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Machu Picchu: what to see, when to go and how to visit it

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Lluis Enric Mayans
@lluisenricmayans
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Located about 130 km from the Peruvian city of Cusco, the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park it is truly something extraordinary, an experience to make all 5 senses go crazy and to literally send you into raptures. Here is everything you need to know about the Lost City: curiosities, history and mysteries, directions for a visit, advice on when to go, how to get there and clothing to wear.

Index

  1. Where it is
  2. How to get there from Italy
  3. When to go? Info on climate and best time
  4. Hours and entrance costs
  5. What to see in Machu Picchu
  6. How to visit Machu Pichu
  7. Curiosities, history and mysteries
  8. Accomodation
  9. User questions and comments

Where it is

The Machu Picchu Archaeological Park 130 km northeast of the city of Cusco, 2.350 meters above sea level and it is part of the Cusco region of Peru. The surface of the Archaeological Park covers an area of ​​32.592 hectares and is spread over the eastern slopes of the Cordillera de Vilcabamba mountain range overlooking the Apurimac and Urubamba rivers.



How to get there from Italy

Rome and Milan connect to Cusco via flights lasting between 20 and 23 hours. All solutions include at least two stopovers (usually the first in Paris or Amsterdam and the second in Lima). Generally the airlines involved in the route are Air Europa, Air France, British Airways, KLM, Avianca, LATAM Airlines Group.

  • Rome - Cusco from € 815,00 / Milan - Cusco from € 635,00

How to reach Machu Picchu

  • By minibus: the cheapest solution (about € 30,00 per person). They leave daily from Cusco, stop at the Ollantaytambo village and stop at the Hidroeletrica train station. From here you have to walk to the village of Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblos, it is the closest inhabited center to the site) which connects to the entrance of Machu Picchu by small buses (at a cost of about € 12,00 per single route). More info: Return bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  • By train: the most convenient solution. 7 hours from Cusco or 5 hours from Ollantaytambo village. The companies are Peru Rail and Inca Rail, costs from $ 70 per person (approximately € 62,00). First-class panorama trains with live music and on-board meals are also available. Trains run to the village of Aguas Calientes, where buses are available to take you to the park entrance. More info: Machu Picchu full-day tour by scenic train from Cusco
  • Via the Inca Trail: it is the traditional route used by the populations to reach the Lost City. It is a spectacular hike that also passes through the ruins of Winay Wayma, an agricultural settlement dating back to the pre-Columbian era. The route is 26 miles long, reaches a maximum altitude of 13.828 feet, lasts 3/4 days and is of moderate difficulty. More info: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
  • Via the Salkantay Trek: it is a path of indescribable beauty that allows you to admire a unique panorama in the world between mountain paths, breathtaking views and wildlife, suitable for the most daring tourists. The route is 46 miles long, reaches a maximum altitude of 15.000 feet, has a duration of 4/5 days and a high difficulty (it is very tiring, suitable for experienced and fit hikers). More info: 4 day excursion to Machu Picchu - 5 day excursion to Machu Picchu

When to go? Info on climate and best time

  • WeatherThere are 8 different climatic regions in Peru, these vary according to the level of altitude. Machu Picchu straddles the Yanga and Puna regions. Here the climate has two main seasons, a cold and dry one that goes from April to October and a hot and rainy one that goes from November to March.
  • Best time: from a climatic point of view, the best months are July and August, but they also correspond to the peak tourist season, when the number of visitors is so high that it could compromise the visiting experience. Therefore the best compromise is the months of May, June and September.
  • Period to avoid: the months from November to March (corresponding to the rainy season) are warmer and rainier and should therefore be avoided, even if the visit is still possible. We point out that at this time of the year some of the services usually available may be blocked for maintenance (such as some trains / buses, which do not run in January).
  • Clothing for the excursion: wear comfortable hiking shoes and above all bring a backpack in which to put a sufficient reserve of water, 30.000 hectares of land will mark you all right.

Hours and entrance costs

  • Cost of entry to the ruins: entrance to the archaeological area costs 128 soles (€ 36,00 approximately)
  • Cost of Huayna Picchu excursion: 24 soles (about € 7,00) - This is an optional cost in addition to the standard entrance fee, which gives access to the trekking route in the Huayna Picchu mountain. It is a fantastic but very tiring experience, lasting 2 and a half hours, recommended for rather trained people and above all who do not suffer from vertigo. The excursion is forbidden for children under 12 years old.
  • Hours to visit the ruins: The entrances are organized in groups / shifts. In total there are 9 entrances per day, spaced from each other by an hour. The first entrance is at 6:00 in the morning, the last at 14:00. From 2019 you only have 1 hour to visit the ancient Inca fortress.
  • Timetable for taking part in the Huayna Picchu excursion: The entrances are organized in groups / shifts. The first group enters Machu Picchu at 6:00 am and begins the excursion at 7:00 am. The second group enters at 7:00 am and begins the excursion at 8:00 am. The third group enters at 8 and starts the excursion at 10:30.
  • Limitations: For the visit of the ruins up to 2.500 accesses are allowed per shift, while for the Huayna Picchu excursion the daily availability is 400 people. Therefore it is important to book your visit well in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises, especially if you are traveling in the high season (the ideal is to book 4 months in advance). To book a visit in the high season months it is advisable to rely on the ministerial website, to book at other times of the year any online agency is fine.
  • Buy online: Entrance ticket to the lost city - entrance ticket + mountain hike

What to see in Machu Picchu

The Archaeological Park is divided into 2 areas: the agricultural area and the urban area, separated from each other by a moat and a wall. The urban area is in turn divided into Sacred Space and Residential Space. Here are some of the attractions to visit in the lost city.



