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lawgirl

Galapagos/Machu Picchu questions for those who have been to one or both

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Hello all. I posted this on the South America forum, but that forum doesn’t have a lot of traffic, so I am posting here.  

 

First, when to go? We have been to Galapagos in May and loved it.  But I am wondering if we should try to cool/dry season.  I was thinking October?  FYI, the sea lions, tortoises and penguins are my favorite and we definitely want to snorkel with sea lions again. It was the highlight of my life! We are not birders.. of course frigates and boobies are cool. Iguanas are cool, but we saw a ton last trip. Thoughts on when to go to both Galapagos and Michu Picchu?

 

Second, for the above itineraries, assuming we want the Xpedition, Northern or Southern? I have done research and I think it’s Southern. But I am not sure. I know no one is necessarily better... for Flora I think we would like outer. I realize Xpedition is in turmoil with licensing, but I assume a year from now it will be worked out.  And it’s thousands cheaper.

 

I looked at Nat. Geographic too.  And Silver Seas. Thank you! 

 

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I've been also in May,  so can't help you here.

I can only say that my favorite stop was North Seymor (I'm also "into" penguins and seals), and cruising Elizabeth Bay was amazing.

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4 hours ago, WestLakeGirl said:

You want to do both on the same trip?

Yes.  Right now we are thinking May, but wondering about Sept/Oct?  If we book Celebrity, I think it’s only one day in MP, so I guess weather there is of paramount import. Thanks!

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We had a glorious experience a few years ago on Xpedition, followed by a wonderful tour to MP.  It was all in late April/early May, with perfect weather both in the islands and in Peru.

As for the tour to MP, I would sincerely suggest that you consider booking a private excursion, rather than going with whatever Celebrity offers.   That is what we did, to our great satisfaction.  If you do a private excursion, which surprisingly might be well within the same price range (or even less) than that offered by Celebrity, you will have a great deal more flexibility.  

In our case, we flew from Quito to Lima at the end of our Galapagos adventure on Xpedition, and then on to Cuzco.   We spent a night in the Sacred Valley to get a bit accommodated to the altitude and then took the train to MP, where we spent two nights at the wonderful Sanctuary Lodge at the ruins at MP.    Finally, the train back to Cuzco for a couple of nights at the lovely Monasterio in Cuzco before flying back to Lima and on to the U.S.  

All of this, with private guides, was less $$ than a tour half as long (and not with the same luxe hotels) as the Celebrity offering.

It's a bit of an effort to organize; but it you enjoy travel planning, you can make a marvelous trip of it.

 

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We have not been to the Galapagos Islands.

We have been to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.    Peru is wonderful, we had been to Lima for a day while on a cruise in 2011 and wanted to go back and see more of Peru.  We loved the cuisine in Peru and the friendly people.

 

Our 4 day tour was a real bargain.  It was with Peruagency.com  

We had 4 star hotels (hotel in Cusco was in a 250 year old historic hacienda), most of our meals, a private guide for all but one day of the tour.  Machu Picchu was wonderful.  Only thing, was getting used to the altitude.  We are in our early 70s and active, but going up and down all the hills at 8-12,000 feet is somethings else.  Still, we loved our tour.  There is so much history to see.

 

Our tour cost $799 per person.  This did not include our airfare from Lima to Cusco and return.  Airfare was about $150 pp.

We did the tour in late March, just prior to picking up a cruise in San Antonio, Chile that went up the west coast of South and Central America and Mexico, ending in San Diego.

 

The Rainy season for the Cusco and Machu Picchu area runs from November until the end of March.  You don't want to go in December, January or February.  We pushed our luck going at the end of the rainy season.  Our luck prevailed, it didn't rain our our parade.

 

What is amazing was the cost that we found others paid for touring that area of Peru.  Our cruise line charged $3700 for an excursion for a three day tour (and you missed part of the cruise).  We talked to others that paid two or three times what we paid.

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We did the 15 package with Celebrity  last November. The weather was spectacular in both the islands and Peru, no rain and the water was comfortable for snorkeling.. My favorite location in the Galapagos was North Seymor Island. I suggest you visit the Roll Call boards and browse through the “Recently Back” threads.

