Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic places in South America. It is a mystical place full of history, hidden deep in the Andean Mountains. The high quality of the stonework and the mystery surrounding it makes it a must-see for many people.
For this same reason, some may choose to skip Machu Picchu as they feel it is too full of tourists. Nevertheless, I think that most people will find a connection with the citadel, whether that is due to its rich history, the beautiful scenery or for spiritual reasons.
For me, Machu Picchu was incredible. It hadn’t always been on the top of my ‘bucket list’. In fact, the first time I thought about visiting Machu Picchu was five years ago. I was sitting in my room listening to the song ‘Machu Picchu’ by The Strokes and I thought to myself, ‘imagine if you could listen to this song on top of Machu Picchu itself!’ Three years later, this became a reality and it was beyond my wildest dreams.
How to get there?
The night before, I stayed in the small town of Aguas Calientes, gateway to Machu Picchu. It’s a lovely little town with many restaurants and souvenir shops. The town has a sociable atmosphere, and everyone is excited at either the prospect of visiting the citadel, or buzzing from having visited already!
The next morning, I woke up at 5 a.m., eager to walk up to the ruins (some of the group opted to skip the walk and take the bus up after 7 am). It was quite a strenuous walk, but the accomplishment of making it all the way up to Machu Picchu in the manner that the Incans would have originally done it, was an incredible reward.
The gates of Machu Picchu opened at 6 a.m. There were a few people queuing but it was still relatively quiet. It definitely gets much busier after 12 p.m. so if you want to avoid the crowds then try to arrive as early as possible. The other incentive to arrive early is to chance to see the morning clouds disperse, revealing the full beauty of Machu Picchu.
Our expert local guide took us around the ruins, explaining the incredible story of the Incas. He pointed out the different areas of the city, including the Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana stone, which is believed to have functioned as a solar clock. There are so many different theories regarding Machu Picchu but to this day its existence remains a mystery, making it absolutely fascinating.
Around 10 a.m., we had walked around the site and decided to continue upwards to Machu Picchu Montaña (Mountain). We were fairly hesitant after the walk from Aguas Calientes, but decided this could be our only chance to do it!
After two hours of walking up uneven stairs, we were beginning to lose patience and our legs were giving up. However, we persevered and I’m so glad we did! The views were simply amazing and it was a wonderful experience. If you feel Machu Picchu itself is too touristy then you will love Machu Picchu Montaña, as only a few brave people tend to make it all the way to the top.
The view from the top of the world
Having reached the top, I picked my spot carefully (where I had a great view of both Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu), put my headphones in and listened to ‘Machu Picchu’ by The Strokes.
My sense of accomplishment was huge. Three years after having a vague, throwaway idea in my room in London, here I was, looking at Machu Picchu and listening to that song. This experience was one of the greatest of my life so far, and if you’re heading to Peru then make sure that you visit Machu Picchu too!
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Exploring Machu Picchu
by Aurelie at Latin Routes