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Bucket List South America: Machu Picchu & The Galapagos tour

Bucket List South America: Machu Picchu & The Galapagos

Great Value Vacations
4.3 . Great
93%
Travel Style: A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
11 days
From: $ 4,361 $ 396 / day
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Overview

Highlights

  • Travel across cities and villages in Peru and Ecuador as you discover ancient history and astonishing scenery!
  • Arrive in seaside Lima, Peru's vibrant capital, then fly to the heart of Incan culture in historic Cusco.
  • Catch your breath as you reach the entrance to Machu Picchu, a magnificent 7th World Wonder!
  • Visit one of the largest markets in Latin America in Otavalo and observe the daily life of Ecuador's indigenous people.
  • Explore the Galapagos, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean that is considered one of the world's top destinations for wildlife-viewing.

Short Description

Check two of South America's most popular cultural and natural treasures off your bucket list: Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands!

Please note that the altitude in some parts of this itinerary may not make it ideal for small children.

The excursion is shared with international travelers and accompanied by an English-speaking guide.

Trip Type N/A
See all the highlights and popular spots on a classic tour.
Itinerary Focus Classic Highlights
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Airfare included
Start City Lima
End City Santa Cruz Island

Trip Includes

  • Round-trip economy class airfare into Lima (LIM), out of Baltra (GPS)
  • All airport and rail station transfers
  • 2 nights in Lima at the Jose Antonio Deluxe Hotel, or similar
  • Lima Colonial & Modern City Tour with San Francisco Monastery & Larco Herrera Museum (5 hours)
  • One-way economy class flight from Lima (LIM) to Cusco (CUZ)
  • 2 nights in Cusco at the Costa del Sol Ramada Hotel Cusco, or similar
  • Tour of Cusco and surrounding ruins (4 hours)
  • Round-trip vistadome train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
  • Round-trip shuttle bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  • Guided tour of Machu Picchu ruins (2.5 hours)
  • One-way economy class flight from Cusco (CUZ) to Quito (UIO)
  • 3 nights in Quito at the Hotel Mercure Alameda Quito, or similar
  • Quito city tour with Equatorial Monument (5.5 hours)
  • Otavalo Indian Market Tour with lunch (full-day)
  • One-way economy class flight from Quito (UIO) to Baltra (GPS)
  • Visit to the Highlands of Santa Cruz, with lunch (en-route from Baltra Airport to Puerto Ayora hotel)
  • 3 nights in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) at the Fiesta Hotel Galapagos or similar
  • Full-day boat excursion, with lunch
  • Visit to La Grietas
  • Visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station
  • Breakfast daily

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Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Lima!

Welcome to Peru! Arrive in Lima then enjoy a transfer to your accommodation. Founded in 1535 by the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizzaro, Lima is a modern metropolis filled with colonial richness. Also known as the “City of Kings,” Lima is divided into 43 districts, each with its own magic and magnetism.

The weather tends to be warm and humid throughout the year, with a thick fog called the “garua” during the winter months (May to December).

The capital is synonymous with gastronomy, so on your first night enjoy a typical Lima meal - ceviche and a pisco sour!

Transfer to Lima hotel

Day 2: Lima

Today, enjoy a 5-hour tour taking you to Lima's modern and historic highlights! Stroll through the Plaza de Armas, feel the cool ocean breeze at El Parque del Amor and see ancient art at the Larco Herrera Museum.

After the tour, pay a visit to the Church of Santo Domingo and its massive convent. Originally completed in the 16th century, this impressive pink church has a beautiful shady courtyard lined with baroque paintings and clad in vintage Spanish tiles.

Lima Colonial & Modern City Tour with San Francisco Monastery & Larco Herrera Museum (5 hours)

Embark on a city tour through old and new Lima! Begin at the Plaza de Armas with its colonial buildings like the Government Palace, the Municipality, the Palace of the Archbishop and the Cathedral, among others. All these buildings are gathered around the history-laden square.

