Machu Picchu, Cusco
If you choose not to trek to Machu Picchu the train from Ollantaytambo is the next best choice. Peru Rail offers a number of daily departures and three standards of travel - Backpackers has standard railway seating; Expedition has four seats around a table and roof windows; Vistadome has more upmarket seats and service and roof windows. All services have large side windows.
I travelled Expedition and took a picnic lunch.
There is a daily service direct from Cusco which gets you to Machu Picchu in time to meet all the crowds.
It is best to overnight in Aguas Calientes so you can catch the early buses to the site.
Machu Picchu would arguably be the most popular of all 'things to do' in Peru, if not all of South America. Translated as 'Ancient Mountain' it is a 15th century Inca site located at 2430 metres on a mountain ridge overlooking the Urubamba Valley.
The significance of the site is not exactly known but most archaeologists believe it was built as an estate for the ninth Inca Pachacutec. Construction started aound the turn of the 15th century but was abandoned at the time of the Spanish conquest about 100 years later. It is clearly divided into two halves - terraces (probably agricultural) and buildings (probably residential).
It was unknown to the Spanish and therefore remained relatively intact until it was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Artefacts were taken to Yale University and after years of negotiation the university has agreed to return them. Many of the buildings have been partially restored to give visitors an idea of the original construction. By 1976 up to 30% had been restored and restoration works continues.
In 1981 Machu Picchu was made a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary; in 1983 declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2007 an internet poll voted the site as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Machu Picchu is in danger of environmentql degradation and has consequently been placed on The World Monuments Fund Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. As visitors we must take care of this amazing place.
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1) Visit as early in the day as you can. Why? First, sunrise at Machu Picchu is something to behold. Second, clouds (and possibly rain) tend to roll in during the afternoons and early morning offers the best viewing conditions. Third, and most important, trainloads of day-visitors from Cusco will arrive late in the morning and the place will be crawling with folks shortly thereafter (concentrated between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM). Alternately, visit late in the day when most people have gotten back on their trains to Cusco. Sunset can be a great time for taking photos.
2) You will not be allowed to bring your trekking poles and backpack into Machu Picchu, so try to fit everything you can into a small fannypack or purse. There are no bathrooms or drinking water once you enter the site – be sure to hold onto your ticket so you can exit and reenter if you have to use the facilities.
3) Plan for all types of weather. It can be brutally hot sometimes so pack sunscreen, a sun hat and water to make yourself most comfortable. Weather in the mountains can also change in an instant so you should also pack a rain jacket. Sturdy shoes are a must. There are roughly 3000 stone steps in the main site (not including Huanya Picchu): plan on a lot of ups and downs!
4) If you want to climb Huayna Picchu, the steep mountain adjacent to the ruins that you see in most of the photos of Machu Picchu, you need to sign in at the caretaker’s hut. Get there as early as you can, because they limit the number of people each day for this hike to 400. You should allow two hours round-trip. The view from the top is simply amazing! It is definitely worth doing but not for the faint of heart. There is a parade of people going up and down on a narrow trail that sometimes has steep drop-offs to the side. If you are not in good shape or have a fear of heights you shouldn’t attempt this.
Everybody has written something about Machu Picchu,so I am not going to tell anything.Well...
The thing is...In my opinion many people (even me) are paying a lot of money coming here just in order to say: I HAVE BEEN THERE.
What can I say about Machu Picchu that hasn't been already said? Just one word: INCREDIBLE.
Some things you should know before going:
- Entrance Price in 2007: 120soles (30€). 50% with International Student Identity Card.
- Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu: 12US$.
It's this huge pick that apears behind Machu Picchu in most of the postals. Only 400 people can clim it per day, so if you wanna have a diferent view of Machu Picchu I would recomend to go to the Sacred Stone as soon as you arrive.
It took us about 3 hours to to all the circuit, it was hard but also great.
You can buy your tickets to Machu Picchu in San Bernardo Street, in Cuzco city center.
They cost 120 soles (30€; Year: 2007) in 2007. You'll get a 50% discount if you have ISIC (International Student Identity Card).
11-. Take the train from AGUAS CALIENTES to OLLANTA. I think that there is one at 17:00 more or less.
12-. Take a combi (van) from OLLANTA to URUBAMBA. 2 soles per person.
13-. Take a bus from URUBAMBA to CUZCO. 2 soles per person.
8-. Once in the 'main road' stop any combi (van) you see and ask him if he is going to Ollanta. It will cost you about 2-3 soles and it will take you 40 minutes more or less.
9-. Have a look in OLLANTAYTAMBO and take last train (20:00) to AGUAS CALIENTES. There are many trains in different qualities and different prizes of course. We only used the train to go from Ollanta to Aguas Caliente, which is the minimum distance, because as you know there is no road from Ollanta to Aguas Calientes. This train is expensive even for the foreingners!! We paid about 100US$ for the ticket from Ollanta to Aguas Calientes and return. But I would recomend to have a look in Peru Rail web site () or ask directly in Huanchac train station in Cuzco where you can also buy the tickets.
