10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Climbing Machu Picchu

A simple guide of what to know and bring before climbing Machu Picchu…

By the fabulous Olivia Anderson!

Photo credit:  Olivia Anderson

Spending the last few weeks traveling through South America with her family, Olivia, of course, made a stop at Machu Picchu, duh. After a successful trip, Olivia shares her tips and tricks for visiting and hiking one of the seven wonders of the world:

1. Pack wisely – if you are spending a night in Machu Picchu (as most do), leave your larger suitcase back in your final destination (if possible) and pack a small backpack with a second set of hiking clothes, hiking shoes (or shoes with good grip), a rain jacket, and a lightweight dinner outfit (if you want). The village is very casual and depending on your hotel, it is unlikely you will need a “posh” outfit as most people visiting are there to hike.

2. Drink/chew the Coca Tea – Coca Tea (what Cocaine is made from) is the Peruvian drink that helps with altitude by providing a natural source of energy. Obviously not anywhere near as harmful or addictive as Cocaine, the reagents provide a subdued side effect, making it easier to hike at high altitudes. Most places offer this tea at breakfast and lunch time; but try to avoid it after 2pm as it can keep you awake.

3. Hire a guide – The hike through Machu Picchu is half the experience; the other half is learning all about the rich history of the site. Hire a guide or join a group and listen to the story of the ruins you are walking through. Even though you may have done research prior to your trip, the guide provides a different perspective as a (most likely) native Peruvian.

4. Check the weather – At such high altitudes, it is likely that Machu Picchu will experience cloud cover. If your schedule is flexible, check the weather and decide on a day where the skies look clear. For a place like this, a cloudless day is what makes the trip. Also, you could have the opportunity to climb Wayna Picchu and view the ruins from a birds eye view.

5. Get there early – Plan ahead for your day trip up the mountain. The bus from the village comes every 20 minutes, but the earlier you are there to wait in line, the better. Not to mention, the journey up takes about 25-30 minutes through a winding mountain road. The trek through the ruins takes about 2.5-3 hours. So if you have evening plans, give yourself ample time to get up, around and back down again.

6. Take your time – Although you may be in a rush to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World (as I was), its important you take your time. Your body is most likely not used to the high altitude and especially not exercising at this height. The ruins can wait for you to catch your breath, so make sure you only push as hard as your body can handle…don’t overdo it and ruin the whole day for yourself and your group.

7. Take pictures – Duh! Yea this might seem obvious and of course its important to take in the experience, but remember to document the moment. Your family members who weren’t with you will want to see photos from your trip and not to mention, you’re going to want to look back at it in years to come. Try to get a photo from a higher level so you can get the whole site into the photograph.

8. Respect the site – It’s an exciting experience visiting one of the Seven Wonders, but remember it isn’t your property and just because you’ve made there, doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. The site has been preserved for hundreds of years because of the respect tourists have for it…that means no touching what is roped off and respect the local animals (llamas and alpacas) roaming around; its their home, not ours.

9. Book a train – This one is inevitable as the only way to get to and from Machu Picchu is by train, however you have a few options. The first is the local Peruvian rail train, which is very civilized and clean (highly recommend) or the Hiram Bingham, which is quite a treat (feels like your onboard the Polar Express). Whichever you choose will get you from point A to B in style.

10. Enjoy! – Last but certainly not least, enjoy yourself. We sometimes forget to live in the moment because were too busy thinking about the next few hours, days, months ahead. Its important to remember where you are and what an amazing thing you are experiencing so take it all in; take pictures, learn the history, and talk to locals to find out about the life in Machu Picchu!

Want to find out more about Olivia’s trip through South America or her travels in general? Check out her blog here

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