The Ideal Galapagos Islands & Machu Picchu Two Week Itinerary

If you are planning a short trip to South America, then obviously the two places at the top of everyone’s list to visit are the beautiful Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and the mysterious Machu Picchu in Peru. Here’s a fully planned 2 Week Galapagos Islands & Machu Picchu itinerary to help you to see both.

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How To Visit The Galapagos Islands & Machu Picchu In Two Weeks

A couple of things to mention about this two-week itinerary.

 

Firstly, the Galapagos Islands are an expensive place to visit compared to mainland Ecuador. Secondly, you will have to get four flights:

 

 

  • Return flights from Quito to the Galapagos Islands
  • A flight from Quito to Lima
  • A flight from Lima to Cusco (you can’t fly direct to Cusco from Quito)

 

Therefore, it will end up being an expensive trip compared to if you just stuck to mainland Ecuador. We’ve outlined a rough budget guide at the end of the itinerary as well so you can see how much it might cost.

Here’s the complete two-week Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu itinerary:

 

 

  • Day 1 – Quito
  • Day 2 – San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 3 – San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 4 – Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 5 – Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 6 – Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 7 – Isabela Island, Galapagos Island
  • Day 8 – Quito
  • Day 9 – Lima
  • Day 10 – Cusco
  • Day 11 – Aguas Calientes
  • Day 12 – Machu Picchu / Aguas Calientes
  • Day 13 – Cusco
  • Day 14 – Cusco / Fly home

Day 1 - Quito

Quito’s historical centre is filled with museums and cultural attractions that are more than enough to keep you entertained for a whole day.

 

The best way to see the city is on the free walking tour. The tour takes you to lots of places including Plaza Grande – the main square which includes the presidential palace, and La Ronda – the popular tourist street filled with galleries, craft shops, and restaurants.

 

If you want to stay an extra day in the capital, then head to the guide below for more great things to do in Quito including chocolate tasing, hiking and visiting the equator:

 

 

How To Get From Quito To The Galapagos Islands

You can’t fly directly to the Galapagos Islands from a foreign country, so you will have to travel to Quito first or Guayaquil if you can find better flights there.

 

The two airlines that fly to the Galapagos Islands are LATAM and Avianca. Return flights cost between $300-450 depending on where you fly from and land (flights are slightly cheaper from Guayaquil). You won’t be able to find many deals cheaper than this but if you can be a bit flexible with your dates, you will find the cheapest flights on weekdays.

 

Make sure you check out our guide on flying to the Galapagos Islands so that you are prepared. There are a couple of extra things you need to do before checking in compared to a normal flight:

 

 

Day 2 - San Cristobal Islands, Galapagos Islands

You can fly directly to two of the islands in the Galapagos: San Cristobal or Santa Cruz.

 

Flying into San Cristobal is better as the town is a 5-minute taxi ride from the airport (compared to a 45-minute journey on Santa Cruz).

 

Once you’re off the plane, checked in and your bags are dropped off, it’s time to go exploring. A short walk from the town of Puerto Baquerizo will take you to the Interpretation Centre – a small museum dedicated to the history of the islands. You can spend an hour walking around and learning about the fascinating history of the islands.

 

As you leave the centre, a path will take you along the coast to the Cerro Tijeratas viewpoint where you can get great panoramic views of the town and see the famous Kicker Rock out at sea.

 

If you continue along the path, you will eventually reach Playa Punta Carola, a crescent-shaped, fine sand beach filled with sea lions and the odd marine iguana bathing in the sun.  Find a good spot to sit and chill with the sea lions and watch the sun go down to complete your first magical day on the Galapagos islands.

Day 3 - San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands

On your second day on the Galapagos Islands, it’s time to go and see more of the famous endemic species.

 

You can book a ‘tour’ in town (which is basically just a taxi driver) to take you to the north side of the island to visit the Giant Tortoise Sanctuary.

 

The tour costs $60 in total and will take you on three stops. First to the highland lagoon ‘El Junco’ to see nesting frigate birds and a collection of other bird species. The second stop is Puerto Chino beach, another secluded spot where you can sight blue-footed boobies among the coastal rocks and catch marine iguanas and sea lions on the beach.

 

The third and final stop is the Giant Tortoise Sanctuary. This is a semi-open enclosure where you can wander around and see these gentle giants. The habitat is also part of the successful breeding programme that has helped increase tortoise population numbers over the last few years. There are a couple of small enclosures where you can see babies and you may even get to see them feeding if you turn up at the right time.

