Baños de Agua Santa Ecuador
1.3964° S, 78.4247° W
We just wrapped up an amazing trip to the Amazon Jungle, but more on that later! I still have 2 more locations to finish in Peru before we get to that and this next one is pretty epic.
It’s hard to find the true 7 wonders of the world, however, Machu Picchu definitely makes Wikipedia’s New 7 World Wonders.
I’m not gonna lie, I was a little skeptical as to if this adventure would be worth the price of admission, hassle of booking, and headache of finding out most of the research I had done previous to traveling was worthless–BUT IT WAS!
Machu Picchu was pretty spectacular. We had a couple set backs getting here, but now it’s just a good story and we are super glad we came.
Here is basically how our adventure goes:
To get to Machu Picchu you have to make it to Cuzco which I wrote about last week. As you may or may not have read in that post, our first set back was the flights which I had thought I had booked from Lima to Cuzco actually hadn’t been booked. Luckily this ended up being no big deal. There was room on the flight and we actually ended up with the same seats as my “not actually a reservation” had us in.
We obviously had a great time in Cuzco and I would definitely recommend spending at least a couple days there either before or after your trip to Machu Pichhu.
To get to Aguas Caliente (the city Machu Picchu is in) from Cuzco, you have to take a train. There are couple options for this varying in price. The cheapest option would be to book a tour where you walk in on the train tracks. I’m all for saving money, but there is plenty of walking you can do at Machu Picchu, either do the Inca Trail or spring for a train ticket.
We chose to take a train from Poroy to Aguas Caliente, but to save a little more money you can bus to Ollantaytambo (The Sacred Valley) and then catch a train. There are different levels of train as well. I choose to ride in on the Vistadome which is much better if you are in a group as they have seats at tables allowing 6 people to sit together as well as serves a meal and beverage service ($5 wines and $3 Cusquenas!). The Expedition train which we took on the way back is cheaper, but doesn’t serve food and while you still get the view it’s like sitting on a bus.
We didn’t spend much in time Ollantaytambo. Bad planning on my part had us stop in the Sacred Valley on the way home from Machu Picchu. I would have loved to explore the ruins in this town, but we had all of our bags with us–as I said poor planning. We should have just taken a day to bus in from Cuzco, explore and then head back via bus as it’s only $5-10 get to Ollantaytambo by bus.
I was super excited to ride the train as this was my first train ride ever, however, getting to the train proved to be set back #2 on our Machu Picchu trip.
First, the taxi driver drove us to the wrong station. Now I realize this was my fault as I said in my poor Spanish,”¿podemos ir a train estación para Machu Picchu?” –I didn’t specify that I wanted the Poroy station, however, you would think that any Taxi driver in Cuzco (the town does function off of tourists going to Machu Pichhu) would know the Cuzco City train station doesn’t run to Machu Picchu!
Basically we drove 20 min in the wrong direction and were stressing we would miss our train. To top that off, when we got to the station my emailed confirmation ticket wouldn’t load on my phone even though I had downloaded it before we left the hostel (TAKE SCREEN SHOTS OF ALL TICKETS!). The station didn’t have WIFI and the train station ticket operator insisted she could only access our reservation with the ticket code (until 10 min when later she asked for our passport number and pulled the reservation right up…)
Anyways, long story short we made our train and had a great time.
The views are pretty awesome as well, with ruins on the way to get you excited for Machu Picchu.
Inca Trail: To Hike or Not Hike?
If you are a little more outdoorsy than Tom and I you can choose to hike the Inca trail in. I’ve heard mixed reviews from people who’ve done it. Half of the people didn’t spend enough time in Cuzco acclimating so they had AWFUL altitude sickness the whole way. Others loved it and said it was the best part of Machu Picchu.
If you are like Tom and I, there are PLENTY of hikes to do in Cuzco, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Caliente, and Machu Picchu itself and then you can go home and shower and sleep in a bed.
If we sound like pansies and you do want to give it a go, I have 2 pieces of advice.
- To do the true Inca Trail you have to book MONTHS in advance (like 6+ especially if you are going at a peak time of year ie spring or summer breaks)
- If you don’t mind hiking a separate trail there are alternate routes that you can book with less time. You still hike in with your gear on Llamas and see ruins + a benefit of these trails are that they aren’t as crowded. Riding in by train we saw groups hiking the Inca trail and it was a like a parade of Llamas and Backpacks.
