PERFECT END TO THE DAY
Starting around 4PM, the park guides begin to encourage people to walk towards the exit. Daylight turns to darkness very quickly as 6PM approaches, and there are many places where you need to watch your step.
Most tourists travel to and from the park on shuttle buses that wind their way along the narrow road of countless switchbacks. That drive is also more challenging in the dark, so all the more reason for people to leave the park before the sunset.
If you are fortunate enough to have reserved a room at the park hotel, and if you have a private guide, it is possible to remain in the park and experience the sunset. On the day in May that I visited Machu Picchu, a layer of clouds was moving in from the east, and created a beautiful spotlight effect. The sun's light flooded the village ruins and then began to climb up Huayna Picchu, the steep mountain that rises behind the village.
Sitting quietly on a terrace overlooking the village to watch this scene unfold is a vision I shall never forget. I am grateful for that opportunity, and happy to share it through my photography.
The following morning before 6am, we were standing in the dark at the entrance gate to the park, just steps away from our hotel.
Just as the gate was about to open, we heard people behind us huffing and puffing, and they explained that a couple hours earlier they had begun the hike up in order to arrive in time for the sunrise. Having earned it, we let them enter before us.
The early morning sun seems colder than the prior day's sunset as it first peaks from behind the mountains to the east. However, as it rose higher, the day became very warm.
The famous Inca Trail passes through Machu Picchu. If you can handle the altitude, the trail leading to the village provides a variety of walking surfaces and environments ranging from dense forest to open vistas.
In the village itself, the trails are stone and the gradients are gentle. Llamas help to keep the grass terraces groomed, and add to the pastoral feeling of this special place.
If the altitude doesn't take your breath away, the views definitely will.
This photo was taken near the trail leading down from the Sun Gate, and shows how dense the forest is outside the village.
Our guide seemed to ask us a lot of questions as we walked up this trail in the afternoon, and we commented on that. He smiled, and turned and pointed across the way to the peak of Huayna Picchu. "Tomorrow," he said, "we have a reserved time to climb up there. I have been testing your breathing to be sure you can make it."
Thankfully, we passed that test, and the next day we looked down on the village from that peak.
This view is from a gate on the Inca Trail just south of the village, and at almost the same elevation as the peak of Huayna Picchu.
I wonder if the little gecko on the wall is as taken with the view as I was.