Getting to the arguably the most famous ruins in the world is a process of planes, trains and automobiles. But we made it! So on a beautiful sunny morning and after the worst sleep of my life in Aguas Calientes, Laura and I were finally walking through the ancient Incan citadel.
Built around 1450, Machu Picchu was used as a royal estate for 80 years before being abandoned during the Spanish Conquests. Around 750 Incas lived in these dry stone walls high in the clouds. While the Spanish colonized other parts of the Inca Empire, they never did find Machu Picchu. It remained unknown to the outside world until an American historian brought it to international attention in 1911. The ruins are remarkably well preserved, with the Peruvian government and UNESCO constantly taking action to minimize the impact of tourism. I’ve waited for years to see Machu Picchu and it lived up to every expectation!
After visiting the main ruins, it was time to climb Huayna Picchu, which ending up being one of the highlights of our entire trip to Peru! Huayna Picchu is the peak that sits ominously behind the famous photos of Machu Picchu, casting its shadow over the ruins. At 8,923 feet above sea level, it’s almost 1,000 feet higher than the ruins themselves.
Preparations to complete the hike are required months in advance since access is limited to 400 people per day. You purchase a combination ticket for both a timed entry to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. We chose the 8AM entry and 10AM hike. This allowed us to plenty of time to tour the ruins first and then complete the hike after. The climb is short but all uphill with many steps. Once at the top, you are rewarded with one of the most incredible views in the world.
Thanks to Laura for being an amazing adventure partner! We made memories that will last a lifetime.
Planning & Recommendations
As grand and awe-inspiring as Machu Picchu is, the reality is one needs to be prepared for crowds and lines… everywhere. Waiting for trains, buses, at the entrance and just to take photos.
Train: The only way to get to Aguas Calientes is by train, so book tickets well in advance on either PeruRail or IncaRail. We ended up on PeruRail based on departure times. It’s a very scenic ride through the mountains along the river.
Lodging: Jaya Machupicchu Hotel. I had some points to use so this was a free stay. Our 4 floor twin room overlooked the soccer field which had a concert going on until 2am. It was the worst night sleep of my life. A few positives; they met us at the (very busy) train station to help with luggage, the breakfast buffet was substantial and it was an easy walk to bus ticket office and boarding area.
Food: TripAdvisor is the name of the game in Aguas Calientes. For dinner, we went to Mapacho Restaurant, as they were the most friendly about gluten free options. The meal was good and the waiter tried to bribe us with a cheap trinket to post a positive TripAdvisor review. We visited Indio Feliz Restaurant for lunch after Machu Picchu and it was very good (picture below). Although it might have been because we were dead tired and famished after hiking!