Machu Picchu- An ancient wonder of the world and a spectacular feat of human ingenuity. Eversince I saw a special on the History channel about the Incan ruins I’ve dreamt of visiting this magical place. I honestly thought that my years studying Latin American culture would prepare me for what I would see, but nothing can quite prepare you for what you will feel when you step foot on these ancient grounds.
We awoke bright and early (4:00am to be exact) and hopped on a bus that would deliver us to the base of the ruins. The drive up the winding, misty, Andean forest road was the perfect introduction into what we would be witnessing shortly. We arrived at the entrance gate and promptly made our way up the first set of terraces; making time of course to snap a few pictures with the conveniently located Llamas. Just as we reached the best vantage point, the clouds lifted and the sun shown down on an image that I will never forget. I was nearly brought to tears as the intricate Incan handy work was revealed. The main site is blended gracefully into one of the most dramtic settings I have ever seen. The perfectly carved stones of the agricultural, religous and housing sectors are center stage to a backdrop of jagged mountain ranges and the the Amazon Basin. Machu Picchu truly is an amazing representation of man’s interaction with the natural environment.
I could easily write for hours about my experience but nothing I say could possibly describe the power behind this site. It’s almost as if the Incans are there with you. You can feel it in each breath you enhale and each step you take. It’s an indescribable feeling and something that will stick with you your entire life.
There are a few different options to reach Machu Picchu. The town that you embark for the ruins from is Aguas Calientes. To get here there is an expensive option or a few “backdoor” possibilities.
Option One: (Most Expensive)
Pay for a multi-day trek on the Inca Trail. If you are not tight on money this is a great option and allows for you to fully immerse yourself in the history of the Incan Civilization.
Option Two: (Train, most common)
Take a train from Ollantaytambo directly to Aguas Calientes. If you are in Cusco you can book a bus to Ollantaytambo throught the train company or a cheaper option is to find a ride share, which is only about 10 bucks a person. The train costs no less than $55 each way. The train is pretty much monopolizing the route to Aguas Calientes and is the quickest way to get there because there is no road. However the next two options provide budget travelers a saving grace.
Option Three: (Via Santa Maria/Teresa)
Catch a bus from Santiago terminal in Cusco to Santa Maria. From Santa Maria you need to take a road to Santa Teresa. From there a bus or truck will happily take you to the hydroelectric dam. At that point you can either walk 13km along the train tracks or take the train which costs about $18 to Aguas Calientes. This journey will take atleast one full day and is best during the dry season. You can take a similar trek starting in Ollantaytambo, but it sounds like the government is cracking down on that so
Option Four: (A little sketchy and LONG)
For this option you will need to get to Ollantaytambo via bus. Once there get a ride to the start of the Inca Trail. You then will need to set out on a 28km journey along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. Make sure to do this in the daylight as it can be dangerous. It is also technically illegal and there is talk of government crackdown so make sure to ask around if this option is still viable. This option will add about 2 days to your travel, but you will save big bucks!
*Once you are in Aguas Calientes you can either take a bus in the morning that leaves at 5:30am or hike up to the ruins which will take about 1 1/2 hours.
*We took the train to Aguas Calientes because of a tight schedule. We then took the bus to the ruins and opted to hike down when we were done.