Machu Picchu Travel Guide
Machu Picchu is the site of well-preserved ruins of a 15th-century city hidden deep within the Amazonian jungle. It is the cradle of Inca civilization, sitting on a 2,430-m plateau in the Cusco Region of Peru, South America. What has remained of it continues to be a mystery of great engineering feat by modern-day standards. Machu Picchu speaks well of sheer Peruvian--Incan-- ingenuity and resourcefulness, which were magnified when they barely had any resource with which to build this grandiose manmade wonder.
Be among the 5,000 visitors to experience Machu Picchu firsthand every day. As you trek through its roads, you'll learn that there's so much more to it that will surely tug at your heartstrings.
Getting to Machu Picchu
The massive Inca citadel was built with mortar-free fitted cut stone that has stayed intact after more than six centuries. To get to Peru’s most-visited site, a traveler can catch a train from Cusco. Another option would be to take an exciting trek on foot via the legendary Inca Trail through the deep Andean gullies and enjoy breathtaking sceneries! In order to get into the ruins, you will have to buy your ticket. You can try buying entry tickets via the official website http://machupicchu.gob.pe; however, many travelers have had trouble using their credit cards to purchase tickets. Thus, a great option is to wait until you get to Aguas Calientes and buy the tickets from the office a day before. Remember, tickets are not sold at the gates so you must buy them beforehand---and they are limited to 2,500 tickets per day and only 500 tickets a day are given to the famous Inca Trail. The ticket will cost you around USD 60 (as of January 2020).
Best Time to Visit
Peru’s climate constantly varies from hot to cold temperatures and from wet to dry seasons. The months of November until March are the warmest months and would be ideal for an adventure into Machu Picchu. However, this also happens to coincide with the wet season, which is not good for trekking. The dry season from May to October, which is cooler but sunny are the best time for visiting the site. This promises pleasantly cold nights and sunny days and is, indubitably, the perfect time to explore one of the Seven Wonders of the World, this part of the hemisphere.
The dry months are from May to October. This period ushers in the peak season for travelers eager to visit Machu Picchu and her magnificent structures. These are the best months but, even during these dry months, heavy fog and rain may still be encountered while up in the mountains. Wet season begins in November way up to March. These are also the warmest months, but the Inca trail would be mostly closed to tourists as rains could be so heavy and could persist for weeks on end. The season also gives way for the upkeep of the Inca trail routes to ensure safe passage for the ensuing tourist season.
An adventure to Machu Picchu commonly sends the impression that the trip will solely be about witnessing the lost city of the Inca. It is a less-known fact that there are other destinations in Machu Picchu that will be as interesting as the main destination. Here are some of the other highlights of Machu Picchu.
1) Ruins of Machu Picchu
The ruins remain the top attraction in Machu Picchu because it is like no other in the world. It pays homage to the Inca people who, six centuries ago and situated in the middle of a wild and dense jungle, did not have the technology of today but were able construct a superstructure. Marvel at their ingenuity at erecting a complex multi-leveled structure of towers, chambers, sundial, granaries, an amphitheater, and meeting rooms. Today, it is a solemn reminder of how man can make full use of his natural faculties, exploring and not destroying his environs. Tickets will cost USD 52.
2) Machu Picchu Montaña (Mountain)
Exploring Machu Picchu is really for the physically fit. It is opposite Huayna Picchu and is a 4-hour trek. The narrow path was constructed by the Inca and weaves a climber through lush forests. Bring water and food, and take time to admire the whole Machu Picchu archaeological jewel, the neighboring peaks, and the whole valley. The Sun Gate, where the Inca Trail enters the site, can also be seen from this vantage point. The admission fee for both the Machu Picchu site and mountain is USD 57. Take note that all climbs have specified time and the number of visitors are regulated.
3) Huayna Picchu
At the back of the ruins looms Huayna Picchu (also called Wayna Picchu). The ascent is steeper than the Machu Picchu Mountain. It sends a climber gasping for wind. It passes through a brief tunnel before it presents its fabulous view of the ruins. The cave of the Temple of the Moon is on this peak and a climber has the option to visit it, but it involves a Cliffside ladder so it is not for everyone. The tickets are sold at USD 61 to cover for entrance to the ruins and a climb to Huayna Picchu.
4) Huchuy Picchu
If the hike up Huayna becomes more than bearable, there is an easier option when a climber reaches almost halfway Huayna. There is a split and a sign that points to Huchuy Picchu. The view from here is different but equally magnificent. While this is a shorter route, the last stretch involves climbing with the use of a rope. So before taking the obviously easier route, think again. The ticket is the same one paid for Huayna.
5) Machu Picchu Museum
At about 1.5 kilometers from Aguas Calientes, and before reaching the site, there is a museum called Machu Picchu Museum. It houses a collection which is seldom seen by visitors. The ticket costs USD60, which covers entrance to the museum and the site of the ruins.
6) Temple of the Sun
There is a temple at the main grounds of Machu Picchu, past the residential and the nobility districts. It is shaped like the letter P and features a seamless rounded tower that has a high window. The temple was built and dedicated to the Sun god, Inti. A stream of sunlight peculiarly aligns with this window at a particular hour in the winter solstice in June. It can be seen from the outside because entry is not allowed. There are no admission fees to the temples as they are part of the site of the ruins.
9) Temple of Three Windows
This is a temple that looks down on the Urubamba Gorge and far to the snow-capped mountains through its three craftily-carved trapezoidal windows, hence, the name.
