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Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

Your Words – We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

Here at Exodus we thrive on feedback from our customers. It’s the only way we can ensure our trips continue to be the best they can be. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of the trip you’re interested in, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

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Reviews

Wonderful Salkantay and Inca Trail

The Salkantay Trek gives you both remoteness, superb mountain and glacier views along with the Inca Trail and the reward of the inspirational Machu Picchu at the end. It’s definitely worth the extra days of walking and camping. We didn’t see any other groups for the first three days! There was high level of support provided by the leader, chef and porters. The food on the trek was exceptional – nutritionally balanced, plentiful and varied. The days in Cusco before the trek provided good acclimatisation as well as familiarising ourselves with Inca history. The Machu Picchu Museum was well worth a visit in advance of the trek.

Most Inspirational Moment

Camping close to the Salkantay mountain and glacier (there was no one else there except the Exodus group) and the first glimpse of Machu Picchu as we came through the Sun Gate.

Thoughts on Group Leader

William was a fantastic leader. He was extremely knowledgeable on the history and geography of the areas we walked as well as taking us to all the key sites in Cusco. He was always on hand to provide advice, whether we had questions about the trek or were looking for cafe and restaurant ideas in Cusco. He was always looking out for our health and well-being, including monitoring our oxygen levels and checking for effects of altitude. He always had our best interests at heart.

Advice for Potential Travellers

This trip starts at altitude in Cusco and reaches higher levels during the trek. Do read the trip notes so you are as well prepared as you can be in basic fitness for the ascents and descents and length of walking days. It’s cold at night (especially near the glacier) so make sure you take the clothes that Exodus recommend. Exodus provide a good sleeping bag if you don’t have one.I always take snack bars in case I need extra food on the trek, although we were provided with plenty of snacks and fruit (more so than other treks I have done).

Suggestions

Exodus ensure that you have two opportunities to see Machu Picchu. The first time at the end of the Inca Trail when you get superb views of the site. This is then followed by a second visit to the site the following day.

Well organised, challenging, beautiful.

A challenging first few days over Salkantay pass etc., then a simply beautiful second third as we descend to the Sun Gate and into Machu Picchu itself, then a very relaxing few days sightseeing several amazing towns (Ollantaytambo and Pisac in particular – we only had an hour in Pisac and I’d’ve liked to stay there for an afternoon). The porters on the trip are amazing of course, but the cook was a genius! The most delicious trout in quinoa one night and cooked in a mess tent over a single gas stove…

Thoughts on Group Leader

Bobby was a fount of knowledge on plants and history every step of the way.

Advice for Potential Travellers

It's can be a lot colder in the hills at night than you expect. Have a very warm sleeping bag and keep a dry underlayer at least for sleeping in.

Immersion in the high Andes

Really excellent trip. Altitude is an issue. We needed the first few days acclimatising in Cusco, where walking up hills seemed an effort. But we were acclimatised when the trek started. There are two parts to the trek although they merge seamlessly. The Salcantay trek is more remote, higher and supported by horses. Highest pass 5k metres. Highest campsite is cold enough to freeze your bootlaces (even Cusco is hot water bottle cold at night). Then you join the Inca trail which is more mainstream, less wild but still breathtaking, no horses but plenty of porters who skip up and down the trail carrying their loads. Not the most challenging walking, probably half the days were proper level 5 and the other half more like level 3. But on the Salcantay part of the trek you really do feel that you are in places where humans are not supposed to tread. Macchu Pichu is very touristy but stunning. The nights at Agua Calientes and Olanta are delightful and Cusco is a fabulous city to spend a few days. Lots of Inca sites – possibly a little too many history lessons for some. We were humbled by the care provided by the leader Edwind and his crew of chefs, horsemen and porters. A wonderful crew who really added to the trip. We felt safe and very well fed. Oh and Peru is a very welcoming country, no litter (pachamama), no smoking and very pleasant people.

Most Inspirational Moment

The massive unclimbed peaks of Saltancay, the avalanches, the black Llama in the night sky

Thoughts on Group Leader

Edwind was terrific. He became our friend. We spent a lot of time together in the food tent and he gets everything just right. Well maybe he could prune the history lessons a tad.

Advice for Potential Travellers

The altitude is a potential game changer. Walk slower than normal going up hill. Think carefully about packing. It gets down to minus 10 at night in the highest camp. The 10kg limit on the trek includes sleeping bag but not the mat. Take a powerbank as not electricity on the trek. Long nights in the tent so take something to read. You get a cold shower on night 4. Enjoy.

