Yesterday I visited Macchu Picchu and I am so happy at the way the day turned out. Not to mention ecstatic at finally seeing Macchu Picchu! I started planning for the visit about a month ago, and the planning paid off.
I was able to be the first one in the park, really experience Macchu Picchu without being glued to a tour group or controlled by a tour guide.
I hope that this blog and tips will help you get the most out of this special day, visiting one of the seven wonders of the world.
Ten Tips To Make Your Visit To Macchu Picchu Memorable
Book your Macchu Picchu tickets well in advance of your trip. They only allow 2500 into the park each day, so its advisable to book ahead. I had such a headache trying to do this as their online system has a number of flaws.
They only accept verified by visa credit cards. Even using this card, I experienced constant rejections at the payment stage for two weeks. In the end I gave up, and booked and paid for my Macchu Picchu tickets using a wonderful travel agent based in Cusco.
Booking your train tickets to Macchu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) well in advance is highly advisable as they sell out fast. Go to the PeruRail website and select the type of train and time that you require.
Although the VistaDome train is more expensive it really isn’t alot better than the cheaper Expedition option. If saving your hard earned money is a priority for you, I would recommend getting a combi or bus to Ollanto, and then the train from Ollanto to Aguas Calientes (Macchu Picchu station)
Get your bus tickets for the Aguas Calientes to Macchu Picchu trip the day before. You don’t want to miss the first bus just because you are queuing up to purchase bus tickets.
On the special day get up early! I went a bit over-the-top and got to the bus station at 3:45 am! However, the crowds started queuing up shortly afterwards at 4:15am. By getting their early I was not only able to get on the first bus at 5:30am, but was also the first one in the park!
The first hour of being almost alone at Macchu Picchu was priceless!
Hire a Tour Guide? Join a group tour? I say no! I find these options horrendous. When I was there I saw groups being hurried through the ruins. I brought a book on Macchu Picchu and guided myself through the ruins, in my own time. This also meant that I saved on the expense of hiring my own tour guide.
As soon as you enter the park, take the left lane up to the caretakers hut. This is where you will get the famous shot of Macchu Picchu.
By getting here early you will avoid having any other tourist in your precious Macchu Picchu shot!
There are several hikes that you can do. Of course the most famous one is Waynu Picchu. This hike is not for the faint hearted as its steep and strenuous. If you do decide to do this, book the tickets in advance, the same time that you buy the entrance tickets to Macchu Picchu. Other options include hiking to the Inca Trail bridge.
This is a nice and easy hike of about 45 minutes. The other is to Sun Gate which is a little longer and more strenuous.
This is an obvious tip. Have enough memory on your camera memory card and enough camera batteries. I severely underestimated how many photos I would take!
If you have enough time and money, I would highly recommend staying in Aguas Calientes the night before and the evening after your visit to Macchu Picchu. I did this and was happy that I did. It meant that I could get into the park early and not have to rush back to catch the train.
Finally – take some water and snacks. Sure, you are technically not allowed to bring food and drink into the park; however, the guards saw I and others eating and didn’t say a word. Just make sure that you do not leave any litter. By bringing your own snacks you avoid the outrageous price of eating at the restaurant right outside the park.
I had a wonderful and memorable time at Macchu Picchu.
I arrived in Aguas Calientes by taking the VistaDome from Ollanto. The journey was great and passed through some stunning scenery. Unfortunately the trip was spoiled by the fact that we hit a cow head on. I saw this happen and could not stop thinking about this poor cow!
We did arrive in Aguas Calientes in one piece though at the decent hour of 3pm. Aguas Calientes is very touristy, but is in a pleasant, if not, stunning location with the mountains surrounding the town. The restaurants providing Mexican food is almost comical. I tried it and it is no where near the real thing!
I hardly slept the night before due to the excitement. So with this and getting up at 2:30am I hardly had any sleep the night before.
As mentioned I arrived at the bus stop at 3:45 am. It was pitch dark and there was no one else at the bus stop. Usually I would be a little nervous, but there was a security guard close by. They found it comical that I was there so early.
The determination paid off and I was the first one in the park. I immediately went to the look out point at the caretakers hut.
What I saw was white….lots of white! Macchu Picchu was completely covered in fog. This gave it a really lovely mystical look. I waited and waited, and finally around 10am it cleared revealing the ruins and mountains in all its glory. Wonderful! I sat there for quite a while just trying to absorb as much of the view as possible.
I then took some time to examine the ruins which of course was fascinating.
In the afternoon I hiked to the Inca Bridge. It was a little nerving that the guards ask you to register before going onto this hike. I assume that it is just incase you go missing, or fall off the path, down the vertical drop of hundreds of feet.
I met alot of great people in the park, many of which I will keep in touch with. That’s the thing about solo travel, its so easy to meet other people when you are not traveling in a cocoon with other people.
My day at the park ended at 2pm. I took the bus back to Aguas Calientes, happy and on a high after such a great day.
The other success of the day, was that I actually found a great restaurant to eat at in Aguas Calientes. However, I was soo hungry from the day that I over indulged and spent the rest of the evening with stomach pain. I went to sleep again to the sound of the roaring river directly beneath my hotel room.
I left Aguas Calientes this morning on the expedition train which was almost as good as the more expensive VistaDome.
I met a great couple from vacationing from Argentina on the train.They were so passionate and excited about their time in Peru, and were a lot of fun.
Those are the kind of people that I like to meet on my trips.
Macchu Picchu exceeded all my expectations. A truly amazing day.