Machu Picchu – Getting There – Photo’s -Travel Tips
Select your choice of traditional Andean “Cuzco” music below to set the mood for your virtual tour…
Okay, lets get started… “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Confucius
An international airport is planned or in the works for direct flights into Cuzco, or Cusco… until then, you’ll fly into Lima Peru, the capital, dubbed “The City of Kings.” Assuming you are just arriving to Lima, and not already here, you will overnight in Lima. Tip: [Generally, arriving around 3pm local, there are very short to no lines, and it’s a breeze through immigrations – collect your bags – go through customs and you are out the door. There are a lot more flights arriving around 11pm and the lines can back up.]
There are estimates of some 350,000 taxi drivers in Lima, and as soon as you clear Custom’s door, and enter the terminal, you can expect to meet half of them all eager for your business. Okay I’m exaggerating a little – you will meet many of them. If cash is no problem for you they will charge you $20 US dollars or more, to take you to the Miraflores district. (In reality it should only be around 20 Soles, $7.00 to Miraflores) The closer you get to the road out front, the cheaper it is. Just make sure it is a legitimate taxi with a blue decal on the windshield.
Most tourists head to Miraflores, Surco, La Molina, or San Isidro, as these are the more upscale districts in Lima, however there is an airport hotel, if you don’t want to go far, or many other accommodations elsewhere in Lima ranging in the 2,3,4 Star range. If you are looking for something quiet, comfortable, and cozy, I can recommend Residencial Miraflores Bed & Breakfast, because I have personally met the owners and have toured the rooms. The B&B is a beautifully restored Colonial home in Miraflores. I know they will take good care of you. (I receive no benefit for recommending any business in this article.)
A lot of tourists are in and out of Lima and never know the city, because let’s face it, they came to Peru to see Machu Picchu, the number one attraction in Peru, and probably all of South America. But if you have a day or two to spend in Lima there is plenty to do and see.
The next leg of your journey will have you back at LIM (airport code) in the wee hours of the morning, this time on the domestic side for your morning flight into Cusco with a one hour and ten minute flight time.
For backpackers or those on a shoestring budget, taking a bus to Cusco will be 21 hours of travel time. Much cheaper yes, but that’s a long time to be on a bus. Security can be an issue on occasion, not always, with the buses as they have been pulled over and robbed by bandits, or your belongings could be stolen while you are sleeping. (See US State Department advice on those issues.)
After landing in Cusco you may feel light headed. You are at an altitude of 11,150 Feet, or 3,400 meters above sea level. Just take it slow and easy and get acclimated. After strolling down the ramp to the baggage carousel, there may be a live band off to the side, playing traditional Cusco music, strumming their Charango, and playing the pan flutes. After you have collected your bags and exit the terminal, yep, the taxi drivers again! They will want to charge you 40 soles to the main square, Plaza de Armes. For those with light luggage or the backpacker, simply walk a short distance out of the parking lot on the right hand side and you can take a taxi to the main square for around 8 Soles. Cuzco is much bigger than the main square, but it’s a good starting point and reference.
Now where to stay? There is the Belmond Hotel Monasterio run by the Orient Express (rebranded Belmond), luxury at its finest, and a mere $700 US dollars per night.
There is plenty of mid-range hotels around the Main Square and side streets, and cheaper hostel’s too.
I’ve stayed at both the Hostal Wayras, which runs 25 Soles per night for one person, and directly across the street is Hostal Mallqui, an International Youth Hostal, which costs more but is also a nice place to stay.
These are both located only three blocks from the main square, and close to a traditional market. In and around the market, relax, but practice basic security of your personal belongings to avoid pickpocketing. Here you can try and buy different cheeses and honey, find an assortment of local fruits and vegetables, purchase drinks and snacks, and there is a Menu, where you can have a home cooked meal cheap.
While in Cusco, you may want to take the City Tour, and Sacred Valley Tour, both of which will introduce you to many Inca archeological sites. Also there is walking involved at the various sites to help boost your cardio. The Indian Market at Chinceros is 12,000 ft. (3,657 meters). Visit the Tourist Information Center located by the main square, where you can purchase a one day, or good for a week Tourist Ticket S./.135 Soles. Also if you want to tour the Catholic Church on the city tour, it’s an extra S./.25 soles. It is educational, historic, and has nice paintings, but isn’t all that spectacular. After the Duomo in Milan, Italy, not much compares. After purchasing your Tourist Ticket, you can then find a tour agency to bus you around (with a tour guide) to the different sites. If you only want to see a few sites, then don’t get the full Tourist Ticket. You can also pay as you go and hire a taxi driver, however you won’t get information about the sites.
Now onward to Machu Picchu…For those wanting to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, I highly recommend as I hiked it back in 2003. Its 27 miles for the four day hike; also there is a two day hike with a shorter distance. In 2003 it cost $250.00 and was worth every penny. Today you are looking at close to $700 or more. But if you can afford it, it’s a wonderful hike. Also see: Trail to Peak for other hikes in Peru. Only 500 people are allowed on the trail at a time, so you WILL need to book far in advance to reserve your spot. For the less adventurous, fret not, Peru Rail has you covered. The rail station in Cusco no longer operates. Check with Peru Rail as they may have a bus that will take you to the Poroy or Wanchaq Station to continue your journey. Otherwise a taxi will cost you around S./.15 Soles. Peru Rail has four lines with varying class and prices. First, for the Rich and Famous, just kidding, maybe you like nice things? The Orient Express operates Peru Rail’s Hiram Bingham line, which has the fancy dining cars. Next in line is the Expedition which has nicer seating, tables and meals than does the Vistadome, but still it’s not bad. Lastly there is the Backpackers train which I believe only runs out of Ollantaytambo, about 2 hours from Cusco, but don’t quote me on that. There are other alternatives to get to Machu Picchu Pueblo besides the train, but require that you take the Shoe Leather Express from the hydroelectric plant on the backside of Machu Picchu and walk down the rail lines.
Tickets to Machu Picchu: You have to buy your entry ticket in advance, online, or either in Cusco, or Machu Picchu Pueblo, aka “Aguas Calientes” the little town below Machu Picchu. NO Entry Tickets are sold at the gate. You must use your ticket for the day you say you will, or you will have to buy another one. 2,500 visitors per day are allowed in the sanctuary. Typically, it’s never sold out, not even in the high season. Alternate hikes include Huayna Picchu, and Machu Picchu Mountain. These are extra costs and have time schedules. Another hike, and ladder climb, which is free is Putucusi Mountain near Aguas Calientes. The summit offers a spectacular view of Machu Picchu, most tourists do not see.
ALL ABOARD….Kickback, relax and enjoy your four hour train ride to Machu Picchu Pueblo…