Our Travelers' Reviews In Their Own Words
Direct from our Travelers
Dear Kim, We returned home early this morning from an absolutely fabulous trip to Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu that you prepared for my wife and me and our grandson Liam. From the time we exited the Lima airport last Wednesday night until we flew out of the Cusco airport last night, SA Expeditions expertly handled every aspect of our excursion. The guide who picked us up at the airport in Lima at midnight on the night of our arrival, gave us excellent pointers and recommendations about Peru and specifically Lima.
Every hotel that you selected for us in Lima, Cusco, and Aguas Calientes was superb. Every tour that you arranged for us in each of those areas was interesting to Liam, as well as Grandma and Popa. You made certain that interspersed with Inka history there were adequate activities that you knew would fascinate a 13-year old boy. A really big hit was the chocolate tour were we learned about the process of making chocolate, from the harvesting of the cocoa bean to making our own chocolate candy, which we were able to bring home with us.
Percy, our tour guide in Lima, was quite knowledgeable, and gave us a very good overview of the history of Lima in the short time we were there. The tour of the Museo Larco, where Percy was able to distill the 45,000 Inka artifacts into a visit that all 3 of us enjoyed, was the highlight of our Lima visit. Lima is definitely a city we wished we would have had more time to explore further.
Of course, the highlight of our trip was the visit to Cusco and Machu Picchu, and we could not have asked for a better guide than Johan Sueros and our very skillful driver, Abel. Shortly prior to leaving on our journey when you sent us our final itinerary, you told me that we were going to have the absolute best guide, Johan. You could not have been more accurate. He is bright, articulate, totally fluent in English, kind and just an altogether sweet person. On the drive from Cusco to Aguas Calientes we stopped by a small town, Maras, where we visited an acquaintance of Johan's, a 92-year old man who has been hand-making hats for more than 40 years. What an absolutely delightful man and very fun visit, where we tried on some of the typical hats of Maras.
Johan is passionate about his Incan heritage, and he brought Machu Picchu and the Incan culture alive for us. He was totally flexible, and gave us options when he realized that perhaps the long climb up the nearly 1000 steps of the very steep mountain for the best view of Machu Picchu might be difficult for us. He wanted us to be happy and to enjoy our visit. I realize that he has been doing this for a number of years, but Johan has an uncanny ability to time things so perfectly, that there is very little down time, where you are waiting for a bus or a train. When he says you'll be at a restaurant at a specific time or back in Cusco at a specific time, you can count on it. He tried and succeeded in satisfying all of our needs.
As you know, on our last day in Cusco, Liam was ill, and we needed to cancel horseback riding that we had scheduled for that morning. Even though we had already said our good-byes to Johan the night before, I contacted him around 8:30AM to cancel the tour. He immediately got in touch with you, at 5:45AM PST. Within in minutes you had everything under control, inquiring if we needed a physician to see Liam. Fortunately, I think he was just exhausted, and by the afternoon he was back to himself. However, mid-morning I received a phone call from your local representative in Peru inquiring about Liam's health, again offering a physician if needed, and offering to contact the hotel in Cusco to extend our check-out time.
Kim, as you remember, we had some very specific issues that you had to address before we even left for our trip. You had to be certain that any provided meal, be it box lunch (which was excellent), or lunch on the road, or dinner in Aguas Calientes, had to be vegetarian. You had to make certain that we returned from zip lining by a specific time on Friday afternoon. Several days before we were scheduled to arrive, I changed our itinerary to add an additional day in Lima. You handled each and every request expertly.
I found SA Expeditions in July, 2016, just by searching the internet for companies that provided tours in Peru. I read the reviews on the company, and was impressed, but also a bit skeptical. After all, I was trusting a company in California that I didn't personally know to plan and execute a trip to Peru that wasn't going to take place until February, 2017. Well, now I am a believer! You, SA Expeditions, the guides, the drivers, the hotels, the tours, etc. have all exceeded our expectations. Thank you!
With sincere appreciation,
- Eddie & Shelley S (Connecticut)
Photographed at Machu Picchu
Jeanie: Our trip was absolutely magical thanks to all the great organization, preparation, wonderful suggestions and impeccable professional services we received from SA...starting and ending with you! The booking process was so easy, all questions along the way were addressed and SA (you) were responsive to all of our questions and concerns. In addition, some of the suggestions for out of the ordinary experiences made our trip unique. SA is one of the few tour groups that allows you to book your itinerary exactly as you want it...then Jeanie takes care of all the details. I only wish you were world wide!!!!!!
Our hotels were fantastic...our favorite was Inka del Tambo in Urubamba which is truly one of the nicest hotels in the world...what a great way to start our trip and unwind a luxury hotel in such a beautiful Sacred Valley setting.. Casal del Sol had a wonderful location in Aguas Client and though it was in need of some "polish" the staff compensated by their ever willing hospitality. I got sick 3/4 of the way up Wayna Picchu ( not the ideal location to contract intestinal illness) but made it back to hotel ...the staff went to the store to buy me gatorade, made me special tea a and looked in on me in my room for the day and a half I was in bed. The view of the river was a great distraction. Casa Cartegna was a jewel in the middle of lovely Cusco. Again the staff made me home made chicken noodle soup to get me well. Our room was so comfortable and the grounds are an oasis in the city. The spa was terrific as was the masseuse. Our Radisson in Miraflores was a perfect location for touring Lima and was most accommodating as well. In addition the food was fantastic....we ate such beautiful vegetables, potatoes and Peruvian dishes everywhere we went. Le Soleil (french food in Cusco and Cicciolina in Cusco were fabulous as was an extraordinary evening at La Barra Casa Moreyra. in Lima....wow!
Even though there were unforeseen circumstances such as a protest that shut down all tourist roads throughout the Sacred Valley, SA tours reacted with quick response. I cannot say enough about the drivers ( Louis especially) and all the guides who were with us . They were knowledgeable, gracious, always willing to go the extra distance and warm lovely friends. We loved them all. The horse back/hiking trip to Choquechaca was an experience we will never forget. It was Peter's 65th birthday in Cusco and SA even arranged to have the meal paid for by our thoughtful children.
In short, it was the best trip we have experienced and we look forward to many more! Thanks so much for creating a truly memorable experience...we only regret we did not get to meet you in Lima!
