Mysterious as the place itself may be, there’s really no mystery as to why Machu Picchu is the number-one attraction in all of Peru. With a history dating right back to the 15th century, the area is a genuine marvel of architectural prowess and ancient civilization, where a limestone city was built high above the jungles of the Amazon. Take your pick between an epic hiking trail and a much more laid-back train ride from Cusco, but no matter how you take in the sights of Machu Picchu, you cannot leave Peru without marveling upon its majesty. Machu Picchu tours are sure to give you some magnificent experience.
Machu Picchu –The 'Lost City of the Incas'
One of the seven wonders of the modern world, Machu Picchu resides a full 8,000 feet above sea level and is visited by no less than 300,000 tourists every year. The origins of the site date back to the early 1400s when the Lost City of the Incas was first built. Because of the Spanish conquest of the region, the city was abandoned and simply left to fade away, hidden deep in the Amazon jungle. However, Machu Picchu was once again discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham and has since been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. There’s a tangible feeling of energy and power in the air all around the site, which has been inspiring visitors for generations.
How to Get to Machu Picchu
Transit via the Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport
Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport is the main transport hub for international tourists, so chances are that it will be the first place you arrive in Peru. From here, it’s simply a case of getting to the city of Cusco, which can be found about 75 miles away and is the closest access point to Machu Picchu itself. Cusco has great transport links with the main cities of Peru.
Take a train
To get to Machu Picchu by train, it’s a case of first heading to Poroy or Ollantaytambo in order to catch a connecting service to Aguas Calientes from where the site is easily accessible. This does of course represent a much more relaxed way of making the journey, though each of the train rides will take up several hours of your time and so therefore isn’t what you’d call a quick hop.
Hike the Inca Trail from Cusco
Last but not least, if you really want to experience the area in the same way as the Incas did centuries ago, you can organize a hike from Cusco. These hikes aren’t for the faint-hearted and take around four days to complete, though there are shorter half-hikes that can be arranged if deemed more suitable.
What’s the Climate Like in Machu Picchu? When to Go?
In terms of when to go, the seasons tend to be very predictable in and around Machu Picchu, so you should be able to work out in advance what to expect. Summer falls between September and April during which temperatures tend to stick around the 65 degree mark; while during the winter months of the year, it’s more around 45 degrees or so. Summer also happens to be the rainy season for Machu Picchu, which although refreshing can also make hiking and travelling much more difficult.
According to Peru’s official tourism board, the very best time to head to Machu Picchu is either June or May, as during these times the weather is at its most agreeable in general.
Where to Visit
Caretaker's Hut. Usually the place your guide will take you first and a wonderful point from which to get a good look at the whole site and its geography.
The Temple of the Sun. Boasting some of the most impressive stonework of the whole site, the Temple of the Sun can be found right in the center of the citadel and stands atop the royal tomb.
Sacred Rock. The Sacred Rock is said to have mysterious powers that can be harnessed by anyone simply by touching it. Fashioned in the shape of a mountain, it’s one of the most iconic treasures of all those found in Machu Picchu.
Sacred Plaza. The Temple of Three Windows in the Sacred Plaza offers the most bewilderingly beautiful views over the Urubamba Gorge, which has been a thing of wonder and majesty for centuries.
The Inca Trail. To choose the Inca Trail hike is to dive into an experience like none other on the face of the Earth. Hikers pass through no less than ten climatic zones and sub-zones along the way, taking them into the worlds of more varied animal and plant life than most entire countries are home to. From the 400 species of orchid to the most stunning wild cats and birds of prey, it’s a genuinely life-changing experience from beginning to end.
Sacristy. The Sacristy is positioned behind the Principle Temple and is suspected to have been a place for the storage of large or important objects. Each of the two rocks at the entrance apparently boasts 32 angles, though chances are that when you count them yourself, you’ll insist there’s a different number every time!
Where to Stay
It’s up to you whether you want to see Machu Picchu and head back to the city on the same day, or whether you’d rather hang around in the immediate vicinity of the site and soak up its wonder for a little longer. Daytrips are perfectly possible and so too are overnight stays or extended breaks in Aguas Calientes. That being said, it's worth bearing in mind that accommodation prices here tend to be higher than anywhere else in Peru, even if opting for the lowest-end beds you can find.
- It’s always possible to buy all tickets and trips in advance and you could save by doing so.
- Don’t forget to bring along a rain jacket no matter what the weather is doing, along with some coins, you’ll be needing them.
- Take the bus from Aguas Caliente to the Citadel to avoid a 90-minute uphill trek.
- The earlier in the morning you arrive, the fewer tourists there will be.
- If you want to climb Huayna Picchu, you will need a separate ticket and this is NOT a climb for the faint-hearted.
- Make sure you bring your passport as you might be asked for proof of ID several times along the way.