Continuing along with the theme of my past two blogs about Austin-Lehman’s Salkantay: Lodge to Lodge trek, I wanted to launch into how exactly we came to arrive at Machu Picchu and what we did to “see the site”.
I might mention that the most popular way to get into Machu Picchu (and I must admit, the most epic way) is to hike through the Sun Gate, giving you the best perspective overall of the city and views of the surrounding mountains. If you want to hike through the Sun Gate, you’ll want to check out our Peru: Machu Picchu program. But if you want a different view of Machu Picchu from the “back side,” then read on! I told you earlier that the last lodge we stayed in was the Lucma Lodge – from here, we hiked up 2,000 feet and back down 3,000 feet to the valley of the Urubamba River. On the way “down” we glimpsed our first view of the terraces of Machu Picchu from a southwest angle, and after hiking over 40 miles to get this view, it was one I will always remember. Once down at the base of the valley, we took the train to the small town of Aguas Calientes where we stayed at a beautiful property full of orchids and greenery called Inkaterra. The next morning was when we hopped on the bus to head up to Machu Picchu.
I will admit that this was my second time visiting Machu Picchu, and it was just as amazing and majestic as the first time. We arrived at the site around 8:00 in the morning (this is after the early morning crowds and before the midday crowds arrive) and got to explore the Inca stonework close up with relatively small crowds. Our guides told us that we are lucky to possibly be one of the last generations of people to actually walk in and around the ruins of Machu Picchu. Someday in the near future, there will be too much wear and tear on the ruins, and additional regulations will need to be put in place (limiting even further the number of people from 2,500 per day to much fewer or banning people altogether from the site only allowing people to look from a distance). Walking amongst the ruins of a lost civilization is nothing short of amazing, and learning about the mysteries of how Machu Picchu came to be and how the people lived will keep historians guessing forever. Machu Picchu was about 50% standing when first “rediscovered” by Hiram Bingam in 1911, but a lot of work has gone into reconstructing the site to its original glory. The reconstruction of the site is fairly well done and interesting to compare to the original Inca stonework!
I would recommend adding the climb/hike up Huayna Picchu to your visit to the Lost City to get an amazing view of Machu Picchu from a higher angle as well as pushing your limits of endurance. I write “climb” here because you are literally using all four limbs to make your way up the steps towards the top of the mountain. Only 400 people a day are allowed to hike Huayna Picchu, so make your reservations early, but I will tell you, it’s worth it! (I will also tell you, if you have a fear of heights, you might want to skip this activity). It takes about an hour to hike the steps up to the top and about an hour to get back down. The view from the top is one that many don’t see, but every step up is worth the climb. If you don’t want to push yourself as hard, I would recommend hiking from Machu Picchu to the Sun Gate to get a good overall view of the city. Either way, I think it’s important to see the layout of Machu Picchu from a higher angle to get an overall view of the Incans’ layout of the city – it’s nothing short of amazing!
To end my ramblings over Machu Picchu, I will say – go see this place for yourself. It’s definitely one of those places on everyone’s “bucket list” and who knows when the regulations will change next? The overall city, the stonework, and the story of the Incas is something everyone should see and experience. What better time than now!?
Viva El Peru,