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Machu Picchu: A Different Thanksgiving

Machu Picchu: A Different Thanksgiving

Will and I climbed up to Machu Picchu on Thanksgiving Day.

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Although photos of visitors posing in front of the world wonder are ubiquitous, the logistics of how to get there are typically less talked about.

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We opted to take the IncaRail to Aguas Calientes—the closest town to Machu Picchu.

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The train is more expensive than vans or buses, but it was totally worth it. It’s fast—about two hours—and super scenic with skylights on board.

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We organized our adventure through Find Local Trips, which provided a package deal of train tickets, a hostel in Aguas Calientes, and entry to Machu Picchu with a tour guide.

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Overall, highly recommend. Booking ahead and having a tour guide was clutch.

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Aguas Calientes is undoubtedly a tourist trap, but one to marvel at nonetheless.

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Situated along the Urubamba River Valley, the town center is actually quite small.

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It’s filled with overpriced restaurants and gimmicky drink deals. But there’s also a central craft market, Mercado Artesanal, selling slightly more traditional Peruvian ware.

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Other than a couple of monuments, we basically felt an urgency to escape as soon as we arrived.

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Fortunately, by walking only a few minutes outside of town, you near the entry point to the ruins of Machu Picchu.

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We explored the path a bit before calling it an early night.

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On Thanksgiving morning, we woke up super early to trek up at 4 a.m., since Machu Picchu doesn’t open until 6 a.m.

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In order to preserve the UNESCO site, only 2,500 visitors are permitted to visit per day.

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We followed the steep, winding switchback trail up.

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By 5 a.m. it was already packed, and we followed the crowd up.

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It thinned out near the peak, and we felt super lucky that the rain held out.

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We only saw glimpses of what was to come.

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The straight incline up was humid, but the overcast weather offered some reprieve.

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Reaching the top took about two hours, and felt like a feat. Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

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The site is located on top of the Machu Picchu mountain, and was originally curated as a getaway for the Inca ruler.

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It’s believed it was constructed by the ninth Inca ruler around 1450 AD, but abandoned a century later after the Spanish colonized the area.

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Archeologists estimate that nearly 1,000 people lived at the site.

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The granite stones, weighing up to 150 tons, were manually carried up from the banks of the Urubamba River.

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Although the many of the details of how it was physically constructed is up for debate, it’s clear that the Spanish colonialists never found it.

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In fact, it was practically forgotten about until the early 20th century.

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Machu Picchu is a familiar global icon. It’s on too many must-see lists to count. However, we weren’t anticipating how awe-inspiring it was in person.

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Walking through the ancient village was truly like discovering another world.

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The only real way to do Machu Picchu justice is via visuals.

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We wrapped up the tour around 10 a.m., and spent an additional hour meandering through the stone paths on our own.

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Rather than taking the incredibly steep switchback trail back, we took the gradually longer road. It’s mostly used by buses, but we weren’t in any rush.

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Our train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco wasn’t until later that evening, so we had an entire day to kill.

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We spent most of our time at the hostel we stayed in, Ecopackers Hostel.

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We played cards for hours, relishing the feeling of what we just experienced. And toasted to Thanksgiving with traditional Pisco sours.

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Turkey and really anything symbolically Thanksgiving was impossible to find, so I had an alpaca burger.

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It was an awesome day. Machu Picchu was truly awesome.

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It’s one of the few places where the hype doesn't mitigate the spiritual, electrifying feeling of finding your own meaning.

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