Machu Picchu in Two Days
To get to Machu Picchu we took the Peru Rail Vistadome train from Cusco Poroy Station to Aguas Calientes early in the morning. Poroy station is a 20 minute drive outside Cusco, so head out a while before your boarding time. The train winds through the beautiful Sacred Valley, stopping once at Ollantaytambo. The Vistadome train is excellent for viewing the transition from the high desert landscape of Cusco to the cloud forest at the beginning of the Amazon region. On the train, you get a small snack, which we appreciated because it allowed us to skip lunch and head straight to Machu Picchu as soon as we arrived in Aguas Calientes.
Once in Aguas Calientes we quickly checked in to our hotel, Eco Machu Picchu, and headed for the bus station to take us on the 30 minute switchback ride up the mountain to the ruins. The bus costs 24 dollars round trip for one person.
Machu Picchu is simply amazing. We arrived around 1:30pm and explored until 4:15. This was a great time to go, it is much less crowded than any other time. On this first day we walked mainly up and down the East agricultural sector, the residential sector, and the industrial sector, all located in the lower area, or to the right when you enter the ruins. This is where workers and visitors lived, and man did they have a view! Here are the pictures from our first afternoon:
Waynapicchu is the verdant peak that overlooks the city. You can climb it if you buy a ticket.
Group of the Three Doorways
The East agricultural terraces
We wandered down to a closed area accidentally and were rewarded with the discovery of this adorable viscacha before a somewhat difficult exit of the closed area.
Temple of the Condor. The stones on the ground are supposed to resemble a condor’s head and the large angled boulders its wings. This is all guesswork though, many meanings behind Machu Picchu are largely a mystery.
The city has an impressive carved rock canal system that carries water to many sites. More canals made of dirt and rock along the ground carry waste water away.
Look at these viscachas, they are so cute!
The Plaza Principal (main square)
Resident llamas! They earn their keep by constant mowing and posing for photos. They are friendly and you can pet them which of course I did.
At the end of our first day at Machu Picchu, we retired to our our hotel, Eco Machu Picchu. The beds there are very comfortable, but everything else about this hotel is terrible for the price. The bathroom is so tiny anyone with longer than really short legs wouldn’t be able to sit down on the toilet, and there wasn’t really hot water. Also, Aguas Calientes is extremely loud until the wee hours of the night. Don’t stay at this hotel unless you plan on bringing earplugs and low expectations. The food we had in Aguas Calientes was also really bad, with the exception of Cafe de Paris, a cute french bakery with quiche and goodies.
We woke up before dawn to catch an early bus to Machu Picchu for the sunrise. This is totally worth doing for the beautiful lighting and fog that slowly lifts off the mountains as the morning progresses. Here are the pictures from our second day:
After enjoying the morning views mom and I hiked for about 45 minutes to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) one of the two entrances to Machu Picchu from Inca times. This is also the entrance to Machu Picchu for those hiking the Inca trail. It’s worth the time if you go early before it’s too hot, the views are incredible, We were pleased to learn that Intipunku is 2745 meters above sea level, which is 25 meters higher than Waynapicchu. We were quite pleased with ourselves.
When we returned I hiked to the Inca Bridge, a treacherous looking bridge on the wall of a very steep cliff. This is the other traditional entrance to Machu Picchu. Clearly no one was getting into this well guarded city unseen.
After the Inca Bridge mom and I explored the upper levels of the ruins, including the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Three Windows, Casa del Inca, and Intiwatana (an astronomical observatory).
The Funerary Rock, possibly used to mummify nobility.
The Intiwatana rock, at the top of the hill with the same name, was used to predict the solstices.
Our trip to Machu Picchu was incredible. I definitely recommend splitting the visit into two days, a morning and an afternoon. You get the best lighting for photos and avoid the mid-day crowds.
We returned to Cusco via the Peru Rail train this evening, which was another lovely ride. This time with a performance and alpaca wear fashion show! Tomorrow we ride the Inka Express bus all day to Puno where we begin our Lake Titicaca adventure!