15 Nov How to Get to Machu Picchu Solo
Machu Picchu is the pride and joy of Peru, a UNESCO World Heritage site and truly one of the wonders of the world. The 13 square kilometre mountain top was used as a hideaway from Spanish colonizers in the 15th century. The most regal Inca kings found refuge in this spectacular haven set high in the Andes Mountains. Tons of gold was hidden around the community, sadly, colonizers found their way up and looted everything.
Discovered by American politician turned explorer, Hiram Bingham in 1911. The archeological site was unknown to the world, with the exception of a handful of indigenous communities living in the area.
There are so many ways to get to Machu Picchu and travelers can easily get overwhelmed by all these options. If you are looking for the most popular and most realistic way to get up there, the standard overnight tour is the best and possibly cheapest option.
I didn't hike the Inca trail, but I sure did make my own. Starting from Costa Rica where I taught yoga and learned pura vida, I explored Nicaragua's Pacific coast and its surf spots. I rock climbed Panama and sailed along the Darien Gap to reach amazing Colombia to drown in coffee and eat all their food. I continued south to explore Ecuador and Peru's mountains, deserts, glaciers and ancient cities. Here's to almost 1 year in Latin America, I think I'm ready to finally come home. ❤ #viajosola #lovethesearch #oneyearinlatinamerica
So first, and foremost. Get yourself to Cusco. Depending on your itinerary and budget, the easiest way to get there is to take a $100 direct flight from Lima which will take you about an hour. Make sure you don’t have any rock climbing chalk or anything that resembles their most valued export in your luggage to avoid suspicion. I learned this the hard way! If you have about 2 weeks, best option is to hitch a ride with Peru Hop from Lima to see the highlights of the south, before your pilgrimage to Machu Picchu.
Here’s the breakdown of the standard overnight tour:
Average Price: USD $250 per person from Cusco, but you can bargain down to $217 depending on the season and number of people in your group. There’s an 8-10% additional charge if you decide to use your credit card, so it’s best to pay in cash. ATMs are everywhere in Cusco, and you wont have problems in finding one that works with international accounts, if you don’t mind paying $5 per transaction.
Hotel pick-up from Cusco
Bus ride from Cusco to Olayantambo
Train ride from Olayantambo to Aguas Calientes
Overnight stay at a hostel at Aguas Calientes
Briefing with guide the night before the tour
Entrance fee to Machu Picchu
A guided tour to the more popular areas, ask for preferred language
Train ride from Aguas Calientes to Olayantambo
Bus ride from Olayantambo to Cusco
Not included in the standard tour price:
Lunch and Dinner
Bus tickets up to Macchu Pichu (around $40 roundtrip)
Entrance to other special areas around Macchu Picchu (limited availability)
Taxi ride back home to your hostel when you get dropped off at Cusco
Total spent: Approximately $315 (April 2016)
I was on my 12th and last month of traveling when I reached Cusco, and was so close to giving up and skipping Machu Picchu all together because of the overpriced tour prices. I was so broke!!! The only other cheaper option from my research (another travel blog) was to walk along the railroad tracks for days, which is strictly prohibited! Not to mention, I had no hiking or camping gear and didn’t want to rent or buy them either.
The night before the tour, the guide visited our hostel and gave us a quick briefing. We were to meet at 6:00 am to catch the sunrise so we all tried to sleep early. We woke up to the sound of loud rain at daybreak so I chose to wait it out by myself. I hate getting up before the break of dawn! But the other travelers were so much more disciplined than I was so they had a quick breakfast and decided to catch the tour.
I bumped into some of them up there a few hours later. They said they didn’t see the sun rise anyway because it was too cloudy and everyone got soaking wet, which isn’t that fun when it’s freezing up there. I’m so happy I listened to my instincts and waited until the rain stopped at 8:30, so I arrived around 9:00 am by bus and luckily ran into our guide. He let me join another one of their tours, so that was perfect!
Others decided to do the standard tour, but skip the $40 bus ride to hike the winding road all the way to the top. This idea seemed brilliant until I was advised by a couple who recently opted for that experience. They said it was a humbling experience, but you need every ounce of your energy up there to explore the perimeter of Machu Picchu.
I am relieved that I decided to go, because really, it is a once in a lifetime trip. Trust me, you’ll forget about your expenses the moment you step inside the train and see this unique landscape. You’ve probably never seen anything like it before, quite a the perfect hideaway away from the rest of the world, really. It’s hard not to get emotional with views like these.
The whole of mother Earth is sacred, but Machu Picchu is part of the Ley Lines, an invisible pattern that connects to other highly regarded spiritual sites around the world. It is a power vortex that nests high energy levels and abundance life force.
Your Machu Picchu ticket is only valid for a day, and can only be used to re-enter twice during that day. Quite unfair if you want to use the restroom more than that. If you have extra pages in your passport, don’t forget to stamp it with the Machu Picchu logo right before your final exit!
If you’d like to stay in Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu for more than 1 night, you may ask your tour operator to book your train and bus ride back later than scheduled. Of course, you are responsible to shoulder additional costs of hotel and meals. Some people stay an extra night to enjoy the hot springs and hike a mountain close to it. But I wouldn’t really recommend staying in Aguas Calientes longer than 2 nights because everything is so overpriced. A big bottle of water could literally cost you $10.
There are so many other trails to Machu Picchu like the infamous Inca Trail which requires 4 days of hiking and camping. There’s also the Inca Jungle tour where you bike part of the trail and walk the rest. This adrenaline pumping tour requires 7-8 hours of activity per day and you have the liberty to choose between 3 or 4 day guided trips. The Salkantay Trek is by far the longest and possibly the most expensive, requiring up to 8 days to get to Machu Picchu. Make sure to book a few months ahead if you are planning to hike any of the trails. There are very limited slots per day. Rates as of April 2016.
I don’t know why, but I get the feeling that someday, I will be back and definitely hike one of these trails. Hope to see you there!
It's not just about the passport stamps and crossing off things in a bucket list. And it's never been about bragging rights or incredible Instagram photos When someone decides to leave their normal lives and embark on a trip of a lifetime with nothing more than an ounce of courage and bare necessities, it has to be something more profound than that It's a search for truth, the quest for ultimate unrestricted freedom, in our minds, hearts and souls It's regressing back to our childlike innocent state, indulging in all the games we never got to play It's seeing the world with a fresh new pair of eyes to understand from a different perspective It's forging friendships and building relationships we never had energy and time for in our normal lives It's quenching our hunger for adventures and our thirst for the mysterious, the unknown and beyond It's education in its purest form, constantly immersing ourselves in new territories and meeting strangers everyday To others it may seem self-indulgent, reckless and irresponsible. We've been judged, critisized and set aside. But for us, it's no less than a spiritual journey. One that is bound to change us forever So we invite you to begin the most important journey of your life, a road to self-discovery and acceptance. Life begins outside of your comfort zone. ❤ #viajosola