Justly landing itself claim to one of the “new” 7 wonders of the world, Machu Picchu is one of the most breathtaking and photogenic mix of old world architecture and natural beauty. After spending 2 weeks in Cusco, I felt it was time to see to get active and push myself to see the Lost City. I was not disappointed. Here’s the summary:
For about $110, I managed to get the following:
There are mainly three ways to get to Machu Picchu. First, by train (~$50 each way and 2 hours), by bus (~$15 and 7 hours), or by trail (depends on which one). I chose the bus.
If you ever make it to Cusco and are interested in going to Machu Picchu by bus, there are a few things you should probably take into consideration. Firstly,
the bus ride is one of the most dangerous bus rides I have ever taken. One of my friends told me it is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Switchbacks with absent railings, marginal roads, and little railing give little to reassure the safety of the route.
I say the route is dangerous, but with danger often comes an accompanied beauty. The scenery on the bus is stunning and you go through a wide variety of scenery that makes the turbulent roads worth it.
The bus will stop 3 times and arrive around 2:30 pm.
Ok, so you finally get off this 7 hour bus and you think: “We must be there. Right?” Wrong! After you get off the bus you’ll have to walk a 2~3 hour flat hike over granite rocks and railroad tracks to finally make it to your hostel destination
Aguascalientes which translated means “hot springs”.
About the hike: It’s beautiful and I’ll attach pictures below. That being said, while I would rate the hike easy-medium, the stones did start bothering me after walking on it on the second day but it was manageable. My heavy bag also probably didn’t help.
Finally, after a few hours of walking you’ll reach Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes is cute. It’s a small city right at the base of Machu Picchu. Dinner was provided as part of the tour but there are a lot of reasonably priced food around the area. I happened to meet up with some friends and enjoyed a 4x1 Happy Hour special within the city.
Summary of Aguas Calientes: Cute city on the periphery of one of the most epic places in the world.
I went to bed around ~12 am, so getting up at 4 AM to get to the entrance was a struggle. Leaving around 4:30 am, after a 30 min walk you get to the official base of Machu Picchu where you’ll need to provide your ticket and passport to get into the base of mountain to Machu Picchu.
Accompanied by my large bag, I passed through the entrance gate and entered the gates of Machu Picchu.
You can get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu either by bus or hiking. I chose to hike.
To get to the top of Machu Picchu, you’ll need to walk ~1600 large steps and will take between 1 to 1.5 hours. It’s a beautiful walk, but my large pack did weigh me down. Make sure to be appropriately hydrated, as I did see a women collapse on the way down (She was OK with some time).
Walking up the steps, you’ll get a lot of beautiful views of the terrain. If you’re capable, I would recommend hiking to Machu Picchu over walking, as it makes the arrival to the main gate feel so much more rewarding.
You’ll get some amazing views of the mountains while you’re walking.
Once you get up, you will be at the destination point: Machu Picchu!
At ~6 A.M in the morning, at first I thought the mist gods would thwart my scenery. I was told not to worry, as it is typically during December that the fog will cloud the city for a few hours, before lifting by around 9 A.M. Our tour guide spoke true as by 9 A.M we started getting some awesome shots of the ancient civilization.
Walking through Machu Picchu is surreal. Situated between tall mountains it rightly earns being placed as one of the 7 wonders of the world.
You can see some of the pictures below:
Machu Picchu means “old mountain” and it was a city built by the Incas and mostly inhabited by nobility. It was built in the 1400s as a royal estate but was abandoned as the Spanish conquistadors invaded the Incas. Situated at the peak of the mountains, it has withstood most natural disasters and was strategically positioned to be easily defendable. Appox. ~800 people are estimated to have lived in the city.
The city is divided into two half: Agriculture and Urban. Nearly half of the city was devoted for religious purposes.
Why is it such a big deal?
This city was “Lost” around the ~1500s when the Incas were conquered, and was found 4 centuries later and excavated by Yale historian
Hiram Bingham. After further investigation, it was declared the lost city of the Incas. Sometimes called the city El Dorado, the city housed some of the most important nobles in the Inca civilization and contained much of the gold that was hidden from Cortez. Incredibly resilient city natural disasters, it has remained relatively in shape where modern cities (such as Cusco) have failed.
There is so much more about this city and the ingenuity of the Incas. I highly recommend going to Machu Picchu if you can make it and finding more about this “past” hidden treasure.
You’ll head back the same way, and it’ll take approx. 2 ~ 3 hours. Returning from Machu Picchu, I had to catch a 2:30 bus, so I was out of Machu Picchu by ~11:00 am. I arrived back in Cusco around 10:30pm.
For more pictures check out the gallery on my website!
Rainbow Mountain Next! Stay tuned.