Then visit San Francisco Monastery with its maze of tunnels and catacombs that served as a mass grave. After touring the historic city center, head to the modern districts of San Isidro and Miraflores. In San Isidro, stroll through the Olive Park (El Olivar) where old olive trees stand tall next to modern shopping centers. In Miraflores, visit the Park of Love (El Parque del Amor) from where you have a view over the cliffs and the Pacific.

Ending the tour, you will visit the fascinating Larco Herrera Museum. With more than 45,000 objects of pre-Columbian ceramics, textiles and gold and silver pieces, it houses one of the most impressive collections in Latin America. It is also known for its exhibition of erotic ceramics of the Mochica culture.

Day 3: Lima - Cusco

Transfer to Lima airport this morning for your flight to Cusco! South America's archaeological capital and oldest continuously inhabited city is now one of Peru’ most important and most frequented tourist destinations.

Nevertheless, it iretains its vivid legacy as the hub of the Inca Empire: Quechua-speaking Inca descendants can still be found strolling the centuries-old stone-walled city streets. Cusco also boasts magnificent repositories of colonial art – fine examples can be found in the Cathedral and Museum of Archaeology.

Transfer to Lima airport (LIM)

Fly to Cusco!

Transfer to Cusco hotel

Tour of Cusco and surrounding ruins (4 hours)

Go on a city tour of Cusco with visits to the most important landmarks of both Inca and Spanish Colonial times! Begin at Qoricancha, known as the Temple of the Sun and the most important temple of the Incas. A catholic monastery, Santo Domingo, was built over the Inca temple in 1572, and the fascinating contrast can still be seen today.

Continue to Cusco Cathedral, considered the best repository of colonial art from the Cusco School. Built over the palace of the Inca Wiracocha, it was considered the religious and political center of Cusco during the Inca era. After ooing and awing at the cathedral, walk through the Inca Street of Loreto, a fine sample of the old town and its remarkable Inca walls.

Leave the city to the outer parts of Cusco with important ruins of the Inca Empire. Between them, the most important is the archaeological park of the fortress-temple Saqsaywaman which shows precise zigzags of massive stone to which centuries could not do any harm.

Day 4: Cusco - Aguas Calientes - Cusco

Transfer from your hotel to Ollantaytambo in Peru's Sacred Valley. Board the Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes, the town that serves as the base for exploring Machu Picchu. Ride past snow covered mountains, scenic river valley, small villages and diverse flora until you reach the train station at the foot of Machu Picchu.

Wind up a twisting road by shuttle bus and arrive at the most famous Inca ruins in the world where you will embark on a 2.5 hour tour.

In the late afternoon, return to Aguas Calientes by bus and take the Vistadome train back to Ollantaytambo. From Ollantaytambo, you will be transferred back to your hotel in Cusco.

Transfer to Ollantaytambo train station

Train to Aguas Calientes!

Bus to/from Machu Picchu

Train to Ollantaytambo

Transfer to Cusco hotel

Guided tour of Machu Picchu ruins (2.5 hours)

Machu Picchu, the "lost city of the Incas," is not only one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, but also the biggest treasure of Peru’s past and the empire of the Incas. Undiscovered by the Spaniards and forgotten over centuries, it was in 1911 that the American scientist Hiram Bingham came upon it accidentally.

Still today, the ruins leave scientists with numerous questions and riddles on how it was built and for which purpose. Theories vary but one thing is for sure: Machu Picchu is one of the most impressive and exciting places in the world, sublime and majestic on top of the mountain and surrounded by impenetrable rainforest.

Enjoy a guided tour of the marvelous citadel, visiting the main plaza, the Temple of Three Windows, the circular tower, the sacred sun dial and the burial grounds!

Day 5: Cusco - Quito

Say goodbye to Peru as you transfer to Cusco airport for your flight to Ecuador's capital of Quito! Set in a hollow at the foot of the volcano Pichincha, Quito is a bustling city surrounded by hills and several snow-capped mountains. It is known for its treasures of Colonial churches, monasteries, paintings, sculptures and carvings and the magnificent blend of Spanish, Flemish and Moorish architecture.

In 1978, Quito was declared by UNESCO as a “Patrimony of Mankind." Altogether the city has 86 churches and monasteries of the 16th and 17th century. Due to its beautiful churches and monasteries, Quito is called and known as the “Convent of America”.

