Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu Travel Questions

Ever since I posted my vacation recaps from my family’s trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands, I’ve received a bunch of emails with travel questions from those of you hoping to assemble a similar trip. I figured I’d do a roundup post featuring a bunch of the questions I received from you guys.

For those of you who are hoping to plan a trip to either destination (or both!) in the future, I am thrilled for you and I hope you have the most amazing time! Feel free to email me with any additional questions you may have!

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  • Did you use a travel agency to help you plan your trip?

Yes. We used Samay Adventures, an Ecuador-based travel agency to help us plan our trip. Samay Adventures is owned by Dayanna, the sister of a close family friend. (We were able to spend some time with Dayanna and her amazing family when we were in Quito, which was wonderful!) We told Samay Adventures where we wanted to go, gave them a 10-day timeline and outlined our budget and they came back with a basic itinerary that we were then able to adjust. The expertise they provided was truly invaluable. They were able to pre-select all-day or half-day tours for us to join in the various cities and we loved all of our tour guides. Samay Adventures also suggested the live-aboard option in the Galapagos Islands where we lived on a boat with 16 other people and toured around the islands. Their recommendations were fabulous!

  • What camera did you use on your trip? The pictures you posted of Machu Picchu and the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands were amazing!

Photography isn’t a big interest of mine, so I really lucked out on this trip because my sister and her boyfriend are really into photography and took tons of incredible pictures that they let me use on the blog.

Nikon D90

According to Ross, they used a Nikon D90 camera and the lenses they used were the Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 and the Nikon 70-300. (He recommends checking craigslist.com for deals on the lenses and re-selling them after a trip if you won’t use them regularly since they really hold their value.) Camera-speak makes no sense to me, but there you have it!

Nikon D90 Machu Picchu

I also took a bunch of pictures that were featured on the blog with a Canon Powershot S95 (the latest edition is the Powershot S100), my point-and-shoot camera that I absolutely love!

Canon Powershot S95

  • My husband’s family is from Quito and I’d love to hear more about what you did while you were there. Can you share a little bit about your time in Quito?

My family and I spent two nights in Quito and had a blast thanks to Dayanna and her family’s incredible hospitality. During our first night (before we left for the Galapagos), we arrived in Quito in the early evening and went on a brief city tour.

Quito

Quito Church

It drizzled during our tour, but the light rain just made the reflections of the city lights even more stunning. We were told that professionals were hired to come in and light up the city which really made Quito come alive at night. It was gorgeous!

Quito at Night

For dinner, we met up with Dayanna, her mother and sister at Pim’s, a restaurant located at the top of El Panecillo, a large hill overlooking Quito featuring the Virgen de Quito statue.

Virgen de Quito

Dinner was amazing and we ate decadent empanadas and fresh ceviche and sipped on fabulous Ecuadorian wine. It was wonderful to hear more about Quito from three women who live there and love it so much.

We spent our second night in Quito on my birthday on our way home from the Galapagos. We arrived in the evening after a long day of traveling and I was shocked when I found out that my dad and Dayanna worked together to plan a special surprise for my birthday. I was dying to try Dayanna’s mother’s cooking and could not have been more thrilled when I found out that we were heading to her mom’s house for appetizers featuring her mom’s homemade ceviche and tostadas.

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Her ceviche was, without question, the best ceviche I’ve ever had in my life. It was unbelievable!

Ceviche Ecuador

They also surprised me with a birthday cake, which I thought was so kind.

birthday cake quito

Once we were done eating, we headed out to a restaurant in downtown Quito for dinner.

Dinner in Quito

Everyone we met in Quito was so kind and passionate about Ecuador which was so wonderful. We absolutely loved our time in the city!

  • Where did you get your luggage?

My luggage was a graduation present from my grandma.

Diane Von Furstenberg Luggage

I have both a carryon size suitcase and a larger suitcase in the same color. It’s Diane von Furstenberg and my grandma got it on sale at TJMaxx back in 2007. I’ve used both suitcases on a bunch of trips and they’ve held up very well!

  • I remember you saying something about only being able to take a carryon with you on your trip. Why?

