Probably you have heard of the “Seven wonders of the world”. Nowadays there are actually so many lists of wonders that you could get confused by less; seven ancient wonders, new wonders, natural wonders, city wonders, industrial and on it goes. Though, I believe the one wonder that many people has on top of their bucket list when it comes to these wonders is Machu Picchu. At least I had this one on the top, so you could say that I went there with pretty high expectations. So how was it?
For those of you in a hurry: it was touristic, lots of mosquitos and totally fantastic! If you are a little more interested and maybe even planning to visit MP one day, you should keep on reading for another two minutes.
What is actually Machu Picchu?
It’s an ancient Inca village built on a mountain 2,430 meters above sea level in Peru, close to the city of Cusco. Archaeologists believe it was built around 1450 and it was inhabited for about 100 years, when the Spanish came and conquered Peru. Even though they never found MP, they brought diseases which spread and wiped out the entire MP-people. It wasn’t actually until 1911 when the American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it that it got international attention. Since then, it’s been claimed both a Unesco World Heritage and one of the “New seven wonders of the world”.
How to get there?
There are different ways:
– you can trek the famous Inca Trail. Limited places and I think you have to book this about one year before going.
– you can trek the Salkantay Trek which is a 5 days / 4 nights trek. Pretty popular and said to be a nice experience.
– you can go by train or bus, and in this way make it a day-trip. I did this due the bad weather forecast and to save some time.
What did I think of it and what to expect?
I decided to do this as a day-trip, even though I was keen on trekking the Salkantay but the weather forecast was very wet the coming days. 4 AM in the morning a minibus picked me up in Cusco for a 2 hour drive to Ollantaybambo. From here we took the train, Inca Rail, along the Urabamba River and valley for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. A very scenic train ride and the train was super comfortable – which it should be considering the price, coming back to that later. We arrived in a small village named Agua Calientes or also called Machu Picchu village, finally almost there! Immediately when disembarking the train I got the feeling “tourist trap”. It was so commercial and touristic! After walking one minute from the train station I saw a line, approximately 200 meters long and I thought: “That can’t be mine – this is low season!”. I was wrong. That was the line to the buses taking us a little more than 400 meters straight up to MP. Fortunately the line went pretty fast and the bus ride took only 20 minutes on steep dirt roads with amazing scenery giving a hint of what to come. So at around 10 AM we were finally there!
There were no lines worth mentioning getting in to MP. Everything was smooth and they separated Spanish-speaking people from English-speaking and matched with respective guides. It was only a 3-4 minute walk/hike from the entrance until you came to the “post card view area” – and then it was worth every single dollar and second. It was breathtaking! The combination of mighty nature with lots of peaky mountains and an impressive architecture was just amazing. It looks so big and unreal when standing there. But don’t get fooled by the outside – it was built in very smart ways too. How they had built regarding rain, humidity, erosion, draining, to keep warm and so on was really amazing. All this of course I would never find out without the guide. The guided tour took 2 hours and you walk through the entire “maze” and I definitely recommend a guided tour or else you won’t understand much of it – than just to admire it’s beauty.
The weather was good and after the guided tour, the crowds were no concern anymore. It swallows a lot of people and also many left after the guided tour, since they had a train ticket back to Cusco. MP closes at 5 PM so I had 5 hours exploring on my own, but luckily I was companioned by Ahn from California and Kari from Hong Kong. So we strolled around admiring and absorbing this wonder of the world for another 4 hours in good weather together with some other people and lots of lamas just walking free.
After all, this was a really good experience. Yes, it’s very touristic – but what amazing place is not any more? I guess we can both thank and blame Mark Zuckerberg for that. I choose to thank him making the world a smaller and more open place to live. It’s a long day getting back and forth but really worth it. It’s perhaps the most amazing place I’ve ever been and I’ve been to a few.
Just feel free to ask me if you have any questions. Below I will sum up som tips I’ve collected during both planning and doing this trip
– Go in the dry season if you want good weather and clear views, June – September. More crowded but I would recommend it compared to be there in rain and low hanging clouds.
– Mosquito spray!!! There are lots of mosquitos there and to put it this way: I have lots of itching memories on my body after MP.
– Book in advance. The train tickets are limited per day and get sold out fast in the high season. I was very lucky getting a ticket just one day before going there.
– It’s expensive, about 220 USD for the day trip so don’t get shocked. I think it’s a lot for a tourist place, but still worth it. What drives the cost are the train tickets. A return trip is about 140 USD I think.
– The day-trip is definitely OK, but if you are fit enough and in the high season so you have a “guarantee” for good weather I would recommend the Salkantay Trek.
– Don’t forget your passport. I honestly think I had to show it at least 10 times collecting tickets, boarding trains, buses and entering MP.