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Help us plan our travel: Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands

Help us plan our travel: Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands

Question Time!

We are planning our time in South America and we need your help!

I would like to go diving in the Galapagos  Islands without spending thousands of dollars… and to tick off a long time bucket list item and see Machu Picchu.

Soooo we  need your help!

I am sure there will be some of you who have done one or both of these things, and considering that you need to plan ahead for Machu Picchu and it is such a popular touristy thing to do we would love to hear about your experiences so we can figure out what we want to do.

Please tell us…

1. When did you go?

2. How did you do it?

3. What would you do differently if you did it again?

4. How much did you spend approx?

Bonus Question

Can you recommend an awesome travel agent to help us with lifestyle travel flights?

Thanks so much, we love that we can be guided by you and your experiences!

Have your say...

  1. Rafael Farias

    Hi. Apparently we both worked at the same company before. I got that from a mutual friend.

    I left said company and traveled about for 13 months or so. Most of my time was in South America and southeast Asia. I did make it up to Machu Picchu, but I didn’t head out to the Galapagos.

    1) I went up to MP in late November 2011.

    2) Salkantay Trek booked in Cuzo only after arriving in Cuzco. I did not bookahead. Salkantay is more nature oriented than the Inca Trail, which I feel is more archaelogically focused. Salkantay is physically more demanding.and deals with even higher altitudes than the Inca Trail. There were still open spots available for the Inca Trail when I arrived. I think the need to book ahead is overstated because most people that go to MP do not have flexibility. Flexibility allows you to not book months in advance and not pay through the nose. The one aspect that may be sold out is the addition to hike up to Huayna Picchu, but this was also available when I booked on arrival.

    Perhaps at the height of the tourist season it may be hard, but I think even then flexibility would afford you the ability to go up (perhaps after a cancellation).

    3) I would spend up to a week in Cuzco before starting my trek. I was one of the people that took off two days after arriving and suffered from altitude sickness almost from the onset of the trek. Being acclimitized to the altitude of the Sacred Valley before starting the trek is the only thing I would change.

    4) I forget the exact number, but the trek was about $250-300 USD per person depending on negotiating skills. I did it solo, but the whole group became friends as tends to happen in the mountains. Inca Trail was available from $370 to as much as people were willing to pay, which can be over a thousand.

    5) Travel agent = no adventure. Book one way trips only. It is the only way to travel freely. Fake exit tickets if necessary to enter a country, but most likely this is only required by airlines. Customs officials tend not to care as long as you are a foreigner, they assume you have money.

    Regarding the Galapagos. I don’t know of anyone that has done this cheaply. Most backpackers skip it for that reason. The few people I met that went there budgeted specifically for this part of the trip and tended to cut their stay to only 4-5 days instead of 1 week because of the cost.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • Serena Star Leonard

      Awesome thanks so much Rafael, great tips!
      We are really flexible as we are pretty much travelling overland from Medellin but was worried about missing out, so great to know about your experiences. Was the trek awesome? I was wondering if they appeared “crowded” with so many people going up. wasn’t sure if we should train here and hike elsewhere or hike MP as we have 7 months to work our way down the west. Small world btw! Haha 🙂
      Yes Galapagos sure is expensive, especially the dive trips. I am still deciding if it is worth it!

      Reply
      • Rafael Farias

        Best trekking in SA is in the Huaraz region in Peru, Bolivian Andes, Ecuadorian volcanoes, and Patagonia. If you really want to backpack/mountaineer, then those are the places to do it. The Salkantay trek is a good one. Not too hard (long 1st 2 days though). It does feel much more rewarding to hike there than to ride the train, even if Salkantay only hikes into Aguas Calientes instead of into MP like the Inca Trail.

        Reply
        • Serena Star Leonard

          Oh sweet, I did the 5 day trek to Cuidad Perdida in Colombia and a 12 hour climb up Volcan Conception in Ometepe. Both nearly killed me haha I like to hike but I am slow!
          Oh re travel agent – I just saw your answer. I need someone who can advise re flight packages as we book a lot of flights. But we are not pre plan kind of people! We just rock up usually 🙂 But cheap flights are cheap flights and we will take all the goodness we can get in that dept!

          Reply
  2. Max Tomlinson

    Hi Serena-

    We went to Ecuador last November/December and went to the Galapagos with Ecoventura. Not cheap at all (4K apiece for a week?) but that included flights to and from Quito, park fees, diving gear, all meals etc. We wanted to go on a smaller boat (approx 16 passengers) as opposed to a large boat where you spend all your time getting on/off, and we wanted good food and accommodations since you are on a boat much of the time. I don’t regret that since it is a once in a lifetime trip. My only thought was that a week was too much, unless you are *really* into iguanas and turtles. 4-5 days would suffice. Make sure you get a tour with diving/snorkeling every day.

    If you are going to Ecuador, consider Yasuni National Park as well and the town of Banos.

    We went to Machu Picchu in 2005 and there are many options. I would recommend taking the train from Cusco and staying overnight in Aguas Calientes so you can see it int he afternoon for the layout and then get up early and see it before all the day trippers arrive from Cusco. It really is stunning first thing in the morning with few people. Don’t stay at the expensive hotel up top; there are many places in Aguas Calientes down below. Have fun.

    Max

    PS, I gather you know Gabz? I knew her in the UK back in the early 70s! I think she sent you my book.