This was a self-imposed rule that my dad created that everyone agreed to adhere to in order to simplify traveling. At first I thought it was silly, but, in the end, I was really glad we all packed carryons. Since our trip included a lot of flights, bus rides and train rides, we were carrying our luggage around with us quite a bit. Not having to wait at baggage claim or worry about the luggage of six people fitting in the small trunk a shuttle van helped alleviate unnecessary obstacles that could’ve popped up. It wasn’t mandatory, but I’m glad we all agreed to minimize our luggage.

  • What did you pack to wear to Machu Picchu? I’ve heard it can be really cold and wet. Did you pack for cold weather and just luck out?

Since we were all determined to carryon for our 10-day trip, packing was rather tricky. Machu Picchu can be quite cold, so I packed a pair of thicker athletic leggings (Moving Comfort endurance tights <—I LOVE these tights and highly recommend them!) and planned to wear layers on top (a tank top, sweatshirt – or two if needed – and a Columbia rain jacket that I bought for the trip). Since we booked our trip at the very end of the wet season, we weren’t sure what kind of weather we’d get, but we lucked out. I didn’t end up needing a jacket at all and just wore a pullover for the first few hours that we were there and then wore a tank top when it started to heat up. (Tip: Wear LOTS of sun screen!!)

Machu Picchu Vacation

What to wear to Machu Picchu

  • What did you pack to bring to the Galapagos Islands?

I packed mostly athletic wear since I knew we’d be doing some hiking and exploring. I brought two pairs of gym shorts for our entire trip, three tank tops (I wish I would’ve brought one or two more since I wore them a lot), two pullover sweatshirts (again, I wish I would’ve packed another one for our time in Peru and cold travel days, though two would be fine for the Galapagos) and three sun dresses to wear over bathing suits or to dinner.

Galapagos Voyager

Dress aboard our boat was very casual. We didn’t do our hair, wear makeup or wear anything other than cover-ups/sundresses and gym clothes for most of the trip. For shoes, I packed a pair of flip flops, sneakers and sandal sneakers (see more below).

  • What shoes did you wear in the Galapagos?

The ugliest shoes known to man.

Shoes for the Galapagos Keen

We were strongly advised to buy these sneaker sandals (I’m sure there’s a more technical name for them that I don’t know) and they really did work quite well. I got a pair of Keen Turia sandals for less than half price through Hautelook. I’ve seen them on sale frequently on RueLaLa and Hautelook, so definitely check out those sites to save some money! They were great for transitioning from the dinghy to the islands for hiking. I would’ve stubbed my toe a bunch of times had I not been wearing them, so I would say they were a good purchase. Plus, everyone else on our boat was wearing them, so we all looked goofy together.

  • My fiancé and I are planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands for our honeymoon and he really wants me to get scuba certified before our trip. I feel like I could see everything I’d want to see just by snorkeling and am a little nervous about running into bigger animals that might freak me out. Did you see anything that made you nervous underwater? And do you think scuba diving provided you with a better experience than the snorkeling that you did?

I’m definitely going to side with your fiancé on this one. Get scuba certified!!! Scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands was one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life. We saw white-tipped reef sharks but they completely ignored us and didn’t make me nervous at all. Our dive was organized by Scuba Iguana and they did a phenomenal job of emphasizing safety while still allowing us to see amazing wildlife.

Scuba Diving Galapagos

Question of the Morning

  • What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve ever had on vacation?

Comments

  1. says

    My favorite vacation memory was going to China and visting all the big-named places; ie Great Wall of China, Terracotta Army, Summer Palace, etc. This year I’m going back but to the western side to see the humongous Leshan Buddha and JiuZhaiGou. So excited!

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  2. says

    This was really helpful, thanks!! I always carry on my luggage for trips like these – I’ve had far too many lost bags to chance it…plus it DOES make it a ton easier if you are moving around a lot.

    I have so many memorable travel experiences!!! I would have to say my probably all time top was going on safari in the Serengeti, followed closely by plunging off the world’s highest commercial bungee jump in South Africa (something I never thought I would ever do, but am so glad I did).

