Travel Guide: Machu Picchu

As you very well may know, my boyfriend Drew and I traveled to Peru back in September, predominately to hike Machu Picchu. It’s on my bucket list to see the seven wonders of the world so knocking off Machu Picchu at 26 was an incredible experience.

Our entire time in Peru was so special, adventurous and an amazing thing to do with your partner. From our day trips from Cusco, to exploring Cusco to the bustling metropolitan hub of Lima, experiencing Machu Picchu was the pinnacle of our trip.

Planning Your Machu Picchu Trip

If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Machu Picchu – let me set the stage with the first few things we decided on when organizing our trip:

First, we decided not to do the four day hike through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We were only in Peru for a total of 10 days and thought we could see more of the country if we just did Machu Picchu by train in one day. I definitely do not think we missed out by not hiking and it was the best decision for us. Even though we’re both outdoorsy and love camping, we’re really happy we got to do so many other day trips throughout our 10-day trip.

Secondly, we opted to pay for a full day, planned experience to iron out all of our logistics. Now one thing you may know from researching Machu Picchu is that you are required to have a licensed guide take you throughout the ruins and you cannot just show up and explore for yourself. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has a set number of visitors who can enter the site every day. We reserved our guide and tickets a good four months in advance.

We found our travel company, Cusi Travel, through TripAdvisor and it was the easiest, best experience. Now, it wasn’t cheap – $370/person – but I would highly recommend using our company. There were so many companies to choose from and we spent hours/days looking at different reviews. But our (namely Drew’s) research paid off and made our whole vacation.

Our booking included a private tour of just Drew and I led by an experienced and highly knowledgeable tour guide. Our guide not only met us the day before our Machu Picchu trip to set expectations and make sure we were prepared, but met us at our Airbnb in the morning and accompanied us through our whole trip.

All smiles leaving our Airbnb to head to Machu Picchu!

Our Machu Picchu Experience

Our Cusi Travel guide, Emelia, met us at our Airbnb at 6:30 AM for a two hour, picturesque drive though the Sacred Valley to the Incan town of Ollantaytambo. Once we arrived in Ollantaytambo, the next part of our journey to Machu Picchu was an hour and a half train ride to Aguas Calientes.

We took a really plush train that included snack service and played Peruvian music throughout our journey.

The Ollaantaytambo train station.
The Urubama River running through the Sacred Valley.

Our train traveled alongside the Urubamba River while passing through the picturesque Sacred Valley of the Incas. Slowly but surely, as time went by the surrounding geography changed from mountainous to a lush jungle scene as we approached Machu Picchu and headed closer to the Amazon. We even saw a handful of ancient Incan ruins throughout our journey, including the fortress seen below.

Incan ruin on the hillside of our journey to Aguas Calientes.

The train stopped in the town of Aguas Calientes, the last stop before Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes is a resort town where a lot of people stay the night before heading to Machu Picchu. We didn’t spend much time there, but there were a lot of tourist markets, shops and beautiful hotels, that we’ve been told are pretty pricey.

When we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we made our way to a long line of buses that were taking people on a 30-minute ride to Machu Picchu. Again, our travel company reserved our bus tickets. Now, you can walk along a mountainous trail to Machu Picchu if you didn’t have a bus ticket, but the roundtrip ticket was well worth it if you ask me.

Once we arrived by bus at Machu Picchu, there was a tourist center where you can check bags, use the restroom and stamp your passport with a special Machu Picchu stamp – a fun detail that this traveler very much enjoyed!

Bus that travels between Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes.

Machu Picchu is absolutely breathtaking, it’s such a surreal experience to see its grandeur first hand. We spent at least three hours walking around the ruins and learning about the history and importance of Machu Picchu. The entire ruins were laid out in consideration of the direction of the sun, moon and Pachamama (mother Earth).

Huayna Picchu mountain overlooking the holy site

Some of Machu Picchu’s original residents still call the holy site home – llamas and alpacas! Alpacas and llamas were brought to Machu Picchu by the Incans, adn as you can see below, are allowed to freely roam the grounds. These animals have lived at Machu Picchu for hundreds of years and can survive on the scarce foliage at high altitude. Our guide told us that alpacas don’t damage the grounds and instead fertilize the grounds at Machu Picchu. We even saw a little chinchilla while exploring.

Alpacas grazing on a hillside at Machu Picchu.

Throughout our three hour guided tour we learned so much about the history and spirituality of Machu Picchu. We learned about the Inca Palace, Temple of the Sun,and Intiwatana among other temples.

Temple of the Sun

Machu Picchu was such an incredible experience and I’m so happy to have checked it off of my bucket list. As I said earlier, I really want to travel to all seven wonders of the world – I can’t wait to plan my next adventure!

Let me know if you have any questions about my trip. I’d love to lend a hand for planning or logistics.

xx,

Cait

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