The primary objective of my journey to Peru and Chile was to visit Machu Picchu, the best preserved example of an Inka community. This is a long post but is comparatively short on text and long on pictures.
Other posts about the trip to Peru and Chile:
Train from Cusco (Poroy) to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes)
Machu Picchu lies approximately 50 as-the-crow-flies miles northwest of Cusco, Peru, the capital of the Inka Empire. The easiest way to go from Cusco to Machu Picchu is by train.
Trains depart from the station in Poroy, which is a 30-minute drive from central Cusco in good traffic. The train arrives in Aguas Calientes, the closest city to Machu Picchu, 3.5 hours after departing Poroy. A bus ride or hiking completes the final few miles to Machu Picchu.
Because the trip takes so long, those wanting to return to Cusco on the same day must leave early.
Three rail companies provide transportation from Poroy. Heavy demand requires buying tickets through a tour company or online well in advance of your desired travel date.
The trip to Aguas Calientes is itself a great experience.
The train follows a route past farms, small settlements, the Urubamba (Sacred) River, hills with steep canyons, and occasional views of high Andes peaks.
At one point near Ollantaytambo you can see a portion of the Inka Trail that leads to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is a three-day hike from Ollantaytambo.
Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
In Aguas Calientes I met John, my guide. We boarded a bus for a 20-minute, somewhat perilous ride up the mountain. Hiking to Machu Picchu is also an option for the physically fit who have an extra two hours to kill. You’re going from roughly 6,800 feet at Aguas Calientes to almost 8,000 feet at Machu Picchu.
Arriving at Machu Picchu after a four-hour journey, stretch your legs on a short climb from the bus parking lot.
The climb is rewarded with more breathtaking views.
The precise nature and purpose of Machu Picchu remains uncertain. Many experts believe it was a royal estate for Emperor Pachacuti Inka Yupanqui. It seems to be generally accepted that the facilities at Machu Picchu could support around 300 Inka. It looks bigger than that to my untrained eye.
After enjoying the views from above, John and I worked our way into the settlement.
Terraces retain the soil and turn steep hillsides into acres of tillable land.
One of the most important structures is the Temple of the Sun. At sunrise on June 21, light enters a window and strikes a stone on the floor indicating the summer solstice.
After a couple of hours we paused our “exploration” and headed to the restaurant near the bus loading zone for a hearty buffet lunch.
The delicious lunch gave me the energy for another two hours at Machu Picchu.
Now, the only residents of Machu Picchu are llamas and chinchillas.
Train to Poroy
At 4 p.m. we left Machu Picchu to catch a bus to Aguas Calientes. John and I said farewell at the train station. We would meet at the hotel early the next morning for a tour of the Sacred Valley.
On the trip to Poroy, PeruRail once again served light snacks.
The highlight of the trip was a surprise fashion show presented by the staff who seated and served us.
Then other staff members came through wearing versatile alpaca outfits.
It was a good show. I wonder when airlines will start doing this to boost duty free sales. That idea might work well on some Asian carriers – American, United and Delta not so much.
Machu Picchu and the journey there were more impressive than I had imagined. The Inka had superb engineering skills to move, carve and place stone. They used no mortar yet their work remains despite numerous devastating earthquakes that leveled structures produced by modern technology.
Next is a review of the trip to the Sacred Valley. For other posts on this trip to Peru and Chile see the beginning of this post.