26 Jun General travel tips for Peru and Machu Picchu
If you’re looking for a good guide book that has travel tips for Peru, Lonely Planet covered the country well. (I’m a big Rick Steves fan, but he sticks to Europe).
If you’re looking for a travel company to take care of everything, contact Condor Travel. I told them my timeline, what I wanted to see, and how much I was willing to spend on hotels, and they created the perfect itinerary, complete with transportation. Since I have to think and problem-solve for a living, I really prefer to not do that while on vacation in an unfamiliar place. Plus, we’d heard and read about several kidnapping and robbery stories along the roads we needed to take, so we felt safer traveling with a guide from an established company. To have someone at each of our stops pretty much do everything for us except pin our entrance tickets to our shirts like little kindergarteners was great. We usually do everything on our own in Europe because those types of services are out of our budget, but fees were so much lower in Peru, so we enjoyed every minute of it.
Be sure to experience Machu Picchu while you have the chance. The Peruvian government is a little hinkey with their distribution of funds. Let’s just say that all of the revenue that the ancient site brings in doesn’t quite make it back for repairs and maintenance. I sure hope things change (if they haven’t already) so that the ruins will be preserved.
Condor Travel arranged our time there beautifully. We arrived by train in Aguas Calientes by mid-morning, checked into our hotel and took the bus to Machu Picchu in time to start exploring the ruins before lunch. We spent the entire afternoon hiking, first to a vantage point across from the ruins (Intipunku), and then back amongst the ruins themselves. Please be advised that there are no restroom facilities among the ruins, so if nature calls when you’re at the far side, it’s a good 10-15 minute hike back to the modern facilities at the entrance. This shouldn’t be an issue for most people – unless your digestive track is knocked out of whack, which happens to a lot of people while traveling.
If you have the opportunity, spend the night in Aguas Calientes. This will allow you to get in line at 4 AM to take one of the first buses (they start at 7ish AM) up to Machu Picchu. Why the heck would you want to do that? So you can be the first to enter Machu Picchu, the first to trek all the way across the ruins, and be one of only two hundred to obtain a ticket which will allow you to ascend Wayna Picchu. You will be given a time to come back to make your ascent, which means you will have time to mill around Machu Picchu and get some great photos before the crowds start arriving.
Wayna Picchu…how do I describe it? Ascending the mountain was like being in an Indiana Jones movie. There were no guard rails. There were stone steps in areas, mud in others, and sometimes a small chain to hold onto to help you up a steep slope. It was AWESOME! No climbing equipment is needed, but you do need to be very careful and deliberate. If you horse around, you might just take a nose dive off the edge of a mountain. We were one of the first to reach the peak that day. And when the clouds parted, we were able to look down and take in Machu Picchu in all of its glory. Beautiful!
Because Condor Travel knew we wanted to do this, they booked us on an early afternoon train so that we wouldn’t be rushed. Two ladies who we met on the way up did not use the same company and were booked on an earlier train. They realized half-way up Wayna Picchu that they would not be able to finish the climb if they wanted to make it to their train. If you want to finish your ascent, don’t book a morning return train.
To view my top three travel tips for Peru, read my previous blog post.
To view pictures of our Peruvian adventures, you can browse our photojournal.