Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel situated on a mountain ridge
2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is the best-known
archaeological site on the continent and considered to be one of the
Seven Wonders of the World. This amazing ancient city was never
discovered by the Spanish conquistadors and therefore remained unknown
to the world until the early part of the 20th century. Despite the
numerous tourists that visit the site every day, the area manages to
retain its secrecy and uniqueness and is a must-visit for all visitors
to Peru. We hope this Machu Picchu travel guide makes your first time or next visit more enjoyable!
One of the best times to visit Machu Picchu is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. During this time, you can expect sunny days and clear skies, making for better views and photographs. However, this is also the busiest time, so it is essential to book in advance and be prepared for crowds. The wet season, from November to April, brings more rain, but also fewer crowds, making it a good time to visit for those who don’t mind the rain. However, it’s worth noting that some of the hiking trails may be closed during this time due to safety concerns.
Overall, Machu Picchu is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to Peru. Its stunning beauty, rich history, and unique location make it a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you choose to visit by train or by foot, staying in a hotel or in the nearby village of Aguas Calientes, be sure to plan ahead and make the most of your visit to this incredible wonder of the world.
The city of Cusco is the capital of the Incas and a base for traveling around the Andes. From Cusco, you can reach Machu Picchu by train or by trekking. A village of Aguas Calientes is the closest settlement to Machu Picchu, located in the valley below. It serves as the disembarking point for the train or a gathering place after you’ve completed the Inca Trail and descended from Machu Picchu.
From Aguas Calientes, you can reach Machu Picchu by bus or by trekking. The buses start early, giving you a chance to experience Machu Picchu in the early morning.
Machu Picchu by rail
Most people decide to travel to Machu Picchu by train. The train journey from Cusco to Aguas Calientes lasts around 3 to 4 hours and is highly scenic. From the train, you can observe the amazing natural beauty of this part of Peru, including lush valleys, scenic hills, and the Urubamba River. It is worth considering dividing your journey into two parts and taking a day or two to explore the interesting places in between Cusco and Machu Picchu, such as the famous Sacred Valley with all its famous archaeological sites.
Machu Picchu by foot
A trekking vacation is also a very popular option for visiting Machu Picchu. There are many possible routes for you to choose from, ranging from easier ones to those that require strong physical shape and experience. The most famous trek is the Inca Trail, for which permits sell out notoriously far in advance, as there is a limitation on the number of people allowed to trek the trail. Therefore, if you want to take this trail, it is essential to plan your trip far in advance. However, there are many other scenic treks you can choose from. The two most popular are the Salkantay trail or the Mountain Lodges of Peru route.
It’s best to come to Machu Picchu as early as possible to enjoy the fabulous views that can sometimes be observed only early in the morning and to avoid the crowds. If you’re serious about being one of the first visitors on the site, it’s worth considering booking a room in the only hotel nearby. Unfortunately, this experience comes with a price, as one night at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge will cost you around $1000.
Your other option is to stay in the village of Aguas Calientes, near Machu Picchu, and take an early morning bus to the ruins of Machu Picchu. If you’re a hiking enthusiast, it’s worth considering hiking the path from the Aguas Calientes village to the ruins area, though the path can be quite challenging if you’re not physically fit.
The Intihuatana is a ritual stone in Machu Picchu associated with the astronomical clock and calendar of the Inca. Its name is derived from the local Quechua language, meaning “The Hitching Post of the Sun.” The stone is a wonder of ancient technology since it was used as a kind of clock to measure when it was time to celebrate the winter solstice, called INTI Raymi, one of the most important celebrations and rituals of the entire empire. If you happen to be watching at noon on either equinox, you’ll notice the stone’s shadow disappear for just a moment, as designed by its creators.
The Royal Tomb was the place where sacrificial and burial rituals took place. There were more than 100 skeletons excavated from the cave-like tomb. This Mausoleum is located just below the Sacred Plaza and is vertically aligned with the Tower of the Sun Temple.
Huayna Picchu is a mountain that rises over Machu Picchu. The Incas built a trail up the side of the Huayna Picchu and built temples and terraces on its top. The peak of Huayna Picchu is 2,693 meters (8,835 ft) above sea level, or about 260 meters (850 ft) higher than Machu Picchu. The reward for climbing the steep path comes in the form of an amazing view from the top, which is said to be the best place to see Machu Picchu from above.
The Sun Gate, or Intipunku in Quechua, is the entrance to Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail. It offers stunning panoramic views of the site and the surrounding mountains.
The Temple of the Three Windows is a unique building with three large, trapezoidal windows that offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It’s believed to have been a royal residence or a place of worship.
The Temple of the Sun is a round structure that was used for astronomical observations and ceremonies. It’s located in the Sacred Plaza and features a large stone altar.