A visit to Machu Picchu was the icing on our year-long travel cake. While we would have loved to trek one of the beautiful routes to the ruins, at that point in our journey we lacked the energy and money to do so. Instead we opted for a train ride through the Sacred Valley from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, then up steep steps for an hour to the ruins of Machu Picchu high on a ridge above. Despite the crowds, that place was more spectacular than either of us had imagined, and a wonderful treat to round out our time in South America.

Exploring the village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley in Peru. You can see some of the many ruins surrounding the town up on the distant hillside.

Exploring the village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley in Peru. You can see some of the many ruins surrounding the town up on the distant hillside.

Britnee exploring Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley in Peru.

Britnee exploring Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley in Peru.

Up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente where most day trippers start their journey to Machu Picchu.

Up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente where most day trippers start their journey to Machu Picchu.

Up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente where most day trippers start their journey to Machu Picchu.

Up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente where most day trippers start their journey to Machu Picchu.

Arriving in the middle of Aguas Caliente where we started our walk up to Machu Picchu.

Arriving in the middle of Aguas Caliente where we started our walk up to Machu Picchu.

Walking along the river out of Aguas Caliente to the trailhead for Machu Picchu.

Walking along the river out of Aguas Caliente to the trailhead for Machu Picchu.

That's pretty much straight up. Stairmaster all the way to Machu Picchu.

That’s pretty much straight up. Stairmaster all the way to Machu Picchu.

Lovely morning light on the hike up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Caliente in Peru.

Lovely morning light on the hike up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Caliente in Peru.

Our first glimpse of the world-famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Our first glimpse of the world-famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Breathtaking view of Machu Picchu in Peru at a lovely spot where we lay down to rest.

Breathtaking view of Machu Picchu in Peru at a lovely spot where we lay down to rest.

The Inca Bridge, bottom left, was the secret back entrance to Machu Picchu, which could be knocked down and made inaccessible if necessary. The old trail runs along the clear line of green growth on the cliff, a trecherous journey that was recently retraced by some experienced explorers protected by ropes.

The Inca Bridge, bottom left, was the secret back entrance to Machu Picchu, which could be knocked down and made inaccessible if necessary. The old trail runs along the clear line of green growth on the cliff, a trecherous journey that was recently retraced by some experienced explorers protected by ropes.

One of numerous ceremonial stones at Machu Picchu in Peru.

One of numerous ceremonial stones at Machu Picchu in Peru.

Britnee celebrates her turn at a perfect photo spot above Machu Picchu in Peru.

Britnee celebrates her turn at a perfect photo spot above Machu Picchu in Peru.

The beautiful mountains towering above the Sacred Valley and around Machu Picchu in Peru.

The beautiful mountains towering above the Sacred Valley and around Machu Picchu in Peru.

Room of the Three Windows in the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Room of the Three Windows in the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

A panoramic view looking down into the Sacred Valley from Machu Picchu in Peru. The town of Aguas Caliente, from where we hiked up, is around the river bend on the right.

A panoramic view looking down into the Sacred Valley from Machu Picchu in Peru. The town of Aguas Caliente, from where we hiked up, is around the river bend on the right.

Walking through the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Walking through the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The Room of the Three Windows in the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The Room of the Three Windows in the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The Condor Temple of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The Condor Temple of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The breathtaking Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The breathtaking Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

A visitor wears an umbrella hat for shade while explroing the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

A visitor wears an umbrella hat for shade while explroing the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The terraces and ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The terraces and ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu in Peru.

The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu in Peru.

The terraces of the agricultural section of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The terraces of the agricultural section of Machu Picchu in Peru.

A train departs the central station in Aguas Caliente in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

A train departs the central station in Aguas Caliente in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

A statue in the center of the village of Aguas Caliente in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

A statue in the center of the village of Aguas Caliente in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

Exploring outside the village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

Exploring outside the village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

A dog sits in the doorway of a shop in Cusco, Peru.

A dog sits in the doorway of a shop in Cusco, Peru.

A dog in a sweater waits while tied to a phone booth in Cusco, Peru.

A dog in a sweater waits while tied to a phone booth in Cusco, Peru.

The city of Cusco, Peru, which we enjoyed exploring on our last days in Peru.

The city of Cusco, Peru, which we enjoyed exploring on our last days abroad.

A Peruvian Hairless Dog we met while exploring the steep streets of Cusco, Peru.

A Peruvian Hairless Dog we met while exploring the steep streets of Cusco, Peru.

A student dressed as Jesus carries a cross through the streets of Cusco, Peru.

A student dressed as Jesus carries a cross through the streets of Cusco, Peru.

Sitting in the rooftop dining area of our hostel in Cusco, eating one of our last breakfasts abroad!

Sitting in the rooftop dining area of our hostel in Cusco, eating one of our last breakfasts abroad!

Next stop: HOME!!!

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