Did you know that Bono, the lead singer of U2, is a fan of Machu Picchu? However, it took the lead singer of the world’s greatest modern rock and roll band two expeditions to Peru before he could finally set his Irish eyes on Peru’s ancient citadel? Why did it take two expeditions? His first trip needed to be aborted because of the massive crowds and camera wielding paparazzi. It seems even the tabloids are willing to trek to the remotest jungles of Peru to get a picture. For Bono, you better believe it was not a Beautiful Day.
So what is the moral of this story? Two words: Tourist glut. In 2011, it was estimated that a million people visited Machu Picchu, and most of them made their way to the famed landmark via the Inca Trail. If you are planning a Peruvian holiday and want to avoid the queues and crowds that are often associated with Machu Picchu tourism, then do what the American poet Robert Frost suggested and find a road less travelled than the Inca Trail. Tourist glut can ruin this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Getting Prepared for the Road Ahead
Why not start your pilgrimage to Machu Picchu in the ancient city of Cusco? The best way to get physically and mentally prepared for the journey is to indulge in some local Peruvian cuisine. Pachapapa, a restaurant in the Plaza San Blas, is known for its meats, potatoes and yuccas, which are all cooked in clay ovens. This style of cooking is uniquely Peruvian and known as the pachamanca method. Aji de Gallins is another classic Peruvian dish. It is a combination of chicken, yellow chillis and a host of other secret ingredients.
The Road Less Travelled
From Cusco, you can take a train to the town of Aguascalientes and then into the Lares Valley. You will pass Mount Veronica, Chicon and Pumahuanca as well as the Amazon River. Once you get to the Lares Valley, you will have no chance of getting thronged by camera wielding tourists. Andean llama farmers are the only people you will see. From Lares Town, a short but spectacularly scenic bus ride will bring you to Machu Picchu Town, where another quick bus ride will bring you to the majestic ruins.
While some people feel that walking the Inca Trail gives them an authentic experience, when you are elbowing your way up the mountain with 500 other trekkers, it is doubtful how authentic the experience really is. Before you plan your trip to Machu Picchu, take a look at alternative routes to get there. Maybe you will even see Bono on the road less travelled.
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