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After our visit to Peru and the Machu Picchu hike, I decided to write it as a guide for the future (not too far away, for sure). Today I come to share it because everything tastes better if it is shared, and if it can help, well and good! Shall we start?
On our first afternoon in the city of Cusco, before starting our the Machu Picchu hike and the Sacred Valley, both Daniel and Paco began to feel the first symptoms of altitude sickness (also known as soroche in Peru), but it didn’t get worse, thank goodness for that! It convinced us of the importance of getting to the city and acclimatizing for a day or two before starting any tour to Machu Picchu. Some travelers go directly to Ollantaytambo when they arrive in Cusco, since it is at a lower altitude, almost 1.000 meters less than Cusco, located at 3.400 meters.
Before going into Machu Picchu hike we studied the area and we knew it perfectly without having been there and we considered to take advantage of the distance that separates Cusco from Machu Picchu to tour the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Everything went smoothly, we typed a message from WhatsApp to the indicated phone and in half an hour a very attentive boy came to where we were. He gave us an envelope with the entrance to Machu Picchu and tickets for the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
The next day he came to pick us up at 07:30 in the morning as we had agreed the previous evening. We left the large suitcase at the hotel and put the essentials in a backpack: lots of energy, sunscreen and warm clothes that we had been told about on several occasions. We already knew that the climate was changing, but it didn’t take long to experience it – we will always be grateful for the advice!
We arrived at the minibus, very new and comfortable, by the way. The guide welcomed us happily and during the next 10 minutes we made several stops until the vehicle was full. We were not too many, sixteen people in total and almost the same number of nationalities: Colombians, Australians, Spanish… A nice mix! The youngest would have been about 23 years old and the oldest about 55, regardless of age all eyes had a bright and youthful glow, it might had been the eager to start!
During the route the guide began by presenting the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is composed of several towns from which we would visit Pisac, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. He told us about life in Cusco and told all kinds of anecdotes that left you wanting more. When he spoke Spanish he did it very slowly, I think he did it so that the Brazilians could understand him too. When he switched to English he would pick up the pace, he was curious!
After almost an hour’s drive we arrived at the first stop, the archaeological zone of Pisac. Before accessing the guide bought us the tourist ticket of Cusco; in our case we decided to buy the partial one, which gave us access to the archaeological zones of the Sacred Valley. Other travelers bought the whole ticket to visit most of the tourist areas in and around Cusco. Returning to Pisac, we received a master lesson about its caves excavated in the mountain, the reason for their construction, their use… but I will not be the one to spoil you, you will have to make the Machu Picchu hike to discover the charms of the Inca culture.
After some free time we meet again to go to Pisac town. When we arrived we stopped in a street full of craft stores, we asked the guide and he told us that only 100 meters away was the central square of the town, where we could find a market. After a few minutes visiting stores we went to the square and discovered its colorful market. We bought some granadillas, one of my favorite fruits, walked around, saw several stores, bought two little things and returned to the minibus.
Urubamba and Ollantaytambo
The next stop was a restaurant in Urubamba. The truth is that I was hungry and I ate everything I wanted in the Peruvian food buffet, the gastronomy in Peru is exquisite! With our strength back, we set out for Ollantaytambo and its impressive fortress. The guide, just like in Pisac, gave us a guided tour and then left us free time to explore the territory and take pictures, of course.
When the time came, we meet to say goodbye, one part of the group continued the route to Chinchero and the other, where we were, would visit Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo. We had to walk 5 minutes without a guide to the train station, but there were no complications, the truth is that it was very easy: we simply had to walk two streets. The train surprised us! It was very elegant, with big windows, comfortable seats, air conditioning… A real luxury!
We enjoyed a drink and a snack, but without a doubt the best part was the view. To see how the tracks run through a small valley, without hurry, with the calm that a trip in such an emblematic train inspires, that is not surpassed by air conditioning or a cold drink. The distance between the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu was 34 kilometers and one and a half hours of time.
We arrived at Machu Picchu town, also known as Aguas Calientes, and Mrs. Rosa was waiting for us with a sign with our name on it. She accompanied us to our lodging, Hotel Rio Dorado and explained that Jaqueline would pick us up the next day and would be our guide at Machu Picchu. As our entry time to Machu Picchu was 00:70 in the morning she picked us up at 06:00. After 20 minutes by bus we arrived at Machu Picchu. There were quite a few people at the entrance, but in only 15 minutes we were inside, just in time!
The clouds were clearing and the sky went from gray to blue in a few minutes. The guide recommended that we take advantage of the first viewpoints to take pictures because later we would not have the opportunity to go back. Said and done, the 7 travelers who made the guided tour took out our cameras and took many pictures of an incredible landscape that we had wanted to see for a long time.
We continued with the Machu Picchu hike and discovered that Jaqueline was a great guide. Construction techniques, transportation, lifestyle… She informed us about everything! And after a while came the big question: What does Machu Picchu mean? Jaqueline answered, with incredible confidence and professionalism, that it simply means ‘old mountain’ in Quechua. She also made it clear to us that Machu Picchu is not the original name because it was lost when the Incas abandoned the citadel.
I was surprised that, unlike other times when I had visited Machu Picchu, this time certain areas were just passing through, like the ‘sundial’. We couldn’t stop, we just had a few seconds to appreciate it. There is no doubt that each time the visit to Machu Picchu is more regulated to protect it and that it will last for many years to come.
We finished the visit in the lower part of Machu Picchu and stayed exploring it on our own for half an hour until it started raining and we decided to return to Aguas Calientes. Many travelers did the same, so we had to wait half an hour to take the bus back to Aguas Calientes, where we had a bite to eat before taking the train to Ollantaytambo.
Back to Cusco
When we arrived in Ollantaytambo we left the station and met David. I had his phone number in case I couldn’t find him, since sometimes there are a lot of people, but it wasn’t necessary. The driver took us to our accommodation in Cusco with his 9-seater van, perfect for us to be comfortable.
It took us a little over an hour to get to Cusco. We said goodbye to the driver, David, and it was then that we realized that the end of our trip to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley had arrived, but we consoled ourselves by thinking that we still had days to discover Peruvian traditions. You can’t imagine how many things can be done in Peru!
Machu Picchu is a magical place that transports you to the Inca era and makes you live and enjoy it. Words do not go far enough to describe the majesty of the place, so the only thing I can add is that you throw yourself into the adventure. When do you plan your Machu Picchu hike?