Before I begin, I must preface this with the inspirational scene that led me to Machu Picchu in the first place:
“and here we go…”
As unsure as I was when the day was about to start, today was when everything that was supposed to work out, worked out. We were one of the only 400 people allowed to climb up Wayna Picchu/Huayna Picchu (the highest peak in the Machu Picchu area), we took a off-the-beaten-path detour to the Temple of the Moon, explored the ruins of Machu Picchu itself , bathed in the hot baths, ate a 10 min meal in the best (i.e. the only “good” one) place in Aguas Calientes, and caught a train and bus back to Ollantaytambo and Cuzco, respectively.
I think in the last 18 hours of being awake, we climbed a total of 5000 meters and hiked a good 6 miles, all while making some great international friends in the meantime.
We’ll start from catching the train in Ollantaytambo.
We arrived in Aguas Calientes and crashed at our hostel there at 11pm, waking up 5 hours later.
We then buy our Machu Picchu tickets at the office in Aguas Calientes (this is the ONLY place where you can get your entrance tickets other than their office in faraway Cuzco; you cannot buy your tickets at Machu Picchu itself). It’s around $50 USD for foreigners, $35 for students. Make sure you ALSO get a bus ticket ($15 USD for all foreigners), which is bought at a booth across the street from the forming bus lines close to the Plaza de Armas of the town. Yes, they’re making a killing off of us!
At 5:30am, the buses start filling up the hordes of people who’ve been lining up since 4:30am. Make sure you get there early or else you lose your chance being the first 400 people allowed to sign up to climb Wayna Picchu.
After a 30 minute bus ride up a winding hill, you’re treated to some gorgeous sunrise views outside your window:
and a video of the stunning ride:
Once you get to the top, make your way to another line to get on the signup for Wayna Picchu. Only the first-come first-served 400 people get the chance for the climb.
Once your ticket has been scanned in, you’re finally free to walk ahead! They’ll only stop you if you have a big bag or a walking stick. Otherwise, keep heading forwards and don’t forget to look to your right:
And when you finally climb out of some Incan houses, you find yourselves in the middle of Machu Picchu itself. It hits you quicker than you expect:
So when you sign up for Wayna Picchu you have the choice of climbing up at 7am or 10am. We chose the earlier time, so we headed direct through the Machu Picchu ruins to the Wayna Picchu registration desk.
At registration you sign in your name so that they can keep track of all the climbers (it would suck to fall off the mountain and nobody knew that you disappeared for days). And after a quick John Hancock, you start the 1 hour hike 3,000 meters upwards. Not for the faint of heart; this hike can be dangerous for its slippery steps, steep climbs and haphazardly placed handrails. And for those of you thinking I’d die on this climb, you’re nonetheless buoyed by some amazing views that encourage you to keep going:
Yes, it´s pretty rough:
And then, when you think you’ve had enough of nature, you look up and see the top:
Find yourself a nice little rock to perch your behind on, and enjoy the view:
After you have your fun at the tallest peak of the Machu Picchu area, head back down Wayna Picchu. Go down about 1/3 of the way and you’ll come across a fork in the road:
If you’re feeling adventurous, or if you’re sick of being surrounded by tourists, or if you want to give your ass a good workout, take the path on the left (as shown in the picture) and head to the Temple of the Moon. It’s a 40 minute hike up, down, up, down, and down many many hills:
Frankly, the Temple of the Moon is pretty underwhelming. But the views, and the fact you’re finally completely alone from all the other tourists may be worth it.
After maybe half an hour of a nice meditative suntan out next to the Temple of the Moon, head back to the fork:
And once you’re back to the Wayna Picchu registration desk, do your victory dance in the middle of pouring rain:
Or pose with fellow climbers that you befriended along the way:
After our hike, we decide to spend our last hour at Machu Picchu wandering around the ruins themselves.
Our eventual goal was to make our way up to the popular observatory point (I believe it’s called the Temple of the Sun) to get the “National Geographic” angle of Machu Picchu that you find on any Google Image search.
So trust in your legs and climb those steps. And keep climbing. Eventually you can finally turn around and see this:
So we did it. Machu Picchu in a day. But it doesn’t end there. We recommend that you head back afterwards to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes and rest your weary feet. It costs 10 soles (around $3 USD) to get in. But it’s well worth it.
And if you have time, walk around Aguas Calientes and appreciate how tourism can completely transform a village to a living, breathing, advertising machine:
But despite the enormous number of negative reviews you may find online, Aguas Calientes is not without its pretty parts:
But by no means should you stay an extra night once you done Machu Picchu. Once you grabbed a bite to eat and you’re ready to go, take the train back to Cuzco.
Unfortunately, in our case the train stopped halfway and we had to be shuttled sheep-style into buses to Cuzco.
We’re finally in Cuzco, staying at Loki’s Hostel, which greeted us with this whiteboard in their reception area:
I have nothing else to report. Enjoy the pictures, everyone! I’m about to pass out. Emma can wait another night, whoever she is.
– At time of posting in Cuzco, it was 53.6 °F – Humidity: 43% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear