Destination: Macchu Picchu
Where we stayed: We stayed in Ollyantantambo in the Sacred Valley (see Sacred Valley entry)
Best restaurant: The oreo cookies in our backpack were pretty good! Since we were only in Machu Picchu for 8 hours we spent the entire time at the park and didn't eat at any of the local restaurants.
Best of: The clouds lifted 15 minutes before we had to leave so we raced to the Guardhouse to take a few final shots of the whole complex
Worst of: Wildly unfair tourist prices - for example, locals pay 10 soles for the train to Machu Picchu and tourists pay 93 soles or $31 for the exact same train from Ollyantantambo. The entrance fee is 120 soles/$40 for tourists and about half that for Peruvian nationals.
Our trip to South America wouldn't be complete without a visit to Machu Picchu. We planned our visit there to coincide with our last day on the continent. Machu Picchu is considered the most spectacular archaeological site on the continent. Its stunning location and mysterious past makes this a place of great intrigue. The actual function of Machu Picchu is not known but it is speculated that it was of great ceremonial importance to the Incas.
In order to maximize our time there we booked the earliest possible train....we were at the station 5:00 am. Machu Picchu here we come! We arrived in Aguas Calientes at 7:00 am and immediately took the bus up to Machu Picchu.
When we arrived at the gates of Machu Pichu we raced across the site, snapping a few photos in the process, until we arrived at the entrance to the Wayna Picchu trail. Wayna Picchu means young mountain and they allow 400 people to climb to the top of each morning. We were in luck, we were numbers 97 and 98 so we set off up the mountain with the hopes of getting a few fantastic photos of Machu Picchu! Sadly, it was not meant to be. Although we made it to the top, Machu Picchu was covered with clouds. We gave up after sitting at the top for 45 minutes and seeing only clouds.
Back down at the gate, we found a tour guide (60 soles/$30) for a two hour tour of the highlights. Our tour visited the Temple of the Sun, the house of the High Priest (including the "toilet" of his holiness), the Temple of Three Windows, the Agricultural Terraces & the Temple of the Condor.
When we finished our tour, with only fifteen minutes to go before catching our bus down the mountain, the clouds finally lifted and we ran to the top of the Guardhouse to take a few photos of the entire Machu Picchu complex before catching our train and saying goodbye to South America!
The train ride back down to Cusco included an English tea time and an alpaca fashion show! While out host and hostess strutted their stuff down the makeshift runway we cheered and clapped. Unfortunately though, no purchases were made by us!
After returning from Machu Picchu we spent our final night in Cusco before starting our homeward journey...it took us about 24 hours including a very long overnight layover in the Lima airport. Our reward was 1.5 days of shopping fun in the great USA before heading across the Atlantic on the Crown Princess!