As far as the Peru portion, we originally booked the cruise only, with every intention of booking a private tour for Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley. After a ton of research, we decided to add on the land tour with a Celebrity,  it exceeded our expectations in every aspect. The groups are kept small, the guides are phenomenal, the accommodations and meals  are top notch and the  flights ,transportation, trains and transfers are seamless. I highly recommend the Celebrity tour ( and we are committed DIYers who hate bus tours, lol!)

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We went to both in June 2015.  The weather was fine in both locations.  In Peru, Celebrity provided an outstanding expeience in touring the Sacred Valley and in taking us on the Hiram Bingham to Machu Picchu.

 

Having said that, we were only in Machu Picchu for one day, for about 4-5 hours.  It's a very long day as it was 4 hours to get there and 4 hours back, although the Hiram Bingham is extraordinary; it's like being on the Orient Express.  It's a fine trip, but others we know have made independent arrangements and stayed overnight at Machu Picchu.  And then you can get up at 4:00 a.m. to see the sunrise, if you want a really long day.  So if Celebrity is doing only one day at Machu Picchu, and there are tours with an overnight there, that is the biggest difference you should explore.  Price may be secondary for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.  As others have suggested here, the price of doing it yourself may even be less.

 

Keep in mind that there are 3-5 days worth of sites in the Sacred Valley, and that Cuzco is very high up and you won't move quite as fast as you are used to.

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7 hours ago, SoCalTraveler said:

We went to both in June 2015.  The weather was fine in both locations.  In Peru, Celebrity provided an outstanding expeience in touring the Sacred Valley and in taking us on the Hiram Bingham to Machu Picchu.

 

Having said that, we were only in Machu Picchu for one day, for about 4-5 hours.  It's a very long day as it was 4 hours to get there and 4 hours back, although the Hiram Bingham is extraordinary; it's like being on the Orient Express.  It's a fine trip, but others we know have made independent arrangements and stayed overnight at Machu Picchu.  And then you can get up at 4:00 a.m. to see the sunrise, if you want a really long day.  So if Celebrity is doing only one day at Machu Picchu, and there are tours with an overnight there, that is the biggest difference you should explore.  Price may be secondary for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.  As others have suggested here, the price of doing it yourself may even be less.

 

Keep in mind that there are 3-5 days worth of sites in the Sacred Valley, and that Cuzco is very high up and you won't move quite as fast as you are used to.

Sorry, I can't imagine why someone would choose the very, very expensive Celebrity option to visit Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.

We paid $799 pp for a wonderful tour, with a PRIVATE guide for all but the small group of 6 we had for the Cusco tour.  We had an overnight at MP, we visited several ancient sites near Cusco and in the Sacred Valley.  Is it true that the Celebrity excursion was $3700 pp?

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1 hour ago, 4774Papa said:

Sorry, I can't imagine why someone would choose the very, very expensive Celebrity option to visit Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.

We paid $799 pp for a wonderful tour, with a PRIVATE guide for all but the small group of 6 we had for the Cusco tour.  We had an overnight at MP, we visited several ancient sites near Cusco and in the Sacred Valley.  Is it true that the Celebrity excursion was $3700 pp?

 

I felt the same way that's why I did not book it originally. I honestly don't recall the add-on price, but yes it was expensive, thousands of dollars. Anyone can easily check the price on the website.

To us the fact that we were never on our own,  was a huge benefit, along with not needing to price out  or arrange flights, meals, transfers .... Included were three internal flights, transfers, 6 nights in 5 star hotels (one of which was the best we have encountered anywhere in the world), the VistaDome train, the Hiram Bingham train, all entrance fees, fantastic food, multiple guides who were soooo knowledgeable,  drivers, small group experiences, etc. When I priced out the identical trip with other guides or companies it was a similar cost, or even more.

Of course, like any tour,  you can do the trip cheaper if budget is your priority. 

But having experienced the tour with Celebrity, I can't imagine having done it any other way and don't regret a single dollar spent.

