How to Conquer Machu Picchu

Do you know how many different ways there are to actually get to Machu Picchu?

A LOT.

I don’t think I realized how many different ways there were to get to Machu Picchu, and even now, I still don’t think I am fully aware of all the ways.

But let me back up for just a minute and quickly tell you about Cusco.

Emily and I decided to fly to Cusco from Lima, rather than take the bus for these three reasons;

  1. It cost us only $15 more (worth it)
  2. It took 1/35th of the time (double worth it)
  3. The plane didn’t go up winding roads (as someone who is prone to car sickness, this is really just what made it all worthwhile)

Upon arriving in Cusco, a man approached us offering to take us to our destination.

Great, that was easy.

Not so much.

If I can give you one tip about South America, it is don’t settle on the first cab that offers to drive you. Do your research and be smart about it. Emily and I always made sure to research the place we were going, before we actually arrived, to have an idea of how much people were paying for cabs.

We said thank you, but no thank you.

We continued to walk towards the main road, at that point another man offered to drive us, and it was a much cheaper price than what the cab was offering.

You will very quickly learn in South America, that most cars you get into probably aren’t actual taxis. It’s just a man trying to make a little extra money for his family so the price is much more affordable.

All of our friends that we had met in Mancora, were unfortunately going the opposite way that we were, so they had already been to Cusco. Because of that though, they informed us that there was another Loki in Cusco and that we should stay there.

So we did!

We didn’t enjoy the atmosphere as much at Loki Cusco, but I half think that was because;

  1. We didn’t have the people around that made our first Loki experience so enjoyable
  2. We were near the end of our trip so we were getting tired
  3. I was sick the entire time we were in Cusco

Because I was sick (cause unknown) almost the entire time we were in Cusco, I feel as though we didn’t take in all that Cusco had to offer.

We went to the market, multiple times. Hands down my favourite market so make sure you go! We went to the city centre a few times as well, and we went to the chocolate museum. Another must see.

** Beware of the stairs you have to climb to get back to Loki, if you venture down to the city centre.

After a few days of being in Cusco, we met up with our friend Astrid who was also in Cusco at that time.

I was so tired of staying in bed all day, everyday so Astrid and Emily and I went to one of the tourists shops and we booked a tour.

That afternoon we rented ATVs, and we went to the Salt Mines. Another thing that I highly recommend.

That’s just a quick overview of my time in Cusco, but here are some of my favourite pictures from Cusco.

Machu Picchu

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post there are many ways to get to Machu Picchu. If you are planning on doing any of the hikes, you most likely need to book months in advance. However a lot of these hikes are very expensive. But it’s all about the experience, right?

If you don’t book your hike months in advance do not worry, because there are a bunch of shops in Cusco that book hikes, right up until the day they leave. So you may be in luck.

Loki Travel also books hikes, as well as other excursions, and they are cheaper than most of the other places.

OR, you can do what Emily and I did. Going on our trip we had no plan. We just knew we wanted to eventually get to Machu Picchu. So here is what we did.

  1. We bought our Machu Picchu tickets here.
    • This is the official website
    • It gives you up to the minute updates on ticket availability for the date of your choice
    • You then pick up your tickets at any official Cusco/Machu Picchu tourist office. We got ours printed at the Cusco city centre.
  2. Because we weren’t doing the hike, we had to take the train. So we booked our train through Peru Rail.
    • From Cusco (Porto) we took the Vistadome to Aguas Calientes (the town of Machu Picchu)
    • The Vistadome was one of the higher end trains, and it included a sandwich, two pieces of fruit, a brownie and a beverage.
    • On the return we took the Expedition which was a cheaper option. It came with inca-corn (think un-popped popcorn), and juice, water coffee or tea.
    • The return train stopped in Ollantaytambo, so I will explain below how to get from Ollantaytambo back to Cusco.
  3. Because we were unorganized and we didn’t plan this part of our trip early enough in advance, there wasn’t any availability left at any of the hostels in Aguas Calientes, so we had to stay at a hotel.
  4. We stayed at Gringo Bill’s Hotel. Which I do not recommend at all.

The day we were going to go to Machu Picchu we got up at 4am, ate breakfast and then left the hotel.

You may be surprised to find out there are no signs in the city centre that tell you where to go to get the bus to go to Machu Picchu.

This is probably because most people do a guided tour, so they meet their tour guide and then they take them to where they need to go.

We finally found the bus stop (it’s right next to the river that runs through the middle of town) and once you know where it is you can’t miss it, because the line is MASSIVE.

We really didn’t do much research when it came to this. We figured, one of the worlds most famous landmarks must be easy to get to.

What we didn’t know was that you could buy bus tickets the night before…. So instead we had to stand in line to buy tickets, (you need to show your passport to buy tickets) then once you have your ticket you have to go stand in the massive line, to board the bus.

The line actually moved pretty quickly. I’d say it took us 45 minutes to get to the front, which is quick considering how long the lineup was.

Side note: If you are apart of any of the treks you have to take the stairs to get to Machu Picchu. If you do it on your own, you can either take the bus, or take the stairs. We only saw a handful of people take the stairs.

The bus goes up a very winding road, and it takes about twenty minutes. Once you reach the top people break off into the tour groups, or you go off on your own like we did.

Of all the days we could have gone, we picked the cloudiest day to go, and it poured rain. What are the chances?

We had paid a lot of money to come here, and it was one of the Worlds Wonders after all. We tried to find some cover, and we waited the weather out.

After about an hour, it stopped raining, and the clouds cleared enough that we could see this wonder. It was absolutely breathtaking.

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We didn’t waste any time, and we snapped all of our pictures as we were afraid the weather would roll back in.

We spent about three hours at the top of Machu Picchu, and if you’re doing it on your own that’s really all you need.

Upon exiting Machu Picchu, there is a table that has a Machu Picchu stamp. Make sure you stamp your passport!

** I recommend getting up as early as possible to go to Machu Picchu, because as long as the line was when we went, it was even longer when we returned.

As I mentioned above, our return train only took us as far as Ollantaytambo (you can take a train back to Cusco but getting off in Ollantaytambo is much cheaper).

When you get to the  Ollantaytambo train station there are about 100 people offering you taxis to cusco. Someone offered us a taxi for 60 soles which was actually a great deal. However, if you keep walking for about a minute you will get to a parking lot that is full of cargo vans that hold roughly 20 people. Because of this they charge you less. We were able to get to cusco for only 8 soles each!! This took an hour and a half.

Just like that I am done my South America series. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences in Ecuador, and Peru, and I hope that my experiences and tips can help you out in the future!

If you missed my previous posts you can find them all here;

 

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