Absolutely Fantastic

I had high expectations of this trip and it did not disappoint, not one little bit. Cusco is a beautiful city, very relaxed, clean, and welcoming – perfect for acclimatisation before and relaxing after the hike. As for the hike itself it was tough at times but well worth the effort. I am so glad we decided to do the High Inca Trail, giving a few extra days to experience the stunning scenery. We were lucky to have perfect weather, clear blue skies and sunshine during the day, a little rain overnight, but mostly clear skies to admire the stars and milky way. The numerous Inca ruins we passed were mind-boggling – just how did they build these places in such precarious locations?! And Machu Picchu surpassed all expectations – it is truly breathtaking, an absolute must on anyone’s bucket list.

Most Inspirational Moment

The obvious one was seeing Machu Picchu for the first time. After this scaling the highest point, Incachirisca Pass, and surviving Dead Woman's Pass! But by far and away the most inspiration came from the porters, rushing past you on the trail to get to the next camp site before you, having been left behind to dismantle the site you had just left, laden down with kit - put your own puffing and panting with a day pack into perspective!!

Thoughts on Group Leader

The group leader was brilliant. He set a good pace, made sure we didn't overdo it, and kept a constant check on our wellbeing. He was very knowledgeable, ensured everyone was included, and was unbiased and diplomatic when needed - which is often the case in group travel. Nothing was too much trouble for him, he was always there for us. Assistant leader was also great.

Advice for Potential Travellers

It may seem daunting, and it is tough, but it is totally achievable if you are prepared to give it your all. You can expect to feel the effects of altitude, suffer headaches, so be prepared.

Suggestions

Whether travelling as a group within the group, or as an individual, especially on the trail be inclusive of everyone, considerate of everyone, support each other when the going gets tough, celebrate your achievements as one.

Amazing trip !

Well, what a trip that was ! An amazing experience made all the better by excellent organisation by Exodus.

Most Inspirational Moment

Reaching our goal of Machupicchu was my highlight

Thoughts on Group Leader

Carlos Enrique, our guide & leader was phenomenal, he was not only very knowledgable about Peru’s history & the Incas but also very passionate about them too which made me even more interested. He is a true credit to the Exodus team.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Just book & go ! You will not be disappointed

Breathtaking

Yes the High Inca Trail is truly breathtaking in more than one way, from the stunning routes, and landscape to the hard climbs and how altitude affects your body.

Challenging but very rewarding at the same time, this is the best experience in my life.

Most Inspirational Moment

There were a couple of inspirational moments... Firstly, when what was left of the group finally reached the highest point on the trail after a hard couple of days up the steep climbs. Second, seeing Macchu Picchu in the distance after walking through the Sun gate. It had always been a life long ambition to go see Macchu Picchu and I finally done it. Life changing.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Tomas was brilliant, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, very friendly and had a great sense of humour.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Listen to your group leader, don't go rushing off ahead or be a know-it-all, we lost a few group members because of this only a couple of days into the trail. Take some Vicks Vapour rub, helped me at the higher altitudes opening up my airways more. Plenty photos, take all your surroundings in and have a great time.

Suggestions

Try some of the local delicacies. Enjoy yourself.

Awesome Adventure over the Andes

My husband and I had a great time on this trip with a great group of people, including Tour guides, and support crew. Despite the high altitude conditions on the first four days everything went smoothly and according to plan. Superb professionallism and organisational skills by our guide Julio and Johnny made the trip achievable for all age groups (30’s to early 60’s) in the very supportive “family” environment. We would recommend this trip to other adventurous people who want a bit more than the other less physically and mentally challenging Inca trail to Machu Picchu.
The food was great and special diets catered. The porters, both horsemen and foot porters were cheerful and friendly despite carrying heavy loads.

Most Inspirational Moment

Inspiration for me came through stretching my mental and physical abilities to a higher level. Not giving up but be able to accept help when I was feeling unwell.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Julio as a great leader which showed in the cohesiveness and supportive nature of the group. Johnny provided the necessary backup and lead by example.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Ensure your physical training programme is started well in advance (at least 8 weeks) for this trip as it will make it more enjoyable and able to view the stunning scenery and wildlife. Be mentally prepared for a challenging but enjoyable time.

Suggestions

Fabulous trip well worth doing it.

The High Inca Trail - 7 day hike

Overall the trip was fantastic and surpassed our expectations. During the acclimatization, we explored Cusco and found it a wonderful and vibrant place, full of culture and life. The hike was amazing! Each day presented breathtaking scenery, from glacial mountains and lakes and fertile forest valleys. The food was way above what we expected. As a group we sat down to 3 courses each mealtime. With vegetarian and gluten options being prepared by the chefs at each meal. There was never any complaints about the food. We could not have asked for a better group to travel with, they certainly helped make the trip as good as it was.

