If there is one place that got me travelling in the first place it is Machu Picchu and the Machu Picchu hike over the Inca trail.
It is hard to explain the allure this place has for me but as soon as I saw it on the tv I knew I had to go. From there, my first long overseas trip was built around the idea of going to Machu Picchu.
How to Get to Machu Picchu
There are a couple of ways of getting here; by train or by walking for 4 or 5 days on a Machu Picchu hike over the famous Inca Trail in Peru. Normally I take the lazy option whenever it is open to me but I just loved the idea of arriving to this iconic, abandoned city by foot.
The good news is that the walk isn't all that tough. The altitude makes it kind of hard going at times, as it reaches a high of over 4,200 metres (13,800 ft). However, the overall distance covered is only a fairly modest 26 miles (43 km). The worst aspects of it are the cold and the uncomfortable sleeping on hard ground at night, while the lack of a shower for a few days kind of gets annoying. I still smelt great after 4 days but the other guys in my tent were starting to give off some pretty bad odours.
Machu Picchu Hike Pictures with an Inca Kola T-shirt
The best bit? That's easy. On the last morning you make an early start and then stand at the Sun Gate to see the sun rise majestically behind this mysterious ruined city. If your heart doesn't skip a beat at this sight it is probably time to check if you are still alive. I might even have jumped for joy at this point. This is also the point when you will want to crack out that amusing Inca Kola t-shirt you bought in Lima - don't deny you bought one, we all do – and strike a pose for possibly the finest photo of your entire life.
This incredible early morning view is the main fun you lose if you travel here by train, as well as the building excitement as you get closer to the place. I would imagine that the train is popular with older people, those who are very short of time and those who have some sort of health problem that stops them from doing the walk. However, if you have even the slightest possibility of walking the Inca Trail then I would urge you to do it. In fact, I am typing this while on my knees begging you to do it. There were a few older people in my group, so don't automatically assume that you can't do the Machu Picchu hike without checking the facts. Once you check out how to get to Machu Picchu by walking you will certainly want to try it.
Once you reach the city your tour guide will take you on a walk round and tell you some of the facts. I enjoyed the walk getting here, more than my time in the city itself but it has to be said, it is a magical place. Machu Picchu means Old Mountain and you can also go for a wander over to Huayna Picchu (Young Mountain) to see it from a different view and take some alternative Machu Picchu pictures.
Every now and then scare stories come out about the Inca Trail being closed altogether or at least having the number of visitors seriously reduced. At the time of writing, it is still very much open but you will want to book well in advance in order to secure a place on a hike, as you can't walk it alone and it gets very busy.
The altitude issues mean that you will also want to spend a few days in Cusco before you head off to Machu Picchu. This is no bad thing, as it is a stunning travel destination in its own right. In fact, it is so good that it definitely deserves its own article rather than just a few lines here.