island, we will start hiking up the slopes of the volcano to the edge of its crater. The Sierra Negra — reaching an altitude of around 1,500 meters, and having an outer diameter of approximately 9 kilometers — is the second largest lava dome in the world. We will hike along the cone to the resting place on its northeast side.
We will have lunch at Campo Duro, which is a charming organic farm whose owners prepare their food with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Cooked on a lava-rock grill, you can enjoy a delicious lunch that will be followed by a walk through fruit tree trails. Or, you can opt to just take a nap in one of their hammocks and breathe the clean, pure air beneath a huge Mango tree.
In the afternoon, we will visit Las Tintoreras, taking a short boat trip across Isabela Island's harbor. After passing the sea lions and pelicans that bathe in the sun on the fishing boats there, we will reach the small island of Las Tintoreras. Here, we will take an easy walk through the bizarre lava landscape with its huge colonies of marine iguanas. A colony of sea lions also live here and it's common to see whitetip reef sharks resting in the water near the shore.
The views from here will be memories that you'll carry for the rest of your life! The treacherous black lava field, the emerald green sea, the red mangroves, and the cloud-capped volcanoes of Isabela Island create an afternoon backdrop you're not likely to ever forget.
We will head out on an early morning departure (6 a.m.) to Santa Cruz Island. Upon arrival, we will visit the famous Charles Darwin Research Station. This center includes an information center, a museum, a library, and a tortoise breeding station. Park rangers and park managers — along with others who make tremendous efforts to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site — work here for the conservation of the islands. In the tortoise breeding center you can see tortoises of different subspecies that are being prepared for reintroduction into their natural habitats.
Enjoy your last look at these "enchanted islands," a unique and wondrous paradise! You will then be accompanied to the Baltra airport for your return flight to the Ecuadorian capital of Quito.
After breakfast, you will fly out of Quito en route to Lima. Upon your arrival at the international airport in Lima, our representative will welcome you and provide you with all the needed assistance.
From there, you will be driven in a private vehicle to your hotel, where all the services included in your tour package will be explained.
Following breakfast at the hotel, we will go on a thorough culinary tour of the city of Lima. This will first take us to a market, where you will receive an explanation about the different types of seafood collected from our coastline. We will also visit stands of fresh produce from our region before going to one of the best local seafood restaurants to learn how to prepare “ceviche.”
After that, we will go to a traditional tavern for you to sample some of our fine liquors — including various mixes of our famous Pisco Sour — and learn how to prepare Peruvian cocktails yourself. In addition, this culinary tour will introduce you to the tastes of traditional “anticuchos,” refreshing “chichamorada” and our sweet “picarones.” In the afternoon you will be driven to the airport for your domestic flight to Arequipa.
In the morning, we will go on a walking tour of Arequipa’s colonial San Lazaro district, the city’s oldest section. We will visit the Plaza de Armas, the Municipal Palace (fronted by ashlar-stone arches), the Cathedral, the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (“the Church of Jesus’ Company”, which was built in the 17th century by the Jesuit missionaries and possessing an exquisite cloister), and the Church of San Francisco (built in the 16th century, along with its beautiful park). We will then visit the Santa Catalina Monastery, founded in 1579 and remaining as the most important and impressive religious monument of Peru. We will continue the tour to the Yanahuara historic district, famous for its Andalusia churches and its lookout point. Our tour will then proceed to the Carmen del Alto District, with its beautiful view of agricultural terraces in the distance, before finishing up in the Selva Alegre residential district.
Following breakfast at the hotel, we will head out at 8:30 a.m. to Colca Valley, traveling through the scenic villages of Yura, Pampa de Arrieros, Pampa Cañahuas (within the Agua Blanca National Reserve, where llama-like vicuña can be sighted), Vizcachani, and Tojra (whose wetlands are a resting point for a variety of migratory birds can be found there all year long). The trip continues through Chuccura and Patapampa, visiting an observation deck for viewing area volcanoes.
At around 13:30, we will arrive in the picturesque village of Chivay, where you will have a chance to stretch, walk through the town, and visit the colorful market. Following this, we will visit the nearby the La Calera hot springs for a relaxing soak in naturally heated waters. Lodging and dinner at the hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel, departing at approximately 6:15 a.m. to visit Cruz del Condor observation plaza. Here, you can appreciate the depth of Colca Canyon, which is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. From this site, you should also be able to sight majestic condors in their natural habitat.
Afternoon transfer to the city of Puno via private transportation and with a guide.
After breakfast at your selected hotel, we will sail across the Inca's sacred Lake Titicaca to visit the Floating Islands of Uros – a group of 44 artificial islands made of floating reeds. These were originally constructed for defensive purposes, since they could be moved if a threat arose. Influenced by Aymara culture, the inhabitants there still practice various ancient rituals.
Breakfast at the hotel. Early in the morning, we will drive to the bus station for a ride to the city of Cusco. During this journey, we will visit the church of San Pedro de Andahuaylillas, also known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Americas” due to its ceilings’ golden décor. We will also stop at the Raqchi archeological site, where you will be able to visit the spectacular sanctuary built by the Inca emperor Pachacutec and dedicated to the Incan deity Wiracocha. The structure has a towering central wall with a stone foundation based on developed Incan architecture.
After lunch, we will make our way to the highest point on the route, the La Raya mountain range. Soon after, we will reach the archeological ruins of Pukara, which is noted for its pyramid. Once we arrive in Cusco, you will be transferred to your selected hotel.
Free morning. In the afternoon, we will visit the city of Cusco on a guided sightseeing tour. During this excursion, we will visit the Main Square, the Cathedral, and the Temple of the Sun (or “Koricancha”). We will then drive out of the city to visit the Inca sites of Qenqo, Tambomachay, the impressive Sacsayhuaman fortress, and take in the panoramic view of the ancient Puca Pucara military ruins. Transfer to your hotel.
Guided excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. You will have a chance to learn about the customs of this region’s people and enjoy shopping in the picturesque traditional Pisac market, followed by a visit to the impressive Pisac archeological ruins.
After a lunch buffet in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we will travel through the scenic mountains of Calca and Urubamba en route to the Ollantaytambo fortress, built to guard the entrance to this part of the valley and protect it from possible invasion from jungle-based tribes. Overnight in the Sacred Valley
After breakfast, we will drive to the train station for your locomotive journey to the town of Aguas Calientes. From there, you will take a 30-minute bus ride up to the citadel of Machu Picchu. At this UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site, which is also one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” you will begin your tour of this 15th-century Inca site situated at 2,430 meters (7,970 ft.) above sea level. Here, you will be able to admire its steps, temples, sanctuaries and terraces. There is still no known explanation as to how the Incas could have moved 20-ton stones to the top of Machu Picchu, which adds to making this a uniquely wondrous and spiritual site. We will have lunch in the afternoon and later return to the hotel.
Breakfast (included) at your hotel. Day of leisure for exploring Machu Picchu on your own. In the afternoon, you will be driven to the train station for your ride back to Cusco.
Transfer to the airport in Cusco for your flight back to Lima to connect with your international flight.
“We loved every moment of our trip and could not have done it without Ligia and Surtrek. I highly recommend them!”