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  3. says

    You know I had a question for you actually. I have always wanted to go to Galapagos and my husband and I have discussed it, but he’s concerned about the high crime rate in Ecuador. Was that an issue for you guys at all or did you do research about that first? I feel like if we stay with a large group, we’ll be fine but he’s kind of on the paranoid side. Oy.

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  4. says

    The best expeience I’ve had on a vacation was probably cave touring through Belize, then ziplining out of the cave into the pouring rain into the rain forest! We were soaked, but it was such a wonderful experience. I’ve heard great things about those shoes…I usually use my Skeletoes for things like that (which I have to say are probably even uglier!)

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  5. Ashley says

    The picture that is right after the question about what you packed for Machu Picchu (the pic with everyone in it) almost looks fake it’s so beautiful. 🙂 It sounds like you guys had such a memorable trip, thanks for answering those questions!

    I swam with dolphins in Cuba which was pretty wonderful. Being lifted out of the water by two dolphins at your feet was awesome.

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  6. says

    I went to Edinburgh for New Years. The day before New Years Eve, Edinburgh does a Hogmanay torch procession from the castle through the city. It was an amazing site to see the thousands of torches in front and around us as we walked.

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  7. says

    Hi Julie! I’m going to the Croatian Islands this summer for about a week and a half and have been looking for an waterproof camera that takes great pictures above and below the surface! Did you use your own camera to take the photos from your scuba trips? If not,what type of camera was used and/or have you heard of any cameras that take great photos above and below the water??

    Thanks! 🙂

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  8. says

    I loooveeed seeing these answers & it makes me want to go SO SO bad!

    My favorite trips have been to Bali (went with my dad), and our honeymoon to Mexico. And of course, Europe (where my mom is from). Switzerland is THE best country & most gorgeous place in the world. And anything there–hiking, eating, wandering, so so amazing. I have goooooood memories from there!

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  9. Jodea @ chillichocolatelove.com says

    I did the four day hike to Macchu Picchu and it was one of the highlights of my whole life… I did it when I was 30 and hope to do it again before I hit 40!

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  10. says

    Loved reading more about your trip!

    Two years ago, my husband and I went to Antigua. It was an amazing trip! The water was teal, so clear and warm. The tropical plants and flowers were so beautiful. I’d love to go back some time!

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  11. says

    So beautiful!!! I adore your posts 🙂

    And I was happy to write you a recommendation as a health coach via Reach150. If any of your other clients – or just friends you’ve inspired! – ever want to do the same, they can always go to the link below:

    http://reach150.com/post/HUFC7T

    You deserve so much praise for the good deeds you’re doing <3

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  12. Ush says

    I’m really glad you posted these questions/answers, it’s always interesting knowing more details about traveling (I LOVE to travel). A good friend of mine just went to Peru and loved it, and after seeing your awesome pictures, I really want go too! I’ll have to add it to my very long list of travel destinations 🙂

    I don’t know what my most memorable experience (there are so many experiences!) is but out of all the places I’ve traveled, I have two cities that I thought were absolutely magical and on my shortlist of favorites – Florence, Italy and Udaipur, India. I’m going to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in 2 weeks so maybe one of them will also make the cut!

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  13. Jennifer says

    Thank you so much for sharing the information about your trip to Galapagos and Ecuador! After reading your blog and seeing those amazing photos a couple of weeks ago, I have decided to plan a trip there in October of 2014! It looks like you guys had the most incredible time. Again, thanks for sharing 🙂

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  14. says

    Did you hike the Inca Trail? It is so amazing, right? I went when I was 25 in 2008, it was a spur of the moment kind of trip. We just hoped around from Lima, south to Arequipa, then to Cuzco and hiked to Machu Picchu. I would actually recommend NOT going with a tour, I feel like they take you away from the experience of the actual culture there. It is SO easy to book hotels and flights (we booked ours the day before we decided on each stop). But maybe I’m biased, I never use a tour group for anything, especially not in Europe (although it might be necessary for the Galapagos). Love the pics, they take me back! :-_)

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