The only name of Machu Picchu makes us dream…
And we are not the only ones. Once you are in Cusco, you realize the influx of tourists coming from all over the world, even from Peru itself, to visit the Machu Picchu.
Here starts the jungle. Jungle of tourism agencies, ways to get to the Machu Picchu, Train, Walk, Tours, Bus, how many days, with or without a mountain…? But what are they talking about?
Well don’t get overwhelmed with all the options and information. Since I’ve spent a lot of time organizing my own trip, I will summarize all I know for you.
FIRST OF ALL:
Get to Cusco.
Remember that Cusco is about 3400 meters high. Plan enough time for your body to accommodate to the height.
From Cusco, you will have to make your way to Aguas Calientes, the closest village to the Machu Picchu. Just so you know, there is no road that reaches the village directly.
HOW TO GET TO AGUAS CALIENTES:
You have many options:
- By train, which is probably the most expensive option, but the only public transport that will get you straight in Aguas calientes. You have 2 different companies Peru Rail or Inca Rail.
- By bus. You can organize it with any travel agency in Cusco. They will drive you to the Hydroelectric dam. From there you will have to end the journey by foot. It is a 2 hours walk along the rails (be careful, some trains might pass by). You might not notice it but you actually get around the Machu Picchu site.
- INCA TRAIL: This is a trek of a few days. If you want to walk the orginal Inca Trail to get to the Machu Picchu, you need to be fit and book it a very LONG time in advance because it gets full quickly. This trail is closed in February due to heavy rain and it is not allowed to walk it on its own.
- JUNGLE TREK: is probably the most popular because it is less difficult than the other trails, shorter and has various activities.
The first day is a drive and a 4 hours bike ride downhill. The second day is a hike with a swim in thermal bath, you also have the possibility to do rafting instead. On the third day, you’ll walk your way to Aguas Caliente, through the Hydroelectric dam. The Fourth day you’ll visit the Machu Picchu in the morning, then walk down to the Hydroelectric dam where a bus will take you back to Cusco which is quite a long drive.
- SALKANTAY TREK: this trek is a great alternative to the Inca trail but you still need to be fit to do it.
- Lares Trek
- Choquequirao Trek: it is a quite difficult hike which makes it less visited
Tours are quite flexible. Just talk with your travel agent if you want to stay longer in Aguas Caliente, or go back by train instead of bus… Everything can be adjusted. Also the tours might not be exactly the same in all agencies even though they have the same name. They also have declined trails in different length as they tend to adapt tourists needs, budget, time and physical condition.
MACHU PICCHU VISIT:
Here are a few things to know whether you go with a tour or not.
From Aguas Caliente, you can reach the Machu Picchu entrance either by bus or by foot.
- By bus, it is about 12USD per way, we recommend you buy the tickets the day before. The first bus leaves at 5.20am (the Machu Picchu opens at 6am.). The tickets don’t assign you a specific bus, you will still need to queue to be in front. We started to queue at 4.15am and were able to be in the 3rd bus which was ok for us. The bus ride is about 20min long.
- By foot, you will have to walk up about 500 meters of positive drop on stairs. There is a gate at the bottom that opens at 5.30am, which means you can’t start walking up earlier. The best shaped people make it in 30min and seeing their face when they arrived at the entry, it looked quite intense!
With all the effort they put, the first buses are still faster.
Walking stick, professional tripod and food are not allowed in the site. However, as long as you are clean, respectful and discreet, you can find spots to eat your banana while walking up one of the mountains for example. Don’t eat it while walking in the middle of the ruins.
The site is very fragile, it brings a LOT of visitors and we need to protect it.
TICKET TO THE MACHU PICCHU + A MOUNTAIN OR NOT?
When you buy your ticket, you have the possibility to add the entrance of a mountain:
- Huayna Picchu is the tallest mountain you see below behind the ruins on the right side. The hike is quite difficult. It is also the most popular so tickets get sold out quickly.
- Montaña which I think is less difficult than the Huayna Picchu. But you will still need to walk up, the positive drop is about 500 meters again and stairs get quite steep at the end. But you’ll get an incredible view of the site, check this out.
Both mountains have quotas and specific hours to go. It also takes quite some time. If you have to walk back to the hydroelectric dam to catch your bus back to Cusco, you won’t have enough time to do it and it is getting physically difficult. Those walks are quite high, be careful of the altitude sickness.
OUR TRIP TO THE MACHU PICCHU:
JB arrived in Cusco directly from Europe, so he had to deal with height, jetlag and tiredness.
Therefore, we didn’t do a trek. We took a bus to hydroelectrica dam and walked to Aguas Caliente along the rails.
The next day we chose the bus to get to the Machu Picchu to save up our energy for the site itself. Especially that we had to hike the montaña as well. At the end, we walked all our way down to Aguas Caliente. We had a great body massage in the evening to relax. And the following day we took the train to Ollamtaytambo, walked around in the village, had some lunch and we took a bus back to Cusco.
We decided to spend 2 nights in Aguas caliente to make the most of the Machu Picchu without exhausting ourselves. And we were happy about our decision.
A BEAUTIFUL SURPRISE:
We usually are not too keen in such touristic places. But we knew we had to deal with it to visit the Machu Picchu. And it was a great surprise!
The site allows up to 2 500 visitors per day, it gets full pretty often. This is a lot of people. However, when we arrived in the Machu Picchu, it didn’t feel like there were so many visitors.
First of all, the site is huge! And secondly, the visitors spread between the ruins, and the two mountains. Around midday, many visitors start to go, because the tours planned their way back to Cusco.
The Machu Picchu is so beautiful and with a special energy. All along our visit, it was cloudy all around but the sun rays always seem to be attracted to the ruin no matter what. The Machu Picchu was an unforgettable experience that we will probably want to renew.