Ecuador

The Ultimate 14-Day Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands Itinerary

For many travelers, Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands are dream travel locations.  After all, both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with the Galápagos Islands being the very first, and the ruins at Machu Picchu are one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.  However, if you ask many travelers, they will tell you that while they dream of visiting such locations, they doubt they will ever get there in their lifetime.  For many, both the Galápagos Islands and Machu Picchu seem like logistically difficult places to visit.

While it is true that Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands both take a bit more planning to visit than your average beach vacation, visiting these two iconic destinations doesn’t have to be difficult.  In fact, if you do the proper planning, these two locations are relatively easy to visit during one exciting trip.  Believe me, I planned and took this trip myself, so I know that it is not only possible, but the trip won’t feel rushed in the least bit.

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In this guide, I am going to layout a fourteen-day dream trip to see both Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands in one action-packed trip.  In order to help make sure that your trip is a success, I have included all of the logistics and planning details in one easy-to-locate spot for you to review.  Using this itinerary, you will be able to pick the best time for you to plan your trip, make sure you make all the necessary pre-trip preparations book the necessary travel to get from one location to the next, find the ideal tours to make your trip special, and find the best accommodations to stay in as you travel.

The Itinerary

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Because both of these locations are more difficult to get to than most locations your accustomed to traveling to, one of the most important aspects of your planning is going to be the logistics of getting from one location to the next.  Not to worry, because I have already spent quite a bit of time working out the best logistical schedule for visiting these two iconic locations in one trip and I have put together a ready-made and traveler tested itinerary for you to use, which I have outlined below.

DAY 1: Fly to Lima, Peru
DAY 2: Tour Lima
DAY 3: Fly to Cusco, Peru
DAY 4: Tour Cusco
DAY 5: Visit Machu Picchu
DAY 6: Fly to Quito, Ecuador
DAY 7: Fly to the Galápagos Islands
DAY 8-12: Tour the Galápagos Islands
DAY 13: Fly to Quito, Ecuador
DAY 14: Fly Home

Before You Go

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Passport and Visa Requirements

One of the most important aspects of your pre-travel planning will be making sure that you have all of the necessary passport and visa requirements taken care of before you leave for your trip.  Because this trip involves travel to both Peru and Ecuador, you will need to make sure you are covered to travel in both countries.  In order to assist you in your preparations, I have included some notes on the requirements you will be expected to meet for both countries below.

Peru’s Passport and Visa Requirements

In order to enter Peru, you must have a passport that is valid for 6 months after the date in which you enter the country.  If you plan on staying in Peru for 90 days or less, you will not need a VISA to enter the country.  However, you must be able to show proof of return or onward travel in order to be admitted.  For additional information, please refer to the website for the US Embassy in Peru.

Ecuador’s Passport and Visa Requirements

To enter Ecuador, you must have a passport that is valid for 6 months after the date in which you enter the country.  If you plan on staying in Ecuador for 90 days or less, you will not need a VISA to enter the country.  For additional information, please refer to the website for the US Embassy in Ecuador.

Immunization Requirements

Before you leave for your trip to Peru and Ecuador, you need to make sure you have all of the proper vaccinations.  Not only to protect yourself but to protect others.  If you have questions on what immunizations you will need and what to look out for when you go to get them, below are some general guidelines I can pass on to you from experience.

  • Most specialized travel clinics will not accept insurance so you will have to pay for your travel consultation and immunizations and then request reimbursement from your insurance company later.
  • Some immunizations aren’t accepted by every insurance company, so check with your insurance provider before getting your immunizations.
  • Check with your regular doctor first, as often they can do a travel consultation for you and write you the necessary prescriptions for your immunizations, even if they aren’t able to give them to you.  This way you can ensure that at least your travel consultant will be covered by your insurance up-front.
  • Check with Walgreens or other drug stores that give flu shots to see if they have any of the immunization shots that you require before going to a specialized clinic that doesn’t accept insurance to get them.  Walgreens can give you many of the immunizations necessary for international travel, and they accept insurance up-front.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can be a great resource for answering any travel immunization questions that you have.

In case you are unsure of what travel vaccinations you might need, I have compiled a list below of some of what you might expect your physician to recommend.

