There’s a town in Machu Picchu—and it’s utterly charming
Some call it Aguas Calientes. Others call it Machu Picchu Pueblo, or even simply (and somewhat confusingly), Machu Picchu. However you choose to refer to it, the town that serves as both the terminus for the Peru Rail train and as base camp for visitors to Machu Picchu is absolutely charming. Clustered along both sides of the winding railway track, and nestled between the raging Urubamba River and the mountain itself, the town boasts a bustling handicrafts market, countless restaurants, and accommodations ranging from humble hostels to luxury hotels. It’s small enough to feel incredibly safe (there are only 4,500 inhabitants year-round), and has a similar look and feel to the remote mountain towns of the Swiss Alps. For a truly unforgettable stay, book a riverside room at Casa del Sol, an unabashedly elegant boutique hotel where you can fall asleep to the roar of the river—nature’s ultimate white noise machine. Here are more of the world’s most luxurious hotels.
You must bring your passport to Machu Picchu
In order to enter Machu Picchu, you’ll not only need your admission ticket, but your passport as well. What many visitors don’t realize, however, is that your passport also comes in handy when you leave. Just before you exit the site to line up in the bus loading zone, look for a self-serve booth where you can stamp your passport with a custom Machu Picchu design. Although the stamp doesn’t carry any official significance, it’s a badge of honour for your passport, and a charming souvenir of your Machu Picchu experience.
Can you guess which European country now has the most powerful passport in the world?
Machu Picchu isn’t as high as you thought it was
Ask anyone who’s ever been to Machu Picchu for advice, and their first tip will inevitably be, “Beware of altitude sickness.” Caused by a rapid ascent to an elevation of 8,000 feet or higher, altitude sickness can result in nausea, headache, fatigue and shortness of breath—a collection of symptoms that Departures host and seasoned traveller Justin Lukach once described as feeling like “the worst hangover of my life.” Although it’s is a legitimate concern for Canadian travellers en route to Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu itself—situated at just under 8,000 feet—isn’t where altitude sickness peaks (if you’ll pardon the pun). Rather, it’s the intermediary leg of the journey—the city of Cusco in the Peruvian Andes—that poses the biggest risk. Located at 11,000 feet above sea level, Cusco is the highest altitude you’ll reach on EF Go Ahead Tours‘ “A Week in Peru” itinerary, and where altitude sickness can strike with full force. The good news? There are plenty of natural remedies for altitude sickness (including tasty coca leaf tea, which is on offer in virtually every hotel lobby)—and it’s all downhill from there!
Here’s why Peru is one of the top destinations recommended by the author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die!