Yes. There is a tourist hotel at the site. Their temperament may have improved since then, but the hotel close to the ruins probably remains a relatively expensive option for budget travellers. On the other hand, staying near the ruins does give you the chance to get to the site at times when there shouldn’t be too many other people around.
Yes. If you follow the railway line from the station at Machu Picchu, you will come to the village of Aguas Calientes about a mile (1.6km) down the tracks. There are a number of small hostels and restaurants. Because of the large numbers of people who now walk the Trail, you may need to reserve accommodation ahead of time, and the hostels may not now be as much of a bargain as they used to be.
Stay nearby and get up early. The site is only open for a limited number of hours every day. At the time I went, the first tourist train arrived about an hour after the site opened, and the last left about an hour before it closed. In theory, this should give you at least two hours in the day when the site is not completely overrun by (other) visitors.
Take more film than you think you’ll need. Because of the altitude, a UV/skylight filter is worth having. As in most places, early morning and late evening seem to offer the best light for taking really striking pictures at Machu Picchu.
Yes. The Inca Empire ran from southern Columbia to central Chile, and while many of the communications routes they used have still to be discovered, a number have been identified. In Bolivia, for example, there are several known trails including Taquesi (which begins close to La Paz), Yunga Cruz, El Choro and the Camino del Oro. Times to walk these trails range from two to seven days.
Another alternative is to approach the Inca Trail via Salkantay instead of joining it at Cusichaca/Km. 88. This will add several days and some tough walking to your hike, but the views are said to be spectacular. Search for Salkantay on the Web using your favorite search engine, or read this description on the Salkantay section.
Once again, in the Cusco city, offers paper maps, both of Machu Picchu and of the Inca Trail.
For online maps, there’s a good map of the Inca Trail at Infoperu. Wholeo Online books have a sketch map of Machu Picchu, and there’s a more precise but unlabelled map available as part of an article about a multimedia feature on Machu Picchu.
Our best advice is first buy a good guide book and read it. Decide how long you’ve got to travel, where you want to go, and how much it’ll cost when you get there. Then plan your total budget. Don’t try to see everything and visit as many countries as you can or you’ll find you’ve spent all your time traveling on buses looking for new accommodation and places to eat. Try to build a bit of flexibility into your program and leave plenty of days free to relax in places that you enjoy.
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