Alas, the pinnacle of our South America trip: Machu Picchu. Starting from Colombia to Cuzco, we had slowly acclimated to the increasing altitude and were ready to face the world wonder.
Train to Aguas Calientes
With two days to spare, we decided to do Machu Picchu the easy way: take the train to Aguas Calientes, which is a town located a few miles from the site. We took the PeruRail from the Poroy station in Cuzco to the town. Our train was the Vistadome, which had panoramic windows on the side and top. It was a steady and scenic 3.5 hour ride, including one stop at Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. The view felt unreal, like we were teleported into a photo on National Geographic. We ooh’ed and ah’ed until our coca teas faded and we fell asleep for a nap.
Tip: Book your train and tour tickets well before your trip. Tickets can sell out weeks in advance, especially if you go during the popular months of May – September.
We stayed at the Ecopackers Hostel. The staff here were very friendly and organized, and there was a bar/lounge upstairs that served inclusive breakfast.
As expected, Aguas Calientes seemed to exist for the sole reason of catering to tourists. We’d read about the over priced/mediocre food online, and our experience was a confirmation to it. Most restaurants here either offer the same generic Peruvian menu or basic American items like pizza and hamburgers, and at double the price. It’s no surprise since the town’s only connection to supplies are the train tracks that run through it, and shipping is very expensive. Your best bet is to just pick a place with no expectations. On our first day, we had lomo saltado at Julian’s and a pizza for dinner nearby the hostel.
Aside from its touristy appeal, the quaint town has an old-fashioned, western atmosphere. Locked away in the mountains, the place feels completely disconnected from the rest of Peru.
Hike to Machu Picchu
We woke up at 4:30 am the next day and ate breakfast at the hostel which consisted of fruits, bread, and a light pasta. And coca tea of course. We left our luggage with the hostel and began our 2 hour trek to the ruins. If we could re-do it, we would’ve rather taken the bus to the ruins then hiked from the ruins to the peak. After this hike, we were not up for another one.
The hike can be moderate to difficult depending on your level of experience. The path is a constant step incline. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and refreshing all at the same time. We felt so alive!!
It was pretty freaking surreal when we finally witnessed what we’ve only seen on Google images. We spent a couple hours there taking in the breathtaking view.
Lots of Photos!
Back in Aguas Calientes
We took the bus back down and then had a light (kinda gross actually) lunch. The rest of the day before our train ride back to Cuzco was spent with another massage at Samay (highly recommend!) and a few card games outside. And as soon as we got on the train, we were ready to knock out!