Machu Picchu

Fog rolling over Machu Picchu.
Fog rolling over Machu Picchu.

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.

Lined up at 5.30 AM to take a bus to Machu Picchu.
Lined up at 5 AM to take a bus to Machu Picchu.

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.

Enjoying breakfast on the train to Machu Picchu.
Enjoying breakfast on the train to Machu Picchu.

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.

Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes.
Plaza in Aguas Calientes.
Plaza in Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo.
Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo.

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.

Admiring Machu Picchu.
Admiring Machu Picchu.

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.

Fulfilling a dream: Machu Picchu.
Fulfilling a dream: Machu Picchu.

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.

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2 thoughts on “Machu Picchu

  1. I went there in about 1977. I took a train (the poor people’s train) that was actually pulled by a steam engine to the start of the Inca trail. No cost then. Other hikers got off the train but I avoided them and hiked alone. Got to Machu Pichu in the afternoon, looked around with tourists etc. There was a big tourist hotel near the top. I hiked down to Aguas Calientes and stayed in a hovel for the night. The next morning very early I walked back up to Machu Pichu and had the place to myself. All swirling fog and beautifully mysterious. I climbed the peak at the back – tiny steps far too small for my big boots so a bit scarey. At the top, spread out on the tiny grass patch, was a hang glider. A Swiss was attempting to make record-breaking flights. I believe he was the world record holder at that time. There was nobody up there. Thought it was bizarre having the juxtaposition of the two technological times.
    Love your travels!

    1. Impossible to take the “locals’ train” now. As a gringo tourist you are only able to buy tickets for the expensive train. Some people go in by road on buses or bicycle to Santa Teresa and then hike back to Aguas Calientes along the train tracks. Then you can hike up to Machu Picchu from there but you don’t get in without the ticket you have to buy in Cuzco. The place is a money machine for the Peruvian government.

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