Before continue, it’s better noting that the following tips focus only if you go to Machu Picchu by bus from Aguas Calientes. There are ways to go there and even includes 4 days of inca trail trekking. I didn’t take that route as much as I felt challenged to do so and I know how memorable (and tiring) it would be.
There are a lot ways to enjoy Machu Picchu, we took the easiest way. There are things worth nothing to prepare yourself before visiting Machu Picchu:
1. Physical Condition: Allow yourself adjusting to the altitude (acclimatization)
This is the thing we pretty much not paying good attention at. We are from Indonesia. I live 3 hours from Pekanbaru Riau (Pekanbaru altitude is only 17 m above sea level). This is not a fair comparison to Machu Picchu which has 2450 m above sea level. We arrived at 8 August, and on August 9th we continued our journey to Cuzco (3300 m above sea level), then finished our day on Aguas Calientes (2450 m above sea level) which lower than cuzco, but it’s still higher than place I usually live. The next day on August 10th, we planned to hike Machu Picchu. Well boys and girl, that turned out to be not a very good plan.
My nose bleed mildly and so did my friends. And we were beaten up after our hike to Machu Picchu (and we didn’t even hike up to Huayna Picchu! Only wandered around the temple of the sun, the terraces, and rooms of three windows). Every hike and every breath I took seems to suck oxygen out of my lungs and kill every cell inside of my body (I love exaggeration). But that’s true, that’s how I felt back then.
The message here: if you’re from area with low altitude, allow your body to adjust with the altitude change, and spare at least one or two days; depends on your physical condition before do the hike. You can spend more days in Aguas calientes or in Cuzco. I would suggest in Cuzco since:
- It has more attraction to offer, you can enjoy the city or any point of interest around cuzco
- It has a higher altitude than Machu picchu; which means this is the best place to “adjust” your body with the thin air atmosphere.
2. Dress sufficiently
The temperature in Machu picchu is around 20 deg Celcius on August. It’s quite cold in the morning, but as the sun goes up, it gets warmer. So it’s very important to have layers to wear when it’s cold, and you can take it off later when it gets warmer. I wore T-shirt and a waterproof jacket. It’s light, comfortable and work both ways during the cold morning and warm afternoon.
Since there are stairs and steps, hiking shoes are best. I’m not sure if I saw someone wearing sandals (but I saw one girl wore a boot with low heels: as much as I intrigued on how far and how long could she go, I let her luck lead her way and continued my wandering around the site).
Wearing hats and sunglasses could also help. I was helped by my jacket’s hood. So it’s up to your choice. And Oh! Don’t forget wearing sunscreen
3. Eat Well, Sleep Well
The first one is the easiest, so many food stall and great food. Stuff yourself with healthy food during the breakfast. The later one is rather difficult, especially when you have a jetlag. Sorry pals, I have no medicine for that.
I suffered the Jetlag (Western part of Indonesia and Peru has 12 hours time difference). That means, when it was time for me to explore Machu Picchu, I usually have already back from work, have dinner and ready to count sheep in my Room in Indonesia. I woke up several time that night but I tried and forced myself to get back to sleep. It works, and I got up feeling a bit better and refreshed.
4. Pack Well
You will explore a large historical site with many hikes. The least you can do to yourself is to lighten the weight you carry into your backpack, and save your energy to hike, screaming, and of course: take selfies ;).
I brought enough water, my personal belonging (handphone, wallet), and the one and only my DSLR camera. Oh, and poncho! I really don’t recommend bringing poncho (as it’s heavy and take up your bag space). The only reason I brought it up because I wanted to take picture of myself with Machu Picchu background wearing Poncho. Why didn’t I wear it instead? It’s because it’s too big (oops! Wrong size), and it’s really warm. I bought it in the market the day before solely for photography purpose (please don’t judge me) ;)
It won’t hurt if you also bring chocolate, snack, or basic medicine in your backpack because it never hurts you to prepare for the worst.
5. Keep in your mind…
The one thing you need to keep in your mind is that you can prepare all of the stuff above, but you can’t prepare for the remarkable Machu Picchu.
Have a wonderful experience, stay safe and respect the site.