The highlight of my trip to Peru, one of the hightlights of all my life's travelling - the legendary Machu Picchu. It was our friend Pachacútec Yupanqui, today greeting his subservients at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, who ordered his people to build this settlement in 1450. There were up to 1,000 people living in the temples and dwellings of this city built on terraces.

Going up. The next floor is already in heaven.

To get there, the regular way is extremely overpriced, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the prices on the internet. There is a local train, but only local people are allowed to take it - and local means from the region, even not from all of Peru. Then I've heard that there is a bus, but that must be life's last true adventure; those people who took it told me, that they thought they would never make it there alive. 

However, I recommend you book all this a bit ahead - the train and the entrance to the site; it would be a pity if you pay this much money and something doesn't work out. 
Check the connections and prices on the website of Perurail.

The entrance tickets can be ordered online - please make sure to buy from an authorized seller.

Update: Since July 2017, there are two tours per day: the first visit is from 6 a. m. to noon and the second one from noon to 5.30 p. m. If you wish to visit Huayna or Montaña Picchu, too, it also works in shifts.
Since in the past tourists did misbehave and mistreat the precious remnants, the visit is only possible on a guided tour in groups of 16 persons max. Regular entrance fee is 152 Soles (approx. 47 US$), students and minors pay half price, kids up to 8 years have free entrance.

It is possible to buy tickets at Cusco short before you go, but places per day are limited and you do risk that - especially Huayna and Montaña Picchu - are sold out. I really believe this is the one place where booking ahead is recommendable, especially since you also have to book your train ride and it might be wise to check the trains first since the prices differ a lot. If you have to watch your budget a bit, you sure have some coordinating work to do.

Note: You can only buy regular tickets online. Reduced student tickets must be purchased in Cusco showing a valid ID. 
At the entrance to the site, you'll be asked to show not only your passport but also the credit card that you used for buying the tickets online resp. of course, your student card if you got a student ticket. This is absolutely obligatory and the people at the gate are not willing to make exceptions.

train to aguas calientes
You get what you pay for: Taking the train is expensive, but very comfortable and the views make you forget the huge burn hole in your wallet.

I took the regular tourist train and paid about 160 US$ round trip, plus the entrance fee of 50 $ - the most expensive day trip of my entire life. The train goes to Aguas Calientes and from there you can walk up to the site. I'd only like to remind you that the train station is at about 2.000 meters / 7,000 feet above sea level.

I'd like to move in one of these little houses. I'd be a good tenant, I promise, Mr. Yupanqui.

I took a shuttle bus going up. I left most of my stuff at the cloak room, entered the site, walked along a narrow trail, turned...and started to cry since I was so overwhelmed by the majesty and illustriousness of the mountainous ridge.

 It is overwhelming, it was one of the most stirring views of my life. I felt close to the sky and close to another reality and existence - and it was not only because of the height. There is something there that makes you feel small and unimportant, thus part of something higher and more significant. It's difficult to describe, so I suggest you go and experience this one of a lifetime encounter for yourself.

Llamas at Muchu Picchu
Today's residents...
(Photo: Mimi Green)

...and one of their visitors at the door. 

There is always a second site included in your ticket like for instance the Huayna Picchu. 

Huayna Picchu - I cannot tell you how the view is, I did not go there.
(Photo: Mimi Green)

Mainly because I'm afraid of heights, I rather chose visiting the museum that's located downhill. It explains you all about the wonderful place you've just visited, and then you have to walk about 20 minutes back to Aguas Calientes. It's unbelievable how exhausting that is, although the way is just on a very low slope. But the slope in combination with the shortage of oxygen makes these 20 minutes a real exercise.

There is a shuttle bus taking people for another 10 US$ from Aguas Calientes uphill to the site. It's sort of a rip off, but although I'm a dedicated walker, I find any sort of exercise due to the altitude extremely exhausting. I didn't even feel able to walk all the way downhill, so go figure.

However, I know people who did it up and down, and they aren't Olympians, either. I guess just everybody's body responds differently to the height.

Here two more advises: It's high, so it feels cold at first, then the sun comes out, plus you're hiking, so it gets quite warm. Therefore you should dress according to the onion skin principle. And don't worry, you don't have to carry all your stuff, they have lockers.

They also have a cafeteria, but the prices are at least as high as Machu Picchu - they are crazy! So bring your provisions like water and sandwiches for the day.

'Aguas Calientes' means hot waters, and they actually have hot springs in the Northern part of town. It's just that if you visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, your schedule might be too tight to relax in hot springs. If you stay overnight, it might be a relaxing end of your mystical day.

To read a post on the mountainous region around Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, Puno and Lake Titicaca as well as Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu, go to this special post.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I've visited in Peru? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!

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