This is part 6 of a series of posts devoted to our whirlwind tour of Peru & Chile.
- Less than $1,000 per person all-in for our 11-day tour in Peru & Chile
- How you can use <75,000 points to replicate our itinerary to visit Machu Picchu, Easter Island, and more
- How to prepare for altitude sickness in Machu Picchu & Lake Titicaca
- What to bring for your trip to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and/or Easter Island
- How many different sets of tickets do you have to buy for that one-day visit to Machu Picchu?
- How to Create Your Own Machu Picchu “Inka Trail” Experience in One Day
- Using the Tambo del Inka, a Starwood Luxury Collection Resort, as Your Base for Your Visit to Machu Picchu
- Tour Guide #1 – Sabino for Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Peru
- Tour Guide #2 – Silvia for Puno, Lake Titicaca, Sillustani, Peru
- How We Did Lima, Peru in One Day
- Tour Guide #3 – Sergio for Easter Island, Chile
- Taking Advantage of an Airport Hotel for Our Walking Tour of Santiago, Chile
- Airport Lounge Access + LAN International Business vs. Economy
- Budgeting for Your Next Big Dream Vacation
- You Won’t Believe What Happened on Our Way Home!
Most of us don’t have the luxury of time to do the 4-day 3-night Inca Trail when visiting Machu Picchu, but can we create our own one-day “Inka Trail” experience? You bet!
Machu Picchu is open from 6:30am to 5:30pm, and tickets are valid for one day only. In order to maximize our time at the sites, we decided to take the first train out and the last train back.
- Morning (Expedition 81, $48 per person): 6:10am (Ollantaytambo) to 7:40am (Aguas Calientes)
- Evening (Expedition 76, $34 per person): 9:30pm (Aguas Calientes) to 11pm (Ollantaytambo)
If you are not scared of heights and able to score one of the 400 daily tickets to climb Huayna Picchu at either 7am or 10am, your itinerary could be very different from what we are discussing here.
Before entering Machu Picchu, make sure you each have all the essentials in your hydration pack. Again, a few more points before we start:
- Food/Water: Not available for sale inside the park. Official rule states that food/beverage is not allowed in the ruins, but you shouldn’t have any problem carrying water/snacks and consuming them outside the main ruins. The only option for lunch is located outside the gate at the Sanctuary Lodge (~$30 per person for the lunch buffet).
- Restroom Breaks: There is no restroom inside the park. Outside the gate, you could pay 1 Peruvian Sol to use the restroom (that is in addition to a long hike/walk out of the park). We saw many go “au naturale” in the woods on different trails outside the ruins.
- Hiking Sticks: They can be rented or purchased locally if you need them.
A few steps past the entrance gate area, most would follow the path towards the right to enter the ruins.
We, however, decided to ascend the steep stone steps on our left, marked by a “Long” sign.
This will lead you to the terrace area that offers you a great view of the Machu Picchu ruins and a perfect “Look! I’ve made it!” photo op.
Continuing along the path, you will see a sign pointing to Intipunku (Gate of the Sun) on your left (with your back facing the main ruins).
Without knowing how long the hike will be, we decided to embark on it.
The hike turned out to be about 3 hours long (round trip), and was definitely the highlight of our day at Machu Picchu. The magical surroundings filled with lush mountains, low-laying clouds, beautiful flowers, mystical rain and fog, made us appreciate Machu Picchu so much more than we could have imagined.
Once we reached Intipunku, we found a place to sit and breathe in all the majesty. While having some snacks and water, we read up on Intipunku. Some notable facts:
- The trail between Intipunku and the main ruins is the last part of the Inca Trail.
- The first sighting of the Machu Picchu ruins happens at Intipunku.
- The mountain by Intipunku was named Machu Picchu, and the main ruins we know today as Machu Picchu were named so because of the first sighting at Intipunku on the Inca Trail.
Once we got back down to the terraces above the ruins, we decided to follow the sign to the Inca Suspension Bridge. This hike can be done in about an hour (round trip). Due to a visitor’s fall to death, closer access to the bridge is now prohibited. This narrow trail is partially cliff-clinging, but offers a great view of the surrounding mountain range and the Urubamba River circling the valley.
The busiest hours at Machu Picchu are between 10am and 2pm. After a bit of rest and a lot of picture-taking in the terrace area, we made our way down to the now deserted main ruins right around 2pm. Again, our guide book on Kindle provided some good basis for the walking tour of the ruins. We also lingered and listened to the occasional English-speaking tour guides leading small groups of tourists.
By the time we made our way out of the park, it was right before 5pm. Unable to change our train tickets to a 6:30pm departure (changes have to be made 48 hours prior to departure with Perurail), we decided to take it easy and had dinner at a restaurant recommended by the guide book.
It’s been a month since our one-day visit at Machu Picchu, TravelWhimsy and I still can’t stop marveling at the mystical natural beauty surrounding the Incan ruins. My favorite memory remains the hike to Intipunku. Pictures taken during that hike even fooled some of our friends who have hiked the real Inca Trail – they really thought that we had spent 4 days hiking it, too!
Let me know what you think! I respond to all comments.