Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Departing Huacahuasi Lodge, we leave for Ollantaytambo, home to the rail line that connects the base town of Aguas Calientes with the illustrious Machu Picchu. We take a quiet night’s rest before an early morning hike to the top of Pinkuylluna Mountain, harboring a perfect view of the bustling town below.

Ollantaytambo was once regarded as one of the Incas most important ceremonial centers and played host to the royal estate of Pachacutec, a famed Inca Emperor. The fortress at the top of the hike reveals large triangular structures, meticulously carved into the mountainside. These housed vital crops of the Incas, placed specifically out of reach for the impending Spanish intruders. Ollantaytambo’s strategic position along the Urubamba River granted it a timeless place in history.

We clamor through Ollantaytambo and await our afternoon passage aboard the Inca Rail. The rail journey is a true highlight of a Machu Picchu trek: We relax in a plush, cozy seat as the surging waters of the Urubamba River plunge along its rocky course. Every time there’s a break in the mountains, a warm ray of sun beckons through the window. The anticipation of the pending Machu Picchu destination causes an exciting stir within the cabin.

When we arrive to Aguas Calientes, we debark the Inca Rail for Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. We cross a bridge to the property, which is set pristinely within the Aguas Calientes cloud forest, directly adjacent to the train station and the lively downtown area. We enjoy a joyous evening at the hotel’s restaurant, where we toast pisco sours and congratulate our entire group on a safe passage to the iconic Machu Picchu ruins.

We rise early in the morning for our final stop on the Lares Adventure. We board a bus with fellow travelers for the journey up the snaking road that leads to Machu Picchu: White masks of clouds part, revealing colossal mountain silhouettes in the background. Once we arrive to the ruins, we learn the history of the ancient site, once a reverential symbol to the Inca people. We each have time to take in the sensory experience that is Machu Picchu. It’s an overwhelming feeling to be surrounded by a man-made structure that appears only to be possible by way of the Gods. We set our sights on the Sun Gate Temple for our final adventure. We climb our way to the top, taking in an ethereal view of the mountain expanse below.

Although Machu Picchu is often deemed the prize for any trail journey throughout Peru, we all agree the Lares Adventure holds a certain quality unlike any other voyage in the country. By channeling such an immense connection to culture, the Lares Trail reveals an often overlooked glimpse into Peruvian mountain life, one that’s endlessly special and prize within itself.

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