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Part 1: Machu Picchu and Galapagos Planning

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Our planning process for our Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands trip has begun!

If you aren’t a regular follower of our blog, we would like to say welcome!  Hopefully everyone is having a fantastic start to 2018.  For those who haven’t read our post on our travel plans for 2018, we are in the early stages of planning a trip to Peru and Ecuador this year to visit Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.  As promised, we are going to share with you some of our travel planning process with this trip.

Machu-Picchu A New Year – Our 2018 Travel Plans

In case you haven’t read our articles on our travel planning process, I am going to give you a really quick review.  We like to use a process we call the 3H\3W approach.  It involves answering six basic questions about your trip, then using the answers to those questions to guide you thru the trip planning process.  It’s a six step process that will keep you organized and focused as you start the trip planning process.  Those steps are as follows:

  • What do you want to see?
  • Where will you need to go to see those things?
  • How are you planning to get there and to get around?
  • How long do you need to stay to see those things?
  • When is the best time to travel there?
  • How much will it cost and does it fit the budget?
Travel1 Travel Planning Advice – Part 1
Travel2 Travel Planning Advice – Part 2

The What

The first question we need to answer is “the what”, and that is pretty easy.  We have always dreamed of visiting Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.  Our father has always wanted to visit Machu Picchu as well, so we are going to try and bring our parents along on this trip.  This answers that question.

The Where

Since we would like to visit two very specific places (Machu Picchu and the Galapagos), “the where” is a pretty easy question to answer as well.  If we want to see these places, we are going to need to visit Peru and Ecuador.  Specifically, if we want to see Machu Picchu, we are going to need to get to Cusco, Peru.  And if we want to visit the Galapagos Islands, we are going to have to find a way to get to the islands.

The When

The next decision we needed to make was when we were going to make our visits.  This isn’t as easy as you would think.  There was a lot that we needed to consider before making this decision.  Factors such as kid’s school schedules, work schedules, and the best times to visit these locations from a weather and busyness standpoint all needed to be considered.

The first thing we looked at was the average temperature, by month, for both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.  I plotted the minimum and maximum temps for each location, month-by-month, onto a graph so that we could review and compare to other variables.

Average Temperature for Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Temp

The average high and low temperatures, by month, at Machu Picchu in degrees Fahrenheit.

Average Temperature for Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Temperature.png

The average high and low temperatures, by month, in the Galapagos Islands in degrees Fahrenheit.

As you can see by the charts above, the average high and low temperatures for both Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands is pretty steady throughout the year.  This is especially true for Machu Picchu, which only sees a variation in average high temperature of 4 degrees.  The Galapagos Islands see a bit more variation, with a average high of 88 degrees in April and 79 degrees from May thru September, but even that 9 degree variation isn’t too large.  With this in mind, temperature won’t be a huge factor in choosing when we visit.

The next factor that we looked at is the average monthly precipitation that each location gets.  This is an important factor for us, as we want to make sure that we can see Machu Picchu in the limited time that we will be visiting.  In order to understand what the average precipitation is for each month in these locations, I charted the average precipitation levels out on a graph so that we could review and compare to other variables.

Average Precipitation Levels for Machu Picchu and Galapagos

Precipitation

The average monthly precipitation level at Machu Picchu and in the Galapagos Islands in inches of rainfall.

Looking at the average precipitation levels for Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands, the ideal time to visit is between April and September.  We definitely want to stay away from the months of October thru March because the average precipitation levels are just too high.  Ideally, we would visit between May and August, as those months have the lowest average precipitation levels, but we will need to factor in the other variables as well.

The final variable that we want to take into account before deciding on when to visit is how busy these locations get throughout the year.  We would prefer not to visit during the busiest times for the year for Machu Picchu, as the crowds can get pretty crazy.

According to Bloomberg.com, Peru received 3.3 million visitors in 2017, and that number is supposed to double by 2021.  Much of these visitors are coming to see Machu Picchu.  And when it gets crowded, it is gets very hard to see everything that you want to see.  According to the Chicago Tribune, on average over 5,000 people a day visit Machu Picchu during the summer months.  We don’t want to be stuck in those crowds.

