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Request for suggested tours of Peru and the Galapagos in 2021 or 2022

Hello!

Our valedictorian daughter was unable to enjoy a high school graduation or the graduation trip we'd planned to Europe for her this summer, so now I'm looking into taking her to Peru and the Galapagos Islands - hopefully this coming year, if travel is permitted, or in 2022 if 2021 is still out. My husband and I don't typically take tours and opt instead to make our own travel plans, but for this trip, because my husband can't do high altitudes and so won't be coming along, it will just be my daughter and me, and we feel a tour (or tours) is the best way to go.

Can anyone please suggest a tour of Peru (must see - is of course Machu Picchu), with an accompanying tour of the Galapagos Islands? Our daughter is currently studying environmental policy in college and would very much enjoy seeing the islands, and it's been my lifelong dream to see Machu Picchu. I'd like to go, while I can still hike. We don't want to completely "rough it" on a tour, but neither are we afraid of economical (but clean and safe) accommodations or a lot of hiking. If anyone has tour suggestions or tour operator suggestions, we would very much appreciate it. Also, if you have any general suggestions about Peru and/or the Galapagos, we'd greatly appreciate those as well. We're thinking of spending a total of two weeks for the trip.

Thank you very much!

Posted by
3671 posts

Neither of these require a tour per se but you may prefer some sort of logidtical and guide assistance.

I recommend CNH tours of the Galapagos on the Samba, particularly if you can get Juan Salcedo as your guide. Heather runs this one person 'agency' and only sells the Samba..a local 17 passenger ship. She is a Canadian who lived in the Islands a number of years so knows them, and her contscts, well. I only booked the Islands portion, but the normal tour includes a few days in Quito, Ecuador. You could most likely meet them right at Galapagos Airport if you think to get a flight there from the US. Juan and his extended family have been key players in developing...and limiting...tourism in the islands. He also limits his schedule so he doesn't suffer the guide burnout that can happen with other tours..regardless of price point. He is always on duty during daylight hours, so even underway, he is in the wheelhouse with binoculars looking for marine animals. We would hear a whoop, and ru to deck...was it an Orca, or a pod of dolphins? Then it was an unplanned ride in the zodiaks amongst the pods while other ships just sailed on by. He would be a great resource for your daughter. The hardedt part is deciding which tour to take, as not one tour does the entire archipeligo. If you can afford both, I recommend it.
I notice she will help organize some trip to Cuzco and Macchu Picchu as well.
If hubby was interested, he could hang out in Lima for a few days which is sea level, while you two hit MP.

Posted by
187 posts

My family took the OAT Machu Picchu and Galapagos tour January 2020. It was very good but the 12 people were a lot older than your daughter. I worried about the steps and elevation, but they were not a problem. I live at sea level. Look a the G-Adventures tour company. They have a younger crowd overall. You may be too old for the backpacker/hostel tours, but they have “fancier” affordable trips. Never used them, but it is a big company. It’s a great adventure with some time in each country’s cities. I don’t think that cobbling together a trip in Peru and Ecuador is not as easy as Europe, but can be done.

Posted by
2988 posts

When we went to Machu Picchu we did it through National Geographic. We’re not tour types generally, but in that case it made sense to let someone else deal with making the transportation reservations since a number needed to be made (train, bus, train) just to get there. Consider looking up its tours as I don’t know if it does a combined Machu Picchu and Galapagos tour. If you get to Machu Picchu and have the time, look into climbing to the top of Waynapicchu. Waynapicchu is that tall peak you see in most Machu Picchu photos. I’ve been told you now need to reserve a spot beforehand since the number of people allowed to climb it is very limited. On our tour in 2009, one just showed up and the first 150 or so got to climb it. A second batch was allowed later that day. If you want to see some photos from that trip, here is the link. You can get an idea of the accommodations we stayed at and things included in the tour.
http://jaimeelsabio.com/vac_pages/2009vac1.html

Posted by
17 posts

REI Adventures has MP, Galapagos, and combo tours, with hotel, camp, cruise, volunteer and other options. I did the MP hotel trip several years ago and can recommend it. MP lived up to expectations, tho I believe (until covid) it has become much more crowded with tourists since I went. But (after covid) I say carpe diem and go!

