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Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Amazon Rainforest + more

Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Amazon Rainforest + more

Old Nov 13th, 2016, 09:53 AM
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Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Amazon Rainforest + more

My husband and I got back last week from a wonderful trip to Ecuador and Peru. I thought I'd submit a brief trip report. If anyone has questions, I'd be happy to give my two cents.

We arranged our trip through Peru Best Tours and Diana was our travel agent. She was very easy to work with and patient (!) as I rearranged the plan multiple times. We are usually independent travelers but, since neither one of us had ever travelled in South America, we enjoyed having Diana's assistance. We arranged our own international flights to and from the US but Diana arranged the flights within South America. Diana booked the hotels (after we chose them), arranged our tours and transport. It was wonderful to arrive at our various locations and have a driver greet us and transport us to our hotels.

ECUADOR

We landed in Quito, Ecuador and spent two nights there. We were supposed to have a group tour of Quito the day after we arrived but it ended up being a private tour which was a nice surprise. We stayed at the Patio Andaluz hotel which was very comfortable and well located. A highlight of Quito was a visit to the home and museum of Oswaldo Guayasamin which we did on our own.

We next flew to the Galapagos Islands and spent 4 nights aboard the Coral I. We opted for the cheapest accommodations on the ship which were not roomy but were fine as we spent most of our time on board enjoying one of the decks or in the lounge. The food was very good and our fellow passengers hailed from the US, Australia, Canada and Israel. Our guides were excellent and passionate about their islands (guides are all native born.) We visited multiple islands and enjoyed tours on smaller Pangas, hiking and snorkeling. Highlights were snorkeling with sea turtles, penguins and sea lions, seeing blue footed boobies, sea lion pups, Galapagos tortoises, iguanas and more.

PERU

Our next stop was Lima, Peru. We chose to stay at Second Home Peru, a B & B run by the daughter of artist Victor Delfin. Mr. Delfin has his studio there and we were able to briefly tour it and meet the artist while he was working on his latest painting. The home and grounds are filled with Mr. Delfin's artwork and it felt like a special privilege to be able to stay there. We opted for a room with an ocean view which we enjoyed but this also came with quite a bit of traffic noise. We were, however, able to sleep well. The home is located in the Barranco district which was fun to explore.

A highlight of our stay in Lima was a culinary tour arranged by our travel agent where we visited a local market, enjoyed tastings at various stops, learned to make both Pisco Sours and ceviche, and ended with a delicious lunch overlooking the Huaca Pucllana.

We then flew to Cusco where we stayed at the Esplendor Cusco. We spent one night there before traveling to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu and returned there after a one night stay in Aguas Calientes. The Esplendor is located a few blocks form the main square of Cusco which we realized was a good location as many events seem to be celebrated with great enthusiasm (noise) at the square the different days we were there. The hotel was very comfortable and kindly stored luggage for us so that we could travel lightly to Aguas Calientes. We arrived in Cusco in the afternoon and took it easy to help with adjusting to the altitude. We did take Diamox as prescribe by our MD and tried Coca tea. Both my husband and I felt only slightly dizzy that first day. When we returned to Cusco,we had a good tour of city sights and nearby ruins and also had fun exploring Cusco on our own. We love Peruvian food and restaurants we enjoyed in Cusco included Limo, La Feria and Incanto.

To be continued...
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Old Nov 14th, 2016, 04:32 AM
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That culinary tour sounds fun. Great idea for next time thanks.
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Old Nov 14th, 2016, 04:28 PM
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PART TWO

After one night in Cusco we departed our hotel for an all day bus tour of the Sacred Valley. We visited the Pisaq Ruins, Pisaq Market and the Ollantaytambo Ruins and also stopped for a good buffet lunch. This was the only day we were on a big tour bus with a large group and initially the guide seemed to be "so so." Our impression of him improved considerably when we reached the ruins as he gave a good explanation of what we were viewing, particularly at the Ollantaytambo site. From Ollantaytambo we took the Expedition train to Machu Picchu which ended up being delayed for many hours due a problem with the train tracks. We were delighted to find the restaurant at the Ollantaytambo train station was excellent.

Our one night in Aguas Calientes was at the Tierra Viva Machu Picchu hotel. The staff at this hotel couldn't have been friendlier and were so helpful. We stored our luggage there while we visited Machu Picchu and spent some time in their lounge after our MP visit. Given that Aguas Calientes is such a tourist town we were not expecting such a warm reception.

Our visit to Machu Picchu was wonderful. We decided to skip the morning "rush" of trying to get there at sunrise, and were glad we did. Instead we were on the bus about 7:30 am after a very short wait in line. It was a misty day on the mountain which meant areas alternated being temporarily shrouded in fog. The fog seemed to add to the mysteriousness of the site. Our small group guide was excellent and the two hour tour turned into at least three hours of guided exploration. We then spent time afterwards exploring on our own. Prior to our visit, we had read "Turn Right at Machu Picchu" which I would highly recommend.

