Machu Picchu sits at an imposing 8000 feet above sea level, nestled in the slopes of the legendary Andes Mountains. This ancient Inca fortress above the clouds is the picture-perfect ingenuity between mankind and nature.
Brave the winding mountain path and you’ll be rewarded with the natural beauty of the Andes interlaced with human civilization with stories to tell. The dramatic landscape will leave an imprint in anyone’s mind and is a must for any bucket list.
Built around 1450 AD, Machu Picchu, also known as The Lost City of the Incas, is a symbol of the Ancient Inca Empire at its peak. In 1983, it was presented the honor of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the years Machu Picchu continued gaining worldwide recognition until 2017, it was officially known as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Machu Picchu’s name means Old Peak or Old Mountain in the Quechua Indian language. It is believed to be a royal estate and the secret ceremonial center of the famed Ancient Inca Empire.
Against the common belief and its nickname, Machu Picchu is not actually the Lost City of the Inca.
In 1911, Hiram Bingham III set out on an expedition in search of the Lost City of Vilcabamba but accidentally discovered Machu Picchu instead. This undiscovered city was previously used as an escape route by the Inca Emperor after the Spanish conquistador in 1532. Even at the time of his arrival, there were three families of farmers living on-site.
You must purchase a ticket in advance (156 sol for adults / 80 sol for students). Keep in mind entry to the city is limited to 2500 people per day and there are only two timing slots to visit Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is very hot during the daytime, even in the winter because the sun is strong and there is little shelter due to high altitude. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make the most out of your trip:
Here are some of the must-visit places you can explore in Machu Picchu. Although hiring a tour guide is not necessary, guided tours provide a deeper insight into the history of this ancient city and further information regarding the various geographical features of this destination.
Enlisting the help of a tour guide can help give insight to spots like:
This is the first point to visit if you are trekking to Machu Picchu. Otherwise, you can backtrack from the ruins along the trail and up the hill. This gate offers a breathtaking view down the valley.
Near the summit of the main city is the stonework ruins of the temple. As you explore the area you will find a variety of stone walls throughout the city. This temple is the best example of ashlar technology.
This ritual stone was used as a sundial and astronomical purposes by the ancient Incas. The stone is carved with such precision that when the sun rises, a certain shadow is cast.
If you’re fit you can choose to climb up to the Moon Temple and Great Cave. Walking up to several ladders, you can reach to the sides the temple and cave, where you can find unexpected wildlife.
The easiest way to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco is to take the train to Aguas Calientes, a town located few miles from the site.
The train ride is approximately 3.5 hours each way and runs along the Urubamba River in the sacred valley. It’s a great way to enjoy the dramatic canyon walls on either side.