We left Cuzco on a Sunday morning and took the train to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo). Many people trek to Machu Picchu, but we didn’t have any hiking gear with us. We could have rented gear, but to be honest, trekking and camping in the cool, wet weather just didn’t sound fun to either of us. Jeff sprung for the expensive train tickets (about $80 each, one way) so we were treated to a commentary during the ride, windows in the ceilings of the railcars, and a full meal. This was probably the nicest train ride we have ever been on!
The small town of Aguas Calientes exists solely to support tourism for the Inka ruins. There really isn’t anything to do there except to see Machu Picchu. We arrived in the mid-afternoon, and were met at the train station by staff from the hotel we were staying in:
That afternoon, we walked outside of town and went to a museum to learn a little bit more about Machu Picchu since we weren’t planning on hiring a guide to show us the ruins, and we knew there wouldn’t be any posted information anywhere else. After dinner, we went to bed early since we would have to get up around 4am the next day to head up to the ruins!
Again, opting out of hiking the hour and half straight up to Machu Picchu, we got in line before 5am to ride the bus up to the ruins ($24 pp/round trip). Buses started running around 5:30am, and we were to the top a little before 6:30am. Once we got through the gate, we slowly made our way over to Wayna Picchu (also spelled Huayna Picchu). Jeff had purchased our Machu Picchu tickets a few weeks ago while we were in Australia. It wasn’t completely necessary to do that (you could have gotten tickets in town easily), but it did mean that we were able to get special tickets to hike Wayna Picchu, which does sell out since they cap the number of visitors. The ruins sit in between Machu Picchu Mountain and Wayna Picchu Moutain, so going up one of these offers a different vantage point. A friend (thank you Krissy!), recommended we hike Wayna Picchu, and we are so glad we did! Below: the first picture is the view of the ruins from the top of Wayna Picchu, and the others are facing Wayna Picchu- we hiked all the way to the top!
It was a pretty strenuous climb (maybe it would have been easier if we were in shape?), and we opted to do the longer hike around the entire mountain in order to see a cave that was supposedly a temple for the moon (based on the direction it faces).
We spent the rest of the morning exploring the ruins and headed back to town around 2 pm.
Our train didn’t leave until the afternoon the next day, so we had to get creative with how we spent our time. Note: 2 nights in Aguas Calientes is plenty! We walked up to the hot springs that the city is named after (aguas calientes = hot water), paid a few soles, and bathed in the hot tubs. Afterwards, we ate our way around town, stopping in a few restaurants and cafes.
We are incredibly lucky that we had amazing weather to see Machu Picchu. The ruins were amazing and definitely lived up to the hype. We would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to travel to South America!