    Reply
    • Serena Star Leonard

      Hey Max! Yes I know Gabz, small world! Your book is awesome and I read it on a jungle trek to Ciudad Perdida. Thanks for the tips, so great to get everyone’s experiences and wow that boat looks amazing 🙂

      Reply
  3. Guest

    My two cents..

    The Galapagos is a once in a lifetime experience that is worth splurging on. So if right now it doesn’t fit in your budget, it is worth saving for a visit later. I went just before moving away from Ecuador, so I had no choice but to spend only a few days and go with my two very young children (2 and 4 years), so I thought a small cruise (the ideal way to visit the islands) wouldn’t be much fun with them, and we stayed at a hotel on Isabela. It was also great, we did a couple of day trips, and spent a day in Puerto Ayora where we saw Lonesome George and the Charles Darwin Foundation. But if I’d had more money and time, and had been traveling without young children, I would have chosen something like this:
    http://www.nationalgeographicexpeditions.com/expeditions/galapagos-cruise/detail

    There are cheaper versions, but making sure your ship is on the smaller side, and environmentally-friendly are key.

    If you have at least two weeks, and would like to be island-based rather than boat-based, and want to do some volunteer work, I’d check this organization out:
    http://www.galapagosice.org

    If you decide that you don’t want to spend the money right now on the Galapagos, Isla de la Plata (an island near Puerto Lopez, Ecuador) is known as the “poor man’s Galapagos” because there are blue footed boobies and red-breasted frigates, and if it’s the right season, you can see humpback whales from the boat that takes you for an afternoon on the island. Then you’re on the mainland, and there are amazing things to do – I highly recommend traveling through the Sierra (the central highlands) from Otavalo to Cuenca. You can also access the Amazon pretty easily from Baños.

    With regards to Macchu Pichu, I recommend that you be sure to allot plenty of time to explore the Sacred Valley (the ruins of Ollantaytambo, the market of Pisac, etc.) They are amazing as well.

    There are lots of interesting volunteer opportunities in Peru, but plenty to be leery of as well. One interesting organization is Respons SustainableTourism Center, http://www.respons.org, which offers tours, accommodations, and volunteer opportunities.

    Have fun!!

    Reply
  4. Guest

    My two cents..

    The Galapagos is a once in a lifetime experience that is worth splurging on. So if right now it doesn’t fit in your budget, it is worth saving for a visit later. I went just before moving away from Ecuador, so I had no choice but to spend only a few days and go with my two very young children (2 and 4 years), so I thought a small cruise (the ideal way to visit the islands) wouldn’t be much fun with them, and we stayed at a hotel on Isabela. It was also great, we did a couple of day trips, and spent a day in Puerto Ayora where we saw Lonesome George and the Charles Darwin Foundation. But if I’d had more money and time, and had been traveling without young children, I would have chosen something like this a cruise with National Geographic Expeditions. There are cheaper versions, but making sure your ship is on the smaller side, and environmentally-friendly are key.

    If you have at least two weeks, and would like to be island-based rather than boat-based, and want to do some volunteer work, I’d check this organization out:
    http://www.galapagosice.org

    If you decide that you don’t want to spend the money right now on the Galapagos, Isla de la Plata (an island near Puerto Lopez, Ecuador) is known as the “poor man’s Galapagos” because there are blue footed boobies and red-breasted frigates, and if it’s the right season, you can see humpback whales from the boat that takes you for an afternoon on the island. Then you’re on the mainland, and there are amazing things to do – I highly recommend traveling through the Sierra (the central highlands) from Otavalo to Cuenca. You can also access the Amazon pretty easily from Baños.

    With regards to Macchu Pichu, I recommend that you be sure to allot plenty of time to explore the Sacred Valley (the ruins of Ollantaytambo, the market of Pisac, etc.) They are amazing as well.

    There are lots of interesting volunteer opportunities in Peru, but plenty to be leery of as well. One interesting organization is Respons SustainableTourism Center, http://www.respons.org, which offers tours, accommodations, and volunteer opportunities.

    Have fun!!

    Reply
  5. Nicholas Moreno

    I visited Cuzco last summer and while MP is great, the hike across the river up Putucui is on another level, (nothing too crazy though). It is a mountain that overlooks MP, and is mostly Inca stairs and ladders so there’s a lot more active climbing. Best part is that it is completley free and almost empty. I would recommend getting to Agaus Calientes in the morning the day before you plan to hike MP so that you have enough time to tackle Putucui, and bring a flashlight just in case.

    I also need to plug a restaurant in Cuzco called Sabores Cusquenos. If you are looking for great home cooked food on the cheap, my former teacher and her family run this place out of their house. Its a bit of a walk from the plaza but def worth it.

    Reply
  6. Milenko Del Castillo

    The Incans gave their empire the name, ‘Land of the Four Quarters’ or the Tahuantinsuyu Empire. It stretched north to south some 2,500 miles along the high mountainous Andean range from Colombia to Chile and reached west to east from the dry coastal desert called Atacama to the steamy Amazonian rain forest. http://www.ericadventures.com/

    Reply
  7. Jhon

    Hello Everybody,

    Still planning an amazing trip? I had one…I went to South America last Year, it was a really good trip I contacted a travel agency from Perú called http://www.travelperuluxury.com – so was really excelent good services, great prices and very helpfull…If you want go Perú I reccommend these guys..

    Reply

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