We had chosen to visit Peru in September for a very specific reason. It was at the end of the high season, and as such we thought that perhaps the sites we wanted to visit would be less crowded. Combined with still good weather (it would be cool, but still not much, if any, rain), we also anticipated not needing to make any accommodation reservations. This scheme was good, and it frankly worked out great in the rest of Peru, HOWEVER this was the big MP, and apparently every tourist decided to go there at exactly the time we did.
A word about the weather….if you are planning on visiting, consider your dates carefully. Thinking you are tough, and don’t mind a bit of wet, coming in the rainy season can be fraught with drama. In January, 2010, the Rio Vilcanota inundated the town with flood waters, forcing 2500 people to be airlifted by helicopter out of the valley. The train tracks had washed away. (Upon our return, we sat on the tracks for several hours, due to a landslide the day we were heading back to Cuzco, and this was with only a bit of drizzle).
We had made our reservations at the Cuzco office for PeruRail, as arriving by train is the only way to get there, unless you want to walk.
These reservations for trekking the Inca Trail DO need to be made months and months in advance, as they only allow 200 (! – only?) per day to begin to walk. Coming from Canada and the wilderness we are accustomed to hiking, this seems like an insane amount of people. Of course, this was before we got to Aguas Calientes, the town located at the base of Machu Picchu.
Upon arrival, we headed to the office which sold tickets, not only for the site itself, but also for the bus that would get us to the top. We contemplated walking up (oh, for a very brief 5 seconds) before we happily forked over the cash to get up there the 21st century (or lazy) way. The tickets for hiking up Huayna Picchu were sold out! Only 400 per day (again, ONLY!) This is the mountain featured on every photo you see of Machu Picchu, and we figured it would be a great place to see the sun come up. Oh well.
Although town looked pretty empty, and we knew there were other people around, we wanted to head up first thing in the morning to avoid the majority of crowds. This meant waking up at 5am, and being in line for the first 5:30am bus to the top. Getting to the bus stop that early, we were confident we’d have the site to ourselves for a time, but we were stopped in our tracks when we saw the lineup. Suffice it to say that 1000+ people had crawled out of every nook and cranny and had gotten in line before us.
|Our new traveling companions|
|Perhaps not a religious experience|
I’ve talked about how busy it was, but don’t let me dissuade anyone – this is a place that everyone should visit.
And a celebratory Pilsen to mark the achievement of visiting Machu Picchu.
Plan your visit to Peru, and this newly added Wonder of the World, but do it sooner rather than later, as there will just be more people there in the future.