This one had been on my list for a very very long time.  We had actually saved and planned on coming here for my 30th birthday in April.  After years of talking about it I 180'd and we went to Iceland instead.  I never would have guessed that just 8 months later I would find myself with an opportunity to make it down there.  

We ambitiously bought tickets for two days along with hiking permits for both Huayna Picchu and Mount Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, a bad empanada sidelined our quest to tackle Mount Machu Picchu on the second day.   That leads me to the first set of tips for Aguas Calientes...

We stayed at Hotel La Cabana Machu Picchu which I highly recommend.  They totally Mom'd me when I was sick making me tea, asking if I needed help at the Pharmacy to get the right meds, and even offered to get a doctor to come see me.  Apparently I looked pretty bad since when I went to check out so we could make our second day tour she took one look at me and said "come back if you don't feel good enough and you can go back to your room".  Awesome.

Some Tips:

  1. Aguas doesn't have any cars, it is all pedestrian roads that aren't really marked.  Most hotels will send someone to the train station to meet you and carry your bags to the hotel.  They will even hold your bags and meet you back at the train station after your visit to Machu Picchu.
  2. If you do decide to stay at Hotel La Cabana ask for a to go Breakfast for your early start.  They packed us water, juice, sandwiches, candy, cookies, and fruit in your standard brown paper bag.
  3. Restaurant recommendations: Mapi Grill (Peruvian)
  4. Restaurants to avoid: Cafe con Pisco.  Sure it seems convenient right in the square, but it nearly killed me.  

Machu Picchu

The first bus leaves Aguas Calientes as 5:30am.  We rolled up to the bus station at 5am and there was already a line up the street.  For as chaotic and busy as everything is, they keep the lines moving and the busses rolling.  I would highly recommend staying the night before you visit the site and trying to get on the first bus.  You will have a chance of getting pictures not swarming with people....


Most mornings the clouds roll in over the ruins. It burns off slowly providing a very dramatic reveal..... 


Huayna Picchu / Montana Waynapicchu


We were determined to be the first ones up to the top when they finally let the first group through the gate at 7am.  Hustling, we managed to summit in about 45 minutes.  If you're not used to the altitude this could be tough, but honestly it was the humidity that was the hardest part.  

     Summit: 8,835 Ft.      Elevation Gain: ~1,400 F.

Left:  These stairs are pretty steep.  Also, remember that Incan/Quechuan people are really short and so these stairs are appropriately narrow.  Most people were going going down on all fours... crab style.

Right/Below:  View from the lookout towers near the summit.

Probably my favorite picture from the entire trip.  We met an awesome couple and their very courageous mom at the top.  We passed our camera over a big gap in these boulders while he was laying on his stomach to get this pic.  Totally worth it.