Machu Picchu: Saving the Best for Last

Machu Picchu: Saving the Best for Last

We were in Peru too long – a little over six weeks in total with two weeks of that spent in the Cusco/Sacred Valley area – and by the time we arrived in Cusco I was already looking ahead to Colombia. I thoroughly enjoyed our excursion to Ollantaytambo where we spent one day exploring the ruins there and one day exploring Salinas de Maras, Moray, and Chinchero, but after after a few more days of being in the Sacred Valley I felt completely ruined-out and sick of Cusco. I can honestly say that I was completely unexcited about seeing Machu Picchu which was the one thing I really wanted to see before we arrived in Peru. It didn’t help matters that we heard from some people that it’s overcrowded and some even said underwhelming and anti-climatic, especially if you take the train. We made the decision soon after hiking Colca Canyon to cancel our Inca Trail trek reservations. There was no way Angela was doing it and I didn’t really feel the need to hike up more of those damned shin-high Inca Stairs and so we were taking the train.

We arrived in Aguas Caliente, really named Machu Picchu Peblo but nobody calls it that, the day before visiting Machu Picchu and got up at 4:30AM the next morning to catch the first bus up at 5:30. Luckily we’d purchased our overpriced ($24/person round trip) bus tickets the day before because when we arrived at the bus station around 5:15 the line was already roughly 200 people long. However, they have twenty buses and they run one after the other so we were on our way up a little before 6:00. We pulled up to the Machu Picchu station about twenty minutes later and immediately saw all of the same people from the bus line in Aguas Caliente plus many others, or so it appeared, lined up waiting to get in. I immediately started thinking that my fears of Machu Picchu being too crowded to enjoy were going to prove true.

The line to get into Machu Picchu
The dreaded Machu Picchu line

Were we doomed to an overcrowded, unenjoyable trip to Machu Picchu? In a word – no (I know, the title already gave it away). Machu Picchu is spectacular and beat all of my expectations. And I mean my high, pre-Peru trip expectations. Our day at Machu Picchu stands out as my single favorite day in Peru and when I say we saved the best for last, I mean it. That was our last (full) day in Peru. I have no regrets about skipping the Inca Trail and taking the train and don’t feel my visit was any less exciting because I did so. If anything I was far more relaxed and able to really enjoy the time I had in the park. Yes there are crowds given that over 300,000 people per year visit, but they’re better early in the morning and Machu Picchu is huge. Other than when I was waiting to get the iconic Machu Picchu photo I didn’t find the crowds to be bothersome (seriously Millennials, stop with the “me jumping up in the air in front of some famous landmark”, yoga pose, and heart shaped hands photos already, they’re over). I definitely recommend getting up to go early as it seems to start getting much more crowded and also much warmer by around 11AM. Mostly I just recommend going, you won’t regret it.

Huayna Picchu
Us at Machu Picchu
Look kids no jumping, yoga poses, or heart shaped hands!
A view of mountains from Machu Picchu
A doorway at Machu Picchu
Windows at Machu Picchu

So there you have it; I loved Machu Picchu despite having made up my mind that I wouldn’t and I have to give Angela credit for not giving into my whim of wanting to leave Peru early and skip it. That would’ve been a huge mistake that I would have regretted for years. Luckily I don’t have to and I now have this awesome passport stamp to remind me of my favorite and last day in Peru.

Machu Picchu Passport Stamp


22 Responses to Machu Picchu: Saving the Best for Last

  1. We can relate and are over Chin-High climbing; while we reached the summit of Katahdin, no spectacular photographs like these-loved this post. Now having last lunch in Quebec City😔

  2. Beautiful!! Have been enjoying your pictures and comments! Almost as good as being there. Gloria (one of Melinda’s knitting buddies)

    • Thanks Gloria, I think it’s pretty hard to take a bad photo at Machu Picchu 🙂 . I hope you and Tom are doing well, we look forward to seeing y’all at Christmas!

  3. Jaime,one of my biggest challenges has been to get photos without the throngs of people. Great job on your part, timing is the key (as in the video on the train). My family got their asses kicked on the trail and they all said it was worth it but it was certainly not as fun as our train from Puno. Safe travels my new friends.

    • Stan, Thanks for stopping by the ol’ blog! I think I got lucky because a couple of people have mentioned to me that there doesn’t appear to be any crowd at all in the photos but of course it does get crowded. I have no doubt that the trail, or any of the other trek options are amazing, and maybe I’ll go back and do one eventually, but you’re right, they certainly will not be nearly as much fun as our train ride from Puno! Good to hear from you, looks like y’all had a good time on the boat trip too.

  4. Well, you all are doing some pretty exciting things going to exciting places. Your mother and I and friends are going to dinner and a movie tomorrow night and that is about as exciting as it gets.

  5. Jaime,
    thanks for the input on Machu Picchu. I noticed your “couple” photo had Angela wearing a jacket and you in a T-shirt. I plan to wear layers for my trip to Machu Picchu and wondered if you could advise on the type of footwear that is better for this kind of terrain. I had planned on hiking shoes but now am changing my mind as it appears the park is mostly steps of pavement so hiking shoes would not be necessary? Would you agree that just good walking shoes would be better? And did you have to go to an area away from the gate to get the stamp on your passport?

    • Diane,

      Layering is definitely a good idea. It was fairly cool in the morning while waiting for the bus and waiting to get in the park but warmed up significantly during the day – especially when you start climbing a bunch of steps. I wore a fleece and then put it in my backpack once we started walking around the park. However, Angela is pretty cold natured so it’s common for her to wear a jacket when I’m in short sleeves. The paths around the park are all dirt or stone so I think regular tennis shoes would be fine. If you plan to hike up Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Mountain (must purchase your permit at the same time you purchase your Machu Picchu ticket) then hiking shoes would be a good idea. There’s a table setup just inside the gate by the bag check window where you can stamp your own passport. The stamp is out from 9AM – 5PM so we just did it on the way out.

  6. How amazing! Glad y’all didn’t skip it and I surely love the pictures! The one of you and Angela will come in handy for the Christmas card 🙂

  7. We are enjoying your pics. We leave soon for our South African trip. Anxious to get underway. Enjoyed Cincinnati with Greg and Anne.

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