Machu Picchu – Planning and Logistics

Machu Picchu, an archaeological site in the Andes Mountains outside of Cusco, appears regularly on “bucket lists” and “must see” destinations.  Since I had time between by time with my daughter and the start of my Ecuador tour, I decided to book a trip to see this site.

Now, there are a couple of ways to “do” Machu Picchu.  The most popular, by far, is to to take the train from Ollantaytambo town to Aguas Calientes – a town that sits just below MP.  From there you can take a 15 minutes bus ride to the entrance and then spend as much time as you’d like exploring the site and hiking as much, or as little, as your heart desires.

But, the other option is to do the classic “Inka Trail” which is a four day, three night hike through the mountains to enter MP from above at the Sun Gate.  For some reason, I thought this would be a good idea.  After all, I had most of the gear I would need from my hiking trip in the Lake District of England last Spring and I would also be “in the neighborhood” already.

Since there is so much ground to cover – both literally and figuratively – on this trip report, I will break it into a few separate posts.  In this post, I’ll just try to cover the logistics of booking the trip and I how I selected my outfitter.

Years ago, one could actually hike the Inca Trail on their own, but the government stepped in to regulate this important site for several reasons.  First, they wanted to better control the site and prevent damage to the sites and trail.  Second, they wanted to provide jobs for locals given the rather glum economic environment in the area.  And, finally, they stood to generate a tremendous amount of additional revenue by taking a more active role in managing this site.

As a result, the number of persons who can enter MP each day is limited to 2,500, the majority of whom come via the train to Aguas Calientes.  The number of persons that can enter the Inca Trail on any one day is limited to 500 which includes guides and porters, so only about 200 trekkers.  And, for the Inca Trail, one must go with an outfitter and there are regulations as to how many porters must accompany each group and how much they can carry on the trail.

Permits for the high travel season can be hard to get but I was going in the rainy season.  In fact, January is the rainiest season of the year for MP and the trail is actually closed in February for repair and restoration work.

Now, there are lots of options for outfitters but I went to TripAdvisor and looked into their #1 ranked company for this hike – Alpaca Expeditions.  They have over 1,100 reviews on TripAdvisor and the comments were overwhelmingly positive so I started checking them out and inquiring for my dates.  They were quick to respond and I soon had my trip booked with them.

In my next post, I’ll share the experience of hiking the trail and exploring Machu Picchu.

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