After visiting Cusco again (described above) we then flew to Puerto Maldonado to begin our visit to the Amazon Rainforest. What a difference a short flight made as we stepped out into the hot and humid climate of the rainforest. We met our terrific guide, Luis, from Rainforest Expeditions and after a short time sorting what we would bring with us and what we would store at the office, we were off for our exploration of the rainforest. A pleasant three hour boat ride along the Tambopata River where we spotted a capybara, a red howler monkey and a white caiman, brought us to the lovely Refugio Amazonas. A short hike around the area allowed us to spot beautiful birds and hear the amazing sounds of the jungle. A welcome drink, a delicious dinner and a talk about the rainforest completed the day.

Early the next morning we climbed the the top of the lodge's Canopy Tower and viewed the sunrise over the jungle. My stay at the top was brief as I am not a fan of heights but my husband and another couple who accompanied us were thrilled. We then boarded another boat which took us further into the rainforest for our two night stay at the Tambopata Research Center. The TRC is also home to the Macaw Project so we were able to learn about that project and have early morning access for a visit to the amazing Macaw clay lick. During our stay at the TRC we took many hikes through the rainforest and enjoyed the antics of four different species of monkeys as well as observing other amazing flora and fauna. Our last night there included the most intense thunder and lightening storm I have ever witnessed.

Our trip concluded with a final night in Lima at the Hotel Estelar (very nice) and dinner at the renowned Central restaurant. We enjoyed Central but didn't think it was significantly better than many of our other excellent dinners in Peru.

I hope you've enjoyed this report. I find myself dreaming about the trip, particularly about our time in the Galapagos islands and in the Amazon rainforest and feel fortunate we had the opportunity to take such a fascinating trip.
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Old Nov 15th, 2016, 02:11 AM
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Fabulous report - makes me excited about our trip next year.
How did you find the weather in November?
Nick
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Old Nov 15th, 2016, 06:32 AM
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We had good luck with the weather. It was very pleasant except for the heat and humidity of the rainforest (which we expected.) We only had rain the last day in the rainforest.
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Old Nov 15th, 2016, 11:22 AM
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Thanks for your trip report KT. Sounds like you had a great trip.

Who did you book your 'small tour' guide through? Was it in advance or once your arrived ?
We are a group of 2 ( one young and very fit, the other not so with a 'suspect' knee) and still can't decide whether to pebook a private guide, get one at the gate or ' go it alone'
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Old Nov 15th, 2016, 01:34 PM
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Hi bL,

Our MP tour was pre-booked through Peru Best Tours. They also arranged for our entrance ticket, bus and train tickets.

I have an iffy ankle and was sorry I did not bring a walking stick to MP. I had read they weren't allowed but saw many people with them and I think a stick would have been nice to have (although I did OK.) Our guide went slowly and occasionally mentioned an optional viewpoint to climb up to which seem of our group skipped.
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Old Nov 15th, 2016, 01:34 PM
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Hi bL,

Our MP tour was pre-booked through Peru Best Tours. They also arranged for our entrance ticket, bus and train tickets.

I have an iffy ankle and was sorry I did not bring a walking stick to MP. I had read they weren't allowed but saw many people with them and I think a stick would have been nice to have (although I did OK.) Our guide went slowly and occasionally mentioned an optional viewpoint to climb up to which seem of our group skipped.
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Old Nov 15th, 2016, 09:30 PM
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KT

Thanks for your reply. I will look into PBT. I have yet to book anything except accommodation as site tickets don't seem available online until after 1 January for 2017.
Have decided to take a walking stick - have them from walking Camino in Spain- which collapses but not quite enough to fit totally into my day pack.

My daughter would be one to climb for the view so a guide would be helpful.
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Old Nov 18th, 2016, 07:26 AM
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Very nice trip and report! Here is link to my DIY trip itinerary, pictures and tips of
Galapagos
https://diytrips.tips/summary/9pKRfr7m86SjH5Cbo
and
Machu Picchu
https://diytrips.tips/summary/J6YriD43WASzRmJ8v
if you want to make the trip on your own.
We booked a private guide at the gate of Machu Picchu and at the ruins of Saksaywaman in Cusco to understand better the history of these wonderful places.
In Galapagos we made two day trips but otherwise we traveled without a guide 15 days.
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Old Nov 18th, 2016, 12:39 PM
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Nice report. Thanks
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Old Apr 25th, 2017, 11:01 AM
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Travel agents are not supposed to advertise on Fodors, Marcel
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Old Oct 19th, 2017, 09:30 PM
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Thank you for this very interesting and informative report! Sounds like a wonderful trip.
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