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Machu Picchu & the Inca trail Planner

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When to Go to Machu Picchu

Winter (June through August) means cooler, drier weather in the Andean highlands, it is peak tourist season and coincides with summer vacations in North America and Europe. This time is the best though the busiest time to go on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or any kind of trekking holiday in the Andes. The wettest months in the Andes are from December to March, meaning the trek will be wet and muddy. Don't forget that three major observances - Inti Raymi (June 24). Peru's Independence day (July 28) and Santa Rosa de Lima (August 30) - fall during this time, and translate into exceptionally heavy crowds of Peruvian traveler. The result is higher winter lodging prices and larger crowds. Prices and visitor numbers drop dramatically during the summer rainy season (October through April). For near-ideal weather and mangeable crowds, consider a spring or fall trip.

 

In January and February the weather could most likely wreak havoc with your travel plans. But it is also the time when you can enjoy Inca Trail to Machu Pichu, Salkantay Trek, Inka Jungle to Machu Picchu or Lares Valley Trek without the crowds Mudslides are an occasional problem when visting during October - April rainy season. It is rare, but visitors have been stranded at Machu Picchu or between Aguas Calientes and Cusco if the slider block the way, but usually only very briefly.

 

Health & Safety

Altitude: Machu Picchu and the Inca trail are a breathtaking 300 - 700 meters (980-2,300 feet). You are likely to get some altitude sickness, otherwise known as soroche; consume an ample intake of fluids, buteliminate or minimize alcohol and caffeine consumption. (Both can cause dehydrataion already a problem at hight altitudes) smoking aggravates the problem. Some large hotels supply oxygen for their guests. The presciptions drug acetazolamide can help offset the alkalosis caused by low oxygen or height elevations
Water: Tap water is generally not safe to drink. Stick with the bottled variety, con gas (carbonated) or sin gas (plain) the san luis brand is on sale everywhere.

 

Getting Around

Its an easy train ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu, Most visitors board the train in Cusco, or go on foot along the famed inca trail to reach Machu Picchu. For information about seeing the region with Tierras Vivas tour operator "Tours of Cusco, the Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu"
By Train: Unless you're doing the long hike, a train is how you'll get to Machu Picchu. the Expeditons Trains leave from Ollantaytambo,  km 88 (the start of the two, four or five day inca trail), the Vistadome train and the luxury Hiram Bingham leaves from Poroy, some 15 minutes from Cuzco. (For a full review of options see the train to Machu Picchu).

 

Overnight

Many travelers associate the terms day trip with Machu Picchu but an overnight at Machu Picchu (in Aguas Calientes the town below the site) lets you explore long after the day-tripers have left the mountain, and head back up early the next morning, an especially tranquil time before the midday heat and the next round of visitors appear

 

Crowded City

It took the outside world almost four centuries to discover the existence of Machu Picchu, the fabled “Lost City of the Inca”. After a visit to the ruins during the June-August high season, you’ll swear the world is determined to make up for lost time On a high-season weekend Machu Picchu might host in excess of 2,000 visitors a day By September, daily totals fall to 1,500 visitors, and a typical February day, in the lowest of the low season, sees a relatively paltry 1,000 people pass through the entry turnstiles A current plan would cap numbers at 2,000 visitors per day. The Instituto Nacional de Cultura, which over sees Machu Picchu, is searching for ways to spread the numbers out more evenly over the year, Incentives may be offered for coming during the off-season


Restaurants

The town of Aguas Calientes near Machu Picchu has numerous restaurants, each offering  its own take on traveler-tested and approved plates like pizza, Mexican, Chinesse, and typical Andean Food. Recently andean fusion, a gourmet play on traditional peruvian high mountain  fare, has also found its way to the once gastronomically boring  town. Lunch is served between 1 and 3, the busiest time for restaurants here. Dinner begins around 7, and most restaurants start winding dorwn service at about 9. Most places do stay open in the afternoon if you wish to dine outside these hours

 

Aguas Calientes

If it were not for Machu Picchu discoverer Hiram Bingham, Aguas Calientes would be just another remore, forgotten crossroad. But 1911, and the tourist boom decades later, forever changed the community. At just 2,040 meters (6,700 feet) above sea level, Aguas Calientes will seem downright balmy if you've just arrived from Cusco. There are but the railroad tracks, there's no vehicular traffic on the former except the buses that ferry tourists to the ruins. You'll have little sense of Aguas Calientes if you do the stardard day trip from Cuzco. But the cloud-forest town pulses to very lively tourist beat with hotels, restaurants, hot springs, and a surprising amount of activity, even after the last afternoon train has returned to Cuzco. 

 

Getting Here and Around

Trains to Aguas Calientes depart daily from Cuzco's Poroy Station, as well as Ollantaytambo and Urubamba In spite of its steep side streets, the city is small and easily explored by ambling about on foot.

 

Exploring

Aguas Termales: Aguas Calientes (literally "hot waters") takes its name from these thermal springs that sit above town. You can enjoy a refreshing dip at the end of a hot day.

Mercado Artesanal: (Craft Market). A warren of vendors stall lines the couple of blocks between the rail station and the bus stop for shuttle transport up to the ruins. Most newly arrived passengers fresh off the train are anxious to get to the bus and up to Machu Picchu, but you'll likely find yourself with more time to spend in the afternoon before your train leaves. Don't expect anything too out of the ordinary; it's standard, decent souvenir fare, mainly T-shirts, wood carvings, and weavings.

Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon: The museum, dedicated to the history, culture and rediscovery of Machu Picchu, is on the way up to Machu Picchu, it sits on the entrance to the national park. The buses that ferry visitors up to Machu Picchu normally do not stop along the way. but the museum's in-town office next to the Instituto Nacional de Cultura just off the main Plaza, can arrange transportation for a small fee. Hiking up is the best way to get here. Plan on about a 30-minute walk. The museum provides valuable bilingual insight in to South America's premier tourist attractions, which you don't get at the ruins themselves.

 

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