Vacation of a Lifetime
This is a trip that you will likely do once in your lifetime so I would make sure you give it the time it deserves. I would plan to spend about 5 days in the Galapagos and 2 days in Machu Picchu. Since both places are VERY hard to get to, you need to build in travel time in your schedule. I explain more about the logistics below.
Chris always plans our trips and he still weighed in on this one, but Kensington Tours handled many of the details. They did a wonderful job. We traveled seamlessly, with peace of mind. They even printed out a magazine style itinerary for us. It was a nice touch! I would not recommend traveling without guidance unless you are very familiar with the countries. I felt much more secure having guides meeting us every step of the way.
This was the part that Chris meticulously researched. To see the Galapagos Islands, you really have to be on a boat. And the boats here are all owned and operated by Ecuadorian companies so if you are looking for the latest Caribbean Cruise ship, you won’t find it here. We decided to cruise on the Galapagos Legend because it was one of the faster, newer boats. It is also the largest which no doubt mitigates waves. The last thing you want is to get seasick on your vacation. They also catered to children (some cruises did not). We got two adjoining junior suites which were lovely. The windows were very large which made the cabins feel even bigger!
We did a 4-day cruise, which felt like enough time.
Traveling by Zodiac
While on the ship, you can stay as busy as you want. The schedule is ultimately up to you. The crew offered excursions/hikes in the morning and usually a snorkel/dive in the afternoon. You took a Zodiac (pictured above) from the ship to your island or snorkel destination by Zodiac. They split you up into animal groups (about 15 people) and then called your group over the loudspeaker when they were ready to depart. We were the “Dolphins,” which was fitting since I am a Le Moyne College Dolphin.
Espanola Island is the first island we visited and probably my favorite. You climbed out of the Zodiac onto a rock path filled with crabs. The crabs swiftly parted as you walked along the path onto the island where you were greeted by fearless sea lions and prehistoric looking Marine Iguanas. The giant Marine Iguanas can swim and drink salt water, which is how they survive and thrive here. The sea lions acted more like dogs, taking long naps, playing with sticks and even swimming alongside you. They don’t have predators in the Galapagos so they are not at all afraid of people. (Note the baby sea lion near me in the picture above) It’s like being in a zoo with no walls.
On our second day, we traveled to Floreana Island. This is where you saw Blue Footed Boobies (the birds with the blue feet and slate blue beaks) and also Flamingos. Again, this is NOT a zoo… these Flamingos were just hanging out. I loved the stark black volcanic islands jutting out against the light blue sea. The Galapagos Islands were formed by volcanoes. The landscape is very similar to the Big Island in Hawaii.
Santa Cruz Island
Another amazing highlight was seeing the Giant Tortoises that you can only find in two places globally. They get up to 500 pounds and live up to 130 years. It takes 5 men to move just one. They are really cool to watch! We walked around in a sanctuary where they release the turtles. It was like walking around a real-life Jurassic Park!! It is surreal. It’s also very muddy, but don’t worry, they provide boots.
Santa Cruz Island was the most jungle-like of all the islands filled with tropical trees, plants and flowers.
Another bucket list destination…? Machu Picchu. Getting there can be tricky. We had to fly into Lima, Peru and then stay overnight. Then we flew from Lima to Cusco. We stayed overnight again and took a train the next day. We spent a couple nights in Cusco going to and from Machu Picchu. I loved Cusco! It’s a beautiful city…
Cusco is at 11,000 feet. For those that aren’t used to altitude… I strongly recommend drinking a LOT of water, taking a couple Advil if you get a mild headache and staying away from alcohol. I also wouldn’t overdo it your first several hours. Think about checking into your hotel and then taking it easy.
Where We Stayed
In Cusco, we stayed at the Belmond Hotel Monasterio. It’s such a gorgeous hotel! We were lucky enough to be there on opera night. We dined at the restaurant and listened to two opera singers perform. It was magic! Opera is so moving and beautiful… I would say this hotel is on our personal “Top 10” list!
I think there is a lot of confusion about how you get to the top of Machu Picchu. People kept asking me if my kids could handle the hike. Well, there isn’t a hike. I wore jeans! You take a bus up a switchback road to the top of the mountain. You hike a tiny bit and tour around the ancient city ruins. When you are finished touring, you head back down the mountain on the bus. In other words, it’s pretty simple for kiddos. That said; this is NOT a place to bring someone on crutches, a toddler on the run, the elderly who have trouble getting around, etc. You climb the original Inca granite steps! I would recommend waiting until your kids are at least 5-years old.
Machu Picchu is extraordinary in many ways, but here is the headline: 1) The view is unreal and 2) It is fascinating to see the Incan architecture. You can’t understand how they built this city. Scientists estimate it took 30,000 people working EVERY DAY for 50 years to finish it!
You can also hike into Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail. There are several day tour options for that trip.
Where We Stayed
In Machu Picchu, we stayed at the Inkaterra Hotel and it was fabulous! You can see our cool room above, which the kids loved because it had a second story loft. It felt like you were staying in the most posh jungle hut.
Train to Machu Picchu
You take a train to get in and out of Machu Picchu from Cusco. There are some luxury train options. We took the regular PeruRail train and it was lovely. This guy came out and danced with the passengers while traditional Peruvian pan-flute music played.
Chris and I love traveling and see it not only as an educational opportunity for the kids but also an opportunity for us to have a new adventure! We both feel that having a trip planned gives us something exciting and meaningful to look forward to, which is important to us. I can’t wait to start planning our next big adventure!
You might like to read about our trip to Iceland here. Or perhaps what we did in Japan here. I’ll cover packing and what I wore in another post. I linked some of the heavy hitters from my suitcase below.
What is one of your favorite trips of all time?? Please share in the comments below.
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42 thoughts on “An Amazing Trip to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu”
Thank you for sharing your amazing trip! This one is on my list of must sees; it’s great to see what worked for someone who has been there before (especially with kids). We were in brazil, Uruguay and argentina 4 years ago, so i’m dying to do the west coast of South America – it’s such a vast continent, there is much to explore. we have been to japan, china, Hong Kong, Western Europe a few times, greece, croatia, montenegro, slovakia, fanning island, quebec, all over the caribbean several times, mexico several times, several hawaiian islands, a good old summer road trip to many western national parks and many locations all over the USA (we are from Vancouver, canada). Next trip is to the Society Islands. I love to travel and love to follow others that do, too!
Thanks for the info on machu picchu! My husband and I will fly into lima then cusco and we are doing the 4 day inca trail hike to the top. it’s an 11 day trip so we also have some time to explore both lima & cusco! we are very excited. the galapagos is also on our list so that info was helpful, too. thanks again
Have a wonderful trip, Susan!!!
Hi Erin: I am new to your blog and can’t wait to explore it. I discovered some of your style videos on Youtube which led me here. BTW, I love your style. Being 52 (but not looking it, thanks to the genes my mum passed to me) I was on the hunt for someone to give me style ideas and tips. Yours are GREAT!!
Also, my family went to Peru 3 years ago and it was one of our favourite adventure trips. We loved Cusco too. Our sons are in the their early 20s, and we did the 2 day Inca trail hike. It was incredible to hike down thru the sungate into the machu Pichu ruins. We haven’t gone to Iceland or japan, those are on our bucket list. I will be getting ideas from your posts!
Our other favoUrite trips have been:
-Thailand & Cambodia
-Singapore & malaysia
-Sri Lanka (AMAZING beaches!!!)
-Jordan (AMAZING COUNTRY and SItes, so easy to travel there, very friendly people who love kids) &Egypt
(Note: my husband and I work in international schools and we raised our sons overseas. We love to travel and do 1-2 trips every year)
I LOVE your list!! My husband and I did Thailand and Cambodia on our honeymoon and obviously Ecuador on this trip. We also visited Jordan and Petra. I am intrigued by Sri Lanka! Thank you for sharing!! And we definitely have Singapore on our list too. We are also thinking about Vietnam/Hong Kong, New Zealand/Australia, African safari and South Africa… and lastly, a good old fashioned road trip to some of the major national parks!
Love this post erin! My dad lived in peru years ago for work and loved the people there. the hotel you stayed in with the loft looks very similar to the house he rented there. He said all the houses had different floor levels which was cool! I bet is was so interesting seeing the ancient city! It’s amazing how they built them so long ago with no machines. Your family is beautiful! Keep traveling my friend! XO
That is so neat! I didn’t know that, Desiree! Thank you for sharing…
Hi. Just discovered your blog and very much enjoying. the grey/black distressed jeans you wore on the Galapagos trip are great. Would you mind sharing the brand?
They are sold out… one pair was Amo Twist and the other was 7 for all Mankind skinnies. I am LOVING JBrand Natasha jeans right now: https://rstyle.me/n/detbf658an I ordered black and gray cropped. True to size.
Beautiful photos! What size are you wearing in the norma kamali track jacket? it looks beautiful on you!
Love this! Great pics. I have a famIly of 11. There are 5 grandkids ages: 12, tHree 14, 16. We have been to London, PariS, a Wyoming dude ranch, and going to Italy this spring. I am looking for an AdvenTure for next year.
How many days are needed for travel and for touring? It looked cold in your pics. You went in December?
We have used Kensington tours several times. Always pleased. What advice can you give me? Did you use a local agent with Kensington? Can you share The cost for Your family? This was so worth all the time it is taking you to Resettle!
Thank you very much.