Most Inspirational Moment

There are many highlights for us during the trip. Including; the dominating views of Salcantay. The climb up to and the views from Chiriasqua Pass. Likewise with Dead Women's Pass, the views at the top were breathtaking and worth the effort. After passing over Runcuray Pass the walk through the Cloud Forrest was invigorating and magical, as was the final campsite at Phuyupatamarca. But the most inspiration moment was arriving at the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu. The culmination of completing the hike & the views down onto Machu Picchu was an emotional moment.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Our group leader for the trip was Julio Llancay, who we became more of a friend than a guide during the trip. His knowledge of the Inca history and sites was fantastic. He had an excellent handle of the English language and a great sense of humour. We would rate Julio as the best guide we have had on all our trips. I also have to mention our assistant guide during the walk, Jhonny, who helped make the trip memorable. He has such a lovely demeanour about him, so happy.

Advice for Potential Travellers

My advice would be to ensure that you are prepared. Exodus grades this trip as Challenging, do not take this lightly. Combined with the effects of altitude and rate of ascent over the first couple of days. The trip notes are accurate but should read and considered.

Suggestions

Exodus encourages eco-friendly travel, which was raised by Julio during the trip. This included the reduction of plastics such as straws etc. However, our hotel in Cusco, Kollher, supplied polystyrene cups and plastic spoons for tea and coffee, which did not support Exodus's position.

A truly incredible experience!

This holiday really is a trip of a lifetime! It’s the perfect mixture of outdoor adventure and history/culture. The trekking days are not mostly very long but the altitude, extreme weather changes, camping facilities (e.g. one toilet tent to share between the group at camp) and steep ups and downs (especially on steps) makes it quite challenging. The views – especially – on the Inca Trail section are amongst the finest I have ever seen and Machu Picchu is truly breathtaking. I also very much enjoyed exploring the history and culture of Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. Just book it!

Most Inspirational Moment

There were so many - it's hard to choose! Obviously seeing Machu Picchu (though it's always packed with tourists), however, I do think the real highlight is the Inca Trail itself. The scenery and terrain is breathtaking! The Salkantay section of our trek was different - but equally amazing - and I loved how we hardly saw any other person for 3-4 days and the sheer wildness of the campsites. I'll never forget seeing the Milky Way and endless amounts of stars on a night.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Both group leaders - William and Johnny - were highly capable, funny, sociable, supportive and very knowledgeable about Peru and its history and cultures. It was a real pleasure getting to know them.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Yes! Read - and believe - the packing list in the trip notes. As soon as the sun goes down (almost the very instant) it becomes very cold and nights can fall below freezing. So DEFINITELY take thermals and a big down jacket. These are a MUST! Take lots of layers and a good set of hat and gloves which you can then wear after finishing walking and early on a morning (as well as to sleep in if you're like me.) We couldn't believe how cold it became and often I would be sleeping in several layers as well as socks, hat and sleeping bag liner + 4 season sleeping bag + hot water bottle and I was still cold. During the day it quickly heats up in the sun so layers are best as well as a high factor sun cream and DEET spray for all the mosquitos (they're everywhere!) I would advise people to take Diamox (the pill to aid with acclimatisation) as the Salkantay section goes very high (Cuzco itself is very high and most people feel some symptoms on arrival.) I didn't take any Diamox but got very bad AMS on the first two days of the trek (e.g. migraine, nausea, dizziness) and was given some by the group leader. Just get it and take it as soon as you land in Cuzco to aid acclimatisation. Some people didn't get AMS but I wouldn't take the risk. Travel light! There's a 10kg weight limit on the Inca Trail so just take the essentials in the packing list otherwise you'll have to get rid of items on day 4 and send them back with the horsemen (our sent items got lost - even more reason to pack light!) You can wear the same t-shirt/socks etc for several days in a row and as you won't be getting showered anyway, you really, really won't mind. Just don't get rid of any layers - it becomes super, super cold!

Suggestions

This is an incredible holiday! Peru is a beautiful country with beautiful people and the richness of the landscapes, history and culture, and the camping experience itself will stay with you forever. The Salkantay section of the trek (first 4 days) adds a completely different dimension and added toughness to the holiday so that by the time you reach Machu Picchu, you really feel as if you've earned it. Get booked up!

The High Inca Trail

A trip of a lifetime, the goal is Machu Picchu but soon you realise the trip itself, the journey that gets you there and everything you experience with it is what matters.
Being able to get to know a part of this beautiful country, its history, the places, the food, the mountains, the people… it was a dream come true.

Most Inspirational Moment

Contemplate the sun set on the last day of camping, realising you are arriving to Machu Picchu (and back to civilisation) the following day and that the trip itself is coming to an end. It has a mixture of sadness and excitement difficult to explain.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Holger (leader) and Johnny (assistant) were the perfect team with Holger on the paternal side and Johnny on the cheerful side. They both made sure we were drinking enough water, putting sun protection/mosquito repellent and coordinating the different hiking speeds of the group. Holger provided every evening a short briefing on what to expect the following day (i.e. terrain, hours hiking, conditions…) which was very helpful. They even taught the group how to play a cards game which was THE entertainment of every evening while on trek. Holger’s knowledge of the Inca culture and its history was just outstanding, also delivering tips on flora and fauna as we hiked along, a real treat for birdwatchers! Personally, getting to know both of them was a treat and was sad to say goodbye to both of them.

