Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

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Van-Guard23
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Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Van-Guard23 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:40 pm

For my 50th (gasp!) birthday in late March/early April 2019 (I understand this is at the tail end of the rainy season), my wife and I are looking to tour Machu Picchu and Galapagos. I've read posts on Boglehead as well as those on Tripadvisor but want to get additional personal feedback/recommendations on which tour company and tour would be ideal for us. We would like to take around 2 weeks (give or take a day or so for any extension/excursion) for touring both sites. While we prefer arranging our own explorations of international destinations, we figure it might be best to rely on tour companies to sidestep any issues with getting permits and such for both attractions (not to mention the logistics for such a packed itinerary). We also prefer smaller groups and try to avoid big tour groups, as invariably there is always someone inconsiderate who makes the tour less than ideal (i.e. always being late, loud, etc), and perhaps being part of a smaller group lessens the chance of that. My wife and I are both active...although we'd rather not hike the Inca Trail.

I saw there's quite a range in prices for tours, ranging from around $6,000 (Overseas Adventure Travel) to about $9,500 (Tauck) and up to $13,000 per person (National Geographic). I would be interested in reading about your recommendations and personal experiences...what to do, what not to do, what to expect/not expect, what to pack, what to watch out for, what's a can't miss food adventure, what was your experience if you visited in late March? Is it better to start with Galapagos then Machu Picchu or the other way around...or will it even matter? My wife gets sea sick and I was also wondering if it would be better if we opted for a bigger ship vice a smaller boat for exploring Galapagos. One thing we are certain (based on feedback from relatives who visited), to lessen the chance of altitude sickness we would want to stay in Sacred Valley or similar lower altitude instead of staying overnight in Cusco after flying in from Lima. This would be our first visit to Central America (explored Europe and Asia quite a bit) and would also appreciate any tips...would probably try learning some Spanish before we travel.

Thanks!
Last edited by Van-Guard23 on Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:21 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Pajamas » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:56 pm

The altitude sickness is not as common as you must think and you can get medicine to take with you in case you need it. Coca tea is also readily available and that helps. It would be a shame to miss Cusco or other sites because of worrying about altitude sickness.

I don't know anything about the Galapagos but you can get private tours cheap if you don't want to go with a group. Peru is fairly inexpensive anyway. The horseback tours are fun and you don't have to know how to ride a horse, just hang on. The horses are very well-behaved and know what to do and where they are going.

Allow plenty of time for delays with trains and buses and flights, etc.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Van-Guard23 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:03 pm

I didn’t mean skipping Cusco altogether...just to avoid staying there overnight that same day/night as the flight from Lima. Most itineraries seem to stay in Cusco AFTER visiting Machu Picchu.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Pajamas » Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:30 pm

Van-Guard23 wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:03 pm
I didn’t mean skipping Cusco altogether...just to avoid staying there overnight that same day/night as the flight from Lima. Most itineraries seem to stay in Cusco AFTER visiting Machu Picchu.
That sounds like a good plan. I think a lot of the people who really get sick are young backpackers who drink themselves blind on pisco.

The horseback tours out of Cusco help, too, since you are basically just sitting on the horse and then walking around the sites.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by siamond » Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:45 pm

I am in my mid-50s and I went to the Galapagos with my younger son last year. This was a trip of a lifetime, I had been looking to do that since I was a teenager, and both of us thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. A good deal of walking around, kayaking and lots of snorkeling, so better be in a decent shape. If you never snorkeled, you may want to give it a try beforehand. We flew to Guayaquil instead of Pinto, before flying to the islands, which saved us from the altitude issues in Pinto then back to sea level.

You need to book an organized trip, no choice. We never do that, but this time, I'm glad we did. You need to book WAY in advance. The operator was Ecoventura, the boat accommodated 20 guests, and I think this was a perfect set-up. I suspect the bigger boats conveying large groups present all sorts of logistical challenges, and are nowhere near as enjoyable. The guides were great, and (much less important, and yet appreciated) the cooks were terrific! The wildlife was every bit as fascinating as we expected. I still have stars in my eyes. Note that there is quite some distance between the islands, they mostly move the boat at night, yet motion sickness pills was a must, at least for me.

We somewhat hesitated to combine this trip with something else (e.g. a few days in the Amazonian forest), then decided that the Galapagos was such an extraordinary destination that we should simply focus on that. In retrospect, this was the right decision. The iguana in the following picture started to move right in front of me, stood up on its legs and started to chew on leaves while watching me. I have the entire sequence on video. So cool.

Image

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Theseus » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:03 pm

Van-Guard23 wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:40 pm
For my 50th (gasp!) birthday in late March/early April 2019 (I understand this is at the tail end of the rainy season), my wife and I are looking to tour Machu Picchu and Galapagos. I've read posts on Boglehead as well as those on Tripadvisor but want to get additional personal feedback/recommendations on which tour company and tour would be ideal for us. We would like to take around 2 weeks (give or take a day or so for any extension/excursion) for touring both sites. While we prefer arranging our own explorations of international destinations, we figure it might be best to rely on tour companies to sidestep any issues with getting permits and such for both attractions (not to mention the logistics for such a packed itinerary). We also prefer smaller groups and try to avoid big tour groups, as invariably there is always someone inconsiderate one(s) who make the tour less than ideal (i.e. always being late, loud, etc), and perhaps being part of a smaller group lessens the chance of that. My wife and I are both active...although we'd rather not hike the Inca Trail.

