Machu Picchu... Wow
There are a few places in the world that exceed whatever you expected. For us, Machu Picchu is one of those places.
As far as visiting places go, Machu Picchu is more difficult to visit than most. If you are interested in how visiting Machu Picchu "works", read on. If not, check out the incredible photos Tracy took.
A visit to Machu Picchu all begins with getting a ticket as only 2500 people are permitted to visit the site each day, 1250 people are permitted to visit in the morning and the remaining 1250 in the afternoon. To book a ticket, you need to plan ahead and you need to provide your passport information as everything is tied to your passport. No transferring or reselling a ticket is allowed.
The launching point for Machu Picchu is the Town of Aguas Calientes and the only way to get to Aguas Calientes is by train, bus or hiking in. Again, you are required to buy tickets for the train or bus or register for a hike and all of those tickets are tied to your passport too.
Aguas Calientes is still about 8km from Machu Picchu so the final journey is made by bus or by foot. The bus option requires a ticket each way and a wait in line. The busses start going at dawn. We started about 150m back from the front of the line at 05:30AM and were on a bus about 20min after they started ferrying people at 06:00.
You arrive at the Machu Picchu entrance after a 15-20min bus ride via a whole bunch of switch backs in the road and then line up for another 20min to clear the ticket turn styles into the site. They say there is no water bottles or food allowed in, but no body checks provided you discretely carry them in your backpack and discretely consume them inside. You need to pack out your waste as there are no garbage cans inside.
So you have a morning ticket to the site, what compels you to leave? Well, the only washroom facilities are located outside the gates. Nobody will ask you to leave, but eventually your bladder will persuade you. Upon leaving, you are not permitted back in.
You may also buy tickets in advance to climb either the Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountains that flank either side of the Machu Picchu ruins site. Tickets to climb the mountain are limited to 200 people for each mountain, each day. Having a mountain climbing ticket permits you to leave the site for one washroom break and return. The mountain climbs require a lot of effort (more than an hour of continuous climbing rough and uneven and sometimes precarious stairs) but they are worth it. The views are spectacular. The Huayna Picchu mountain tickets sell out quickly.
A final word. Machu Picchu is bucket list worthy.
Tracy took a lot of photos that made it look like we had the place to ourselves. This next one provides a more realistic look at what to expect during a visit.
Huayna Picchu mountain in the background.
The climb we made, Machu Picchu mountain, is the peak in the background of this photo.