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Machu Pichu tours
Old 10-23-2010, 08:43 PM   #1
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Machu Pichu tours

My DW & I would like to see Machu Pichu. We've done a quick look on the web and found literally 100's of tour options. Are there any recommendations for operators based on personal experience?

We're looking for;
clean but not necessarily fancy accomodations
Time to really see and explore the ruins
Possibly some other side trips in other parts of Peru

We've done extensive self guided tours in Europe, Australia, NZ, and Cambodia and also had good experiences with a dedicated tour guide in China and Thailand. We had a very bad experience with a package tour in Italy so are a little bit nervous about signing up for a package.

Lorne
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Old 10-23-2010, 09:59 PM   #2
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Husband and I went there with Exploratas (former Elderhostel) about 2 years ago, the guides were fantastic. They also took us to an agra college and learned about farming in the high lands of Peru.

We arrived in Lima, not a town that interested me a lot, but time there was used to prepare us for what we were about to see.

I brought and used the med for high altitude sickness, that is worth purchasing in the states. The med for la turista is over the counter in Peru. Several in our group needed that.

There is only one way in (short of hiking over the mountains), narrow gauge rail. That track was washed out within the last year but because it is a lifeline to the area I am sure it was repaired ASAP. The train fare is not inexpensive, it must be hugely expensive for the locals. Most of their necessities come in on the same track.

Because reservations on the train are booked far in advance by tour groups it is difficult for others to find a seat. I observed several independent travelers left at the station.
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Old 10-24-2010, 03:24 AM   #3
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I was there four months ago (June 2010). I took a tour from Cusco to Machu Pichu. Instead of being what Americans would consider a tour, it was really just a set of bus+train+admissions tickets, plus hotel. Figuring out how and when to use them was up to me, and it was a very long, arduous journey, since the train tracks were still washed out between Cusco and well past Ollantaytambo. Just to give you a flavor of the 20-or-so-hour trip:

- It took one car, three different bus rides, and one train ride.

- At one point the road was closed by the gov't, so we had to grab our bags, get out of the bus, and hike the next several miles (spectacular hike, though, with Inca ruins all around).

- On another bus I awoke at night to find the bus parked on a dirt road in a field of crops, with the driver outside lugging huge boulders out of our way.

- The train station in Aguas Calientes (closest town to Machu Pichu), where I was supposed to meet a contact from my hotel, was complete chaos, even for Peru. It was hard to deal with at 2am after that long, surreal journey.

Anyway, I'm an adventurous guy and used to the "challenges" of travelling in developing countries, but the trip from Cusco to Machu Pichu was just too much. It definitely detracted from the whole experience of seeing the ruins.

I don't have a particular tour operator to recommend to you, but if the tracks are still washed out anywhere between Cusco and Aguas Calientes, I recommend a company that will take you by bus directly from Cusco to Machu Pichu. It will make your life much easier and allow you to enjoy the ruins without having to go through something out of Kafka first.
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Old 10-24-2010, 06:27 AM   #4
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We went to Machu Picchu in 2005. At the ruins you don't really need to be part of a tour per se, as a good guidebook will tell you all you need to know. I recommend this one. Amazon.com: The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour (9781555663278): Ruth M. Wright, Alfredo Valencia Zegarra: Books.

I highly recommend taking the Hiram Bingham train from Cuzco. It is expensive, but the Orient Express-style luxury is really worth it. PERURAIL : The Luxury Trains : Machu Picchu Train : PeruRail.com

No matter what else you do and how much it costs, stay at the Sanctuary Lodge, which is up on the mountain, right outside the gates of the ruins. If you stay down in Aguas Calientes, the earliest you get to the ruins in the morning is 10 am, when the first bus goes up the mountain. And you need to leave by 4pm when the last bus goes down. By contrast, if you stay at the Sanctuary, which has only 31 rooms, you have the whole place virtually to yourself, devoid of the mass of tourists, both early and late in the day, when it is the most beautiful. We booked our entire trip around the one day we could get a reservation there.

Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge Hotel - Luxury Hotel in Machu Picchu


If you want a tour operator to make all these arrangements for you and see that you are pampered in high style, I recommend R. Crusoe & Son. They have standard tours, but will also make up a personal trip just for you. The young wife and I had our own van with a driver and a guide for our entire trip in Peru, except for Machu Picchu, where they put us on the train and met us when we returned. It was one of the easiest vacations I have ever been on.
Luxury travel, unusual journeys | R. Crusoe & Son
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:25 AM   #5
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We went to Machu Picchu in 2005. At the ruins you don't really need to be part of a tour per se, as a good guidebook will tell you all you need to know. I recommend this one. Amazon.com: The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour (9781555663278): Ruth M. Wright, Alfredo Valencia Zegarra: Books.

