We woke up at 5 am to get on one of the first buses in Aguas Calientes that takes you the 20 minute bus ride to Machu Picchu. When we got to the bus station I was shocked by the size of the line. It was huge! I could not see the end of it. Lucky for us, our guide had paid someone to wait in line for us. We were able to get on one of the first 15 buses.
I will not waste your time going through everything we saw at Machu Picchu, but I’ll give you some tips. Go as early as possible. Lots of people want to see this site, and by noon it was packed with a lot of people.
Go see the bridge. It was foggy when we first arrived and our guide suggested that we don’t go straight into the main ruins at first. I am really glad we did this. It allowed for some solitude and the throngs of tourists had not caught up with us yet.
If you are there early and you find some space to sit and reflect, then do it. I had a few moments to quietly sit on an ancient stone while my crew sipped water and relaxed. Even a moment of reflection helps you begin to understand the might of the Andeans.
Go hike Huayna Picchu. It’s the tall mountain behind Machu Picchu ruins. You need to pre-book tickets to this section, but it is a very special place. It is said that this is where the high priest and the virgins lived.
Beyond its historical and/or legendary importance, Huayna Picchu has personal importance to me. I asked my boyfriend (now fiance) to marry me at the very top of it. It takes about 45 minutes to climb to the top of the mountain. It sits at ~9000 feet, and is ~1000 feet higher than Machu Picchu. When we got to the top there was no good place to ask him, so I got down on one knee on top of a very scary slanted rock face and proposed. He said, “yes.”
My sister and brother-in-law were there. Our guide was also with us and about 10 other hikers that once can only assume were surprised.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, but the site had been overrun with tourists by 1:00 PM. That was ok with us. We were all tired. We took a bus down to Aguas Calientes, had a celebratory beer with our guide and bordered the train back to Ollyantambo. Our van driver was waiting for us there, and he drove us back to Cusco.
If you are not with an agency, there are a lot of vans waiting at the Ollyantambo train station that are going back to Cusco. My guide told me you can get on one for $20. If you are a thrifty traveler, I would totally recommend that option.
We made it back to Cusco, and said goodbye and thank you to Cesar. He was a fantastic guide. I finished the night with a plate of spaghetti at cafe called Kuska fe in Cusco. Everyone else had sandwiches or salads and those were pretty good. I am not sure what I was thinking ordering pasta, but it was not impressive at all.