- Pam and Peter C. (Denver, Colorado)
Photographed at Machu Picchu
On a "snow day" last February we decided to plan a big summer vacation for our family of four (my wife, two daughters ages 13 & 9, and myself). We had the itch to do something adventurous and looked into Africa, Alaska, Thailand and the Galapagos Islands. All are on our travel list but the timing didn't seem quite right for any of them. When investigating the Galapagos, we stumbled into the SA Expeditions website, which is when we first considered going to Peru. The more we researched, the more it seemed right. We could see wildlife in the Amazon, which was our girls' #1 priority, and we could take in some history, culture and natural beauty during visits to Cusco and Machu Picchu (which is not only on the travel list, but also on the "bucket list").
We sent a message to SA and within minutes we were on the phone with Staci Steele. Staci was incredibly helpful in mapping out a trip that met all of our time and budget constraints while making sure to maximize our opportunity to see as much of Peru as possible. The trip and using SA were both huge leaps of faith for us, as we had never used a tour company and had only traveled internationally twice as a family (fairly tame trips to London and Costa Rica). Staci was incredibly patient in answering our never-ending questions, right up until the day of the trip!
SA added so much value to the planning process. Staci recommended that we spend a day in the Sacred Valley instead of going straight from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and that was an amazing experience that we would have missed had we planned the trip ourselves. She lined us up with a tour guide, Mary-Luz, who felt like a member of the family by the time we said goodbye. Every detail was accounted for. Whether it was being handed our boarding passes for our Amazon flight when checking into our Lima hotel, or having our bags waiting for us at the Aguas Calientes train station for our return to Ollyantaytambo (I could go on an on with examples like this), we never had to think about anything, we just had to follow the plan and enjoy ourselves. The trip was absolutely flawless and we were really blown away by the whole experience. We would not even consider using a different tour provider if (when!) we someday return to South America.
As for Peru itself, we fell in love with it. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. The weather in July was fantastic and the culture and history were fascinating. We will return someday (maybe to do the Inca Trail!). Thank you Staci and SA Luxury expeditions for helping us pull of an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Bill, Marissa, Julia & Natalie R. (Scarborough, Maine)
Photographed at Moray Ruins in Cusco
Gina Alman from South American Expeditions planned our most INCREDIBLE and FASCINATING five week journey to Peru and Ecuador in May, 2015. Together we detailed the kind of trip we wanted and then Gina set it in motion. Her attention to detail is beyond extraordinary. She worked diligently and spent many hours on the phone with us to insure that our trip would be exactly what we wanted. Machu Picchu was on our bucket list and it was an awesome experience to witness one of the great wonders of the world!!
Gina is extremely knowledgeable, delightful, committed to please, and completely understand how we like to travel. And our trip turned out to be even more spectacular than we anticipated!!! It was packed with adventure, luxury, education, and philanthropy. We enjoy bringing children's books with us and bringing these books to local communities. Gina researched and arranged for us to meet with a gentleman in Cuzco who has built 200 schools in Peru. Mr. Meekes met us and brought us to visit children in Cuzco who were part of his HoPe Foundation. It was one of the most rewarding days of our trip (see photo at Biblioteca Kallpanchis)!!
We have traveled all over the world and there is no question that SA Expeditions goes beyond your expectations in meeting your destinations, budget, style of travel, and customizing your trip to be the very best ever!
- Marilyn and Don, (Delray Beach, Florida)
Photographed at Cuzco
The trip was great – We were a little nervous about how everything would work but everything went very smoothly. It actually set a new standard for what I would want on a vacation. I felt a little spoiled because everything was taken care of and I didn't have to worry about anything – just enjoy. Everyone we met was very professional, solicitous, helpful and informative. The hotels you recommended were great. We loved all the hotels. I don't think we would change a thing. In fact, I think the schedule worked well. We went to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu at the beginning – which kept us pretty busy. Then we went spent 3 days and 2 nights at the Hacienda Concepcion in Puerto Maldonado which was very nice because everything was right there and even though the jungle activities kept us busy, we had a time to relax a bit in the very nice cabana – I rested in the hammock looking out on the jungle scenery. I also want to give a special shout out to Marco, who was with us for 3 days. He is terrific, very easy going and really made our trip through Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. He was also great on the Huayna Picchu Hike. Having him as a guide on the hike was very comforting. Then on our drive back to Cusco, he stopped so we could get a view of the stars and milky-way.
Thank you for putting together this wonderful family trip for us. I would definitely recommend SA Expeditions and would use it again for my travels to South America.
- Tasia, Harley, Shane, Molly (Maryland)
Photographed at Sacsayhuaman
When we began research on a trip to Peru including the Amazon, Cuzco and Lima, we found a number of options online. We were impressed with the information provided on the SA Expeditions website. I decided to contact SA Expeditions, research/investigate their history as a business, reputation, reviews, etc. Ms. Gina Allman was incredible helpful and responsive and answer all our questions. We were afraid of booking online with an unknown company and the service/or lack of and overall traveling experience in a country like Peru. BTW, I was born and lived in Peru for almost 30 years and moved to the US approximately many years ago.
We stayed in Lima for three days visiting my father. The hotel in Miraflores was great, the food unbelievable.......simply best in the world!! Then, we flew to Puerto Maldonado (the Amazon Rainforest). We were received at the airport and taken by canoe to The Posada Amazonas/Boutique, a 30-45 minute ride in the Tambopata river. We experienced the hospitality of Eric, the Posada's manager and his entire team. Rodolfo, our guide displayed great knowledge throughout all activities and excursion. They kept us busy, the food was extremely good, and the room was very clean. Everybody was extremely helpful and worked hard to make sure we had the best experience. After The Amazon we went to Cuzco, The Archaeological Capital of the Americas. We visited Ollantaytambo, Koricancha, Moray, Sacsahuaman, and Machu Picchu. Best part of the trip. We were greeted by Froylan at the airport, very well spoken, extremely professional, courteous and efficient. He stayed at the airport on our way back to Lima until our departure.
A special note about our extremely knowledgeable guide Marco (the most of all guides). A special mention to Aranwa Cuzco / Luxury Hotel, great customer service and very attentive. And please let's not forget our driver Antonio, very good driver, calm, punctual and professional. Everything was perfect from start to finish with this vacation; from flights (LAN PERU - provided remarkable and friendly service) being on-time, to our personal tour guides their knowledge, punctuality, and dedication, to our accommodations. The trip of a lifetime!!