10) Temple of the Condor
This Temple highlights the image of the majestic condor with sculpted rock. Condors, with their expansive wings, are often seen soaring in the skies over Andes. Condors were believed to have inhabited the place with the Inca.
11) Hitching Post of the Sun
Up on several flights of stair in the Sacred Plaza is a rock-carved and shaped like Huayna Picchu. It is called Hitching Post of the Sun, or Intihuatana. It bears resemblance to a sundial and was used as a tool to function like the astronomical calendar.
12) Caretaker's Hut and the Sun Gate
The Caretaker’s Hut is above the main grounds. Access to it is from the entrance of the ruins through a narrow path on the left. The Hut offers the climber another spectacular view. The Sun Gate, or Intipunku, is a little farther up. It is where the Inca Trail takes a trekker into the Machu Picchu.
Where to Eat
The ruins remind a climber of the Spartan way of life many centuries ago. But it shouldn’t be a reason to starve after an exhausting and calorie-burning trek. Replenish your energy and relish Peruvian cuisine in any of these restaurants.
1.) Tinkuy Buffet Restaurant at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge
This lodge has a buffet restaurant which is ideal for large group. It serves Peruvian cuisine.. For those who are staying in the lodge, they can opt for a full-board which means that they are provided with 3 meals a day including beverages. A full meal usually costs USD30 to USD40.
Address: Carretera Hiram Bingham Km 7.5.
2.) Qunuq Restaurant
This is the restaurant offers haute cuisine and is a part of the classy Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel. Its menu consists of Peruvian and novo-Andean specialties. Starters cost around USD17 and main dishes are around USD 18.
Address: Hermanos Ayar Avenue, Machu Picchu Pueblo.
3.) Café Inkaterra
This is a quaint riverside restaurant owned by and part of Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel. It is located just behind the train station in Machu Picchu Pueblo. Try their lomo saltado garnished with appetizing sauce and crisp red onions. Main dishes cost around USD 25.
Address: Train Station, Agua Callienta, Aguas Calientes
4.) Hatuchay Tower Machu Picchu Hotel
This hotel has a restaurant that offers exquisite Peruvian banquet. Breakfast buffet costs USD 20, Gourmet Lunch at USD 26, and Box Lunch at USD 16.
Address: Carretera Puente Ruinas, Mz 4.
5.) Indio Feliz
Indio Feliz prides itself as the restaurant that serves authentic Franco-Peruvian cuisine. The members of the Indio Feliz also offer information to prepare a visitor for his trip to Machu Picchu. Their friendly site, www.indiofeliz.com, has an interactive for a Machu Picchu adventure. Customers also claim that Indio Feliz is the destination in Aguas Calientes and their USD 25 prix-fixe meal with dessert and coffee is a fitting reward for a tired traveler.
Address: Lloque Yupanqui St., Aguas Calientes
Where to Stay
Upon the discovery of the “lost Inca city,” Machu Picchu woke up to tourism. Hotels and lodgings grew from the quiet pueblo, which include a 3-star hotel inside the citadel and about five 3-or-4-star hotels in the town. While not as mystically constructed as the citadel, they pledge to provide comfort and luxury.
1) Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel
The Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel is a 60-room luxury hotel and one of the most expensive in the area. The hotel is a pleasant mix of Incan architecture and modern functionality. It has suite accommodations with free breakfast and room service, amenities like high-speed internet, a café, bar and restaurant, and business service facilities. Some of the room rates are: USD 1,124 for a Standard Room, USD 1,508 for Junior Suite, and USD 1,903 for Premium Suite.
Address: Hermanos Ayar 1 L-3 in Aguas Calientes.
2) Inkaterra Machu Picchu
This hotel has luxury suites and opulent facilities, such as a restaurant, swimming pool, free high-speed internet, room service, business assistance services. A Junior Suite double bed with modern bathroom costs USD 820 per night. Suite King accommodations with iPod speakers are at USD 1,030 per night.
Address: Km. 110 Aguas Calientes
3) Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge
The edge of this hotel over others is its location. It is right at the site of the ruins. Accommodations and the food are great, too. The hotel staff members are very helpful and room service is available. There is a restaurant, as well as, business and fitness centers. High-speed internet is accessible free. The rate for view rooms is USD 1,385 per night inclusive of 3 meals a day and beverages. For the same accommodation, but inclusive of only 1 meal (breakfast), the rate is much cheaper at USD 650.
Address: Carretera Hiram Binham s/n, Km 7.5, Machu Picchu.
4) Hotel Casa Del Sol Machupicchu - Aguas Calientes
This is a 4-star hotel with its own restaurant and spa, located in Aguas Calientes. Rhis hotel offers comfortable accommodations ideal for families and groups. Free Wi-Fi access within the vicinity. One room with a river view will cost USD 330 a night.
Address: Av. Imperio de Los Incas 608, Aguas Calientes, Sacred Valley
5) Hatuchay Tower Machu Picchu Hotel
A superior Double Room in this hotel costs USD 270 with 2 queen beds and luxurious bath. Amenities are available, such as cable TV, telephone with NDD and IDD, 24-hour room service, wake-up call if desired, airconditioning and heater, bottled water, and coffee-maker.
Address: Carretera Puente Ruinas, Mz 4
Why the Inca built a structure so complicated is not quite clear. They left no writings, so we are clueless. For what’s unsaid, the citadel speaks of a poignant message. The Inca had no steel, no concrete, no heavy equipment, and no engineering knowledge. But whatever they had, they made full use of. When you lay one foot on your first step to the ruins, think of those hardy people and learn from them. They turned that lofty dream into reality--into the Machu Picchu that we know of today.