Munaychay, Peru – The Machu Picchu question

Machu Picchu is Peru’s greatest sight and South America’s most famous ruin. It is the Inca’s best-known construction – never discovered by the Spaniards it was never destroyed and sank into oblivion until its “rediscovery” in the beginning of the 20th century. The purpose of the building is shrouded in mystery to this day. Theories talk about a royal retreat or a country palace close to Cusco; others speak of a political, religious and administrative centre. Machu Picchu was built in the middle of the 15th century to the end of the Inca reign.

Today the archaeological find is Peruvian tourism’s centre of attention. Maximum 2,500 visitors are allowed to visit daily, and they do it. As a result Peru lost somehow appropriateness – supply and demand dictates the price, as it does for Cusco’s attractions and the already described boleto turistico. Since there is no road to Machu Picchu to this day, a railway line was built. The government wants to be paid too dear for all of this. Only the entrance fee gives you 60 US$, in addition to the expensive train ride and the bus ride. More inexpensive train tickets demand an overnight stay in the last town before Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, which means financially more or less the same.

For the two of us the visit would cost altogether around 400 $ – quite a bit for some old stones. Especially as the ruin itself isn’t said to be the world’s best, although its location is usually described as particularly beautiful. Eventually we emulate so many other globetrotters and relinquish Machu Picchu visit and boycott the impudent prices. Nonetheless we don’t want to withhold our collected information from other travellers. There are many ways to Machu Picchu:

1. By train: The train starts from Cusco, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo (more inexpensive with lower distance) to Aguas Calientes. Differently comfortable trains can be booked for different prices. From there you’d have to continue by bus (or on foot) to Machu Picchu. Tickets and info under Advance booking is absolutely necessary (also at the train stations or in Cusco).
Car park options:
Cusco: Camping Quinta Lala, S 13°30’20.8’’ W 71°59’06.3’’, info see blog entry 09.02.2012
Urubamba: Camping Los Cedros,
Ollantaytambo: bus parking, S 13°15’32.6’’ W 72°15’57.5’’, guarded, 5 PEN/24 hours

2. With own vehicle: From Cusco via Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and Chaullay to Santa Teresa. Camping / vehicle parking at Genaro Moscoso Laforre’s campground, S 13°07’55.4’’ W 72°35’46.9’’. The distance is 250 km one-way and is a dirt road from Chaullay on – 4WD recommended, and in rainy season often blocked by land slides. Calculating fuel costs for 500 km there is probably not a big difference to the train ticket. From Santa Teresa one takes the train to Aguas Calientes – or follows the rails walking. Then one continues by bus or on foot to Machu Picchu as mentioned above.

3. By bus: From Cusco take a bus heading to Quillabamba, get off in Santa María and change to a collectivo to Santa Teresa. From there continue as described above. This is the most economic solution.

4. The Inca Trail: The highly praised Inca Trail is only one of meanwhile 12 discovered Inca trails to Machu Picchu, the best-known though, and therefore source of revenue for the Peruvian government. The Inca Trail can only be walked in company of a licensed agency, only that costs 350 to 500 US$ pp. Since the 43 km steeply lead over three mountain passes, one can only do without porters with interstellar fitness, what additionally costs. Guides, cooks and porters need to be tipped. Even the budget friendly travel guide Lonely Planet estimates the costs for the Inca Trail with at least 1,300 US$ pp. What is more is that 500 persons are allowed on the trail daily. If you can really enjoy the scenery with 499 people around you remains an open question. Furthermore you’d have to use outhouses used by thousands of other people in the past few days. The insufficient waste disposal increasingly causes – not only optical – problems.

5. On foot via alternative Inca Trails: There are different agencies who offer different routes, all of them are involved with high costs. Examples are the 2-days-Inca-Trail, the Lares Valley Trek, the Salkantay Trek, the Inca Jungle Trail as well as the alternative Inca Trail from Mollepata.

An additional word to the Wayna Picchu topic: If you want to climb the mountain at Machu Picchu you nearly can’t get out of a pre-reservation of the Machu Picchu entrance ticket together with the Wayna Picchu ticket. The number of hikers is limited to 400 per day – 200 at 7 a.m. and another 200 at 10 a.m., hence spaces are limited. If you don’t feel like climbing steep stairs together with so many other tourists, you might want to hike the incomprehensibly little known Cerro Machu Picchu. That takes a bit longer, isn’t limited, still lonelier and shall offer the better view to Machu Picchu together with Wayna Picchu. Get exact hiking directions e.g. from Lonely Planet travel guide “Peru”.

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