On the 3rd day of our trip we embarked on our journey to Machu Picchu. There are a number of ways to get to MP such as hiking the long famous Incan trail (if you’re willing to shell out several hundred dollars) or you can chose a more affordable and quicker option by doing a day trip from Cusco. Our group decided to hire a personal driver to take us on a scenic drive to Ollantaytambo and from there take a train ride to Aguas Calientes, the closest access point to MP. I recommend staying overnight in this small town so you can beat the large crowds to Machu Picchu by going up the mountain first thing in the morning.
(Travel Tip💡– Pack as light as possible if you’re sticking to the day trip/overnight stay. I would try to fit all essentials, an extra outfit, and a rain poncho in a backpack)
During this drive we made a stop at Maras salt mine. It’s here that you can find thousands of salt pools dating back to Incan times and still being operated by locals to present time.
From Maras we rushed to Ollantaytambo’s Peru Rail station to catch our next ride to Aguas Calientes which is only about a 90 minute train ride. Once we arrived at our final stop we went on to scope out the town for some delicious eats. Although the town is tiny you can expect to run into many restaurant and bar options. Before bed we made sure to take advantage of happy hour at a nearby bar that offered 5 cocktails for the price of one.
The crew and I woke up at 3:30am just so we can be one of the first ones at Machu Picchu. From Aguas Calientes you can either hike up the mountain which could take you roughly 2 hours. The other option would be waiting in line until the bus station opens at 5:30am and taking a short 20 minute ride up. If you decide to take the bus, just know that the line for the bus ride can start forming by 3am. It’s pretty cold that early in the morning so it would be a good idea to wear that Alpaca sweater you’ve purchased from the market.
(Travel Tip 💡– Make sure you purchase your ticket to Machu Picchu way in advance to grant you admittance into the site. You can book them directly through the Peruvian website and I also advise you to book the Huayna Picchu pass. This option includes an additional trail you can hike at MP that grants you amazing views of the valley that most tourists don’t get to see. Space is limited)
Upon arriving at Machu Picchu we each ran to the best viewpoints to quickly snap our photos before the crowds came in. It didn’t take long before I ended up losing my group and ended up doing my own thing exploring.
It’s still a mystery as to what this site was built for as some say this was a religious place while others say this was a royal estate for Incan emperors. The fact that these ruins were able to stand for hundreds of years and the process to make them still amazes me. No doubt the Incas were one of the most sophisticated ancient civilizations around. If it wasn’t for epidemic and the Spanish conquistadors, who knows what other amazing creations the Incas would have come up.
Stay tuned for Part III…