I highly recommend taking the Hiram Bingham train from Cuzco. It is expensive, but the Orient Express-style luxury is really worth it. PERURAIL : The Luxury Trains : Machu Picchu Train : PeruRail.com

No matter what else you do and how much it costs, stay at the Sanctuary Lodge, which is up on the mountain, right outside the gates of the ruins. If you stay down in Aguas Calientes, the earliest you get to the ruins in the morning is 10 am, when the first bus goes up the mountain. And you need to leave by 4pm when the last bus goes down. By contrast, if you stay at the Sanctuary, which has only 31 rooms, you have the whole place virtually to yourself, devoid of the mass of tourists, both early and late in the day, when it is the most beautiful. We booked our entire trip around the one day we could get a reservation there.

Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge Hotel - Luxury Hotel in Machu Picchu


If you want a tour operator to make all these arrangements for you and see that you are pampered in high style, I recommend R. Crusoe & Son. They have standard tours, but will also make up a personal trip just for you. The young wife and I had our own van with a driver and a guide for our entire trip in Peru, except for Machu Picchu, where they put us on the train and met us when we returned. It was one of the easiest vacations I have ever been on.
Luxury travel, unusual journeys | R. Crusoe & Son
Wow, you travel on a different budget than me. No way would I pay $800 to $2000 a night for a hotel.

My advice to the OP - get a good guide book (see Amazon reviews) for a recommendation for a local tour operator.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:58 AM   #6
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My boss did this tour with his family, it was outstanding, I've seen the pictures and heard the family's stories. However, my boss is wealthy to put it plainly - so if you're looking for a bargain, this won't be it. Peru, Machu Picchu Holiday | Abercrombie & Kent. I'd like to see Machu Picchu too, but I am way too cheap. All his family trips have been through Abercrombie & Kent.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:00 AM   #7
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We went to Machu Picchu in 2005. At the ruins you don't really need to be part of a tour per se, as a good guidebook will tell you all you need to know. I recommend this one. Amazon.com: The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour (9781555663278): Ruth M. Wright, Alfredo Valencia Zegarra: Books.

I highly recommend taking the Hiram Bingham train from Cuzco. It is expensive, but the Orient Express-style luxury is really worth it. PERURAIL : The Luxury Trains : Machu Picchu Train : PeruRail.com

No matter what else you do and how much it costs, stay at the Sanctuary Lodge, which is up on the mountain, right outside the gates of the ruins. If you stay down in Aguas Calientes, the earliest you get to the ruins in the morning is 10 am, when the first bus goes up the mountain. And you need to leave by 4pm when the last bus goes down. By contrast, if you stay at the Sanctuary, which has only 31 rooms, you have the whole place virtually to yourself, devoid of the mass of tourists, both early and late in the day, when it is the most beautiful. We booked our entire trip around the one day we could get a reservation there.

Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge Hotel - Luxury Hotel in Machu Picchu


If you want a tour operator to make all these arrangements for you and see that you are pampered in high style, I recommend R. Crusoe & Son. They have standard tours, but will also make up a personal trip just for you. The young wife and I had our own van with a driver and a guide for our entire trip in Peru, except for Machu Picchu, where they put us on the train and met us when we returned. It was one of the easiest vacations I have ever been on.
Luxury travel, unusual journeys | R. Crusoe & Son
It occurred to me that you might also like recommendations for places to stay in Cuzco and Lima. These are the hotels where we stayed.

Hotel Monasterio Cuzco, Peru - the finest luxury hotel in Cusco, Peru

Hotels in Peru | Golf Country Club | Country Club Lima Hotel, Lima, Peru

They were both beautiful, the service was impeccable and the food in the restaurants was excellent. Both were conveniently located in clean and safe areas. If we went back, I would definitely stay there again.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:08 AM   #8
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Wow, you travel on a different budget than me. No way would I pay $800 to $2000 a night for a hotel.
It is by far the most we have ever paid for a hotel, but it truly was worth the price. There is nothing like walking through the empty ruins of Machu Picchu just as the sun is rising, with not another soul around. The silent beauty of the site simply takes your breath away.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:59 AM   #9
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This is a timely thread for me---I was just thinking about posting a thread asking for recommendations of traveling to Machu Picchu/Peru. This destination has been high on my bucket list for some time now. I am not ready to tackle an independent trip so DH and I will probably book some sort of tour. I have done tours in the past and they have their advantages and disadvantages. Elderhostel is one option that I have considered but it is a little pricey for me. I have also looked a tour company called Latin America 4 Less---does anyone have any experience with that? I would love to hear suggestions.
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:07 PM   #10
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vbulletin, the clever software that runs this site, reminds me that there was another Machu Picchu thread back in 2007, where I said almost exactly the same thing, oddly enough.