  • Typhoid (either a shot, which is good for 2 years or live virus pill, which is good for 4 years).
  • Yellow Fever – The Yellow Fever vaccination is not required to enter Peru, but it is required to enter Ecuador if you have previously visited an area that is considered high risk for Yellow Fever infection.  I would recommend consulting with your travel health clinic well before your trip to see if you will be required to have the vaccination.  There is a limited number of clinics that provide this vaccination, so do not wait until the last minute.  Please see the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) map of the areas where a Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended for more detail.  You can also refer to the IAMAT website for more details on the Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements for Ecuador).
  • Hepatitis A & B (if you haven’t had them).
  • Tetanus (if you aren’t current).
  • Rabies – Rabies is considered to have been eliminated from the Galápagos Islands, but there are still incidences of Rabies in both Peru and mainland Ecuador.  While post-exposure vaccinations are available for Rabies, the vaccination and the Rabies immune globulin (RIG) need to be administered within 24 hours of exposure.  If you get the Rabies pre-exposure vaccination, you don’t need the immune globulin (RIG) after exposure and you will need less post-exposure vaccinations and you have more time to get them.  If you are trying to decide whether it is appropriate to get vaccinated for Rabies before your trip, please review the CDC’s preexposure vaccination recommendations for Rabies.
  • Dukoral (gives you 3-month protection against travel diarrhea).
  • Flu Shot

Packing Recommendations

Outside of taking care of the passport, visa, and immunization requirements so that you can get into the countries and don’t get sick, there is no more important pre-travel planning task than making sure you pack the right clothing and gear for your trip.  To help make sure you are properly packed and prepared, I have included links to some of my packing resources below for you to review.

READ MORE:
Machu Picchu
The Essential Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail Packing Guide
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Galapagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands Packing Guide
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Suitcase Travel
The Ultimate Travel Packing Check List
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Overhead Bin Airplane
The Essential Carry-On Checklist

DAY 1 – Flying to Lima

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To start your trip, you will be flying into Lima, which is the capital city of Peru.  I suggest checking into your hotel and getting a good night’s rest so that you are ready to begin your adventure on Day 2 of your trip.

DAY 2 – Touring Lima

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Lima is a beautiful city, so I strongly suggest that you take the day after arriving to explore the city and relax a bit before heading on to Cusco.  In addition to being able to explore the city, I always like to leave a day in between travel days when possible as built-in flexibility in case there are flight issues or other delays.  If you would like some tips on what to see in Lima, where to eat, and where to stay while you visit, I have linked to my Lima, Peru Travel Guide for you to review below.

READ MORE:
Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru Travel Guide

DAY 3 – Flying to Cusco

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On Day 3 of your trip, you will be flying to Cusco, Peru.  This is where you will begin your final trek to Machu Picchu.  Depending on whether you would like to spend some more time in Lima or have more time to explore in Cusco, you will want to pick either an early morning or evening flight from Lima to Cusco.

Be aware, the city of Cusco sits at 11,152 feet (3399 meters) of elevation, so your body will need to adjust to the high elevation.  In fact, Cusco sits at a much higher elevation than Machu Picchu, which is only at 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) of elevation.  For some people, the elevation can be a bit much.  If you feel like the elevation might be an issue for you, I would consider heading directly to the Sacred Valley once arriving in Cusco.  You can reach the towns of Pisac, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley by train from Cusco.  If you would like more information, I have included additional information in my Cusco Visitor Guide, which is linked below.

DAY 4 – Touring Cusco

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The fourth day of your trip will be dedicated to exploring the beautiful and amazing city of Cusco, Peru.  This ancient city used to be the Incan Capital and is the gateway city for getting to Machu Picchu.  If you spent your first night in the Sacred Valley after landing in Cusco, I would strongly suggest taking a train back to Cusco at some point to explore this incredible city.  If you would like some tips on what to see, where to eat, and where to stay while in Cusco, I have included a link to my Definitive Cusco, Peru Visitor Guide for you to review below.

READ MORE:
Cusco, Peru
The Definitive Cusco, Peru Visitor Guide

DAY 5 – Visit Machu Picchu

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The fifth day of your trip is when the real magic begins.  Get a good night’s rest because you will likely be getting up really early in the morning on Day 5 to begin your trek to Machu Picchu.  The day will involve an early morning bus ride to the train station in Ollantaytambo, and then a roughly 2-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, which is also known as Machu Picchu City.

Because you will be seeing both Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands on this trip, you won’t be able to hike the full Inca Trail to Machu Picchu on this 14-Day adventure.  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t hike part of the trail if you would like to.  Once in Aguas Calientes, you have the option to take a bus up the switch-backs to the main gate of Machu Picchu, or you can choose to hike up from there.  If you choose to hike, make sure you allow yourself 2-hours to complete the hike.

Be aware, you will need to have a guide to be allowed to tour Machu Picchu and entry tickets are sold for three sessions throughout the day.  When purchasing an entry ticket, you will need to choose between these three sessions and will only be allowed to visit the site during the session time.  Because of this, you will need to manage your time wisely.  For more information on the sessions, the rules for visiting Machu Picchu, and more details on the logistics of getting there, please refer to the guides I have linked to below.

