A quick flight from Lima to Cusco and a little taste of altitude sickness to get us in the mood for Machu Picchu. We had always planned on visiting Machu Picchu from the early days of our Latin America tour. Visiting Machu Picchu for us was a pinnacle moment in our travels it marked the end of a six month journey which would lead us from the shores of the Caribbean to the incredible Inca heritage site and the one and only Machu Picchu, one of the great wonders of the world. Regarded as a must see by almost any travel article ever written, here’s my guide to visiting Machu Picchu on a budget.
VISITING MACHU PICCHU, PERU
HOW TO GET TO MACHU PICCHU – VISITING MACHU PICCHU
Let me explain the journey to Machu Picchu briefly. From Cusco you take a 10 Sol collectivo to Ollantaytambo, a picturesque Inca town in a valley surrounded by Inca settlements to the east and to the west. The whole town is an old Inca settlement and still using the ancient water irrigation systems. Before you get here it’s essential you already have your train ticket and your Machu Picchu ticket.
|Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu|
|The train station – Ollantaytambo|
If you want to read a little more on getting to Machu Picchu from Cusco to and everything else you can do in between check out Where Am I To?
AGUAS CALIENTES – MACHU PICCHU TOWN
Be prepared for Aguas Calientes, that’s the most important advice I can give. Once you’re here you are nothing more and nothing less than another tourist with a big fat wallet. Or at least that’s how everyone will treat you. Service charges ranging from 10-25% will be added to all bills in all restaurants. Negotiate a service charge before entering a restaurant to avoid later surprise. Every inch of Aguas Calientes exists because of the tourist presence here.
The desire to see Machu Picchu has given birth to this unrealistic tourist exploiting economy that is nothing like the rest of Peru. Every market stall, every Mexican restaurant, every customised Machu Picchu water bottle holder, everything From the second you arrive in Aguas Calientes it swallows you up and it isn’t until the moment you leave that you are spat back out. Unless you’re prepared to haggle to the death expect to pay over the odds. This is not Peru, it is a mirage! Do not forget this.
|On the Peru Rail train|
Upon reaching the entrance and having our passports checked once more, we were able to bypass several bus loads of people waiting outside the toilets and generally just hanging around by the entrance. On the way up to the classic Machu Picchu tourist view point we were able to pass another few bus loads waiting on lower ground for the clouds to clear and sun to rise over the mountain. A fatal mistake by them. By the time we’d reached the top we were 3 in 50-so people waiting for the clouds to clear to get the perfect anorak free shot. A fine lesson in how to beat the masses if you ask me!
|Machu Picchu – Waiting for the clouds to clear|
MACHU PICCHU – MACHU-EFFING-PICCHU
|Once the heat has burned through the clouds and the whole area opens up the visuals are astonishing. Welcome to Machu Picchu|
The three of us stood there in silence and in awe. Looking down at the rows of terraces and open communal areas Aguas Calientes didn’t even enter my thoughts, it had become a bump in the road to this spectacular sight. Machu Picchu isn’t the oldest set of ruins I’ve visited, nor is it the biggest but Jesus it’s the most breathtaking (especially without all the anoraks).
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN VISITING MACHU PICCHU
If you are told not to sit on the 500 year old walls please understand that there is a valid reason for this. This is nothing personal but Machu Picchu just happens to be more important than your need to rest your legs. No smoking, I’m sure, means no smoking and no eating means no eating. Respect the preservation efforts so generations to come can still enjoy this wonder. Don’t step over the ropes, don’t walk on the grass or walls and don’t stuff your bags into window holes. Your personal needs are irrelevant. I cannot express enough how much seeing each of these things irritated me. Respect the importance of this site and be prepared to sacrifice a sandwich for the greater good..