Probably one of the highlights of my trip was Machu Picchu. I’ve traveled to a lot of places, but that first glimpse of the ancient citadel as the mountain was slowly emerging from the morning mist left me literally speechless.
After being in Cusco (and trying to acclimate to the altitude) for a few days, I found a local tour that would take me and a few others around to a few different villages in the Valle Sagrada, eventually dropping me off in the town of Ollantaytambo. Once there, I walked around, had some delicious tea and an avocado and egg sandwich, and found a room to rent in a lovely house just a few minutes from the main square for when I’d come back after spending two days in Machu Picchu. From here, I caught the train to the small town of Aguas Calientes, located at the bottom of the valley and only about an hour walk (or 20 minute bus ride) up to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Here’s a view from one of the roads on the way to Chinchero (one of the villages on my tour) from Cusco.
This was the market in the village of Pisac (another village from my tour – where I also came back later from Cusco just to check out the local market).
One of the local Quechua women who was selling handwoven textiles near one of the ruins in Pisac.
The setting sun at the Ollantaytambo train station as my train was arriving.
The train ride was fantastic. Of course, there was tea service, but the views were unbelievable.
This was the scene in Aguas Calientes as people lined up to be on one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu. There were probably 100-150 people in line, with some of the locals selling coffee and sandwiches to everyone who didn’t want to give up their place in line. Oh, and this was around 3:30 am.
First light near Machu Picchu.
I don’t think I saw the sun once while I was up here, but the landscape would change every 10-15 minutes as the mist rolled through. The citadel and surrounding mountains (and view of the river) would become visible for a few minutes, only to be shrouded in mist as soon as you’d look away.
The Andes in the distance.
This was the view as I began the hike up Machu Picchu Mountain, which is basically about 2 hours of stairs, but with amazing views at the end. While I wasn’t bent over trying desperately to catch my breath, and realizing how out of shape I was, it was actually a really nice hike.
Some friends I made along the way up as we stopped to catch our breath at the same intervals.
Everyone relaxing at the top. Since there were only a certain number of tickets issued per day, we were all split into two groups based on the time we started our journey up, so we had only a limited time to stay at the top. Of course, since the weather wasn’t *quite* cooperating, we all stayed up on top for probably much longer than we needed to, which only became a problem when we all started the trek back down and as we discovered, a narrow staircase with a steep drop off a very tall mountain and lots of people climbing in both directions is not as fun as it sounds.
This llama was helpfully standing right next to a “photography” sign.