After visiting the superb ruins of Choquequirao and 4 difficult days to get closer to Machu Picchu, we were not unhappy to reach the village of Playa, located only a day’s walk from Aguas Caliente (the village located at the foot of Machu!).
Although a little surprised by the crowd we found in Playa, we spent a very good evening/night in a campsite located in the middle of a coffee plantation, just at the entrance of the Inca trail that would let us see the Machu Picchu for the first time the next day…. Finally!
Day 8: Playa – Aguas Caliente
7:00 am sharp… we are ready to climb on a new “Inca path” to the ruins of Llactapacta, from where we will see the city of Machu! On the trail, there are a few groups that make the same journey as us but there is nothing to feel oppressed about (like the day before in Playa village…).
It must be said that some of the people who sleep in the village are then transported directly by minibus to Hydroelectrica, where they will take the train to Aguas Caliente. But as far as we’re concerned, there’s no way we’re missing our first date with the Machu! And despite the aches and pains, we feel that we are getting closer to our goal and we are motivated as never before.
After 2 hours of a rather gentle climb, we reach the ruins of Llactapacta. And then, guess who’s quietly coming out of the fog. Our friend Machu Picchu…. Well, we’re not going to lie to you, our first contact with the Machu was a little shy! The weather wasn’t incredible that day, so the pictures we were able to take at that time were, how can I put it that way… a little foggy. But well, not enough to make us loose our motivation!
We are sure that the next day we will have a bright time to visit Machu. We take a good half an hour to enjoy the view and take stupid pictures in the ruins before we start the descent to Hydroelectrica.
Arrival at Hydroelectrica: follow the train tracks
It will take us 2 more hours to reach the famous Machu Picchu hydroelectric station… and the least we can say is that the place has no charm! In addition to the people who work there, there is a kind of minibus parade that drops off tourists at the beginning of the railway lines that lead to Aguas Caliente! Along these last ones, you will find the inevitable shops and restaurants that take advantage of this tourist influx!
From there, 2 choices are available to you…. Either you pay about $30 to travel 10km by train (it is much more expensive than in Switzerland…), or you walk the 10km along the train tracks.
At that price, we didn’t think long and we set off along the railway tracks…. with the 300 other people who had made the same decision as us;-).
Walk along the railway to reach Machu Pichu
So we’re not going to lie to you, it wasn’t the most interesting 10km of the trek! We walk half the time on the rocks of the rails (it’s not very pleasant), and as there are a lot of people, it’s impossible to walk at your own pace! But well, it’s almost $60 saved and on the way, looking up, we always see our friend Machu closer.
It takes between 2 and 3 hours to reach Aguas Caliente by walking… And as it was our 8th day of walking, we reached the village at the end of our strenghts! Thus, we hurried to buy our tickets for Machu in the village square, we took the first hotel we found, we quickly ate something and went to bed… Well, we had planned to get up at 4am to climb the famous stairs to Machu Picchu… We needed to rest!
Info Day 8:
From Playa to Aguas caliente
- Distance: 22kms
- Elevation gain: 800m
- Elevation loss: 900m
- Duration: about 7h
- Additional Info: On the “Inca path” that goes up to the ruins and then down to Hydroelectrica, there are several hotels and campsites. Apart from the one where we were at the beginning of the path, there is a campsite that looked pretty nice at the top of the hill, just after the ruins…. Sleeping there with the view of the Machu must be quite good 😉
- Machu Pichu tickets:
To buy your tickets for Machu, go to the communal building located in the main square of the village.
Since January 1st, 2019 the rules of visit of Machu Pichu have become MUCH stricter! It is now imperative to have your ticket in advance and unfortunately you are also required to select in advance the time you want to enter. Morning tickets are more expensive than day tickets:(. To access the site you must:
- be on time (indicated on the ticket)
- make sure to have your passport
- be accompanied by a guide (the guides can be hired on site… roughly they ask 40€ for a 2.5h visit, so the more you are, the cheaper it is per person)
I must admit that these new rules make things much more complicated. Then we admit that we understand the process in a spirit of preservation of the site (even if clearly there is a big profit that is made along the way too). 🙁
Note: There are several types of tickets. Entry alone, with the mountain, the Huayna Pichhu. Select the one you want and be careful to select the desired schedule)
If you want you can also book a combo directly: bus+ticket+guide
This is obviously more expensive than buying the ticket separately, hiring a local guide on the spot and hiking up.
Aguas Caliente: less charm you die!
We admit, we didn’t particularly like Aguas Caliente… In fact, we even hated it! It is a bit like the Zermatt of Peru (Zermatt for those who do not know, it is the village below the Matterhorn and combines all the clichés of Switzerland in one place ;-)).
It’s ultra kitsch, there are 5 souvenir shops per square meter, all the restaurants have absolutely the same menu that combines pizzas – pastas – Mexican – burgers – llama steak and so on, everything is ultra expensive (we even had to negotiate the price of our meal in the restaurant. What hadn’t happened since Indonesia) and we found the people not particularly friendly compared to the rest of Peru. The only positive point we found in Aguas Caliente is that there is, as its name suggests, hot water!