- Cathy and Javier (Miami, Florida)
Photographed at Sacred Valley
Rachel and I can say that the “father/daughter Galapagos & ultimate Peru expedition” was a terrific success. After having fiddled with the complicated itinerary for so many weeks, I wondered if it would all work out as planned. But it did! Every connection, every reservation, every guide and activity turned out as described on the final itinerary. We had a wonderful, eye-opening adventure, with knowledgeable, solicitous, very helpful guides, and even a day all to ourselves in Cuzco, a day to wander and enjoy that Rachel says was her favorite one of the trip.
Our guide in the Galapagos, Pablo, was a sweetheart. I loved that he was an island-born Galapagoan. Everything was delightful and amazing except for the very rough boat trip from Santa Cruz to Isabela and back. Motion sickness pills were essential. Hacienda Conception was perfect for us, a great place for getting a first taste of the jungle. Everything from the din of the howler monkeys to tiny trails made by the leaf-cutter ants. Terrific sunsets over the Madre de Dios river. Be warned to keep all medications in airtight container. Humidity will disintegrate them. A note on “Amazon lodge” baggage. Although advised in the itinerary to do so, we did not leave our luggage in Puerto Maldonado, taking “only the essentials” to the lodge. They told us it was fine to take everything along, and we really liked having all our stuff with us at the Lodge.
Our Inca Trail guide, Milagros, was great, and made everything come off like clockwork. The Trail itself was harder than I expected, but I had been warned, and wanted to do it anyway, and we did make it. And I think it's good to have to do a little work to experience such a breathtaking place. A great trip. Thanks for all your work.
- Bob and Rachel B. (San Francisco, California)
Photographed at Galapagos Islands
My wife & I booked a 2-week vacation in Peru & Ecuador with SA Expeditions and it was incredible. I can't say enough good things about our experience! We made our own arrangements for traveling to and from Lima, Peru, and our last 3 nights in Lima, but SA Expeditions handled all the rest.
Our first night was at the Costa del sol Wyndham at the Lima International Airport. After we cleared customs the hotel was a short walk directly across the street from the international terminal. The room was nice and clean and just what we needed after a full day of travel from our home in Las Vegas. The best part was no cab ride! The next morning we walked back across the street for our flight on Avianca Airlines to Guayaquil, Ecuador. After clearing customs, we were promptly met by Kristin from SA and driven to the Oro Verde Hotel in downtown Guayaquil. She was very pleasant and very helpful pointing out some points of interest in the city to visit and recommending some restaurants to us. The Oro Verde Hotel was magnificent! I travel for work and stay in a lot of hotels and the Executive Suite at the Oro Verde is one of the finest rooms in which I have ever stayed. My wife is not easily impressed and she was extremely impressed. The service, the food, the amenities….they were all wonderful! We both wished that we had had more than night at this hotel. For dinner that night, we took Kristin's recommendation of Caracol Azul about 2 blocks from the hotel. The service and food were excellent! The next morning we were met in the lobby by Francisco, another SA employee, and driven to the airport for our flight on Avianca to the Galapagos Islands. Francisco walked us right through Avianca check-in avoiding the lines. He could not have been more helpful.
When we arrived in the Galapagos Islands, we were met at the Baltra Airport by representatives of the Galapagos Legend Cruise Ship, put on a bus for a short ride to a ferryboat & ferried out to the Galapagos Legend, our home for the next 5 days. The ship's representatives took our luggage at the airport and delivered it to our suite onboard the Legend. We never had to touch our bags after we cleared security on Baltra. Onboarding the ship was a truly hassle free experience.
The Legend is a small cruise ship holding about 100 passengers. There are no really large, luxury cruise ships operating in the Galapagos. Cruising in the Galapagos is an adventure cruise and not a luxury cruise. With that said, our two bed suite with a private balcony on the Legend was very nice and suited our needs perfectly. The staff was very helpful and the food was good. The guests were broken down into groups of about 14 and assigned to a National Park Guide for all activities in the Galapagos Islands. You can do nothing in the Galapagos Islands without a National Park Guide. Day One consisted of lunch on the ship followed by our first adventure in the Galapagos, a zodiac excursion in Black Turtle Cove, which is part of Santa Cruz Island. It was a bird lover's paradise with only a couple of sightings of sea turtles.
The next 3 days consisted of hiking & snorkeling each morning and each afternoon in our assigned groups. We even had a National Park Guide with us for snorkeling. Day One was Sullivan Bay & Isabela Island in the morning and Rabida Island in the afternoon. Day Two was Urbina Bay & Isabela Island in the morning and Tagus Cove & Isabela Island in the afternoon. Day Three was Espinoza Point & Fernandina Island in the morning and Vincent Roca Point & Isabela Island in the afternoon. We sailed that night back to Baltra & Santa Cruz Islands. We disembarked the Legend after breakfast on Day Five and were taken to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island for a hike among giant land tortoises followed by a bus ride to the ferry port on Santa Cruz and then ferried over to Baltra for the flight back to the mainland. Again at disembarkation, our luggage was handled by representatives from the Legend and was waiting for us at the airport for check-in after our hike in the highlands. What can I say about the Galapagos…walking in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, seeing amazing wildlife & fauna and swimming with countless kinds of fish, incredible numbers of turtles and a few sea lions, sand sharks & stingrays….it was a once in a lifetime experience. The Galapagos Legend & SA Expeditions made it so easy to experience and enjoy the Galapagos Islands.
After the Santa Cruz Highlands adventure, we flew on Avianca back to Lima by way of Guayaquil and another night at the Costa del sol Wyndham. The next day we had a morning flight on Avianca to Cusco. When we arrived in Cusco, we were promptly met by Jacquelin, another SA employee. She escorted us to the JW Marriott Hotel and assisted with our check-in. She informed us that we had the afternoon free to explore or rest as we saw fit and that the next morning we would be met by Marco, our tour guide for the rest of our time in Cusco & Macchu Picchu. We were ready for a rest after all the travel and the action packed schedule in the Galapagos Islands. Again, SA Expeditions arranged for the JW Marriott Cusco to provide us with another lavish suite on the top floor for the next two nights! The service and food at the Marriott was top notch!
