trip opinions please

Dec 26th, 2018, 07:45 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 143
trip opinions please

My wife and I are planning our first visit to South America next year for about 3 1/2 weeks (starting mid-late May). We would appreciate any thoughts, tips, etc.
1) Fly to Guayaquil, Ecuador for 1-2 nights before doing 4-5 night Galapagos cruise. Any opinions on which tour/cruise companies to use? We wish a stable boat type to minimize seasickness and a knowledgeable guide for the excursions.
2) Fly to Cusco for about 5-6 nights.
3) Bus to Lake Titicaca for 2-3 nights.
4) Bus/fly to Laz Paz for a couple nights.
5) To Salar de Uyuni for 2-3 nights.
6) Fly to Lima to conclude trip (3 nights).

Thanks for your time.
dinks is offline  
Dec 26th, 2018, 08:23 PM
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I can't comment on Equador or Bolivia, but i did visit Cusco, Puno, and Lima -- you might find some useful information in my trip report:
Praise for Peru A report of my solo month in this amazing country

Hope it helps!
kja is offline  
Dec 27th, 2018, 12:55 AM
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As much as I loved Cusco, 6 nights is a fairly long time there. Are you using it as a base for some day trips? If you shave some time off there you would have time to go to Machu Picchu, but possibly that is not of interest to you since you don't mention it.

I also think 1 1/2 to 2 full days at Lake Titicaca is sufficient, so, depending on what time you arrive you might be able to get away with 2 nights. I stayed at the Libertador there. If you are considering it I thought the extra money for a lake view room was well worth it. The two dawns I had there were beautiful and the electrical storm one night quite spectacular. The lake view rooms facing east give a much more expansive view of the lake than the lake rooms facing west.

I travelled by mini bus from Lake Titicaca to La Paz (pre-arranged for a group of us - not public transport) and it had also been organized for us to get off the bus just before the border and do the last 1 km by the local version of a tuk tuk. It was a market day and it was an absolute hoot from start to finish. It was incredibly croweded and people, buses, motor bikes and tuk tuks all intermingled. I had seen similar traffic in Asia but this was amazing. It was colours and sounds and seeing all the stalls which made it really stand out. Once we crossed the border we got back on the mini bus to drive us into La Paz. I'm afraid I can't give you the name of the company that organised it as someone else within the group arranged it. As Australians we didn't have to worry about visas so I'm not sure if that would have to be factored in for other nationalities.

In La Paz, do make sure you take at least one trip on their gondolas. I was amazed by this. Someone had really thought outside the box. Because it is so steep, trains or subways are not possible and the road traffic seems to be permanently stuck in a traffic jam. So, for public transport, they erected huge towers and used gondolas to take you over the city. It operates rather like a subway with multiple stops on each line. To get to our hotel we started on one line and then got off part way to swap to another line.

I'm sure you are aware, but don't forget that all three of three of these destinations are at high altitude so altitude sickness is always a possibility so do check with your doctor beforehand about preventative methods.
shandy is offline  
Dec 27th, 2018, 04:26 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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We have spent a lot of time ithis part of the world with the exception of Galapagos which, ha never really appealed. Some friends recently went with Silversea and raved about them but I have a feeling it may be very expensive.

You don’t mention your interests which makes specific comment difficult,, however In the context of the time you have. I would make the following points:
1, Guyacquiil is not an interesting place. I would spend a couple of days in Quito instead.
2. Lake Titicaca is stunning but the Uros Island anre a tack theme park these days. I would visit Taquile or Amantani as a day boat trip and then move on. Puno is just a place to sleep really, althought the markets are great and there are some QI ruins around the lake.
3. A tour bus from Cusco to Puno like a Inka Express wil show you a lot of very interesting spots along that.
4. You could get a bus direct to Copacabana on the Bolivian side and take a lake trip from there. Possibly to Isla Del Sol if it is open. IMO nice that the Peru side.
5. La Paz deserves a couple of days. Make sure to include El Alto by cable car. Try to make that a Sunday for the wrestling shows!
6. I presume your time in Cusco includes the Sacred Valley and MP? If so, fly into Cusco, head straight to the SV, see MP and head to Cusco last. That way you will acclimatise to the altitude much better.
7. A 3 night trip to Salar de Uyuni is about right. Make sure to choose a descent operator and be aware that most tours are shared. It can get cramped in the jeeps for all that time so consider splashing out on a private tour.
7. 3 days in LIma is perfect - an amazing city!

Withnth eexception of the Galapagos, details and photos of our time in these places are in our blog @ . Just click on the destination tab for,the country.

