Machu Picchu is like the holy grail of visiting Peru. Some people plan super elaborate trips to see it, others hike the whole Inca Trail to get the full experience. I'm not either of those people. I wanted to see Machu Picchu with the least amount of effort and time involved. If you feel the same way, this post is for you!! If you want to do major planning or major hiking, I promise this post will annoy the crap out of you so you should probably read one of my other entertaining posts instead :)
I scheduled an 8 day tour that included Machu Picchu so I did not have to think about logistics at all. Let me tell you, this was a BRILLIANT idea. I was standing in line to get on the bus to Machu Picchu with my tour guide, and the people behind us were lamenting the fact that they had a ticket to get on the bus but not to get into Machu Picchu. Haha suckers!! if they had hired a tour company who does this 24/7 they wouldn't be crying in line about their poor planning skills.
That is only one example of the complications of planning a visit to Machu Picchu. There are a million things to consider when booking a trip. For example, if you are into hiking (which I am not) there are extra 2 hikes within the bounds of Machu Picchu that have to be scheduled separately and are not included in the price of admission. Both have limited availability on any given day so you have to make sure schedule them WAY in advance.
Since this article is for lazy people (like myself), let me give you the easy way to do this.
1. Book through a tour company and let them plan it for you. I used Inkayni Peru Tours. I didn't have to lift a finger in planning, and had a guide with me the entire time. It was fantastic! We were there for about 3 hours and probably could have been there longer if needed. Having a local guide definitely enhanced my visit!
2. You can't go to Machu Picchu and not hike (sorry, wish I had better news). It's about a 10 min walk up uneven stairs to even start the tour. With that being said, I'm fat and out of shape but I managed to climb up slowly in the rain. You can too! Just take breaks if the altitude is bothering you and you'll be fine. Also, wear good shoes! I wore my old Nike's that have a pretty grippy bottom and managed not to fall at all. This pic was taken immediately after the 10 min up the mountain.
3. Machu Picchu is rain or shine. Unfortunately for me I was there on a rainy day so my pictures look like something out of "The Mist". But you can still enjoy the up close and personal encounter with walls that were touched by Inca before Jesus was born. But again, it's SUPER helpful to have a guide to explain what it all means, so just get a guide.
4. Just when you think you hiked up stairs for 10 min and that is the most active thing you were planning all year, low and behold you have to hike back down. I know, this is supposed to be for lazy people. But there is no way to get out without hiking uneven stairs to leave. The good news is that the way down is broken up by flat spaces and things to stop and see so it does not feel so tiring.
5. I would be a terrible guide if I didn't mention the heights. If you are at all scared of heights, Machu Picchu is not for you. The bus ride up the mountain is fear-inducing (Including your bus coming head on with another bus and then having to back down the hill to make room for the other bus. It's like playing mountain chicken with passengers.) And to fit the cliche it's literally up the side of a mountain with no rails. If any of this bothers you, know that there are also people (who are not lazy) walking up this mountain on the same road as the busses. There are no sidewalks, so these brave souls have to hope they see the bus before the bus takes them out.
6. Speaking of heights, the 10 min is up the mountain so be prepared to look down. As you can imagine, there are no walls or barriers to prevent you from falling off the mountain. You don't ever have to get all the way to the edge of anything, but sometimes it's better if you do. If you get a guide like I told you to do, you can make him get that amazing shot off the ledge that you are too scared to take. Problem solved!
7. My tour company arranged for me to take a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu (Inca Rail is super nice and I recommend it!). They also arranged for someone to take me from the train to my hotel. Now that sounds like there was a car involved, but I had to walk uphill to my hotel with the hotel guide carrying my bag. More hiking! You could probably arrange a hotel closer to the train station, but I let the tour company handle it because I'm lazy.
I may have more lazy suggestions as I think of them. Do you have any good travel hacks that you use when you can't be bothered?