Machu Picchu
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Old 10-24-2010, 04:06 PM   #11
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It is by far the most we have ever paid for a hotel, but it truly was worth the price. There is nothing like walking through the empty ruins of Machu Picchu just as the sun is rising, with not another soul around. The silent beauty of the site simply takes your breath away.
I would pay this to walk Machu Picchu virtually alone.
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Old 10-24-2010, 06:09 PM   #12
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It is by far the most we have ever paid for a hotel, but it truly was worth the price. There is nothing like walking through the empty ruins of Machu Picchu just as the sun is rising, with not another soul around. The silent beauty of the site simply takes your breath away.
Well, arriving on the first bus is not quite as tingley, but the extra cash in my pocket helped me get over it.

On the serious side, I did a walk through at Tikal at sunset and, I agree, it is a mystical experience. Of course, those dang fools only charged me $100 a night for a hotel right next door.
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Old 10-24-2010, 06:56 PM   #13
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I have been to Cusco four times and to Machu Picchu three times, having lived twice in Peru. I highly recommend a trip to MP, one of the truly outstanding wonders of the world.

My wife and I stayed in modest hotels in Aguas Calientes during each of our visits. The hotels were clean and comfortable but but small. I didn't mind them one bit. Our travel agent (see below) arranged them.

I think the first bus up to Machu Picchu leaves at 7:30 am, not 10:00 am. I just consulted my travel journal and noted that our guide picked us up from the hotel at 7:30 am. The date stamp on the first picture I took of MP that day was at 8:10 am. If you can get there soon, I would recommend that you do so.

MP, of course, is the highlight of any trip to Peru, but there is so much more to see. I highly recommend a one-day visit in Lima, including the Gold Museum. Trips to the Nazca Lines, to the Paracas National Reserve (kind of a poor-person's Galapogos Islands), and to the ruins of Pachacamac would also be worth the time (a day or two) if you have time during your trip.

Once in Cusco, you should take a tour of the city and outlying Inca ruins. They are fabulous. I also highly recommend that you take a tour that leaves Cusco, travels to the ruins of Pisac (requires some hiking), and then travels through the Sacred Valley until it arrives at Ollantaytambo, ready to take the train trip to Aguas Calientes.

If you have time, I also highly recommend the luxury bus tour from Cusco to Puno and Lake Titicaca, and a tour of the floating islands of the Uros. Wow! What an experience.

A tour guide that I highly recommend is Zarahemla "Zara" (pronounced like Sarah) Lopez. She has her own clean, modern van, can pick you up at the Lima airport, can arrange a hotel in Lima, and can get you to Cusco and back. She has connections with an excellent travel agent (Ebert Carrasco) in Cusco and Machu Picchu.

What impressed me the most with Zara is that she is super-conscientious, extremely safety conscious, and pays attention to all details. Her agency is called JALTours. She can be reached by email at zaralopez (at) hotmail (dot) com or through her Facebook page (just do a facebook search of "Zarahemla Lopez"). Oh, and she's reasonably priced.

Good luck. You love your trip to Peru.

For pictures of our travels in Peru, go to http://picasaweb.google.com/ScottnBeverlyinPeru
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:04 PM   #14
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I would pay this to walk Machu Picchu virtually alone.
You can also get to Machu Pichu at dawn by walking from Aguas Calientes. It's a 1-2 hour hike with lots of steps to climb, but, if you're fit, it will allow you to use the cheaper accommodation in Aguas Calientes. "Cheaper" here is relative in that everything (lodging, food, etc.) in Aguas Calientes is extremely expensive for Peru.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:16 PM   #15
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You can also get to Machu Pichu at dawn by walking from Aguas Calientes. It's a 1-2 hour hike with lots of steps to climb, but, if you're fit, it will allow you to use the cheaper accommodation in Aguas Calientes. "Cheaper" here is relative in that everything (lodging, food, etc.) in Aguas Calientes is extremely expensive for Peru.
Yep. But if you're on that first bus at 7:30 (or maybe earlier), you'll have a couple of hours before it gets crowded.

