Our first major stop on our world tour was Machu Picchu. We started in Cusco, Peru to get acclimated to the altitude. Cusco, Peru sits at about 11,000 feet above sea level and Machu Picchu sits at about 8,000 feet. If you have ever been to the mile high city (Denver) you know how altitude can effect you. We had heard altitude sickness can get you pretty quickly when you are this high and ruin your trip if you don't give yourself time to acclimate. So we gave ourselves three days to get used it the altitude before making the journey to Machu Picchu. It was a good thing because we both had our own issues when we arrived. Tim had a headache for a few days where I felt like I had constant pressure on my stomach. We managed to work through it after a few days and then off we went on our adventure to Machu Picchu.
We booked our train tickets aboard the Vistadome on Peru Rail to Aguas Calientes, the small town at the base of Machu Picchu. There was a Peru Rail agent in Cusco and were were able to go in person to book our tickets. We decided to upgrade our tickets for the 3.5 hour train ride to include better seats, food, and entertainment which was a smart idea. The Vistadome was on time, comfortable and the large windows on the sides and ceiling gave us awesome views of the Andes.
We arrived in Aguas Caliente and were able to walk directly to our hostel as the town is a very small tourist town (read everyone is trying to sell you something). We stayed at the Supertramp Hostel which was a funky brightly painted little hostel with their own burger joint attached. Our stay was good. We did however have a private room without any sort of fan or ventilation and had to keep our door open most of the time. We did find out after our stay (and after we made a tripadvisor review) they installed a fan! Winning for the next person who stays in that room.
On Thanksgiving day we headed into town to make the trip up the mountain to enter Machu Picchu. There are two ways to enter Machu Picchu. You can walk up the mountain for free and a good hour or two of your time or you can buy a $24 USD round trip bus ticket to the entrance. Let me tell you, passing the poor souls walking along the side of the road I know we made the right choice with the bus ticket.
At the entrance of Machu Picchu there are tour guides selling their service. Based on our prior research we knew that a 2 hour tour with one of these guides should be around $30-$50 USD. We were approached by Paulo and spent some time getting to know him and finding out his experience level as a guide. He offered to try to find two or three more travelers to lower the cost of the tour. After some attempts (traffic was low and not many people were coming up) we decided that we would just do a private tour and we negotiated a rate for the two of us. Paulo did a great job sharing his knowledge and going at our pace to take pictures and ask questions.
To call Machu Picchu amazing is an understatement. I knew it was going to be a sight but didn't realize the magnitude. It was massive, plush, unique, and all around fascinating. The moment you walk through the entrance and see the ruins it just stops you. It's really unbeleivable. Our pictures don't do it justice.
We spent a few hours hiking the ruins with our guide then took off on our own to make the climb up to the watch tower. We were told the best views were from the top of the watch tower. While the hike up winded us and we had to take a few breaks the views were worth it. This spot gave you a full view of the ruins.
Overall, this is my favorite World Wonder so far. However, this is only the second World Wonder we have been too. Last year we visited Chichen Itza. We will find out in a few months if the Great Wall of China tops it!
Important things to know before visiting Machu Picchu:
1. Pee before you go inside as there are no facilities inside the ruins. Also have a sol handy as you have to pay to pee.
2. Use bugspray. The hard stuff like with deets. Spray your body. Spray your clothes.
3. Wear pants if you can. The sandfleas are brutal all over Aguas Caliente and Machu Picchu. It's been 4 weeks since we were there and I still have reddish dots covering my calves.
4. Pack a water bottle and a snack if you are going to spend all day. There are no vendors inside the Ruins. You can leave and reenter once.
5. Bring your passport with you and as you exit you can get a Machu Picchu passport stamp. Super cool.
Check out Week 2 in the Galleries section for a ton more pictures!