I saw there's quite a range in prices for tours, ranging from around $6,000 (Overseas Adventure Travel) to about $9,500 (Tauck) and up to $13,000 per person (National Geographic). I would be interested in reading about your recommendations and personal experiences...what to do, what not to do, what to expect/not expect, what to pack, what to watch out for, what's a can't miss food adventure, what was your experience if you visited in late March? Is it better to start with Galapagos then Machu Picchu or the other way around...or will it even matter? My wife gets sea sick and I was also wondering if it would be better if we opted for a bigger ship vice a smaller boat for exploring Galapagos. One thing we are certain (based on feedback from relatives who visited), to lessen the chance of altitude sickness we would want to stay in Sacred Valley or similar lower altitude instead of staying overnight in Cusco after flying in from Lima. This would be our first visit to Central America (explored Europe and Asia quite a bit) and would also appreciate any tips...would probably try learning some Spanish before we travel.

Thanks!
For my 50th birthday, my friends and I hiked Inca Trail. Not sure you are looking to do something like that. Permits sell out within weeks of opening up in November - December. But there are many other treks (shorter-longer-easier-harder) that you can take to reach Machu Picchu. We used Alpaca Expeditions (https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com) and they were terrific !!. They do also do regular tours. We found them to be in the mid-range for pricing.

While I didn't get to do this, and it is on my bucket list - so I will go back for this for sure, I also recommend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srFKQrmL3Fg

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by taguscove » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:11 pm

My wife and I took a 2 month tour through South America in 2013. We did Galapagos first, then flew to Cusco. Galapagos is the single most impressive travel destination I have ever experienced in my life. Having wildlife walking up you to with curiosity and zero fear was .... wow. My wife really enjoyed Machu Pichu as well.

Galapagos advice:
1. Choose the 7 day boat tour. The 5 day tour sees less than half of the 7 day tour due to logistics. The tour operators arrange all the permits. I normally prefer independent travel, but taking the boat tour was definitely the right choice.
Do not choose a boat with more than 16 people. The logistics of getting people on the boat, off the boat, meals, etc. slows down everything. Avoid the "luxury" boat class. The larger boat size puts distance between you and the wildlife at all phases.
2. The quality depends on the boat. There are good websites that describe the major commercial boats (e.g. http://www.galapagosisland.net/cruises/). Nicer boat is paired with better food, better trained staff, higher price.
3. The price is cheaper the CLOSER to the departure date and CLOSER to Puerto Ayora. In our party, we had 3 wedding couples from Canada, Norway, and Denmark pay $4000 to $4500 per person, booking 6 months in advance from their home country. We booked in Quito one week in advance for $2800. Two separate single guys booked 1 day before departure from Puerto Ayora for $1800 and $2100. All for the same service. I confirmed this pricing pattern with our two guides at the end of the trip. Ironically, the people who paid the most seemed to enjoy the experience the most. A lesson in human nature?

Machu Pichu advice:
1. Cusco elevation is really high! If flying from Galapagos, expect to feel knocked out for 1-2 days. We were in our mid-20s and were practically bedridden the first day.
2. Inca Trail, Salkantay, Jungle trek were some of the most popular. Inca trail is a classic with outstanding history, but you have to book 6 months or more in advance. Salkantay has best views including snow-capped mountains, but most arduous. Jungle trek is shortest, least demanding. The tour companies consolidate all their customers together into cohorts with identical experiences. We paid $350 per person for Salkantay, while pre-booking away from Cusco was $600. There was a 5 day luxury option trek with daily lodging for $2-3000 I believe. I highly recommend any of these treks instead of directly traveling to Agua Caliente.
3. Agua Caliente is a really mediocre town. Spend minimal time there.
4. The stairs up Machu Pichu open up 1 hour before the buses start going up. If physically fit, I recommend walking up because you can get there and experience the serene Machu Pichu landscape before the rush of people.

I don't speak any Spanish. Never an issue at either destination, which are major tourist locations.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by obgraham » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:23 am

Galapagos is indeed a visit of a lifetime. Nowhere else I've been lets you get so close to the animal life. I do agree that the 7 day trip at a minimum is what is needed. Even there, we didn't get to all the islands.

To be clear: you cannot visit the islands there by yourself. You have to be accompanied by a naturalist, and they are very good. You must stay on the designated trails, and you cannot approach the wildlife closer than the rules -- the guides will definitely "correct" you!

Paying a lot more for a luxury tour there is not really necessary. The islands are the same, the animals are the same, the tour guides are the same. If you like a fancy bed and gourmet meals, fine. Moreover I would not get too hung up on the size of the ship.