The good news is that, as of July 1, 2017, new rules have been put into place for visitation to Machu Picchu.  Those rules are summarized as follows:

  • All visitors must be accompanied by a tour guide
  • Visitation will be broken down into morning (6am-12pm) and afternoon (12pm-5:30pm) sessions.
  • Establishment of 3 circuits that visitors must abide by while visiting.
  • No re-entrance will be allowed after leaving Machu Picchu.

We were able to find some tourism numbers from 2012 that break-down visitation of Machu Picchu by month.  The data is old, but what we are really looking for is which months are the busiest and which are not.  That shouldn’t vary too much from year-to-year. We have formatted that data into the table below.  The Red months are the busiest, and the Green months have the lightest average visitation.

Days Visitors Avg Daily Visitors
JANUARY 31 87,730 2,830
FEBRUARY 29 54,877 1,892
MARCH 31 72,228 2,330
APRIL 30 91,346 3,045
MAY 31 91,703 2,958
JUNE 30 87,374 2,912
JULY 31 115,198 3,716
AUGUST 31 113,957 3,676
SEPTEMBER 30 102,109 3,404
OCTOBER 31 119,096  3,841
NOVEMBER 30 103,853 3,461
DECEMBER 31 74,963 2,418

According to this data, the months of July, August, and October are the busiest months for visitation at Machu Picchu.  We definitely won’t want to plan our visit during those months.

While the Galapagos Islands don’t see nearly the number of tourists as Machu Picchu does a year, it is still important to take visitation numbers into account.  According to Galapagos.org, the peak time of year for the Galapagos is between mid-June and early September, as well as mid-December thru mid-January.  If you plan to visit during that time, they recommend that you make your travel arrangements well in advance because the tours fill up quickly.

Decision Making

When making our decision on when to visit Machu Picchu and the Galapagos, we eliminated average high and low temperature as important factors as there just isn’t that much variation of temperature from month-to-month.  Precipitation and crowds, on the other hand, played important factors in making our decision.

The table below summarizes our decision making process.  The color coding for the table can be interpreted as follows:

  • Red Months – Typically far too busy at Machu Picchu
  • Orange Months – Typically far too wet at Machu Picchu
  • Blue Months – Typically not as busy or wet at Machu Picchu, but requires advanced booking of Galapagos Islands tour because of availability
  • Green Months – The ideal months.  Machu Picchu typically isn’t too wet or too crowded, and there is typically plenty of tour availability at the Galapagos Islands.

 

Crowd Levels
PrecipitationMachu PicchuGalapagosJANUARYHIGHMODERATEADVANCEDFEBRUARYHIGHLOWNORMALMARCH HIGH LOWNORMALAPRILMODERATEMODERATENORMALMAYLOWMODERATENORMALJUNELOWMODERATEADVANCEDJULYLOWHIGHADVANCEDAUGUSTLOWHIGHADVANCEDSEPTEMBERMODERATEMODERATEADVANCEDOCTOBERHIGHHIGHNORMALNOVEMBERHIGHMODERATENORMALDECEMBERHIGHLOWADVANCED

We definitely want to avoid booking anything between October and March, as the average precipitation levels at Machu Picchu are just too high.  We would like to minimize the risk of bad weather and increase our odds of being able to see and enjoy this wonder of the world.

That left April thru September to look at for possible trip dates.  When factoring in crowd sizes, we decided to definitely rule out July and August, as these are the busiest months of the year at Machu Picchu.  We don’t want to have to fight the biggest crowds and miss out on parts of this adventure.

So, we were left with either April, May, June, or September for possible trip dates.  April or May would likely be the better months to visit, but that doesn’t leave us a lot of time for planning and the remaining tours for the Galapagos Islands look pretty sparse.  On top of that, Spring doesn’t work as well as Fall for us for other reasons, so we decided to go with September.

We have set the dates of September 4 – 15, 2018 as our trip dates and we are starting to get the final planning done for this trip.  We are super excited to finally have some dates on the calendar and we will continue to share our trip planning process with you as we move forward.  The planning process should hopefully move fast!

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9 replies »

  1. We went to Machu Picchu end of November during the rainy season. It was super sunny the day we went and it drizzled for 10 minutes. Apparently the locals said that is normal up there.

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