In the Agricultural Area

In the Agricultural Area, there are some elements of interest such as the Guardians' Houses, the surveillance posts and the agricultural terraces. The agricultural area is divided in turn into:

  • Puesto de Vigilancia de los Andenes
  • Primer Grupo de Andenes
  • Andenes del Sector Bajo

In the Urban Area

  • Sacred Space: It can be accessed via the Inca path, which after touching the Intipunku (Gate of the Sun), on the top of the Machu Picchu hill, descends reaching the area in question. Among the attractions of the Sacred Space are the Portada group, the Temple of the Sun (Torreón), the Royal Mausoleum, the Royal Residence (Royal Palace), the Temple of the Three Windows, the Main Temple and finally, the Intihuatana group, which occupies the most important area of ​​the Sacred Space.
  • Residential space: it includes several groups, such as the Prisons, the Water Mirrors (Los Morteros), the Three Portada, the Alto Group, the sacrificial altar and the stone adoration.

How to visit Machu Pichu

1 day tour program (ruins only)

  1. From 6: 00 10 to: 00 - Journey from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
  2. From 10:30 to 11 00 - Travel by bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  3. From 11: 00 03 to: 00 - Visit to the ruins of the Archaeological Park
  4. From 15: 00 15 to: 30 - Travel by bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes
  5. From 16: 20 19 to: 40 - Travel from Aguas Calientes to Cusco

More info: Machu Picchu 1 day tour from Cusco



Program for 1 day visit (ruins + Huayna Picchu excursion)

  1. From 4: 00 7 to: 40 - Travel by bus from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
  2. From 8: 00 08 to: 30 - Travel by bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.
  3. From 8: 30 10 to: 30 - Guided tour of the ruins
  4. From 10: 30 13 to: 30 - Visit to the Huayna Picchu mountain
  5. From 13: 30 14 to: 00 - Free visit to the ruins
  6. From 14: 00 14 to: 30 - Travel by bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes.
  7. From 15: 20 18 to: 30 - Travel from Aguas Calientes to Cusco

More info: Machu Picchu 1 day tour from Cusco

Guided excursions of 2, 3, 4 or 5 days

It is possible to visit Machu Picchu through guided excursions that retrace (fully or partially) the routes "Inca Trail" is "Salkantay Trial". Other solutions are the Inca Jungle Tour (also known as Tropical Inca Trail) which combines hiking, cycling, rafting and zip-line on the way to Machu Picchu, or The Lares Adventure which combines hiking in the mountains and cultural visits to the within a Quechue community before reaching Aguas Calientes.

  • Inca Trail: short 2-day route, from € 540,00 per person
  • Inca Jungle Trek: complete 4-day itinerary, from € 413,00 per person
  • 4-day trekking excursion to Lares, from € 563,00 per person
  • 4-day excursion via Salkantay, from € 349,00 per person
  • 5-day excursion via Salkantay, from € 333,00 per person

NB: not all packages include the costs for the entrance to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu



Curiosities, history and mysteries

  • Year of discovery and historical notes
    It was only discovered in the 900s by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. It seems that it was built around 1440 by the Inca emperor Pachacùtec, and completely abandoned in 1532, after the conquest of Spain. Some studies argue that Machu Picchu was actually the emperor's summer residence, while other theories argue that it was an astronomical observatory and center of worship.
  • What does Machu Picchu mean?
    The name derives from the union of two Quechua words: "machu", which means "old", and "pikchu", which means "top". Therefore in the Inca language it can be translated into "Old Mountain".
  • The mystery of the Lost City
    the city was never found by the Spanish conquistadors, perhaps due to its poor accessibility. In fact, it is located at about 2.500 meters above sea level, on the summit of a rock along the "Inca Trail".
  • Archaeological importance
    Its ruins represent one of the very few testimonies of the existence of the Inca people, therefore they have been included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and are also one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

Accomodation

The place to base varies according to the type of visit you are organizing. Daily tours depart from Cusco and Ollantaytambo, so these are the two cities to stay in. If, on the other hand, you want to dedicate yourself to visits spread over several days, the place to base is Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo); usually guided tours of 2/3/4/5 days include overnight stays in the package.

  • Where to sleep in Cusco: Hotel and b & b starting from € 33,18 per room -
  • Where sleeping in Ollantaytambo: Hotel and b & b starting from € 39,64 per room -
  • Where sleeping in Aguas Calientes: Hotel and b & b starting from € 48,24 per room -
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Travel informed: useful information

  • State / region: Peru, Cusco region
  • Languages: Spanish is the official language. The second most spoken language is Quechua
  • Local currency: the official currency is the Peruvian Sol (€ 1,00 = 3,73), but the US dollar is accepted everywhere (€ 1,00 = 1,13)
  • Time zone: UTC -5 (Machu Picchu is 7 hours behind Italy)
  • vaccinations: vaccines against yellow fever, typhus and hepatitis A are highly recommended, although NOT required by law
  • Entry requirements: passport with residual validity of at least six months. The visa is for stays longer than 183 days only
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

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