Peru and Ecuador are two of the most stunning and diverse countries on the planet. Luckily for the budget traveler, they are also both relatively inexpensive (except of course if you choose to visit the Galapagos Islands, which remains an expensive adventure) and very tourist friendly. The diversity of travel options is endless with everything from the Amazon jungle to surf beaches, desert oases to the peak of the Andes mountain range. There are archaeological wonders, colonial historic sites, ecotourism resorts, bountiful wildlife, modern cities and breathtaking scenery around every bend.
But more than any physical characteristic, it is the people of Peru and Ecuador that make these destinations a special experience and when you visit you will be rewarded with memories (and photographs) to last a lifetime. Speaking some Spanish is a bonus, but even without the gift of speaking the same language, you can interact with local communities and gain valuable insight into the various indigenous cultures that live in these neighboring regions.
You can choose to travel independently but with major distances involved between cities and popular tourism sites, plus some inconsistencies with public transport across this part of South America, you may wish to consider taking a tour, especially when it comes to the challenge of walking the Inca Trail, as most visitors to Peru will endeavor to do.
Always offering a budget solution, Gate One Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) features a number of Peru or Ecuador options. Its 11-day Peru Kaleidoscope tour includes round-trip flights from Miami to Lima, domestic flights from Lima to Cuzco and Juliaca to Lima, 10-nights' accommodation (three in Lima, four in Cuzco, one in Machu Picchu and two in Puno), all transfers, ten breakfasts, three lunches, sightseeing per itinerary in a modern air-conditioned motor coach, services of English-speaking local guides, Vistadome train to Machu Picchu, and entrance fees per itinerary. Highlights of the tour are Machu Picchu, the Inca Sacred Valley, Pisac Market, Puno and Lake Titicaca. The departure on October 6, 2005 is priced at $1,559 plus taxes per person or $1,689 on September 15 and October 27, 2005. Add $16 from Los Angeles, $158 from Boston, $186 from New York and $193 from Chicago.
One of the lowest priced options for a combination tour that includes Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos is with Friendly Planet Travel (tel. 800/555-5765; www.friendlyplanet.com). The 15-day tour is priced from $3,299 and includes round-trip airfare from Miami to Lima and from Quito back to Miami, (add $180 if departing from New York) intra-South America flights (Cuzco to Quito) ground transportation and transfers, 13-nights' accommodations at first class hotels, a three-night Galapagos Cruise aboard MV Galapagos Explorer II, 25 meals (13 full buffet breakfasts, five lunches and seven dinners), comprehensive sightseeing tours, shore excursions and professional English-speaking tour directors.
Like many Friendly Planet tours, all October and November departures are already sold out, but places are still available for the December 26, 2005 trip and for all 2006 trips between January and July. US departure taxes of $195 and Galapagos Park fee of $100 are additional. Bookings must be completed by October 27, 2005 to take advantage of this discounted price (a savings of $300 per person).
Tucan Travel (www.tucantravel.com) runs 25 different tours to Peru (some in combination with Bolivia) so there is sure to be a Peruvian trip that suits your budget and time requirements. Having taken a Tucan tour of Peru a few years ago (my first and only group tour ever taken), I can honestly say that the experience was magical and I only have positive things to say about the way the tour was operated. Tour lengths range from 12-nights to 25-nights and you will certainly get to see a big chunk of the country in that time. The 20-night Condor Two tour is priced from $1,510 per person with a local payment of $480 (which covers things like tips, entrance fees, the Inca trail etc.) The land-only expedition includes 16-nights in hotels (dual occupancy), three-nights camping on the Inca Trail, a one-night homestay on Amantani Island on Lake Titicaca, some lunches and breakfasts, all meals on the Inca Trail and on Amantani Island, excursions to the Ballestas Islands (sometimes referred to as the mini Galapagos of Peru), Pisco, Huacachica Oasis, Chauchilla Cemetery, Puerto Inca, Colca Canyon, Sacred Valley, Cuzco, the Inca Trail trek, Machu Picchu, Pisac Market, Arequipa, Nazca (home of the famous Nazca Lines) Sillustani ruins, Uros, Amantani and Taquile Islands. Transport is by the Tucan vehicle (usually a massive yellow bus), boat, on foot, train and one domestic flight. There is currently a website special for Condor Two tours that depart on October 2 or October 16, 2005 with 20 percent off the regular price -- a savings of over $300 per person. Average group size is 15 to 24. Airfare to Lima is additional. Tours depart regularly throughout the year from Lima on a Sunday and finish on a Saturday. Shorter tours like the 12-night Kenko is priced at $1,130 per person plus $320 local payment. If you are really quick, you can get 25 percent off Tucan's 12-night Ecuador Discovered tour departing on September 8, 2005. Pack your bags for this special tour, usually priced at $740 per person plus $120 local payment. Departing from Quito, the trip includes 11-nights' accommodation in hotels and one-night in a jungle cabin, all meals on the Amazon jungle excursion and transport by local buses, motorized canoes, taxis, on foot and one domestic flight. Apart from the Amazon jungle, you also visit the Ingapirca ruins, Cuenca (the home on the Panama Hat), Banos and Otavalo.
Latin America For Less (tel. 800/480-0707; www.latinamerica4less.com) is currently offering a discounted Great Peru Experience. The six-night trip includes round-trip airfare from Miami to Lima, domestic airfares between Lima, Cuzco, Juliaca and Lima, one-night's hotel accommodation in Lima, two in Cuzco, one in Aguas Calientes ( Machu Picchu ) and two-nights in Puno, all transfers, a half-day tour of Cuzco and nearby ruins, a full-day Machu Picchu Tour, train transportation, guided excursions to the Uros Islands in Titicaca Lake and Sillustani ruins, and daily breakfast. From Miami the trip is priced at $1,179, from New York $1,229 and from Los Angeles $1,349. Taxes of up to $150 are additional and single supplement is $235. Departures dates are September 15 and 29, October 13 and 27, November 10 and 30, 2005. All bookings must be completed by October 31, 2005.
Its Machu Picchu and Amazon Jungle trip is an eight-day journey that takes you from high into the Andes to the low-lying tropics of the Amazon jungle. Priced from $1,774 from Miami, $1,824 from Los Angeles or $1,944 from New York, the tour includes round-trip airfare to Lima, domestic airfares between Lima, Cuzco, Iquitos and Lima, two nights' accommodation in Lima, two in Cuzco, one in Machu Picchu and two nights' lodge accommodation in the Amazon with all meals, transfers, sightseeing per itinerary and daily breakfast. Single supplement is $282.You must book by October 31, 2005.
Exito Travel (tel. 800/655-4053; www.exitotravel.com) specializes in Latin American travel. They offer numerous land-only Ecuador adventures from their Ecuador Hike, Bike and Raft trip priced from $1,205 per person plus $250 land payment for 15-days to a four-day Dive Galapagos splash for $745. A day hike to the Andean Lakes and Hot Springs is only $63 and a six-day Amazon Rainforest tour is $795. Tours depart regularly throughout the year and Exito can also arrange a discounted airfare to Quito to begin your Ecuadorian adventure. Round-trip flights from Miami start at around $366 plus taxes.
Latin Discounters (tel. 800/559-5192; www.latindiscounters.com) has discounted round-trip airfares to both Lima and Quito starting from around $315 to Quito and $350 to Lima plus taxes from Miami.