Machu Picchu Highlights
When visiting this ancient citadel, you can expect to enjoy the following:
- Experience the sunrise behind this New Seven Wonder.
- Feel the magic of the Incas fill your soul as you gaze out across their ancient fortress and picture how things were back then.
- Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain - You can opt to climb either of these mountains as an extra to your entrance ticket. From both, you get an incredible view of the archaeological site.
- The Sun Gate - This was the original entrance to Machu Picchu, from where the hikers on the Inca Trail now enter daily.
- Enjoy a tour of all the important sites in the citadel in the company of an experienced and knowledgable guide.
How to Get Acclimated
It's no secret that Machu Picchu is at a relatively high altitude, and you need to visit Cusco beforehand, which sits at over 3,000 masl. For this reason, it's very important to take precautions regarding the altitude. We strongly advise spending 2 to 3 days in the city before engaging in any strenuous activity to adjust.
You may find that your doctor back home is able to prescribe some altitude medicine, but if not, you can buy pills in the pharmacies in Cusco upon arrival in case you feel ill. These also sell small cans of oxygen, which can help with feeling light-headed or nauseous.
If you prefer a more natural way to deal with the altitude, you can opt for a coca or muna tea. Both of these have been drunk since Incan times and are a great help for headaches or feeling unwell. You will also find candies in both flavours to take with you on trips.
Where is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is a little isolated in a remote area of Peru and can only be accessed by taking the train or trekking there. It is located in the Cusco Region, in the Urubamba Province, within the Machu Picchu District. This is above the Sacred Valley of the Incas and about 80 kilometres to the North West of Cusco.
Planning Your Visit
As with any trip, the further ahead you plan, the better. This is especially true if you wish to do the Inca Trail or climb the Huayna Picchu Mountain inside Machu Picchu. Both of these sell out months in advance, particularly for the high season between April and October.
You are able to organize a trip to Machu Picchu by yourself, but most prefer to go through a travel company to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
If you won’t have much time in Cusco, you can decide to go on a one or two day trip, which will take you to Aguas Calientes where you’ll visit Machu Picchu and then return to Cusco.
If you have more time, we highly recommend one of the treks available. You will experience walking through the incredible landscapes of the Andes as well as mee some new friends and have fun along the way.
Make sure you have everything organized well in advance, including your flight tickets and an up to date passport. The more organized you are, the more likely everything will go as planned and you’ll be able to enjoy your trip.
Things to Know Before Traveling to Machu Picchu
Before heading to this World Wonder, there are a few things you should know.
- Take your passport because you won’t be allowed in without it. At the entrance your ticket details will be checked against your passport, so make sure all the information on your ticket is correct.
- Print out your tickets as you’ll need to hand them over upon arrival.
- If you would like, you can stamp your passport with a special Machu Picchu stamp and the date as you go inside.
- Buy your tickets beforehand to avoid disappointment if they are sold out. The tickets are also not available at the gates.
- You can either hike up thecouple of thousand steps to Machu Picchu or go on a bus tha departs from Aguas Calientes. The same goes for coming down.
- You can opt to hike the extra mountains of Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu inside. However, you need to buy these tickets along with your entrance as they can not be added on the day of your visit or after you have the tickets.
- You can hike to the Sun Gate for no extra cost once inside.
- Make sure you take plenty of sun protection as well as an insect repellent. Long sleeves and pants are recommended to avoid insect bites.
- Once you go inside the archaeological site, there are no bathrooms, so make sure you go before you enter.
- You can opt to buy an entrance ticket for the morning or the afternoon. The morning means you can see the sunrise, but it is busier at this time. You can also only hike the extra mountains in the morning shift. The afternoon is better if you wish to enjoy a more peaceful trip to the site.
- Take lots of water as you will get thirsty walking around and there are no shops inside. You aren’t allowed to take plastic bottles or any food, though.
- There’s no allowance for the use of tripods, selfie sticks, or drones inside, so don’t take them or you will get in trouble.
- Take a good camera to get some unforgettable photos.
When to Visit Machu Picchu
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is from May to October, which is the dry season. You will, however, experience a lot more visitors during this time, so it’s up to you. May to August are especially busy, but the weather tends to be nice and sunny.
From November to March it’s the rainy season, and you will find it rains most days at Machu Picchu. It can also make the floor slippery, which can be a little dangerous if you wish to hike Huayna Picchu. The Inca Trail is also closed in February for these reasons.
Things Not to Miss in Machu Picchu
Here are a few of the must-see sites while inside the citadel of Machu Picchu.
The Watchman’s Hut
When you first go into Machu Picchu you’ll see the Watchman’s Hut, from where you can get a great view over the whole site.
