Alternative Machu Pichu Guided Tour, 3 Days and 2 Nights, Peru
This post is a review of an alternative Machu Pichu guided tour.
Hiking the famous Inca Trail is a 4-day hike and the most popular way to get to Machu Pichu, but many people miss out on this because it is booked out months in advance since they only let a certain amount of people on it each month. Luckily, there is an alternative Machu Pichu guided tour that you can arrange in Cuzco a day or 2 before you plan to go, as well as many other similar hikes, which are far less populated and considerably cheaper.
By day 22 we were well and truly ready for our Machu Pichu adventure. Although the trip so far had surmounted expectations, there had always been a feeling in the air that the rest of the trip had been leading up to this. We had not booked ahead so we went to find an alternative Machu Pichu guided tour.
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Alternative Machu Pichu Guided Tour Review
About three doors down from the Loki Hostel was a tour operator. After some investigation and discussion, we decided to get an alternative Machu Pichu guided tour. For just under 100USD each we would get a guide whom would pick us up in the morning from our hostel. From there would be 3 days and 2 nights which included a bike ride, a hike, all accommodation, 5 meals, entry to Machu Pichu, and our journey back to Cusco.
On the day of our alternative Machu Pichu guided tour we were told to wait out the front of our hostel at 0730am and not to be late. Apparently, no one told our guide the same. There were a few others waiting with us, although we were the only ones on our particular alternative Machu Pichu Guided tour. They had chosen the 4day 3night option, which was basically the same alternative Machu Pichu guided tour but had a longer hike and rafting to fill in the extra day. At 0750am our host arrived with a mini van to cart us all around. They fit our baggage where ever they could, including the roof, and we were off.
The Bike Ride
After about a 4-hour bus ride (not the comfiest we had been on) we stopped and dismounted to get ready for our bike ride, which was the first item on our alternative Machu Pichu guided tour. We had climbed a fair bit of altitude and were told that this point was higher than Machu Pichu. It was un-mistakenly chili. After a quick round of cocoa leaves (apparently good for altitude sickness) we mounted up on our bikes and set off down the very big hill. It was amazing. We soared down stopping every now and again to take pictures, then being told to hurry up because we were running late (there were roadworks further on and if we didn’t make it to the car in time they would close it off and we wouldn’t be able to get through.) The scenery was beautiful, but oncoming trucks quickly got our attention as we dodged out of the way. Already we were happy with our chosen alternative Machu Pichu guided tour.
At about the halfway mark the hill started to flatten out and the temperature got warmer. We pulled over for our packed alternative Machu Pichu guided tour lunch of cheese sandwiches, fruit, a local ‘muesli bar’ and some sweets. I can’t remember what the bars were made of, but I had previously bought some for a long bus ride. I’m not a fussy eater but I couldn’t eat these. After a dismal lunch and getting eaten by mosquitoes we took off again. We finished up in a small village. This was where we parted from the rafters. We got back on the bus and headed for our accommodation.
The next stop of our alternative Machu Pichu guided tour wasn’t too far away. As we pulled up, the first thing we noticed was a small monkey on the side of the road. We all awed in its cuteness until it attacked one of the local kids. We quickly took a step back as the older brother laughed at the victim. A two minute walk up the road and we settled into our rooms. After a quick set down of our stuff, we went for a refreshing dip at some local hot springs. We stayed until just after sunset and then headed for a quick change and dinner at a local restaurant.
While waiting for the meeting time (which our alternative Machu Pichu guided tour guide was clearly not interested in adhering to) we had a chat with a few other tourists. There was a nice couple, an Irish girl and English guy, whom, along with another young American, had just completed a different alternative guided tour of Machu Pichu, in the way of a 4-day hike. This, impressively, they had done after just completing the Ciudad de Perida in Colombia.
20-minutes later our guide decided to show up and took us a few doors up to our evening meal. Afterward we had a quiet stroll around the town, admired the quality of welding, and then turned in for the night.
Hiking to Aquas Calientes
After a good rest and a hearty breakfast was the next part of our alternative Machu Pichu guided tour, the hike to Aguas Calientes, which was to take about 6 hours. The first half was mostly following the river line, which at one point needed to be crossed. It was done via an ingenious contraption of a cage for which to sit in (pictured below) and a set of ropes to pull yourself, or the next people, across, depending on if you were unlucky enough to be the first ones over.
Continuing along the river we soaked up the sights and felt the gentle spray off the river, then watch as our guide zoomed past us holding onto the back of a truck. Every now and again we would get a glimpse of our goal, Mt Machu Pichu, which is easily identified by the ‘Rainbow’ flag. There were sufficient stops along the way to recharge and even little stalls of old local women selling sports drinks and water (at an inflated price). One of the rest points even had a refreshing little stream to dunk your head under which everyone was grateful for.
About halfway there was a check-in station which was pretty standard. Originally, the plan was to do a similar route to Agua Calientes on our own, but by bus to this check in point and then hike the rest of the way. This was to be done at some stage in the middle of the night. Needless to say, it is far easier and a better experience to get an alternative Machu Pichu Guided Tour. Shortly after this was a lunch stop. After a good meal (including a perfect amount of ice cream), a blister check, and a resupply of water, the trek continued along the railway tracks to Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes is the main access point to Machu Pichu. Due to the number of tourists wishing to get to Machu Pichu, this small valley town is largely occupied with accommodation, restaurants and massage parlors. Other things you may wish to do whilst here include visiting hot spring baths along the main street (Aguas Calientes literally means “hot water” in Spanish), or the relatively large semi-covered markets (make sure you bargain).
To ensure a ticket to Wayna Pichu you must be one of the first 400 visitors into Machu Pichu for the day. You can either hike up or take the bus for about 7US each way. Either way, it is an early start. If catching the bus you want to be on one of the first four buses. The first bus leaves at 0530am and then continually every 10 minutes or so. Wayna Pichu is the famous backdrop used to photograph the ruins. Once at the entry gate to the ruins, you can get your ticket to the mountain (different to the entry ticket to the ruins) and can opt to either leave at 0700am or 1000am. It is recommended to do it at 1000am. This way, you can do a guided tour (often included in your alternative Machu Pichu guided tour package) then look around yourself for an hour or so before climbing the mountain.
If you don’t wish to conform to tickets or timings you can choose to climb Mt Machu Pichu itself (where the Rainbow Flag is). It is a bigger mountain but is far less crowded and the view is spectacular.
The ruins themselves are an amazing feat of human engineering, considering how old they are. They were rediscovered in 1911 but it is not known exactly why they were built. There are many theories from being a military fort to a country resort. What is known is that the Incas started building it around AD 1430, but it was abandoned as a site for the Inca rulers 100 years later during the Spanish Conquest.
Strategically, it is a very well hidden and protected site but is thought to have only ever held a maximum of 750 occupants at a time. The thing that impressed me most about the ruins was the intricate drainage system running throughout the site, that and when El Gato got ‘jumped’ by an Alpaca which roam freely.
If you catch a bus up I recommend hiking back down. It is quite a steep hike (I’m glad I didn’t go up it) and takes an hour or two depending on how many stops you make. Along the way, just over the bridge, you can stop at the campsite next to the botanical gardens and go for a quick dip to cool off.
After dinner we went to catch our train back to Cusco. Between Big Red battling gastro and the rest of us being beyond tired but unable to sleep on the journey, it was a fun-filled journey of gibberish. The train ride went for a couple of hours, then it was a quick but confusing change onto a minibus back to the Loki Hostel. We settled in quickly as possible for a short sleep so we could get up early for our plane back to Miami.
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