Part 1: Getting to the Sacred Valley is Not Easy
Part 2: The Most Awesome Hotel Ever
Part 3: When in Urubamba…
Part 4: A Town Called Olly
Part 5: Can You Pass the Salt?
Part 6: How to Get to Machu Picchu
We had grand plans to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and get to Machu Picchu for sunrise. That did not happen. By 6 a.m. we were seated on the bus, marveling as it winded its way up the mountain for the next half and hour.
The line was a little long, but I found some amazingly colorful birds to distract me from the morning chill.
Remember to bring your passport!
We finally set our eyes on the majestic Machu Picchu at about 7 a.m.
Since we were too cheap to hire a guide we wandered around at our own pace snapping way too many pictures and waiting for the sun to peak out over the mountaintop (I was freezing).
This is one of my favorite pictures, taken by my friend Lisa.
I developed a minor obsession with llamas.
After I took my thousandth picture of Machu Picchu, a nice couple from New York walked by with their guide and we started eavesdropping on their tour. Clearly, we were not as discreet as we thought because the husband invited us to crash their tour. So we shrugged our shoulders and said why not?
Our new friends
To be honest with you, I was doing more snapping than listening, but I vaguely remember the guide talking about the Temple of the Sun, and it seemed important so I took a picture.
But I really cared more about the llamas.
And the terraces. I love terraces.
At 9:45 a.m. we left our impromptu tour group and made our way to Wayna Picchu for our 10:00 a.m. hike. This would be a good time to mention that Lisa hates heights, particularly heights involving unstable steps and narrow ledges. I should also mention that the hike up Wayna Picchu is literally stone steps the entire way. Except for the narrow tunnel at the very end and the rickety ladder. To Lisa’s credit, she agreed to try it, and despite the occasional whimpers from her general direction, she hiked up and down in one piece.
Waiting to let the macho hikers go first.
The hike is supposed to take about one hour up and one hour down, but we were a) on the slow side and b) taking a lot of pictures, so it definitely took us longer. The views from the top are pretty awesome.
That crazy windy road is the path the bus takes up to Machu Picchu!
At the end of the trail, you’ll have to squeeze through a tiny tunnel, climb a ladder, and slide across a rock that overlooks a pretty steep drop. Lisa gave me a look that said, “I’m going to kill you,” but she slid across like a pro.
Perhaps the scariest part is the very narrow, very steep series of steps you need to climb down to return to the main trail. But if you have plenty of meat on your butt (guilty), it’s not as bad as it looks. Just sit down and slide down carefully.
By the time we finished the hike, we were pretty tired and dirty. Remember, we had been up since 5:30 a.m. and we had spent a good six hours exploring the ruins. Really, all we could think about was how much we wanted to take a shower. There is nothing quite as disgusting as sunscreen mixed with dirt embedded in your pores. We made our way slowly to the exit, snapping our last photos of the famous Machu Pichu. We got on a bus at around 3:00 p.m. and our historic day was done.
Practicalities: As I mentioned in Part 6, entrance tickets to Wayna Picchu are limited to 400 people a day. If you miss out, you can hike Machu Picchu mountain. Based on my research, the hike to the top of Machu Picchu mountain is somewhat longer but the views are prettier since you are looking down on Wayna Picchu and the surrounding ruins. The advantage of hiking Wayna Picchu is that when you show friends your pictures, you can point to the famous mountain overlooking the Machu Picchu ruins and say: “I hiked to the top of that!”
Other practicalities: Bathrooms and food/water are available outside the park near the entrance so plan accordingly. Additionally, the bathrooms cost a sole per visit and no amount of begging will get you in without payment. You can buy water right outside the bathroom, but a small bottle will cost you 8 soles so bring water with you if you’re cheap. Finally, you can stamp your passport with a Machu Picchu stamp, which is rather silly but super fun.