Machu Picchu, The Lost City
It’s difficult to put into words a place that leaves you feeling so connected to something much larger than yourself and Machu Picchu is definitely a place where we felt that. We chose to allow ourselves two full days just for Machu Picchu and we’re so happy that we did. Many people visit for one day and that definitely would not have been enough for us. The site is quite large and to explore all of it and include some of the hikes around it, you need that extra time. In fact another day would have been great but we were happy with two days.
We stayed at the base of the mountain in Aguas Calientes at a small guesthouse. It was nice, clean, and comfortable, we could even hear the rush of the river from our room. There are no roads to Aguas Calientes so you have to take the train or walk. The town is pretty and sits beside the Urubamba River but there’s not much to see in the town itself. You can walk up the switchback road to Machu Picchu but we opted to take the bus, we wanted to get to the site as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
We were up early and caught one of the first buses up the mountain at around 6 am. When we walked through the gate, we were stunned with the beauty. We could hardly believe we were standing there looking at this ancient site with our own eyes, it really leaves you awestruck. All of the rock walkways, houses, and courtyards were so well planned and thought out. We loved how all the terraces were carved out of the mountain side and the alpacas were roaming around eating grass. At the time of year we visited, the landscape was very green and lush. Even though February is rainy season we had good weather with only a short rain shower in the afternoon.
We spent the first day exploring the entire site fascinated with how forward thinking the Inca were. As we walked around we had many questions; how did they build a city high up in the Andes? Why was Machu Picchu abandoned? Where did they go? It amazed us that the walls and structures were so meticulously built and each stone seemed to fit perfectly together without the use of any mortar, how did they do that? It was interesting to see how they planned ahead for water usage by building little canals and fountains to direct the flow of water where they needed it. They were so in tune with mother earth (Pachamama) and we could only imagine what it would have been like back then.
We didn’t hire a tour guide but we had a great book with us that served as our guide. It’s called the Machu Picchu Guidebook; A Self Guided Tour by Ruth M. Wright. It’s important to have something with you that can help you not miss some of the special things at the site. We especially liked the Temple of the Sun, Intihuatana (the hitching post to the sun), and The Royal Tomb.
The Sacred Rock which is shaped like the mountains and if you touch it you can recharge your energy, so we did.
We found the astronomical pools and The Temple of the Three Windows really interesting because they would use the reflection from these carved pools to view the night sky.
The Temple of the Condor showed us a good example of Inca stone carving.
We brought a variety of snacks with us for the day and plenty of water (even though the signs said you couldn’t…yes we broke the rules). When we needed a break, we would sit under the sacred tree or on a terrace with the alpaca’s close by, and just soak in the mystical feeling of the lost city of the Incas.
Huayna Picchu Trail and The Inca Bridge
On the 2nd day we climbed Huayna Picchu, the mountain that juts up behind Machu Picchu, the one that’s in almost every picture that you see of Machu Picchu.
We had to get to the start gate early because they only allow 400 people per day in two groups of 200. Thankfully the line at the gate wasn’t too long, so we signed in and began our ascent. The climb itself was a bit tough and most of the steps are huge and very steep. Close to the top we had to go through a narrow tunnel which we thought was really cool.
The view from the top is breathtaking, looking down upon the ancient site of Machu Picchu was mystical. We could see the switchback road up to Machu Picchu from the town and the river valley below. There are also a few ruins at the top that we took the time to explore, they seemed to just be hanging on the side of the mountain.
We took an alternate route down to the great cave of the Moon Temple, we barely saw anyone on this trail and the scenery was fantastic. Most people take the same trail down that they came up on and the main reason is, to get to the Moon Temple there are bamboo ladders fastened to the side of a cliff that you have to use and a very narrow path with a steel cable that you have to hang onto so you don’t fall off the side of the mountain. That alone can be unnerving for a lot of people including myself (I’m terrified of heights), but I made it through with supportive words and a continuous “you can do it” from Gordon. Aside from seeing Machu Picchu from the top, this alternate trail was a highlight for us.
After coming down from Huayna Picchu and having a rest, we did the hike to the Inca Bridge. It’s a short hike and it offered us a different perspective of Machu Picchu as well as a nice walk. You can’t cross the bridge and we wouldn’t have wanted to, it looked downright scary. It’s a very narrow rock wall against the cliffside with some tree trunks for the crossing. The views here were beautiful and even though we were pretty tired by this time, we’re glad we saw it.
What we took away from our time at Machu Piccu was to always allow ourselves a bit of time to soak it all in and embrace the feeling you get from an ancient site like this. It’s a magical place that we’ll never forget!
Where we stayed: Wiracocha Inn