Day Trip: Machu Picchu

by Anthony Losanno
Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel and one of the “New Seven Wonders of the Modern World.” We took a day trip from Cusco there and it is every bit as magnificent as the pictures you might have seen. It’s a haul to get to Machu Picchu and requires transit by car, train, and bus before being awed by its panoramic vistas.

Machu Picchu Tickets

There are conflicting answers on whether a guide is mandatory to visit. We were told that tours are mandatory at Machu Picchu. Everyone that we saw visiting had a guide with them and we heard the guards at the gate deny someone entry and tell them to get a guide. I found a great private one through Viator. If you book with Machu Picchu Peru Travel through Viator, ask for Willy for your guide. He was excellent and so informative throughout the day. The operator of the tour group met us the night before at our hotel to give us our tickets and a rundown of the next day’s itinerary.

Breakfast Palacio del Inka

Our day started with a private car ride from the Palacio del Inka, A Luxury Collection Hotel where we were staying to Ollantaytmabo. The small town serves as the place to board the train to Aguas Calientes (where you get the bus to Machu Picchu). The hotel was kind enough to pack us a boxed breakfast for the ride. It was tasty and also included an apple, orange juice, and a bottle of water. The car ride took approximately 90 minutes.

Machu Picchu Train

We got to Ollantaytmabo with plenty of time to board our train. The sky was bright blue and we had perfect weather throughout the day.

Machu Picchu Train 2

Onboard the Vistadome train we had assigned seats. They were comfortable and afforded us great views of the lush vegetation and landscape en route to Machu Picchu. The train ride lasted around 100 minutes.

Machu Picchu Train 3

The crew was friendly and came by offering several types of tea, coffee, and water. This is included in the ticket price.

Machu Picchu Train 4

They also gave each passenger a complimentary snack box. While these were free, they had soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, and other food for sale.

Machu Picchu Sign

The train arrived at Aguas Calientes (another town en route to Machu Picchu). Our guide, Willy, was waiting with a sign with my name on it. He escorted us to the bus line.

Machu Picchu Bus

We lined up and boarded a bus in Aguas Calientes. We were lucky enough to get seats up front. Have your tickets and passports ready as the ticket checkers are aggressive.

Machu Picchu 2

Once we arrived, Willy took us through the history and showed us some of the best spots for photos.

Machu Picchu 3

We got to see a wild chinchilla.

Guide Llama

Willy showed us how to get a kiss from a llama.

Machu Picchu 4

There are about 50 that roam the grounds.

Machu Picchu 5

Everywhere you look, you’ll see the incredible architecture and majestic vistas.

We learned a lot, but Wikipedia sums it up best:

Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel located in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru on a 2,430-meter (7,970 ft) mountain ridge. Often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”, it is the most familiar icon of the Inca Empire. It is located in the Machupicchu District within Urubamba Province above the Sacred Valley, which is 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cusco. The Urubamba River flows past it, cutting through the Cordillera and creating a canyon with a tropical mountain climate.”

Machu Picchu 6

We spent around three hours exploring the grounds. A lot of the terrain is uneven and there are some steep steps to climb. Those with mobility issues or those that will need a restroom should think twice here (there are no bathrooms on the grounds of Machu Picchu).

Aguas Calientes

After leaving, we took another 30-minute bus ride back to Aguas Calientes. We had some time to shop and also had lunch with Willy at Munaycha Restaurant and Bar. The food was great and the service was friendly and fast.


I had Alpaca Kebabs. They were cooked well and tasted like pork loin.

We then took the train back to Ollantaytmabo. This train had to stop for a bit and the crew did a fashion show where they attempted to sell various clothing. They also offered the same food and beverages as above. This ride took almost two hours. The driver was waiting when we got off the train and he drove us back to the hotel. We hit a lot of traffic and the car ride also took two hours.

Anthony’s Take: All together, we traveled over eight hours to and from Machu Picchu, but it was well worth the trek. I have never seen anything like it and Machu Picchu is hard to describe other than a beautiful, natural fortress. If you’re going to do it, book this tour and ask for Willy.

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Frank September 3, 2023 - 9:44 am

Tours are *not* mandatory at Macchu Pichu, it’s surprising just how often I see that stated. Perhaps the people hawking tours outside the entrance are spreading it? I went this last June and entered in by myself with a ticket and no tour and was given no hassle at all. Note that you will still have to buy a ticket that gives entrance only to a specific route, so tour or not you will see similar things.

derek September 3, 2023 - 12:03 pm

The photo of the ruins with the lump of green (mountain) just behind has no people. I wonder if tourists are not allowed to walk around that area, which looks like what everyone photographs.


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