So you decided to embark upon one of the greatest adventures of your life as a traveler and visit one of the great Wonders of the World. You already booked your flight and a hotel in the city of Cusco. You’re off to a great start! Make sure you purchase your tickets for the train with anticipation, as they may sell out on specific dates. Consider buying your entrance to Machu Picchu beforehand as well. (www.machupicchu.gob.pe) Many people don’t know what to expect when travelling to Machu Picchu. You’ve seen the pictures and learned about some of the history, but getting there can be quite the expedition! That is why we will provide you with useful tips and the necessary information for making this trip with ease.
1. What you will need in Cusco
In order to get to Machu Picchu, first you must fly to Cusco, and to fly to Cusco you must fly to Lima. Luckily, there are many flights daily from Lima to Cusco so if you’re not planning on staying and visiting Lima (which we do recommend!), you could easily find a flight to fit your schedule. Weather in Cusco usually averages between 1ºC (33.8F) and 21ºC (69.8F) so make sure to bring a comfy jacket, it is particularly cold at night. Rain is also quite common so a raincoat might be a good idea too. You might be able to buy a very cheap plastic poncho in the city, too. The city of Cusco lies at 3400 meters above sea level, so if you’re not used to altitude, there is a chance you might feel altitude sickness. This includes shortness of breath and lightheadedness so the best remedy is to just take it easy. Don’t go trekking and hiking as soon as you get there! Locals also recommend drinking coca tea.
2. Travelling to the train station
Once you are in Cusco, your next step is to get to the train station, which is located in Ollantaytambo, approximately an hour and a half or two hours away from the city by car. If you purchased our Executive Bimodal service (valid until April 31st), you must head over to the San Pedro station in Cusco, where one of our buses will take you straight to the train station. From May onward, our trains from Poroy station will be in order, located 25 to 40 minutes away from the Plaza de Armas. Sit back and enjoy the view. You can learn more about our bimodal service here. Remember to bring your raincoat, some insect repellent, and also take your passport with you, which will be requested many times during the trip.
3. The train ride
You have arrived at the train station and are ready to board the train. This is where your mystical Inca Rail experience begins. You are about to embark upon the same routes that took explorers to the lost citadel of the Incas at the beginning of the 20th century. You will cross through the Andes into the “ceja de selva” or high jungle, and it is a harsh terrain, so expect the train to go slowly from time to time and in certain moments there will be rocking back and forth! Witness the amazing transition from the Sacred Valley of the Incas to the jungle highlands of Aguas Calientes as you go through snow peaked mountains alongside the Vilcanota River. You will even see some Inca structures along the way. It will be hard keeping your eyes off the scenery, but remember to take some pictures!
4. Arriving in Aguas Calientes
You step off the train and find yourself in Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Village. Here, you will find a market with many different crafts and textiles, and the buses that will take you up to the Machu Picchu site. You could choose to do the trek up the mountain, which takes about an hour and a half, or take 20 minute bus ride.
5. Getting to Machu Picchu
When you arrive at the gates of the monument you will find different guides you can choose to group up with alongside other members of the tour. That is, if you haven’t booked a guided tour from Cusco, Ollantaytambo, or at the hotel you’re staying. If you do look for a guide at the gates make sure you talk to a few to get a feel for their knowledge of the site and their level of English (or whichever you would prefer, like French or Portuguese). Keep in mind that a lot of the history of this ancient site remains a mystery until today so look for a guide that acknowledges this, instead of providing definite and perhaps wrong information.
Time to explore!
Prepare to have your breath taken away when you first gaze upon the citadel. Enter the city and see for yourself the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Three Windows, Temple of the Condor, the Sun Gate and the Intihuatana rock. Many adventurous travellers plan to hike Huayna Picchu, the mountain behind Machu Picchu often featured in the photos. We hope you had a great tour! Time to head back to the hotel for some well deserved rest.