Here's what happened to us. We went with Road Scholars (The old Elderhostel outfit) a couple of years back. "Galapagos and Macchu Pichu" was the tour, and they run it all the time. The groups are usually about 17. So they booked us on a small boat that would just be us. Except that shortly before the trip that boat caught fire and was out of action. So they booked our group onto the bigger tour yacht there, which hold 95. It didn't matter really, because our group was still handled individually, with our own guide for the duration. Since most of the Zodiacs hold about 15-20 people, all the passengers were divided into about 5 groups. We hardly ever crossed paths with the others during the shore visits. We had our own shipboard presentations. Yes, mealtime was a bigger event, and it probably was not as good as the smaller boats might do.

My advice: pick an agency you like the looks of, and just go. Road Scholars, OAT, whatever. It's a great place.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Van-Guard23 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:24 am

siamond wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:45 pm
I am in my mid-50s and I went to the Galapagos with my younger son last year. This was a trip of a lifetime, I had been looking to do that since I was a teenager, and both of us thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. A good deal of walking around, kayaking and lots of snorkeling, so better be in a decent shape. If you never snorkeled, you may want to give it a try beforehand. We flew to Guayaquil instead of Pinto, before flying to the islands, which saved us from the altitude issues in Pinto then back to sea level.
We currently live in HI so we do our fair share of snorkeling :D By the way, what time of year did you visit?
siamond wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:45 pm
You need to book an organized trip, no choice. We never do that, but this time, I'm glad we did. You need to book WAY in advance. The operator was Ecoventura, the boat accommodated 20 guests, and I think this was a perfect set-up. I suspect the bigger boats conveying large groups present all sorts of logistical challenges, and are nowhere near as enjoyable. The guides were great, and (much less important, and yet appreciated) the cooks were terrific! The wildlife was every bit as fascinating as we expected. I still have stars in my eyes. Note that there is quite some distance between the islands, they mostly move the boat at night, yet motion sickness pills was a must, at least for me.
We are looking to pair a visit to Galapagos with a trip to Machu Picchu...a "best of" sort of tour for us to maximize our time in the region. I understand there is always not enough time to truly experience what the place has to offer, but it looks like we would at least be able to do a 4-night cruise in and around the Galapagos.
siamond wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:45 pm
We somewhat hesitated to combine this trip with something else (e.g. a few days in the Amazonian forest), then decided that the Galapagos was such an extraordinary destination that we should simply focus on that. In retrospect, this was the right decision. The iguana in the following picture started to move right in front of me, stood up on its legs and started to chew on leaves while watching me. I have the entire sequence on video. So cool.

Image
Cool pic!
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Van-Guard23 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:29 am

Theseus wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:03 pm
For my 50th birthday, my friends and I hiked Inca Trail. Not sure you are looking to do something like that. Permits sell out within weeks of opening up in November - December. But there are many other treks (shorter-longer-easier-harder) that you can take to reach Machu Picchu. We used Alpaca Expeditions (https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com) and they were terrific !!. They do also do regular tours. We found them to be in the mid-range for pricing.

While I didn't get to do this, and it is on my bucket list - so I will go back for this for sure, I also recommend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srFKQrmL3Fg
Um...not quite interested in doing a 4-day hike to Machu Picchu...I can think of better things to spend my limited time in the area...although we would be definitely interested in the decidedly shorter hike to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku).

Oh yeah, cool video...but you wouldn't find me in a tent perched high along a cliff face...let alone dangling precariously while I try to get some shuteye.
Last edited by Van-Guard23 on Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Van-Guard23 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:34 am

taguscove wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:11 pm
My wife and I took a 2 month tour through South America in 2013. We did Galapagos first, then flew to Cusco. Galapagos is the single most impressive travel destination I have ever experienced in my life. Having wildlife walking up you to with curiosity and zero fear was .... wow. My wife really enjoyed Machu Pichu as well.

Galapagos advice:
1. Choose the 7 day boat tour. The 5 day tour sees less than half of the 7 day tour due to logistics. The tour operators arrange all the permits. I normally prefer independent travel, but taking the boat tour was definitely the right choice.
Do not choose a boat with more than 16 people. The logistics of getting people on the boat, off the boat, meals, etc. slows down everything. Avoid the "luxury" boat class. The larger boat size puts distance between you and the wildlife at all phases.
2. The quality depends on the boat. There are good websites that describe the major commercial boats (e.g. http://www.galapagosisland.net/cruises/). Nicer boat is paired with better food, better trained staff, higher price.
3. The price is cheaper the CLOSER to the departure date and CLOSER to Puerto Ayora. In our party, we had 3 wedding couples from Canada, Norway, and Denmark pay $4000 to $4500 per person, booking 6 months in advance from their home country. We booked in Quito one week in advance for $2800. Two separate single guys booked 1 day before departure from Puerto Ayora for $1800 and $2100. All for the same service. I confirmed this pricing pattern with our two guides at the end of the trip. Ironically, the people who paid the most seemed to enjoy the experience the most. A lesson in human nature?

