Machu Picchu wonder of Peru and the world, Sacred place of the Inca Empire, surrounded by exceptional beauty, hidden in the magnificent Andes mountain range. All things we think about when we hear the words Machu Picchu. But did you know that on a tour to Machu Picchu you will not learn about the history of this sacred site but you will also feel in the presence of the Inca, which attracts people from all over the world. Not a lot is known about the mysterious city many different opinions abound as what it was used for from the theory that it was a royal estate for the Inca Pachaquteq to a ceremonial site for the Inca people, so many theories will we ever know the truth as there is nothing written to confirm these theories so it may always remain a mystery.
Some of the things you will expect to see on your Machu Picchu tour are Intihuatana used by Inca astronomers to predict the solstices, carved from one piece of rock, it is one of the only Intihuatans to survive the Spanish invasion. The Central Plaza a green area which today is full of friendly Llamas, was built to separate the Ceremonial part from the Industrial and Residential areas. Not far from there you will find The Temple of the Three Windows, complete with three trapezoidal windows that have spectacular views of the plaza below, it is not know the significance of the windows, but it is believed to hold a lot of importance. Moving along to the Temple of the Sun which features some of Machu Picchu´s finest stonework and features and alter and also trapezoidal windows. Not far from the Temple of the Sun is the Royal tomb, a ceremonial cave with a step like alter, off limits to visitors you are although allowed to view the tomb from the entrance. A short walk away is the Temple of the Condor, featuring a carved condor head and rocks that look remarkably like wings. Passing to other side of Machu Picchu the Residential section and the Industrial sector awaits, both interesting and worth a visit. On the other side of the plaza from the Residential section you will see the agricultural terraces, use to grow produce for the vast number that was believed to live at Machu Picchu.
At the back of the ruins there is the entrance to Wayna Picchu which peaks at 2720 meters above sea level, it features caves and a small temple and takes around 50 minutes to climb up steep steps that can be slippery after the rain. Not far from the front entrance gate there is the hut of the Caretaker which is one of the only renovated buildings at the site and has a thatched roof and on any given day is full of people getting out of the rain. Just behind the hut there is rock that is said to be used to work on the nobility after they had passed. Not far from the Caretakers hut is the ceremonial baths, this site is a series of sixteen baths that cascade throughout the ruin and are very beautifully built.
Not far from the ruins of Machu Picchu is Inti Punku or the Sun gate, if you start from the Residential sector, it takes about an hour to reach the Sun gate at a steady climb. From this point the hikers from the Inca Trail enter Machu Picchu. The view from the Sun gate is one of the best and the most famous. The view all depends on the weather if it is cloudy you may not see anything but if it is sunny the view is worth the walk. If you have time take a walk to the ruin of Winay Wayna which is part of the Inca Trail, but it will take you half a day to complete.
Another pleasant walk to take form the Caretakers hut is to the Inca bridge; this is an easy walk which will take you less than an hour. The view from here will give you a different perspective of Machu Picchu ad the forest that surrounds it.
A popular way to reach Machu Picchu is to take the four day Inca Trail, a decent level of fitness is required as there is a lot of walking and climbing involved, but if you love to hike, this is the only way you will want to reach Machu Picchu. The scenery and ruins along the way make the four-day hike worthwhile. If you decide to do the trail there are only a limited amount of people allowed per day, so you will need to book extra early as spaced fill fast especially in high season, which is May to September.
Some tips and recommendations for visiting Machu Picchu.
Try and plan your visit earlier in the day or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds which seem to be heavier in the middle of the day. A visit to Machu Picchu in February is also recommended as the Inca Trail is closed and there will be less visitors. The last visitors are admitted at p.m. and the gates close at 5pm sharp.
When inside the ruins stick to the paths and do not walk on any of the walls or stones as this can damage and loosen the stones and will just get you in trouble with the whistle blowing guards. You will not be allowed into Machu Picchu with any forms of plastic bottles, it is a good idea to take a metal camping bottle or glass bottle with water. Snacks are allowed but no food. It is a good idea to eat before you go in the main gate if you are hungry. Also please note that backpacks and walking sticks of over 20 kilos are not allowed into the ruins. There is a bag check just before the main gate but be careful as this closes at 4pm. If you do not have an organized guide before you get to Machu Picchu you can hire one at the main gate., be careful that they are qualified and agree on the price before you set off on your tour. Another thing to be careful of is the small biting insects. Wear repellent at all times, if you don’t you will be bitten. It can also get very hot so take plenty of water, sunscreen and a good hat.
Most people take the train form either Poroy station near Cusco or from the Sacred Valley station in Ollantaytambo a two-hour bus ride from Cusco. There are many different classes of train from really expensive with food, drinks and entertainment or cheaper versions but all have the same view of the beautiful Sacred Valley. When you arrive into Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, you will need to take the bus up to Machu Picchu, this takes around twenty to twenty-five minutes along a winding road. Once you leave the station in Aguas Calientes you will see the queue for the buses, it is very hard to miss. The buses leave Machu Picchu not far from the entrance and are also hard to miss. If you are feeling energetic it is possible to walk from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu up very steep steps, this will take you around one hour depending on how fast you walk.
After you have finished your time in Machu Picchu, there are restaurants close to the gate of Machu Picchu or you can go back down to Aguas Calientes where there are a variety of restaurants for the choosing all with English menus, also in Aguas Calientes there is a pleasant little market for buying souvenirs.
Just a few things you should know before booking a tour to Machu Picchu.