Adventures in Peru, Part 3: Machu Picchu

The final descent to Machu Picchu was one filled with joy, excitement, curiosity, and a sense of accomplishment.

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Our descent from the Sun Gate ended at the famous spot overlooking the ruins of Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu in the background.  You know, this famous spot…

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From this famous spot, we walked down to the main entrance to store our large packs and then set out to explore the ruins with our group.

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It was incredible to stand on the large terraces and look upon all of the ruins and breath-taking panoramic mountain views.

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Even pictures don’t do justice to how beautiful this site really is in person. It was even more majestic than I expected it to be.

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We toured the ruins, and visited the major sites including some of the below:

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Temple of the Sun

Sacrificial Altar

Sacrificial Altar

Rock found here shaped like the landscape of Machu Picchu

Rock found here shaped like the landscape of Machu Picchu

Famous Sun Dial

Famous Sun Dial

Temple of the Condor

Temple of the Condor

"Windows"

“Windows”

Sacred Rock

Sacred Rock

After our tour of the main area of Machu Picchu, T and I took off to hike the famous Huayna Picchu.

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The Large Mountain to the right is Huayna Picchu (a.ka. Wayna Picchu)

We had secured tickets for Huayna Picchu when we booked the Inca Trail, because like the Inca Trail, space is limited (the Inca Trail allows 500 people per day including porters and guides and 400 people are allowed up Huayna Picchu – contrasted to the 2,500 people allowed into Machu Picchu each day). Basically, in order to visit Huayna Picchu, you will need to book the tickets in advance. They are an additional $75 per ticket (it’s also $75 just for entry into Machu Picchu).

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The other main reason I bought the tickets in advance is because I knew that this would make me actually hike up Huayna Picchu after already trekking for 3 days (it’s about 1-1.5 hours to hike to the top). In the beginning, I was wondering what I got myself into…it’s definitely steeper and more treacherous than any part of the Inca Trail. The hike up consists of pretty steep stairs very close to the edges of cliffs in some parts, so it definitely takes a bit of physical skill and courage (I’m not a very big fan of heights, but I just stuck low to the ground whenever I felt uncertain). It is absolutely worth it though.

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It was certainly worth it once we got to the top! Amazing Bird’s Eye View of Machu Picchu:

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Aside from the wonderful birds eye views of Machu Picchu and surrounding mountains/valleys, the ruins at the top of the mountain, and the natural beauty of the mountain itself, one of my favorite parts of climbing Huayna Picchu was at the tallest part of the mountain. There is a large rock that juts out over the mountain and gives you a stunning almost 360 degree view of the mountains and valley surrounding Machu Picchu.

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The one thing that we missed that I have heard so many good things about is the Temple of the Moon. It’s a bit of a mission to get to, but I really wish they hadn’t of closed the path by the time we reached it. My recommendation is to buy the early entrance tickets to Huayna Picchu (the 7 to 8 AM slot), and get to the Temple of the Moon because apparently they close the path in the afternoons. We had the 10-11 AM entrance tickets and they had closed the path by the time we got to the top and tried to descend to the temple because it takes a few hours to do the circuit to get to the Temple of the Moon and they require you to exit Huayna Picchu by 2PM. I guess we have a reason to go back!

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We enjoyed the view from the top of Huayna Picchu and then descended back down to Machu Picchu to check out a couple of the ruins we weren’t able to see on our tour yet.

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By this point in the afternoon, both of us were pretty exhausted and were ready to head down to Aguas Calientes, the little town below Machu Picchu. We happened to be the last 2 people let onto the bus heading down to Aguas Calientes from Machu Picchu. When we got on, there was one seat on an aisle, and one “seat” in the very back, that was taken over by 4 very large men. I left it to T to try to attempt sitting there. This is how it ended:

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After getting dropped off in Aguas Calientes, we decided the hot springs sounded like a great idea, so we headed through town to find those and spend a little time relaxing and recovering from the hike.

The hot springs are cheap, were decent, and were quite refreshing after the long trek, but I wouldn’t say it is a must-see site. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pics because we had to lock our stuff in the lockers provided. After our soak in the springs, we walked back through the cute little town of Aguas Calientes (it is very charming) to meet up with Leo and the Brazilians for a much needed lunch/dinner and Pisco Sours…mmmm, so delicious.

If I were able to do Machu Picchu again, I think I would spend the night in Aguas Calientes, and go back to Machu Picchu for a 2nd day. Machu Picchu really is a massive archaeological site, and I felt as though we could have spent more time there just to wander around the main ruins a bit more, as well as to see a few of the sites on the outskirts (Inca Bridge, etc.) and to possibly hike Machu Picchu Mountain, which is on the opposite side of Huayna Picchu and actually taller than Huayna Picchu.

Visiting Machu Picchu was definitely worth the wait, and I am glad we checked this one off our bucket list because you never know how long these sites will be around!

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