 

Other options for things to do on San Cristobal include a day tour snorkelling at Kicker Rock to see sharks and sea lions, or even diving if you are fully qualified.

 

To see more great  free activities on the Galapagos Islands, head to the post below:

 

 

Day 4 - Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands

Santa Cruz is the more developed of the three main islands. The town has more restaurants and bars to enjoy compared to San Cristobal, so you can spend some time exploring the town first.

 

The waterfront is a pleasant walk where you’ll come across the fish market set in front of a small harbour. The market is a popular place for tourists in town because Lupe the Sea Lion is there. Lupe has been visiting the market every day for around the last 10 years. Apparently, she turned up one day, got fed and hasn’t stopped coming back since.

 

After that, it’s a 20-minute walk from Puerto Ayora to get to the Darwin Research Centre.

 

The centre is a fantastic educational space dedicated to the conservation of the rare animals that live on the Galapagos islands.

 

Here you can also see another giant tortoise breeding facility but this one is fully enclosed. The centre is open 7:30-12:30 and reopens 14:00-17:30; you’ll want to spend 1.5-2 hours here as there are lots to see.

How To Get From Island To Island In The Galapagos

The best way to get from island to island in the Galapagos is by ferry.

 

The ferry is straightforward and easy to book and ferry tickets cost around $25-30 depending on which island you are travelling to.

 

The day before you wish to travel you can book a ferry ticket from one of the many vendors or tour shops in town.  You will see signs outside advertising tickets.

 

When travelling from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz, best to take the early morning ferry (07.00 AM) so that you can get to Santa Cruz early and have the whole day to explore. The ferry takes around 2-3 hours and is more of a speedboat than an actual ship so be prepared if you suffer from seasickness, it can get bumpy.

 

For more ferry times, check the timetable here.

Day 5 - Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands

In the morning, rent some snorkel gear and take a water taxi from the port to the entrance of Las Greitas.

 

Las Greitas is a huge crevice that has formed between the volcanic rock of the island. The gap is now filled with ocean water and great for snorkelling in. The water is refreshingly cool, and the high cliffs of the crevice give a lot of shade to escape the powerful equatorial sun.

 

In the afternoon, a 45-minute walk from town will take you to one of the islands best beaches.

 

Tortuga Bay is a secluded beach surrounded by mangrove trees. It’s another excellent spot for snorkelling, catching some sun and marvelling at the Galapagos wildlife.

 

Along the beach, you can see marine iguanas crawling out of the sea and up onto the beach to warm up and if you go snorkelling, try looking for baby sharks, rays, and turtles in the mangroves.  You can also rent kayaks if you want to explore the bay further. 

Day 6 - Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

Take another early ferry (07.00 AM) from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island.

 

Once you are settled at your accommodation, your first stop is Flamingo Lake to see the largest concentration of flamingos on the Galapagos islands.

 

After that, time for snorkelling at Concha de Perla – a very calm bay, with crystal clear waters. This is one of the most popular spots for snorkelling as you have excellent visibility. If you’re lucky, you may get to snorkel with turtles, watch penguins diving for food as well as swimming with all varieties and colours of tropical fish.

 

This first half of the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu itinerary is based on our 7-day DIY land-based itinerary for the Galapagos Islands. To see some alternative Galapagos Island itineraries for 5 days or 10 days, check out our other plans detailed in the post below:

 

 

Day 7 - Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

For your last day on the Galapagos Islands before heading to Machu Picchu, it’s time to treat yourself to a paid tour.

 

Tours on the islands can be expensive (around $100 on average or more in peak season). This Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu itinerary tends to avoid them to keep costs down but once you get to Isabela it’s worth paying for one as the island has some of the best tours.

 

Two popular tours include the Lava Tunnels or Las Tintoterras.

 

The Lava Tunnels tour will take you snorkelling through the naturally formed lava tunnels along the coast. These tunnels were created by the cooling of lava when it reached the ocean, creating canals filled with lots of marine life and perfect for snorkelling in.

 

Las Tintoreras is a series of islets situated close to Isabela Island. The tour offers a chance to see Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, sea lions, blue herons, and crabs. You can also snorkel to see white tip sharks and sea turtles.

