If you’re making the trek to Machu Picchu, be sure to set your alarm clock early. The sun breaking through the morning fog of the lost city of the Incas is not an experience to be missed!
To make the morning hike to Machu Picchu, resting at 7,970 feet above sea level, make your start a few hours before dawn. Strap on your walking shoes and grab a head-lamp: the climb up from nearby town Aguas Calientes is long and winding.
Your hike up the mountain will be rewarded with the still dawn rising onto the ancient grounds of Machu Picchu. Spend the morning wandering around the misty labyrinth of this UNESCO World Heritage site as the morning fog slowly dissipates. There’s no better place than this to settle in for a breakfast picnic, sharing the the fields throughout the site with llamas munching on the grass.
Fog burning off of Machu Picchu, with Huayna Picchu in the distance
There are certified and informed guides available to walk you through the history of the lost city. I would highly recommend taking a guided tour around the city to learn about the colorful stories of the site. I had a new appreciation for the effort required to transport the stones needed to build the city after my morning climb!
If you’re an adventurous type, you should tackle the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu, called Huayna Picchu. Head over to the gates early to get a pass to climb or purchase tickets beforehand. Only 400 visitors are allowed to make the climb daily to preserve the area’s structures.
Climbing a few of the final stairs to the top
The climb up is not for the timid: Huayna Picchu looms over Machu Picchu promising bursting lungs and slippery stones. You will wind your way up steep hills and weathered stairways to reach the peak at 8,922 feet, almost a thousand feet higher than Machu Picchu. The stairs are narrow and steep—many times barely wide enough for one person to navigate! In many areas a steel cable will help you steady your trip up, so hold on tight! The view from the top is unparalleled: you can see all of Machu Picchu stretching below you and down into the sloping, lush, valleys surrounding the site.
Machu Picchu is an often-visited destination, but you will understand what draws people from around the world once you step foot on its grounds. It will transport you to a different time and different world. Just remember to bring reliable shoes!