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Gringo Trail

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Boulder, Colorado
posts: 27
reviews: 6
Gringo Trail

I'm looking at doing the "Gringo Trail" --Islas Ballestas, Ica, Nazca (if the planes are flying), Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca before heading back to Cuzco to do a separately arranged trek to MP. (We would also like to have time to explore Sacred Valley.) Can anyone recommend a tour operator that could put this together for us? Also, is it realistic to expect to do this in the 9 days that remain after accounting for our 5 days on the MP trek?

Edited: 4:30 pm, March 21, 2010
posts: 1,420
reviews: 2
1. Re: Gringo Trail

Puzzling. Do you need special services? Peru isn't the best place for those confined to wheel chairs or needing medical treatment along the way. Lima Tours in Lima can probably arrange with a local clinic the really detailed points. Pisco, Ica, Nazca and Arequipa are all on the main coastal highway. There are numerous first class bus lines on this road. During the day i'd estimate that at least one bus every 20 minutes sets out from Lima. If you are mobile perhaps the easiest way would be to go to the bus station and buy a ticket on the next bus to Pisco. It's a tiny town.. if no longer as attractive after the earthquake of a few years ago. Most hotels are within rock throwing distance of each other. Every hotel will arrange the boat to the islands. They all call the same cell # and a car or van is sent to your hotel and you are put on the next open boat going out. Warning... take a wide brimmed hat. There are thousands of sea birds in the air and pelicans can release a really big load of crap at once. When time to move on just grab the next bus coming along. Ica and the area around it are famous for the ultra sweet pecan candies made by hand. The Colca Canyon is the one stop where you need a bit of organization other than MP..and I presume you already have that. There are a bazillion agencies in Arequipa. Safest bets in terms of reliability are the ones with offices on or near the plaze. Avoid those with a card table and cell phone. They are just passing your info on for a commission. Avoid an tour set up by a non-Peruvian agency with no ground office in country. Those are the most expensive and the ones with the greatest horror stories. That said, don't be shocked if the van you take is owned by another agency. Even the best combine groups at the last minute. Personally I recommend the three day excursion. But most these days seem to do the overnighter. Allow a half day to walk around the Santa Teresa Convent Museum. Do this on your own. This is not the sort of place you want some guide babbling in your ear. Legend has it that this was a large group of contemplative nuns who spent their days strolling through the walkways of the convent praying for the sins of man. If you know the story you know the truth. But architecturally it certainly looks the part. The next big curiosity is Juanita. Not sure of her status. For a while there she was only on display half the year... don't remember which half. Oh... she is also known as the Ice Princess. 14 yr. old girl that the Inca priest s got high, dressed up and then dragged to the top of a mountain half frozen where they killed her by pounding her skull. Getting to Puno. Going by the phrasing of your question I don't recommend train. Lots of first class buses. You can fly to Juliaca(no airport in Puno). 1 1/2 hr. bus ride the rest ot the way. Uros Islands... touristy but not as pushy as many say. Realize in advance that these folks aren't some ancient culture. Any hotel will book you. If you have a day do the Uros in the morning and Silustani in the afternoon. Silustani are ancient burial towers and afternoon lighting is awesome for photos.

Boulder, Colorado
posts: 27
reviews: 6
2. Re: Gringo Trail

Wow, thanks for your detailed response! We are both very able-bodied, so no concerns there. It sounds like we'd be able to do this rather independently, rather than relying on one of the major tour operators. Cool!

Chiclayo, Peru
posts: 805
3. Re: Gringo Trail

8-9 days is a good plan for this route, but do give yourself some time to explore Cusco and the Sacred Valley beyond just doing the trek and Machu Picchu, as there's a lot more to see in that area. All of the transport links, accommodation and excursions along the way (Ballestas Islands, Huacachina Oasis, Nazca Flights, Colca Canyon tour, Taquile or Amantaní overnight on Titicaca) are trivial to set up once there either by yourself or with the help of a myriad travel agents in each city. To save time take the 4M bus from Chivay (Colca Canyon) to Puno rather than backtracking to Arequipa. For Puno to Cusco use the Inka Express tourist bus, which stops at a number of points of interest along the way.

Edited: 9:15 pm, March 21, 2010
Pensacola, Florida
posts: 12,946
reviews: 56
4. Re: Gringo Trail


Easier and cheaper to self guide by deluxe bus the whole thing...

www.peruforless.com can put together a nice custom tour

might just look at that and then decide.

SV is also easy to self-guide and cheaper

Usually base in www.ollantaytambo.org www.apulodge.com

take shuttles for a sole or 2 around from there.

