Machu Picchu, Peru
Go To Machu Picchu. Now! Like Right Now!
We’ve all seen the beautiful pictures of Machu Picchu posted on social media or in a magazine. Let me tell you… the pictures don’t do it justice. Machu Picchu is infinitely better than you can ever imagine.
We went for the day, but there are a number of different ways to explore the Sacred Valley. For example, our friends stayed in Aguas Calientes for 3 nights and spent the days hiking through the valley. We met a couple at the airport that had just completed the 4-day Inca Trail hike. Since we were at the end of our trip and short on time we settled on a 1-day visit. We rode the train early in the morning from Cuzco and rode back that night. A long day, but well worth it.
Buying Tickets To Machu Picchu
The Peruvian government only allows a certain number of people to enter the sanctuary per day. This means you have to buy a ticket to gain access to the sanctuary and the hiking trails. There’s three ways to get tickets; through a travel agency which is authorized on your behalf, online at the Ministry of Culture website, or at the main office in Cuzco. Normally we would’ve booked our tickets ahead of time, but because we went during the rainy/slow season, we decided to buy our once we landed in Cuzco.
When we got to the main office I looked around and noticed people holding a copy of their train tickets and their passports. Turns out they only accept passports as valid ID for foreigners and ours were back in the apartment. The line was so long that we didn’t want to lose our spot. So poor Brandon had to run to the apartment, get our passports and run back. My hero! 🙂
Getting To Machu Picchu
We stayed in Cusco so we had to take the train into Aguas Calientes. Because we visited during the rainy season (November to April) the Poroy station was closed. Trains departing from Poroy pass through a valley that is prone to mudslides during the rainy season so they close that part of the track to avoid accidents. This was a bummer because the Poroy station is only 30 minutes from Cusco. Instead we had to travel to Ollantaytambo, a 1.5-hour drive.
Ollantaytambo was really nice. We only spent two hours there, but I really enjoyed the slow pace and the tranquility of the area. It was the complete opposite of Cusco. No girls constantly trying to sell you massages and no fumes from diesel trucks and buses. Not to mention the Inca ruins you can explore all around the city! It was definitely more my speed. If we ever visit the region again, we will stay in Ollantaytambo, not Cuzco.
Cusco vs Ollantaytambo… Go to Cusco to be a tourist. Go to Ollantaytambo to explore and be immersed in the Inca culture.
At Ollantaytambo we boarded our train to Machu Picchu. The main companies with train services are Inca Rail and Peru Rail. We decided on Inca Rail. The ride up was beautiful.
The service was really good and the cars were in really good shape. The service even included a snack and a drink. The only annoying part was that they train did not have air conditioning and it was a particularly warm day. At times it was very uncomfortable.
Exploring The Ruins
The train station in Aguas Calientes (also referred to as Machu Picchu Pueblo) drops you off in the middle of town. We walked through the outdoor market area and bought our bus tickets to the sanctuary and headed up. Here are a few pics we took while exploring the ruins.