Did you know that Machu Picchu is actually in a jungle? Could you imagine that the Inca Trail actually enters the site from above? No matter how many years it’s been on your bucket list, Machu Picchu will surprise you and give you the shivers the first time you see it. And every step of the way, Classic Journeys has the inside track on how to make the most of your visit. Here are six essential facts you need to get the most out of your time at Machu Picchu.
1. ONE DAY IS NOT ENOUGH
Sure, you can do a round trip from Cusco in one day like many tours and tourists do. But be prepared: it takes 14 hours or so, about half of which you spend on the train. When you’ve waited a lifetime to make your bucket-list pilgrimage, why spend it looking at the clock? On a Classic Journey, you spend two nights and parts of three days at Machu Picchu. You get to explore it with your personal local guide when you’re well-rested… at different times of day… in more detail.
2. YOU CAN ARRIVE BY RAIL... OR ON FOOT
Whichever preference is yours, we offer it, and you’ll arrive exhilarated. Either way, you begin on a luxurious Inca Rail train with stunning views through picture windows as you ascend through a narrow valley lined with Incan ruins. If you reserve an Inca Trail pass in advance (see tip #3), you’ll de-train with one of our guides at a brief stop to conquer the final stretch of the trail that rises in elevation by 1,500 feet over 5-6 hours of sometimes strenuous walking. Train riders roll on to Aguas Calientes where their explorations begin.
3. ONLY 500 PEOPLE CAN WALK THE INCA TRAIL ON ANY DAY
That’s 500 total, including travelers, guides, and porters. Just as you’d expect, the passes are snapped up quickly. Even more limiting, the passes are non-refundable and non-transferable. So, just in case you might want to take the trail, we send the Classic Journeys guides to the ticket office in Cusco—armed with a copy of your passport—to purchase your pass personally, so you can be sure you have it. If you’re up for it, you can depend on us to do everything possible to make it happen.
4. TAKE YOUR ICONIC PHOTO RIGHT HERE
You’ll want to stand so that Huanya Picchu is directly behind you. Whoever takes the photograph should stand on the higher ground in front of you. The higher they are, the better the angle to be sure you co-star with the ruins. If you have a DSLR and are familiar with its Manual mode, try a few with the aperture set low. The background will be slightly out of focus; you’ll still see the site, but any people down there will be less noticeable. Note: selfie sticks are officially banned.
5. THE INKATERRA IS THE BEST PLACE TO STAY
If you know someone who visited in years past, you may have heard of a hotel that’s located in the Machu Picchu sanctuary, permitting early and late access. That’s old news and not true anymore! Today, the site opens at 6 a.m. regardless of where you stay. And the finest accommodations are at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Luxury doesn’t begin to describe it. Set amid 13 tropical acres, its gardens have more than 372 kinds of orchids, 214 bird species, and a tea plantation. It would be worth the trip even if it wasn’t next door to Machu Picchu.
6. HAVE AN APEX CULINARY EXPERIENCE
Back in 1911 when Hiram Bingham first explored Machu Picchu, it’s hard to imagine how rough the campfire diet was. Today, the Peruvian food scene is a wildly creative blend of classic Andean specialties and culinary-forward ideas that are winning worldwide recognition. You’ll certainly have no problem fueling for a day of exploration at generous breakfasts and leisurely dinners. Is this where you’ll try cuy, the traditional meat that they say tastes like duck (and is otherwise known as a guinea pig)?