Machu Pichu advice:
1. Cusco elevation is really high! If flying from Galapagos, expect to feel knocked out for 1-2 days. We were in our mid-20s and were practically bedridden the first day.
2. Inca Trail, Salkantay, Jungle trek were some of the most popular. Inca trail is a classic with outstanding history, but you have to book 6 months or more in advance. Salkantay has best views including snow-capped mountains, but most arduous. Jungle trek is shortest, least demanding. The tour companies consolidate all their customers together into cohorts with identical experiences. We paid $350 per person for Salkantay, while pre-booking away from Cusco was $600. There was a 5 day luxury option trek with daily lodging for $2-3000 I believe. I highly recommend any of these treks instead of directly traveling to Agua Caliente.
3. Agua Caliente is a really mediocre town. Spend minimal time there.
4. The stairs up Machu Pichu open up 1 hour before the buses start going up. If physically fit, I recommend walking up because you can get there and experience the serene Machu Pichu landscape before the rush of people.

I don't speak any Spanish. Never an issue at either destination, which are major tourist locations.
Thanks so much for the tips...I think I read your post on another thread as it sounded familiar, especially the variance in prices for the Galapagos tours.
We are looking for a packaged tour that covers both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos and will have just over 2 weeks to cover both (not 2 months!)...so I understand and can accept less than ideal amount of time at both sites. Maybe we'll come back if we are so moved to do so.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Van-Guard23 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:38 am

obgraham wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:23 am
Galapagos is indeed a visit of a lifetime. Nowhere else I've been lets you get so close to the animal life. I do agree that the 7 day trip at a minimum is what is needed. Even there, we didn't get to all the islands.

To be clear: you cannot visit the islands there by yourself. You have to be accompanied by a naturalist, and they are very good. You must stay on the designated trails, and you cannot approach the wildlife closer than the rules -- the guides will definitely "correct" you!

Paying a lot more for a luxury tour there is not really necessary. The islands are the same, the animals are the same, the tour guides are the same. If you like a fancy bed and gourmet meals, fine. Moreover I would not get too hung up on the size of the ship.

Here's what happened to us. We went with Road Scholars (The old Elderhostel outfit) a couple of years back. "Galapagos and Macchu Pichu" was the tour, and they run it all the time. The groups are usually about 17. So they booked us on a small boat that would just be us. Except that shortly before the trip that boat caught fire and was out of action. So they booked our group onto the bigger tour yacht there, which hold 95. It didn't matter really, because our group was still handled individually, with our own guide for the duration. Since most of the Zodiacs hold about 15-20 people, all the passengers were divided into about 5 groups. We hardly ever crossed paths with the others during the shore visits. We had our own shipboard presentations. Yes, mealtime was a bigger event, and it probably was not as good as the smaller boats might do.

My advice: pick an agency you like the looks of, and just go. Road Scholars, OAT, whatever. It's a great place.
Thanks for your feedback on the boats to Galapagos...we are leaning towards a smaller boat accommodating less than 20 passengers.

I checked out the Road Scholar tour covering both Machu Picchu and Galapagos and was a bit dismayed at the minimal amount of time they have allotted for Machu Picchu...like one day. OAT has a day and half to explore Machu Picchu, which I think would be preferable than a "turn and burn" visit.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Grasshopper » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:41 am

We did both trips in May/June 2016. We booked a cruise with UnCruise Adventures (La Pinta 48 guests) saw all the east islands, had an excellent time. We also booked Machu Picchu as an add on after the Galapagos with UnCruise again, Sacred Valley, and MP there is a lot to see there, we really enjoyed someone always taking care of us. Sun Gate is doable first thing in the AM first thing the trail gets crowded after that. What I liked about UnCruise is the lodging is all booked through Inkaterra it is really 5 star all the way.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by fire5soon » Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:01 am

Went to the Sacred Valley last year. I live in FL and have never really experienced elevation above 4k feet in my life. I flew from FL and landed in Cusco within 24 hours (which is roughly at 14k feet) and experienced no real altitude problems. A tad winded if walking up a long flight of stairs for a day or so, but no headaches or anything. Cusco is an absolutely beautiful city and can be quite cheap if you get out of the tourist areas and mingle with the locals. I needed several days there to see everything.

Ollantaytambo was also a gorgeous city. I only spent one day there, but could have stretched it to two. The Ollantaytambo ruins were amazing. Unless you are into strenuous hiking you can probably get away with using a good zoom camera to see the Pinkuylluna ruins.

Aquas Calientes is a tourist town built for the sole purpose of shuffling people to and from Machu Picchu... at least that's the way it felt. It's a pretty town, but any more than a day there will ultimately feel wasted when compared to the rest of your trip.

Machu Picchu is simply amazing. I've only been caught speechless twice in my life while travelling: when I first saw the Grand Canyon, and when I first came over the hill and saw Machu Picchu. Pictures don't do it justice. It's an incredible site by itself, but when you're standing there and see just where they were able to build this city it's difficult to fathom. I rode the bus up to the ruins and walked the trail back down. I'm in pretty good shape and, at the end of the day, I was glad that I didn't walk up. Walking down was worth it, but walking up would have been a bear.

