ADD TO LISTThis ancient capital of the Incan Empire is rich in Andean history and features a large number of wonderful Incan buildings and structures from the Colonian period all joined by charming cobble-stone streets and paths. It's historic center was declared a World Cultural Heritage site in 1983, and is one of the most traveled destinations in Peru, as the gateway to the great Peruvian attraction of Machu Picchu. In the neighborhood of San Bals artisans produce a number different kinds of man-made items. Cusco also has lots of restaurants, cafes, and bars, and it's nightlife is pretty exciting. It is also a great place to start traveling around in and around the area and acclimatize to reach higher places like Machu Picchu. A great way to start is by walking up the hill just behind the city to the massive walls of Sacsayhuaman.
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Machu Picchu for less than $80 dollars.
Going to South America? Or travelling Peru? No trip is complete without a visit to the lost city of the Inca's, Machu Picchu. But what if you're backpacking and trying to live on less than a minimum a day? The train from Cusco to Machu Picchu can cost up to $130 for a return (which is a big chunk out of your budget) and that doesn't even include things like accommodation, food or other transport. But as always, there's a way around (literally this time). I have to admit, it takes a bit longer but that doesn't mean a day wasted. It takes you over mountain roads and through lush green valleys, you'll pass scenic villages and sandy lost towns, you'll encounter some landslides and very steep cliffs. Even that would be worth the trip.
First, take an (early) bus to Ollantaytambo, 1.5 hours. Here you'll find the best remaining example of the planning of an Inca town. A little walk outside the town will bring you to ruins, a nice first stop. From the main square you'll need to catch the (big red) bus to Santa Maria. This ride takes about 3,5 hours and brings you up to about 4000 meters and then back down into the heat. During rain season (oct-apr) there are many landslides on the road. It's safe to drive there, though it might take a little longer because the men on the bus need to jump off to take away the rocks. In Santa Maria you haggle over a taxi that takes you through Santa Teresa, all the way up to the Hydroelectrica. This shouldn't cost more than 3-5 dollar. The road follows the river and goes along some really steep cliffs, don't sit at the window if you suffer from vertigo. You'll be dropped off at the Hydroelectrica, which is, apart from being a hydroelectrica, the train station at the end of the train track. The part from Aguas Calientes to Hydroelectrica wasn't in use for a couple of years but is used again. Here you can choose whether you want to take the train or walk along the train tracks. If you decide to walk, be careful and listen if you can hear the train coming. You'll hear it from quite a distance though. Don't forget to bring a flashlight since you'll have to go through a tunnel. It will take about 4 hours to walk, the train will get you there in about 30 minutes and costs $8. Either way, you'll end up in Aguas Calientes where you spend the night. It's best to buy your entrance ticket that day in Aguas Calientes to skip the queue at Machu Picchu ($20/$40 student/adult). There's two ways of getting to the archaeological site, by bus or by foot. The walk is quite tough, all uphill for about an hour. I would say, save your energy and take the bus so you can climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain towering over the lost city. The bus costs $7 and takes 40 minutes.
For the way back, you can take exactly the same way. Unfortunately the train to Hydroelectrica only leaves at 7.00 and 12.00 am. This would mean a short visit to Machu Picchu if you want to climb the mountain as well. Though the site opens at 6.00 am so you should be able to catch the 12.00 am train (allow 2 hours for the mountain). Otherwise you can stay an extra day or take the train directly to Cusco or Ollantaytambo. If you're in the train to the Hydroelectrica, try to find some tour guides that go back to Cusco. They'll take you for about $15.
Adding up all the costs will leave you spending:
1. Cusco - Ollantaytambo: $4
2. Ollantaytambo - Santa Maria: $5
3. Santa Maria - Hydroelectrica: $4
4. Train to Aguas Calientes (x2): $16
5. Hydroelectrica - Cusco : $15
6. Bus to Machu Picchu : $14
7. Accommodation: $6
8. Food: $15
You can skip numbers 4 and 6, saving you another 30 dollars.
Welcome to Machu Picchu poor backpackers!
Try to get an accommodation in San Blas. For headaches, try Mate de Coca, helps a lot!
awesome city, loads of fun, a great hostel to stay at is the case de la gringa near san blas plaza..
also the blueberry cafe has fantastic sandwhiches
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