Also, don't go to MP on a Sunday. Peruvians have free entry that day, so the crowds can get big early. For best results, go during the middle of the week.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:46 PM   #16
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I think the first bus up to Machu Picchu leaves at 7:30 am, not 10:00 am. I just consulted my travel journal and noted that our guide picked us up from the hotel at 7:30 am. The date stamp on the first picture I took of MP that day was at 8:10 am.
I stand corrected. That seemed to be the schedule when we were there. Maybe it has changed in the interim. I do know that it was deserted at sunrise when I was there, except for one young couple who hiked up the mountain.
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Old 10-24-2010, 11:46 PM   #17
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I stand corrected. That seemed to be the schedule when we were there. Maybe it has changed in the interim. I do know that it was deserted at sunrise when I was there, except for one young couple who hiked up the mountain.
I don't remember exactly what time I took the bus from Aguas Calientes but we definitely got to machu picchu before sunrise (I remember waiting in the dark for the bus). However, one thing to keep in mind is that Machu Picchu is surrounded by mountains and so the sun doesn't rise above the horizon until later.
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:54 AM   #18
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One other thought. If you have the time and the fitness, you might want to hike Huayna Picchu (the dark-green mountain shown in the background of my avatar at left). The view is spectacular, as shown by this picture of me during the hike (in January of 2001):



And here's a picture of MP that I took from near the top of Huayna Picchu. BTW, the hotel that Gumpy mentioned is shown in the upper left of this photo.
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Old 10-25-2010, 04:51 PM   #19
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And if you look on the right side of the picture, at the sheer cliffs, that's where the trail to the Inca Bridge goes. It's very cool, but definitely not for the acrophobic.

Here is a picture. It is three logs laid across a gap in the trail. (Click on the picture to make it larger)
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File Type: jpg inca_bridge2.jpg (209.8 KB, 19 views)
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Old 10-25-2010, 05:03 PM   #20
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DW and I just did Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley in late July. The railway is now fully operational. You don’t need a tour to do this well. The new Lonely Planet Peru is very well written and has lots of details. Here are my tips and notes:
- Sleep in Aguas Calientes for 2 nights. That will give you a full day (including sunrise and sunset) at Machu Picchu. The 1st train of the day arrives at 10:30, so that gives you 4 hours before the majority of tourists show up. They leave around 4 or so, which gives you another couple of tourist-free hours at the end of the day.
- Keep in mind that Machu Picchu is just one of many Inca ruins in the area. I think some of the other ruins are more impressive, but the setting of MP is more spectacular. We spent 5 days in the Sacred Valley before going to MP.
- Agree on a price for everything before doing or eating it. This includes taxis and taking pictures with the locals. We ended up paying for items in a restaurant that we thought were free (Oh, try this corn, you will love it!). My Spanish is very good, so it wasn’t a simple miscommunication.
- DW and I spent $2000 for 9 nights including everything except airfare. We ate and drank what we wanted and bought lots of wool gifts. We stayed at La Piccola Locanda in Cusco and loved it. They were very helpful for figuring out how to get to various ruins. I used Lonely Planet almost exclusively for planning and feel like we did everything on the major to do lists.
- The 1st bus from Aguas Calientes to MP is at 5:30. We got up at 4:00 each day to get in line. Buy your bus tickets the night before you need them. Otherwise, you have to wait in line for tickets and then go wait in line for the bus. Even at this hour, we were usually on bus 12 or 15 (hundreds of people in line). If you can’t buy the tix the night before, one of you should wait in line for tix while the other waits in line for the bus. If the one waiting for the bus gets to the front without tix, it is not a problem. They will just have to wait at the side until the ticket holder arrives.
- Only the 1st 400 people get to climb Wayna Picchu. I spoke to several people who went up on the 1st bus and weren’t in the 1st 400. The 1st 400 got in line at the park entrance at 2AM by either 1) climbing up in the dark or 2) paying $800 per night to stay at the hotel at the park entrance.
- I am not an archeologist, so I felt like the Lonely Planet guide was good enough (when coupled with the free entrance map) for my 1.5 days in the park.
- We traveled almost exclusively by combis (a type of shared minivan). The price was very cheap and you get to ride with locals and experience some real culture.
- The taxi and combi drivers don’t speak English.
- A taxi within Cusco should cost around 5 soles (about $2). We got scammed right out of the airport and paid 10 times the going rate to get to our hotel (yea, $10, but I don’t like to pay more than market price). Avoid the touts outside the airport and find the guys quietly waiting in line for new arrivals.
Have fun!
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