I've been overjoyed ever since visiting Machu Picchu last September (2017). When I tell others about it, seasoned travelers will usually ask me, "Did you end up doing the Inca Trail?" They are referring to a 4 day trek which concludes with a beautiful sunrise at the famous Machu Picchu site. I keep making the same silly joke when people ask me that question:
"No, I pretty much did the Six Flags version of going to Machu Picchu...Everyone get on the bus...everyone wait in line..."
I would love to do the Inca Trail someday, but this first trip to Machu Picchu was via Trip Advisor and a structured day trip package. Definitely a good way to go for first-timers. The journey begins with a pick up from your hotel in Cusco and a ride on Inca Rail to Aguas Calientes. It is at Aguas Calientes that the "Six Flags" feeling begins. This small mountain village, originally a railway worker's camp from the early 1900's is the closest populated or established access point to Machu Picchu. There are a handful of hotels and restaurants for those wishing to stay overnight to catch sunrise at the famous Incan monument.
My time in Aguas Calientes was short. Upon arrival by train, I was immediately escorted to a line where they were filling buses to head up to the mountain. I didn't not have much time to explore Aguas Calientes until after Machu Picchu. Even when I had time to explore the town, I accidentally cut the time short. My mind was on the arrival time for my train back to Cusco. I ended up leaving the town and waiting in the train station for a good 40 minutes. The more experience I get as a traveler, the more I'll be comfortable in those scenarios and make better use of my time, but I'm thankful for what I was able to capture. It's a unique place for sure. [Note: the final image is me taking license as a photographer, therefore people watcher. A couple had fallen asleep while waiting for our train to arrive and I thought it was a sweet moment]: