Machu Picchu Travel Guide

Machu Picchu Overview

Machu Picchu, the remarkable never lost city of the Inca state, is for many people the highlight of a Peruvian adventure and rightly so. Perched above the valley of the Rio Urubamaba and overlooking the Cusco Andes, the network of stairways, temples, terraces and monuments of this ancient citadel are truly inspirational and intrigue and mesmerise all who come here. Inducted into UNESCOs Seven Wonders of the World, it was visited by in 1911 by Historian Hiram Bingham and therefore escaped the wrath of Perus Spanish invaders. The fact that the Incas succeeded in hiding this colossal academic holy city from the looting Spaniards is a credit to their talents and has caused great speculation as to its true purpose.

 
Given the opportunity, visiting Machu Picchu is an absolute pleasure, wandering the interconnecting staircases, admiring the intricate stonework of the Incans and taking in the breathtaking panoramic views. As an ever and increasingly popular tourist attraction there are a number of ways to visit the historic monument. Many choose to stay at the nearby town of Aguas Calientes "machu picchu toen" which gives the opportunity for a more relaxed and detailed visit. That said, accommodation in the town is at wide variety of budgets even  true backpackers. Those with less time on their hands arrive from Cusco the tourist train and spend a day seeing the sights before returning. This is perhaps not ideal but if short on time is of course well worth it.
 
Another option is to join a trekking tour to the gate of Machu Picchu, usually lasting from 3-7 days and involving overnight camping and visits to numerous other Inca sites. The most popular of all the treks is the world renowned Inca Trail, however, due to popularity, finding a place sometimes requires booking up to 9 months in advance. With more time and a sense of adventure there are a number of alternative lesser travelled trails.
 
Although appearing as majestic as it ever was, Machu Picchu, and the Inca Trail for that matter, has suffered from its crushing popularity and scientists and archaeologists have been voicing there concerns for many years now. Measures have been put in place, such as limitations on the numbers of visitors allowed in per day and no more go-it-alone trips on the Inca Trail, however the future waits to seen. What is known is that for as long as those who visit this ancient wonder treat it with the respect which it truly deserves then everyone should be able to get a slice of the fascinating action.

Things to do in Machu Picchu

The Temple of the Sun - This round stone tower, the only of its kind within the ancient city, is the first site of major interest to be seen upon entering Machu Picchu. The temple is renowned for containing some of the Incas finest stonework and, with its semicircular wall and cut out step resembling an altar, is believed to have been used as a solar observatory. Below the temple is the Royal Tomb; however no mummies of human bones were ever discovered.

 
The Sacred Plaza - Widely felt to be the most enchanting part of the city was used as a ceremonial centre. On the south-eastern side of the plaza the ThreeWindowedTemple with its large trapezoid windows provides unsurpassed views of the Andes and Urubamba gorge. Adjacent is the huge three walled structure of Templo Principal, unusual in that its entrance faces south, which implies it may have been spiritually linked to Rio Urubamaba.
 
Intihuatana - Above the SacredPlaza is a real gem of the city, a huge carved rock believed to be a kind of sundial. Commonly called Hitching Post of the Sun, the rock curiously resembles the shape of Huayna Picchu. The rock is unique in Peru in that it is one of the only such Inca monuments not destroyed by the Spanish, a result of its connection with pagan worship.
 
Huayna Picchu - Sat behind Machu Picchu is a symbolic mountain offering breathtaking panoramic views. The trail to the summit starts at the Sacred Rock and is a challenging 1-2 hours climb, although the rewards are well worth the struggle. Numbers climbing the mountain are strictly controlled and there is no entrance after 1pm so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
 
The Temple of the Moon - On the way back down Huayna Picchu, true enthusiasts will be tempted by the turn off to another wonderful temple set inside a cave with large white granite walls. In the centre of the cave are a throne and altar, both carved out from the rock. Its name stems from how the cave lights up in the moonlight. With steep stairways and precarious ladders the route in is not for the feint hearted.
 
The Inca Bridge - Walking west from the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock the bridge provides a great viewpoint of the ancient city. Built upon huge stacked stones the bridge, originally used to defend the city, is suspended over a 2000ft drop into the valley below.
 
Machu Picchu Thermal Baths - A nice way to relax after a day of exploring Machu Picchu, there are a number of communal baths of differing heats at the town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo). The baths are located uphill from the central plaza and open from early morning to late evening.
 
Inca Trail - South Americas most famous trek and what many travellers dream of when planning their trip to Peru. With the majestic Machu Picchu awaiting travellers at the end of the 42km route, the trail is a true gem twisting its way around the mountain paths laid out by the Incas and passing fascinating ancient sites. The trail itself is part of the National Sanctuary of Machu Picchu covering the Sacred Valley, Cusco Andes and areas of lowland Amazon forest, all awash with spectacular flora and fauna. The trek is by no means an easy feat, however long days of walking and restless nights camping are soon forgotten in place of the captivating scenery and enchanting sights. Currently only 400 people are allowed on the trail per day, half of them tourists and the others guides and porters, so finding a spot in peak season can be tough. The days of going it alone are also gone. Treks last for four days and youll find hundreds of operators vying for your business.
 
Other Treks around Machu Picchu - For those that want to avoid the crowds of the Inca Trail there are a number of other options ranging from 4-7 days. Two popular alternatives are the Inca Jungle Trail and Lares Valley Trek.

Hotels in Machu Picchu

The closest hostels and lodges to Machu Picchu are in nearby Machu Picchu Pueblo, however they can be quite pricey and often fully booked.

 
Hostal Machu Picchu - Good value rustic guesthouse close to the train station. Tel (51) 84 211065
Hostal Inti Quilla - Welcoming hotel serving up good breakfasts and very helpful with tours. Tel (51) 84 211096.
Gringo Bills Hostal - Long running hotel with great mountain views although a little pricey. Tel (51) 84 211046.
La Cabana - Comfortable rooms, superb buffet breakfast and pleasant lounge areas. Tel (51) 84 211048.
Inkaterra Hotel - Charming boutique hotel with swimming pool and gardens. Tel (51) 84 245314.
Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge - The closest hotel to Machu Picchu that has prices to match the privilege. Tel (51) 84 984 816 956.

Machu Picchu Weather

Machu Picchu Travel Resources

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This page was last modified on 30 Mar 2011 by incatrail