The Journey to Machu Picchu: Make This One Count!
We’ve all dreamt about it, haven’t we? Machu Picchu, the city in the clouds, the “Lost City of the Inca’s”.
We’ve all hoped to one day wander through the ancient, stone chambers… To hike the Inca Trail… To one day sit and watch the sun rise over the surrounding mountains and fall upon the famous “Old Peak”.
I certainly have.
Machu Picchu is a place I’d intended to visit for many years, and when I found myself standing in front of it, it felt like a scene straight from a fairy tale.
After having spent some time relaxing and strolling around the streets of Cusco, my friends and I were more than ready to go explore this breathtaking landmark. Machu Picchu is one of the most recognisable tourist attractions in the world and by far one of the most magical, so our anticipation was high.
A sad history claims this city; built by the 9th Incan Emperor, Pachacutec, Machu Picchu is thought to be the last inhabited Incan city in Peru. It is believed that the Incas living here caught wind of the Spanish invasion before it was too late, and therefore they were able to flee their mountain fortress before its discovery. The Conquistadors never found this hidden place and it went largely untouched until American historian, Hiram Bingham, came across it in 1911. When he did, he found only a farming family living here, and a fortress of trees covering most of the ruins.
The site itself is a 6 hour drive away from Cusco, through the striking shell of the Sacred Valley. After cruising along this winding path, you will be dropped at Hidro-electrica, the hydro-electric power station, where the road ends. From here, you are able to embark on a two hour walk or take a short train journey (around $70 USD, but subject to availability) to Augas Calientes, the city located in the gorge beneath the famous archaeological site.
Augas Calientes is a small tourist hub cut off by road (hence the two hours walk to get there). It is a little strange, to say the least. A bit like a Peruvian Niagra, this city is designed primarily to accommodate tourists coming and going from the final ascent up to Machu Picchu. It is laid out a little like wooden-clad ski-resort, and inflated prices come along with this touristic hub of merchants.
This is where you will need to purchase your tickets for Machu Picchu if you haven’t booked in advance, standard fare is 65 soles. Prepare to give yourself enough time to do this, as the ticket office is small and the lines are always huge.
Of course, the advantage of staying in this town is that you can get an early start on Machu Picchu in the morning. The site allows you to enter either in the morning or afternoon, with the gates opening around 6.30-7am.
In order to reach our destination at sunrise, we left in the black of night at 4am. The hike to Machu Picchu is tough going, so if you are able to leave your luggage somewhere and pack light definitely do so. I was carrying everything I owned when we were faced with the two hour vertical stone staircase packed with people. It is warm and humid even at that time of the morning. Yet, as the sun rises all around you the glow from behind the spirit mountains is epic!
As soon as we were over that ridge with the ancient city in our eye-line, nothing else mattered.
It is a spectacle worth trudging heaven and earth to see. We were lucky enough to arrive just as the sun peaked over a distant mountain, a ray of sun falling directly on the old city. This place held spiritual significance to the Inca’s and although there is much debate over its purpose, many considered the city to be sacred. You are free to roam the old village, much of the ruins still in remarkably good tact. The famous “Old Peak” watches over you and you are able to climb this archaic crest for a fantastic view. Just make sure to book this in advance!
After you’ve strolled around and taken your mandatory photos, make sure to just sit, relax and take it all in. The site becomes very busy very quickly, so it’s vital to designate some time for reflection.
Be careful when booking, because some of the local companies are known to lead unorganised tours of the area. Guides can be late, or even absent upon your arrival at Machu Picchu; and it is important to check what your “package” includes, because tickets to the gates are often not part of the initial fee. Unanticipated ticket lines are no fun, and you want your trip to this magnificent site to run smooth-sailing.
Evolve Tours is always a safe bet for an educational tour of Machu Picchu, we’ve been down to Peru several times and know where to visit and who to speak with to offer the best tour possible.
With Evolve Tours you can join our fabulous ten day Peru School Trip which ties Machu Picchu into the experience along with many other wonderful excursions. With us, you will be guaranteed a trip of a lifetime!
So, why not give us a call for information on our trips to this awe-inspiring archaeological treasure? We’ll be sure to make this an experience to remember!
Alanna Byrne is a writer and NGO coordinator currently living in deepest, darkest Peru. Originally from London, UK, she has traveled from a young age and lived for two years in Toronto. She’s about to embark on more backpacking adventures, first across South America and then onto New Zealand and Australia. When she’s not racing around the world, she can usually be found reading in a quiet corner somewhere or in a crowd listening to loud music. Follow her adventures here: www.awritetoroam.com.
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