Posted by
20970 posts

We did a 16 day Machu Picchu and the Galapagos in Oct with Odysseys Unlimited Tour. Flew out of Miami. Small group - about 20. Close to the best trip we have ever taken. It was first class, first rate, all the way through the trip. We thought the MP would be cool because of altitude and the Galapagos sitting on the equator would be hot. Just the reverse. Surprised at now cool it was in Galapagos. Had to use wet suits for S diving in the Galapagos.

Posted by
1071 posts

I second Frank’s recommendation of Odysseys Unlimited as they do an excellent job. They also refunded customer deposits this year for trips cancelled due to Covid. It took months to get our refund from OAT for our cancelled Morocco tour. I would also suggest NatGeo/Lindblad for the Galapagos. We enjoyed our trip with them. They are another excellent company. I am not sure how they handled refunds of tour deposits but suggest you do some research before you book with any tour company.

Posted by
54 posts

I greatly appreciate all these suggestions! Thank you everyone! We are excited to go, and are staying positive that we will be able to go soon!

Posted by
96 posts

We went to Machu Picchu and Galápagos with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic in May 2019. The tour group met in Lima and flew down to Cusco to start the Machu Picchu part. Then we all flew to Ecuador to start the Galapagos trip. We all stayed on the Natl Geo Islander expedition ship and visited 4 or 5 islands for the Galápagos portion. It’s a small group,tour of all ages. We had 20-somethings up to a 75 yr old. The lodgings were all 5-star, particularly in Cusco and Guayaquil (Ecuador). No complaints to about the food. There was plenty of it.

I had been to Machu Picchu before many years ago when I hiked it. Best experience ever. I wanted to do it again last yr with husband but he wasn’t thrilled about the idea. He just wanted to get there, see it and get to the Galapagos and snorkel among sea lions. I’d hike it again in a heartbeat.

Posted by
439 posts

We took OAT's Peru trip maybe ten years ago, & it was excellent. Two college kids & their parents in the group, & a terrific & fun guide whose expertise was in archaeology, win win. The company - yup, it's been badmouthed, but we've had many great trips with them - has also had a Galapagos itinerary. However you go, if you have an interest in textiles, in Cuzco there's a women's cooperative store with wonderful stuff, woven in the mountain villages. My all-time favorite shoulder bag's from there.

Posted by
1184 posts

I would not call it "bad mouthed". To me "bad mouthing" is saying something that is not true. It was the reporting of the true actions of OAT in regards to refunds. You can read the details on this forum under the topic "Overseas Adventure Tours Refunds".
Now, I do agree that OAT runs great tours. I some ways I think their tours are better than Rick's. I have taken both.

Posted by
148 posts

We toured the Galapagos with Natural Habitat Adventures and it was fabulous. 13 guests and 2 guides onboard a catamaran with crew. The youngest was on her graduation trip with her grandparents and the rest of us were fairly equally distributed age-wise in between. We opted to combine it with the Amazon but they do offer Machu Pichu as an add-on.

Posted by
7659 posts

My sister did both with Road Scholar. and thought they were stellar.

Posted by
4656 posts

We have been to Peru twice and love that country. Still haven't done the Galapagos, but looking at going in the future.

We had a cruise out of Chile in late March of 2019 the ended in San Diego, so we planned our second visit to Peru and Machu Picchu on our way down to Chile. It was in mid to late March. The rainy season ends March 31, but we were hopeful that the weather would hold. Fortunately, it did and it was wonderful. Machu Picchu is special. The altitude is over 8,000 feet and climbing those hills (we were in our early 70s) was exhausting, even though we are fit for our age. Be sure to get altitude sickness meds before you go. We did and it really helped.

I shopped around for a tour of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Our cruise line wanted over $3000 for a tour that would have been three days.

