Train between Cusco-Aguas Calientes = $48USD each way
Bus between Aguas Calientes-Machu Picchu site = $7USD each way
Entry fee to Machu Picchu = $23 USD
1L bottle of water = $5USD
Now multiply that by 1000 visitors per day. And those are the 2009 prices.
Yes, it is outrageously overpriced relative to the Peruvian economy. Yes, they shamelessly fleece tourists. Yes, everyone has been there now.
But can you go to Peru and NOT go to Machu Picchu?
The short version: Never eat at the Andes Grill in Cusco (faces the Plaza de Armas).
The long version: The menu looked amazing, especially after a long day of wandering around Machu Picchu and riding the train back to Cusco. I ordered a yummy sounding Rosemary Chicken Supreme.
The free glass of wine with dinner was a watery grape juice of sorts. That should have tipped me off.
As I sat in the airport in Lima at 4:30am, I had to wonder what on earth I was thinking to book a flight for 5am. I was headed to Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, an ancient civilization that once dominated South America.
I adamantly believe that 3am – 5am is No Man’s Land. You should not still be awake from the night before and you should not be waking up to start your day. Everyone should be asleep during this time. I managed to stay conscious and drag myself up the steep streets of Cusco to my hostel at 7am. I collapsed on the bed ready to sleep until the afternoon. As sweet, sweet slumber came over me, I heaved a sigh of contentment.
And then… BOOM!
I groaned and rolled over to glare out the window. Just my luck. That week Cusco was celebrating a water festival with fireworks every morning at 7:30am and 10pm every night. After a four hour nap, I was ready to appreciate the charms of Cusco.