Try to catch the world's largest Inka Market at Pisac on Sunday

www.spiritair.com www.kayak.com/buzz for cheap international air

Have fun

Pensacola, Florida
posts: 12,946
reviews: 56
5. Re: Gringo Trail

www.cruzdelsur.com.pe best bus VIP seats

Doable in 9 days easily have done it...

Lima, Peru
Destination Expert
for Cusco, Lima, Arequipa, Peru
posts: 16,120
reviews: 306
6. Re: Gringo Trail

Hmmmm.....the comments made by GTBob are quite unique, to call them the least. The temple in Arequipa is called Santa Catalina, not Santa Teresa, and if you do not get a guide you will not understand at all what are you looking at.

Be aware that even though the distances do not look very far, the bus trips are VERY long. Lima to Cusco is a 24 hours trip.To Arequipa is a 16 hour trip.

So, Its doable but I would better plan to do it by plane for faster and safer trips.You can arrange most of your trip on your own, using feedback from this forum. Doing some search here as well you will get answers for most of your questions.

Another way to do it is a combination of your own arrangements plus some local help from Sophie at sofiabarreda@gmail.com (check reviews on her assistance)

Chiclayo, Peru
posts: 805
7. Re: Gringo Trail

I was going to advice the OP to just completely disregard the first post, but I didn't want to be mean.... I am curious what truth we're supposed to know about the convent.

Unfortunately if you're going to Ica/Nazca flying isn't an option, and once you're there it takes longer to get back to Lima and fly to Arequipa than it does to take the bus. Arequipa to Puno (or better, Chivay to Puno) is an easy bus ride, with flamingos and vicuñas along the way, and there's lots to see between Puno and Cusco. So I wouldn't recommend flying anywhere except the return from Cusco to Lima.

Boulder, Colorado
posts: 27
reviews: 6
8. Re: Gringo Trail

This is all really great information! We did ask Llama Path about putting together a custom tour, and they came up with $2135 for a 15 day tour that includes the 5-day Salkantay trek we were going to do with them anyway, plus Islas Balletas, Colca Canyon, the Nasca lines/Ica, a Sacred Valley tour -- and the price includes 10 nights in hostals (btw, in Peru, is that similar to a youth hostel in the States -- e.g, dorm-like setting?) flights from Lima-Arequipa, Arequipa -Cusco and Cusco-Lima, as well as all other buses. Does this seem like a good price, or could we put the same thing together for less? (FYI, the 5-day trek alone is about $500.)

However, we also originally asked for Lake Titicaca to be included in this tour, and it's not specifically mentioned. I kinda suck at geography, so maybe it's along this path and I just don't realize it? Thanks for all the help -- really appreciate it!

Kamloops, Canada
posts: 3,471
reviews: 27
9. Re: Gringo Trail

It wouldnt be that hard to arrange everything yourself for wayyy cheaper than an organized tour.

GOOD INFO - www.andeantravelweb.com

Lima to Paracas on www.cruzdelsur.com.pe

Across the street from the Cruz Del Sur Bus stop is the Zarcillo Paradise Hotel www.zarcillo-paradise.com which has daily departures to the Islas Ballestas from their private dock.

Hop another bus to Ica and Huacachina and then onto Nazca...probably Soyuz www.soyuz.com.pe or Cruz Del Sur again www.cruzdelsur.com.pe

You can arrange a flight over the lines at the airport when you arrive!

www.cruzdelsur.com.pe has a night bus from Nazca to Arequipa which arrives in the early morning.

You can arrange a Colca tour in Arequipa when you arrive.

4M Peru www.4m-express.com/ has a shuttle service from Chivay (Colca Canyon) to Puno leaving daily from the main square at 1:15PM for about $40

Tour of the islands on Titicaca can be arranged at the dock when you arrive.

To get to Cusco from Puno you could take the train www.perurail.com or the bus which is wayyy cheaper and follows the same route as the train but stops at important sites along the way www.inkaexpress.com and the final way would be to fly from Juliaca which is about an hour outside of Puno. LAN www.lan.com is the only airline flying this route and has one flight per day at 7:30AM.

In cusco you will need to have train tickets booked for MAachu Picchu with www.perurail.com. You can arrange Sacred Valley and other tours in Cusco. If you want to do a trek then you had best book that in advance with a tour operator!

To get back to Lima from cusco you should fly. LAN is the most expensive but also has the most departures. Taca usually has really good deals on flights! Star Peru is also cheaper than LAN and has super cheap return flights between Lima and Trujillo if you wanted to see Chan Chan and Hunachaco. Peruvian Airlines has super cheap flights between Lima and Arequipa but they are also suppose to be starting to fly to Cusco as well so you might see what they have to offer!





10. Re: Gringo Trail

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