Majestic Machu Picchu: Getting There

Part I: Getting There
Part II: Cuzco to Machu Picchu
Part III: Approaching Machu Picchu via Train
Part IV: How to Buy Tickets for Machu Picchu and How I Almost Screwed It All Up
Part V: Machu Picchu in Pictures
Part VI: Wrapping up the trip in Cuzco

I’ve been saving up this report for quite a while, and I feel like the time is right for its debut.  My friend Bethany and I went to Machu Picchu in August 2014 and it was an incredible trip.  I’m going to tell you a bit about the trip itself then really hone in on how nuts the booking process can be for tickets into Machu Picchu itself (i.e. how I almost ruined the trip).

What was the onus for the trip?  Well, if you’ve followed any of my other trip reports you know I need some sort of ethos for my trips and prefer epic adventures where I go too far in too little time for practically nothing financially.  This is that sort of trip.

I went to Beijing a year ago this week on a really cheap American flight I found, and I shared that trip report with you.  What I didn’t share with you was I had a second trip planned for later in January 2014.  My adventurous friend Bethany and a few others were going to join us.  I ended up having to back out of that trip and it fell apart for everyone else as well (a huge work project popped up).  I felt horrible and promised I’d make it up to everyone.

A few months later, a great fare to Cuzco, Peru, popped up.  I immediately called Bethany because I knew she wanted to go to Machu Picchu and she was in!  It was a wonderful deal, $320 roundtrip to Cuzco!  This is a great deal because you usually can’t even purchase the LIM-CUZ trip for much below $300 (they charge different prices to foreigners in Peru), so it was a no-brainer to jump on it.  It’d also help me requalify for American Airlines Platinum status, so even more of a no-brainer.  There were unique bits to the fare though: it started in Mexico City being the biggest.  Enter British Airways Avios.

Avios are great for short-haul travel on American Airlines, since BA doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on domestic US awards.  Avios utilize a distance-based award chart, meaning we could get from DFW-MEX for far less than using AAdvantage miles.  DFW-MEX one-way is 953 miles, which falls into the 7500-point band of BA’s award chart.  That meant a round trip would cost only 15000 Avios instead of the 25000 AAdvantage miles we would otherwise pay.

Here’s how the route ended up looking:

Maps generated by Andy’s Travel Blog using the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Beginning the journey

Like I mentioned above, there was a slight snafu that we realized shortly before leaving on the trip, but I’ll cover that in much more detail in a separate post.  We were comfortable with proceeding with the trip after a couple of days where we weren’t sure, I’ll put it that way.

Our first flight was to Mexico City, one of my Most Hated Airports in the World.  Nothing happens quickly or logically there.  I also particularly hate transiting from American to other airlines, in this case LAN, where a terminal change is required.  MEX has two terminals, located on either side of the runway, with one train car that goes between them.  One.  Car.  That meant waiting forEVER (ok really it was 10 minutes) between trains if you missed it.  Government officials recently announced plans for a new airport that won’t be landlocked like their current one, and in my opinion it can’t come too soon.

What to do in MEX?

We had about a 3.5 hour layover in MEX before picking up our LAN part of the itinerary to Lima.  MEX has two American Express Centurion Clubs that are pretty nice.  They don’t compare to any of the lounges in the US, but they’re still a nice respite from the rest of the airport.  After we went over to Terminal 2 we gained entry into the lounge via my Amex Platinum card.  All of Terminal 2 has a really weird ceiling that makes it seem like it’s outside with merely a Swiss-cheese roof overhead.

Centurion Club with trippy ceiling

Centurion Club with trippy ceiling

The trip to Lima was uneventful.  We arrived at about 10pm and had nothing to do until our 6am flight to Cuzco.  This meant trying to get some sleep in Lima’s airport.  I was looking forward to getting into one of the 24-hour lounges using my Priority Pass card so we could nap in there, but it wasn’t meant to be.  Lima’s airport only allows you into the secured area 3.5 hours before your flight, so we had to improvise and get sleep in the airport where we could, which meant restaurant-hopping and sneaking sleep in their seats until they told us not to.

Finally the moment arrived when we could check in and went to a completely nondescript Priority Pass lounge, Sala something or other.  It had some snack foods and a selection of juices, but more importantly had some comfortable chairs in which we slept for a couple of hours until it was time to board our flight to Cuzco.

To Cuzco!

To Cuzco!

The flight was relaxing and short.  I had enough time to grab a nap and feel somewhat refreshed to face a busy day ahead as we made our way to Machu Picchu.

Sunrise on our flight

Sunrise from our flight

Up next, beautiful Cuzco!

Cuzco

Cuzco

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