Machu Picchu is a household name and considered one of the Seven Wonders on the World. The site was built around 1450 by the Incas just before the Spanish Conquest. When the Spaniards invaded Peru, they tore down all of their places of worship and built Spanish Churches on top of them. The reason why Machu Picchu still stands, is once the Incas heard of the Spanish invasion they fled their sacred city and covered up the trail so no one could find it. It wasn’t until 1911 when an American Historian stumbled across the Lost City that Machu Picchu rose to international fame.
How do you get there?
The largest city closest to Machu Picchu is Cusco, and from there you have a couple different options. You can take a train to Aguas Calientes and from there a bus to Machu Picchu, or you can hike. The three most popular hikes are the traditional Inca Trail, Lares Trek and the Salkantay Trek. The Inca Trail is the most popular; you travel the same road as the ancient Incas and enter the ruins through the Sun Gate. The Lares Trek will take you through a remote part of the Peruvian Andes where you walk through villages, breathtaking scenery and get a sense of a less touristy Peru. However, the trail does not end at Machu Picchu, it ends at Ollantaytambo and you take a train to Aguas Calientes. The Salkantay Trek is a longer hike, and from what I’ve heard a little more difficult than the other two. The trail offers views of snowy peaks such as Huamantay and Salkantay and ends at a town called Santa Teresa which is just a few kilometers from Aguas Calientes.
I completed the Lares Trek and absolutely loved it. Everyday there was a new scenic gorgeous view, and the trail wasn’t overly populated with other tourists. Sometimes when we would break for lunch, we would see other tourists, but most of the time it was just my small group of five, our guide and the Sherpas. We had donkeys and horses with us that carried our belongings, food shelter etc. So, we hiked with just a small backpack of supplies. The donkeys and horses cannot make it up the steps of the Inca Trail, so you have to carry all of your own gear on that trek. The Salkantay Trek also has horses that can carry some of your supplies.
The benefit of the Lares and Salkantay Treks, is you get to spend a night in a hotel in Augas Calientes before headed to Machu Picchu. This means your first proper shower in days, a real toilet, a bed, all the comforts you might have missed over the last couple of days. Do check the weather and bring appropriate clothing. The days can be very warm and the nights very cold. Plus, you might experience rain, wind and sun all in one day.
The elevation of Cusco is 3400 m or 11,200 ft. Guides recommend you spend a couple of days in Cusco to adjust to the elevation before heading the Machu Picchu. The Lost City itself is only 2400 meters, but during your hike you will reach great summits of around 4500 meters. Coca tea is a popular drink to help with altitude sickness, but the coca leaf is also how the narcotic cocaine is made, so it can deliver a false positive on a drug test.
We arrived in the Lost City just in time for sunrise, and I am still in awe. To think something was built so long ago and still in such incredible condition, but the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. After a morning tour and history lesson with our guide we parted ways for a little free time. My group chose to hike up to the Sun Gate for lunch (you cannot eat in the ruins) and another incredible view. Another thing I liked about the Lares Trek, is it’s such an intimate group that you become really good friends with everyone you traveled with. To help with overcrowding, Machu Picchu now limits the number of visitors to the site each day, so make sure you buy your ticket ahead of time.
My time on the Lares Trek and visiting Machu Picchu was an adventure I’ll never forget. I loved the history, the culture, the food! Some of the best food I had during my stay in Peru was on the Lares Trek. If you’re thinking about visiting this sacred site – do it! If you have any other questions about Cusco, Machu Picchu or the Lares Trek ask me on twitter at @keeliec5 or leave me a comment below!
Until next time…..