This attractive city is located only 13.7 miles away from the “Middle of the World," the Equatorial Line.

Transfer to Cusco airport (CUZ)

Fly to Quito via Lima!

Transfer to Quito hotel

Day 6: Quito

Wake up and enjoy a 5.5-hour tour of Quito's highlights including Panecillo Hill and the “Middle of the World” - the Equatorial Line.

Later, head to Quito's Old Town and admire its picturesque plazas and magnificent churches. San Francisco Square is a great place to get a true sense of the city!

Quito city tour with Equatorial Monument (5.5 hours)

Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Quito through the historical center of this culturally diverse city! See the Independence Square with the Government Palace and the Cathedral (outside), admire the facade of church La Compania de Jesus. Afterwards, visit the famous hill of the old town, Panecillo (little bread) where you will see the angel statue “Virgen de Quito.”

Later, visit the Equatorial Line Monument called “Middle of the World” where you get a truly rare experience to stand in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres simultaneously!

The Equatorial Monument marks the spot where an 18th-century French scientific expedition established the exact position of the Equator. The area has been built as a typical colonial town, with restaurants, gift shops and Post Office with philatelic sales. Visit the monument and Ethnographic Museum, which shows the history of the Indian cultures of Ecuador.

Day 7: Quito

Take an approximately 2-hour bus ride today to Otavalo, a town in the Andes that hosts a famous crafts market dating back to pre-Incan times.

Once in Otavalo, visit the traditional Indian market and be amazed at the colorful textiles, clothing and more on display! Then head to Cotacachi village, famous for its leatherworks.

Otavalo Indian Market Tour (full-day)

Discover the world-famous Indian handicrafts market in Otavalo. Otavalo's indigenous residents have achieved economic prosperity as a result of their skill in weaving a tremendous variety of designs in belts, tapestries, ponchos and other clothing items. Residents have a long tradition as artisans and traders and they commonly travel to Europe and other countries in the Americas to sell their wares.

See families wearing their colorful clothes and speaking Quichua as their first tongue and Spanish as their second in this typical indigenous city. Enjoy the unique variety of handicrafts at the giant market and take some new souvenirs with you.

Continue to the town of Cotacachi, known as Ecuador’s center for leatherworks. Here you can stroll along the small streets and pop into the various shops to pick up a unique leather souvenir.

Day 8: Quito - Galapagos

Depart Quito and fly to Baltra Island in the stunning Galapagos! From the airport, take a bus to the Itabaca Canal where you will board a ferry to the other side of Santa Cruz island.

Santa Cruz is the second largest island of the Archipelago and is the most important harbor. Colonized since the 1920s, Puerto Ayora is the main tourist hub and is home to the Galapagos National Park headquarters and the Charles Darwin Research Station.

En route to your accommodation, enjoy a tour of the Santa Cruz highlands where you will see the Twin Craters (Los Gemelos)!

Transfer to Quito airport (UIO)

Fly to Baltra!

Transfer to Puerto Ayora hotel

Santa Cruz Highlands Tour with lunch (en-route to Puerto Ayora hotel)

Visit the Santa Cruz highlands and see the Twin Craters, also known as Los Gemelos. Located side by side and connecting Puerto Ayora to Baltra, the magnificent Twin Craters were formed as a result of the collapse of the crust into the crater. There are many craters of this type in this area, signaling the possibility that these craters are all elements of the same fissure.

The vegetation of this area is dominated by Scalesia trees, giving the whole landscape a lush green feel. See a lava tunnel and take a short walk where you can observe the famous giant tortoise in its natural environment. Have lunch in the highlands.

Day 9: Santa Cruz Island

Pack lots of sunscreen and water because today you are going on a full-day boat excursion to one of the Galapagos Islands! Depending on time of year and availability, you will visit either North Seymour, South Plaza, Bartholomew, Santa Fe or Dragon Hill. Each island is unique and offers plenty of opportunity for exploration and wildlife viewing.

Full-day boat excursion, with lunch

On this full-day boat excursion, visit one of the Galapagos islands and witness the astonishing wildlife all around you. Enjoy lunch on board.

You will visit one of the following islands:

North Seymour: Located North of Baltra, North Seymour is one of the best places to see blue-footed boobies and Frigatebirds. Blue-footed boobies are found on the flat area near the coast and nest from May to November. Continuing the trail to the interior, stumbles upon the biggest congregation of Frigatebirds in the island. While on North Seymour, there is a high chance of seeing a Frigatebird robbing a booby, a gull or even another Frigate bird for food.

South Plaza: This island is famous for its extraordinary flora like the towering cacti "trees" that form the principal diet for both the land iguanas and the cactus finch. Other birds that may flutter by include lava gulls, yellow warblers and red-billed tropicbirds with their elaborate tails. You also might see a large colony of sea lions lounging in the sun!

Bartholomew: A tiny island of just 0.5 square miles, Bartholomew offers one of the most spectacular views of the Archipelago. Located near the west coast of James, on the other side of Sullivan Bay, the island is famous for its Pinnacle Rock, which is the representative characteristic of Bartholomew. The climb to the high peak is both challenging and worth-doing. On your way up, you will encounter different formations of volcanic origin like spatter and tuff cones, lava flows and lava tubes. Once on the summit, admire the spectacular view of the surroundings.

Santa Fe: The island of Santa Fe is one of the oldest islands of the archipelago. Its age and isolation have allowed several endemic animals to evolve, including species of land iguana, rice rat and gecko. On the northern coast, visit Bahía Barrington, a small tranquil bay where you can observe green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and Frigatebirds. Sea lions are the most obvious sight on Santa Fe with two large colonies on the beaches and pups playing with snorkelers in the bay.

Dragon Hill: This rocky, low-lying hill on the northwestern side of Santa Cruz Island is home to an impressive population of Galapagos land iguanas, or miniature dragons. Explore the desert-like landscape, pass through forests of cacti and fragrant Palo Santo trees and see flamingos at the lagoon!

Day 10: Santa Cruz Island

Journey to an unforgettable snorkeling and swimming spot in the Galapagos, known as Las Grietas. Under the shade of steep cliffs, you will have the chance to observe the colorful fish pass beneath you!

Later in the day, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, a biological research station and breeding center housing an extensive collection of preserved specimens of Galápagos plant life and the famous giant tortoise.

Visit to La Grietas

Las Grietas (The Cracks) is a rocky bay surrounded by high cliffs and an amazing spot to snorkel! See the colorful fish below the crystal clear water of many shades of blue. Reach this gem after a short water taxi ride from the pier of Puerto Ayora and a 15-minute walk along the incredible volcanic landscapes of the Galapagos Islands. On the way, pass the Playa de los Alemanes (Beach of the Germans), where you can stop for a break to enjoy the sun and swim in the refreshing ocean.

Visit to Charles Darwin Research Station

When Charles Darwin came to the Galapagos Islands in 1835 he found some truly incredible species of animals and in turn, became inspired to develop his theory of evolution. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and find the famous giant tortoises, the baby-tortoise house, iguanas and more!

See how the conservation of the islands is conducted and understand the huge efforts of scientists, park rangers and park managers to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Above all, the reduction of brought-in animals is very important to the natural balance of the archipelago. The Research station supports scientists all over the world with their work at Galapagos.

Day 11: Depart Ecuador

Today marks the end of your bucket list vacation in South America. At the scheduled time, transfer to Baltra airport for your flight home. Look over your photos as you start planning your next adventure!

Transfer to Baltra airport (GPS)

Fly home!

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Price Per Day: $ 396 per day
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Bucket List South America: Machu Picchu & The Galapagos

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The customer service was excellent

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When I booked with Great Value I was nervous because it seemed too good to be true. Nope, just a really great deal. I was able to take my dream trip to Ireland and Scotland and it was within my budget. Everything was covered, my lodging, flights, and rental car. There was no hidden fees, or fine print that would nickel and dime me later on, as "good deals" usually have. I also had to change the date of my trip and the customer service was excellent and this change was simple. Thank you Great Value, I'll be using you every time I travel from now on
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Everything on the trip was excellent.

