This is part 2 of my 3 part series on my adventures on Peru. This part focuses on my journey through Machu Picchu. Part 1 focuses on my journey from home to Cusco. Part 3 focuses on my journey from Cusco to Lima and the bumps along the way. Check them out if you haven’t already!
I made a nice intro video into Machu Picchu if you want to check it out below. It is a tour from the walk up the ruins to the hike up Mount Machu Picchu.
I walked into Machu Picchu with low expectations. Before going I could not believe the hype. It is expensive to get there especially when you are on a tight time schedule. I literally typed “Is Machu Picchu worth it” into Google while planning the trip. It turns out it most definitely is. Machu Picchu is a wonder of the world for a reason. Despite my doubts, the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu truly destroyed all of my expectations. I was so glad I was told I absolutely had to go. I also recorded some awesome video which I will be posting later.
The Path to Machu Picchu
Getting to Machu Picchu is half the battle. There are really no roads in since it is so isolated. You can obviously hike the popular Inca trail or take some lesser known treks. If I had more time I would have been all over this. However, with a short amount of time the best option is train. The train can be taken out of Poray (15 minutes from Cusco) or Ollantaytambo (about 1.5 to 2 hours).
You need at least 2 days to really see Machu Picchu right even though you could do it in one (it is so worth it to get up early and head up before first light). As mentioned in my previous post we took a car to Ollantaytambo and got on the train there. From there we arrived in Aquas Caliente, the jumping off point for Machu Picchu. We stayed here overnight and got ready for the early morning trek to Machu Picchu.
Early Morning Walks Through the Cloud Forest
I woke up just before 4 am to begin my “walk” up to Machu Picchu. People said it would take 1.5 to 2 hours to get up, but I was hoping to do it quicker. Aquas Caliente and Machu Picchu are still at a pretty decent altitude (8,000+ feet or 2500 meters). The walk started in complete darkness with a fair amount of rain.
The first part was basically flat and I was able to jog up to the bridge across the river where the ascent began. I was hoping to get in some training for my half marathon and I was not disappointed in the least. The ascent was basically all steps for a solid 45 minutes. It was not super easy at altitude, but I was able to keep a nice pace. It was really awesome to pass what had to be dozens of people on the way up.
Macchu Pichu: A Mystical, Other Worldly Location
Walking up was super pretty as well. The mist ebbed and flowed so that I caught awesome glimpses of the surrounding mountains. The ruins are situated in such amazing scenery. Half the intrigue is the mountains and rivers that surround Machu Picchu. Walking up those steps provided incredible vistas and a start of the day that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. As the sun rose I found myself in a mythical cloud forest. This was so worth it to me instead of taking the $12 one way bus ride.
I had hauled it up the mountain so I was super sweaty at the top consequently immediately ditched all layers to put them back on 30 minutes later (rainy and kind of cold). I had made it up in about an hour, 10 minutes before the ruins opened. The entrance is at the top is way too similar to an amusement park. You literally wait in line for your ticket to get scanned (kind of lame). I waited in this line with our guide and finally got through the gate. Thus commenced the tour of Machu Picchu! The guided tour is a one way walking section through most of the ruins.
An Ancient City Surrounded by Mystery
The walk into the ruins commenced as the walk up had: rainy yet misty. The ruins are truly surrounded on all sides by mountains. The location is incredibly beautiful. The slight rain added to the sense of awe. The first stop was the typical Machu Picchu vista overlooking the ruins. I got my selfie game on here (and through most of the ruins) and took some once in a lifetime pictures.
The selfie game was on point as you can see me and my friends at the lookout.
The ruins are so interesting because of the history. The Incans built the city long ago as a place for the upper class. Here they did experiments with different types of crops or building styles. They also used it as a base for directing activities in other regions. Our guide was amazing as he explained the reasons behind different rock formations and the history behind the ruins. A lot of the rocks are carved like animals or the mountains directly behind them. The fact that they could move all the stones is incredible enough in itself.
Look closely (the rocks are carved into the shapes of the mountains behind them!)
The Inca People: Engineers of the Past
I saw so many interesting structures and handicraft on the walk through. I was so impressed on what the Incas had built. The best way to describe the scene was surreal; I never thought I would be wandering through the Andean mountains in an ancient city. Other highlights include the random llamas grazing there, the double story houses, door and window innovations, and the condor rocks. The condor rocks were in the shape of a condor with the wings being two huge rocks. The condor was carved to carry the dead to the heavens (they found a bunch of mummies there).
Wandering around the ruins was truly incredible and special. The funny part is the majority of Machu Picchu is unexplored. Much of it is covered in jungle and a lot of it is underground. I can’t imagine what a “secrets” of Machu Picchu tour would be like.
Heading up the Mountain Farther in the Mystery
After the tour I headed up Machu Picchu Mountain. I ended up hiking from 8,500 ft. to 10,000 ft. or 3,200 m. I loved walking up and getting an even better look at Machu Picchu from above. The views and vistas continued to be incredible. The hike was made a bit tougher by the altitude, but I still managed to get up pretty quickly.
The view from the top was awe inspiring and shrouded in mist. Machu Picchu was hidden the whole time but the mist cleared a bit to get some views. The top was basically a ridge so I could see across the whole valley. I scuttled down after enjoying a sandwich at the top and was back down to the entrance just after 12 pm. From there I walked back down to Aquas Caliente. It was only noon and I had seen the grandeur of a mystical place with an irrevocable experience.
At the TOP!!!!
Machu Picchu: Beating Even the Highest Expectations
Overall, if you can’t already tell Machu Picchu is well worth it. It is awe inspiring, mystical, and incredible all in one package. You can’t see these views anywhere else in the world. The location is more than half the intrigue. The trip was a bit pricy ($260 for the total package – $150 for the train and $85 for admission and guide plus $25 for the hotel), but well worth it. My doubts about Machu Picchu had been squashed. It is truly a wonder of the world like nothing else.
My trip was a lot of fun, but I still managed to train. Let me know if I can bring some adventure and diversity to your training.