I can email you about cost if you would like, Debbie. This is an expensive trip. We rented out our home over the holidays which paid for most of the trip. Kensington handled everything. They had guides at every stop to show us where to go. We had a tour guide at Machu Picchu which was nice so you understand the history.
Hi Erin, I so enjoyed your email w pictures and stories. What a fantastic trip! The pictures are amazing, your kids are adorable, you look like you are in your 20ies (even w no make up!) you will live from these memories for a long time… Amazing!
Not sure what trip you guys are Planning, but look in to Croatia; Dubrovnik, the islands, Piran, Mostar, Sveti Stefan near the Albanian border…. Sooo cool! Beautiful scenery, lots of history aNd great cheap food! My husband and I spent our honeymoon there. Beautiful place that Europeans have long been enjoying and Americans are discovering now.
Happy planning and never feel guilty for saying no! Most important thing is to be a happy relaxed mom to your adorable kiddos!☺️ Thanks for the pictures, I felt like i was there!
Thank you so much Kaitlyn for that travel lead. We are always thinking about the next trip. On our short list, Vietnam, Africa and a massive national park road trip for two weeks. We shall see! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I appreciate your kind words! And, thanks again for the tip!
Katalin… sorry! I spelled your name wrong.
Wow! What a wonderful experience for you and your family, thank you for sharing the great pictures!
Thanks, Jeri! Erin xo
Wow. ABSOLUTELY amazing. Thank you for the tour!
Thank you so much for sharing your trip. I felt like I was on a guided tour. What an amazing opportunity for all of you! Your pictures were beautiful! Again, thank you! Julie
You bet, Julie! I think these travel posts work better on the blog. I did an Iceland video last year and no one watched. LOL. Or maybe no one wants to go to Iceland? 😉
What an amazing Trip!
Thank you for the beautiful presentation! I woke up this morning missing your videos. Then I saw your email! Fantastic
So glad to be back! ~Erin xo
I started following you shortly after your move to Colorado and have been so pleased with my choice. I am home bound with a rare pain condition caused by my rare cancer, and i occupy my spare time with all things related to home design, personal beauty, and fashion. of the people that i follow i would rate you in my top three favorite group for application, athletic, knowledge, middle to upper class content, timeliness, and positivity. You come across as being someone that is beautiful inside and out and that you practice what you preach as your beauty continues continues to grow with each passing season. How on earth do you it? the answer is found in your various forms of media.
On a personal note i am into thirty one months of my adventure and when my hair came back gray and curly i decided to flaunt it. my pain condition took the use of one arms, so i cannot operate a curling wand and hair blower properly. so i just go natural and when we are out for treatments i get many compliments about my hair, makeup, and fashion. i have always been careful with my skin and at fifty eight i am pretty much wrinkle free. i hope this cheers you to continue on and to keep smiling that beautiful smile.
Hugs to you, Judy! Thank you so much for being here and for your kind words! ~Erin xo
What an incredible vacation! Thank you for sharing!
So incredible! Erin xo
Erin, i have always wanted to see the galapagos islands. This was a great vlog and very informative. And what a great trip For the kids! Thanks! MH
It was a special trip! Thanks for reading and for your note. Happy Friday! Erin xo
my best friend just came back from 14 days in the galapogos. it Looks like you all had an amazing trip! Thanks for sharing it.
How fun! ~Erin xo
This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your trip. Something i always wanted to do but now I can look at your beautiful pictures. What a wonderful experience for your children.
Thank you! It was so fun! ~Erin xo
Your trip is what dreams are made of. I enjoyed KauAi, Hawaii . It was magical. But i think i enjoyed trveling to Vancouver Island, Canada even more. We flew to Seattle staYed a couple of days ,saw the sights then drove up the coast to catch a feRry to VictoriA. From there , we tOok a scenic roUte to the west coast where we ate EXQUISITE fooDs, visited a brewery and a coffee roaster, touredthe ruGGed coastline. And went whale watching. There was so much more too,! I highly recommend visiting there. We didnt know Tofino is the surfing capital of Canada. Not cold there either. We went in early November and a sweater was all i needed. Fascinating microclimate.
Wow… I had no idea!! I’m going to have to add Vancouver Island to my bucket list! Thank you for sharing.. Erin xo
Erin- loved this post and reading about your trip. Your kiddos are so adorable! Our fav family excursion was to Switzerland. We took our 3 kids and backpacked across the Swiss Alps. It was AH-MAZING. Galapagos and Machu Picchu are definitely on our list. We are in Dallas this weekend and met another couple who did the Inca trail hike, so I really loved reading about the way you guys did it as well.Thanks for sharing and I hope you had a relaxing time!
Wow.. that sounds REALLY cool! I want to do that. Can you share any more details of that trip? Thanks! Erin xo
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