We found a GREAT tour with PeruAgency.com
The tour was three nights and four days. It did not include flights down from Lima and return. The flights were less than $200 each.
The tour was $799 each and it was private, except for our first day tour of Cusco ( we had about 7 persons on that tour). We had a private guide just for the two of us for the rest of the trip. Our hotels were very nice. The one in Cusco was in a historic building within walking distance of the sites in the city. We visited many ancient places outside Cusco as well in in that city. Also, in route to Machu Picchu we visited many sites in the Sacred Valley on our way to MP. Our guide dropped us off at the train for the end of the trip to Agua Caliente, where we spent the night (near MP). We had the train car with the special viewing roof and it was great.
We were met at the train station by our guide for MP and we make arrangements to start our tour early. We met him the next morning and the tour was wonderful. We hiked all over the mountain. We didn't try doing the hike up the hill opposite the city and glad we didn't, we were pooped after several hours covering that city.

Returning to Cusco we took the train back, then a bus and were met by our original guide in Cusco. We had a full day in that city prior to flying back to Lima.

I highly recommend PeruAgency.
https://www.peruagency.com

Later on the cruise we stopped again at Lima. We had another city tour that visited some new places that we didn't see on our earlier cruise.

Peru is great, love the dining there, which is special.

You can do tours of the Peruvian Amazon, which I read are great, we haven't done that. Also, Lake Titicaca is an option.

Posted by
6190 posts

The first company that was allowed to bring tourists to the Galapagos Is was Lindblad. They are naturalists.

Posted by
7659 posts

geovagriffith, your tour sounds ideal! Great recommendation.

Posted by
28 posts

Take a look at what Gate1 Travel has on offer. You can also link tours. We have travelled with them many times when we don't want to make all the arrangements and we have always found they provided a great trip for a reasonable price. Accommodations have been much nicer than what we usually arrange for ourselves. Last year we had a river cruise scheduled with them for early May for which we had paid in full. They cancelled the cruise at the end of March and returned our money within a week.

Posted by
329 posts

have a look at G Adventures. Highly recommended by friends of mine that have used them.

Posted by
8009 posts

@Traveller, you were lucky with your Gate 1 Refund. Many have posted on another forum regarding months of waiting for refunds and then having to wind up contacting the Attorney General for the state in which they are located (maybe PA??) to get satisfaction.

Posted by
28 posts

That's not good to hear. Our traveling companions had no trouble with their refund either. But we did wait for Gate1 itself to cancel the trip, And it was early in the pandemic, so perhaps that made a difference. I'll have to see if I can find the reviews you reference.

Posted by
8009 posts

@ Traveler - here is the thread on the Trip Advisor Senior Forum. The discussion regarding refunds for company cancelled tours and the difficulties some people have faced begins about #339. I think this link will take you to the right page, just scroll down.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i13626-k5613513-o330-Gate1_Travel-Senior_Travel.html

Although I've not traveled with them in June, I saw a friend (we'd been on a Rick Steves tour together, lol) had posted on FB that they had had a Gate1 tour cancelled and were refused a refund. I'd seen the chatter on TA so suggested she contact the PA Attorney General's office. That was a Sunday and she had her refund by Thursday.

Posted by
11929 posts

The National Geographic tours are most likely operated by Mountain Travel Sobek (MT sobek) like their Patagonia trips. I discovered this when I was researching Patagonia hiking trips and narrowed our choice down to Nat'l Geo and MT Sobek. I called both to ask some specific questions and found Inwas speaking to the same person! She said Nat'l Geo contracts with MT Sobek to guide their adventure trips.

I asked her about the differences and she pointed out some: they differ in price, cancellation and refund policies, and loyalty programs. I asked about clientele and after hesitating a bit she said the NG clients are a bit more "needy", while the MTS clients tend to be more experienced hikers, and often younger. We chose the MTS trip and it was excellent in every way. We have also used MTS for a Japan walking trip. The group's are small (ours were 9 for Patagonia and 7 for Japan). And the guides are excellent.

https://www.mtsobek.com/trips/central-and-south-america/machu-picchu/

They offer combined Machu Picchu/Galapagos trips, and a variety of options for trekking to Machu Picchu, including inn-to inn treks in the Sacred Valley.

REI Adventures also offers Galapagos and M-P trips. We have used them for Slovenia, Pyrenees, and Tour du Mont Blanc and like them as much as MT Sobek. Some guides work for both---our Mont Blanc guide does. The groups are similarly small (12 people max and our groups were smaller). Our Slovenia trip had guests as young as 30 but most guests are older, like us.