The final day of the Inca Trail you are woken early at 3am to have breakfast and then go and stand in the line to leave the campsite. The actual trail doesn’t open until 5.30am but competition is strong to be the first out on the route to reach the sun gate as early as possible. Our group was not at the front but once actually hiking we made pretty good time when others stopped for breaks. This is the only time you can pass people really as the path is narrow so you are limited to the speed of the person ahead of you unless they halt to let you through. The trail this day is fairly easy going with just a gentle incline for most of the duration until you reach the stairs leading up to the sun gate itself which are seriously steep.
When we arrived at the Sun Gate which is the entrance to Machu Picchu it was light so we could see the city in the distance although unfortunately the sun had not fully risen so it was in the shade. This did not take away from the amazing spectacle that lay before us though. Perched on the hillside with Huayna Picchu in the background it is truly breath-taking.
We then had to descend towards the citadel where we passed some people heading up in the opposite direction who had arrived on the earliest bus up to the complex from Aguas Calientes. As we got closer the sun began to throw down its rays over the walls and the vista just became more magnificent. This is definitely one of the manmade wonders of the world. Just before we made it as far as the main entrance we came upon a great viewing area, perfect for getting that iconic picture in front of the ruins, then we had to go out to put our bags into lockers as large rucksacks/ hiking poles are not permitted whilst looking round.
We had a quick snack at the café which was expensive but well welcomed after 4 days trekking and then we went inside where our Inca Trail guide took us to many of the main areas to tell us about the history and explain what exactly it was we were seeing all of which was very interesting. As we were at Machu Picchu prior to the new rules being implemented we were then allowed to explore independently so Fraser and I met up with his mum who had got the bus up that morning and went around all the sections we hadn’t done on the tour. The whole place is full of beautiful architecture and the Andes Mountains surrounding it just add more drama to the whole place. We managed to while away hours there until in the early afternoon we were sick of being told off for accidentally trying the go the wrong way round the one way system and having to squeeze past the ever increasing crowds and we decided to leave and head on the bus down to the town of Aguas Calientes.
Once there we met up with our hike team for our last meal together in the place recommended and booked by Peru Treks which did delicious pizza, so good that despite the fact we initially ordered one to share, we quickly ended up caving and buying another so we had a pizza each. We then had some time to kill before our evening train back to Ollantaytambo so a couple of us decided to check out the hot springs.
The springs were a quick walk up through the town and were fairly cheap to enter. We thought we’d give it a go after having such a nice time at the ones in Chivay earlier in our trip. These however were nowhere near as nice. They were jam packed full of people, the water was filthy and there were scum marks around the edge of each pool. They were also more tepid than “hot” springs. We stayed just long enough to pretend we’d justified the entrance fee and then made a swift retreat back to our bags in the restaurant.
When the time came we all made our way to the station to catch the train back to Ollantaytambo (and from there we drove on a bus to Cusco). All our group was in one carriage and the whole thing seemed to be full of all the trekking groups. We were provided with a few snacks along the way. The whole thing was fairly uneventful and it was slightly unfortunate that it was dark outside so we were unable to see the scenery as it is supposed to be one of the most picturesque train journeys in the world.
This was the perfect end to what was 4 of the most amazing days ever. The Inca Trail is surely THE way to get to Machu Picchu, although I know people have similarly positive reviews of the Salkantay, Lares and Jungle Treks. Day 1 was a brilliant warm up, day 2 was the big challenge, day 3 was the stunning reward to getting through the day before and day 4 included Machu Picchu which should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit. Peru Treks were professional, responsive and made the whole thing so very enjoyable and I would highly recommend them.
Have you been to Machu Picchu, what did you think? How did you get there and did you enjoy that way?