After breakfast the next day, we went down to the lobby early and Marco was already waiting for us. Marco and his driver, Alberto, were the surprise highlights of our entire trip! Marco's knowledge of Peruvian history especially that of Cusco & Macchu Picchu was extraordinary. Alberto was a courteous and able driver. They were both true gentlemen and a joy to be around. We were scheduled for a half-day tour of Cusco and the surrounding area including the ruins of Sacsaywaman. Unfortunatley, after Sacsaywaman my wife was not feeling good from being at an altitude of over 11,000 feet for more than 24 hours. Marco arranged for Alberto to drop us off at the Temple of the Sun and then take my wife back to the hotel to rest. Marco & I spent more than half a day visiting several churches built on top of ancient ruins and other areas inside Cusco. He then escorted me back to the hotel. On the way back, he treated me to the best street tamales in Cusco. He introduced me to an elderly lady who sits in a shaded area just off the main square in Cusco selling her delicious tamales. Without Marco, I never would have experienced the best tamales in Cusco!
The next day Marco and Alberto were waiting for us in the hotel lobby at 7:00 am. We left for a tour of the Sacred Valley between Cusco and Ollantaytambo. The ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo is normally just over two hours. However, we made stops to explore the salt mines of Maras and the pre-Incan & Incan ruins at Morey, two very fascinating places along the way. The trip is a descent in altitude and by the time we got to Ollantaytamba, my wife was starting to feel better from her altitude sickness. We had a wonderful lunch in Ollantaytamba at one of Marco's favorite restaurants. Marco also treated us to a tour of a private residence of some friends of his that was truly fascinating. Two women and a girl were washing clothes by hand outside the residence. They invited us inside their one room residence with a loft and gave us a look at how Peruvian people of this mountain region live. Their beds, a cooking fireplace, an altar for worship and an area for the handicraft work were all in a single room. It was a very colorful and cozy place filled with local aromas. Afterwards we toured the pre-Incan & Incan ruins just outside the city. At around 3:30 we left Alberto behind and boarded the train from Ollantaytambo to Macchu Picchu. The two-hour train ride is along a roaring river through a narrow mountain valley and canyon. It's an incredibly scenic ride. It reminded my wife and me of the Colorado River running through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. Upon our arrival that evening, Marco escorted us to the El Pueblo Hotel located on the outskirts of town in a tropical rainforest area. He agreed to meet us in the lobby at 6:00 am the next morning for our journey to the ancient ruins of Macchu Picchu. The El Pueblo Hotel is another superb hotel. The rooms are quaint but nicely furnished with a wood burning fireplace and a private veranda enveloped by plants and trees. It is by far the nicest hotel in town and it even has its own restaurant. The staff was very accommodating and the service and food in the restaurant were excellent.
The next day Marco was waiting for us in the lobby at 6:00 am. He escorted us through town to the bus station. He moved us ahead of lines to a shorter line where we boarded a bus for the 45-minute ride up to the Macchu Picchu Park Headquarters and the entrance to the ancient ruins. We entered the park and made the short climb up to the main gateway into the plaza of the ruins. At that point, Marco suggested that we not head directly into the plaza of the ruins but that we go to the left and continue climbing higher up into the terraces above the plaza. We made a fairly strenuous climb for about 20 minutes up terraced mountain slopes to the upper terrace with clear vistas in 3 of the 4 directions. Before us and below was a magnificent view of the stone ruins, the green, grassed plaza and terraces and the two peaks that serve as a backdrop to all of it. To our left and our right in the distance were snow-capped peaks of the Andes. We could have gone higher up the Inca Trail to the Sungate or we could have gone right towards the Inca Bridge but we chose to stay right there on that upper terrace with it's magnificent views. Marco was right. Everybody seemed to be down below. There was hardly anybody up where we were. It was peaceful and quiet. The perfect place to sit and meditate or pray and take in all that Macchu Picchu had to offer. We spent over two hours in that serene place before the hordes started to ascend to where we were. Those two hours were the highlight of our Macchu Picchu experience. We eventually descended and enjoyed the rest of Macchu Picchu but nothing compared to the time we had up above in the early morning. Thank you, Marco! Our experience of Macchu Picchu would not have been the same without you. And thank you too for being so patient with us and helping Marsha with her bag and the climb.
By 1:00 pm we were back in the town and Marco took us to his favorite restaurant, Indio Feliz Bistro. WOW….what a great meal! It was the best food in our entire trip. Owned by a French born gentleman named Patrick, the food and the service were both superb. Indio Feliz Bistro would be successful in any town in the world but to find it in this little town was a real surprise. If you went to Macchu Picchu and didn't eat at Indio Feliz, you missed a real highlight! Again, thank you, Marco! Our experience of Macchu Picchu would not have been the same without you. At 3:30 we were on the train back to Ollantaytamba. When we arrived two hours later, there was Alberto waiting to help us with our bags and drive us back to Cusco. We were back at the JW Marriott in Cusco in about 3 hours because of traffic. Marco & Alberto helped us with our bags and check-in. Then we shared some sad “goodbyes” with Marco. His time with us had come to an end. We have traveled to many parts of the world and have had tour guides in many different countries. With Marco we never stood in line to buy a ticket. He had pre-purchased tickets for everything that we did thereby avoiding all the lines. He also had a sense for when to provide us with the history before our eyes and when to leave us to our own thoughts and devices. He could not have been kinder or gentler with my wife when she was suffering from altitude sickness. When it comes to photography, Marco knows the best locations for photo opportunities at every location that we visited. I can't count how many times my wife or I would be ready to take a picture and Marco would suggest that we shoot it from over there or over here where there were less people and a better view. MARCO, YOU ARE ONE OF THE BEST!!!
The next morning got to sleep in since our pick up for the return ride to the Cusco airport was scheduled for noon. Right on time, there was Alberto to help us with our bags and drive us to the airport. With him was Carmen, another SA employee. She was there to help with our bags and our check in at the airport. Again we had another sad parting. Marsha and I had grown fond of Alberto. He had taken great care of us with his driving and always made sure we stayed hydrated with plenty of water. Every time we got in his car there was a fresh bottle of water waiting for us. THANK YOU, ALBERTO!
We flew from Cusco to Lima on Avianca. When we came out of baggage claim, we were greeted by Santiago from SA Expeditions. He and his driver helped with our bags and escorted us to the JW Marriott Lima where he assisted with check-in. On the drive to the Marriott, he pointed out some points of interest along the way and recommended several restaurants for us to try in the Miraflores area of Lima where our hotel was located. We tried two of his recommendations, Tanta & Mangoes, and they were both outstanding.
The next day we scheduled a half-day tour of Lima with SA Expeditions. Promptly at 9:00 am were met by Rina, our SA Lima tour guide. Rina was well versed in the history of Lima and the surrounding areas. We visited parks and pre-Incan & Incan ruins inside Lima. Lima is made up of numerous neighborhoods and we visited a number of them. One of the highlights was the Museo Larco, which is an outstanding museum housing a massive, private collection of pre-Incan & Incan artifacts, all of which were amazingly well preserved. After that, we toured the original city of Lima and the main plaza. Lima was the first Spanish capital of South America and the main plaza and several of the churches surrounding it are original structures from the early 1500s. The second highlight of the Lima tour was the original house of the first Spanish Governor of South America. Rina had arranged a private tour of several parts of the house, which has been continuously occupied by the relatives of the first Spanish Governor for 17 generations. The relatives occupying the house today have private apartments in the structure, which we did not tour. However, one of the descendants, a very elegant lady was leaving her apartment during our tour. She and Rina exchanged pleasantries and it appeared that Rina was acquainted with her. The Spanish Governor's house was a special experience. Thank you, Rina.
Our last day in Lima was a relaxation day. Our flight back to the US was scheduled for 12:50 am on July 14th. Santiago was scheduled to pick us up at 9:00 pm on the 13th for transfer to the Lima International Airport. He was right on time and helped us with our luggage at the airport. SA Expedition truly made our vacation a memorable one by eliminating the language barriers, expediting us through long lines at many different places and providing a first class experience everywhere we went. MANY THANKS TO RIVA BACQUET AND HER ENTIRE TEAM!
- Fred and Marsha J. (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Photographed at Galapagos Islands
My husband and I have been very fortunate in that we've been able to travel a great deal throughout our lives. However, no trip or vacation has ever compared to our recently completed three week tour of Peru. From the moment that we connected with Staci at SA Luxury Expeditions, I knew that we were in great hands. Her knowledge of the area, the hotels and tours put her into a class by herself. During our three week tour EVERY single event, transfer, tour and hotel stay went without a hitch and like a perfectly oiled machine. Our hotels throughout the trip were some of the best that we've ever experienced anywhere in the world, with both the La Casona and the Casa Cartegena (both in Cuzco) being tied for the best hotels in our world of travels. LOVED Cuzco and we were fortunate enough to be there during June when there were tons of celebrations, parades and fireworks going on…we can't wait to return.
The Amazon cruise was beautiful (we did the 7 night) and the ship, staff and accommodations were out of this world. A great way to see the Amazon…and trust us, there's no “roughing it” here!
And the guides! Sol (our guide in Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu) and well as Josephine in Lima were simply amazing. Their knowledge and enthusiasm for the area was infectious and made you want to ask even more questions. The drivers were all courteous, friendly, and knew the area (and traffic!) beautifully. The transfers and transportation made us feel like VIP's as every single time we left an airport, city, or venue, there was our driver with a sign ready to assist with our bags and a helping hand. And the little touches, like water available in the vans, made the trip especially comfortable.
We looked at several companies before selecting SA Luxury Expeditions and we couldn't have been more happy. Thank you to Staci, Riva and the entire SALE staff for taking such great care of us. We can't wait to use you again for our return to Cuczo and for Iguazu Falls…it's never to early to start planning!
- Duncan & Russell (New York)
Photographed at Amazon
Thank you so much! We couldn't have put a trip this amazing together without you! All in all, simply put, amazing. I'll send along some photos when I get the chance to sort through them. 4sd cards at 8-64gb full of pics and video.
I think, we would've been happier in a hostal with laundry service post-trek. It might just have been that el Mapi was a little too uber-hipster for us.
The guidance for tipping was a little vague and in retrospect I feel badly because I think some of the people got shorted. All of the drivers and pickup people were very professional and great.
Highlights: Abra Salkantay. We were very happy we took the Salkantay trek vice Inca trail due to the shear numbers of people and amazing array of micro-climates. Cuzco was amazing, especially being there for Inti Raymi. Wayki trek was rugged and engaged enough that I felt like we were with just a group of guys who didn't distance themselves from us simply because we were the gringo tourists. I would use Wayki trek for everything. I would've liked to have Alfredo and his group the entire time, and knowing what we know now we would've spent even more time in the mountains with them rather than going to Lima. The locals were great everywhere. I really made some lifelong friendships. That was the prime highlight for me.
Trip of a lifetime!
- Sean, Carol and Anthony (Hawaii)
Photographed at Cuzco
We returned from our trip to Peru, visiting Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and Lima. The entire trip was outstanding. We stayed at the Lima Airport Hotel which was perfect for our late evening arrival and morning flight to Cusco. I would recommend others to stay there rather than in Miraflores if you are leaving Lima the next morning. It saves the 45 minute drives to and from Miraflores and the airport.
Upon arrival in Cusco, we were met by the representative and driver who took us to our hotel. We stayed at the La Casona Hotel which was top notch in every way. Their service is impeccable and the staff very friendly and helpful. We experienced no altitude sickness since we live at 7200'. Our first afternoon, we took the Marcelo Batata Cooking Class, which we scheduled on our own. The instruction covers everything from Peruvian food, fruit tasting, pisco tasting and drink making, and of course cooking. This was a great introduction to Peru and its food culture. I would highly recommend this to everyone visiting Cusco for their first time.
The next morning we were met by our guide, Juan Carlos and our driver Roddy. We had the same driver and car throughout our time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Roddy made sure we had bottled water in the car every day. We also did the Cusco Planetarium on our own, which was very informative. They covered the Inca sky beliefs along with current sky phenomena. Highlights included seeing the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn with their telescopes. I would also recommend it for someone looking for something different to do in the evening. They pick you up and drop you off in Cusco. We were with a group of 3 other people. The planetarium is located near Sacsayhuaman. Our guide, Juan Carlos, was also with us the entire time throughout the Cusco area; including the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Having the same guide throughout was a great advantage, since he could tailor his information more to our interests. Of note, Juan Carlos took us onto the Maras salt fields, rather than just on the outskirt path. We got to see firsthand and up close, some of the workers preparing their areas and they explained what and how they were doing it.
