Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu for me and for many people is a bucket list location that I didn’t think I would be able to visit for quite a long time. Despite having heard about it and people taking trips there over and over, it just seemed unattainable. I don’t think I could give you a solid reason why it felt like that to me but suffice it to say when I decided to visit South America, this was one place I couldn’t miss.

There are articles upon articles, blog posts and lists on what to do and how to do it for South America but especially for Machu Picchu in Peru. Regardless of those many resources I still found myself confused as I simply didn’t understand basic things, for instance, every time I read Machu Picchu on the train schedule, it wasn’t actually Machu Picchu but rather it was Aguas Calientes aka Machu Picchu town! This lead to some confusion in booking the train and scheduling how to get to Aguas Calientes for our 6am scheduled entry into Machu Picchu itself.

Book in Advance

I was diligent in booking the tickets months in advance. The ticket for Machu Picchu went on sale beginning of December and by midday 30% of the tickets had been sold so I was ready. I reserved the tickets that included the Huayna Picchu mountain and then followed the instructions to pay for the actual tickets at the beginning of January.

What I didn’t do was purchase train tickets in advance as we were not hiking or trekking to Machu Picchu. I had read so much conflicting information that my head began to swim. The most inaccurate information I read was that you can take a bus from Cusco to Aguas Calientes! No!!! This is, in fact, not true.

Getting To Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town)

If you aren’t hiking or doing one of the trails you can take a Bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then take the train to Aguas Calientes and then there are buses that can take you from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

There are 2 different companies Peru Rail and Inca Rail. I highly recommend that if you are taking the train, keep an eye on the prices as they can fluctuate and sometimes they even have extremely discounted sale prices depending on when you go. We went in March and that was still considered the end of offseason.

We figured all the train stuff out only days before we were supposed to go which means we paid a bit more but we got to ride in the fancy train so that was a fun experience. lol We got tea and coffee, and cake! It was such a beautifully scenic ride and very relaxing.

Once we arrived at Aguas Calientes we dropped our things off at the hostel/hotel we were staying in. It was only about 3 blocks away although most everything in Aguas Calientes is really close by and easy to access. We found the ticket office for the buses to go to Machu Picchu and they were around $24 round trip per person.

The Gifts Market

While the cost of things in Cusco was lower, everything surged in price in Aguas Calientes. In the center, there is a rather large artisanal market which was so much fun to walk around. There were many similar things to the markets in Cusco but there were a couple of items we hadn’t seen anywhere else. We walked around and explored the town and observing the raging river. I found it was a bit easier to breathe here as the elevation was lower than Cusco so that was a slight relief.

Getting to Machu Picchu Site

The next morning we were prepared to leave super early. We had to be at the bus stop at 5am so we got some tea and coffee to go and some pastries for breakfast. We stood in line as more and more people arrived, buses started loading people in at 5.30 am and taking the 15-20 drive up the winding mountain roads.

It was still mostly dark outside but we could just start to see first light making its way across the sky, revealing low misty clouds crawling through the peaks. We were entering another world and I could feel it. The excitement was growing in my stomach and I was realizing how long-awaited this trip had been. How the seemingly unattainable was becoming attainable.

Slight Detour for the Toilets

We got off the bus and walked to the entrance. An important thing to note is that there are no bathrooms inside and I honestly don’t know how strict they are with people coming in and out to use the bathrooms or get a snack at the restaurant. Because I wasn’t sure about this I had to interrupt my excitement to use the bathroom. lol I paid my few coins and then ran back to the entrance, I was ready! Finally!

So when you go in at 6am, immediately everyone will go to the left because everyone wants to get that classic Machu Picchu photo before the grounds are covered with people. We did not do that. We went to the right to cut straight through Machu Picchu to get to the big mountain peak Huayna Picchu for our 7am entry to climb it.

A Moment of Stillness

By going to the right and following the signs, there was a short period of time where there was absolutely no one around! It was completely unexpected and watching the clouds hover around the surrounding mountains in silence and solitude was by far one of the top highlights of my whole time in South America. It doesn’t take much for someone to see and understand why this site and the whole area is considered sacred. There is magic there and there is no denying it.

Climbing Huayna Picchu

We made our way to Huayna Picchu for our climb and I was ready to really try. I normally wouldn’t be able to accomplish something like this because of the altitude (I really struggle with Altitude Sickness) but I was feeling okay and I was gonna at least try. It’s not bad at first as we climb down a bit and then start to climb back up the stairs, and then more stairs and then more stairs.

I stopped so many times just to catch my breath and use my inhaler and I was completely drenched from sweat, my glasses wouldn’t stop fogging up making it nearly impossible to see. I just kept cleaning them whenever I would stop to take a break, I could feel the fire in my lungs growing the higher up we got, climbing up past the clouds.

The Top of the Mountain

Finally, we made it to the top and I took my photo with the sign before collapsing on the ground for a snack and lots of water. We had reached the top and looking down was a sheet of pure white clouds. Every so often the clouds would create a gap in them allowing a peek back down towards Machu Picchu but only barely before moving along and covering up their secrets again.

We sat for a bit before making our way back down the mountain to explore Machu Picchu more. It took us about an hour to descend as it was steep and slippery but once we got all the way back down I took a look back up over my shoulder in awe that I had actually climbed that massive peak. huh… I wasn’t doing too bad for someone who never really hiked before coming to South America.

 Me, sweaty, climbing & slowly dying, the humidity was too much for my glasses which presented a problem.
Me, sweaty, climbing & slowly dying, the humidity was too much for my glasses which presented a problem.
Machu Picchu is a One-Way Circuit

Machu Picchu is a one-way circuit, so when you purchase the Huayna Picchu ticket, we discovered, that it allowed us to leave the park, get some food, and go to the restroom before going back in the park to start at the beginning of the circuit. By this time in the morning Machu Picchu was covered with people, we were everywhere. In our colorful rain ponchos and jackets all waiting in line to get our photos and behold the beauty of this place.

After walking around a bit we found a place to sit on the wet ground and enjoy the view and of course, do some people watching. I could’ve sat there all day just watching the people come and go, chatting with the park employees, and enjoying the clouds dance across the sky but we had so much to see and only one day to see it.

We made our way around visiting the Inca bridge, walking through the ruins, listening to different guides as we walked by and snapping photos of the many llamas grazing the grass. One thing I am glad to have done is gone completely without a tour. We watched them hustle through the park as we slowly strolled through stopping and taking photos when we wanted to and going back to quickly look at something we may have missed. It may not have been planned out perfectly at the beginning but the day couldn’t have been better.

The Last Glance

The final spot that we were just glued to and couldn’t bring ourselves to leave even after almost an hour of sitting and staring at the wonder of the place, was right at the end. You walk all the way through the park and then you come to this house of sorts and as you round the house to walk up the stairs, this is your last view of Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu and the view is breathtaking!

It took so much effort to pull ourselves away and actually leave. We arrived at the park at 6am and stayed until almost 4pm. I know that Machu Picchu may have changed a lot in the last 10-20 years or so and the influx of tourists may seem overwhelming but it didn’t dampen the experience for me one bit. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more!

Coco Betty Travels About Me

Hi Friends!

My full name is Courtney Elizabeth and growing up some of my nicknames were Coco & Betty, thus the name Coco Betty. Feel free to call me Coco, I still answer to it. I empower women to love themselves through travel, one trip at a time.

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Coco Betty Travels About Me

Hi Friends!

My full name is Courtney Elizabeth and growing up some of my nicknames were Coco & Betty, thus the name Coco Betty. Feel free to call me Coco, I still answer to it. I empower women to love themselves through travel, one trip at a time.

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