A Rare Pair: How to Combine Machu Picchu + Patagonia in One Trip

Custom Trip Peru Patagonia

Allow our Trip Specialists to take out the stress so you can enjoy the adventure of a lifetime: They’ll navigate the challenging weather and planning logistics of combining Machu Picchu and Patagonia, and you’ll experience one extraordinary trip.

Both Peru and Patagonia offer some of the world’s most scenic and pristine hiking, feature timeless cultures that inspire travelers, and are home to unimaginable landscapes and sightseeing. So it’s no wonder that as Patagonia has seen an increase in international interest, adventurous travelers have the desire to combine these destinations into one epic South America trip. The truth is though, they’re not destinations you see combined often at all. From a logistics standpoint it’s challenging and requires a good amount of time, and on top of that, the seasonality of both makes for a short weather window when conditions are favorable in both.

When is the best time for a machu picchu & patagonia Trip?

Patagonia Peru Custom Trip

To combine visits to Machu Picchu and Patagonia, you’ll have to look to both regions’ shoulder seasons. Lucky for you, shoulder season in Peru and Patagonia are both magical.

In Patagonia conventional logic is that summer (Dec-Feb) is the time to go. However, there are a variety of positives to the weather in Patagonian spring (Oct-Nov) and fall (Mar-Apr). Bottom line is the region will feature temperate conditions, spring wildflower bloom or fall colors, and far less visitors than summer. If choosing October or April, then significantly reduced rates at adventure lodges is also a possibility.

For Peru travel, most travel generalist operators, agents, and travelers accept the notion that Peru’s rainy season lasts from October until May. While this is true, relative to the other months when there is virtually no rain, the fact is that October and November as well as March and April both see on average less than a few inches of rain per month, with April being only 1.5in average, for example.

When coupling the two regions’ seasonalities and characteristics, there remains two very defined and somewhat narrow windows when you’ll enjoy good conditions in both: The best time of year to combine Patagonia and Peru would be in October/November, or in March/April. If traveling in October/November, I recommend Peru first followed by Patagonia, and vice versa with Patagonia first followed by Peru if going in March/April.

And if you have absolute date flexibility, I’d suggest targeting the North American fall option with a start date in late October in Peru, and then finding yourself in Patagonia in early November (however, if budget motivated, October presents sharp discounts at most Torres del Paine lodges). Or, conversely, if traveling in North America’s spring, starting with Patagonia in early April (discounts usually start in April as do bright fall colors) will then have you in Peru in more middle April, when the rains have moved on virtually entirely yet it’s still extremely lush and you may even have orchids blooming in the cloudforest.

 

How long do I need to include both Peru and Patagonia, Chile, in a trip?

Peru Chile Custom Trip

In my opinion, travelers often underestimate the amount of days involved in a trip to Machu Picchu and Patagonia. When too much is squeezed into too little time the result often is a rushed trip that leaves you needing a separate vacation just to recuperate and/or the trip ends up having a topical feel, not allowing you to have unique, immersive experiences — those pinch-me moments when ‘travel’ is something greater and something you know will affect you and your outlook forever. Depending on the travelers’ pacing preferences, I don’t recommend combining these destinations with anything less then 12 nights in-country, which will be 13 days door-to-door from the U.S. A longer trip allows for more ideal pacing that enables you to have more immersive experiences in the Sacred Valley of the Inca and Machu Picchu, along with enough time to take in a splash of Chile (or Argentina in some cases) and not just exclusively Patagonia, which is quite different from the rest of the country’s culture.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • 1) The area where you find Machu Picchu is in the Peruvian Southern Highlands, which features incredible cultures, little-known treks and adventures, and ruin sites that are still being uncovered. Staying here for a couple nights better allows you to acclimatize to the altitude (2,000ft lower then Cusco) while having a unique and authentic experience. You then will want to overnight in Aguas Clients at least one or two nights to have an in-depth citadel experience, and to skip over Cusco where it all comes together would be foolhardy.  In other words, a trip to Machu Picchu should involve stays in 3 locations in the region as all offer distinct experiences, and should total six nights or more.
  • 2) Travel to Patagonia should be buffered by at least one night in Santiago, there will also be a buffer night in Santiago or Lima between the two countries, and coming or going, you will travel overnight at least once as well. When factoring in the buffers that account for flight schedules and travel logistics, the trips become longer than imagined.
  • 3) Patagonia, and especially Torres del Paine, is extremely remote, so your travel in and out days allow for little exploration. The travel is gorgeous, but to properly explore the park’s incredible beauty, stays of less then four nights are generally not recommended.

