If you looked at the bucket list of the person sitting next to you, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Machu Picchu in the top 10. It’s the Mecca for so many travelers! South America has an incredible appeal with the huge looming mountains covered in lush, green, rainforest. Before I went to Machu Picchu, I imagined a crystal-clear glass train lumbering loudly through mountain canyons while sitting in a plush chair soaking in the views of ancient Incan ruins. My dream was pretty close to reality!
The Machu Picchu Experience
Deciding to hike the Inca Trail wasn’t a hard one. We both love hiking, and exploring the wonders of the Inca Trail was high on our list of things to do. Especially after our incredible hiking experience at Torres Del Paine in Chile. We decided to only commit to a 2-day hike since we didn’t have time for the full 5-day hike. We were excited to have Alyssa’s parents with us since they also had Machu Picchu on their bucket list.
We chose a local tour company that made it easy to plan our trip with a great tour option for 2 Days/1 Night. It sounded like the best fit for all of us. The hike covered 10km of the Inca Trail beginning in the Sacred Valley and worked it’s way up along the original Inca Trail to the Inca Temple site of Wiñay Wayna before continuing on to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate. We were excited to have additional ruins to check out along the way!
Hiking the Inca Trail
We began the trip by taking the Peru Rail Train from Cusco to the Km 104 mark. The train stopped and we were the only ones who got off. It felt like we got off at the wrong stop. The rest of the passengers went directly to Machu Picchu. At least we knew we were getting more exercise than them! The weather was perfect, not too sunny and hot.
We definitely saw some of the best parts of the Inca Trail! There were really steep parts as well as gorgeous paths winding around the mountains. Sometimes the trail was so steep, it felt like we were climbing up with our hands and knees. We saw butterflies, birds, and lots of waterfalls. It felt like a stroll through the jungle! It was beautiful to see the river below and know that we were making our way to Machu Picchu!
We stopped and explored the beautiful Wiñay Wayna temple area just before lunch. The water fountain system they have at these ruins is a masterpiece! They were able to redirect the water to each level of rooms along the terraces, creating these perfectly clean drinking stations and pools. The rock-carved canals were the most impressive. Smooth to the touch and completely planned out. Some were even carved into animal designs like snakes! It would be a lot of work to build a system of canals like that with just a hand chisel!
The View From Sun Cloud Gate
Near the end of the hike, before arriving to Machu Picchu, it started to rain. We were all really bummed because we knew the clouds were coming in fast and it was likely we wouldn’t be able to see Machu Picchu when we crested the hill. We put on our rain jackets and plugged along, excited to be near the end and ready to arrive at Machu Picchu! Booking this trip during the rainy season was a huge risk not knowing how the weather would react. However, we were very LUCKY! As soon as we crested the hill at Sun Cloud Gate, the clouds parted and there was Machu Picchu in all its glory. It was stunning!
We were able to take plenty pictures of Machu Picchu without any people disrupting the view! It felt like we were the only ones there! We had reached the Sun Gate just an hour before the last bus left, so most people had already left the grounds, leaving us with a tourist-free view of the ruins. I can only imagine the feeling of discovering this place for the first time! It is truly breathtaking!
We took way too many pictures of the view and then hurried down to catch the bus to Aguas Calientes where we had a hotel room reserved. We enjoyed a nice dinner and were exhausted after our hike! It felt nice to be in a soft bed after a full day on the trail! There are hot springs in Aguas Calientes but we didn’t make it over there since we arrived to town later than we anticipated.
Exploring the Ruins: Day 2
The next morning, we took the bus back up to the entrance of Machu Picchu for a full day of wandering around the ruins and learning about the mighty Incas. It really is incredible to see the rock formations up-close. The joints are hardly noticeable since they fit together so perfectly! A few boulders were so gigantic that not even two people with their arms stretched across would cover it! Truly an unbelievable experience!
It was fun to see the comical llamas, dubbed the Inca lawnmowers, munching their way around and posing for pictures. They’re hilarious and a huge hit with all the tourists. This is probably the most photographed llama in the world!
Before coming to Machu Picchu we watched a National Geographic documentary on Machu Picchu and the discovery of it. Even though we had a tour guide, I felt like we had insider knowledge that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. It’s such interesting history! Visiting Machu Picchu just pulls you into the architectural mystery even more!
Check out a few more pictures from our trip in this slideshow!
I hope our experience inspires you to plan a trip to Machu Picchu soon! It’s a great place to visit and make lifetime memories!
Have you been to Machu Picchu or planning a trip there? Let us know about your experience!