South America

Howto Picchu (Getting to Machu Picchu)

2:50:00 PM


Machu Picchu might be one of the most common bucket list items, and for a good reason.  I say that, but when I sent this picture to my dad, he had no idea what it was!!!!  Sorry to call you out daddy-o!  Planning your trip there can be overwhelming.   There are a billion different ways to see it and get there.  And half of them are hard to find on the internet!  So, here is my advice and experience with planning and visiting the famous lands of the Incas!  It's not the most inexpensive excursion, but here is how you can do it the cheapest ways! Hope it helps you out!


But first, let me entice your brain with some photos.





Now you want to go huh?  If you didn’t want to already.  It truly is a world wonder for a reason.  What a magnificent combination of mother nature’s beauty and the accomplishments of early civilization.  I loved every second of it.  Be sure to go out to sun gate and to say hi to the llamas.  In the morning, there can be a lot of fog.  Right as we got there, the fog rolled in and the city completely disappeared from site as I was standing on an overlook.  Many people walked away.  But watching the fog roll in and creep out, and then having the sun come through lighting the rocks up with a golden, morning hue…. That was a priceless moment.  Simply breathtaking. 

Interesting facts!

  • You haggle for your cab price.  So know ahead of time how much it should cost, so that you don’t get over charged!  We spent 10 soles per person (roughly $3 USD) to get from the Cusco airport to the hostel.  The hostel charged S/.25 for airport pick up.  At the airport, they were wanting to charge 35-40 soles to start!  Say no and keep walking until you get a reasonable price.  If you exit the airport and pick up a taxi on the street, the rates will be even better.  I met a traveler who got it for S/.6!
  • If you spend any time in Aguas Calientes (the town at the bottom of the hill where you get the bus to Machu Picchu), you can even haggle with the restaurants on prices!  I couldn’t believe it.  If you go up the hill a ways past the souvenir market, there are rows of restaurants and you can haggle for prices on things you want.  We got the price of guinea pig (ahhhh) down to half the listed price with a free pisco sour!
  • Drink Coca tea or chew on the leaves.  It will help you with altitude sickness

Important facts!

  • Yes, its true.  A lot of people get altitude sickness.  So come prepared and get yourself acclimated. You want to see the city, not the inside of a toilet!
  • Everywhere will ask you for your passport.  So have it on you!
  • Entrance tickets and Inca trail permits can run out way in advance, so be sure to book it in advance.  If you have lots of time to spare, than maybe you can afford to risk waiting.  I almost wasn’t able to get in because of procrastinating on buying my entrance ticket!  Entrance tickets are cheapest on the country's site, which you have to book in Spanish. http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe     Also, check all ticket options!  Tickets were sold out for regular entrance when I tried to book, and I was devastated that I might not get to go!  But there were a few "Machu Picchu + mountana" tickets left- so I booked that! Tickets were about $43.50 USD or S/.148.  About the same price to go to a US National Park.
  • If you don’t book a trek or a guided tour from Cusco, you have to book train tickets to Aguas Calientes.

Cusco:

First, get your cute butt to Cusco.  Cusco is a beautiful town that I could wander around and happily get lost in.  Make sure you at least give your self a day to explore its many treasures.  Try local foods, shop in the markets, go to the main square, marvel at the churches… Just enjoy.  I booked a Hostel from www.hostelworld.com   There are a lot of wonderful options for pretty cheap, and a lot of them were in neat old buildings!  I staged at Kokopelli and loved it!  Bonus- breakfast was the bomb here!  My bunk had a curtain so you felt like you had privacy.



Trains:

Now you have to get to Aguas Calientes.  There are two train lines- Perurail and Inca rail.  Find out which one has times and dates that work best for your scheduling.  They have cheaper options- which I took and thought was both lovely and fairly luxurious with lots of windows and service.  And the ride is beautiful! There are also more upscale options, but I'd rather do it on a budget!  Make sure not to book the local's trains!  I spent about $140 USD about S/.477 on the trains road trip.  (Ollytaytambo to Aguas, the Aguas to Cusco) You save a bit more by going Aguas to Olly on the way back if you have the time to do a car or collective again.  I was nervous about it because I wasn’t sure how long the collectives ran.   See below!!!


Collectives!:

The trains leave from Cusco or from Ollytaytambo.  Ollytaytambo is a cheaper option, and it's a cute tiny village with some ruins around it!  We took what is called a collective- a large van where they pile in people, and it leaves when it is full- and I mean all the way full.  It was mostly locals riding, which I thought was neat.  This was only S/.10 , about $3 USD!  Apparently you can also hire a personal car to take you for not too expensive if you don’t want to pile in with others.  Beware of motion sickness on the roads if you get motion sick.  I’m really glad I took the collective.  It saved money, felt more like a local experience, and I loved having some time to walk around the main square of Ollytaytambo which is walking distance from the train!  My hostel in Cusco was able to show me on the map where the collectives pick up.


Lodging in Aguas:

I wasn’t finding options I liked on hostelworld or airbnb, so I used www.bookings.com .  I booked Casa Machu Picchu.  It wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it really.  It's by the water but also by the train (which is loud), but the train doesn’t run overnight.  Most of the lodging around here wasn’t that great.  Some other travelers I met really disliked their place.  But the town is cute!

Aguas Calientes:

If you are done exploring the city itself, take a walk down the train tracks.  It’s beautiful.  There are gardens far down the way and you will see trekkers along the walk.  And the river is awesome if you're feeling adventurous.  We came across these amazing silver and gold rocks in the river.  Be safe and careful of the trains!  If you want to save money, buy a boxed lunch, snacks, water and etc for Machu Picchu in this town to take with you up to the ruins.  There is only one food option there, and it's overpriced.  Also, I've heard to skip the hot springs in Aquas.



Bus to Machu Picchu:

You can hike up.  It’s steep.  I wanted to but I am glad I didn’t.  Hikers were tired and stopping a lot, and I wanted my energy to hike around Machu Picchu itself!  The bus is $12 USD each way.

 Machu Picchu

You made it!!  Either you hiked all of your weight off or you went to all these towns to get here.  But you made it.  Now enjoy the wonders.  People offer personal guide services at the entrance if you want that.  I wanted to just explore.  And on your way out, don't forget to stamp your passport! 

Other activities:

Lastly there are a lot more things to do around Cusco.  The Rainbow Mountain, the sacred valley, Lares, Salkantay, Choquequirao, Ausangate, the Inca trail of course, and much more.  Check ahead if you need a permit.  I know the Inca trail needs one.  There were many more inexpensive options for these tours and treks that were offered in Cusco that I couldn’t find on the internet before hand.  I was told from a fellow traveller, that although cheaper, you do get what you paid for.  So, if you have the time to book things once you are there, have a flexible schedule, and maybe not need nice equipment (you may freeze), then maybe wait to book there.  But again, don't wait to book the Inca trail!



Well, I know this has been a lot of info.  But just know that, Machu Picchu is just as amazing at it seems.  I loved marveling at the stones and how they have stayed so well preserved and put together.  I respected seeing the local park rangers (is that what you call them in Peru?) take so much care and love of the ruins.  I appreciate the history and accomplishment that it stands for.  And the mountains surrounding are simply stunning.  

Last story- While I was there, there were ignorant tourists who said- "Nah, I don't want to go look at that. It's just more rocks.  I've already seen a bunch of rocks."  I couldn't believe that.  Why come all the way here if you aren't going to appreciate it?  If that's the way you view things, then maybe this excursion isn't for you.  But for everyone else, this is worth every second and every sole.  

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