Machu Picchu was on my bucket list. But when my wife and I spoke with our travel agent he asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to go to The Galapagos Islands too. That would be a great combo.”
We had never thought about The Galapagos. But had we known then what we know now, the nature islands would have been right up there on the bucket list with Machu Picchu.
What a trip it was! Two jammed-packed weeks seeing sights you can visit no place else on earth. A trip impeccably provided by the Celebrity Cruise Line.
Our home for the first week was 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador aboard the Celebrity Xpedition. This 96-passeger, luxury ship sails The Galapagos visiting unique islands including some visited by Charles Darwin. Like Darwin we too were fascinated by the creatures we could see close up… I mean very close up.
You see, the animals have no fear of humans. We were just feet away and sometimes inches from iguanas, blue-footed boobies, sea turtles and the 500-pound giant tortoises. Our guides were certified and knowledgeable naturalists who live on the islands when not aboard the ship.
The cabins on the Xpedition are comfortable. Everything is included — the gourmet food, drinks, Internet, and even gratuities. Everything is first class.
The land portion was equally spectacular. In Quito, Ecuador and in Lima and Cuzco, Peru, our hotels were five-star. Our land guides made the history of the region come alive.
In Peru the trip included the train ride between Cuzco and Machu Picchu on the Hiram Bingham. This narrow gauge railway is known as the Orient Express of South America. There are no coach cars. Passengers ride in luxury dining cars and are served a three-course lunch on the trip to Machu Picchu and a five-course dinner on the way back to Cuzco, all the while enjoying breathtaking vistas of the Andes.
As I mentioned, in the beginning, Machu Picchu was the sole focus of this trip. We are pleased to report it did not disappoint. This 15th century Incan settlement remained hidden from most of the world until rediscovered by American professor Hiram Bingham in 1911. Partly because of its remote location, it escaped the attention of the invading Spaniards who destroyed most of the Incan empire.
The buildings of Machu Picchu are built of stone so perfectly cut that it is said not even a blade of grass fits between them. The ruins are spectacularly preserved. You can easily discern the temples, the residential areas, and the terraced slopes where crops were grown to feed the 1,200 or more residents believed to have lived there.
Even as experienced travelers this was the most strenuous and tiring trip we’ve taken. But it was worth every minute. We would do it again.