It took me 52 countries around the world before number 53 finally brought me to one of my dream locations called Machu Picchu in the Peruvian jungle high in the Andean mountains. I do not intend to write about what I felt and saw when I was up there among the spirits of the Inca’s in the air but I rather prefer to write a small guide in how to reach Machu Picchu on your own without giving your money to the local Tourist Companies.
After arriving in Cusco somewhat 110 kilometers away from Machu Picchu we immediately went to “shop around” for a trip to Machu Picchu and the spiritual home of the Incas between 800-1500 AD. until the Spaniards came to take all and everything they could get their hands of and put the Incas to flee their magical home around 2400 meters above sea level in the Andes. What I cannot begin to understand is how it is possible for someone at the time before the machines to build something as spectacular like Machu Picchu in a territory that hard to reach so high above “civilization”!? I have seen breath taking monuments and creations that simply strikes me amazing, places like the Egyptian pyramids and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and these creations might be more spectacular in as a creation but the location of MP is the most impressive by far.
So how you save money and still reach Machu Picchu on your own is to be the subject as follows. The only way to reach Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) 110 kilometers from Cusco is to first take a bus/mini-van/car/taxi etc. to Ollantaytambo from where you will continue to Aguas Calientes that is by the foot of Machu Picchu and the small village you might want to overnight in to reach MP early next morning. To find the ride to Ollantaytambo you need to get yourself to Pavitas Street close to the city center of Cusco, and note that this is not the regular Bus Station of the city. From here you can chose to take a mini-van for 10 Soles and a car for 12 Soles each. You will arrive in Ollantaytambo around 1,5 to 2 hours later.
When you arrive at the train station of Ollantaytambo you better have your train tickets arranged before hand to secure that you will have a ride up to Aguas Calientes in the quite small trains that does not leave that often. A train ticket can be bought directly with Inca Rail or Peru Rail around Plaza de Armas in Cusco for the ridiculous over prize of more than 50 USD / one way considering it is only a 1’40 hour ride to Aguas Calientes.
When you arrive in Aguas Calientes you have all evening to enjoy the small pictures village and maybe take a dip in the Hot Springs that are located just 900 meters from the city center up in the rain forrest. A good idea is to book your accommodation before hand as well, especially during the high seasons when the place will be over packed, as it already was full during low season.
The next morning you have the option to start an early hike of more than 6 kilometers to reach Machu Picchu before the sun and the tourist crowds, or you can chose to take the first bus for the prize of 9,50 USD/one way that leaves at 5:30 AM. MP opens the doors at 6 AM and to avoid crowd and lines it is suggested to be here around this hour. If you chose to walk be aware of the high altitude and the fact that you might be burning all your energy before even reaching the actual Temples.
To be granted access to Machu Picchu you need to register yourself and buy a ticket for the prize of 128 Soles (approximately 50 USD). This can either be done in Aguas Calientes or in Cusco, again recommended as the maximum visitor per day is restricted to 2500 persons. The prize will be the same one way or the other, but remember the limits. If you chose to buy the ticket in Cusco (remember some kind of identification) you have to visit the cultural center of Cusco that is a bit from Plaza the Armas but easily can be accessed with taxi for the prize of approximately 4 Soles (1.50 USD).
A short list of “To Do’s” to make Machu Picchu on your own.
1) Buy your Train Tickets (Ollantaytambo-Aguas Calientes),around 100USD (return)
2) Buy your entrance to Machu Picchu, 50USD
3) Book your accommodation in Aguas Calientes
4) Get yourself with car or how ever you prefer to Ollantaytambo, 4USD
5) Enjoy Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, I promise that it will be an experience of a life time without a doubt! Do it now rather sooner than later as rumors has it that it might be closed for tourism within near future. Wonderful all in all and without more babbling I will let the pictures talk for themselves….