READ MORE:
Machu Picchu
The Ultimate Machu Picchu Visitor Guide
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Inca Trail Andes Mountains
The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail
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Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Photography Guide

DAY 6 – Fly to Quito

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After spending a few days exploring Cusco and Machu Picchu, you will leave Peru on the sixth day of your trip and fly to Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.  When I did my research for this trip, the flight options that I was able to find from Cusco, Peru to the Galápagos Islands were limited.  Not only that, but all had long layovers.  For this reason, and to build some flexibility into the itinerary in case of flight delays or other travel issues, I have made Day 6 of the trip a strictly travel day.

You will fly to Quito, spend the night, and then continue on to the Galápagos Islands the next day.  If you find an early morning flight from Cusco to Quito, you will have some time to explore the city before heading to the Galápagos.  If you are looking for some ideas on what to see, where to eat, and where to stay while in the city, I have included a link to my Visitor’s Guide to Quito, Ecuador for you to review below.  If you aren’t able to spend much time in Quito before heading to the Galápagos, don’t worry because you will have more time to explore the city at the end of the trip when you return.

READ MORE:
Quito, Ecuador
Visitor’s Guide to Quito, Ecuador

DAY 7 – Fly to the Galápagos Islands

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On Day 7 of your trip, you are going to want to get up early and fly to the Galápagos Islands to start the second phase of your amazing adventure.  Like Machu Picchu, the Galápagos can be a challenging place to get to.  If you are booking a tour, then a lot of the logistics will be handled for you.  This is one reason that I strongly recommend booking a tour instead of trying to tour the islands on your own.  However, if you want to tour the Galápagos on your own, it isn’t an impossible feat.  No matter how you decide to visit, I would strongly recommend reviewing my Guide to Getting to the Galápagos Island below before you decide to make any travel arrangements.

READ MORE:
Galapagos Islands From Airplane
Guide to Getting to the Galápagos Islands

DAY 8 – 12 – Tour the Galápagos Islands

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The number of days you spend in the Galápagos will largely depend on how you plan to tour the islands (via a liveaboard tour, a land-based tour, or on your own).  Like I mentioned above, I would strongly recommend booking a tour as they will handle most of the difficult logistics for you.  If you would like to reach the outer island of the Galápagos to scuba dive with Hammerheads, whale sharks, and other marine wildlife, you are going to absolutely want to book a Liveaboard tour.  For more information on good Liveaboard tours and snorkeling and scuba diving in the Galápagos, please refer to my Galápagos Islands Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Guide linked below.

If you don’t plan on doing any scuba diving, get seasick easily, or just prefer to spend your nights on dry land, then you can book a land-based tour that includes snorkeling day trips.  These land-based tours typically stay around Santa Cruz and Isabela Island, so you won’t be able to reach the outer islands to explore.  Don’t let that discourage you, as there is plenty of wildlife to see around these islands.  For a review of what wildlife lives in the Galápagos and where to see it, please see the link to my Galápagos Island Wildlife Guide linked below.  For suggestions on land-based tours and how to get around the Galápagos, my guide on Everything You Need to Know to Visit the Galápagos has all the information you need.

READ MORE:
Galapagos Sea Lion
Galápagos Islands Wildlife Guide
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Galapagos Scuba Diving
Galápagos Islands Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Guide
READ MORE:
Galapagos Marine Iguana
Everything You Need to Know to Visit the Galápagos Islands
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Galapagos Blue-footed Booby
Galápagos Photography Guide

DAY 13 – Fly Back to Quito

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After your time touring the Galápagos Islands, you will fly back to Quito and prepare for your journey home.  I would suggest you do not try and arrange transportation directly from the Galápagos Islands to home as flight issues and other travel delays may derail your trip.  For that reason, I suggest you spend a night in Quito before heading home.  If you would like to explore the city of Quito some more, this is an excellent opportunity for you to do so.

DAY 14 – Fly Home

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On the fourteenth and final day of your trip, you will be heading home.  Hopefully, the trip to see two of South America and the world’s most amazing travel destinations leaves you with memories that you will cherish for a lifetime.  When I took this trip, I certainly made my fair share of memories that I still cherish to this day.

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6 replies »

  1. You write the most comprehensive travel guides I think I’ve ever read and make the destination feel exciting but achievable. Loved reading this and can’t wait for your next post.

  2. I think I like how Cusco looks when compared to Peru. This was a great and timeless article.
    I’m also of the opinion that it’s best to visit multiple places within the same location rather than planning separate trips.
    Thanks for sharing Josh!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words!! I have thought about that exact thing about a number of destinations. Would be amazing to have them all to yourself!!!

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