Machu Picchu is everything we've read about and more. We stayed at the Sanctuary Lodge, which was well worth the expense. We were there for two day; one full day with the guide and another without the guide. The guide also climbed Huayna Picchu with us. The advantage of the Sanctuary Lodge is we were able to leave the park, shower after our hike and have lunch in the hotel residents only area, then return back into the park. Our Lima guide, Sophia, was outstanding as well. When we arrived in early afternoon without lunch due to our flight, she made a reservation for lunch for us at the Museum Cafe so we had a table available when we arrived. She also made sure we arrived at Miraflores in time for the sunsetting over the Pacific.
Overall, the trip was everything we expected and more.
- Jay and Heather DeLong, (Laramie, Wyoming)
Photographed at Huyna Picchu
In most cases, after long trips like this, we are usually tired and overwhelmed, but this trip has inspired us to seek our next great adventure, which is a great and refreshing feeling to have :)
Jacqueline (Upon arrival to Cusco) timely met us at baggage claim and escorted us to the Inkaterra La Casona. The La Casona was A-W-E-S-O-M-E!! It is probably the best hotel we have ever stayed at! What put it over the top for us was the personalized service that we didn't experience at any of the other hotels we've stayed at. Of course the grounds and the room were immaculate. It was nice to feel pampered as if we were guests at a large mansion rather than a hotel. On our return to the La Casona following our Inca Trail trek, they were able to rush or laundry before our next day flight to Iquitos which was greatly appreciated!! Cicciolina Restaurant was also wonderful – thank you for that recommendation. The Alpaca steak was interesting to try! The short walk from the hotel to the restaurant was nice as we still were acclimating to the elevation. On our last night in Cusco, ChiCha was also impressive. Great restaurant recommendations!!
Our tours of Cusco, the greater Sacred Valley and the Andean wedding ceremony/ritual were excellent and well-executed. Jorge as a guide was superb and took his time to explain all the relevant history and important facts and made sure that we didn't miss any of the photo opportunities at all the different sites we visited. The Sacred Valley was particularly beautiful as we had a mix of rain, sun, clouds on that day and we want to express once again an additional thank you for making the ceremony happen! It was unique and creative and something we were lucky to have the opportunity to take a part of. Thank you immensely for adding this extra touch to our trip!
The Tambo Del Inka Hotel was very nice and luxurious and felt more like a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons in the middle of the Sacred Valley. We would have loved to stay there until the morning but had to leave at 10pm given the farmers' strike ☺ In retrospect though, it was a great decision as it would have been far more disappointing if we missed the Inca Trail hike. Excellent choice here!! The dinner we had at the Tambo hotel was very nice and the rooms well-appointed and clean, nothing short of what you'd expect at a 5 star hotel in the SF. The hotel didn't have the personalized feeling of the La Casona but I don't think we could expect that from such a large hotel, nor is this a negative comment by any means.
In a trip where everything was planned and turned out so well, it is difficult to find a “highlight” of our trip because there were so many highlights, but if we had to pick one, Ruben “Charlie” and his team of porters at Wayki made the trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu memorable, exciting and close to perfect. This was clearly the highlight of the highlights for us. Everything about the trek was amazing and over the top – the guidance and motivation from Ruben, the delicious food by Flabio (he should open his own restaurant!!), and the tireless efforts and positive attitudes of our porters (we could tell some of the porters from other trekking groups seemed somewhat questionable in their behavior, but our porters from Wayki Trek acted professionally and had much more class than those porters). I hope SA Expeditions continues to contract with Wayki because these guys along with you and your team at SA, really helped to establish this as a trip of our lifetime!!!
We like the Inkaterra El Pueblo in Agua Calientes and overall it was a great experience following our trek, though we had some minor reservations about the hotel. The meals in the hotel restaurant were good – we did not expect the hotel to include dinner which was a plus. And we were able to partake in a jungle walk on the following morning where we saw interesting plants, teas and some wildlife. This is rather nitpicky, but compared to the other accommodations on the trip, we were not very impressed by the room, most specifically the bathroom. We were also given a two twin bed room and upon mentioning that to the front desk, we were shown a King room behind the Spa which also smelled of mildew and chlorine. We know the hotel is capable of having clean bathrooms – their lobby had a nice one, and clean rooms - some of the suites we walked past looked nice, so it was a shame we didn't get to have one ourselves.
Finally, the Delfin cruise was spectacular! I guess given the price point, we were expecting all the bells and whistles and they delivered on each front! Our room was great (lots of bugs but we are in the rainforest after all ☺, as well as on a boat for that matter) – the floor to ceiling windows, bed and furnishings were all nicely appointed. Sandro, our guide, went above and beyond to ensure that we were able to view wildlife, for instance, standing up in pelting rain in the dark looking for caymens for an hour+. Throughout the trip, we saw lots of birds, some monkeys, fished for piranha, pink dolphins, tried Amazonian fruits and had the opportunity to stand up paddle board and swim in the Amazon! All It was a 360 degree difference from the Andes Mountains! The meals and entertainment were excellent, we could really tell that the staff stopped at nothing and pulled all stops to make sure everything was first class and all the details were addressed.
In summary, everything was close to perfect for this trip. And as we've said countless times, this was in fact a trip of a lifetime!!
- Vincent & Cheryl T. (San Francisco, California)
Photographed at Amazon
We are back after a most excellent 10 days in Peru, and wanted to convey our thanks to you and SA expeditions.
Everything pretty much went as scheduled and arranged. Highlights included the Inca trail hike, the days spent in Cuzco and sacred valley, the excellent food and the nice weather.
The guided tours were all very well done, but we want to especially acknowledge Juan Cardenas - our guide at Cuzco & sacred valley. Always enthusiastic, super knowledgeable and adding that extra bit to make it special.
Thanks again to the team, and to you for the prompt responses and clarifications over the past few months. Peru is an amazing place, and we'd be glad to recommend it and SA expeditions to our friends.