The Funerary Stone
Close to the Watchman’s Hur is a peculiar rock known as the Funerary Stone. No one is sure of what it was used for, but many experts believe it could have been an altar for sacrifices.
Temple of the Sun
This is one of the top sites inside. It’s close to the main fountain and is the best example of fine stonework. Some suggest it was an astronomical observatory.
The Royal Tomb
Next to the Temple of the Sun is the Royal Tomb. It was named this because at the base of the structure is a small ‘cave,’ which is why Hiram Bingham, who rediscovered Machu Picchu, thought it looked like a tomb.
You’ll see various little fountains around Machu Picchu that fill more than 16 baths, which are filled from lots of stone channels with natural spring waters.
Temple of Three Windows
This sector is made up of large stones. Some of these weigh more than 3 tons and pose the question of how were these moved by the Incas. It’s one of the three buildings that make up the Sacred Plaza.
The Principal Temple
This is another of the buildings in the Sacred Plaza and got its name because it’s so large. There’s a stone embedded in the building that is believed to represent the Southern Cross star formation.
House of the High Priest
This is the last of the buildings in the Sacred Plaza and is the only structure to have four walls. It’s one of the few solid structures in the archaeological site.
The House of Ornaments
This is said by many to be the finest structure inside. There are various niches dotted about inside where it’s believed they stored ornaments in the past.
The Intihuatana is one of the most recognizable sites in the citadel and was used as a sundial in the times of the Incas. The rocks form mimics that of Huayna Picchu that you can see behind it.
The Central Plaza
This is the area of grass that creates a separation between the residential area and the functional zone. You might even see a llama here! Visitors aren’t allowed on the grass.
The Sacred Rock
This large stone is in the form of the mountain Putucusi that sits behind it. Some liken it to the shape of a guinea pig. No one is sure what it was used for, but researchers have suggested that recitals of poetry and music took place here.
It might not be as interesting or detailed as the rest of Machu Picchu, but it is the largest and where the average person would have resided.
The Prison Group
This is a complex part of the citadel where prisoners would have been kept. You’ll see areas above and underground as well as deep hols where they would hold prisoners. You can also observe an incredible carving of the great condor here.
You can’t come to Machu Picchu without taking a visit to the many terraces down the side of the ancient fortress. These are a great place to take a break and appreciate the grand view in front of you.
Machu Picchu: Tips for Visiting
Keep these tips in mind when visiting Machu Picchu.
- Take a day pack where you can carry your camera, water, and perhaps a guidebook. Do not take food inside as it’s not allowed, not even fruit.
- Arrive as early as possible to avoid the larger crowds and get a glimpse of the sun coming up over the site.
- Buy your ticket in advance to make sure you can visit on the date you want to. Booking late means that it may be sold out, especially the extra mountain hikes.
- Do an extra hike if you can. You can either pay to go up to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, or you can head up to the Sun Gate for no extra cost. You can get a great view from them all.
- Take your time to fully enjoy the citadel as much as you can and to make sure you visit all the important sites.
- Hire a guide if you are going by yourself to learn all about Machu Picchu. It’s a much more interesting visit if you understand what every section and structure are.
Things to Do in Aguas Calientes
You can’t go to Machu Picchu without spending some time in the small town of Aguas Calientes. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do while you’re there.
Do Some Shopping
If you find yourself with a little bit of extra time, there are plenty of places to do a bit of shopping for some souvenirs or gifts for friends and family back home. The local artisan market has the best options on offer.
Enjoy One of the Many Restaurants
It’s no surprise that with the large number of visitors, there are a lot of restaurants in town. You’ll surely have some time to enjoy one of them and sip a pisco sour. One of the best spots is by the river, which you can hear rushing by as you enjoy your food and drink.
Visit Plaza Manco Capac
This is another nice spot to enjoy a sit-down on a park bench or a coffee in one of the surrounding cafes.
Go to the Hot Springs
You’ll see why the town is called Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters) if you visit the hot springs. It’s a great place to rest after a trek or climbing up to Machu Picchu. There’s also a bar there where you can relax as the sun goes down after enjoying a good soak.
Hike to Los Jardines de Mandor
This is a 3 hour round hike away from the small town and is visited by very few people. There are some beautiful waterfalls and a swimming hole here, and you may even get to see the Cock of the Rock, the national bird of Peru.
Take a Quick Visit to Mariposario de Machupicchu
This is a tiny butterfly refuge where you can see some beautiful species and enjoy a bit of quiet time away from the busy tourist spots.
Head to Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon
This museum is small but is very informative. It’s definitely worth a visit to this Machu Picchu museum to learn more about the site, and there are no museums once you enter Machu Picchu itself.