28 mayo, 2024

Conquering Machu Picchu, the Cheap and Quick Way

 Source: New York Times

MAY 8, 2017

Timed tickets are available to climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain that towers over Machu Picchu, in Peru. Visitors are advised to buy them well in advance.

“Was it worth it?” That’s the most common question I’ve fielded since I visited Machu Picchu, the ruins of a 15th-century Incan estate that sit almost 8,000 feet above sea level.  Thrust back into prominence when the American explorer Hiram Bingham “discovered” it in 1911, it was used, by some accounts, as a palace, a retreat for the wealthy, a religious sanctuary or all three. Today, the photo-friendly ruins receive thousands of visitors daily and are the engine that drives Peru’s tourism industry.

But the question is understandable: The trip is not a simple one, and can quickly become expensive and time-consuming. Hiking the Inca Trail, the classic journey from Piskacucho to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, is popular with students and backpackers (there are many tour operators, including SAS Travel, Peru Treks and Llama Path). It costs about $700 before incidentals and gratuities and sells out months ahead of time. What’s more, it’s a four-day journey — a chunk of time I wasn’t able to set aside during my visit to Peru.

And yet, my response: It’s absolutely worth it, provided you’re prepared to do a bit of planning. Below, I’ve outlined how to make your visit to Machu Picchu a day trip from Cuzco. It requires a little extra forethought, but you can do it. Not only you can do it in a day, but also you can be back in time to take the last flight —- saving you both time and money.

Even though Machu Picchu is a mere 50 miles from Cuzco, it’s not the simplest place to get to; your trip will probably involve travel by plane, train and bus. The flight part is the easiest: Nonstops into Cuzco are frequent. You’ll probably be arriving from Lima, but there are also direct flights from La Paz, Bolivia, and Bogotá, Colombia. Avianca, Latam and Peruvian Airlines all service the area. Expect to pay $90 to $190 for a one-way flight if you go during the high season (July and August).

The next step depends on what time of year it is — trains don’t run directly from Cuzco from January through April during the rainy season. If you go then (as I did), you will have to take a two-hour bus ride from Cuzco to the train station in Ollantaytambo. (A taxi is a viable option if you travel with a group.) From there, it’s an hour and 45 minutes by train to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.

 

I left Cuzco at 4:50 a.m. and found myself in Aguas Calientes around 9 a.m., leaving me about seven hours to explore Machu Picchu and before my train left at 4:12 p.m. The round-trip cost was $155 via Inca Rail (the other big operator, PeruRail, also offers an upscale train called the Hiram Bingham, for six times the cost of its regular trains).

If you’re going in dry season, you’ll contend with more tourists but you’ll also have the option of a more direct journey. If you travelled in this season you would have direct trains directly from Poroy station, just 20 minutes outside Cuzco. I suggest leaving as early as possible to maximize your time at Machu Picchu.

If you’re planning to head to Machu Picchu the day after you arrive in Cuzco, it’s important to have enough time to stop by the train office to get your tickets — I received only a receipt for my online purchase, with instructions to pick up the tickets in person. The Inca Rail office opens at 7 a.m. daily and closes at 9 p.m. on weekdays, 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. If your journey begins before 7 a.m., as mine did, you have to leave time the day before to go to the office.

Summary:

The article is about Machu Picchu, the most important tourist attraction of Perú which receives thousand of visitors from over the world.
It describes how to make your visit in a day, saving time and money.
It provides information about arriving at the place depending on the season stressing the importance of a well planned trip.

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