During this holiday week, CTLatinoNews.com is bringing you travelogues from destinations around the world that have a Latino flair. We’ll take you on journeys to Spain, Colombia, Peru and Cuba to give you a respite from this busy time of year and to encourage you to start making travel plans for 2013.
Today CTLatinoNews writer Rebecca Melley explores the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.
By Rebecca Melley
This past June I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Peru with friends on a last-minute trip. The first thing I did after purchasing my plane ticket was research Machu Picchu. Going to the ruins was a must on my bucket list and the thought that I was actually going was surreal.
The 15th century Inca ruins are considered a wonder of the world and are located in the Cuzco region of Peru. Machu Picchu stands 7,970 feet above sea level with breathtaking views. Other than restoration work that was done in the 1970s, the site, the most popular tourist destination in Peru, remains untouched and fairly hidden from the rest of the world.
There are a few different ways to get to Machu Picchu, which is located in the southern third of Peru. There are many tours that offer everything from comfortable trips to adventurous treks. We chose the young traveler route. You start in the city of Cusco, which is filled with colorful festivals, music, a variety of traditional food, and a vibrant nightlife.
It is recommended to stay a few days in Cusco to adjust to elevation. I absolutely recommend it. Giving you time to acclimate allows you to enjoy the plethora of daytime activities, including shopping in the traditional markets and seeing the Inca 12 sided stone.
We then took a three-hour van ride to the town of Urubamba, where the train station is located, to purchase tickets to Aguas Calientes. The town is quaint with restaurants and hostels all surrounded by mountains. (The town has lodging for everyone: everything from high-class hotels to backpacker hostels.)
The train ride is about two hours. Try to catch a train that leaves earlier in the day so that you can settle in and have a bite to eat and enjoy a good night rest once you arrive in Aguas Calientes.
The goal is to wake up for 5:30 a.m. to hike up to Machu Picchu to watch the sunrise. It is a three-hour hike up the ruins where you will find tour guides for hire at the entrance. There is also a 20-minute bus ride up to the ruins as well.
I unfortunately did not take the advice of travelers that came before me and did not take the time to allow myself to acclimate to the elevation. I still made it to Machu Picchu but took the bus up by myself.
Even with my elevation sickness, Machu Picchu was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. To stand on the ancient terraces and look out at the incredible mountain view made me feel grateful that I had the rare opportunity to see something so incredible and to have the freedom to travel to Peru (and grateful my parents were thrilled for me to travel to South America on such short notice). I sat on the terrace for quite some time staring out and thinking about the Inca civilization and how by some miracle they chose a location the Spanish conquistadors never found, which protected the ruins for centuries.
It made me feel as if I was experiencing an ancient secret, a precious glimpse into the past I will never forget. Even when overflowed with tourists and pictures plastered everywhere of the ancient Incan ruins, the magic of actually standing there looking out into the mountains is not lost. I felt honored to have the privilege of being there first hand. Even though the trek to get there was slightly horrific and the elevation sickness was awful, I will always find my journey there so incredibly precious.
Machu Picchu is checked off!