Machu Picchu, Peru – Visiting One of the New Seven World Wonders
Once upon a time there were some Incas whose stronghold was a great, hidden village in the mountains of Peru. Peacefully they lived their life up in the mountains, while enemies tried to conquer the area around without ever finding the hidden village.
This is not just a fairy tale; the hidden village, Machu Picchu, still exists and was declared one of the New Seven World Wonders in 2007.
The Inca sanctuary Machu Picchu is situated at 2,430m height, and was constructed in the 15th century. The village was never found during the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, and it remained undiscovered until 1911, when an American historian revealed its existence. This is why it is often referred to as to as “the lost city of the Incas” (La ciudad perdida de los Incas).
When I went to Peru, Machu Picchu was number 1 on my to-do-list, and I was quite excited when I finally arrived in Cusco, the starting point for exploring the Inca Ruins. From Cusco you can take a train ride up to the small town Aguas Calientes (approximately four hours), and then take a 30-min. bus ride up to Machu Picchu to visit the ruins. BORING!!! My travel mates and I wanted more action, greater adventures and a bigger challenge than a lame train ride to the “lost city”. I met the four tea-drinking British guys I was traveling with in a hostel a couple of days earlier, and we managed to organize a 4 days bike and hiking trip to Machu Picchu. After checking prices with a lot of agencies in Cusco, we decided to go for the cheapest one, of course!
Day 1: We got picked up at our hostel (way too late – something that seems to happen quite a lot in South America). Three hours later we were on the top of a mountain, ready to bike down. Maybe I should have started my trip with some locals instead, because the British seemed to bring their weather them, it was a foggy and rainy experience. Without appropriate rain clothes we got on our bikes and the downhill-tour could begin. As the brakes of my bike weren’t working, it got replaced by another one (with even worse brakes). Bad brakes and rainy weather were definitely not the best preconditions for our downhill race , and a good reason to take it slow. Apparently this view wasn’t shared by everyone, and the need for speed took over. One of my British mates was speeding down the hill, and an unlucky meeting with the asphalt, initiated by a spectacular flip stunt which ended up with a swelling on his knee with the size of an egg – ouch!
Day 2: Our second day was definitely the most exhausting one, and included a steep hike up the mountains. The official Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu must be booked well in advance, sometimes almost half a year before (click here for booking), so we decided to take a different route. Our trail was kind of an alternative to the real Inca trail, and with great courage we made our way through the forest and climbed up the mountains. Due to the height of about 2,000m we got exhausted really fast, but we had a great reward waiting for us! On arrival we had some hours in the hot springs to recover from the exhausting day, and the struggle was definitely worth it.
Day 3: We hiked along the train rails and through the beautiful landscape on our way to the small town Aguas Calientes.
Day 4: At 4AM we started our last day of hiking. The goal was to get up the mountain from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Why the hell at 4AM you might ask?! Well, the entrance opens at 5.15AM, and only the first people to arrivea get the chance to climb up Waynu Picchu. Waynu Picchu, Machu Picchu? What am I talking about? Waynu Picchu is a big mountain located next to the Machu Picchu ruins, which entrance only opens twice a day. The hike up there is really steep, but it is so worth it! From the top of Waynu Picchu you have an amazing view over the Machu Picchu ruins, and believe me, it is such an incredible feeling to see those amazing ruins in the middle of the mountain.
My favorite fact about Machu Picchu: During the shooting of a beer commercial in 2005, the camera man accidentally crashed his equipment into one of the sacred stone figures and knocked off a corner edge. As punishment he was sentenced to six years in prison. So, watch your steps!