A visit to Peru just would not be complete without a stop at Machu Picchu. It is one of the world’s greatest ruins of the world and a must see destination for anyone visiting the country.
This awe-inspiring complex sits high atop a mountain in the Andes Mountains. Located at 2500 meters above sea level it is hard to imagine building such a magnificent site in today’s world, let alone hundreds of years ago without the use of modern tools and technology. Remarkably well preserved, it managed to avoid 400 years of looting and destruction. Its location in the mountains hid it from the Spanish Invasion and has given tourists an awesome view ever since being rediscovered in 1911.
This ancient Inca complex is extraordinary. The grounds stand atop a flat peak and its terraced steps plunge down the mountain clinging to the side of its slopes. It is truly a wonder of the world.
There are two ways to get to the ruins. One is to join a trek and hike along the Inca Trail from the Sacred Valley. There are several routes that you can take but you must hire a guide and obtain proper documents. It is a 33 km hike and takes four days to complete. Book your trip well in advance because only 500 hikers are allowed to start the trail each day. During the high season it can be impossible to secure a spot with one of the operators as many people book at least one year ahead of time. Don’t let the low mileage fool you, this is a tough climb making its way up, down and around the mountains, but the pay off is worth it as you emerge onto the grounds of the mystical Machu Picchu.
If you don’t have a lot of time, or if you are not fortunate enough to join a trek on the Inca Trail, don’t worry you can get to Machu Picchu by train as well. Unfortunately tourists cannot take local transport, but you can catch the tourist train from Cuzco or Ollayantaytambo. Prices are the same from either town.
For $ 100 USD you can catch the Vista Dome to Aguas Calientes, the jumping off point to see the ruins. The VIP train has glass ceilings giving you a panoramic view of the Andes. Attendants take great care of you answering your questions and you are served a nice little meal during the ride. On the way back from Machu Picchu you will even have on board entertainment, a fashion show and a chance to shop for traditional Peruvian goods. Once again, it is only a distance of 35 km, but the ride takes over 2 hours so it is nice to have a little distraction.
When you arrive at Aguas Calientes, you can find a place to stay at one of the many hotels. In high season be prepared to pay up to $ 100 for a room. It is a hilly town to walk around with the prime attraction being the hot springs; A perfect place for trekkers to relax their aching muscles after finishing the Inca Trail.
You can buy your admission tickets to Machu Picchu at the Cultural Center in Aguas Calientes for the following day. And after you are settled feel free to walk around the town, checking out the great deals at the market and sampling the local cuisine in the many restaurants. Try some guinea pig if you dare or if you are not feeling up to the challenge, eat a fresh wood oven pizza while you sip on a pitcher of Sangria or Pisco Sours at happy hour.
Buses start making their way up the mountain to the ruins at 5:00 am, so keep it an early night. You want to make sure to rise early if you are traveling at high season. The buses fill up quickly. Plus, by arriving early, you will beat the organized tours that come later in the day as well as the trekkers emerging from the Inca Trail. You will have a far less crowded view of the Ruins and a chance to take better people free photos.
Entering the grounds at dawn is magical experience. As the sun slowly peaks through the rising fog, a grand view appears before your eyes. Surrounded by other taller peaks, Machu Picchu sits like a protected child under their steady watch. Llama’s graze on grassy terraces as you make your way through the maze and the temple complex unfolds before you.
Walk up to the Hut of the Caretaker and you will have the best view of the entire grounds. This is where all of those famous photographs that you see in magazines are taken and you will not be able to resist taking one yourself.
Machu Picchu has had its share of publicity and hype over the years, but luckily for anyone visiting South America’s greatest treasure, it lives up to every legend, myth and story that you have ever heard. There are several famous ruins of the world, but Machu Picchu has by far the most magnificent location of them all.
Deb Corbeil is one half of Canada’s Adventure Couple. Together with her husband Dave, they have traveled to over 35 countries where they have taken on extreme adventures from Cycling from Cairo to Cape Town and Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Follow their adventures at http://www.theplanetd.com as they paddle, hike, climb, scuba dive and trek their way around the globe. To see great photos go to their photography site at http://www.picturetheplanet.com
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