*****Video montage of the trip is at the bottom of the post*****
Hailed as the number one must see attraction in the whole of South America, Machu Picchu was somewhere that we both were super excited about visiting. For those of you that are not too familiar with Machu Picchu (and I’m sure there are not too many of you!), it is a 15th century Inca site that is situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley, which is located approximately 80 kms or 50 miles northwest of the beautiful town of Cusco.
The Lost City
It is often referred to as the “Lost city of the Incas” and is by far the most popular icon of the Inca civilisation. Historians claim that the estate was built in around 1450, and was occupied up until a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest when it was abandoned.
Although the site was always known locally, it wasn’t until an American Historian, named Hiram Bingham, brought it to international attention in 1911.
Since then, Machu Picchu has become one of the most important tourist attractions in the world and was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and more recently, the site was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Stone was a material that the Incas had special reverence for, and it was carved with great care and skill with each of the buildings being structured in the classical Inca style. Most of the stone buildings of Machu Picchu have been reconstructed in order to give the world a better idea of how the structures originally looked.
For anyone that’s been to or researched the trek to Machu Picchu, you’ll know that it has been regulated by the government meaning that only 500 people daily can complete the popular four-day official trek along the Inca Trail.
You know what that means?
For those interested in doing this trek, you’ve got to be mega organised and book it months in advance to ensure that you get one of those coveted permits. If hiking for that long isn’t your thing, or you don’t manage to get one of the permits, there’s always the option of completing one of the lesser known – yet no less amazing – nearby treks.
And that’s exactly what we chose to do.
After many hours of research and digging online, we opted to do the Huchuy QosQo 2D/1N trek with one of the best tour companies in Cusco, Alpaca Expeditions (also known as The Green Machine!)
What attracted us to this particular tour company was their reputation for excellence and superiority above their competition, both of which is evident from their first-rate reviews on Tripadvisor.
The particular trek suited us as there was not too much trekking involved (lazy – I know!), and it was the perfect length for us (2 days and 1 night).
We booked it in advance online and visited the office two days before we were due to start the trek. On entering the office, we were greeted by two very friendly guys who filled us in on what we needed to pack and gave us an outline of our planned itinerary.
The excitement grew inside us as we found out what our Machu Picchu adventure and Alpaca Expeditions had in store for us.
This is what lay ahead of us:
DAY 1: CUSCO – SIWA – LAMAY – OLLY – AGUAS CALIENTES.
- Total walking distance of 10 kms
- Trekking through the Sacred Valley and some local villages
- Visit the Gate of the Puma (the great canyon)
- Visit Huchuy Qosqo (know as little Cusco)
- Spend the night in the pleasant town of Aguas Calientes at a lovely hotel
DAY 2: MACHUPICCHU – THE LOST CITY OF THE INCAS
- Early morning visit to Machu Picchu
- Spend the morning exploring the site whilst also getting a walking tour of the magnificent ruins
- Return to Aguas Calientes for some lunch
- Make our way back to Cusco
This particular trail (the Huchuy Qosqo trek) was appealing for us as it offers stunning views of the Sacred Valley and the amazing mountain range of Urubamba. It involves trekking on the Inca Trail with little or no other tour groups, and visiting local towns and villages along the way, which is something that is always enjoyable for us.
As with most of the greatest and must-see sights and attractions in the world, there is always a fear of being disappointed due to setting your expectations too high.
On reflection, we couldn’t be happier to say that Machu Picchu was most definitely NOT one of these instances.
It was spectacular, amazing, magical, special and a site and experience that will be etched in our memories for a very long time.
The adventure started off with an early collection from our hostel in Cusco. Our guide, Ruben, and the van driver picked us up at 5am and brought us to the Alpaca storage centre for a tasty breakfast of scrambled egg, fresh bread and coffee which was complemented by lots and lots of fresh fruit – so good!
Right from the moment we met Ruben, we knew that he was going to be totally awesome and we had a feeling that he would make a huge impact on our two-day escapade. He made us laugh instantly with his funny jokes and great sense of humour – which is always a plus, after all nobody wants a tour guide that can’t make them giggle!
During breakfast, we met the rest of our group who would be partaking in the adventure with us – they were Linda and Crystal from Hong Kong and a guy named Martin from Holland, all of whom were really nice and friendly.
The small group of five of us, plus Ruben, the driver and our porter (who would carry our lunch) then set off for one of the best tours that we’ve ever been on.
