Inti Punku, Machu Picchu
It's hard to describe the feeling of finally reaching Inti Punku, the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu, after spending four days on the Inca trail. My guess is that only those who have done it would understand the feeling of sheer elatedness my hiking companions and I experienced at that point. Although I understand that not everyone can reach Machu Picchu the way we did, I felt kinda sad for those who had come to the mystical mountain by train and then by bus. A few brave souls did climb up to the sun gate, but I didn't quite know what to reply when a girl asked me if it was worth it. The sun gate itself is not that special - Inti Punku most probably was a control point giving access to the city of Machu Picchu - and it doesn't necessarily offers the best views of the site. However, for Camino Inca trekkers, not only is it the first time they get to see Machu Picchu, it also means they have successfully completed their long, sometimes difficult hike. So you get an interesting mix of people looking down at Machu Picchu with a dumbfounded look on their face, wondering what all the fuss is about and why they have bothered climbing up to the Sun Gate, while others will be super excited, celebrating their accomplishment by taking tons of pictures. Needless to say, we were part of the latter group!
Directions: At the very end of the Inca trail
From here you can see the more or less the whole city,from Sacred Plaza on the left to the Eastern urban sector on the right.
With a gorgeous tree right in the middle of the whole place.
Certainly the highest tree I`ve ever seen.
Everyone wants to see Machu Picchu in the first sunlight and there is no better place to see it then from the Inti Punku (the sun gate).
First you will see a lot of activity in the campsite, people with torches are breaking up their camp going to the toilet and fit their gear for the last time. Why so early in the morning? Well everybody wants to be there when the sun hits Machu Picchu.
All the companies get in line to get through that small gate to start the last walk towards the sun gate. From here you can see the sunrise over Machu Picchu. But don't run, just walk and if there are faster walkers that want to pass you, let them. You will arrive in time to see the sunrise and there is place enough to see the sunrise.
But remember, Machu Picchu can be covered in the mist, like it was covered in the mist of time. And already before the sunrise it's already light, so don't expect that Machu Picchu lights up when the sun rises. You will not be alone at the sun gate to see this happening.
Getting to MP early on the 4th day is on everyones mind. Most companies (mine included) depart around 5am on the final day to be at the lost city for sunrise. This also maximizes your time there as only hikers can get there that early, the tourist train arrives around 10 and after that the site is packed. But for the 3 hours in between there is a lot more space. This pic is the first rays of the sun striking the lost city.