Advice for Potential Travellers

1) Expect the unexpected. The trip started with a few bumps for us (flight cancelled from Heathrow arriving one day after to Cusco, the Salkantay being closed for snow and hiking on a extremely muddy path under the rain on the first day of the hike despite being the dry season) but it ended up being so magnificent (and sunny!) afterwards that I barely recall those bad moments :) If for whatever reason the Salkantay trek is closed due to snow (which is what happened to us) don’t despair, the alternative route provided up to camp #3 is beautiful and totally isolated (we were the only people on the mountains until we reached the start of the Inca Trail. The days might be shorter hiking-wise but you get the chance to explore the mountains around if you want once you arrive to camp and we even got as high as 4,600m with some snowy paths on our way to camp #3. 2) FOOD. This was without a doubt one of my top highlights of the trip. While on trek, Rolando (chef) and Alejo (assistant) delivered outstanding meals which were not only delicious and nutritious but beautifully presented. You get cooked meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, which are prepared in a portable kitchen in the middle of nowhere, appreciate what’s being presented to you, don't be fussy and enjoy! Snacks are offered in the morning to take with you (fresh fruit or cereal/chocolate bars) which in my opinion are sufficient for the whole day but you might want to consider bringing some extra snacks if you like to munch regularly or prefer your usual snacks. Boiled water to refill your bottles is provided in the morning before setting off and at lunch break (also in the evenings if you need) so you should be fine with a couple of 1lt bottles in your daypack. While in Cusco, there are good restaurants not far from the hotel - try the local food, you won’t be disappointed (we tried the alpaca, the aji de gallina, lomo saltado… everything delicious!). A little advice also while on trek, be considerate with your fellow hikers and if you are planning to have a few cups of tea/coffee/hot chocolate at every sitting you might want to consider bringing your own. Supplies are limited while on the trek and these are only replenished once when the porters join us on the Inca Trail so once they are gone, that’s it, no more. 3) HIGH ALTITUDE. This is a tricky one as each person is different so follow the advice given upon arriving to Cusco and drink lots of water. In my case, since it was my first time at high altitude (over 3,000m) I decided to take Diamox and I was perfectly fine for the two weeks of the trip (the only side effect I had was the slight tingling in my fingers/toes but to be honest I barely noticed). As far as I’m aware none of my fellow hikers took medication and just a couple suffered a very mild degree of AMS once we got over 4,000m with just another case where the person was feeling quite unwell. 4) CLOTHING. Layer up! Thermals and a warm beanie (while on the mountains) and t-shirts (while on the trail) + fleeces/softshell jacket and down jacket (mainly for the evenings). I did the trip in June, which is apparently the coldest month, and the first three nights of camping were pretty cold but nothing that you cannot cope if you are a regular hiker. Just layer up and you should be fine. When it comes to how many set of clothes you should take with you, I found that a change of trousers/mid-layers every three days is OK, however I did change thermals/t-shirt every day but being technical ones these tend to weight nothing plus you can send stuff back to Cusco when the horseman leave (after camp #3) so I managed to (just) keep the weight of the duffle bag on the 10kg mark. Also, I would recommend to have a clean set of clothes for when you reach Machu Picchu as you will want to put on clean clothes once you have a shower after 6 days of camping! :) 5) HYGIENE. Wet wipes! Baby wipes, toilet wipes, antibacterial wipes... You have the chance to take a shower on camp #4 once you reach the Inca Trail as there are communal showers nearby but bear on mind it’s cold water. I managed to wash my hair there using the bowl of warm water given to wash with after the hike for the final rinse and it was perfect. 6) OTHER. Take either a solar charger or a power bank that can last several charges with you to charge your mobile/camera as you don’t get electricity until you reach Machu Picchu (7 days later). Also there is no network signal while on trek right until camp #6 (the camp before arriving to Machu Picchu) so if you have family/friends that tend to worry if they don’t hear from you regularly tell them not to expect your call until you reach Machu Picchu or else they will worry sick (like mine did lol). The guides have a satellite phone in case of emergency so if anything happens they will be contacted.

Suggestions

Well, if after this long review you are still reading, here is my last advice: If going to Machu Picchu is in your “bucket list” and you are a keen hiker, then this is the best way to do it - the three days in the Peruvian Andes prior to joining the Inca Trail and the trail itself are the perfect way to experience this so don’t hesitate and book it!