Cuzco. It is probably the busiest tourist town in all of Peru. Everybody is here for the same reason: Machu Picchu. Why? Because is it mysterious, amazing and beautiful. The downside: one has to put up with the hordes, the line ups and the high cost of visiting this magical place.
There is no cheap and easy way to get to Machu Picchu. One way or another, you are going to stand in line and you are going to pay. We opted for the easiest way, which is by no means for the budget traveller.
We booked the train journey with Peru Rail. We booked a hotel in Machu Picchu Pueblo, also known as Aguas Calientes. Once there, we bought bus tickets to go up the mountain to the entrance to Machu Picchu the next morning. Total cost for the two of us: about $500 for a two day excursion. Many people choose to do the 4-day hike along the Inca Trail but that is only possible through an agency and will cost you at least $100 per day.
Because so many people visit the site, it needs to be booked well in advance. The train books up so don’t expect to go the next day after your arrival in Cusco. You can book it in advance on-line at perurail.com. Tickets for Machu Picchu have to be purchased in Cusco in advance. They are only available in a tiny office tucked away on a little side street outside of the city centre. Take a taxi because you’ll never find it. And you can only get tickets if you have a tour booked or a train reservation.
Then, there is the weather. No guarantees there, of course, and difficult to plan your visit around it. When we finally arrived at the site, at about 6:30 in the morning, it was socked in with fog and drizzle. It eventually cleared so the ruins and their surroundings became visible. We were lucky and grateful. We spent about six hours wandering around the site along with about 2,000 other people. Yes, it was crowded in some places but because of the size of the citadel, it didn’t always feel like that.
Was it worth it? I think so. Machu Picchu is one of these breathtaking places and remains kind of mysterious because archeologists and historians still don’t really know what it was and why it was built. Here is a video from our visit. More photos on the Flickr page.