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Trip to Machu Picchu and the Inca experience in Cusco

Tourists come to Peru for many reasons, but the visit that everyone wants to do is definitely that of Machu Picchu. Even if you are like me, a traveler who dodges overly touristy areas and prefers to avoid crowds, will attract you to the mysterious lost city of the Incas. You don’t have to worry about crowds, lines, trains and entrance tickets, but to integrate this wonderful world into your itinerary.

The trip to Machu Picchu does not start at the gateway to Aguas Calientes. You have to consider it an Inca experience that begins in Cusco. In the Inca era, Cusco was the capital of the Kingdom and today it is an effervescent city from which excursions such as the Inca Trail are organized, imagining its history until the time of the Spanish conquest. I spent several days exploring the ruins in and around the city, tasting the wonderful tamales and shopping in the beautiful ‘market’ and craft shops. To get used to the altitude, the first day I moved very slowly, snorting and panting through the streets. I blindly believe in coca tea, the best remedy to combat altitude sickness.

The visit to the Temple of the Sun was a bittersweet experience for me because I understood perfectly how a powerful culture can dominate and eradicate any trace of a weaker civilization: the Spaniards took the great Inca Temple and built their cathedral on it!

Before visiting Machu Picchu, I also made an excursion to Sacsayhuaman, not far from Cusco. A marvel of war and engineering ingenuity and I enjoyed this opportunity to leave behind the bustle of the city to visit this large and somewhat rural site. Then, I also made a wonderful half-day excursion to the Salinas de Maras, a series of surprising and ancient salt pools, and Moray, an ancient Inca site where agricultural seeds were used with ingenuity. Another day I went to Tipón and when I returned to Cusco I took the opportunity to try the famous chicharrones! There are several museums in Cusco, but my favorite is the Pisco Museum, not really a museum, but an incredible bar that serves pisco where the waiters taught me everything there is to know about this Peruvian brandy. A true little known museum is the Museum of Sacred, Magical and Medicinal Plants: a beautiful building that contains an exhibition on the history and use of coca. I discovered many interesting things about Coca Cola that I didn’t know: for example, did you know that the shape of the bottle occupies that of the coca seed and that the colors of the logo represent the colors of the Peruvian flag? The trip ended with a taste of tea in the silent courtyard. I discovered many interesting things about Coca Cola that I didn’t know: for example, did you know that the shape of the bottle occupies that of the coca seed and that the colors of the logo represent the colors of the Peruvian flag? The trip ended with a taste of tea in the silent courtyard. I discovered many interesting things about Coca Cola that I didn’t know: for example, did you know that the shape of the bottle occupies that of the coca seed and that the colors of the logo represent the colors of the Peruvian flag? The trip ended with a taste of tea in the silent courtyard.

If you have the opportunity, take the bus to Ollyantantambo and then the train to Aguas Calientes. During my research on the Incas, I stopped at Ollantaytambo. The water system was built by the Incas and many houses and apartments were Inca houses and palaces. I walked through the narrow streets and was lucky to be there in mid-May during the patron’s celebrations: the main square was full of dancers and musicians (locals) dressed in traditional costumes. In the city arena I witnessed a bullfight that ended badly for the bull, a deadly fight of which unfortunately the bull was not the winner! Then I went to Machu Picchu! Some tourists arrive there following the Inca Trail or the less traveled Salkantay road, but it is not for me! I preferred the legendary panoramic train ride (expensive, but worth it) that climbs the valley of the Incas. I chose to arrive in Aguas Calientes in the afternoon and as I wanted to be at the gates of the great site early in the morning, I decided to stay in this lively city listening to the roar of the Urambamba River and talking with other tourists about their experiences. Some tourists choose to reach the site up the steep hill, but I took the first bus that leaves around six in the morning. I decided to stay in this lively city listening to the roar of the Urambamba River and talking with other tourists about their experiences. Some tourists choose to reach the site up the steep hill, but I took the first bus that leaves around six in the morning. I decided to stay in this lively city listening to the roar of the Urambamba River and talking with other tourists about their experiences. Some tourists choose to reach the site up the steep hill, but I took the first bus that leaves around six in the morning.

Yes, the crowd is there, but the air is fresh, the fog, the sun’s rays and the perfectly positioned monuments that appear in the splendor of the dawn make it magical. It was easy to find a quiet place and enjoy the view. I decided to spend the morning on a tour to learn something about the story and understand the important things; while in the afternoon I wandered alone. Thanks to the tour with a private guide I took full advantage of his knowledge to know all the corners of the archaeological site. In fact, I visited the main sites first and then in the afternoon I was in the less frequented places and found many places where I could be alone and enjoy the unique atmosphere of Machu Picchu. I loved touching the stones and trying to “listen” to their story.

That night I stayed in Aguas Calientes and returned to Cusco the next day, but many people took the train in the afternoon (having booked it well in advance) and arrived in Cusco at night. For me, Cusco, Ollyantantambo and Machu Picchu are part of a great adventure in the Inca world.

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