Machu Picchu

Joel and Llama

Machu Picchu is majestic, awe-inspiring and beautiful. Oh, and crowded.

In 1911 Hiram Bingham and the locals living nearby may not have realized the importance of the site, but today everyone does. A visit requires significant planning - tickets, planes, trains, buses and hotels or hiking and tents. From our observations, it also seems to require a great deal of wardrobe enhancements. There were hundreds of Timberland hiking shoes and Patagonia jackets that had never seen the outdoors.

All of this preparation doesn't stop well over a million people [1.4 million in 2017] from making the trek every year. In the 80's, this number was more like 100,000. Fortunately, there are daily limits for the number of people. They have also imposed strict rules to make your visit more enjoyable - no selfie sticks, no walking sticks, no bringing in food, no umbrellas, no feeding the animals, no nudism. Needless to say, these rules involve people, so we saw them broken repeatedly. Well, maybe not the nudity. We are very thankful of that. We did not see a single naked person.

On a positive note, for the amount of people who visit each day, they do an excellent job getting people in and out. Women may wish they could say the same about the ladies room. The line was astounding.

In spite of our sniping, Machu Picchu really is magical. To look down on it from Machu Picchu mountain or Huayna Picchu is breath-taking. Literally - at over 2400 meters above sea level, you may have some issues with exerting yourself.

It is probably the one site in Peru that is worth hiring a guide. Alternatively, if you don't want to shell out the money, we would recommend reading up on it and then taking your time exploring the ruins. Key things to note - the different construction techniques and the fact that some buildings were two stories tall. Examine how the corner pieces fit together and support the walls. Also, it is remarkable how the buildings fit into the terrain and how the terracing rises up from the landscape - both an impressive engineering feat and beautiful.

If ancient ruins aren't your thing, there are many other things to keep yourself occupied.  The scenery and setting are breathtaking. You can also watch the alpacas nibbling on the grass, tourists taking selfies and blocking traffic or random people who think Machu Picchu is a great place for practicing their yoga poses.

If you are in Cusco before heading out to the site , check out the Museo Machu Picchu. It provides interesting back story and artifacts.

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