Welcome to Disneyland South America
Let's face it, Machu Picchu is by far the most visited place on the entire South American continent. Thousands come daily to marvel at the incredibly well-preserved Inca ruins. And, believe me, they are marvelous. The best thing to do is to accept that the scene is what it is. Waiting in lines and shelling out some money are unavoidable. Just do your best to stay above the thick, heavy fog of uber-tourism, or if you're so inclined, dive head first into the fog and enjoy the heck out of your visit to Disneyland South America.
To get to Machu Picchu almost everyone starts in Cuzco and absolutely everyone has to pass through the town Aguas Calientes -- also known as Machu Picchu pueblo. There are no roads to Aguas Calientes so the only options are by train or by foot. The direct 112 KM (70 miles) train from Cuzco* costs between $56 - $300 one way. Any way you look at it, this is price gouging of the highest order.
|Take a ride on Peru Rail|
Other guided tours from Cuzco take a more circuitous route and include activities such as downhill biking, rafting and/or hiking and then culminate with a visit to Machu Picchu. Again this is probably fun, but it is not for us. Our goal is to see Machu Picchu, nothing more nothing less. Everything else for us is an unnecessary distraction.
Before heading out Mika spends hours scouring other people's blogs to find the most suitable path for us. For the record: suitable = cheap.
In the end we definitely choose the road less-traveled, but it is far from being off any beaten path. Unless you are going to hop there on a pogo stick or plan to fly on the back of a condor almost nothing you can do with regards to Machu Picchu is unique.
|In case you're wondering...|
I found this condor finger puppet on the streets of Cuzco. Score!
As we are walking back from Machu Picchu Mika and I both decide to blog about our route for someone out there in cyberspace who is headed to Machu Picchu. I will now issue a thanks to all of the unnamed bloggers who we used as travel references.
Here is the easiest way that I can explain how we get to Machu Picchu on the cheap. A slight variance will depend on your bargaining skills and tolerance for sitting some extra hours. Our exact route is shown below:
A) Taxi from center of Cuzco to combi terminal (an eight passenger mini-van) = 3-5 Soles
We pay: S 26 for two people
D) Walk 10 km (about two hours) along the train tracks from hydroelctrico to Aguas Calientes = S 0
We pay: S 0
Our total for two people from our hotel in Cuzco to Aguas Calientes = S 84.5 (US $30.18)
|Follow the train tracks and you'll arrive eventually|
D) Train from hydroelectrico station to Aguas Calientes = US $12 one way for foreigners (yeah right!), S 10 (US $3.57) for Peruvians and S 5 for area residents.
|Getting passed by the $12 train|
|The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock|
Photo from: http://www.go2peru.com/peru_birds_30.htm
If you can read Japanese or just like to look at some photos follow the link to Mika's blog about getting to Machu Picchu.
Up to the Entrance
|People hanging around the entrance around 6:00 AM|
The hotel is in the background
|Bus passengers in line to get their Wayna Picchu stamp|
In Cuzco Mika and I buy our own aluminum canteens because we read and hear that plastic bottles are forbidden at Machu Picchu. This is false. Not only are people allowed to bring in plastic water bottles, they also sell them at the entrance to the Wayna Picchu hike in the back of the park.
It is forbidden to bring food into Machu Picchu. Some people have snacks, including us. Exploring the far reaches of the site is quite tiring and nourishment is completely necessary. Schlepping all the way back to the cafeteria and picnic area outside the entrance gate just to eat a granola bar is not feasible. I say quietly eat your snacks. Just don't be a pig. Do not feed birds and be sure to carry your garbage with you until you get out of the park.
I hope that this has been helpful. Remember that all the information above is up-to-date as of 5/5/2011. But things here seem to be able change often -- especially price increases.
|The bus to Machu Picchu's detailed price chart|
*As of this writing there are problems with the tracks from Cuzco due to floods so people have to take a bus to the town Ollantaytambo or Poroy (depends on which rail company) and catch a train from there to Aguas Calientes. They are trying to fix it before high season starts in June 2011.