June 24, 2014
From the small village of Ollantaytambo, we boarded the train for the two hour ride to Machu Picchu! The famous mountain top city of the Incas and one of the most recognizable and popular tourist attractions in the world. Machu Picchu, an Inca city abandoned and lost to the world was rediscovered and reintroduced to the world in 1911. The ruins were overgrown with jungle vegetation but were more or less intact. This is largely due to the fact that it was abandoned before the Spanish Conquistadors could learn about it and destroy it, and the fact that no one but locals had ever gone there since.
We boarded the train from Ollantaytambo at 6:10 in the morning and after a scenic one and a half hour ride arrived in the town of Aguas Calientes at the base of the mountain beneath Machu Picchu. The town of Aguas Calientes exists solely to service the tourists coming and going from the mountain and is a collection of restaurants, fancy hotels and hostels and a sea of tourist gift shops and of course the train station.
We purchased our tickets in town and boarded the bus that would take us the short 20 minute ride uphill to Machu Picchu. Oftentimes it is wise to purchase a Machu Picchu entrance ticket in advance, as the site is limited to 2500 people per day. We did not have any problems getting tickets the morning of, as we went on June 24th, the date of Cusco’s biggest festival, Inti Raymi.
Our first views of Machu Picchu were amazing.
Machu Picchu Mountain
Our tickets included access to Machu Picchu Mountain, above the city (Opposite direction from where most pictures are taken). If you think of the popular view of Machu Picchu, the typical picture that you see everywhere, Machu Picchu Mountain would be behind the photographer. The dome shaped mountain looming over the city in all the photos is called Huayna Picchu.
We climbed up the original Inca trail complete with stone steps to the top of the mountain, and a great view from far above the city.
After returning from the top of the mountain we took a side trip around the cliff face of the mountain to the Inca Bridge. A small wooden bridge along one the trails leading to the city built right along a massive cliff face. The wooden planks of the bridge are removable, creating an easily defensible entry point for the city. Below the bridge is a cliff which plummets at least a thousand feet.
Back in the city we explored the ruins and all the different buildings and stonework.
There are many great examples of the fine Inca stonework plainly visible and still intact throughout the entire city. Including waterways built throughout to bring water into the city from springs on the mountain. Many of which are still working today.
Many of the stones are so tight you cannot fit a piece of paper between them.
There are several important buildings and sacred spots within the city, such as the Temple of the Sun, The Intihuatana Stone and the Mirror Pools.
The Temple of the Sun, a rounded building built right over a solid granite tomb was the location of the Cult of the Sun and the tomb for royal mummies. Several mummies were kept in the tombs below for worship.
The Intihuatana Stone, Astronomical observations were extremely important to the Inca’s, the Intihuatana stone assisted in these observations.
The Mirror Pools, the Inca’s built these wide shallow water pools to reflect the night sky, making observations of the stars easier.
Llamas have free reign in the ruins and are the primary lawn mowers, keeping the weeds and grass in check.
After seeing the ruins, we decided to fore-go the bus ride down the hill and walked back to Aguas Calientes. A little over an hour downhill. There we had some dinner and hopped on our 6:45 pm train back to Ollantaytambo.
Machu Picchu – Costs
Getting there: US $57.00 Per person, each way , for the train from Ollantaytambo to the town of Aguas Calientes (Town at the base of Machu Picchu.)
US $10.00 Per person, each way, for the short bus ride up the hill from Aguas Calientes (you can walk it but it will take a few hours or more, uphill.)
Entrance Fee : US $50.00 Per person – (Includes access to trail up Machu Picchu Mountain – the viewpoint above Machu
Picchu. $45.00 without.)
Food/Drinks: US $13.00 For a coffee, US $10.00 for a can of soda… (Bring your own)