So after 8 days of trekking, you can imagine that a hot shower is quite pleasant ;-)…. But even the hot water was not enought to make us want stay longer there! We had initially planned to stay 2 nights to rest but we finally preferred to return directly to Hydroelectrica and then Cusco after our visit to Machu.
Day 9: Visiting Machu Picchu – back to hydroelectrica
Drrriiinnnnngggg! The alarm clock rings…. It’s 4:00 am in the morning. It is more difficult to get out of bed than out of the sleeping bag ;-)…. But we are motivated! It is today that we will finally visit the Inca city of Machu Picchu after all the efforts made to get there. The legs are heavy, especially since we are well aware that there are 400-500m of stairs to climb up to the entrance… We try not to think too much about it (but since we don’t have backpacks we already feel lighter) and we head towards the bridge that crosses the river and from where the famous stairs begin. We are obviously not the only ones and we have no difficulty in finding our way.
4.20 am: We are practically the first to the bridge but the first disappointment is that the bridge is closed until 5am (we don’t know if it’s new…) Obviously, nobody had told us about it and when you think about it, it’s really not a very fair play story. The thing is that the doors of Machu Picchu open at 6:00 am and that the first buses (which, by the way, cost $10 per person for 10 minutes of travel….) arrive at the top at 5:45 am!
Climbing stairs to Machu Picchu at a brisk pace
Knowing that when climbing the stairs almost running, it takes at least 40 minutes to reach the entrance, it is very difficult to reach the top before the 1st bus. But we don’t let ourselves be discouraged and we go up as fast as we can with the energy we have left… it’s not a few stairs without a bag on our back that will frighten us ;-). 42 minutes and 45 seconds later, we arrive at the entrance sweating heavily and just before the first bus (actually at the same time as it, but by the time people got off the bus, we were already in front of the doors).
We did it! We did it! Fabienne will even have been the first girl to reach the top of the stairs! It seems that the 8 days of training were useful for at least something. 😉 But we’re a little sad for the people who got up very early like us and who arrives 5-10 minutes later, behind the first 5 buses full of tourists…
Machu Pichu: FINAAAAALLLYYY!!!!!
As soon as the doors open, we hurry up to the last stairs that separate us from our objective. and then bhaaammmm, it’s the visual slap! We have Machu Picchu almost all to ourselves in the early morning light. We just enjoy those moments we’ve been waiting for for 9 days! A little icing on the cake, the weather is perfect! It could not have been otherwise!
The first hour of the walk in the city of Machu was extremely pleasant. The site is rather large and you can still enjoy this show in complete tranquility. Of course, we take a lot of pictures of the ruins. Fabienne takes advantage of the llamas who roam freely on the site to take nice souvenir photos. When there are more people, we slowly return to the entrance to find a guide who can explain the stories behind these century-old stones.
Take a guide for the visit of Machu Pichu
Update 2019: As mentioned before the guide is now mandatory. The guys are not crazy… now that it’s mandatory the guides’ prices have doubled 🙁
After 2 minutes of negotiation with a guide, let’s go for 2 hours of private visit (100 soles for both). It would be a shame to come to Machu Picchu on foot in 9 days and not to put the 25€ of the guided tour (but you will not find the details about the Machu in this article… maybe another time ;-)).
It is about 10am when our guided tour ends. We’ve had enough Inca ruins for one day! So we decide to go back down to Aguas Caliente by the same route we took that morning.
As the prospect of spending the afternoon and one more night in the kitschy village of Machu Picchu did not delight us, we decided to use the little energy we had left to return along the tracks to Hydroelectrica. We got there at around 13:30. From there, we negotiated 2 seats in a minibus for Cusco for 35 Soles per person.
We arrived in Cusco early in the evening. Completely exhausted but happy and proud of us! It is certain, we are not about to forget this adventure to Machu Picchu.
Info Day 9:
Visit of Machu Picchu and back to Hydroelectrica
- Distance: between 20 – 25 kms (it is very difficult to estimate the number of kms walked on the Machu Pichu site))
- Elevation gain: 500m
- Elevation loss: 600m
- Duration: 7h
- Additional Info: We found it a good idea to take advantage of taking pictures at first when there are still few people and then take a guided tour. There are enough guides walking towards the entrance of the site and you will not have any problem finding them. Ours, first asked us for 120 soles for 4 people but as we could not find 2 other customers, he accepted to do the visit for just us 2 for 100 soles.
- Additional Info: Don’t forget to have your passport stamped when you leave the Machu. It’s a great memory 😉
Review of our 9-day trek in Peru
That’s it, the story of this 9-day trek to Machu Picchu is over. It was the first time we had ever embarked on such a long autonomous trek. And this is probably not the last time we’re going to try this experiment. It must be said that now that we have seen that we are capable of it, it would be wrong to deprive ourselves.
At the end of an adventure like this, we just feel happy, proud and satisfied. It’s an extremely rewarding way to travel! Memories for life! And besides, there is no cheaper way to visit Machu! Imagine… for 9 days of all-inclusive hiking (Machu visit, transportation, food etc…), we spent $190 per person. In other words, if we continue to spend money at this rate, we can still travel for 2 more years 😉
Video of our solo trek at Machu Pichu
And as promised, here is to finish, the video of these 9 days of trekking. You can find all our travel videos on this page and if you like it, don’t forget to follow our youtube channel 😉
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