The first day consisted of lots of walking (which can be done at your own pace), eating yummy snacks along the way (which was given to us by our smiley porter), and then we enjoyed a delicious lunch that involved lots of tasty rice, potatoes, chicken, veg and the most amazing avocado we’ve ever had.
And what made it even better was we ate it in a remote area along the Inca Trail!
One particular aspect of the day that I really enjoyed was walking through two local villages where we got to meet the last of the Inca people who were working on the land and going about their everyday business.
Ruben, as kind and thoughtful as he is, brought a bag full of tubes of chocolate to give to the kids while they were on their way to school. Luckily, I also had a huge bag of candy sweets that I could share with the children – their smiles of appreciation and happiness towards Ruben and I was so heartfelt and warming.
End of Day 1
After our 10km trek (which was not that difficult at all), we got a bus ride from our end point to Ollantaytambo where we had a scrumptious 3 course meal and caught a train to the quaint town of Aguas Calientes.
We were super tired after our early start and trek, so you can imagine our delight when we walked into our gorgeous hotel which had a bed that was big enough to fit six people, a shower that was so hot and powerful that it was literally the nicest shower that I’ve ever had and to top all of it off, we had cable TV so after showering and appreciating the comfort of the room, we got to drift off to sleep while watching an episode of ‘Modern Family’ – perfect!
Needless to say, we slept like babies and awoke the next morning at 5:30 am to a delicious breakfast and a full day of exploring Machu Picchu.
We caught one of the early morning buses up to Machu Picchu and Ruben told us that we had some free time to climb to the top of the ruins to get that iconic photo opportunity.
And after an hour of so of posing and group selfies, we descended into the ruins themselves and Ruben began explaining all that we needed to know about the history of the site and the legendary Inca tribe. He showed us all of the major points of interest and went into great detail about why they were important.
It was during this point of the tour that we realised how much of a gem of a tour guide that Ruben actually was. There were so many tour guides from other companies showing their groups the same points of interest, but none of them were as informative, as lively and as passionate about their jobs as Ruben was.
This guy has done this same routine hundreds of times, and yet it didn’t show in his mannerisms or the way he delivered the info. He was passionate, interested, engaged us in conversation and relished in the fact that he had a job to do and he was going to do it to his full potential.
After doing numerous tours in countries all around the world, I’ve come to know just how important a tour guide is – his/her level of passion and interest in the job can literally make the tour a disaster or turn it into an experience that will never be forgotten.
Ruben definitely made our experience in Machu Picchu one that we will never forget. In fact, the entire Alpaca Expeditions team, from the owner to the guys at reception, to the porters, the bus drivers and the guides are all awesome and work extremely hard to ensure that each person has an enjoyable and unforgettable adventure with them.
Once we had explored Machu Picchu and had taken enough photos, we headed back down to Aguas Calientes where we had lunch, and caught the train back to Ollantaytambo for our connecting bus back to Cusco.
While on the bus trip back, we got to meet and chat with a number of travellers who had just completed other treks with Alpaca Adventures and their experience was similar to ours – their guides were informative, friendly and passionate, the food provided was amazing and their experience with Alpaca was one that they will cherish forever.
For those of you that are not convinced (and I’m sure there are not many of you), Machu Picchu is a MUST SEE when in South America. Its sheer size, location and the history behind it will blow your mind.
If you are not big into trekking and feel that the 4D/3N would be too much for you, opt to do a trek that is similar to the one we did.
There are many tour companies in Cusco offering various different treks, but based on ours (and many others) experiences, Alpaca Expeditions is most definitely the company to go with.
They offer a range of alternative treks to Machu Picchu including the Salkantay Trek, the Lares Trek and the one that we did – the Huchuy Qosqo Trek. You can click here to get more info on any of these treks. They also offer day tours around Cusco that are well worth checking out.
If your wish is to do the official Inka Trail, don’t worry as that is possible too – but as I’ve already said, you just need to be organised and book it in advance. If you’re thinking of doing it in the future and know your travel dates, you can click here to find out about the availability of permits and book quickly as it fills up FAST.
Now that Machu Picchu is ticked off the list and marked down as one of our favourite tours that we’ve ever done thanks to the greatness and professionalism of Alpaca Expeditions, we find ourselves in a little bit of a predicament…
It’s time to leave Peru but there’s one little problem and that’s Next Stop – Who Knows?!
Have you ever been to Machu Picchu or done the official Inca Trail?