I was travelling on a tight budget. I didn't use tour companies and planned everything on my own. I was able to have private rooms with a private bathroom for no more than $20 a night. I often ate good, filling meals for less than $5. It's a wonderful place that you'll surely remember for a lifetime.

I speak enough spanish to get by. I can navigate directions, negotiate prices in stores, etc but not for heavy duty conversation. I used Google Translate on my phone for more involved interactions. It does not require internet and came in handy a couple of times.

Have fun!
Last edited by fire5soon on Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by lthenderson » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:30 am

Just finished reading this book and I would highly recommend reading it before going there.

Turn Right At Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Basically it is a adventure writer retracing the steps of Hiram Bingham who "discovered" the place.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by siamond » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:33 am

Van-Guard23 wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:24 am
By the way, what time of year did you visit?
July. Admittedly a peak time, but I had no choice due to vacation time.
Van-Guard23 wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:24 am
We are looking to pair a visit to Galapagos with a trip to Machu Picchu...a "best of" sort of tour for us to maximize our time in the region. I understand there is always not enough time to truly experience what the place has to offer, but it looks like we would at least be able to do a 4-night cruise in and around the Galapagos.
As other posters indicated, you really really really should take a 7-days boat trip. You will (probably) only go there once. And this is such a special experience, don't cut it short. Also, all islands are different, ecosystem and scenery, you would clearly miss several important species if you cut the trip short.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Gill » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:40 am

I would highly recommend the Celebrity Xpedition for the Galapagos. It begins in Quito, Equador and spends a week in the Galapagos. It is a 96 passenger ship, the biggest I believe they allow in the Galapagos. You won't have to worry about seasickness in that area.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by chuppi » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:48 am

I went to Cusco/Machu Picchu last November. Was there in the sacred valley area for 5 days. A few pointers
- You don't need a tour company to travel around in the Machu Picchu area unless you are doing the inca trail
- Altitude sickness wasn't a issue. I have two boys 3 and 5 and none of us had any problem. It may be a issue for some people.
- We landed in Cusco and right away went to Urubamba. Stayed for 4 nights in a hotel called Inti Nan. The hotel is run by a older gentleman Vicente and his family. He was wonderful and truly cares for his guests.
- We did daily trips to various places from Urubamba. Olantaytambo, Pisac, moray, etc... We had arranged a taxi (through trip advisor) but realized Vicente can arrange all of it as well once you get there. There are nice restaurants in Urubamba area even though it is a small town.
- We took a train to Aguas Calientes and from there bus to Machu Picchu. We hiked on the way back. Book the train tickets and Machu picchu entrance tickets well in advance. You can buy the tickets directly from the government website. The google search takes you to a travel agent site where the tickets are 30-40% more expensive.
- Spent a day and a half in Cusco. There are a lot of places to see and there are good restaurants there. Uber is best to get around in Cusco.

We will go back there to amazon forest once the kids are a bit old. Would like to hear your experience after you take the trip. Cheers

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by obgraham » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:39 pm

Another opinion on Machu Picchu: A one day visit there is not so bad.

I've been there three times, which might influence what I say now. However: if you get there early in the day (by staying in Aquas Calientes the night before, not taking the morning train from OT) you have plenty of time to visit the site. Early morning is fantastic up there, though sometimes it is pretty cold, and visibility might be poor. For those of us in "average to less than average" condition, by the time you have hiked the site till early afternoon, you'll be really tired, and to be honest, that's what it takes to see the place.

Now, if you want to climb up Huayna Picchu, that requires additional time. My younger and fitter friends say that is really cool, too. If you need more time there, stay in Aguas Calientes the night after you visit MP, go back up the next morning, then take the 2pm train back to OT, or continue on to Cusco if that is your plan (train doesn't go to Cusco any more, sadly)

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by InMyDreams » Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:18 pm

Van-Guard23 wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:40 pm
I saw there's quite a range in prices for tours, ranging from around $6,000 (Overseas Adventure Travel) to about $9,500 (Tauck) and up to $13,000 per person (National Geographic). I would be interested in reading about your recommendations and personal experiences...what to do, what not to do, what to expect/not expect, what to pack, what to watch out for, what's a can't miss food adventure, what was your experience if you visited in late March? Is it better to start with Galapagos then Machu Picchu or the other way around...or will it even matter? My wife gets sea sick and I was also wondering if it would be better if we opted for a bigger ship vice a smaller boat for exploring Galapagos. One thing we are certain (based on feedback from relatives who visited), to lessen the chance of altitude sickness we would want to stay in Sacred Valley or similar lower altitude instead of staying overnight in Cusco after flying in from Lima. This would be our first visit to Central America (explored Europe and Asia quite a bit) and would also appreciate any tips...would probably try learning some Spanish before we travel.
We went with OAT beginning the 3rd week of March - MP then Galapagos. Loved it - and felt we timed the weather just right. Our Peru guide said it was his favorite time of year (but maybe he always says that?) but the mountains and valleys were green, clouds were playing around them, temperatures were cool. Bring rain gear.