Once in Aguas Caliente, we checked into our hostel, Supertramp, (which I would highly recommend as it had the most character of any of the other options I saw!) and set off to explore the city.
There isn’t really much to see in Aguas Caliente.
The restaurants all have the same mix of Italian, Mexican, Peruvian food (which all happen to taste pretty similar) and Pizza. I wouldn’t hit up any restaurant that doesn’t offer at least 3 for 1 drinks for HH which happens to last all day.
If you’re looking for night life there is a club called discoteca cupido…but unless you like dancing with Peruvian high schoolers I would suggest going to the karaoke bar across the way and hitting some bad notes with American and Japanese tourists.
There are some hot springs that we didn’t hit up, but might be a good way to relax after some of the epic hikes the town does offer.
Which leads me to why you come…MACHU PICCHU.
We chose to do Machu Picchu our second day (or third day if you count our travel day.)–Yes we stayed in Aguas Caliente WAY TOO LONG, but I always book extra days to allow Tom to get some work in as we travel. He didn’t get much work done as his College buddy Steve met up with us, but we did manage to fill all of our days so it wasn’t a waste.
We had planned to do Huayna Picchu as I had been told it’s spectacular for the extra ruins you see and the rare view you get of Machu Picchu, but here is where the third Machu Picchu set back occurred.
Once again the reservation I thought I had booked hadn’t actually gone through. Since only 400 people are allowed up to Huayna Picchu a day this mistake actually cost us our chance to do this climb. 🙁
Luckily it was still possible to get tickets for Machu Picchu as we weren’t there during a peak time.
Once again, I take full credit for failing to book Huayna Picchu (due to my poor Spanish), however the process isn’t easy.
The official Ministry of Peru site is very hard to use and it’s entirely in Spanish (and my chrome browser couldn’t translate the page.) I received error messages about 6 times before I finally got a reservation confirmation. I even made it the step further realizing the reservation is canceled if you don’t pay within 6 hours and once again fought error messages until I got a very official looking confirmation. (Picture Courtney 4 months prior in South Africa jumping up and down doing a victory dance for Tom because this process literally took over an hour!)
So you can imagine my anger/disappointment/frustration when we go to pick up our tickets and the woman behind the desk explains this official looking document is actually just an “official error message” that my payment didn’t go through rather than the internet popup window I had received during previous attempts.
If Huayna Picchu is important to you, I recommend using this English site or a travel agent. Both obviously charge an up charge, but the government site is darn near impossible!
Anyways despite our disappointment, this led us to hike up Putucusi a FREE hike which also provides a rare view of Machu Picchu from across the valley + a super cool experience as about 1/4 of the trail is wooden ladders.
To get to the hike, you walk towards Machu Picchu down the train tracks out of town. About 10 minutes out of town you’ll see the sign above on your right.
If you ask locals, they’ll try to get you to pay them to guide you up, but you don’t need a guide.
Choosing to look on the bright side, we are actually fine with the fact that we missed Huayna Picchu.
We ended up hitting the town (ie singing Baby Got Back with some middle aged tourists from the states at the Karaoke Bar) after our hike and the after math of that, combined with the DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) Huanya would have been quite difficult.
In fact just wandering around Machu Picchu in the intense sun proved to be quite a haul.
It is possible to hike up to the ruins, however we opted to take the tourist bus that costs $9 round trip and save our energy for trekking around the grounds which proved to be massive.
Many people tell you the Inca Bridge is a must hit, but none mention this is a good 20-30 min round trip walk from the main ruins.
Overall the day was a great experience!
The Inca Bridge! Further than you would expect and somewhat less impressive than you would guess from the hype…until you looks down and think about walking over those little logs!
So anyways, that was our trip to Machu Picchu.
If you are planning to visit, hopefully you learned a couple lessons from this post!
If you aren’t hopefully you got a good laugh at Courtmas and our mishaps! The good news is despite those we always manage to have a good time!
Just in case you are wondering:
The Total Cost for Machu Picchu per Person:
Plane Tickets Round trip from Lima to Cuzco: $224
Train Ticket via Vistadome in: $85
Train Ticket via Expedition Rail out to The Sacred City: $50
Ticket to Machu Picchu: $50
Bus ride to Machu Picchu Entrance: $9
Per Night rate at Supertramp Hostel: $29.31
Bus ride from The Sacred City back to Cuzco: $5
Total Cost: $452.31
Joy of walking around Machu Picchu Hungover and sore from Pusucusi= Priceless!