Tal’s Solo Guide to Machu Picchu
Calling all my female, solo travelers out there… this one is for you! Machu Picchu is one of the new 7 wonders of the world, but I’ve realized that even more of a wonder is how in the world do you get there?! Here I’m going to tell you how I managed the trek, from pre-planning to in country navigating, and doing it solo!
When I first began planning to go to Peru, I was not planning on going alone at all, but as we all know travel plans change last minute and next thing I knew, I was on a flight to South America by myself [tip: never travel on a buddy pass, they will ruin your plans because you most likely will never get there]. Luckily, my friend and I had planned out the trip ahead of time like crazy, so I had a solid itinerary to run with while solo [missed ya LG].
Monday: I flew into LIM from ATL (in April) on Delta, slept in the airport for a few hours, until I could catch my flight to Cusco at 5AM. I bought my ticket with Avianca and I believe it was around $184 round trip. They are a simple, no frills airline, but I felt safe and would definitely recommend them again if you are going this route.
Tuesday: When I arrived in Cusco, I had to get it together now that the realization finally sunk in that I was doing this trip solo. Luckily for me, I speak a little bit of Spanish so I got a private taxi (also 100% recommend this — a little pricey, but way worth it due to hearing some controversy over taking the guided buses) and we headed straight to Ollantaytambo, which took about 1.5 hours. Ollantaytambo is a small, sacred village that is one of the last towns before you head to Machu Picchu. It’s known for the train that you catch here to take you to Aguas Calientes.
On the way to Ollay, my driver was very accommodating and we stopped by a small village where they make textiles. It was a beautiful experience to watch how this ancient way of producing textiles is still being used today.
In Ollantaytambo, I stayed at Hostel Mama Simona and it was adorable! The lush garden with the mountains in the background, while laying in the hammocks was a surreal moment knowing you made it this far and its only going to get better.
Wednesday: took the Inca Rail in the morning to Machu Picchu, another 1.5 hours, to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is where Machu Picchu is. I dropped my bags off at my hostel (Eco Machu Picchu Pueblo), since I stayed the night in Aguas Calientes after my hike & then ran over and caught the bus for the 20 minute ride to the top of Machu Picchu.
I wanted to spend as much time as I could at MP, so I got there pretty early — which also helped avoid some of the crowds. I had dinner and explored the markets in Aguas Calientes afterwards and even though it started raining, the town was super lively and friendly.
Thursday: Took the Inca Rail back to the town of Ollantaytambo, where I met a friend and we shared a collectivo [a cheap taxi that is shared] back to Cusco.
The trek back to Cusco from Ollantaytambo took a little over 3 hours, so give yourself ample time. I stayed in San Blas and Cusco for the day and explored San Pedro Market and the Plaza de Armas.
Friday: Had my last Peruvian breakfast and made my way to the Cusco airport by taxi to start my long trek home! If you have a long layover in Lima (I had 10 hrs) before your flight, take a collectivo to Miraflores and visit the beach!
And that’s a wrap! I was shocked at how well I pulled off this trip, especially since it was my first time traveling alone! My two main tips if I were to do this exact route over again would be to not stay the night in Aguas Calientes, but spend more time in Cusco! And to do the hike up to Machu Picchu instead of paying $25 to ride the bus up there. The trek is said to be very difficult and takes about an hour, but there is something about earning the view that seems like it would make the experience worth it! Lastly, get a ticket to Wayna Picchu!! I was so bummed I didn’t!