Before arriving to Peru, we bought a train ticket with PeruRail from Cusco to Aguascalientes. The station in Cusco is about 30 minutes from the city center, so we ordered a taxi to pick us up early.
Upon arrival in Aguascalientes, we bought our bus tickets for the next morning to take us to Machu Picchu Park (the bus station and office is close to the train station). Most expensive bus tickets I’ve ever bought! $24 for a 30 minute ride. These guys are rolling in cash.
It’s good to know that the line for this bus starts before 4:00am. Buses begin running at 5:30 and the park officially opens at 6:00. We had previously purchased tickets to climb Machu Picchu mountain (reserve as soon as possible). We had to enter the trail between 7:00-8:00, so we wanted to get to the park as early as possible.
We enjoyed our stay in Hostel Perumanta. For a private room, it costs $50/night which included a king size bed, tv, and ample breakfast. It’s located next to the hot springs, if you’re interested after a day of hiking.
Get Your Adventure On
Machu Picchu Park: Our group lined up at 4:00am to catch one of the first buses to the park. Once the buses started leaving, the process was fairly simple to figure out. The crowds followed to the entrance, which opened at 6:00. We followed signs to Machu Picchu mountain trail entrance. We arrived early, as the trail head didn’t open until 7:00am. After hiking, we took our time walking through the ruins. There is very little signage and a lot of people moving through the paths. We did not organize a tour guide in the park, and some seemed more knowledgeable than others. The only food/restaurant available is outside of the park, so we packed a lunch to avoid exiting and re-entering.
FYI: There are no bathrooms inside the park (but you can exit and renter). I went in the woods and carried out my used toilet paper (don’t leave ANYTHING behind, even organic materials..2,500 visitors per day!).
Machu Picchu Mountain: This mountain is one of two you can hike next to Machu Picchu (the other is Wayna Picchu). When you enter the park, follow signs to the entrance (about a 15 min walk from entrance to base). When we reserved tickets to hike, we were given a time that we were allowed to enter (7:00-8:00am). It is required to begin hiking at this time and be back down in 3 hours (although they didn’t seem too strict about this). It took us about 1.5 hours to reach the top, and we took our time soaking in the views.
Eats & Drinks
Julian’s: If you’re looking for a nice meal after a long day at Machu Picchu, this place will satisfy. We enjoyed the alpaca steak and lomo saltado. This is one of the rare places that will not beg you to enter, but instead let their food speak for itself.
Because of limited time, we didn’t do a trek to Machu Picchu…although I would love to! The multi-day Salkantay Trek is popular with other backpackers and shows a unique side of Peru that you simply can’t experience from a train or bus.