And it was just right for the water in the Galapagos - the currents bring warm water, so the only person who used a wet suit was the passenger who was too badly burned on the first day of snorkeling (and I'm a wuss when it comes to water temp).

Oh - OAT was snorkeling/swimming only - not SCUBA diving, if that is what you're looking for.

I regret not taking my umbrella to the Islands - no rain, but the sun beats down on you when you are on the Islands - the few trees there are more like overgrown shrubs.

Small ships! We were 12 passengers and one guide with a crew of 9. We were pampered. And we were really glad not to be on one of the big ships that were anchored in the same bays that we were in.

We only had three nights on the ship, plus one on the Island. If you can, I'd suggest trying to do four nights on the ship and skip the island. Also, we paid extra for the cabins on the upper deck. Well worth it. You can inquire about both if/when you make your reservation.

OAT manages all details very well. Perhaps too well for some? While we had some time on our own, the trip was very well supervised by the trip leader/guide (one for each country). That might be too claustrophobic for some. Alternatively, perhaps you can arrange to remain in country after the tour is over, and do some things on your own.

There's another MP thread right now, that talks about places in Peru that we didn't go to. Pisac, Titicaca are both mentioned - wish we could have gone, but there's only so much time and $$
Last edited by InMyDreams on Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by InMyDreams » Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:26 pm

Altitude sickness - we flew Lima to Cusco and immediately left by bus to Urubamba, going thru a weaving village at 12,500' - we had several of the 12 passengers who were symptomatic at the village, and even some who were symptomatic at dinner in Urubamba. Our guide wanted us all to take a siesta when we arrived in Urubamba. At least one of the symptomatic people lives around 4,000'.

Really, a travel clinic gives great advice - and set us up with prescriptions and inoculations.

Equador was not concerned about our Yellow Fever inoculation status when we entered the country from Peru, despite what the State Department website said when we were getting ready to leave. OAT did have the correct info.
Last edited by InMyDreams on Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by ResearchMed » Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:27 pm

Reposting about a book, from another thread:
lthenderson wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:35 am
Just finished reading "Turn Right At Machu Picchu" by Mark Adams.

It is a non-fiction book about an adventure writer/editor who decided to trace Hiram Bingham's journey through the Peruvian jungles and his "discover" of Machu Picchu. It goes into the history of many of the historical sites that are attributed to the Inca empire. It was very well written and read very quickly. The story alternated back and forth between Mark Adam's current trip and Bingham's trips in the early 1900s.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Cycle » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:32 pm

I was in Galapagos for 10 days two weeks ago. If you are used to booking your own international travel, I wouldn't use a tour operator. Just fly to Puerto Ayora and figure it out from there. Last minute cruise deals are everywhere and cost 1/4 what you pay when booking from the us.

Most of the intersting stuff at Galapagos is beneath the surface of the water and you need to be an experienced diver for that duration to the currents. There is also fantastic snorkeling.

I'd recommend just hiring a driver for the day in Cusco, pay a guide at the site. Cut out the middleman. Done this
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by quantAndHold » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:50 pm

Grasshopper wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:41 am
We did both trips in May/June 2016. We booked a cruise with UnCruise Adventures (La Pinta 48 guests) saw all the east islands, had an excellent time. We also booked Machu Picchu as an add on after the Galapagos with UnCruise again, Sacred Valley, and MP there is a lot to see there, we really enjoyed someone always taking care of us. Sun Gate is doable first thing in the AM first thing the trail gets crowded after that. What I liked about UnCruise is the lodging is all booked through Inkaterra it is really 5 star all the way.
We did the exact same thing in Feb, 2016. Highly recommend UnCruise. We’ve cruised with them several times. Excellent every time.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Van-Guard23 » Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:08 pm

chuppi wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:48 am
I went to Cusco/Machu Picchu last November. Was there in the sacred valley area for 5 days. A few pointers
- You don't need a tour company to travel around in the Machu Picchu area unless you are doing the inca trail
- Altitude sickness wasn't a issue. I have two boys 3 and 5 and none of us had any problem. It may be a issue for some people.
- We landed in Cusco and right away went to Urubamba. Stayed for 4 nights in a hotel called Inti Nan. The hotel is run by a older gentleman Vicente and his family. He was wonderful and truly cares for his guests.
- We did daily trips to various places from Urubamba. Olantaytambo, Pisac, moray, etc... We had arranged a taxi (through trip advisor) but realized Vicente can arrange all of it as well once you get there. There are nice restaurants in Urubamba area even though it is a small town.
- We took a train to Aguas Calientes and from there bus to Machu Picchu. We hiked on the way back. Book the train tickets and Machu picchu entrance tickets well in advance. You can buy the tickets directly from the government website. The google search takes you to a travel agent site where the tickets are 30-40% more expensive.
- Spent a day and a half in Cusco. There are a lot of places to see and there are good restaurants there. Uber is best to get around in Cusco.

