Well it’s been one fun ride while in Peru. Honestly, the trip started off a little slow with Lima and Paracas (not that they’re bad places to visit, but just not my type) but finished with a bang in Arequipa and Cusco.
I was blown away at how much larger Cusco felt as a city compared to Arequipa even though Arequipa is the 2nd largest city in Peru. The difference in Cusco is that there are so many tourists that meeting people with similar likes is very easy to do.
Machu Picchu is an experience. I will say that it is somewhat underwhelming if you only go to visit the main ruins. You are pretty much herded around like cattle going in 1 direction and you’re all vying to get the same picture. BUT, if you plan early enough and are one of the lucky few who get a chance to climb Huayna Picchu, the views are stunning.
A few things about MP:
The mosquitos are real…very real. No matter how much you may hate it, I’d strongly recommend wearing jeans or long pants as well as a long sleeve shirt. And don’t even bother with ankle socks…wear some thick sturdy ones. I’d heard about the mosquitos so I wore jeans and as much as I hated having those on while climbing HP, it was thankful in the end after seeing so many bite marks on peoples’ legs.
The recommended time to climb HP is 2 hours total. I think that’s a little generous but that’s me. I pushed myself on the way up and strolled down to stop and take more photos so it took me about 2.5 hours. That said, I KNOW I wouldn’t have made it in 2 hours total.
The climb up is difficult. Unless you’re a triathlete or into some extreme form of fitness, it isn’t fun. It’s a combination of steep stairs and crawling up a mountain on your hands and feet. But it’s doable and on a clear day, very worth the trip. To put it in perspective, there was a blind man who made the climb obviously with the help of a guide. I don’t know how long it too that man, but to see the smile on his face climbing down can only serve as motivation to get up and moving. He even laughed when someone asked (obviously out of habit) “how was the view up there?”
Bring water….lots of water. You may not want to carry it around but trust me, you won’t. You’ll be chugging that thing and if you don’t bring enough, you’ll be rationing the water on the way down, which is no fun.
If you aren’t going to be doing the climb, I don’t think you really need more than a couple hours to visit the site. To be honest, the ruins are vey exposed with little to no place to sit and the restrooms and water are outside. Even at a stroll, you should be able to do it in a couple hours easy. If you want to take your time getting up and going in the morning, a stay at Aguas Caliente might be worth it but if not, you can just take the first train up and a later train down all in one day (which is what I did with no regrets).
Finally, hope to get lucky. I had signed up for the 10am time slot to climb HP. At that time, people from the morning climb were descending and finishing their climb and not one person was very happy. Apparently it had rained all morning and the fog was so thick they couldn’t see one end from the other. However, by the time I got up there, the clouds had disappeared and it was a beautiful sunny day. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but I’m certainly not going to take my luck for granted. Also, it’s the rainy season right now and I only had to deal with a total of about 15 mins of rain over my 4 days there. I’ll take it.
There’s so much to do in Cusco and Arequipa that it would be impossible to write all the experiences and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to either. This is just something you have to experience yourself.