Machu Picchu Travel Guide
Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes is the most famous Inca archaeological ruin in the world and with so much to see Peru, this is by far the biggest tourist attraction!
Situated in the Cusco region of Peru, the Lost City of the Incas is an incredible sight to behold and something everyone should experience.
Here is some useful information if you are planning a trip to the memorable Machu Picchu.
Where to Stay
If you are traveling from overseas you will most likely fly to Lima in Peru from where you can catch a direct flight to Cusco.
A city 80kms southeast of Machu Picchu, Cusco is known as the base city for trekkers to the historical site.
Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley is another great place to stay and is about 1,000m below Cusco, making acclimatization easier.
How to Get There
From Cusco, you can join an organized guided trek to Machu Picchu on one of the various routes, the most famous of which is the Inca Trail.
Not looking to hike? You can catch one of two trains that will take you to the historical site. The Inca Rail operates from Ollantaytambo only and has four service options ranging from economy to luxury. Peru Rail departs from Cusco, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo.
Both these trains will take you to Aguas Calientes which is a city located below Machu Picchu. From here you can take a bus to the Machu Picchu entrance, or attempt the 2000 steep stairs to the top, which takes about 90 minutes.
Different Hiking Routes
The classic Inca Trail is by far the most popular trek to Machu Picchu and starts in the Sacred Valley. The hike takes about 4 days and you end up at the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) which is the sacred Machu Picchu entrance!
This route is highly regulated due to its popularity and only 500 permits are issued per day, many of which will be used by guides and porters. I recommend booking 6 months in advance to your departure at least.
Two other popular treks are available, and these are the Short Inca Trail and the Salkantay / Inca Trail combo. Alternative treks all end at Aguas Calientes from where you can catch a bus up to Machu Picchu or climb the 2000 stairs to the top.
Things to See
Once you reach the top you will be in awe at the sight of these ancient ruins.
A few things to see while discovering Machu Picchu include:
● The Sun Gate (Inti Punku) which is the historical entrance to the Lost City used by the Incas.
● The Watchman’s Hut provides exceptional views over the whole city of Machu Picchu – make sure you have your camera!
● The Temple of Three Windows is an incredible sight as these three ancient windows line up perfectly with the three facing mountains.
● Intihuatana (Sun Dial) was used by the Incas to determine the solstices.
There are many archaeological finds to discover here but another thing I recommend is the climb up Huayna Picchu. Directly behind the city, this is an easy climb and provides the most incredible birds-eye view of the entire city!
Best Time to Visit
The best time to experience Machu Picchu is between May and September. Rain is less expected but expect crowds!
If you are wanting a quieter experience, consider visiting in April and May, or late September to early November. The surrounding cities and routes to Machu Picchu tend to be quietest around these times.
Please remember to book your tickets way in advance, don’t wait until you arrive. You do not want to miss out on the opportunity!
Things to Consider
Altitude sickness can really put a damper on your Machu Picchu experience and with all the trails being above 4000m, the struggle is real.
If you are arriving in Cusco, maybe spend your first few days in Ollantaytambo, 1,000m below Cusco to acclimatize yourself.
Most treks to the site are not for amateurs. They are physically challenging and so I recommend to be well prepared and physically fit before attempting.
I highly recommend adding Machu Picchu to your bucket list if you have not done so already. It is an all-round historical and humbling experience that everyone can appreciate!
So, when are you going?