To assure you will get into Machu Picchu, order your tickets online. You will have a few options available – a simple ticket to enter the ruins, or you can pick from two hikes, and the time slot for the hikes.
How to get there
The easiest way to get into the gateway town of Aguas Calientes is to take the train, it is not cheap. Best to order your tickets as early as possible to assure your spot and also have a variety of prices options to choose from. You can pick up the train from Poroy, a town right outside of Cusco, or from multiple spots in the Sacred Valley. Ollantaytambo is the last spot to pick up the train. The ride is very scenic through the countryside passing by mountains, glaciers, rivers, and wildlife.
Where to stay
We got a private room/bath at the Machu Picchu Golden House and for the price it was very decent. The room was clean, beds were comfy, my only complaint was that right in the city center it was very noisy until people went to sleep and we were planning on waking up at the crack of dawn. Bring ear plugs! However, to make up for this completely the included breakfast can be request SUPER early. It’s simple, but good and made fresh to order. Reason to stay here? It’s cheap and you can walk to both the train station to get to and from the city, and the bus station to get to Machu Picchu.
Catching the bus
You take the bus to get up to the ruins or you can hike if you’re on a real serious budget – but be warned it is an aggressive hike up the road you will likely be zapped by the time you make it up there. I was waiting for the first available bus at 5AM, would you believe there was already a line?! You can buy the ticket right on the street from the official box office. Buses leave ever 5-10 minutes on a first come first serve basis, the drive up the insane winding road is 20-25 minutes (the same route as the hike), complete with necessary beeping and reversing down a mountain narrow side so buses don’t crash into one another. But don’t worry, they’re professionals. It’s also wonderfully scenic.
Once inside, a few tips
+You can stamp your actual passport.
+There is ONE BATHROOM and its OUTSIDE and it has NO TOILET PAPER, how is this even possible? Oh and you have to pay to use it.
+Bring snacks and water. Even though you’re not supposed to, you’re going to need it and no one will bother you about it.
+WEAR BUGSPRAY. Honestly, I didn’t feel any bugs biting (in December), but in town I got destroyed by gnats.
+Watch your jaw on the pavement because, oh my god – you’re just made it to the magical land of Machu Picchu!
Viewing the famed Ruins
Early in the morning was very peaceful and quiet. There it was, a wonder of the world, Machu Picchu basked in the morning light, postcard perfect, nearly cloudless.
Marvelous stonework and mystical setting, I couldn’t have felt luckier. Machu Picchu was built for an Incan emperor and abandoned one hundred years later after the Spanish conquest, even though they never discovered it. As you move through the ruins you will gain all sorts of different perspectives, this is an amazingly preserved and complex site.
Try and find the little spot labeled botanical gardens to learn about the flora
and find a pretty frame for the mountains.
You can’t leave without taking pictures of/with the heralded squad of llamas.
angle. I swear this exceedingly doofy one blocked my way because it wanted to be pet. You must oblige. Spot the far off glaciers, but feel warm where you are – technically in the jungle.
We did not get a guide because we like to explore on our own, but it may have enhanced the understanding of the site because there is no informational signage. I can’t stress going early in the morning enough, the lack of people made my time in the ruins that much more special.
Hiking in Machu Picchu
If you want to hike a mountain, you have a choice to make on your ticket and there will be an additional charge. Whichever you pick, do pick the earlier time because it gets HOT and CROWDED fast. Trust me.
+Huayna Picchu is the more popular hike, it’s the mountain in the background of the famous Machu Picchu vision. It is narrow and steep, though shorter in length and elevation than the other hike.
+Montana Machu Picchu is the hike I chose, quieter, longer, and more gradual although it ascends higher and is still strenuous – especially when you are still acclimating to elevation. It’s a 2,000 foot ascent on narrow stone stairs.
Climb as many as you can until you need to take a breather, the altitude really takes your breath away – but so does that view.
So many beautiful wildflowers in this jungle.
No way to get lost, its an out and back, just straight up. The cool thing about this hike is you still get to see Machu Picchu when you get to the summit, and boy was I happy to see that sign.
The view was absolutely glorious, a city for ants below – and just a handful of others who accomplished the same feat.
Find the geological market at the top and I’ll have you know that there is 4G reception up here!
Everyone at the top felt this was hilarious, so feel free to look up any Inca facts or post real time Instagram pictures! But really, just watch the clouds roll into the valley and cover all the glaciers which cap the towering mountains.
Soon the clouds would encompass the land, but the dark cast a different shade of beauty over the ruins.
+Although we were pretty tired from our hike and our feet were hurting from the stones, it was still so EARLY! We decided to take a relatively short, and free of charge once inside, hike over to the Sun Gate. If you’re not a big hiker you can still definitely do this walk. More ruins to explore here,
and different perspectives of Machu Picchu.
Another interesting view is that of the road which you took to get to the entrance, c r a z y.
Back in the town of Aguas Calientes
The quaint town surrounded by mountains has a square, fountains, and a nice river walk.
The Urubamba River divides the town, there are multiple bridges over it to cross. Walk up and down either side admire the statues
and spy a pretty nice sized waterfall amongst the myriad of rapids.
As shopping goes there are plenty of stores and a sizable market near the train station.
Where to eat
There also plenty of restaurants to choose from, I had heard good things about Indio Feliz and decided to give it a go.
I liked the atmosphere and décor, the staff was very relaxed and didn’t mind that I put my aching feet up or that we stayed as long as we wanted.
There was a price fixe menu if you want a feast. It start off with a big basket of warm baked bread, pick an appetizer I got an avocado watermelon salad and Jeff went for the soup. We both went for trout which I didn’t realize was going to be fried – but it was yummy just the same, especially with those thick cut potato chips. It was so much food a lot of those chips came on the train with us, a tasty snack for later because….we had to save room for dessert! I got orange pie because I’d never had it before, and Jeff went with an apple. The food was solid, nothing spectacular – but it was filling and hit the spot.
Sufficiently stuffed we sauntered back to the train with new memories of an incredible wonder of the world.
If I could do it again and had more time? I’d hike the four day Inca Trail!