All You need to know before visiting Machu Picchu
As I promised, details of my South American road trip are arriving...
The New 7 Wonders of the World - Have you heard about them?
The list of the New Wonders has been released in 2007, and includes the following places:
Machu Picchu in Peru
Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
Great Wall of China
Chichen Itza in Mexico
Taj Mahal in India
Petra in Jordan
In the upcoming posts of my South American blog, You will get to know 2 of them. Now, Machu Picchu and later, Christ the Redeemer.
The history of Machu Picchu in a nutshell
Machu Picchu is a hidden citadel of the Inca Empire, which was built on a 2430 meter high mountain ridge of the Peruvian Andes in the 15th century.
Even though Machu Picchu is located only ~80 km northwest from the capital of the Inca Empire - Cusco, the Spanish didn’t find it, so couldn’t destroy it.
During the time of the Spanish conquest, (even it was not found by the conquerors), the Incas abandoned their hidden city and hundreds of years later it was discovered again by the American Explorer, Hiram Bingham.
How You get to Machu Picchu
The most common way to go there is to fly to Cusco, and then take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.
Or if you have more time, and you are fit enough you can also choose to go their by hiking the Inca Trail, the 42 km long trail through the Andes mountains.
Machu Picchu Tickets
This photo might be already familiar to you, because this is the most photographed scene of Machu Picchu, the steep mountain behind the citadel is the Huayna Picchu Mountain. And behind this photo spot, so on the other side of the citadel, there is another mountain, the Machu Picchu Mountain.
For visiting Machu Picchu, different tickets are offered, depending on how adventurous you are, and how much you like hiking.
The ticket options for your visit are:
Visiting the Inca city
Visiting the Inca city + climbing Huayna Picchu Mountain
Visiting the Inca city + climbing Machu Picchu Mountain
Just the Machu Picchu Site Museum
Our visit to Machu Picchu
We purchased the “Visiting the Inca city + climbing Machu Picchu Mountain”, which means that we had to start early in the morning, because the last entrance for the Machu Picchu Mountain hike, is at 9 am. So we had to take the Inca Rail to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon the day before our visit to Machu Picchu. The train ride is almost a 3,5 hour long ride from Cusco, but there is the possibility to embark the train in Ollantaytambo as well → This is how we did on the end of our Sacred Valley tour. (Sacred Valley details will come in another blog post)
The train ride is really beautiful, the train goes through the jungle and the view is amazing during the whole journey. Depending on the ticket type, there are different levels of comfort on the trains. Normally there is food served onboard (There are trains with full buffet and there are others with snacks or smaller meals). Doesn’t matter which train you take, but make sure that you don’t miss the famous and super delicious Inca tea!
After arriving to Aguas Calientes, we had a short walk in the center of the tiny city, and then headed to our hotel, because we had an early start the next day up to the mountain.
Tip: On the day of visiting Machu Picchu, ask the reception of your hotel if you can leave your bag there and come back for it, after the visit. That is how we did it, and would DEFINITELY recommend to anybody who is deciding to hike additionally one of the mountains (Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu).
Going up to Machu Picchu citadel has got also two options
hiking up from Aguas Calientes for 2 hours, or
taking the shuttle bus (Consettur Bus company) - about 0,5 hour
We chose the bus because the hike would have been still in darkness, because of our early ticket. The bus ride is basically a serpentine ride, but it offers a really nice view.
Queuing for the bus can be long, but they are operating quite a lot of buses, in order to overcome the long waiting time.
It is VERY important, that they allow people to enter the buses based on their tickets’ entrance time to Machu Picchu. So, e.g. If you have the entry ticket for 7 am, then You are not allowed to enter the group of buses leaving at 5:30.- 6 am, you can only enter the next batch. This way they make sure, that people who have entry tickets for earlier, definitely go up earlier, so there won’t be a mess up at the entrance, and they are really strict about it.
Tip: Once we arrived up, we stamped the Machu Picchu stamps in our passports - would recommend to everybody :), and also to go to the restroom before entering the site, because there are no restrooms at all inside, and once you come out, you can’t go back to the citadel. (Only if you have the combined-mountain hiking tickets).
We were super lucky with the weather, because it supposed to rain the whole day, however when we arrived, the weather was very friendly. We could see the entire citadel in sunlight and also Huayna Picchu, behind. (The weather is really unpredictable at Machu Picchu, and very often tourists can see the whole site only in clouds.)
After taking some nice photos, we headed to the Machu Picchu Mountain to start our hike!
Before purchasing the tickets, we were hesitating which mountain should we hike, but in the end we decided Machu Picchu Mountain because according to some ratings it supposed to be a more tourist friendly hike.
The beginning of the trail was okay, a nice road through the forest with some steps, but suddenly it became steeper and steeper with huge and uneven steps. We saw already that the top of the mountain was in clouds, but we decided to still do it, even though some of the people were returning without reaching the top.
From ~2400 meters we hiked up to ~3061 meters. Almost the whole hike was through very high and never ending stairs, sometimes next to scarps. It was super exhausting, but finally we reached the top. On the way up we saw some beautiful flowers, plants and parrots. As we supposed, we could not see the citadel, because the whole top was in clouds. However after having our picnic, the clouds started to break a bit, so we could kind of see the outlines of the city and Huayna Picchu.
After it, we headed down back to the citadel. In total the mountain hike was about 3,5 hours. It was super exhausting but was totally worth it.
The visit to the ruins was also an eye-opening experience, it is amazing how could the Incas build the whole city with such a huge precision on the top of the mountain. We really enjoyed walking around the city among llamas and discovering the hidden secrets of the Incas.
After spending a whole day and discovering this hidden city of the Inca Empire, I can really understand why was Machu Picchu chosen as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Have a nice day,