When we were originally planning our trip, we had only scheduled one day to wander around and explore the amazing Machu Picchu. As we finalized our itinerary, we ended up adding a second day to the schedule – which turned out to be the best decision ever.
*Note: We did not hike the Inca trail up to Machu Picchu due to time constraints. Therefore, all of our recommendations are based off our experiences of taking the train to Aguas Calientes.
Our first moments in Machu Picchu.
Give yourself a little bit of time when you first get into the ruins to a) take it all in and b) wait around crowds (depending on your time of day).
This very first day was mostly to just take in the sites, peruse the ruins at a leisurely pace, listen to all the history of the site, and have the chance to see everything we wanted. Since our visit was during the rainy season, we spent most of this day in our rain coats and had intermittent sprinkles the whole time we were there. Most people would have been bumbed by the rainy day BUT it actually made the day special. Firstly, the crowds don’t gather as much in the rain so it tends to help with crowd thinning. Second, when the rain stops and the clouds start parting, a few rays of sun come through and shine bright over the entire Machu Picchu city. As much as Machu Picchu is fascinating on a great sunny day, there is nothing quite like looking down at the city right after the clouds begin to part. I honestly can’t do it justice, trying to describe it here. We put it down as one of the most majestic things we’ve ever seen.
Of course as majestic as day one was, we were also glad to have the perfect sunny weather for day two. It was awesome to see the contrast of the city in the rain and the sun. We walked around the main part of the city – pretty much taking all the same pictures as the day before, but this time in the bright shining sun.
The main item on the itinerary for day two was to hike Huayna Picchu and see the ruins from above. Huayna Picchu, meaning young mountain, is the mountain hovering over the northside of Machu Picchu civilization. If you decided to do this hike, you will have to plan ahead (which is why again we were glad to have two days) because they only allow 400 people to make the climb in two groups, one at 7 am and the other at 10 am.
As we look up at the beginning of the hike, we kind of chuckled due to the fact that the trail looked to be at like a 90 degree angle, but people do this every day so it can’t be that bad, right?! Trail turned out to be quite an adventure, but one that I would do over in a heart beat. As you meander the switchbacks all the way up, you come across sections that a pretty steep and narrow, requiring you to hold onto a railing and be a little sure footed going up some tiny stairs. Towards the top, we had to snake through a cave in order to get through to the view point. Makes you feel just like a kid again! But when you come out onto the vantage point, the view was absolutely spectacular. From this height, you see Machu Picchu in all its grandeur, how it spans across the mountain. You can see the city sitting high in a basin, surrounded by mountains. To think this used to be a flourishing city!
Remember when I said the trail up was quite an adventure, well the way down was definitely a little bit more adventurous. Neither of us are afraid of heights, but we definitely had some shaky legs walking down the flights of the narrowest stone steps you’ve ever seen…without any railing and right next to the edge of the mountain. I can still hear Nate joking with me because I didn’t want to go down.
Overall, with our experience, we would definitely recommend spending more than one day at Machu Picchu. It gives you time to see the area in so many different lights and really take in all its beauty and awesomeness.