From Aguas Calientes the bus takes about 20 mins up a road with 14 switchbacks (I counted). You can also walk up for about 2.5 hours. I’m not sure of the altitude change but it seemed pretty significant looking down from the bus.
If you don’t want to take the train and bus to Machu Picchu you can also do the 4 day Inka Trail hike which several in our group did. Due to my uncooperative knees, lack of toilets/running water and just general laziness we opted to stay a few extra days in Cusco instead.
Our first view of the famous ruins.
We still had to hike up to get the best view. Glad I took my hiking poles.
If you know me there’s not much I consider getting up before sunrise for. Fortunately the sunrises a bit later and we were there for it.
You are officially limited to 4 hours to visit the site but another limit on your time is the fact that there are no bathrooms on site. There is one outside the gates costing 2 Peruvian Sols (about 80 cents CAD) but you can’t re-enter. Apparently the revenue for the bathroom is 10,000 Sols/day. It’s owned by a high end hotel that is right at the gate.
Here’s a view of two very different walls. On the right - very rustic, the rocks might be held together with mud. On the left the priest's house - very carefully shaped rocks and no mortar holding them together. They were shaped to fit perfectly using stone tools and a lot of ingenuity.
We took a long hike uphill to see the ‘Inka Bridge' and some of the original paths they used. You might not be able to tell from the photo but there is a path along the side of the cliff visible now because of a green line of vegetation. Closed off.
And in case you missed it Ross and the llama.
The Peruvian government has put a lot of policies in place to help preserve the site. There are limits on the number of visitors, how long they can stay, where they can go, etc. More regulations came in the day before our visit which our guide wasn’t even aware of yet. In fact one of our guides suggested that in the not too distant future there may be a cable car for viewing only and that walking the site may be prohibited. It’s worth the visit so if you’re thinking of visiting don’t wait much longer. You’re not getting any younger and neither is Machu Picchu!