We will go back there to amazon forest once the kids are a bit old. Would like to hear your experience after you take the trip. Cheers
Chuppi,
Thanks for the tips! While I understand I could probably arrange this "expedition" myself without having to go through a tour company, I don't want to have to encounter some snafu and miss out seeing Machu Picchu and the Galapagos. As it is, we are leaning towards booking Overseas Adventure Travel's 16-day tour of both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos (small group).
chuppi wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:48 am

We took a train to Aguas Calientes and from there bus to Machu Picchu. We hiked on the way back.
You and another poster hiked back (down?) from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes...if I decide to hike up and take the bus back, about how long would it take my wife and I (reasonably fit) to do the hike?

Oh yeah, it's good to know that altitude sickness isn't quite as common as I thought. Still smart to take precautions, though. Wouldn't want that to ruin our experience.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Van-Guard23 » Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:31 pm

IMD,
Thanks for sharing your experience with your visit to MP and Galapagos with OAT...and even around the same time of the year we are planning our visit! We just hope the weather holds up, as we understand rainy season goes through March.
InMyDreams wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:18 pm
We went with OAT beginning the 3rd week of March - MP then Galapagos. Loved it - and felt we timed the weather just right. Our Peru guide said it was his favorite time of year (but maybe he always says that?) but the mountains and valleys were green, clouds were playing around them, temperatures were cool. Bring rain gear.
Rain gear is on the list, as well as bug juice/spray, wide brimmed hat, sun block, hiking boots, Camelback, binoculars, cameras (of course), perhaps pills for altitude sickness? Anything else?
InMyDreams wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:18 pm
I regret not taking my umbrella to the Islands - no rain, but the sun beats down on you when you are on the Islands - the few trees there are more like overgrown shrubs.
We have added a small umbrella on the list for my wife and I to share when exploring Galapagos. Thanks. Also plan on bringing solar shirts (long sleeve shirts with UPF 50+ UV/Sun Protection) for additional sun protection. We might also just bring our own snorkel gear...and maybe just use the snorkel fins on the boat.
InMyDreams wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:18 pm
Small ships! We were 12 passengers and one guide with a crew of 9. We were pampered. And we were really glad not to be on one of the big ships that were anchored in the same bays that we were in.
We only had three nights on the ship, plus one on the Island. If you can, I'd suggest trying to do four nights on the ship and skip the island. Also, we paid extra for the cabins on the upper deck. Well worth it. You can inquire about both if/when you make your reservation.
Would it be an option to stay on the ship instead of on island for that one night? We are hoping a 4-night cruise would be available for the dates we want...although the dates for March-April 2019 aren't posted yet.
I looked at OAT's website and it looks like when I try to make a "trial reservation" only the main deck appears as an option. Would I have to call them to request an upper deck?

Thanks again for your feedback...much appreciated.
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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by jodydavis » Sat Jan 27, 2018 9:11 pm

Have been to both, though on separate trips. Lots of good advice so far. A few more tips:

1. Re: altitude sickness, it's impossible to predict how you will react. Some folks have no problem, others get hit really hard, and it's not correlated to physical fitness. I think you are right to go to the sacred valley first to acclimatize, and then do Cusco on the way out. We did it the other way, and while I was okay (just slight headache), my wife was sick, in bed for the first day, and queasy for a few days after - not worth the risk. There's lots to see and do in the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Pisac, Salinas, etc.). It will make the visit to Cusco more enjoyable if you aren't battling altitude sickness.

2. Re: Machu Picchu, if you don't want to hike the Inca Trail, you can do the Huayna Picchu hike, which is a nice hike inside Machu Picchu, with nice views (although probably not good if you don't like heights). Just be aware that you need to buy a ticket to the hike at the same time you buy the ticket to MP. Also, if you are traveling independently, don't wait too long to book train tickets to Aguas Calientes, as they can fill up. I agree with the other comments that AC is very touristy, so no need to stay longer than necessary.

3. Re: seasickness, if your wife is susceptible, consider either a larger boat or a catamaran, as they tend to be a bit more stable. Seas can be a bit rough crossing between islands, depending on the time of year, and on our trip, there were several folks who were seasick. You don't have to go all the way to the large boats (90+), as there are a few mid-sized boats (~40), like La Pinta and the Xperience (formerly Eclipse, which we took). Or if you really prefer a smaller boat (~20), the catamarans are supposedly more stable. We took bonamine and were fine. Some folks had scopalmine patches, which seemed to work well.

4. Re: tours, it's pretty easy to do MP/SV independently, as the tourist infrastructure is quite good, so you don't need to book the entire trip through a tour agency, if you don't want to. You can get a good local guide to drive you and your wife around the sacred valley and guide you through MP. For the Galapagos, though, it would be worth it to go through an experienced agency. We almost always travel independently, but booked our Galapagos trip through an agency and were glad we did, as they handled all of the flights, etc., and had someone there to guide us through the airport transfers, which were not immediately intuitive.

5. Re: galapagos advice, definitely check out the TripAdvisor forum for the Galapagos, as they have lots of good info, some ship reviews, and advice about itineraries. In picking a ship, the itinerary is probably the most important factor (and is fixed for each ship, as the itineraries are heavily regulated). The islands are quite different, and you want to make sure that the itinerary you choose matches your interests.