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21 hours ago, sippican said:

 

I felt the same way that's why I did not book it originally. I honestly don't recall the add-on price, but yes it was expensive, thousands of dollars. Anyone can easily check the price on the website.

To us the fact that we were never on our own,  was a huge benefit, along with not needing to price out  or arrange flights, meals, transfers .... Included were three internal flights, transfers, 6 nights in 5 star hotels (one of which was the best we have encountered anywhere in the world), the VistaDome train, the Hiram Bingham train, all entrance fees, fantastic food, multiple guides who were soooo knowledgeable,  drivers, small group experiences, etc. When I priced out the identical trip with other guides or companies it was a similar cost, or even more.

Of course, like any tour,  you can do the trip cheaper if budget is your priority. 

But having experienced the tour with Celebrity, I can't imagine having done it any other way and don't regret a single dollar spent.

My $799 tour included the VistaDome train, all entrance fees, great food (had to buy 2 meals in 4 days), a private guide, all transportation, etc.  I did have to pay for the Lima to Cusco flight RT $148 pp.

 

Not sure if the Celebrity tour was in during a cruise or before/after a cruise.   We were on the Eclipse from San Antonio to San Diego.   The people that took the MP tour missed a portion of the cruise to go on the MP excursion.  They still paid almost f our times what we paid. 

 

When I select a tour or cruise, budget is always a factor, but itinerary and ship are as well.  

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I am planning our first visit to Galápagos now, and trying to decide which ship to go on and where, so I can’t help you with that, but a couple of years ago we went to Machu Picchu at the end of an Oceania cruise. It was a great tour but if I had to do it again, I would also recommend going with a private tour, only to have more time at MP. As another person said, we were only at MP maybe 4 hours. I suggest you stay overnight up there, unless it is really something you just want to check off the list.  I would have liked time to just sit and enjoy and we had almost no time for that. Plus just coming off a 12 day cruise, my balance was a little off and I would have preferred to slow down. I went with the cruise tour only out of concern for making arrangements etc.

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13 hours ago, Sparkytravelingheart said:

I am planning our first visit to Galápagos now, and trying to decide which ship to go on and where, so I can’t help you with that, but a couple of years ago we went to Machu Picchu at the end of an Oceania cruise. It was a great tour but if I had to do it again, I would also recommend going with a private tour, only to have more time at MP. As another person said, we were only at MP maybe 4 hours. I suggest you stay overnight up there, unless it is really something you just want to check off the list.  I would have liked time to just sit and enjoy and we had almost no time for that. Plus just coming off a 12 day cruise, my balance was a little off and I would have preferred to slow down. I went with the cruise tour only out of concern for making arrangements etc.

 

FWIW, to those in the planning stage, there is only one hotel at the Machu Picchu site, the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. During the busy seasons it can book up many months in advance. If you stay in Aguas Clients, you must ride the bus approxiamtely 1/2 hour each way to reach the site so plan accordingly.

We felt the time allotted was adequate but if I had one regret, it would be to not have seen the sunrise from the site. Usually this is not possible unless you are on the Inca Trail as the earliest entry is 6:00 am. New rules have recently been implemented so if you engage a private tour and wish to spend extended time, be sure they have access to tickets for more than one session. Entrance slots are limited and  only allowed according to the following schedule: Morning shift: entry from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Afternoon shift: entry from 12 pm until 5.30 pm, so your maximum time on site is 5 1/2 or 6 hours. You must be accompanied by a licensed guide during the  your entire initial visit. You can purchase a sencond day ticket and access the site the second day without your guide (if there is availability). 

Whichever way you choose to see Machu Picchu, it is truly amazing!

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Posted (edited)

We went to Macho Picchu last Sept. We actually hiked the Inca Trail to get there. It was a good time to go, weather was perfect. The next day after arrival at MP we did get up at 4 am  to see the sunrise but unfortunately it was foggy that morning.  We booked a private tour company and were treated first class all the way.  I can recommend the company we used if interested, it was a good value.

 

I do suggest going to Cuzco a day or two ahead of time to get used to the altitude and to see the city. Lots of stuff to see and do there.

Edited by mac66

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