#TravelTuesday: Machu Picchu’s Stairway to Heaven

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To worship at Machu Picchu’s Moon Temple, intrepid hikers must scale 600 feet of granite rocks.

When it comes to terrifying treks, there’s one place where the dizzying heights, creeping altitude sickness, and treacherous pathways all combine to create an experience so harrowing that the destination would have to be one heck of a sight – Machu Picchu.

To some, the altitude may be the only scary part about visiting an ancient, lost city, while to others, just getting there is a battle. Purists usually opt to take the classic, five day hike through the Inca Trail, a winding mountain pass that takes hikers through the settlements, tunnels, and Inca ruins scattered through the Andes mountains. It’s a grueling trek, and it’s also heavily monitored by the government. Only 200 hikers are allowed on the maintained passage at any given time.

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Those who would rather skip the almost week-long hike can choose to go straight to the mountain, but as there are no car paths available, you’re forced to take a ride on the local train, which can be quite an interesting experience. In order to actually visit Machu Picchu, though, you must purchase a visitor’s pass from the Instituto Nacional de Cultura off the Plaza de Armas. Tickets run about $45 and require the ticketing agent to see your passport. If you want to avoid an hour-long hike from the train drop-off point, you can also purchase a $12 bus ticket that will drop you off right at the stairs.

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When you arrive, you’ll probably notice that much of the lost city is devoid of any signage to point you in the right direction. That’s no accident – this is where your tour guide comes in. While many visiting groups choose to select a guide before their trip, you won’t have any problem picking from the dozens of guides waiting for visitors at the entrance. Expect to pay anywhere from $350 to $500 for a guide, but if you’re visiting with a group and value your life, it’s a worthwhile investment to know what you’re doing

While the majority of tourists visiting Machu Picchu only stay for the day, it’s highly recommended that those with time to spare spend at least a night in the area, as the best way to experience the lost city is as early as possible. The gates open at 5:00AM sharp, but as you might have guessed, most people won’t be up that early, providing you with the best chance to see the incredible sights without a large crowd. The nearby Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel offers a great place to spend the night in the local resort town, but there’s also plenty of camping available for those looking to rough it.

It may sound like an incredible amount of work to visit Machu Picchu, and it really is, but rarely is that much effort worth the kind of payoff you receive when you get to see something like this:

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On the Web: 

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu — World Heritage Site — National Geographic

Machu Picchu – Facts & Summary – HISTORY.com

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