- Anil, Dennis, John, Ravi, Vinoo (San Francisco, California)
Photographed at Machu Picchu
Staci- The trip was great. SA Ex did a great job. I've never had guides before on a trip and it made everything so much easier and less stressful. Luis (Amazon Guide) was wonderful and clearly showed a passion and interest in the Eco environment. He took Dillon and I on an exclusive early morning walk thru the jungle the day before we flew out to show us even more.
Emilio (Cusco & Machu Picchu Guide) was wonderful. I can't say enough about him. Very professional at all times, Respected our space. Cleary had knowledge of the Inca culture. Again he went above and beyond. I would recommend him for any tour. I couldn't have asked for a better trip. The weather was great the entire time. We only 2 minor hic cups. Train was 1 hour late coming off the mountain and our flight out of Puerto Mandaldo to Lima was 1 hour late. Both of which were no big deal.
I have another son graduating next year so I will be scouring the SA Ex site for another trip with him. I'm thinking Galapagos Islands.
- Robert and Dillon, (Los Angeles, California)
Photographed at Huyna Picchu
When I began research on an Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu I found a wide range of options on the web and it was a bit overwhelming. After looking into some pricer options with well-known names (REI), I stumbled upon SA Expeditions website. Minutes after I entered in my request for a quote I was called directly by the owner of the company, Nick. Speaking with Nick on the phone was incredible helpful to 1. alleviate my fears of booking online with an unknown company and 2. talk through all my travel plans and desires until we arrived at the perfect trip for my husband and I. We ended up customizing our Inca Trail tour by adding a few days in the Amazon first and it was incredible!
We experienced the trip of a lifetime, even when my husband came down with altitude sickness in Cusco the day before we were supposed to leave for our trek. This is when I became incredibly grateful we booked with SA Expeditions. With a phone call we were in touch with Riva, who booked our trip and managed the details, who sent a Dr. out to our hotel to attend to my husband and re-arranged the remainder of our trip as we could no longer do the trek. As my husband was put on oxygen and resting in our hotel room, she put together all new hotel rooms, transfers, and even train and bus tickets so we could still make it to Machu Picchu. As luck would have it, she ended up in the same city we were transferred to (Sacred Valley) and even invited us to a special lunch with her and her colleagues! This ended up being a highlight of our trip. My husband recovered just fine and we still made it to Machu Picchu.
I couldn't imagine having to seek medical attention for my husband while simultaneously cancelling and re-booking our travel plans. We are incredibly grateful for the hard work and "above and beyond" approach of SA Expeditions and would highly recommend them to anyone looking to travel!
- Addison and Ian E. (San Diego, CA)
Photographed at Ollantaytambo
My husband & I just returned from a 2-week vacation in Brazil. This is the second year in a row we used South America Expeditions (SAE) to plan our trip. Last year we were in the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu; this year we traveled to Rio De Janeiro, the Iguazu Falls (visiting them from both the Brazilian side & the Argentine side), and the Amazon river. WOW!!! What an amazing trip... and I wasn't even sure if I wanted to go to Brazil. Everything was perfect from start to finish with this vacation; from flights being on-time, to luggage arriving timely, to our personal tour guides meeting us on schedule at the designated airports and hotels, to our feelings of safety, to the knowledge imparted by our guides, to our accommodations... absolutely everything ran like clockwork. Staci, at SAE, hit it out of the ballpark for us again this year. She makes herself available to her clients by phone or e-mail 24-hours per day, and in a few cases we needed her. Her response was almost instantaneous. Even though you are in a foreign country and do not speak the language, she makes sure you do not feel alone or unprotected-- yay Staci! We just arrived home to the States and are already throwing ideas around with SAE as to where we might travel next in South America. If anyone reading this is vacillating about a trip to the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Rio, Iguazu Falls or the Amazon, my suggestion is run, do not walk, to the phone & contact South America Expeditions to plan your trip for you. You will not be disappointed. If you are world travelers, or simply have an interest in South America, by all means visit the places I've mentioned. The things you see & experience will be indelibly etched into your memories and will never be forgotten. My husband & I have traveled to 71 countries on 6 continents and our recent South American travels have indeed been some of our favorites. Happy trails!
- Jane and Michael Z. (Scottsdale, AZ)
Photographed at Amazon
I finally have a moment to share our comments regarding our trip to Chile. We had a fantastic time. The arrangements were on point and the guides were wonderful.
We were received in Santiago by Pablo (I hope my memory works regarding names). He was very personable and gracious. He left us at our hotel. He advised us the time he would be picking us up the next day. My husband and I spent the day visiting the city using the hop on -hop off bus tourist bus that was easily accessible near the hotel.
The next morning Pablo picked us up with Mark Knowles, who would be our biking guide for the next 3 days. He was the perfect guide for us. As an American we had no problem communicating. However, having been in Chile for 10 years, he had an in depth knowledge and understanding of the country and its customs. In addition, he is a professional cyclist so he was able to tailor our expedition to our ability level. It was thoroughly enjoyable. Pablo was a perfect complement to the entire biking experience. We felt safe at all times.
In Puerto Montt we were greeted by our two guides (his and her name escape me). Again, they were very professional and friendly. We arrived quite late. They drove us to Puerto Varas to the lovely Cumbres Hotel. Clearly, it was perfect location with spectacular views and a beautiful, expansive room. We enjoyed the New Year's dinner which was all arranged beforehand. We were pleasantly surprised about that detail. We enjoyed the spa services, room service and gym. We will definitely stay there again when we visit in the future.
New Year's Day we had a free day. We were able to explore Puerto Varas on our own. We had dinner at Mediterraneo. We enjoyed the food and the service. It was walking distance from the hotel. The next day Francisco (Ko Kayak) and their driver picked us up to go kayaking. Again, it was a beautiful day and a wonderful experience. We had the opportunity to share it with a young couple from England. We had lunch at a lady's house who lives next to the lake. We enjoyed the boxed lunch at their humble home. They shared their family history. It was lovely.
In the end, our experience was remarkable. This was one of the expeditions that left us with the clear notion that we will be back. We want to thank you for arranging such well-organized and enjoyable trip. We have already mentioned it to several friends who are looking at possible places to visit. Your professionalism and level of detail made this trip one of our top experiences.
