Part I: Getting There
Part II: Cuzco to Machu Picchu
Part III: Approaching Machu Picchu via Train
Part IV: How to Buy Tickets for Machu Picchu and How I Almost Screwed It All Up
Part V: Machu Picchu in Pictures
Part VI: Wrapping up the trip in Cuzco

We awoke Sunday morning, August 31.  As we wiped the sleep away, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s go to Machu Picchu!”


One.  Last.  Bus ride.

Planes, cars, and trains got us to Aguas Calientes.  From there you have two options to get to Machu Picchu: a bus up the Hiram Bingham highway or you can hike it.  Those who want to get there for the sunrise will hike it (the trail is well-marked), the rest (and the majority) will take a bus.

highly recommend purchasing your bus ticket the night before your trip.  You are in a town where 2499 people will be doing the exact same thing you’re doing, get ahead in line where possible!  We bought tickets the night before from the ticket stand next to the bus stop (just follow the train tracks toward the center of town and you’ll end up at the bus station).

We arrived to the bus station at 6:30am and we were the first in line!  That is, unless you count all the people in front of us.

a group of people standing on a street

Bus line

That line may seem bad, but it wasn’t too terrible honestly.  Buses came often, would load up with passengers, and take off quickly towards Machu Picchu.  Eventually we boarded a bus and 20 minutes later we were at the entry of the Incan masterpiece.

Getting in was easy.  Our tickets were in fact legitimate and our passport numbers were verified against our actual passports, then we were in.

We had made it to Machu Picchu.

Exploring Machu Picchu

After the visitor’s center (which is next to the beautiful Belmond hotel that runs close to $1000/night), you enter the citadel in the area that was used for cultivation of crops.  There are winding paths that will take your breath away (literally, since you’re at altitude) as you walk higher.  I wanted to get as high as possible for a great picture since the sun was low in the summer sky.  Plus, it was supposed to rain that day, but the weather was just perfect, the rain had held off so far!  I finally allowed myself to stop walking and slowly turned to see one of the most majestic things these eyes have ever seen.

a stone ruins on a mountain

The citadel at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu appeared larger than life.  I couldn’t believe I was standing in the place of where I had seen so many pictures.  The geometry, the stone walls, and, most of all, Huayna Picchu (in the background) watching over all of it.  I started snapping away.

As we explored the cultivation terraces I was hunting for the perfect spot for what I call an establishing shot.  I found it and created three images: full color, black and white, then a massive panorama.

a stone ruins on a mountain

In Color

a mountain with a stone structure

Black and white

a stone ruins on a mountain


What I loved most about the panorama are all of the people in the right.  They framed such an ancient settlement in sudden modernity and I feel like they added a lot to the composition of the image.

We kept exploring and I was a bit sad that we didn’t get a guide.  We walked through most of the nooks and crannies but missed out on the context of what we were seeing.  I guess we’ll just have to go back.  Darn.

a group of people on a mountain

Backlit silhouettes

Oh, and there are llamas!

a llama standing on a mountain

Cute little baby ones!

The only thing I had to make sure and do was slow down, to make sure I enjoyed all of it.

a stone building on a hill

Loved that tree

Bethany and I were both so happy!

a man and woman posing for a picture

Bethany and me

What I loved most about Machu Picchu were how exaggerated all of the perspectives seemed to be.  Sudden drops, lots of right angles, and everything seemed perched atop the precipice.

We then headed towards the residential section of the citadel.

a stone buildings with a thatched roof

A house

I then saw this guy relaxing and tried to take some pictures (I thought it was a cool composition) without being too creepy.

a man sitting on a rock looking at mountains

Random guy

At this point, we just sat down for a little bit to drink it all in.  There were plenty of people walking around, but it was easy to find your own little nook of peace and quiet.  I think it’s very important to take time from all of the excitement to sit down, slow down, and experience all of the senses a place has to offer.  This is hard for me to do (slowing down), especially since I try to take pictures of everything.  But I tried to relax and am grateful for those peaceful moments.

And then I thought it’d be hilarious to take one of these pictures.

a man lying on a rock with mountains in the background


We continued to explore the residential area as we made our way to the “bottom” of the site, close to the gate for Huayna Picchu, before turning back and heading back up (slowly) towards the gate.  The crowds were slowly becoming more dense, I was fairly sure it was going to start raining in an hour or so.

stone steps on a hill

Looking back

We explored some more of the residential areas and Bethany had a REALLY up close and personal encounter with a llama.  She was standing on some stairs that the llama wanted to use.  Llamas are actually kind of big, so there wasn’t really much room for one of them to squeeze by the other.  A faceoff ensued.  And by “faceoff” I mean Bethany feeling a bit unnerved and me laughing my butt off.  Eventually cooler heads prevailed.

We lingered for a while longer until the clouds started to look full of water and began making our way back towards the entry gate.

stone buildings on a hill

Nearing the exit

As we found the exit path, we both made sure we were ok with leaving (we spent about 4 hours at Machu Picchu).  I very much wish we could’ve stayed longer, but I know I will be back.  This was a long weekend trip, and there just wasn’t time to spend an entire day or two here.  I think I easily could’ve spent two or three entire days here personally, and that’s probably exactly what I’ll do next time.

I stopped for one last picture before we boarded the bus back to Aguas Calientes.

a stone ruins on a mountain

My last picture of Machu Picchu

Back to Cuzco

We went back to Aguas Calientes and shopped for some souvenirs then had some lunch as the rain that had been holding off while we were at Machu Picchu finally let loose on Aguas Calientes for a while.

a city street with buildings and people

Back in Aguas

Our trip back to Cuzco was direct (no stops in Ollantaytambo).

a blue train on the tracks

Our train back.

I was looking forward to relaxing for the 3.5 hour train ride, but then Perurail decided to have a fashion show to try and sell us merino wool clothes and kerchiefs.  I had less than zero interest in any of the clothes and would’ve rather just slept, but I know they need to make some money too, it wasn’t terrible I guess.

We had another day in Cuzco before heading home, and that will be the subject of a separate post.

Go to Machu Picchu

Go.  Quickly.  Before it gets ruined by tourists or closed off forever.  Search for flights to Cuzco out of Mexico City on LAN to find the same deal that we did and make it happen.  It was surprisingly accessible over a long weekend and left me with memories I’ll have for the rest of my life.

I’m so happy to share these pictures with you, I hope you’ve enjoyed them!

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