10-. AGUAS CALIENTES a.k.a Machu Picchu City is the last stop before you go to MACHU PICCHU. I would recomend to book a bedroom before going, sleep there and wake up early in the morning to take first bus from AGUAS CALIENTES to MACHU PICCHU, which is at 5:30 in the morning and costs 12US$. Many other people goes on foot, but prepare to go upstairs formore than 1hour!!
THERE ARE MORE TIPS ABOUT THE WORDS IN CAPITALS
I'll explain step by step how we went from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. We did this travel on October 2007.
1-. Wake up early in the morning, not later than 9:00am. Train tickets from Ollantaytambo (Ollanta) to Aguas Calientes and Boleto Turistico (www.boletoturisticocusco.com) are suppossed to be bought the previous day. If not you'll have to wake up earlier.
2-. Take a taxi from the hostal to Pitibus bus station in Puente Grau (Grau Bridge). Don't pay more than 2-3soles for the taxi.
3-. Take next bus to CHINCHERO. Don´t pay more than 2-3 soles, 1 hour and a half. Get down from the bus and have a look of the huge terraces and the colonial architecture. Don´t miss too much time, remember that we still have to see many other ruins!!
4-. Take the same bus you leave and go now from CHINCERO to CRUCE DE MARAS (Maras road cross). Ask the driver to stop there for you as soon as you go into the bus. Don´t pay more than 1-2soles.
5-. In CRUCE DE MARAS you´ll see taxis waiting for tourists. Here you´ll have to negotiate the traves to MORAY and from there to SALINAS. The common prize is about 10soles per person (2,50€) depending on the demand.
6-. Go from CRUCE DE MARAS to MORAY and ask the taxi driver to wait for you while you have a look in the ruins. NEVER LEAVE YOUR THINGS IN THE TAXI!!!
7-. Go from MORAY to SALINAS. Pay the taxi driver and continue the travel on foot. Cross the salt terraces until you find the 'main road'. It will take you abut 45 minutes.
THERE ARE MORE TIPS ABOUT THE WORDS IN CAPITALS!!!
Machu Picchu must be on everyone's Peru tips. And for good reason!
It is a complete Inca city. For centuries, it was buried in jungle until it was stumbled upon by Hiram Bingham in 1911.
There are staircases, temples, terraces, houses, towers, fountains, drainages, the famed Intihuatana.
Do wander around Machu Picchu for more than a day. In this way, you can take things in more deeply. Machu Picchu IS MAGICAL!!!! Not only the masonry, and the gigantic rocks will wow you, there are water channels to happen upon and the surrounding impressive mountains to gape at.
If you are still up for it, hike up Huayna Picchu, the mountain overlooking the site. It is very steep and the steps are quite dangerous, so do be warned if you are afraid of heights or are very tired from the trail.
According to my guide, there are still many Incas' ruins in the jungle. But, I guess it's best that they stay that way because it is difficult to maintain them (they're in the jungle after all) and they will be inaccessible anyway. Tourists are not archaeologists after all.
Machu Picchu is absolutely breathtaking. As soon as you pass through the entrance gate, you come round a bend in the trail and there before you lies this amazingly intact ancient city resting on the peak of a mountain. The view is incredible. If you take the bus instead of hiking the Inca Trail, even the switchbacks along the road leading up to Machu Picchu from Aguascalientes will make you gasp.
I hiked the Short Inca trail on October 1, 2007. This was a 1 day, 18km journey which I thought was absolutely incredible! I had a difficult time with the alititude compounded by the fact that the first 3 hours of the trail was practically vertical - with no shade from the hot sun (30C). I am no superstar athlete, but I do jog a couple of times a week and I found the trail rigorous. Once you reach the halfway point, you hike into jungle and there is more shade from the sun - the trail gets easier from here. Despite the difficulties, it was an incredible experience not to be missed! SAS was a great company.
When you get to Cusco, the chances are that you will have already booked the Inca Trail. You need to do this as it sells out months in advance as only a few hundred people per day are allowed on this route.
The question is, who do you book with?
Well, I can only tell you about what I saw on my trip. Some companies abuse the porters. The limit is 20kg per porter, yet this was being broken by several companies.
The company I used was Wayki Trek. Not only do they treat perters well, but they prove this with their free visit to the porter village. This allows you to see the porters, their family and friends. I would have paid for this kind of experience, yet it is free when you book the Inca Trail.
See my Machu Picchu pages for more info....
A must to visit when in Cusco. If your not up for the full on inca trail trek, a good alternative is to jump on some kind of transport up the day before you plan to visist Macchu Pichu. If you have time and interest I would recommend to visit the several incaruins in Sacred Valley. The night can be spent in Aguas Calientes quite cheap and get you the chance to get up early and take the first bus at 5.30 up to Macchu Pichu. You will be there to se the sunrise and before the site get invaded by tourists. The two hour guided tour is really good and informative and I also recommend to climb Wayna Pichu to get a fantastic view over Macchu Pichu. It is only the first 200 or so that are allowed up there so don't wait too long!