I could have included this in my previous Peru post on the Sacred Valley, but Machu Picchu is really deserving of it’s own post.
Machu Picchu needs no introduction. This ancient Incan city tucked away in the Andean mountains has been seen in countless photos, it is a World Heritage site and was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It has been on my ‘to-see’ list since I found out it existed, but I was so scared it was going to be a disappointment. How often now do we see lots of perfect photos of a place, that when we get to experience them for ourselves they turn out to be underwhelming? Thankfully, Machu Picchu lived up to my expectations.
We wanted to do it in a day, so we took the train which made this by far the most expensive day and excursion in our entire three months. The ticket to Machu Picchu was 128 Peruvian soles which is around £26. This is extremely expensive for Peru. The train for one cost around $175 USD which is also unbelievably pricey. Once in a lifetime trip, once in a lifetime prices? There are cheaper ways of getting there, we just went for the shortest time and effort, highest cost option. To add insult to injury, you also have to pay another $19 for the shuttle bus from the town Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, or you can walk an hour uphill.
The train was enjoyable, it had huge windows, including windows in the roof so you got to really enjoy the scenery on the way. We also spotted these pods on the side of a rock face and a quick google later told us you can spend a night in them!
Once we were off the shuttle bus, we took a quick peek at Machu Picchu coming in and out of the clouds before heading straight up to the sun gate, or, Intipunku. This is around an hours walk uphill, but it wasn’t too challenging. The altitude was about 1000m less than it is at Cusco, so it certainly felt a lot easier on the body.
It was also fairly quiet, except for having to work our way around some llamas.
We reached the top, took a seat and enjoyed a snickers while taking in an incredible view of Machu Picchu below. From this distance you could really appreciate just how tucked away it was and how well the Incas built into the landscape. Also it was nice to just get a view of it without being able to see all the various colours of waterproof jackets on tourists. We went in low season and when we bought our tickets, around 1000 had gone of the 2500 daily limit, about a week in advance. I imagine visiting during high season, the experience could be blighted by it feeling too busy.
The downfall of low season is the weather. We enjoyed our view for maybe 15 minutes before the ruins disappeared into a cloud. All you could see was one of the structures on the sun gate path, which did look cool next to the clouds, like we’d discovered a secret.
We headed back downhill when I got one of my favourite photos of the entire 3 months. Up to this point, I’d been taking photos of nearly every llama and alpaca I saw, but this one stopped and looked up at me and I did a little gleeful YESSSS inside.
We were firmly in a cloud so we took to exploring the site, although when the cloud did clear, we pegged it (I say we, I gave the camera to Jonny and told him to run) back up a few levels to get a clearer photo of it all. I’ve heard that on some days during the rainy season you can go and not see anything, so I felt lucky that we got clear patches. It was also quite magical seeing the clouds float through the mountains and pass over and through Machu Picchu.
Our train back was…interesting. We were treated to a man dressed in rainbow with a tiger mask dancing down the aisle. He made me dance with him. There’s a video, but let’s save that for another day, i.e. never. This was followed by two of the other members of staff doing an alpaca wool fashion show.
It was a fantastic day. I am still amazed that a place I once could barely fathom existing, I’ve now seen with my own eyes. Part of me wishes we had done the Inca trail, but really that decision had no impact on my enjoyment of just being there and seeing it.