We opted to stay in Aguas Calientes for three full days, one of which was our Machu Picchu Trek. Yes I say trek. It was not a tour, we were alone, and it was five hours of hiking up hill. You’ll see. WORTH IT though.
As for Aguas Calientes. We were pleasantly surprised with the little riverside town of Aguas Calientes. Most people stay here for one or two nights. Show up, maybe stay one night, hike Machu Picchu the next day and catch a train out that night. This sounded dreadful to Nathanael and I. We also wanted to move slowly.
We left Arequipa, stayed four days in Cusco (where we toured the Sacred Valley from). Then stayed Aug 1-5 in Aguas Calientes. So arrived on the first, had the second to explore and hang out, did our trek on the third, and got to relax on our anniversary (the fourth). Then headed back to Cusco so we could fly out to Foz Do Iguazu Brazil. Don’t worry there’s a blog coming on that in two days!
We stayed in a hotel we found on airbnb. Our particular room was a California King bed in a corner room and we had a very pleasant stay. But we did see other rooms open during housekeeping and it looked like our room was a luxury suit compared to the other rooms. SO, who knows if the rest of the hotel is actually worth staying at.
Needless to say, do what best fits your budget and itinerary needs. But if you can, make sure to explore the town. Eat good food and explore the market. I got a ring with the Peruvian condors and the stone of Machu Picchu.
This was an adventure. We opted to hike to the actual entrance of Machu Picchu rather than waking up at 2-3am to get in line for the bus. Funny that…
It was a 30 minute walk to the starting point for the hike from our hotel. The gates for the trek open at 5am. So at 4:30 we head out. All is well, we get there right on time, with maybe 15 other hikers. Looks promising so far.
Then it happened…the people in front of us got out their passports for the gateman to check in reference to their ticket (you can’t hike up to the gates of Machu Picchu if you don’t in fact have a ticket…go figure).
Have you figured out by now that the Miller’s do not have their passports in their possession? Well, we didn’t. Because we left them in the hotel room, which is 30 minutes away, and we’ve got a gate time to make in order to hike Waynapicchu once we’re actually in the park.
So back to the hotel room it was. We had no choice. 50 minutes later, passports in hand, the gateman checked us and we hauled up the mountain. This hike is not easy. You literally just stair climb straight up the mountain side. You are going up the same route the busses take up to the gates. You’re just in the thicket instead of on a road.
The hike itself was an additional 50-70 minutes (after our 1.5 hours of walking down and up and down from our hotel for our identification #rookies).
I can say that a perk of doing the hike is that you get rewarded with THIS SUNRISE, the trail head review sign (the green was the hiking trail) and a straight king kong-like view of the river.
Alright, two hours of walking/hiking later…
We get to the top and enter the actual park immediately, rush to the Waynapicchu hike because we bought tickets to be in the first group of 20 for the day. I HIGHLY suggest doing so if you can. Luckily, even with our additional 50 minutes, we were still among the first to enter.
Snap a few pics with almost NO HUMANS in the park (it’s a one way route through the entire park, so you get to go straight through with NO ONE else if you’re in the first group for Waynapicchu due to it being at the very back of the park. #winning). This is also how I got pictures of the park with no humans in it. Just the Millers and the alpacas.
Our trail time was 7 am. Getting to share the trail and views with only 20 people on the way up is UH-MAZING. PLUS, no fighting for trail space with people coming DOWN the mountain. On the way down, you’ll share the original Incan trail with the next groups making their way up. Trust me, the first group is where it’s at.
As you work your way up the mountain, you’ll get snippets of a view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountainous terrain. But the real view happens at the top. Go figure.
Like I mentioned, the steps and trail are the ORIGINAL Incan trail. And it is 110% terrifying – in my opinion.
After literally climbing up the last 15% of the trail, you reach the “top” where you see the Waynapicchu sign. But you can continue up even further if you dare…and of course…we did.
Let me tell you…your girl almost lost it. I may or may not have had a mini-inner panic attack on those second set of so called “stairs.” We reached the REAL top, none-the-less and didn’t die. Which I was half expecting to be my reality. Remember, by this time we’d already stair-climbed for an hour up to the gates of Machu Picchu itself. THEN, proceeded to stair-climb/rock-climb another hour and a half up this mountain. If I could have just rolled down the mountain side, you would have 110% seen me, happily tumbling along my merry way.
Unfortunately, tumbling down, funiculars, or cable cars are not yet an option. So you’ll have to walk/crawl back down, just as we did. I pray for your legs.
As you reach the bottom, you get a free pass to enter the park again because remember, you can only go ONE WAY – no back tracking. This means you start your tour at the back of the park, the Waynapicchu entrance. We learned this the hard way, but it worked out and we didn’t even have to jump and fences or break any rules. Which I was more than ready to do. Who goes to Machu Picchu and doesn’t see the whole park. NOT this girl. That’s for sure.
The whether started to clear up for us on the way down and it turned out to be a gorgeous day, as you’ll see. Note: You can take your time moving through the different areas on the way back to the main entrance or not. You’ll enter a second time and get to see the entire park again.
We took our time because we were not aware we got to enter another time. So we snapped all the photos we could get and plotted how we were going to find a blind spot for illegal re-entry or wrong way travel.
Also…if this little weirdo would’ve just hopped in my backpack, it would have been 150% fine with me.
Below was my favorite view of the park. It was on the way out our first time. I’d never see this perspective. The sky, Waynapicchu Mountain, the ruins and that random tree just did it for me.
Once we realized we could re-enter, we were thrilled, but exhausted. We decided to start up the Machu picchu Mountain hike for the classic view of the park. Oh. My. Goodness. It did not disappoint. The photos speak for themselves. Can we just take a moment to applaud Nathanael for taking this first photo? He LOATHES taking photos. But this, this photo is my life.
Machu Picchu was the single location that surpassed the google images. The hype is real, for good reason. It is a sight to be seen. I of course suggest doing either the Machu Picchu Mountain hike or Waynapicchu. They are very different. Machu Picchu is much easier and you’ll get the classic view. Waynapicchu is challenging, terrifying, and absolutely worth it. They close the Waynapiccu on rainy days because it is far too dangerous with the added challenge of slippery steps. No. Thank. You.
I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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