Excursion time! If you weren’t already aware, Peru is all about the hiking. You are coming here so that you can climb some serious hills and check out some breathtaking views. By no means do you need to be an avid hiker, or even need the boots and all, but just expect some long ass walks, that just go up and up. And than expect to walk right back down afterwards. So maybe hit the stairmaster a few times before you trip! I know I did ~ cant hurt right!
So we ventured from Cusco to the little tourist town of Aguas Calientes. We took the Inca Rail train which takes about 3 hours, and offer quite a beautiful trip through the mountains. Because Machu Picchu is more of a morning excursion, we decided to spend 1 night in the little town before our trek up the staple sight of Peru.
When I say tourist town I mean it. Its literally just a stop over for tourists before the visit Machu Picchu. Just hotels and restaurants, and souvenir shopping is really all you will find here. And a natural hot spring, but we didn’t have enough time to check it out. But we did treat ourselves to a nice hotel! We stayed at the Casa Andina and it was perfect! It was great to just be in a nice, big, clean room, with a terrific bathroom, and an even better view. Justin and I got lucky and scored a room with a balcony that overlooked the river passing through the town and a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.
So here is how this whole Machu Picchu thing works. You need to buy your ticket very much in advance. Machu Picchu offer 2 peaks that you can choose to climb, which you select when you buy your ticket online. You can climb Huayna Picchu or Montaña. Huayna Picchu is the peak that you see in all the photos. Its the easier climb of the two but a little more crowded. It also sells out super quick. And unfortunately we were too late in buying our tickets and it was already sold out (and that was about 3 weeks before our trip). The other option, Montaña is the harder, but less busy of the climbs. Or your third option is just to ignore the peaks and just stroll around the city grounds.
They only allow a certain number of people to purchase tickets, and they are also designated by two time groups, from which you are allowed to enter and start climbing the peak so as to avoid mass crowds. So we purchased Montaña and our entrance was from 8-9 am (the earlier option). Always choose the earlier option. It got super hot that day and the last thing you wanna be doing is hiking when its at its hottest. So go early! You’ll have plenty of time to walk around the city after your hike!
In the city of Aguas Calientes is where you purchase your bus ticket to the base, or you can walk it if you’d like. But you’re already gonna be doing a lot of hiking and walking so maybe just opt for the bus. But be prepared for the next morning. Cause there is a LONG line for the bus! They shuttle them quickly and the wait isn’t too bad, but we didn’t expect it. So we fell behind schedule a tad. So give yourself a 20 minute buffer for that bus, plus the 15 mins that it takes to get up to the base.
We got into the grounds at about 845 and didn’t realize that the entrance to our peak, Montaña was still another 15 minutes away. So we had to run/walk so quickly so that we didn’t miss out on our time. And I am not exaggerating when I say that we were the last people let in. They literally closed and locked the gate as soon as we got in. So just know that because your through the first gate, your not smooth sailing, you need to give yourself time to get to your peak entrance.
Now the hike. Oh boy! Montaña is nothing but stone steps ok. Like uneven, some big, some small stairs. The whole way. And it is looooooooong! We are no avid hikers by any means, but we were all relatively fit people, in some good shape yah know. But damn did it take us a while! The hike to the top took us about 2/2.5 hours to complete. We took our time for sure, as it was hot, plus we still had lots to see at the bottom as well, so I am sure you could do it faster and many people did, but there was no rush. But damn was the view ever spectacular! The mountains just go. They are so massive and it really was one of the most beautiful views. The peak is much much higher than Huayna Picchu and makes Machu Picchu area look so tiny. It was a tough climb for us but so rewarding! The views, and the accomplishment made it all worth it. I cant speak for the view from Huayna Picchu, but Montaña is something that I highly recommend tackling if you are up for it!
By the time we got back to the bottom of the peak we were dead! We didn’t realize how exhausted we would be, but we were super excited to trek through the city so we just pushed on. Originally we thought about hiring a tour guide to walk us through, but they can be a little pricey, but they also told us the tour would last about 2 hours. And at that point in the day, we just couldn’t do it. So we walked the grounds ourselves and just mingled in with our tours to listen in. While we did hear some interesting things, a lot of what we heard was really that necessary, such as info about the plants in the area and the birds…. But the city itself is relatively quick to get through. But take your time, because it super cool!
As we headed out, we were greeted by the longest line for the bus. And this line was so so much longer than the one in the morning, so be prepared for that. Cause at this point we were so hot and burnt, exhausted, and starving. So waiting for the bus wasn’t necessarily what we were hoping for. But we were able to finish our time at Machu Picchu around 3 in the afternoon. We than got back to town, picked up our bags and hopped on the train back to Cusco. Our ride home was interesting to say the least. Half way through the ride the operator started to do a dance show of some kind and a fashion show of some alpaca clothing. And this went on for far too long! But what was great about the ride was the couple that Justin and I met. They were this adorable older couple from Toronto (I think) who have been retired for several years now. All they do is visit family and travel the world. They were telling us all about their adventures and all the places they have been and I was honestly so amazed. They recently spent a few months driving around Australia in a camper van, spent weeks in India, and were in the midst of a several week long journey through Peru and Bolivia. And they also told us that their next adventure would be a month long trek to Africa. My new goal is to end up like them one day!
So I know I originally was going to include our trip to Rainbow Mountain in this one as well, but I think Mahcu Picchu deserves it own. Needless to say this experience was one of the best in my life. Machu Picchu is truly breathtaking and everything that its chalked up to be. Don’t miss out on seeing this beautiful, natural wonder because they are quickly starting to limit the number of people who have access and its a rumour that it will eventually be closed to the public. So go now!!
Rainbow Mountain ————->