Have a great time. These are two of my favorite vacation destinations of all time.

J.D.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by Peter Foley » Sat Jan 27, 2018 9:33 pm

jodydavis wrote:
1. Re: altitude sickness, it's impossible to predict how you will react. Some folks have no problem, others get hit really hard, and it's not correlated to physical fitness. I think you are right to go to the sacred valley first to acclimatize, and then do Cusco on the way out. We did it the other way, and while I was okay (just slight headache), my wife was sick, in bed for the first day, and queasy for a few days after - not worth the risk. There's lots to see and do in the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Pisac, Salinas, etc.). It will make the visit to Cusco more enjoyable if you aren't battling altitude sickness.

2. Re: Machu Picchu, if you don't want to hike the Inca Trail, you can do the Huayna Picchu hike, which is a nice hike inside Machu Picchu, with nice views (although probably not good if you don't like heights). Just be aware that you need to buy a ticket to the hike at the same time you buy the ticket to MP. Also, if you are traveling independently, don't wait too long to book train tickets to Aguas Calientes, as they can fill up. I agree with the other comments that AC is very touristy, so no need to stay longer than necessary.
My wife and I went to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu about 10 years ago. I second Jody's basic recommendations. Our approach was to spend a day in Cusco and Sacsayhuaman to get acclimated and then the tour the sacred valley. Through our hotel we arranged two days of private tour with a driver. We were able to see much more and included Tipon to the list of sights above. I think it is worth it to spend a night in Aguacalientes and take the train back the second day. This allowed us to see Machu Picchu in the early morning on the second day before the train and crowds arrive. I hiked Huayna Picchu early the second day.

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by InMyDreams » Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:49 pm

Van-Guard23 wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:31 pm
IMD,
Thanks for sharing your experience with your visit to MP and Galapagos with OAT...and even around the same time of the year we are planning our visit! We just hope the weather holds up, as we understand rainy season goes through March.
But it's decreasing (on average!) as the month goes on, which is why, as I recall, OAT's prices rise each week in that month. I would go in mid to late March again.
Van-Guard23 wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:31 pm
Rain gear is on the list, as well as bug juice/spray, wide brimmed hat, sun block, hiking boots, Camelback, binoculars, cameras (of course), perhaps pills for altitude sickness? Anything else?
If it's still the same trip, you'll leave a portion of your luggage behind in Quito to go to the GI. No need for rain gear there. And we had no need for hiking boots - our days on the boat were: island trip in the morning, return then snorkel, eat lunch, snorkel, go to the island. Island trips are short hikes and pretty tame. On the other hand, we saw a lot of aquatic life. I found it a bit strange that when the guide shouted "Shark!" or "Hammerhead!" we swam towards him to see them.

Really - I loved the travel clinic that I went to. They took care of prescriptions and inoculations. They gave a lot of advice - not just don't drink the water, but what taxis to take in Quito, where to get emergency medical care and more.
Van-Guard23 wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:31 pm
We might also just bring our own snorkel gear...and maybe just use the snorkel fins on the boat.
Just remember - less luggage going to GI. If you're used to good quality gear, then yes, you may prefer to bring your own. Snorkels, fins & masks were available from the boat, wet suits were rented.
Van-Guard23 wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:31 pm
Would it be an option to stay on the ship instead of on island for that one night? We are hoping a 4-night cruise would be available for the dates we want...although the dates for March-April 2019 aren't posted yet.
I looked at OAT's website and it looks like when I try to make a "trial reservation" only the main deck appears as an option. Would I have to call them to request an upper deck?
No, not possible to remain on the ship. It gets into port, passengers disembark, and same day the next group boards and the ship leaves. We were in a different bay each morning. They usually moved the ship at night - another reason to be on the upper deck because the engine and anchor may keep you awake.

I didn't find anything on the website about the upper deck - the subject came up when I made the reservation, and I decided to go for it. I'm really not sure about the option of 4 days of cruise vs 3 - but I think it's worth it to ask when making the reservation. They might not know very far in advance.

The GI is tightly regulated. The ship schedules are set - which islands they travel to, when they arrive and depart. All ships. As someone has mentioned on this thread or the other - guides are required. They are there to provide info - and to enforce the Island's regulations.

One other observation. I would guess that most of the 12 people on our trip were retired or within 10 or 15 years of it. We were all physically able, but we were not asked to do very strenuous things. Our guide remarked on the gender mix of our group - altho the trips that he had lead in the past often had more women than men, this was the first trip where there was only one male passenger. Totally different than the Grand Canyon float trip...

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Re: Machu Picchu and Galapagos in late March 2019

Post by InMyDreams » Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:56 pm

Peter Foley wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 9:33 pm
I hiked Huayna Picchu early the second day.
:sharebeer

Yes, OAT's trip gives an afternoon and the next morning in MP. I don't think hiking Huayna Picchu would not be possible with OAT's schedule! But that would be strenuous :)

We did go out to the Sun Gate and the suspension bridge in the morning.

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