Machu Picchu – the most famous set of Inca ruins in the whole of Peru, AND probably the most visited place in Peru!
For many people Machu Picchu is the final destination of a multi-day trek, for others they are there as part of a guided tour… for them the logistics are nicely taken care of…
For us, and all other people trying to navigate a visit to Machu Picchu on their own, it’s slightly more complicated – especially since the rules changed on 1 July 2017…
Before 1 July 2017 it was nice and simple – either you were included in the 2,500 people that were allowed to visit Machu Picchu in any given day, or you weren’t…. On 1 July 2017 the number of visitors allowed to visit per day increased from 2,500 to 5,940!?! So – more chance of you getting to visit on your preferred date 🙂 BUT hey, wait…visit times became limited to two time slots!?! So either you joined the 3,267 people that visited in the morning from 6am-12pm, or you visited with the other 2,673 in the afternoon from 12pm until 6pm when the site closes…!?!
If you also want to climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain while you’re there, then that just adds another level of complexity into the equation… as there are an additional FOUR possible tickets to choose from depending on the time you want to climb the mountain…
After a LOT of time spent on the internet we decided to go for the Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain combined ticket… Huayna Picchu is uber popular and there were no tickets left by the time we got our butts into gear to book, so we didn’t loose any time deliberating over which mountain to climb!!! By choosing to climb a mountain, we’d indirectly opted for a morning slot (you can’t have an afternoon slot and climb a mountain!)… one less decision to make! All that was left to do was decide what time we wanted to climb the mountain i.e. between 7am and 8am, or between 9am and 10am…We opted for the second slot – just in case the stories we’d read on-line about delays with buses and entering Machu Picchu became reality on the day we visited – we didn’t want to miss the slot after all!!!
We were prepared and ready to go…
Lie-ins aren’t really a thing in Peru… BUT our day trip to Machu Picchu took things to a whole new level – the alarm went off at 4:15am… and we were dressed and eating the hostal breakfast by 4:30am… We made sandwiches for our illegal packed lunch (yep, according to the rules no food or plastic water bottles are to be taken on site… but we were going to try and take them in anyway as we’d read that this rule wasn’t really enforced anyway…), and left the hostal bright and early, with our pre-purchased bus tickets in hand…
The streets were busy with tourists – everyone was heading to the bus stop to catch the shuttle bus to the entrance of Machu Picchu… The first bus leaves Aguas Calientes at 5:30am – when we arrived at the bus stop a little before 6am the line was INSANE…
But with no real alternative we stuck it out and waited for the bus… which was probably the right thing to do as the line went down pretty quickly and we were on the bus after about 30 minutes… The 35 minute bus ride up the mountain to the entrance was pretty scenic 🙂
On arrival we went to the bathroom… there are NO toilets once you pass the entrance AND you are only allowed to be re-admitted once during your visit… yikes!!!
Once inside (it was now 7am) we had 3 hours until the cut-off point for our entry to Machu Picchu Mountain… We opted for the lower route – all the tour groups were heading up high.. our instinct – to go the opposite way!?! 🙂
The mist had yet to rise… leaving the ruins looking very atmospheric… and it was a pretty tantalising experience as the mist rose and revealed the next previously hidden part of the ruins…
Our pre-Machu Picchu Mountain loop was officially known as the red/blue loop on the map that we got once through the gate…It was a pretty awesome loop as it took in most of the ‘main’ parts of the archaeological site – the temple of the sun, the house of the Incas, the condor temple, the main square, the observatory, the temple of the three windows – and by not heading straight to the famous viewpoint at the House of the Guardians at the top of the terraces – we were also ahead of ALL the tour groups – result 🙂
After our morning lap it was time to exit Machu Picchu, as not only were we a little peckish, but we wanted to go to the bathroom before the BIG ascent up Machu Picchu Mountain!!!
We re-entered the site and headed for the entrance to climb Machu Picchu Mountain – arriving there just in time at 9:54am.
You can read about our trip up Machu Picchu Mountain in another post – coming soon! – by dividing the posts up I don’t have to limit my picture picking as much and it’s already been an almost impossible task as we took way too many pictures while we were there!!!
By the time we were back in the main Machu Picchu grounds after climbing the mountain, it was already a little after 1pm… had we overstayed our time slot, or as we had read online – were we entitled to a little extra time as we’d used some of our time up by climbing a mountain? The rules really weren’t clear… We stayed!!! Apparently nearly everyone who comes for the morning slot overstays, as there is no real method to kick people out (except that most people need to go to the toilet more than once in 8 hours!?!).
Our next destination within Machu Picchu – Intipunkur, the Sun gate.
The Sun gate is a bit of a trek from the main area and it’s uphill…but even though the skies clouded over and we got a few drops of rain and rumbles of thunder in the background – the views from the Sun gate were pretty spectacular.
The Puente Inka (or Inca Bridge) was next… the trail to the bridge hugged the side of the cliff and afforded great views of the surrounding cloud forest. We spotted a snake on this trail too 🙂
After retracing our steps we rejoined the main loop – and as it’s a one-way only loop -walked around it again to find our way out! Stopping a few times on the way of course…to ensure we didn’t leave without a ‘classic’ Machu Picchu shot!?!
We finally left the Machu Picchu site at around 4:15pm… so only a little bit after 12pm then!!! 🙂 And seeing the line for the bus back to Aguas Calientes, we decided not to purchase tickets – but to instead head back down to Aguas Calientes on foot… on a nice trail that criss-crossed the road 🙂
It had been a huge, but AMAZING day… Machu Picchu actually exceeded our expectations, and the vast numbers of visitors to the site didn’t affect our enjoyment (as we had somehow managed to follow an itinerary that missed most of the crowds…) (by accident! 🙂 )