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Trip Report Peru and Galapagos Trip Report

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Just returned from a three week trip to Peru and the Galapagos (May 26 - June 15, 2013). This trip was a high school graduation trip for my niece (18). I had previously traveled to Peru in 2007 and the Galapagos in 1996. I usually plan trips myself, but was too lazy this time around and used a travel agent. Nina Fogelman, Ancient Summit, is an expert on Peru, and based in the states. She agreed to plan the trip for me and subcontracted the Ecuador portion to Metropolitan Touring. She is higher end than I usually travel, but I wanted an unforgettable experience, so went with her recommendations. Everything was exceptional and I am glad I used her expertise to get the perfect trip for my niece. Itinerary: Lima overnight at airport hotel, 3 nights in Urubamba, 1 night in Aguas Calientes, 1 night back in Urubamba, 3 nights in Cusco, 1 short night in Quito, 2 nights in Santa Cruz, 7 nights on cruise ship in Galapagos. Metropolitan Touring had a few hiccups with transfers in Quito and Santa Cruz, but nothing major. There were no issues in Peru. The pace was comfortable in Peru as an average day touring was from 9:00am to 3:00pm.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Urubamba/Sacred Valley: Tambo del Inka. This is a beautiful place on the Urubamba River. The first hotel I've stayed at with a walk-in closet. Good breakfast. We had originally booked at Sol y Luna, but they cancelled a week before our trip due to overbooking and (supposedly) upgraded us to Tambo del Inka. As we didn't stay there, I have no way of comparing the two places. No wifi in the room, but free in the lobby. Nice spa and pool.

Aguas Calientes: Inkaterra. Beautiful setting, cute bungalow. We enjoyed the tea excursion offered by the hotel. They have five different excursions on their extensive property with different themes. Wish we had more than one night here so we could have done more of them. Dinner was average in the hotel dining room. Free wifi in the room. Chilly at night, so they provide hot water bottles for the beds - kept it warm all night.

Cusco: Aranwa Boutique Hotel. Set in a 16th century mansion, alot of old world ambiance. The modern bathroom was as big as the bedroom and featured a bear claw tub. Free wifi in the room. Good breakfast.

Finch Bay Eco Hotel: On Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos owned by Metropolitan Touring. Overcast - not sure when it is actually sunny here. We stayed two nights as a break between Peru and the Galapagos cruise - do nothing days. Nice beach and beautiful pool. Free wifi in the lobby. Excellent food. Strong drinks. Eco hotel, so small room. Great hammock on porch. Nice ambiance. Quite an excursion from Baltra airport: 10 minute bus ride + 5 minute ferry + 45 minute taxi + 5 minute water taxi + 10 minute walk. If you are looking for a sunny beach experience, I'd check best time of year for this it was rainy and overcast when we were there.

La Pinta Yacht (Galapagos): Very nice cruise ship owned by Metropolitan Touring. Average food. Great naturalists/guides and staff. Great shower and room. Snorkel equipment provided. Free wifi in the lounge. Wide range of age groups here. My niece was able to hang out with a family of 3 college aged boys, so she was very happy! But more older than younger people - only a few children.

ACTIVITIES

We had daily tours to the main sites in Peru: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Cusco and nearby ruins, Machu Picchu, one day in Lima. We had an excellent guide for these outings arranged by Nina. We had a nice SUV for the two of us + guide + driver - very comfortable.

If you can, try to get seats on the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes on the river side of the train and facing forward.

Don't miss climbing Waynu Picchu at Machu Picchu - best to do it at 7:00am if it is clear out - it is a steep trek, but worth the effort. It takes about an hour to climb up and 30 minutes to get down and provides stunning views. We spent almost an hour at the top. It is worth it to stay overnight and spend time on two days at Machu Picchu to do this.

A real hi-lite was a day of horseback riding through the Sacred Valley to see the Salt Pools, Moray, and the village of Maras: http://www.cuscoforyou.com/index.html. Loved it - I'll never forget galloping across the plateau. You don't need to be an expert rider to enjoy this outing. Long pants and tennis shoes sufficed.

Village and local women weavers. Nina has a direct tie to a small village in the Sacred Valley. Her son teaches at a school there and she is sponsoring a documentary on the place. The local women demonstrated weaving and sold some of their work to us. This stop has no other tourists and was a real treat.

Lunch with a local couple. Nina arranged for us to eat lunch with some friends of hers in the Sacred Valley. It was a wonderful meal and nice to see their beautiful home and gardens.

Cruise on La Pinta: We took the 8 day/7 night western route cruise. There were tours of the various islands (Isabella, Ferdinand, North Seymour, Santa Fe, Jervis, Floreana, Santa Cruz) every day and 5 water activity days: snorkeling, kayak, glass bottom boat. The snorkeling was fabulous and varied. The water was a bit chilly and I wish I had brought my wet suit. The boat provides shortie wet suits and all snorkel equipment. I brought my mask and snorkel with me, along with a wet suit skin. One day is spent on Santa Cruz for tour of Darwin Research Center and the highlands to see the giant tortoises in the wild - I was surprised at how many we saw. I'd recommend this cruise if you want alot of activity - they kept us on the go! Based on my prior trip, this one did not have as much wildlife, although there was plenty. I think you see more on the eastern and southern islands, with less on Isabella and Ferdinand - but the snorkeling was great there. There are shorter cruises, depends on what you are looking for. 3-5 days seems too short to me.

RESTAURANTS

I'm no foodie, but the following were excellent:

Urubamba: 3 Keros - don't miss it
Cusco: Cicciolina

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