It’s one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It is on the bucket list of every world traveler. But you may be wondering…how the heck do you get there?
We are not opposed to tour companies. They do have the ability to make things easy. They offer convenience, but usually at a price. There are a number of companies out there that can get you to Machu Picchu, but you’re at their mercy, on their timeline and you’ll likely be rubbing elbows with a bunch of other tourists that could be sporting fanny packs and blue blocker sunglasses.
Doing Machu Picchu on your own is totally possible, but you have to do your homework. We chose to get to Machu Picchu and explore the ruins independently. This is how we did it. Here is the play-by-play on how to do it yourself.
1. Get to Cusco
We arrived in the capital city of Lima from the U.S. Our arrival was late in the evening so we decided to take advantage and spend a couple nights to explore the city. We used http://www.viator.com to book our transfer from the airport to our Miraflores hotel. We used the same website to book city tours that took us to the city’s famous landmarks and city center. Once you get a taste of Lima, it’s time to catch a flight to Cusco. We used LAN airlines to get from Lima to Cusco.
2. Explore Cusco and Acclimatize
Cusco is at an elevation of 11,150 feet. And just so you know, altitude sickness is no joke. Although we were spared from a killer headache and other serious effects, we did have shortness of breath and some fatigue. This was even with oxygen being pumped into our hotel room. Plan on a couple days here in the capital city of the Inca Empire to get used to the altitude.
The town square is full of historic churches, places to eat and shops for souvenirs. And if you’re lucky you’ll spot school children doing a dance which is important to the native culture.
3. Get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley
We arranged for a tourist taxi to take us from our Cusco hotel (Hotel Monasterio) through the Sacred Valley to the train station in Ollantaytambo. We had a stop in Pisac and Ollantaytambo, which had beautiful Incan ruins to explore.
After we were done exploring Ollantaytambo, our taxi driver dropped us off at the train station nearby.
4. Take the Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
A 2 hour train ride will get you to the town at the base of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. We purchased our train tickets well ahead of time on their website, http://www.perurail.com/.
5. Get Off the Train and Find the CONSETTUR Company to Buy Bus Tickets to Machu Picchu
This is the only official company that operates the bus route Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu and has a fleet of modern buses with air conditioning.
The first bus leaves from Aguas Calientes at 05:30 am arriving at Machu Picchu at 06:00 hrs; from this hour the buses depart to Machu Picchu when they are full, usually every 10 minutes. Travel time by bus is 30 minutes.
The last bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is at 15:30 hrs because the admission to the Inca citadel is only until 16:00 hrs.
6. Getting Into Machu Picchu
Tickets to Machu Picchu cannot be purchased at the site, so it’s best to buy them ahead of time. You can do this online or in Aguas Calientes or Cusco.
Buying tickets to Machu Picchu was the first thing we did when starting to plan and book this vacation. They only sell 2500 tickets a day to get into Machu Picchu. If you can’t get tickets, what’s the point of booking anything else?
We used http://therewardboss.com/how-to-book-machu-picchu-tickets-online-in-only-a-few-minutes/ to guide us through the process. It was no problem at all. Once you’ve bought the tickets you can build your vacation from there.
Your ticket allows for 3 separate entries into the site. You may need to re-enter the site if you choose to go to the Sanctuary Lodge for a drink or to buy souvenirs outside the site. You also need to present your passport with your tickets in order to enter Machu Picchu.
Getting to and exploring Machu Picchu is certainly possible with some patience and a bit of research. Traveling independently offers a sense of freedom that you just can’t get while being apart of a tour.
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
― Pat Conroy