It is early. Too early! Not even 6 hours sleep after an exhausting day on the motorcycle (“how to organize a tour to Machu Picchu”). It is 4:45 am and I am getting ready to see the sunrise over Machu Picchu.
This was at least the plan…
“Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca site located on a ridge between the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains in Peru. It sits 7,970 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level on the eastern slope of the Andes and overlooks the Urubamba River hundreds of feet below.
The site’s excellent preservation, the quality of its architecture, and the breathtaking mountain vista it occupies has made Machu Picchu one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world today. The site covers 80,000 acres (32,500 hectares). Terraced fields on the edge of the site were once used for growing crops, likely maize and potatoes.
In 1911, explorer Hiram Bingham III, a professor at Yale University, visited the site and published its existence for the first time. He found it covered with vegetation, much of which has now been removed. The buildings were made without mortar (typical of the Inca), their granite stones quarried and precisely cut.” (Source: Livescience)
When I finished the breakfast and tried to get the first bus heading to Machu Picchu I was obviously not the first one who had the same idea. Not only was the queue enormous but also the buses had delays due to a landslide. Consequently, I was watching the sunrise at the bus stop and not at Machu Picchu… what a start!!!!
And my luck continued… The weather was absolutely crappy, it rained and of course it was super foggy… not the best conditions to see one of the seven wonders of the world and reminded me of my morning hike to Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka. I crossed my fingers for a better experience this time.
By the time I arrived to the entrance of Machu Picchu I got approached by plenty of tour guides who all wanted to sell me a first class Machu Picchu experience. The last one in line did actually a good job and convinced me to join a small group of people – an Indonesian lady and me 🙂
It was the best decision ever! Without a tour guide you are completely lost and basically only see some stone buildings without explanation… I only paid 60 soles for a 2 hour tour, too. Quite cheap compared to what I would have needed to pay if decided to go in advance with an agency from Cusco, for example.
Machu Picchu is a bit of a tourist trap, really.
The Machu Picchu experience is quite expensive and it seems people rip you off for everything. Even the toilets need to be paid in front of the entrance! I decided to open my own toilet business after finishing my overlanding journey. I would enter the business with different toilet options… cheap, middle and luxury toilet paper for a different customer experience, lol.
The experience is amazing! Whether or not the weather is crappy!
However, the guide was doing an amazing job and I highly enjoyed the tour at the most famous archaeological site in South America. It is amazing what the Incas were capable of doing already a couple of hundred years ago. I was simply impressed and speechless by the history, the culture, the knowledge in astronomy and architecture of the past.
The fog and the rain gave Machu Picchu a mystical touch that day while the archeological site and surrounding mountains were covered in clouds.
It could have been just a little bit less foggy sometimes… lol. Especially when trying to get the popular picture from the guard house on top of Machu Picchu. I had to be patient… not my best skill to be honest.
Somehow I was lucky and the clouds disappeared, revealing a beautiful view over Machu Picchu. I took the chance and took immediately pictures of this amazing place. I loved it!!!! Every detail of the fortress was a master piece of “art”.
When I touched one of the polished stones I became part of the history. Machu Picchu!
After the end of the tour I took the next bus into town and almost missed my train to Santa Teresa. Of course, I was not the only one who wanted to catch the bus and hundreds of people were waiting together with me at the bus stop.
When I was sitting in the train I felt immediately to sleep and only woke up when arriving in Santa Teresa. I walked back to the parking lot, changed my clothes and was on my way back to Cusco… NOT!
Change of Plans
I underestimated the weather conditions again and when it was cold and raining when I drove to Machu Picchu, it was this time FREEZING COLD, RAINING and FOGGY! I had to stop several times to warm up my fingers since I could not move them properly anymore. It was crazy!
I made very poor progress until it started to get already dark even before reaching Ollantaytambo. The mountain pass was just very difficult to ride under these circumstances and it would have been stupid to continue the ride. Spontaneously, I decided to stay for one night in the cute town of Ollantaytambo in the nice Hotel Munay Tika.
- If you want to be under the first tourists on the way up to Machu Picchu be at 4:30 at the bus stop (30 minutes before the first bus officially leaves). If you come like me at 5:00 there will be already a loooooong queue waiting for you. Alternatively, hike up to Machu Picchu but be prepared for a steep unspectacular climb in the dark.
- Get yourself a tour guide at the entrance of Machu Picchu. If you can come up with a small group, the price will drop.
- Be prepared for wind and rain, if you come during the “off season”.
- Get the famous Machu Picchu stamp into your passport at the exit.
- Stay 2 nights in Aguas Calientes, otherwise it will get quite stressful. Thereby, also explore either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain (book in advance).
- Check out more information on Machu Picchu on this really well written travel blog.