Mid - late May is a great time weatherwise time for the Andes where you will be spending the bulk of your time.
crellston is offline  
Dec 27th, 2018, 08:06 AM
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I wonder if you should save Galapagos and Ecuador for another trip. It really merits at least 7-8 days if not 2 weeks. Plus a week or so in the rest of Ecuador.

It would be easy to fill 3.5 weeks just between Peru and Bolivia.

Some specific comments.

For the most part I agree with crellston as usual.

Guayquil has apparently upped their tourist game, although I'm not sure I would spend much time there myself. I can't speak from experience, only word of mouth.

Can you leave from La Paz rather than flying back to Lima?.. I haven't looked but most likely you have to transit through Lima to get to Cusco, so could put your Lima days before Cusco.

You might want to contact a travel agent about your Galapagos segment. Bear in mind that the first day of most itineraries is a half day, and the last day will be only a few early morning hours. Also some itineraries will include a full day on Santa Cruz Island. My personal favorite island especially in May is Espanola which has the Waved Albatross and Gardner Bay.

Last edited by mlgb; Dec 27th, 2018 at 08:16 AM.
mlgb is offline  
Dec 27th, 2018, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
It would be easy to fill 3.5 weeks just between Peru and Bolivia.
I couldn't manage more than a part of Peru in a full month!
kja is offline  
Dec 27th, 2018, 09:25 PM
Original Poster
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Posts: 143
trip opinions please

Thanks for the input. I would like to respond to a few points.

1) Our time in Cusco will include Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. In general, we try to minimize the number of 1-2 night stays and flight connections when possible/feasible. The plan is to use Cusco as a base for day trips and MP. If we head to MP soon after arriving in Cusco as crellston suggests, would it be beneficial to spend 1 night in Agua Calientes vs Cusco prior to MP?
2) We would rather end the trip in La Paz than Lima (starting in Ecuador and ending south in Bolivia). Its just that when checking flights recently, it seems more economical and easier to return to the US from Peru than Bolivia. Wherever we decide to end the trip, we wish it to be in a major city so we can just relax and wind down.
3) Probably spend 2 nights in Quito and 1 night in Guayaquil. I always prefer to spend the night before a cruise at the primary "launching point" so as to lower the risk of delays, etc.
4) I heard May is prime season for blue-footed booby mating in the Galapagos. If so, does anyone know which island(s) they may tend to congregate at?
5) Taking altitude into consideration, does it tend to increase in general going from Ecuador to Bolivia?

Enjoy the weekend.....
dinks is offline  
Dec 27th, 2018, 09:29 PM
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1) Yes!
kja is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 02:43 AM
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5. The order of your trip will work well in terms of altitude. You are doing it in the same order that I did. Quito is lower than Cusco and Cusco is lower than Lake Titicaca and La Paz, so it gives you a chance to acclimatize.

I like our idea of going to Quito now as it is much more interesting than Quayaquil and is well worth 2-3 days. As Quito is at 2850m it will also be beneficial from the altitude point of view because otherwise you will going from sea level (Guayaquil) straight to Cusco which is at 3,399 m.

At Lake Titicaca it is just over 3800m and finally La Paz is listed at 3640m but is around 4000m up near the airport. When I went we were advised to choose a hotel down in the valley where the elevation is lower and would help in terms of getting a good night's rest which is what we did.

You will find walking up hill at these altitudes much more strenuous than at low altitude so take it easy. The only place I had any effects myself was at Lake Tititicaca when I woke up with a headache the first morning. Fortunately it required nothing more than a Panadol. However, I did see several guests asking to have a whiff of oxygen to make them feel a bit better and my friend felt quite unwell with breathlessness and severe headaches and missed out on the excursion onto the lake itself.

I have to agree with Crellston re the sightseeing on Lake Tititcaca. I actually felt rather uncomfortable on visiting the small floating island as everything was geared up for the tourists. It seemed a real shame that the locals are now dependent on the tourist trade doing song and dance routines etc. Likewise her suggestion about Taquile Island. I found this to be much better. I didn't spend any time at all in Puno (as mentioned before I stayed at The Libertador) and I don't feel I missed out on anything.
shandy is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 11:03 AM
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1. Aguas Calientes is serves onl6 as the jumping off pointbfor Machu Picchu. It has very little to offer other than that. Ollantaytambo is a terrific desi5nation in right and afar more pleasant place to stay. The village and ruins are worth an entire day in their own right. All the trains to MP go from there o you may as well stay at least a night there, visit MP and then you could incorporate many of the Sacred Valley sites like Moray, Maras and Chinchero on your way back to Cusco. The first two entries in our blog cover those places. Cusco warrants a couple of full days with maybe a side trip t9 Pisac / Sacsayhuaman Etc.
2. Not sure but bi. Don’t think there are too many intercontinental flights from La Paz. Many will route through Lima anyway.
5. yes
crellston is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 11:17 AM
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Yes the Blue-footed boobies are neat, we had the best sightings including the courtship dance on N. Seymour. However I was there in 2015 so it would be a good idea to consult with a local operator to see how the numbers are now for any target species you are interested in. Some of the species have declined due to various El Nino events, climate change, etc.

