Entering the main Machu Picchu complex across the agricultural terraces, it’s easy to be completely overwhelmed by the size of it all. Not only can you see most of the main ruins stretching out above and below, you are surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Andes. Our expert A&K guide Franklin quick summed up the areas that had the least visitors and mapped out our initial 2-3 hour visit. We saw most of the lower areas including the Condor Temple, the Prisoner’s Area, the Industrial Zone and the Houses of Factories. We concluded our morning by walking across the upper area of the very large Main Square.
By around 1pm the clouds had built into a gray overcast sky and fog that threatened rain. Instead of continuing our visit, we opted for lunch at the buffet at the Sanctuary Lodge to see if we could wait out the potential rain. Following a 30 or 40 minute downpour, we finished our lunch and resumed our (much less crowded) visit to the middle section including the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Tomb, Ritual Fountains and the Royal Palace.
Our second day visiting Machu Picchu started with an early morning hike to the Sun Gate. A&K had arranged reservations for all of us to hike Huayna Picchu, but only 1 of our group opted for this challenge. (way to go Kevin!) After these hikes, we met-up with Franklin to conclude our visit of the citadel including the City Gate and guard houses, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Main Temple. Returning to the hotel, we enjoyed a quick shower followed by a relaxing lunch before boarding the 3:20 train to Cusco. Arriving at Poroy station at 7PM, we transferred to the Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel and all agreed that the long day had been exhilarating but exhausting.
Overall impressions of Machu Picchu: It’s larger than expected. The ruins of the citadel are quite accessible and impressive, and the surrounding peaks of the Andes jutting skyward are quite amazing. Following the flooding and forced evacuations in 2010, the cultural offices introduced tougher entrance rules to further reduce the number of daily visitors. In 2012, UNESCO urged Peruvian officials to take additional action to reduce damage caused by tourism. In addition to this growing threat, it has been found that Machu Picchu is literally splitting in half with movement of the mountain on which the citadel is built. With frequent earthquakes through Peru, this fault is increasingly worry some. With all of these concerns, Machu Picchu certainly qualifies as one of those places that you should visit sooner rather than later.