Machu Picchu – Inkas´ hidden treasure
Living in one of the South American capitals, not far from Peru and not being able to visit Machu Picchu because of a toddler? Some said we were crazy, some thought ‘’ such irresponsible parents’’, some others were concerned about the altitude sickness that might affect such a small kid. No, we didn’t have any family on that side of the Atlantic Ocean to take care of our kid. We had the choice between never going to see Machu Picchu living just 2 hours by plane away or simply book the flight and take the toddler with us. And the second option was the best option. We had been living in one of the highest capitals in South America that is at around 2,700 meters (8,880 ft) above sea level for over a year and a half so, as it turned out later, the altitude wasn’t an issue for any of us although once in the hotel I got horrible headache but it was gone after taking a regular painkiller and did not come back. Machu Picchu is about 2,400 meters (7,900 ft) above sea level and Cusco around 3400 (11,200) above sea level.
What to do in Cusco:
Upon checking-in to our hotel just by the Cusco walls we were ready to enjoy our long weekend visiting the Machu Picchu. The main attractions to see in Cusco:
- Plaza de Armas (Huacaypata) and the Cathedral
- San Pedro Market
- Cusco Walls
- Have breakfast/coffee in some of the restaurants/hotels overlooking the main square
- Go to the highest Irish Pub in Latin America
While walking on the streets we suddenly heard screams and people running. As it turned, some tourists took pictures with the typical Peruvian women wearing typical dresses and walking a llama without paying them for the picture. The tourists didn’t know that taking pictures is not free and the women of course wanted to claim the money. We learnt from that and never took a picture without consent and of course giving the women some coins afterwards.
The next day we started our trip to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town). First we took a taxi (arranged by our hotel) to get to Ollantaytambo (around two hours’ drive) and from there a train (an hour and a half) to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town).
The road to Ollantaytambo goes through the Sacred Valley. On the way we stopped in few places:
- Saksaywaman – a few minutes’ drive from Cusco. From there you can enjoy a panoramic view of Cusco and the surrounding mountains.
- Pisac Market and Ruins
- Ollantaytambo ruins
The driver stopped in few places on the way. One was with the typical woollen handicraft with lamas and women preparing wool and knitting. We were explained the wool preparation process. Our toddler was extremely happy to see all the animals and even be able to feed them. The next stop was the Pisac market. All drivers know a different place similar to this.
The ruins in Ollantaytambo are worth visiting. If you opt to do the same – taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then the train, spare some time to visit Ollantaytambo before taking the train to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes).
How to get to Machu Picchu:
- By train: both are scenic journeys:
- From Ollantaytambo. You can take taxi (or a bus from Cusco)
- From Poroy (Cusco ). A short taxi drive from Cusco.
- The Inka Trail – walking to Machu Picchu – 4 days trail. This option can be quite expensive.
- By bus or by car to Hidroelectrica from Cusco. And a trekking from there. This is the cheapest option to get to Machu Picchu. There are sleeping options at Santa Teresa and Santa Maria.
Kids above one year of age pay half price of the adult’s fare and have their own sit on the train.
I must admit that booking the trains and buying the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu was a bit of a challenge. Our European credit card kept being rejected, or there was an error on the website etc. There are different types of trains you can take. We opted for the more comfortable option, which wasn’t either the most expensive one or the cheapest one. It was fine but my arms and my co-passenger’s arms were ‘touching’’. The seats were very narrow as suddenly I felt I was very big sitting on them. I can’t imagine then how the cheaper option train looks like. The rail tracks go just by the river. I had the impression that the ground under the rails can collapse at any time.
Our toddler was extremely happy with this new experience.
On the website it says that there are only 2500 tickets to be sold per day. But once you get to Cusco we found many places to buy the tickets for the visit for the next day. If you want to climb Huayna Picchu – you must reserve the tickets well in advance as the entry is limited to a certain number of people per day and there are 2 or 3 turns to split the visitors. All the details can be found on the website.
So after 2 planes – to Lima, from Lima to Cusco, a taxi ride to Ollantaytambo, a train from Ollantaytambo (all in 2 days) we still have not gotten to the Machu Picchu ruins. We slept in a hotel and very early in the morning we got to take the bus to go up to the Ancient Inka Site (Machu Picchu). No wonder that the Spaniards have never found this place during their conquest of Latin America and thanks to that it was not destroyed as many other places discovered by them.
The queue to take the bus was very long. After turning more or less 14 times on the unbeaten, curvy uphill road in order to climb the mountain through the forest, on a bus that was not worth the price at all, wondering if were safe at all when there was another bus coming from the opposite direction, waiting in another long queue or rather a crowd to get to the checks with our tickets, we were finally there – in front of the Majestic Machu Picchu. We have witnessed the moment when the fog was gone and we started to see a huge rock in front of us. The view was amazing. I must admit I even liked it more with the fog than without. Towards the end of our visit the sun came out completely and we were able to see it all. Be prepared for any weather as there is no shadow to hide from the sun or shelter to escape the rain.