Highlight Travel Guide: Machu Picchu

1 Jun

Machu Picchu Peru in CloudsBefore our trip, everyone asked, “Why Peru?” The easy answer: Machu Picchu. And while that wasn’t our whole answer from the time we set out, it’s a good place to start the story of our maiden voyage to South America.

Friday morning, the day before we left Peru, we set out on one of the most anticipated parts of our adventure: we boarded the Belmond Hiram Bingham train and headed for the world wonder. Belmond HIram Bingham Train Machu Picchu Peruvian Dancer

Since we went to Peru in April, during rainy season when no trains run from Cusco to Machu Picchu, we took the Bi-Modal Hiram Bingham service to Aguas Calientes. From our hotel, we headed to Poroy station, where we were greeted by traditional Incan dancers in colorful costume and loaded into a van while being serenaded by very ceremonious live music.

Hiram Bingham Train to Machu PicchuAt the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado, we transferred to the luxury train. I could not have anticipated what I was about to experience. While their website details live music in the observation car, Pisco Sours in the lounge car, and full lunch in the dining car, those strings of words don’t capture how appropriately grand Belmond makes the journey to the fabled ruins.

Belmond Hiram Bingham Train Machu Picchu Bar Car

No detail was unattended. The first course of lunch included smoked Andean trout and cornbread baked in a husk made from Peruvian corn. Before disembarking, we were given water for the trek. The bus ride up the mountain, admission tickets for the citadel, and an English speaking guide was included in our fare. We stamped our passports and it was official: we made it to Machu Picchu!

Machu_Picchu_PeruI won’t attempt to recite the theories our guide told us about why Machu Picchu exists. I’m not writing this as a history lesson, but in hopes this post inspires or emboldens you to go, and helps you plan your travel.Machu Picchu Peru CloudyI would strongly suggest if you visit Machu Picchu, hire a guide. Our guide did a great job and explaining the significance of what we were looking at when we walked through the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Condor or passed the Intiwatana Stone. I was so impressed to learn the details of the thoughtful construction that I would never have picked up on wandering on my own.

Machu Picchu PeruMachu Picchu Peru in the CloudsTo punctuate our time at Machu Picchu, we enjoyed a very hearty afternoon tea at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel at the entrance of Machu Picchu (also included in our fare). We wound back down the mountain on a bus and perused the market before boarding or train back toward Cusco. To save on costs without sacrificing experience, we took the Vistadome for our return journey. Our arrival at Ollantaytambo truly added adventure to our trip (more on that here), but I wouldn’t trade the story for a taxi driver with my name on his sign. ____________________________________________________________________________

Knowing what I know now, I would probably stay overnight in Aguas Calientes, go back to Machu Picchu for a morning hike up Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu Mountain, or to Sun Gate, and then return to Cusco. If you do that, keep in mind the trains only allow a small bag, so pack just enough for an overnight trip, leaving the rest of your luggage at your hotel (or a hostel) back in Cusco.

More from my trip to Peru including highlights from Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Lima coming soon.

Have any specific questions about our experience in Machu Picchu or on the Belmond Hiram Bingham? Fire away in the comment section below. Have stories from your own trip to Peru? Do share!

4 Responses to “Highlight Travel Guide: Machu Picchu”

  1. Mariel Barbadillo 1 June 2017 at 12:03 PM #

    Beautiful photos. Machu Picchu looks incredible, I would love to travel there one day. And that luxury train – wow!

  2. trippinginsarcasm 5 June 2017 at 2:38 PM #

    How beautiful! I totally was imagining a rickety old train going up to that mountain. When do you think is the best time of year to see Machu Picchu?

    • Dominique Paolini | gusto & grace 2 July 2017 at 8:05 AM #

      Late April was a great time to go, but If I ever go back, I’ll probably go the first week in May. The crowds aren’t crazy yet and the weather is beautiful. The downside to late April is that all of the trains aren’t running all the way from Cusco as I mentioned in my post. That starts back up May 1 each year. In 5 years or so, Peru is building an international airport in the Sacred Valley, which will make it much easier to get to and from Machu Picchu.


  1. 13 things to do in Cusco and the Sacred Valley | gusto & grace - 21 September 2017

    […] If you are in Cusco, there is a good chance that the primary reason is so you can make your way to Machu Picchu. If you are headed to Machu Picchu you can find my advice and thoughts on the best mode of transportation here. […]

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