Although I agree that Quito is more interesting than Quayaquil, I don't agree with taking days to see it on this trip if it means cutting days elsewhere. If you are going to go to Galapagos I would nail that down first (now!) and see how your international and inter-island flights work first. Believe it or not, the cruises can sell out this far in advance, especially if you want a particular itinerary. Having so many different destinations you are losing a lot of time on the days you switch locations. Especially with Quito which you should never book for an afternoon arrival or departure.

Quito airport is poorly located on a high plateau which gets gusty winds in the afternoon. One time my flight (from Lima) was diverted to Cali, Colombia. We arrived in Quito 7 hours after our scheduled time, and then an hour-long queue for immigration. Arrived at my pre-paid room at midnight! As you can imagine any tourists who were meeting a Galapagos tour the following day were panicking! However some locals assured us that "it happens all the time" and winds die down after dark. Also the Quito airport is well out of town and the traffic in Quito itself can be quite you need a lot of time to get back to the airport, especially if you are in the Old Town part.

If you go the Quito route, I would suggest flying Quito to Baltra (Galapagos) and spend the night in Puerto Ayora, rather than losing a day in Guayaquil. You really don't have a lot of time overall. Tortuga Bay is lovely and swimmable on the bay side. If you chose a short itinerary which doesn't include the highland visit to see the giant turtles, you could alternatively do that on your day from Puerto Ayora.

Coordinate with whatever tour company you are going to book your Galapagos cruise with. Some want to handhold you all the way from arrival in Ecuador and have blocks of flights that they require you to use (not all). The company I used was one of the few who allowed me to meet them at Baltra airport, I needed to get from Puerto Ayora back up to the Baltra airport on my own which isn't that hard but requires a taxi and a ferry).

Tripadvisor has a few Galapagos experts but bear in mind that some of them are travel agents.

Last edited by mlgb; Dec 28th, 2018 at 11:32 AM.
mlgb is offline  
Dec 28th, 2018, 12:23 PM
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BTW you can also do N. Seymour as a day trip from Pto Ayora.

Not that I am necessarily suggesting a land-based trip vs a cruise, but it's also an option. I've read trip reports with complaints about the boats used on the day trips but have no first-hand experience.

Some info on this website.

The company I went with (Angelito/Cometa) has a "5 Day" option starting on Sundays that goes to N. Seymour, Bartolome, Genovesa, Puerto Egas, Rabida and ends back in Santa Cruz (where you could easily add a night and then fly back the next morning. I think it's a good itinerary for a short one. You might contact them directly at Cometa. You don't necessarily save by booking through them, but their communications are excellent and they can also plan all of your transfers and nights on the mainland as well. Be sure to ask if Maja is leading your dates.

Last edited by mlgb; Dec 28th, 2018 at 12:36 PM.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 5th, 2019, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by crellston View Post
1. Aguas Calientes is serves onl6 as the jumping off pointbfor Machu Picchu. It has very little to offer other than that. Ollantaytambo is a terrific desi5nation in right and afar more pleasant place to stay. The village and ruins are worth an entire day in their own right. All the trains to MP go from there o you may as well stay at least a night there, visit MP and then you could incorporate many of the Sacred Valley sites like Moray, Maras and Chinchero on your way back to Cusco. The first two entries in our blog cover those places. Cusco warrants a couple of full days with maybe a side trip t9 Pisac / Sacsayhuaman Etc.
To minimize hotels, head straight to Ollantaytambo upon arrival in Cusco. You can either negotiate a taxi from the airport, or to save money go into town where the bus leaves from and take the bus, or negotiate a better taxi price from there.
Spend the night in Ollantaytambo then make your day trip to MP the next day coming back to Ollantaytambo at night. Go to Cusco the following day. You can find a taxi driver to drive you to Cusco hitting the high points of Sacred Valley on the way. Then you won't need to go back to Sacred Valley. That's the way we did it.
Trip report: Peru fans (16 nights)
When you're in Cusco, make a day trip to Rainbow Mountain. You won't regret it.

Last edited by Governator; Jan 5th, 2019 at 03:10 PM.
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