Practical Picchu

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What You Need to Know before Heading to Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

The weather at Machu Picchu is temperamental: cloudy one minute, sunny the next. How to cope? Layer your clothing.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Fresh from a long weekend spent ascending Machu Picchu, I offer these suggestions for bashful and other adventurers planning a visit:

  • To prepare, work out on a StairMaster before you take your trip. You will be climbing a lot of steps in thin air. Get ready for those thighs to burn.
  • Plan well in advance if you are contemplating climbing Huayna Picchu (“baby Picchu”), the settlement across from Machu Picchu that is even higher in elevation. Access is limited. Also, step up those StairMaster workouts. There’s no bus to ease your way up to Huayna Picchu.
  • If you can, sit on the left side of the train heading toward Machu Picchu, and on the right side on the way back. These sides have the best views.
  • Coca tea tastes better with sugar. Coca candies are also available in Peru. Both seem to help with altitude (and attitude) issues.
  • Go slowly when you get there. Remember that your guide is used to the altitude.
  • Resist peer pressure. No one wants to be the slow zebra, and certainly not the old zebra, but rushing up the steps of Machu Picchu may well leave you gasping for air.
  • Wear practical shoes. Steps are uneven and vary in height and width. I wobble even with my sensible footwear.
  • Apply sunscreen even if the day is misty and you can’t see the sun. Wear a sunhat.
  • Layer your clothing. Here in the land of microclimates, the weather changes at whim. One minute you’ll be too hot; the next, too cool.
  • Don’t fret if the spirituality of the place eludes you while you climb the mountain. It will get there—but it may even take a day or so.

—Lori Tripoli

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Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

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