 

If you would prefer to check out a volcano then this is the place. Isabela has several active volcanoes on the island. The most well-known, Sierra Negra volcano, last erupted in 2008 and has the second largest caldera in the world measuring 7km by 9km! Pahoehoe offers tours for $60.

Are you looking to travel to the Galapagos Islands on a budget? This itinerary and the activities we have outlined are part of our guide to help you visit the islands on the cheap. Be sure to check it out for more great tips:

 

 

Day 8 - Quito

On your final morning on the Galapagos Islands, you will need to take a ferry back to either San Cristobal or Santa Cruz for your return flight as there’s no airport on Isabela. Depending on how you feel, you can either leave early and spend more of your time in Quito or take a later flight for more time on the Galapagos Islands.

 

If you decide to spend the day in Quito, then there are some great half-day activities you may want to fit in like visiting the ‘Middle of the World’ to step on the equator or riding the cable car up to the Volcano Pichincha summit.

 

For more ideas on how to spend your time in Quito, check out the post below:

 

 

And if you are a backpacker following this itinerary, then head here for our favourite backpacker hostels in Quito:

 

 

Day 9 - Lima

On to the second part of this two-week Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu Itinerary.

 

You can’t fly directly to Cusco from Ecuador, so we need to get to Lima first. The flight from Quito to Lima takes 2 hours 20 minutes. COPA and LATAM are two popular airlines, and it should cost around $150 one way, $350 return.

 

You have a few options for how to do this part of the journey:

 

 

  • Option 1 – On day 8 you could fly straight to Lima after returning to Quito
  • Option 2 – On day 9 you can fly to Lima in the morning and spend the day, then fly to Cusco the next day
  • Option 3 – On Day 9, you can fly to Lima and then take a connecting flight straight to Cusco

 

We will leave this one up to you. It really depends on whether you are okay with a slightly more hectic day to get to Cusco or if you want to see a bit of Lima.

If you decide to stay in Lima for a day, then be sure to check out our guides:

 

 

How To Get From Lima To Cusco

Return flights from Lima to Cusco are cheap and shouldn’t cost more than $100. The flight takes 1 hour and 15 minutes, and LATAM or SKY are your best bet for airlines.

 

In our opinion, there isn’t much on offer in Lima compared to Cusco, so we suggest going with option 3. We’ve compared both cities here in this handy guide to help you decide if you are still unsure though:

 

 

Day 10 - Cusco

The ancient capital of the Inca Empire, known for its wealth of archaeological remains and beautiful colonial-era architecture. It is now one of the most popular backpacker hubs in all of South America.

 

On your first day, start with a free walking tour to get a good idea of the city. We went with Inkan Milkway. The tour was in English and very informative with lots of interesting information about the Incas and their culture.

 

Then in the afternoon, you have lots of activities to choose from. You can visit one of the many chocolate museums in town for a tasting session or you can go for a massage – they are super cheap in Peru and start at around $10 for an hour-long session.

 

For an evening meal, try Limbus Resto Bar for the best view in Cusco along with great food and cocktails.

Day 10 - Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is the town closest to Machu Picchu and the hub for travellers before they start their trek up the mountain.

 

You have two options for getting there: train or bus

 

The train is much more expensive than the bus, but the journey is packed full of beautiful sights as the train goes through the Sacred Valley. Take the bus if you are trying to stick to a budget.

 

Here’s a quick comparison of both options:

Method Cost Time Advantages Disadvantages
Train (Return)
$130 - 210*
3-4 hours
• Fastest route
• More scenic route
• Goes all the way to Aguas Calientes
• Most expensive
Bus (Return)
$25 - 30
7-8 hours bus + 3 hour walk
• Cheapest option
• Only takes you to Hidroelectrica
• 3-hour walk from Hidroelectrica
• Long journey

*prices vary depending on the company and on which carriage class you choose

Booking the train to Machu Picchu can be confusing due to all the different times, companies, and options on offer. For more information on how to book the train and prices:

 

 

 

Or if you want to save money and take the bus, then we’ve outlined the full journey here as well as how to book your tickets for Machu Picchu:

 

 

Day 12 - Machu Picchu

Your journey to Machu Picchu starts from Aguas Calientes. This is straightforward; all you need to decide is whether to walk up the stairs to the top of the mountain or take the bus.

 

The bus costs money and is easy. The walk is free but hard.

How To Get the Bus From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu?

