By the time we’d grabbed a small snack, the drizzle had turned into a steady light rain…not a good sign for our afternoon at Machu Picchu. Let me back up here and talk about tickets a bit. You can in theory buy tickets from the government website, but when we went the website’s payment portal was down for two straight week so we had no way to get them in advance except through our hotel. The hotel arranged them for us by credit card, and we were able to pick them up along with bus tickets when we checked in. There was approximately a $10-15 surcharge per ticket for this service, but it definitely beat being caught out in the rain with no ticket when we’d gone that far!
We took the bus up the very very windy road to the top of Machu Picchu, and the steady rain continued. It was actually pretty miserable, but we did manage to walk around for about 45 minutes until the rain let up a bit. A few views from the very top of the site, looking down over the valley:
The rain let up slightly, and we descended down into the main site and walked around for a bit:
Perhaps it wasn’t the Incas after all – perhaps the LOL Catz builded the Templez:
There was also a llama (or is it an alpaca?) hanging around being all photogenic:
…peek-a-boo…llama sees you!
…and one final shot of the misty site before we headed back to the hotel for the evening, absolutely soaked:
The next morning we went back to the site early. We’d purchased tickets that covered the entrance as well as the small supplemental charge to climb the mountain to Huayana Picchu. The hike only allows 400 visitors a day, 200 at 7am and 200 at 10am. We’d reserved the 10am in advance, and arrived at the site around 9:30 to make sure we had plenty of time to walk to Huayana Picchu which is at the far end. You can see it here towering over Machu Picchu:
At the trailhead, there were a couple rather ominous signs:
View of the mountain as we started up on the trail. You can see lots of the path here, and it gives a good idea of the steepness of the trail, especially as it nears the top:
A couple shots looking back on the trail as we climbed it. You can see how steep the dropoffs are in some places:
At the very top, there was a very narrow space between a couple rocks that I pretty much had to get down on my stomach and slither through:
But, once at the top I was rewarded with amazing views. A great view of the windy road with switchbacks up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, a rainbow, and another shot that shows some Incan “stairs”:
…and of course, a picture of me with Machu Picchu in the background:
The hike was roughly 45 minutes in each direction. Not overly strenuous, but if you’re not good with heights there are plenty of parts with pretty sheer dropoffs that would be more than enough to freak you out. Total with time at the top was just a little over two hours, and once I got back to the main site I wandered around for another three hours or so, only stopping to get a snack at the main entrance. That’s one thing worth mentioning – there’s no food or drink allowed in the site, and only one little cafeteria to get snacks by the gate. Not a big deal, but after the hike I was pretty famished so had to make a detour back before continuing on. Some shots from my wandering:
Finally, as I was getting ready to leave, my friend the llama was getting all friendly again. I really wanted to get a good shot, and noticed a Japanese tourist with ah iPhone taking pictures, so I asked him to get some of me. No English, but he got the idea. I think he took about 50 shots, insisting on not giving the phone back to me until he’d gotten the perfect picture. My two favourites:
All said and done, I think we spent about 6-8 hours exploring the main site, and another 2-3 climbing Huayana Picchu. It was more than enough for us, and lots of organized tours do it much quicker. At the end, I climbed back up to the hill we’d started at the previous day when it was raining, and since it was now sunny I just lay down on the grass and took in the site for a bit.
One note on that: It was only around 20C when we were there, and the sun was deceptively strong – especially with the clouds. Despite putting on sunblock, I ended up with a nice light burn from the sun, and it wasn’t even out that long. Definitely have to remember to be careful at altitude!
Loved the step by step photos of your visit to Machu Picchu Jason!
great post. thanks for sharing. i was in Machu Picchu in 2002 (hiked only the Sacred Path) and really enjoyed my time there… recently United & Delta had a price war ($440 RT from MSP) for flights to LIM and so I find myself heading back for a second time in March for another go, this time the classic Inca Trail is on the agenda….
Great post and photos.
I am a fan of Inca myths and stories. Peru and countries in south america like Ecuador and Bolivia have a lot of history.
I am an Hispanic and proud to be a mixture of the Inca background. I have now made it my mission to help preserve it with my business.
The Incas were the most fascinating culture. They have left a lot for us to study and admire.
Thank you for sharing your experience with the world.
Great detailed article!
Thanks! Glad it was helpful!