Machu Picchu 2
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The Temple of the Sun on the left and a guard llama shifting into spit-attack mode on the right, legs rigid for better accuracy.
The long and winding road up/down to Aguas Calientes, accommodation and trains, a hefty hike.
The central peak in the picture above is is Winay Pichu (climbable) and the brown river is the Urubamba. Buses run from Aguas to the top of the zig-zag.
The 3 hour train from Cusco running beside the Urubamba River (white water rafting or kayaking also possible!).
Aguas Calientes village, the only alternative accommodation to the very pricey Sanctuary Lodge hotel next to Machu Picchu, but quite a walk so you'd better hope the bus is running!
There is one seriously expensive hotel, the Sanctuary Lodge, at the top of the zig-zag and next to the site (a double room goes for $800+ in high season), giving excellent, uncrowded early-morning access to the site (opens at 6.am but the first train tourists arrive at 9.30am).
Alternatively, for normal mortals there are guest houses, small hotels, restaurants and hot springs not far from the rail station at Aguas Calientes, about six kms away.
The biggest pain about Aguas Calientes is the waiting time for buses to and from Machu Pichu. The first bus leaves at 5.30 am and the trip takes about half an hour, but the queuing each way could be 1-2 hours. Throw in the line to enter the site and possibly the line to climb Winay Picchu and you could be standing in line for hours a day.
So travel to Peru slightly off season!
Machu Picchu weather:
The dry season is definitely the best time to visit this extraordinary destination. Low cloud is not unusual even in summertime but choose the rainy season and you may be lucky to see the dripping and ponchoed figure in front of you let alone the magnificent panorama that is the point of the place! Not to mention the waterlogged cameras, slippery rocks and damp, disconsolate queues.
The best season to travel around the Machu Pichu region is May-October, the dry season with warm, sunny days, highs around 20-25C/68F but chilly, near zero nights (it is winter after all!). BUT, avoid the serious crowds by going May, June, September, October.
November-March is the wet season, with especially heavy rain December-February.