Machu Picchu in Peru, is an ancient Incan city, built in the 15th century that was treasured as a sacred religious site for Inca leaders, whose civilization was wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. The lost city was rediscovered in 1911 by the American archaeologist and we learnt from our guides that it was kept as a secret known only to few people living in the region. Machu Picchu is the most visited site in Peru and we were super happy to witness and experience one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Getting to Machu Picchu from Cusco
Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu in Peru. One of the reasons we stayed in Cusco prior to visiting Machu Picchu is to get acclimatized with the weather and altitude sickness. Cusco is around 11500 ft. above sea level versus ~7900 ft. for Machu Picchu. Take the incredible 1.5-hour train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, where each wagon has a see-through roof. We wanted to experience the regular and the 360 view window train, so boarded the Voyager train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and did the Vistadome train on our return to Cusco.
Machu Picchu Town
Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu town is located just 30 minutes away from the world famous site. This tiny traveler’s town is built around the train tracks and provide good options on restaurants and hotels. We stayed at a local hotel called Villas Insights for one night, great hospitality and excellent home made breakfast served at this hotel. We were craving for some Indian food, lucky to find a close match in this town, a restaurant named ‘Govinda’. The food was delicious, took a lot of time to be served but worth the wait :-). The food was all prepared from the scratch, fresh ingredients and tasted really good.
How to get to Machu Picchu Entrance
It’s important you purchase the tickets for the specific time slot ahead of time either online or through your tour company. We did our travel package through MachuPicchucenter.com, so had our tickets purchased in advance. Being one of the world famous site, it is crowded so expect delays and plan your schedule ahead. You will need atleast 3-4 hours of time to explore climbing the mountain, so depart to the entrance accordingly. Make sure to visit a bathroom before going to the top as there are no toilets inside the site. No food/snacks allowed inside the site, so take just a bottled water, phone or a camera. We did a 3 hour guided tour with a professional guide that was booked at 8.30 AM. There are three ways to get to the entrance of Machu Picchu:
1. Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
One of simple option that most people take the bus from the town to the entrance. You will need to purchase bus ticket ahead and in order to get an early start, spend the night in Aguas Calientes town. From there, take the shuttle bus (30 minute ride) to the entrance based on the time slot that you have purchased. For our 8.30 AM slot, we boarded the bus at 7.30 so we had enough time to stand in line to get inside Machu Picchu. The bus line can get extremely long but there are buses available every 10 mins.
2. Hike from Aguas Calientes
Your second option is to hike around 60 minutes uphill to the entrance of Machu Picchu if you dont want to take the bus. It’s steep, not advisable if you are travelling with young kids.
3. Inca Trail
We came to know about the famous Inca Trail options that people use to hike/walk to climb Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is a 4 or 5-day hike and looks like you can be inside the Machu Picchu site much earlier to watch the sunrise. We did not do the Inca Trail but met other hikers on our climb to Machu Picchu.
Tinkuy Restaurant at Machu Picchu Entrance
The Tinkuy restaurant is a high quality buffet restaurant located right at the entrance of Machu Picchu. The luxury sanctuary lodge hotel is located in the same building and this is the only restaurant option for a sit down relaxed meal when visiting Machu Picchu. You will need to book a reservation in advance and this is slightly on the higher end when it comes to price. The buffet costs 30$ USD per person that comes with variety of options from Peruvian, Mexican dishes, salads, breads, Italian Pizzas, Pastas, Vegetarian options, lots of pastries, juices and hot drinks. After a 3 hour hike, we felt this was a very good option for us to eat the lunch at Tinkuy before taking the bus back to the Machu Picchu town.