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Everything on the trip was excellent. The only concern with any services from GVV was initial communications ahead of the trip regarding when and how we'd receive all our travel vouchers, as some were available online, and some were to be picked up in country upon arrival. It took no less than 5 phone calls to learn some vouchers would be picked up in country. The trip was outstanding, exhausting, but gloriously beautiful. It was exhausting from the perspective of moving around the country and only a few places were 2 nights. But, we knew that going in, and we wanted to see ALL of Switzerland and this certainly checked those boxes. We saw majestic mountains, we saw countless waterfalls and glaciers. The trains in Switzerland were all clean and we felt safe. The hotels were good with delicious breakfasts each morning. Overall, I would recommend GVV to a friend or family member and I would personally book another vacation with GVV.
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Our trip was amazing!

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This was my first time planning a trip out of the country. I read previous reviews who had a good experience with Great Value Vacation. Our trip was amazing! The booking and reservations were easy to use with the vouchers provided. The staff was helpful. The only downside was I upgraded to have an automatic vehicle and they gave me a stick shift. It took a while to get sorted out but other than that I loved my trip! I will definitely use great value vacations again when I book my next trip. I opted for the additional wine tasting package and I did not regret it! I recommend adding those additional tours to get a more complete experience.
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Great customer service

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My wife and I recently booked our vacation through Great Value Vacations. We were a bit nervous to travel to Europe for the first time, but we are glad we did. Great Value Vacations took care of us. Great customer service. Seamless transactions. They booked the hotels and flights for us. All we had to worry about were the daily activities! I would highly recommended them. The hotels offered through the package were as advertised: nice and in great locations. The flights times were also convenient. The best part was the price. I am thankful for the experiences Great Value Vacation was able to provide for us!
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Really enjoyed both of my trips

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Really enjoyed both of my trips through Great Value Vacations. I went on one family trip to Ireland (Adare villa, rental car with trips out to Dublin, Cliffs of Moher and more) . The villa was very comfortable with a kitchen, three bedrooms, and proximity to the local shops /restaurants. We were able to upgrade to an automatic car and had fun navigating to each location on our itinerary. The trip as planned by the agency still leaves time for exploring on your own and since we picked a trip with our own transportation, we had flexibility on which tours we wanted to do and when.

My second trip was a solo trip to Scotland. I like to go on vacation by myself sometimes, but it can be hard to find ones where you aren’t penalized for being on your own. This train trip to Edinburgh, Inverness, and Glasgow worked out really well for me. The hotels were all near the train stations and in safe areas (good lighting, plenty of people, etc.). I got a good mix of options for sightseeing in each city. The hop-on, hop-off bus circuit was especially useful for getting around Edinburgh. I also added an extra tour on in Glasgow to see nearby castles and a distillery and was very glad to have done so as the views of the countryside were amazing!

Summary: Have enjoyed my previous experiences and would definitely use again
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Above and beyond our expectations

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Just got back from our trip to Italy booked through Great Value Vacations & was our dream come true! We could not have gone if it were not for their unbelievable rates. Each 4 Star Villa we stayed at was above and beyond our expectations...I cried after leaving each part of our journey. I am so glad I took a leap of faith and would HIGHLY RECOMMEND booking with them. Besides the Villas being beautiful, great locations, clean, and great staff; each place we arrived at actually said, "They said to give you a very nice room." (with a rate of just under $1,900 a piece for 9 nights not counting travel days at 4 stars Villas in Rome, Tuscany, & Venice including airfare and rent a car... a few friends told us to expect the worst rooms at the places we were staying ~ NOT the case! Our rooms had the best views...I could go on and on. Every step of the way was smooth with no worries whatsoever. Thanks again GVV! LOVED IT!
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Details

Flights & Transport

Airfare included

Group Size:

Intimate Group - 12 max

Accomodations

  • Hotel Jose Antonio Deluxe
  • Hotel Costa Del Sol Ramada Cusco
  • Hotel Mercure Alameda
  • Hotel Fiesta Galapagos

Trip ID#:

greatvaluevacations-PK-GC4P-SH-BLSA-LIM

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