Peru is a unique treasure on earth: rich culture, among the world’s most delicious cuisine and breathtaking landscapes that stretch from the coast to the Andes to the Amazon jungle. As if these are not enough reasons to make a stop at the South-American country once in a life, it is also home of the famous Machu Picchu. Found on bucket lists of millions of people it is among the top travel destinations in the world. There are some tips for visiting one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and having an unforgettable experience.
THE BEST TIME TO GO TO MACHU PICCHU
The Peruvian Andes are divided into two significant seasons: the dry season and rainy season. Whereas many people are deterred of the rainy season, there is not a considerable difference since it Is a worth travelling destination at any time!
As the name says, during this time you will encounter rain. From November to March daily rainfalls are common, some lighter and some heavier, with January and February being the wettest months of the year. This being said, it is essential to bring your raincoat and waterproof shoes. On treks, it is recommendable to bring a waterproof case for your backpack and extra clothes, just in case. On the other hand, with plenty of rain falling from the sky, nature is incredibly beautiful, with its lush vegetation and warmer temperatures. Furthermore, the great tourist wave has rolled past which is noticeable not only at the world famous sanctuary but also its surroundings. Especially the former Inca capital Cusco, starting point for Machu Picchu tours and numerous popular treks.
From April to October, the dry season is the main time of the year for tourists to come, also known as “busy season” in the tourism sector. Cusco’s streets are filled with people from all over the world, enjoying their holidays with their families, friends and/or partners. Machu Picchu, in particular, is heavily crowded with people making their dream come true. That means long queues, hotels, and backpacker hostels fully booked quickly and tickets selling out extremely fast. For anyone who wishes to travel during this time it is highly recommended to book accommodations and buy tickets well in advance. The weather in the dry season is in your favor, though with cold nights. However, the days are bright and sunny with a clear blue sky!
HOW TO GO TO MACHU PICCHU
There are two main ways to get to Machu Picchu: walking or by car and train.
Plenty of treks that count with final destination Machu Picchu. One of the most famous is the Inca Trail. Available in 4 days or 2 days, it allows us to follow the footsteps of the Incas for a part of the way. Originally, the Inca Trail stretched throughout the Tahuantinsuyo Empire (Inca Empire) for thousands of kilometers. Now the most famous part leads us on around 43 kilometers, passing stunning landscapes and amazing Inca ruins in 4 days to their greatest heritage. For the Inca Trail, an entrance ticket is mandatory and they are limited. Especially for high season, they can sell out 6 months or even a year in advance. The Inca Trail is not the only route that brings us there, though.
For example, both the Lares Trek and the more popular Salkantay Trek lead you through astonishing nature to the UNESCO World Heritage. Passing the Lares hot springs and picturesque villages along the way the Lares Trek is a truly beautiful trail. Through the Salkantay Trek explore the mighty Andes and the Peruvian jungle at the same time while hiking up to 4650 meters to the Salkantay Pass, the highest point on the trek, from where you have a breathtaking view over the mountain range.
Taking the car and train
Nowadays, the infrastructure around Machu Picchu and Cusco are quite developed. There are different ways to reach your final destination. From Cusco, there are countless transports that will bring you to Ollantaytambo from where you can take the train or to Hidroelectrica in Santa Teresa. From there you can either walk the approximately 3 hours along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes, the small village at the bottom of the Inca citadel, or buy a train ticket directly there and go by train for around 25 minutes.
If you want to enjoy a comfortable train ride to Aguas Calientes you would have to take the train from either Poroy (Cusco) train station or Ollantaytambo train station. The latter is more common and counts with a higher frequency. You can choose between the Expedition train (classic train) or the Vistadome train (panoramic train). If you book a tour through an agency they usually buy the ticket for you. You can also buy it online or directly at the PeruRail office. Also for buying the train tickets applies: the sooner the better. If you wish to have an extraordinary Machu Picchu experience take the Hiram Bingham luxury train in the style of the 1920s.
Once in Aguas Calientes you can either climb up plenty of stairs for around 1 – 1,5 hours to the entrance of Machu Picchu or take the bus along serpentines for 25 minutes. The bus ticket can be bought directly in Aguas Calientes.
WHAT TO SEE AT MACHU PICCHU
Machu Picchu does not only consist of the world-famous citadel that can be seen on countless pictures on the Internet. The surroundings of the site surprise with hidden and not so hidden treasures.
Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain
On these numerous pictures on the Internet, you can also see mountains next to the Inca heritage. What many do not know: You can climb these mountains. Mostly, Huayna Picchu is portrayed in the pictures which are also more popular than Machu Picchu Mountain. Hiking up to Huayna Picchu takes you around 45 minutes and you get the chance to visit the Temple of the Moon, a tight-fitting construction inside a cave. Machu Picchu Mountain is located on the other side, near the main entrance. An about 1,5-hour hike climbing up stairs takes you to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain with an amazing view over the whole sanctuary. Through the years, it has gained more popularity realizing the beauty that lies in this mountain.
For both, you will need an entrance ticket (you can only choose one) which has to be bought together with the general entrance ticket to the world heritage. There are only 400 tickets available daily for each mountain, and especially with Huayna Picchu, you might want to buy your ticket as soon as possible due to the high request. You can either buy your tickets directly at the Ministry of Culture (online or at their office) or assign your agency to do so.
The Sun Gate and the Inca Bridge
Not requiring any entrance ticket, the Sun Gate, also known as the “Inti Punku” and the Inca Bridge are well-worth a visit. The Sun Gate used to be the main entrance to Machu Picchu and is still to this day for the Inca Trail hikers. It takes around 1 hour to get there and allows a lovely view. Near the main entrance follow the path with signs to Machu Picchu Mountain and the Inti Punku, you cannot miss it.
The way to the Inca Bridge requires to enter more into the archeological site. It takes you about 40 minutes to get there. The bridge seems like a usual wooden board, however, it was essential for the people living there. It is believed that it was the secret entrance to the Inca army. Without the bridge, the path would leave a 6-meter gap cutting into a cliff making it impossible for any intruder to cross.
ASK FOR INFORMATION
Before starting the journey to your dream destination it is always recommendable to gather as much information as you can. Especially the entrance times for Machu Picchu might seem a bit confusing. Since 2019 there are now 9 different time schedules for Machu Picchu and 3 different for each Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain, instead of only 2 for each site. With many years of experience in the tourism sector, Machu Travel Peru is happy to help with anything regarding your trip to Machu Picchu and any tours around it. Make your Machu Picchu experience an unforgettable one!
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