If planning to take the bus, there’s no need to reserve; you can buy a ticket on the day. Buses leave from the town of Aguas Calientes, close to the train station.

 

The bus costs $12 each way. The buses are frequent (every 5 minutes) and it takes around 10-15 minutes to reach the entrance to Machu Picchu at the top of the mountain.

 

The first bus is at 05.30 AM and the last one leaves at 15.30 PM.

 

This will be the fastest option for reaching the top. If you have booked an early entrance ticket and want to reach the top for sunrise, then this is a good option to reach the top for 06.00 AM. You should be one of the first in and be able to get some photos with the place completely empty.

How To Walk From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu?

Walking from Aguas Calientes To Machu Picchu is straightforward and this option is better for budget travellers as it is free.

 

The entrance gate where you show your Machu Picchu ticket is a 20-minute walk from Aguas Calientes. Once here, you will need to show your ticket and your passport. Then the stairs are a 5-minute walk from the entrance.

 

The climb is challenging but rewarding, and the views on the way up are spectacular. It’s over 1,000 stairs and will take between 1-1.30 hours depending on your level of fitness.

 

Bring lots of water and positive energy as it’s hot and incredibly steep! If you are fast you can still reach the top early and beat the crowds.

Day 13 - Cusco

After visiting Machu Picchu, we recommend returning to Aguas Calientes for the night and resting, then returning to Cusco the next morning.

 

Alternatively, if you booked an early ticket to MP (6 AM entrance), then you will get back down to Aguas Calientes by midday most likely, so you could return to Cusco on the same day if you wish.

 

The last buses from Hidroeletrica to Cusco leave at 3 PM, so if you are taking the bus back you will need to be down from Machu Picchu by 11 or 12 PM at the latest, to give you enough time to do the 3-hour walk back to Hidroelectrica.

 

You have one final day in Cusco so best make it a good one. There are so many great activities, both in and outside of the city. Or you can just relax and enjoy some of the great restaurants and bars.

Day 14 - Cusco / Return Home

That’s the end of this two-week Galapagos Island and Machu Picchu Itinerary.

 

Again, there aren’t many international flights to and from Cusco so you will have to return to Lima and then take your international flight home from there.

 

If you don’t have two weeks to spare, then keep reading to see how to do this Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu itinerary in ten days instead.

Galapagos Islands & Machu Picchu 10 Day Itinerary

If you only have 10 days to spare, then simply cut down your Galapagos Islands visit to 5 days instead of a week.

 

Skip over Isabela island and just visit Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. You can see almost everything the islands have to offer from the beautiful landscapes to most of the famous animals visiting just two islands.

 

Another way to save a day on this itinerary is to fly from the Galapagos Islands back to mainland Ecuador, and then straight to Lima and then Cusco on the same day. It may be a lot for one day, but if you can manage it, it will give you an extra day in Cusco.

 

You could also fly into Quito and then fly immediately to the Galapagos Islands on the same day if you aren’t that interested in the capital.

Here is the complete 10-day Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu Itinerary:

 

 

  • Day 1 – Quito
  • Day 2 – San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 3 – San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 4 – Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 5 – Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
  • Day 6 – Quito > Lima
  • Day 7 – Cusco
  • Day 8 – Aguas Calientes
  • Day 9 – Machu Picchu / Aguas Calientes
  • Day 10 – Cusco / Fly home

For more great itineraries for travelling around Ecuador, Peru and South America in general, be sure to check out the posts below:

 

 

 

How To Visit The Galapagos Islands & Machu Picchu On a Budget

If you are a backpacker looking to follow this itinerary and visit the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu on a budget, then here are some tips.

 

For visiting the Galapagos Islands on a budget:

 

 

  • Return flights to the Galapagos islands cost around $350 and you need to pay extra entrance fees costing $120 which goes towards the conservation of the islands. Make sure you factor this into your budget
  • Budget $50 a day on the Galapagos Islands for food, accommodation, and transport
  • Visit for 5-days instead of 7 to keep costs down
  • Don’t book any day tours as they are too expensive, follow our DIY itinerary outlined above and stick to all the amazing free activities to save money

Machu Picchu is a little easier to visit on a budget:

 

 

  • Take the bus, the train is too expensive. A return bus to Aguas Calientes is around $30
  • MP tickets cost $60

 

We’ve broken down every stage of this Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu itinerary for budget travellers and backpackers in more detail here:

 

 

  • How To Visit The Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu On a Budget