Planning a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Who: Sally Otis, 29, and her husband, Brad Pittack, 29, of Cheverly
Where: Machu Picchu, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Why: To celebrate their 30th birthdays
When: April 2010 for 10 to 14 days Budget: $5,000-$7,000
"Brad and I have a passion for travel and enjoy getting off the beaten path to gain a better understanding and appreciation of other cultures. We're open to staying in hostels or low- to mid-range hotels."
Sally Otis and Brad Pittack couldn't have chosen two more intriguing yet controversial tourist destinations. Both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands are popular places for avid travelers to cross off their "been there" lists. More than 300,000 people visit the 500-year-old ruins at Machu Picchu each year. Nearly 175,000 visit the Galapagos, an archipelago about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, known for endemic species that were studied by Charles Darwin.
Conservationists fear that tourists may be endangering the unique qualities that make these places so attractive to visitors in the first place. So the ambitious goal is to see these places with minimal disruption and a rather modest budget.
Right off the bat, airfare is going to take a nice chunk out of the kitty. Taca offers the cheapest fares: Expect to pay about $1,000 per person to fly from Dulles to Cuzco, Peru (overnight stop in Lima required), and then on to Quito, Ecuador, with return from Quito. Add an extra $400 for the flights from Quito to the Galapagos; your Galapagos tour operator typically arranges this, but if you go it alone, Tame (http:/
And we're off.
Day 1: Arrive in Lima at about 8:30 p.m. There is a layover of about nine hours before the flight for Cuzco departs. Stay in the airport (it gets decent reviews on http:/
Days 2 and 3: Arrive in Cuzco. Most travelers stay here for at least a couple of days to acclimate to the 11,000-foot elevation. There are plenty of inexpensive hotels in the city. Niños Hotel (http:/
Days 4-8: Start the four-day, three-night hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Most tourists take the train (http:/