Journey to Machu Picchu
It was with great excitement that we boarded the train to Machu Picchu. Visiting the spectacularly situated lost city was, after all, the reason we had chosen to visit Peru in the first place (see Peru – A Trip to Celebrate a Joint Milestone).
We were travelling on the Perurail Vistadome train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, which is the busy tourist town below Machu Picchu.
The journey follows the course of the Urubamba River, and you pass some Inca ruins on the way.
I was excited not only because we were going to see Machu Picchu, but also because we were going to stay in the most extravagent hotel we will probably ever visit. We decided to break the bank (literally) and spend the night in the only hotel actually up at the Machu Picchu site – the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. All the other hotels are situated in Aguas Calientes below, from where you get a bus or shuttle up to the complex.
As well as the excitement, there was also a niggling worry. I had booked us on a later train, thinking that the early ones would be very busy. I didn’t realise until later that the regular buses up to Machu Picchu stop running at 3 pm, and that these are the only transport up. Our train would arrive later than this, so how would we get up to the hotel?
I had visions of having to hike up, and imagined that this would not be a gentle stroll. But I needn’t have worried. A representative from the hotel was waiting for us when we got off the train. He must have been waiting at every train, because we hadn’t said how or when we would arrive. But we were certainly happy to see him.
We hastily bought our tickets for Machu Picchu (which have to be bought in Aguas Calientes or Cusco – not at the site), and were bundled into a minibus. The drive up to Machu Picchu is absolutely spectacular, with a series of steep zigzags and almost vertically-sided mountains all around. It was a very misty day, which added to the mystique and sense of occasion.
Arriving at the Sanctuary Lodge
Arriving at the hotel we found a very pleasant building and room, and extremely friendly and welcoming staff. It was not the least bit opulent, but of course what you are paying for is the location, right next to the entrance to Machu Picchu itself.
And the views of the surrounding mountains are absolutely spectacular, as this photo taken looking down at the hotel’s roof clearly shows.
Two other things make the hotel very special. One is its restaurant and menu, which we found out later is absolutely superb. The other is the fantastic laid out gardens with lovely flowers and feeders for the humming birds. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering on the laid out paths, watching the birds and taking photographs.
Of course one of the main reasons for wanting to stay at the Sanctuary Lodge is to be at Machu Picchu before the tourists arrive. That’s not easy though – the buses from Aguas Calientes run from 5.30 am. And the early buses are very popular! We heard the first groups of tourists cheering outside while we were getting ready for what we thought was an early breakfast.
Still, we did get out early, and managed to enjoy the fabulous site in relative peace. The scale and setting of the place are truly impressive. You cannot help but ponder what life here must have been like.
Everyone has seen the fantastic pictures of Machu Picchu on the covers of glossy tourist brochures. Here are some of our less glossy ones from a cloudy day.
Since returning home from our trip to Peru we have seen several TV programmes about Machu Picchu. Knowing that we were there is very special, and it is something we will never forget.
Please remember that this site is based entirely on our own experiences, therfore kindly note the disclaimer.