The problem with visiting one of the Wonders of the World is that there are a lot of other people who want to do the same – understandably. However, to really appreciate sites such as Machu Picchu, you’ll want to have a little space to view the ruins in all their glory.
With Machu Picchu not only accessible via the famous Inca Trail, but also from Aguas Calientes on the train, during the day it can be quite busy and crowded, which can be disappointing if you want to feel as though you’re exploring somewhere tucked away from the modern world.
There are ways to not only enjoy Machu Picchu with fewer people around, though, but also the trek to the famous ruins. The key is to choose a tour operator – likeWalks Worldwide – that offers a longer route that leads you to some largely unvisited parts of the Andes, before taking you to Machu Picchu.
The Lares Inca Trail
One thing that many people forget is that the track that leads to Machu Picchu is far from the only Inca Trail in Peru. The Lares Inca Trail is a path that was used regularly by this civilisation and while its end point may not be quite as spectacular as its more famous counterpart, it offers you an unrivalled opportunity to see the Andes and some other Inca ruins without any other travellers around.
The Lares Valley – also known as the Sacred Valley – was an important area for the Incas, and as such there are some interesting sites along this track. Among them is the Pumamarca ruins, which are the remains of an old fort on top of a hill at one end of the valley. This enclave was used to control who entered the area.
You can still see many walls and foundations here, which give you an idea of how the fort must have looked. There were also homes built on former Inca buildings further down the hill where a small rural community lives and works. As well as the ruins, it’s worth the climb to the top of the slope for the amazing views.
Another highlight of the Lares Trail is the chance to visit Quechua villages, where people still live very traditionally, predominantly as farmers. These communities aren’t often visited by travellers, so you can get a real insight into how these descendents of the Incas live.
Seeing Machu Picchu
When it comes to visiting Machu Picchu, the main thing is to arrive as early as possible. If you follow the Inca Trail to get there, you will usually arrive at the Sun Gate, above the site, in time for sunrise, when you can see the ruins with no one else around.
If you’re visiting the fabled city on a tour from Aguas Calientes, choose one that leaves as early as possible, to give you the best chance of enjoying Machu Picchu for an hour or two before many more tourists arrive. Similarly, stay as late as you can, as this will allow you to explore the site as it quietens down once many of the day trippers have left.
To get a good overview of the ruins, make sure you climb Huayna Picchu, a hill that provides amazing views across the site nestled in the Andes. Take the time to pick out the features in Machu Picchu that appear to mimic the landscape that surrounds them.