Peru, the culture of the incas… And Machu Picchu, which always fascinated me. Since I was a kid, I would see pictures, look at documentaries… So when I decided to travel South America, Machu Picchu was one of the first items on my bucket list. And nothing is better than a 5 days trek taking you between the mountains, in the forest, all the way to Machu Picchu.
How to get to Machu Picchu ?
You have different options to go to Machu Picchu, all of them from Cuzco, Peru.
You can go trekking. The most famous trek is, of course, the Inca Trail. But let’s be honest, it can be hard to book : they accept a certain amount of people every day on the trail, meaning that you have to book it really in advance. If you arrive in Cusco and you didn’t book anything, there is two other treks, bookable a few days before going : The Salkantay Trek and the Jungle Trail. The Jungle Trail is only 3 days, but you get to do biking, rafting… It is a lot of fun if you like sports ! The Salkantay Trek is 4 or 5 days, going in the mountains, in the forest…
You can also go to Machu Picchu in 2 days. This is the economic way that backpackers like. A bus from Cusco takes you to Hydroelectrica, the beginning of the National Park. From here, you can walk for 3 hours, following the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. This is a little town just next to Machu Picchu, where you can spend the night. Then, on the morning, you go visit Machu Picchu, and come back the same way in the afternoon.
How much does it cost ?
If you decide to book a trek, everything is included. They usually are around 200-250 USD. It usually includes the food, the mules (They transport your backpack), the tents, the team (the ones leading the mules who also prepare the campsite before you arrive, and the cook), the entrance to Machu Picchu, and the train and bus back to Cusco. They sometimes can propose extra activities for extra money, like the Zip Line on the Salkantay Trek. If you want to go to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Montaña, you can book it at the same time, but it will be extra.
If you go your way, you will have to buy your ticket in advance : they only allow 2500 visitors per day. For foreigners, the entrance only to Machu Picchu costs 62USD; 71USD with Huayna Picchu ; 67USD with Montaña Machu Picchu. If you have a student card, it will cost you 37USD only Machu Picchu ; 42USD with Huayna Picchu ; 40USD with Montaña Machu Picchu. You will need to add around 30USD for the bus from Cusco to Hydroelectrica.
There is also a bus going from Agua Calientes to Machu Picchu : 12USD one way.
The Salkantay Trek
Day 1 : An excited first day
6AM, December the 2nd. It is hard to wake up, but we are all excited. Our backpack is ready, we are ready… Just waiting for the bus !
After two hours in the bus, we arrive in this little town where we are gonna take our breakfast. After eating, it is time to get ready, for good. I let my big backpack with the mules, and we discover our entire group. We are fifteen with our guide, and we will be the “Pumas” for the next 5 days !
The first morning is not too hard. Around midday, we arrive at our first campsite. After lunch, we have the choice to stay and relax, or to go on a small trek, to see a beautiful lagoon. It is an hour walk, going up, and it is really worth it ! I put my toes in the water and well… It is cold !
Day 2 : Up the mountains
The second day is the hardest day of the trek. We get up around 6AM. Our team wakes us up with a Coca tea (tea made with some coca leaves, very popular in Peru) in the tent. Nothing better to start a day of trekking !
The first 3 hours are the hardest. We have to go all the way up. We have to go up to 4600 m of altitude, which is not that easy. Some of us are chewing coca leaves, to help with the altitude. When we arrive at the top, the view takes you breath away. From here, you can see the Salkantay mountain, with a little bit of snow still at the top. Time for a break and to thank our Pachamama (Mother Nature).
The rest of the day is easier. We are going down now. But we still have 6 hours before arriving at the camp. In a few minutes, the landscape totally changes. We were in the mountains, surrounded by rocks, and now we are in the forest. Everything is green, and we can even pick up some strawberries on the way !
Day 3 : Between tiredness and excitement
We start to be tired, but we are still in a good mood ! This day is gonna be easier than the day before. We walk at a good pace, almost the all walk is flat today. We cross paths with some cows today ! This is a beautiful day, and in the afternoon, we arrive at a small river, where we all take a bath and have fun ! A car comes and takes us to the campsite. Tonight, it is our last day with our team (the mules and their masters, the cook…). It is a big celebration. The dinner is even better than usual. We have a big bonfire, music and Inca Tequila !
Day 4 : Ziplines and train tracks
This morning, part of the group is going to do ZipLine ! We are super excited. We spend the morning going on zip lines, trying to make different poses, trying to go faster. This is a lot of fun, and of course, the landscape is incredible !
At midday, we finally arrive at the national park of Machu Picchu. As the mules cannot enter, we take back our backpack, and we have 3 hours walk, following the train tracks, leading to the town of Aguas Calientes. We can see our tired faces, but we are all so excited ! Tonight, we are going to sleep in a real bed, and we are gonna have a good night of sleep, to be ready to discover Machu Picchu tomorrow !
Day 5 : And finally… Machu Picchu !!!
This is it ! 4AM, the alarm clock goes on. We are so tired… But we get up anyway and start walking. The first gates open at 5AM. We then have an hour to go up the stairs (around 1700 steps…). And at 6AM, they finally open the gates to Machu Picchu !
The place is full of history, and our guide explains us a lot of things : the arrangement of the houses, where were the gates, how the Machu Picchu was never finished, how it has been discovered, the life of the Incas… We discover a part of the Inca life, try to imagine how it was… After 3 hours of the guided tour, it is time to climb the Montaña Machu Picchu. 3 hours of stairs, going all the way up (3061.28m of altitude !). From here, you can see everything, all Machu Picchu. It almost seems so small ! This is a perfect place to have lunch. And when we go down, we keep on visiting, trying to see every part of Machu Picchu. We spent in total 11 hours discovering Machu Picchu.
We come back to the city to take our train, back to Cusco… With all of the memories of this incredible journey…!