With some canny planning, it’s possible to tick off two of Latin America’s bucket-list staples — Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands — in one itinerary, visiting Peru’s Cusco and Sacred Valley in between, with some time exploring Quito, Ecuador’s colonial capital
A taste of Lima
Fly into Peru’s capital direct with British Airways and spend a night in one of the high-end hotels in Miraflores or Barranco. Don’t leave town without sipping a pisco sour cocktail or two and checking out Lima’s much-lauded food scene.
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Fly to Cusco, sat 11,150ft above sea level -— nine airlines fly this route, including LATAM. Cusco was the centre of the universe for the Inca, their ‘naval of the world’, and it’s a good base to spend a night while getting used to the altitude. Start the next day with a short transfer into the Sacred Valley of the Incas before visiting sites such as Písac and Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo’s train station is the springboard for a scenic train ride along the valley to the hot springs town of Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu.
For a flasher option, the Tambo del Inka hotel in Urubamba even has its own train station serving Machu Picchu. You can also catch trains from Cusco, including Belmond’s luxurious Hiram Bingham and Inca Rail’s new Machu Picchu sightseeing train, launched in December 2017.
Majestic Machu Picchu
From Aguas Calientes, the fancier hotels shuttle guests up to Machu Picchu where, under the new permit system introduced last July, tickets must be booked for either 6am to midday, or midday to 5.30pm.
Having taken in the great Incan citadel, transfer back to Cusco by train or road and overnight once more, before taking a flight via Lima to the Ecuadorian capital of Quito with LATAM, TAME or Avianca.
At 9,350ft above sea level, Quito is the world’s second-highest capital. Have a relaxing night before flying to the Galápagos with LATAM, Avianca, or TAME. Combined with small-ship cruising, and activities like lectures from knowledgeable guides, a visit to the archipelago is an unforgettable experience.
It’s time to discover more of the Ecuadorian capital. Explore the city’s charming old town, heading to livelier areas such as Mariscal after the sun has set.
Side trips from Quito worth squeezing in include a day trip to Otavalo’s Indian Market, and a stay amid the rainforest and cloudforest at the charming Mashpi Lodge where the wildlife offers a wonderful contrast to that of the Galápagos.
HOW TO DO IT
Exodus Travels’ 16-day Machu Picchu & Galápagos itinerary starts at £5,379pp, including all flights, six nights in hotels and seven nights on board a First Class boat.