The Other Side of Machu Picchu

I’ve been seeing a lot of Machu Picchu blog posts recently that have helped me relive my days of exploring the incredible ancient grounds. However, my most lasting memory from my days in Machu Picchu are of hiking up Putukusi, and I haven’t seen a single person mention it! Unfortunately, as I visited Machu Picchu in 2008, before Connvoyage even existed, I have no blog post about my time in Machu Picchu and Putukusi…Until NOW!

The Machu Picchu everyone knows and loves

The Machu Picchu everyone knows and loves

I know everyone who’s been to MP is absolutely enthralled by it. I mean, what’s not to love? The surrounding mountain range, the mystery and intrigue of the “Lost Cities of the Incas” and the well-preserved ruins of MP is enough to inspire travelers to journey into the heart of Peru. But so few stop to ever look beyond the grounds of MP and see what’s on the other side.

Mist-shrouded Putukusi

Mist-shrouded Putukusi

The trail to Putukusi starts just adjacent to the train tracks right outside the tourist town of Aguas Calientes. The trail is very clearly marked and easy to find so there’s really no need to hire a guide, contrary to what the guides will try to tell you.

The hike up Putukusi takes roughly three hours in total, two for the climb up and one for coming back down. Be prepared! Bring a lot of water with you as most of the trail is quite steep and being at the higher altitude, you’ll run out of breath easily.

The long, arduous climb up Putukusi

The long, arduous climb up Putukusi

The first 45 minutes of the hike is truly difficult, and that’s before you come upon “the ladder”. Quite a daunting sight as you’re gasping for air, particularly since “the ladder” stretches at a near 90 degree angle into the sky. Don’t worry, it looks much worse than it really is!

The trail continues with more ladders and steep climbs but before you know it, you’ll round the last corner and be rewarded for all your efforts with a magnificent, rarely-seen view of the whole of Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu looks like a speck from Putukusi

Machu Picchu looks like a speck from Putukusi

Perch yourself on the rock provided and soak it all in. From this vantage point, MP doesn’t look so big, so mystifying. It’s a great contrast to see MP from Putukusi and really puts into perspective how easy it was for MP to become the “Lost City of the Incas”.

Be careful on the hike down. By now your legs will be exhausted and it can be particularly dangerous, especially if your knees are knocking against each other like coconuts, which mine were!

Have YOU ever heard of Putukusi? Or climbed up its steep trail to witness this other side of Machu Picchu?

© Connie Hum 2011

Categories: Peru, trekking

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