Every trip we create here at Knowmad is private and custom, with the custom trip building process designed to shape an itinerary to you. Give one of our Trip Specialists a call today at 612-315-2894, or start by filling out the short form below to begin planning your custom South America trip.

 

Suggested sample itineraries / private tours of Machu Picchu + Patagonia

With that being said, below I will go through some basic trip flows to give you an idea of recommended trip structures for the shorter side of a custom adventure including both Machu Picchu and Peru along with an extended Peru and Chile trip. Whether this is a luxury tour or a trip with a more modest budget really comes down to your accommodation choices.

Two Weeks in Machu Picchu & Patagonia

2 Weeks in Chile & Peru

Day 1 Fly USA to Santiago (all flights will be overnight arriving the following morning)
Day 2 Morning Arrival. Day at leisure or guided experience exploring Santiago. Stay overnight in Santiago’s Lastarria neighborhood.
Day 3 Early morning flight to Patagonia (Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales, depending). Transfer from the airport to Torres del Paine National Park which features some of the world’s best adventure lodges with a flexible, choose-your-own-adventure approach.
Day 4 Choose the best explorations in Torres del Paine for you according to your interests and abilities including, but not limited to: hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, photography, cultural exchange, and more.
Day 5 Continue exploring Torres del Paine.
Day 6 Continue exploring Torres del Paine.
Day 7 Late morning or afternoon transfer out of the park (4 hours). Fly to Santiago, arriving evening or late night. Stay overnight at the airport hotel.
Day 8 Morning flight to Lima with a connected flight to Cusco. Transfer into Sacred Valley of the Inca some 2,000 ft lower than Cusco, visiting Sacsayhuaman and other lesser-known archaeological sites. Stay overnight in the Sacred Valley.
Day 9 Full day off-the-beaten path adventures in the Sacred Valley. Mountain biking, horseback riding, or vehicle-based trips to archeological site Moray and Maras salt flats; kayaking and SUP’ing in a remote Andean Village at Lago Piuray, and taking part in a chef-driven ancient pachamanca feast with locals; or visiting a local indigenous community before hiking through the Pisac ruins down to the valley floor where you end at the massive Pisac market are all incredible options.
Day 10 Early morning train to Machu Picchu. Afternoon visit to Machu Picchu when there are less visitors and you can remain until the park closes for incredible sunsets and ideal light for photography.
Day 11 Late morning train to Ollantaytambo ruins, lunch at a historic private estancia or a farm-to-table pachamanca culinary experience before returning through the Sacred Valley to Cusco.
Day 12 Full day exploring and experiencing the cobblestone streets of Cusco, a melting pot of indigenous communities, Peruvian culture, and international travel. Early evening flight back to Lima connecting onward overnight home.
Day 13 Early morning arrival home.

That is a killer trip flow with a full experience in Southern Patagonia’s crown jewel, Torres del Paine National Park, combined with a complete and unique adventure to Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Southern Highlands.

For those who don’t have to rush back to work or school, I recommend taking a bit more time, which allows for experiencing more of central Chile (wine country, the bohemian city of Valparaiso, more time in Santiago) as well as a more relaxed and thorough Peru experience so you can go deeper into the sites, sounds, and cultures of the Sacred Valley and beyond (or a couple nights in the Amazon Jungle!). This could take many shapes — see our extended Machu Picchu and Patagonia sample trip flow below for one idea.

Peru Patagonia Custom Travel Experience

Machu Picchu, Patagonia & Beyond

Day 1 Fly USA to Santiago (all flights will be overnight arriving the following morning).
Day 2 Morning Arrival. Day at leisure or guided experience exploring Santiago. Stay overnight in Santiago’s Lastarria neighborhood.
Day 3 Early morning flight to Patagonia (Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales, depending) — if November, consider adding time in Punta Arenas to walk amongst recently hatched chicks and droves of penguins in Isla Magdalena. Transfer from the airport to Torres del Paine National Park which features some of the world’s best adventure lodges with a flexible, choose-your-own-adventure approach.
Day 4 Choose the best explorations in Torres del Paine for you according to your interests and abilities including, but not limited to: hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, photography, cultural exchange, and more.
Day 5 Continue exploring Torres del Paine.
Day 6 Continue exploring Torres del Paine.
Day 7 Late morning or afternoon transfer out of the park (4 hours). Head into Santiago, Valparaiso (almost as near) on the coast, or wine country for the evening.
Day 8 Full day exploring Santiago, Valparaiso, or wine country.
Day 9 Morning transfer to Santiago airport. Fly to Lima and connect to Cusco. Transfer into Sacred Valley of the Inca some 2,000ft lower than Cusco, visiting Sacsayhuaman and other lesser-known archaeological sites. Stay overnight in the Sacred Valley.
Day 10 Full day for off-the-beaten path adventures in the Sacred Valley. Mountain biking, horseback riding, or vehicle-based trips to archeological site Moray and Maras salt flats; kayaking and SUP’ing in a remote Andean Village at Lago Piuray, and taking part in a chef-driven ancient pachamanca feast with locals; or visiting a local indigenous community before hiking through the Pisac ruins down to the valley floor where you end at the massive Pisac market are all incredible options.
Day 11 Enjoy another of the countless unique adventures in the Sacred Valley. Take an early evening train to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu.
Day 12 Head to Machu Picchu early in the morning to enjoy hiking Huayna Picchu or Cerro Macchu Picchu. Take the afternoon to thoroughly explore the site when visitor count reduces. Stay overnight again in Aguas Calientes.
Day 13 Late morning train to Ollantaytambo ruins, lunch at a historic private estancia or a farm-to-table pachamanca culinary experience before returning through the Sacred Valley to Cusco.
Day 14 Explore Cusco: hikers can enjoy the challenge and colors of trekking Rainbow Mountain, take a thrilling day of whitewater rafting south of town, or foodies can visit the local’s markets to learn hands-on what makes Peru’s cuisine so diverse and delectable before preparing local dishes alongside top local chefs.
Day 15 Full day exploring and experiencing the cobblestone streets of Cusco, a melting pot of indigenous communities, Peruvian culture, and international travel. Early evening flight back to Lima – onward connecting flight home (or explore Lima for a day or two).
Day 16 Early morning arrival home.

Any way you slice it, a trip combining Machu Picchu and Patagonia is a mind-blowing experience of nature, culture, and wildlife. The keys are to pay attention to seasonality, choosing a time that has favorable weather conditions in both areas, and to have a realistic approach to trip duration, being mindful of flight schedules and connections.

If you’re interested in crafting an adventure combining several regions in South America, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Trip Specialists at 612-315-2894 or travel@knowmadadventures.com to begin planning your trip today!

Happy Adventuring! Jordan

South America Travel - Jordan HarveyJordan is a Co-Founder of Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. He has been honored as a Condé Nast Traveler Experience Maker for Patagonia, and has won Travel + Leisure’s prestigious Top Travel Specialist for Patagonia, Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador/Galapagos countless years in a row. “Travel brings me incredible experiences and challenges, highlighting the world’s natural beauty while connecting me with inspiring people. I am convinced that travel makes us better people, and better people make a better planet.” Read Jordan’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.

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