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Machu Picchu

For many visitors to Peru and even South America, a visit to the Inca city of Machu Picchu is the long-anticipated highpoint of their trip. In a spectacular location, it’s the best-known archaeological site on the continent. This awe-inspiring ancient city was never revealed to the conquering Spaniards and was virtually forgotten until the early part of the 20th century.

In the high season, from late May until early September, 2500 people arrive daily. Despite this great tourist influx, the site manages to retain an air of grandeur and mystery, and is a must for all visitors to Peru.

The site is most heavily visited between 10am and 2pm. June through August are the busiest months.

Discover more about Machu Picchu


Wayna Picchu: The most famous of several short walks around Machu Picchu, the climb up the steep mountain of Wayna (also spelled Huayna) Picchu is located at the back of the ruins. At first glance, it appears a difficult climb but, despite the steep ascent, it's not technically that hard. The scramble, which takes anything from 45 to 90 minutes, takes you through a short section of Inca tunnel.

The fabulous views from the top are definitely worth the huffing and puffing, even for trekkers just stumbling in off the Inca Trail. Take care in wet weather as the steps get dangerously slippery. Beyond the central plaza between two open-fronted buildings is a registration booth (operating from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.), where you have to sign in.

Intihuatana: This Quechua word loosely translates as the ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’ and refers to the carved rock pillar, often mistakenly called a sundial, which stands at the top of the Intihuatana hill. The Inca astronomers were able to predict the solstices using the angles of this pillar. Thus, they were able to claim control over the return of the lengthening summer days. Exactly how the pillar was used for these astronomical purposes remains unclear, but its elegant simplicity and high craftwork make it a highlight of the complex.

Phuyupatamarka: Towards the end of the Inca Trail, you'll reach the beautiful, well-restored ruin of Phuyupatamarka (Town above the Clouds), about 3600m (11,811ft) above sea level, which contains a stunning series of ceremonial baths with water running through them. A ridge here also offers camping - while it's a fabulous spot to watch the sun set, it's also the place where keen trekkers leave at 03:00 in a race to reach the Sun Gate in time for sunrise.

Royal Tomb: Below the Temple of the Sun, this almost hidden, natural rock cave was carefully carved by Inca stonemasons. Its use is highly debated; though known as the Royal Tomb, no mummies were actually ever found here.

Ceremonial Baths: If you continue straight into the ruins instead of climbing to the hut, you pass through extensive terracing to a beautiful series of 16 connected ceremonial baths that cascade across the ruins, accompanied by a flight of stairs.

  • El Indio Feliz. Calle Lloque Yupanqui 103,Machu Picchu, Peru.
  • Cafe de Paris: Bakery. Price range: BRL 12. Plazoleta WinayWayna,Machu Picchu, Peru. Tel.: +51 9 8468 0681
  • Palate Bistro Machupicchu. Price range: BRL 9. Calle Chasqatika 203| Aguas calientes, Machu Picchu CUSC 01, Peru. Tel. +51 84 435830
  • Tinkuy: Turkey cuisine. Price range: BRL 90- Carretera Hiram Bingham Km 7.5,Machu Picchu 5184, Peru. Tel. +51 84 984 816 956
  • Coca Qantas: Turkey cuisine. Pachacutec,Machu Picchu,Peru.

Machu Picchu is tangible evidence of the urban Inca Empire at the peak of its power and achievement—a citadel of cut stone fit together without mortar so tightly that its cracks still can’t be penetrated by a knife blade.

The complex of palaces and plazas, temples and homes may have been built as a ceremonial site, a military stronghold, or a retreat for ruling elites—its dramatic location is certainly well suited for any of those purposes. The ruins lie on a high ridge, surrounded on three sides by the windy, turbulent Urubamba River some 2,000 feet (610 meters) below.

Scholars are still striving to uncover clues to the mysteries hidden here high in the eastern slopes of the Andes, covered with tropical forests of the upper Amazon Basin. Machu Picchu appears to lie at the center of a network of related sites and trails—and many landmarks both man-made and mountainous appear to align with astronomical events like the solstice sunset. The Inca had no written language, so they left no record of why they built the site or how they used it before it was abandoned in the early 16th century.

Landscape engineering skills are in strong evidence at Machu Picchu. The site’s buildings, walls, terraces, and ramps reclaim the steep mountainous terrain and make the city blend naturally into the rock escarpments on which it is situated. The 700-plus terraces preserved soil, promoted agriculture, and served as part of an extensive water-distribution system that conserved water and limited erosion on the steep slopes.

The Inca’s achievements and skills are all the more impressive in light of the knowledge they lacked. When Machu Picchu was built some 500 years ago the Inca had no iron, no steel, and no wheels. Their tremendous effort apparently benefited relatively few people—some experts maintain that fewer than a thousand individuals lived here.

In 1911 a Peruvian guide led Yale professor Hiram Bingham up a steep mountainside and into the history books as the first Western scholar to lay eyes on the “lost city” of Machu Picchu. While indigenous peoples knew of the site, Peru’s Spanish conquerors never did—a fact which aided Machu Picchu’s isolation, and preservation, over the centuries.

Today Machu Picchu is far from isolated. In fact it’s a must-see for any visitor to Peru and the draw that compels many to travel to that nation. Machu Picchu’s management challenge is preservation of the site while making it accessible to all those who hope to experience an incredible part of Inca history.

how to get there

On his first trip to the site Hiram Bingham walked for six days. Today many choose to follow in his footsteps by hiking to the ruins on the legendary Inca Trail. It’s an experience like no other, but one no longer necessary. Train trips from Cusco take only a few hours. 

For the fit there is simply no substitute for traveling to Machu Picchu the way the Inca themselves did—on foot. Today the Inca Trail winds through the mountains and along the path of the ancient royal highway. More than 75,000 people make the trip each year and along the way experience some of the associated sites that were part of the Inca network in this area.

It’s no longer possible to do the trek independently. Due to heavy use (and subsequent environmental impact) the trail has become heavily regulated. Visitors must sign up with an organized group to tackle either the classic four-day route or a recently added two-day option.

general info

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September, October, November and December have a nice and average temperature; being September the hottest month, usually.

Machu Picchu has dry periods in May, June, July, August and September, typically. January is regurlaly the coolest month. 



From Aguas Calientes, frequent buses for Machu Picchu (S50 round-trip, 25 minutes) depart from a ticket office along the main road from 5:30am to 2:30pm. Buses return from the ruins when full, with the last departure at 5:45pm.


Otherwise, it’s a steep walk (8km, 1.5 hours) up a tightly winding mountain road. First there’s a flat 20-minute walk from Aguas Calientes to Puente Ruinas, where the road to the ruins crosses the Río Urubamba, near the museum. A breathtakingly steep but well-marked trail climbs another 2km up to Machu Picchu, taking about an hour to hike (but less coming down!) 


Safety Measures  

Inside the ruins, do not walk on any of the walls – this loosens the stonework and prompts a cacophony of whistle blowing from the guards. Overnighting here is also illegal: guards do a thorough check of the site before it closes. Disposable plastic bottles and food are not allowed in the site, though vigilance is a bit lax. It’s best to eat outside the gate, use camping-type drink bottles and pack out all trash, even organic waste. Water is sold at the cafe just outside the entrance, but only in glass bottles.


Use of the only toilet facilities, just below the cafe, will set you back S1.


Tiny sand fly–like bugs abound. You won’t notice them biting, but you may be itching for a week. Use insect repellent.


The weather at Machu Picchu seems to have only two settings: heavy rain or bright, burning sunlight. Do not forget rain gear and sunblock. 

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