- Hy and Lucia (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida)
Photographed at Torres del Paine
The highlights of our trip were the trip to Machu Picchu, Our stay in the Amazon, and all of the beautiful accommodations at each place we stayed. We were very pleased with our guides and representatives. It was so nice to be greeted by Allison's smiling face when we landed after a long flight. Her thorough review of our itinerary put our minds at rest about the exciting week ahead. Wilfredo was an outstanding driver. He kept our vehicle spotlessly clean the entire trip, and maneuvered through some of the most difficult roads and traffic so that we always had a comfortable ride. He was always promptly waiting to pick us up from wherever we were, so we never had to wait. However, it was Johan, our guide that truly made the trip memorable for us. The wealth of information he shared with us about the Inca and Spanish history brought each site alive for us. He told us about each place as if it were a story unfolding before our eyes. He would frequently ask us questions, that made us think about what we were seeing and helped us to remember all that we learned. His calm and smiling demeanor combined with Wifredo's driving, created a delightful, stress free trip. In addition, the other guides that took us on our shorter excursions were also friendly, professional, and courteous. As Dennys in the Amazon reminded us- “No worries!” Finally, our last few hours in Lima with Reynardo were a relaxing conclusion to our trip as we came full circle from the Incas, to the Amazon, to the history of the Spanish in the historical district of Lima.
All of our accommodations were first class. The service at each place was impeccable, as if the staff anticipated our every need. Our rooms and cabana were beautifully designed for our maximum enjoyment.We felt like royalty at each place! As for the Amazon-it was a true adventure crossing the canopy walks, seeing the wild life and learning about the medical qualities of many plants. Thank you and all your wonderful staff for making this the trip of a lifetime!
- Harri and Heidi B. (New York)
Photographed at Machu Picchu
hanks to Riva with SA Luxury Expeditions. We recently returned from a 10-day trip that included Lima, Puerto Maldonado, Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Believe it or not, this was a last minute trip. We were referred to Riva through a coworker. She was so helpful. She guided us through to various itenerary options, helped align our sudden trip with the coworker and addressed last minute modifications. She was very quick to respond to every email - including a last minute request, during the trip, when we turned ill. She even called the hotel to see if a doctor \ specialist was needed! Every step of the trip was well planned and tended to. The staff that was apointed to our trip were fantastic, very well informed, polite and eager to provide great service. They were individual ambassadors for each city that we visited. Whenever we needed to be taken to an airport, met at an airport, met at the hotel, , whatever - we were never disappointed.
Lima - we had a couple of 'free days' that we'd intentionally added. Riva placed us in the Raddison in Mirraflores. A great choice, great location. This is a very friendly, clean and safe area. It is a short walk to Kennedy Park or the ocean with the great views and restaurants. We found a double-decker bus that took us on a tour - highly recommended. We flew to Puerto Maldonado and spent a couple days with Incaterra. Staying at an eco-lodge was interesting. The staff and facility were great. Our guide - Fray - was very informative. He always had an answer. He always seemed to know what our groups next question was going to be and he was prepared. The cabana was nice clean and well appointed. You just have to remember that there are actually certain hours of the day when they turn off the site generator... our first night was the noisiest night I've had in ages. Serious. When white noise is absent you can't believe how loud the tiniest of insects can be. Oh yeah - December is rainy season. Our second day almost got rained out. We did the (long...muddy...) hike to Lake Sandavol, went out on the canoe and saw some wildlife including otters, birds and a large caiman. That afternoon, the rain eased up so we could go on a jungle canopy hike. I can't forget to tell you about the food at this lodge. Fantastic. They farm most of the food that was prepared. The dinner rolls - with chocolate - were surprising deliscious. That memory always brings a smile. Next, we went to Cuzco to prepare for the Machu Picchu. The elevation, yes, it will affect you. We were met locally by Allison - very helpful and gave us some dinner suggestion that were fantastic. Thanksfully, the botique hotel that Riva put is at was very prepared for its guests... and quickly offered the local remedy (yes.. it helped.) Casa San Blas. Great location, the rooms on the 3rd floor were fantastic, loft style with a nice city view at night. Cuzco was a great walk-around town. Don't rush yourself. The churches and the cathedral were beautiful. I just wish that photography was allowed. We found the chocolate museum in Cuzco. They were very eager to share their knowledge and the process used to make this wonderful chocolate. We had soem great dinners here as well. Cicciolina - I think that's the name - you have to find it and experience it. Unbelievable. This place could have been in any major city. Highlights included the duck piscutto and fried polenta, the red trout ceviche and the bbq scallops.
Finally we were ready to go to Machu Picchu. We did it the easy way. We took the train from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes, spent the night and then took the bus in the morning. I won't bore you with the ooo's and ahhh's. You can google a zillion pics and articles. But - I want to highlight out guide. Riva paired us with Silver. He was great. Better than great, he could have lead a history class. He was with us in Cuzco as well. He has a great passion for the region, the people and culture. You will want to ask for him. Oh - everywhere we went he was known... storekeepers and guides... it was like traveling with a rock star :) After Macchu Pichu we returned to Lima and had a halfday tour. Another fantastic guide. We went to a few different locations, including the Monastery of San Franciso (another place that I really really wish I could have taken photos...) and a private residence that has been in the same (wealthy) family for 500 years. Great access and knowledge. Thanks again to Riva for putting together such a great trip.
- Kurt and Maria G. (Aurora, IL)
Photographed at Machu Picchu
SA Luxury Expeditions and Gina Allman planned and provided an amazing tour of Peru for this father/daughter expedition. We loved the colorful introduction to Peru in Arequipa. Our trip took us took to see the huge condors and the beautiful native terraced area of Colca Canyon. The floating Uros island, Lake Titicaca boat ride, and fresh lake trout lunch on Taquile Island were breath-taking. The sacred Valley, Cusco, and Machu Picchu, and our guide Marco provided the most memorable moments of our trip. Looking over Machu Picchu, with my dad who had read about the Incas in eighth grade and always dreamed of seeing their innovative wonders, was a thrill of a lifetime for this daughter. Thank you SA Luxury for providing such a special lifetime experience.
- Lasca A. (Goliad, TX)
Photographed at Sacred Valley