After many years reading and dreaming about it, finally here we are. Our feet now touch its sacred ground, our eyes stare astonished at the greatness of its people. Machu Picchu, the Lost City, where magic, mysticism and hard work gave life, centuries ago, to one of the 7 new world wonders.
We take the bus from Cuzco at 7 in the morning and, after 8 hours driving, we finally get to the Central Hidroelectrica around 3 in the afternoon. From there we start our trekking along the railways in a gorgeous scenery surrounded by nature in order to reach Aguas Calientes and spend the night there before hiking until the park. A real pilgrimage of hundreds backpackers looking for their Mecca.
It is still pitch black, 4:00am. We get up very early in the morning to be among the first ones to get to the gate. The bridge that opens at 5:00am allows you to the steep stairways, the only access by foot to the ruins. For a little extra on the entrance price you can also climb one of the two mountains that surround the valley, Montaña Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, where we experienced one of the most breathtaking view ever.
Once we got to the top of Montaña Machu Picchu at 7:30am, we have our well deserved breakfast enjoying speechless the panorama in front of us. The clouds that were covering the sky lending the valley that mystic atmosphere which it is known for, suddenly disappear. The sky acquires a deep blue colour and the sun lights up the silver river running through the Urubamba valley, slowly revealing the ancient Inca ruins that rest silently under our feet.
I am not going to give a full description of the archaeological site of Machu Picchu, of its culture or historical meaning because this is something you can easily find everywhere surfing the net, in books or works of those who dedicate their entire life to the secrets of this complex civilization. I will just provide some useful tips on how to get there and enjoy its essence without emptyingyour wallet. After that I will leave pictures speaking for me and showing what nature and men can create working together and living side by side.
- For travellers with a low budget: the best and cheapest way to get to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Town, the starting point for the hike till the ruins, is to book a transfer from Cusco till the Central Hidroeléctrica. From there you have to walk about 2 hours along the railways. It is an easy and pleasant trekking along the impressive Vilcanota-Urubamba river. Prices for transportation vary from 60 to 80 Nuevos Soles, according the agencies and the number of days you want to spend there.
- If your budget is not that low and you feel like walking for a few days across the Sacred Valley, you can consider the option of doing the popular Inca Trail (3-4 days for 400-500 dollars) or the newest and cheaper Jungle Trail (4 days for 200-250 dollars) combining trekking, bike and bus.
- To enjoy completely the experience you need a full day going around the ruins and hiking the mountains, so be sure to get to Aguas the day before, spend a night in one of the many hotels or campsites to have a good rest, recharge the batteries and be ready for the hike early in the morning. Have a look to the Hotel Ecomapi (20 NS per night per person) for a basic accommodation in the centre. The park closes at 5 pm so, unless you want to take the night train (50 dollars) back to Cuzco, you will need a second night in Aguas. The next day you can go back to the Hidroeléctrica and take the bus back or stay a few days more and get deeper into the Sacred Valley. This is only up to you and to your muscles. 🙂
- There are thousands of agencies in Cuzco that will almost stalk you with tours or transfers back and forth between Aguas and Cuzco. Spend a few hours if it is necessary to have a general look to the different possibilities and prices in order to get the best offer.
- With the ISIC card you will get the 50% of discount in the entrance fee, so remember to carry with you your student card and for 12 dollars you will receive your personal International Student Card(you can find an ESIC office in the main square of Cuzco, in front of the cathedral).
- As far as the ticket is concerned, you can buy it online (but probably you will be charged of an additional fee for the service), in the official agency of the archaeological park in Cuzco, or directly in Aguas. We suggest you to buy it in advance in order to guarantee your entrance to the mountains and to the ruins since there is a limited number of people per day that are allowed to enter.
As of January 2014, Machu Picchu entrance fees for foreign visitors are as follows:
|Machu Picchu (standard ticket): S/.128 nuevos soles (approx. US$50)|
|Machu Picchu and Site Museum: S/.150 (approx. US$58.50)|
|Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu: S/.152 (approx. US$59)|
|Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain: S/.142 (approx. US$55)|