If you are going to Machu Picchu...

by - Saturday, April 20, 2013

 Where to Go

The Train- You can buy your train tickets online (PeruRail), because that is the only way tourists can get from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. If you are a hiking person, you  can get off about halfway to do the Inca Trail. We are not, so we took the train the whole way into town. At first, our plan was to only go to Machu Picchu for one day, but we decided last minute to do two. I HIGHLY recommend two days up there. We changed tickets at the Cuzco airport, and it was very simple. Buy tickets, because there is a limit on how many they can sell, but be open to changing directions.

To get up to Macchu Pichu, you have to go from the train station to the bus station (it's a short walk- probably five minutes) and buy bus tickets. They aren't very expensive, but you do have to wait in line when it is busy. 

Go to Machu Picchu! Once you get up there, you go through the gate, walk down a little path, and then suddenly, there you are. I highly recommend going left first, so you are on the agricultural side rather than the city side. It starts you off with the monster amazing view. The view that is on all the post cards. So, when you hit the crossroads, go left.

What to Do 

Explore Machu Picchu! That's what you are there for right? This is the point. There is nothing big to see in Aguas Calientes, so you should get up to MP as early as you can and leave as late as you can (the first day we were there, it rained a little at the end of the day, so the last 45 minutes it felt like we were practically the only ones there... it's worth it to hold out). Here are my other tips for getting the most out of your visit:
~You don't need to follow a path or get a guide. As you go from place to place, you can hear the guides for other groups (though they won't always speak your language).
~Definitely get off the common path, because it really gives you the feeling of being all alone. You are also more likely to run into the Chinchillas and llamas.
~Bring some snacks with you and drink lots of water. Nothing says happiness like sitting in the grass on Machu Picchu and eating some cookies. Don't waste time with the restaurant up there. The line is crazy long.
~Just enjoy it. There is no hurry, and you are pretty much guaranteed to see everything, so just enjoy walking around and feeling how freaking huge the whole place is.

Where to Stay

Once you get to Aguas Calientes, go ahead and take your stuff to your hotel. None of the hotels are particularly nice or gorgeous (if you want fancy there is one fancy hotel by the train and one up on the mountain at Machu Picchu. That stuff is crazy expensive, but it means you can see Machu Picchu at sundown or sun up, because the buses only run in daylight (for good reason, because the road up is pretty treacherous). Case and point, this is the only real picture I have from our hotel (and I take pictures of EVERYTHING). I wouldn't recommend the fancy hotel, because you aren't there to be fancy, you are there to see Machu Picchu. Get one of the ones on the river, because the sound of the rushing river is really loud and soothing.

Where to Eat

Aguas Calientes has the same kind of Peruvian mountain fare as Cuzco. We obviously only got to try a couple restaurants, but they were winners.

 El Indio Feliz is where we ate after we got engaged, so it has a special place in my heart. It is Peruvian-French fusion, and it was really great. The place is also a kind of multi-colored super tacky, covered in angels, Disney princess cottage kind of aesthetic, so I loved that too. We both got classic Peruvian meals- Fish with garlic sauce and Lomo Saltado, and they were both awesome. Such a weird fun experience after a day on Machu Picchu! Go there!

Hatun Runa Grill- We ate lunch here before catching the train back to Cuzco, and our biggest memory is that when we asked for the check early, they had no idea what we wanted from them. It was awkward. Also, we shared french fries, garlic bread, and soup, and they came in these elaborately stacked piles! It was good, but maybe not a can't miss. You could probably explore a little bit yourself and see what you find.

What to Pack

A Hat- Then don't forget it down at the hotel, because the ones they sell at Machu Picchu are both super ugly and not cheap. It may not seem like being up on the mountain would be hot and sunny, but as the day goes on, the sun comes out, and it is very easy to sunburn up there, basically above the clouds. Bring sunscreen, and keep putting it on. Also, bring a hat. For real.

Layers- You will start the day cold, and end the day hot, so be sure to have some options. Also, notice the water, the backpack that has snacks in it, and walking shoes.

At the same time, pack LIGHT. Most hotels in Cusco will let your leave your luggage with them, so only bring the smallest piece of luggage you brought with you. We both wore a lot of the same clothes both days (we brought everything we needed in that backpack, then emptied it out in the hotel room).
Bug Spray- Yep, I sprayed myself in the face. But it is important! Don't forget it!

And of course, remember your camera, because it is the most beautiful place in the whole world. Have fun and I hope this helps!

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