Many, many thanks for a GREAT trip! I don’t know where to start in telling you about it, but I’ll try…
The Galapagos… well, simply incredible! We could not have been happier with Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic. The boat was wonderful and we loved our very comfortable little room on a lower deck… (much less rocky than the more expensive cabins!). The staff did everything possible to make us feel comfortable and at home while on board. And the naturalists were simply outstanding. As a part time tour leader myself, I was tremendously impressed by their breath of knowledge about the islands AND their skill in challenging/encouraging us to take full advantage of the experience. After being told over and over that the wildlife would be amazing, we could not believe how close we could come to a wide range of animals. We never imagined that we would go snorkeling, that we would enjoy it so much, and that we would find ourselves swimming along with sea lions while watching boobies dive for lunch. It was just an amazing week… Oh, and BTW, we both read a biography on Darwin and Kurt Vonnegut’s book Galapagos before we left and we highly recommend both to Galapagos travelers.
As for Peru… Also wonderful, but I’ll give you the bad news first. It was a very difficult trip for us both, physically speaking, in part because of the schedule we have been on and in part because of the altitude. We were VERY tired by the time we hit Machu Picchu, and while we had a great time, we were really beat. I spent much of our Cusco time on Oxygen, and Sara picked up a bug somewhere, but we still had a great time.
Our hotels in Peru were fabulous! The Casa Andina Private Collection chain is excellent and we especially liked their hotel in Arequipa. They were all wonderful however, and we were quite pleased with our choices. The hotel in Aquas Caliente was a nice place to stay, but nothing special. I would probably stay there again, but… Well, the only reason to stay there is to get yourself to Machu Picchu early the second morning…
The Ramada Inn at the Lima airport was comfortable the first time we were there… But we stayed there a second time as well. The day we left Peru Sara became very ill. We went to the airport Ramada to let her rest for our six hour layover, and they did some emergency laundry for us AND got a doctor in to see her. Without their service we’d still be there. They were a lifesaver for us.
Ceiba Tops was a great experience. While not as luxurious as we might have been expecting, it was very professionally managed and our stay there was an experience of a lifetime. We will never forget the canopy walk, and the birdwatching there was also great. We loved traveling on the river, fishing and the hikes we took. Thanks for recommending this spot.
This is of course where we got in trouble with the airlines… We had booked a 9 PM flight from Iquitos to Lima, and we left the lodge at 3 to start the journey. Explorama had very professionally booked us into a hotel in town for our four hour wait for a flight, but they helped us change our flight to depart around 5:30 instead. That’s why we were listed as “no-shows” for the original flight, and why we had trouble the rest of the way. In fact, for the rest of our flights we had trouble with check in everytime, and we never got the seats we expected to have, although they did get us sitting together each time. (Otherwise, LAN was really quite good and we would recommend them.)
Condor/Avanti Tours were great. The tour guides were terrific and we always knew we were in good hands as they met us every step of the way. If there was any problem with them, it was that they were SO good that we didn’t have to speak Spanish very much! As tired as we were for much of the time in Peru, we were very grateful to have booked them and would highly recommend them to anyone traveling in the region.
We would highly recommend the Colca Canyon tour to anyone going to Peru. Arequipa is a great little city, not nearly as commercial as Cusco, and we would have liked to have had more time there. The two day tour to the canyon (the deepest canyon in the world!) was very difficult, as we went up to 15,000 feet just getting to our overnight in Chivay. The next morning at the canyon was extraordinary as we saw 18 condors in flight, making the trip well worth our time. Another day in Arequipa would have helped us adjust to the altitude and given us a day to rest a bit more too.
Machu Picchu was all that was advertised. A great way to end the trip. Our tour of the site was excellent, but the second morning when we got there before the “day-trippers” was the highlight. Just a spectacular site…
The whole trip was spectacular and it is difficult to describe without overusing superlatives. You made it possible for us and for that we are both extremely grateful. Your assistance in planning, your knowledge of the region and the opportunities, your helping us to keep to our budget (more or less!) and your help with the airlines during our trip, all made this experience as easy as possible for us. Thank you VERY much for all of your help.