29 May 2017
There is no question as to why Machu Picchu is the numero uno destination for travellers visiting South America. As one of the "New" Seven Wonders of the World, this iconic landmark has become the backdrop to this diverse continent since tourism hit the stage in the late 1970's.
With a selection of flights departing daily, we recommend LATAM Airlines to journey from Peru’s coastal capital Lima across to Cusco; the gateway to Machu Picchu. It’s a good idea to spend a couple of days in Cusco (or Cuzco as it is known locally) to slowly adjust to the increased altitude of this Andean city and minimise any altitude sickness you may encounter. There is a welcoming European essence to Cusco that’s evident in the buildings, cobblestone streets and restaurants, making the city a pleasure to stroll around at your own pace. Be sure to venture to Mercado Centro de San Pedro, the local market buzzing with fresh produce, lechón (suckling pig) and soft Alpaca woollen garments in vibrant Aztec patterns.
Pre-booking a Machu Picchu trek before you depart Australia will ensure you are in the hands of an established tour company (with the best possible sleeping facilities!) and that the departure date fits in nicely with your travel schedule. Peru is a year round destination with high season from June – August. With a limited number of permits available every day, it is recommended booking at least 6 months in advance as treks running in these peak months will do sell out.
If trekking is not your cup of tea, or if you are pressed for time, the PeruRail train journey is an excellent alternative. The train will take you straight to Machu Picchu station, which is a 3.5 hour direct trip from Cusco. We suggest arriving the afternoon before you wish to see the ancient site, just as the trekking groups will be arriving into the town of Aguas Calientes for the last evening of their adventure.
By foot or by train - you will be thrilled to arrive in Aguas Calientes, the town is buzzing with excited tourists eager to reach Machu Picchu the next morning. You might even want to pack your swimmers and visit the nearby thermal pools (which do look more like hot baths). Auguas Calientes in English translates literally to “Hot Water” – handy to keep in mind after a very early and chilly start to your day visiting Machu Picchu. For a small town, Aguas Calientes has a plethora of dining options, so settle in and treat yourself to a Peruvian Pisco Sour cocktail. Not too many though… wake up call is just around the corner!
Up to 2,500 visitors are permitted to enter Machu Picchu each day, so it is recommended you arrive at sunrise before the swarms of people at late morning. The first bus leaves Aguas Calientes at 5.30 am or set your alarm as we did and follow the crowds at 4am walking from town to the entrance of the park. The climb is quite steep but if you are not exhausted from trekking the days before we suggest taking on the challenge of this last leg of the journey.
As the misty clouds are clearing and the lush green grass between the ruins becomes visible, it’s finally time to stop and take in the view.
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