Machu Picchu is one of the World's Seven Wonders and Peru's most popular destination. It sits on a mountain ridge overlooking the Urubamba River and was constructed during the 15th century by the Inca Pachacuti, serving as a royal estate or country retreat. Today, it attracts over 2 million annual visitors, making this place one of the world's most important tourist destinations.
Are you a first-time visitor? Here, we tell you everything you need to know about Machu Picchu!
All About Machu Picchu
What is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is one of the most outstanding Inca engineering and construction examples. It was constructed in the 15th century and abandoned after the empire's invasion. After centuries, it was rediscovered during the explorations of Hiram Bingham, and the place became famous worldwide. Today, the sanctuary is still top-rated among travelers who visit Peru.
Machu Picchu's name is formed by two Quechua words: Machu, which means "old," and Picchu, "mountain". It is an exciting place steeped in history. To fully experience it, be sure to do your research beforehand and know about its past and culture.
The story of Machu Picchu
This archeological site arouses the interest of academics and curious people from all over the world. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century during the governance of the Inca Pachacuti, around the time of the expansion of the Inca empire. Due to its strategic location, it could have been a main administrative center or residence. It is also said that its cultivation areas may have served the livelihood of the inhabitants. In 1572, it was left unoccupied, featuring stone structures, including buildings, terraces, and walls made with stone only.
Hiram Bingham, an American academic and professor, rediscovered Machu Picchu while researching the last traces of the Incas in Vilcabamba. He arrived at the site in 1911, guided by local tenants. From 1912 to 1915, the archeological effort was financed by Yale University, National Geographic, and the Peruvian government. Machu Picchu was presented to the world in 1913.
Over the years, the site's significance has steadily increased. UNESCO listed Machu Picchu as a World Heritage Site in 1983, and it was designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Without a doubt, this is a spectacular place!
Where is Machu Picchu located?
Machu Picchu is located in the Peruvian Andes mountain range at 2430 meters above sea level in the department of Cusco (province of Urubamba, district of Machupicchu), Sacred Valley of the Incas, above the Aguas Calientes town. The nearest major city is Cusco, which is the current regional capital and ancient capital of the Incas.
How to Get to Machu Picchu?
There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu. Tours departing from Cusco or Ollantaytambo are recommended for those who want to reach the Inca Wonder easily. Numerous tour companies offer day trips or more extended packages with transportation, guides, entrance to the site, etc.
But, if you're feeling adventurous, trekking to Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco can be accomplished by the Inca Trail, which typically takes four days and allows only 500 visitors daily. Permission must be secured before embarking on this trek - you must obtain one beforehand. You will see the citadel and many other tourist attractions during the expedition.
When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
Peruvian weather plays an important role when visiting Machu Picchu. For an optimal visit, the best is the dry season from April to October, when temperatures range between 18 - 25 degrees Celsius (64 - 77 Fahrenheit). Due to being in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons differ significantly from those found in Northern Hemisphere cities. The climate in Machu Picchu is characterized by humidity and warmth. Rainfall varies according to the season, although rain gear is recommended throughout the year.
However, the citadel can become exceptionally crowded during July and August due to the nice weather and Peruvian schoolchildren taking summer breaks. To avoid crowds, the recommendation would be to visit it during shoulder seasons, between April, May, September, or October, for a better experience. Check out "Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu" to know more about the weather conditions and the ideal time to visit it.
The best of Machu Picchu
Cusco offers many amazing sights to see, and the journey to Machu Picchu is one of them. Have you heard of the ancient Inca Trail? And what about the surrounding archaeological attractions? Here is a guide to some of the must-sees at this remarkable place.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail is located in the Andean mountain range in Cusco. It passes through different environments, such as the high mountains and cloud forest, heading to the jungle edge. During this unique trek, you will encounter settlements, tunnels, and Inca ruins to finally gather at the Intipunku, Quechua word that means "Sun Gate", an exciting entrance to the sanctuary, perfect for enjoying the first sight of Machu Picchu.
Hiking the Classic Inca Trail is one of the most popular ways to reach Machu Picchu. If you love walking, this is the route! It usually takes four days and three nights of camping. Enjoy breathtaking landscapes as you experience this remarkable trek.
The Huayna Picchu mountain is the second high mountain often seen behind the citadel in the classic stamp pictures of Machu Picchu. It has a very steep and narrow path, which includes several sections with steps and stairs carved into the rock. You can choose to hike it during your visit. It takes 40 to 60 minutes to climb, and it is not particularly difficult, but it can become congested because only 300 people can hike it daily. Arriving early to secure a spot and enjoy breathtaking views from its highest point will undoubtedly reward any effort!
Machu Picchu Mountain
This is the highest mountain in the place. You will find it right behind Huayna Picchu. Hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy Machu Picchu Mountain, and it takes about an hour of moderate trekking. The trail is wide but steep, offering sensational views over its surroundings when heading to the top. Much of this hike goes uphill, requiring strength and fitness from those embarking upon it.
If you are interested in climbing this mountain, you can not miss All you need to know about the Machu Picchu Mountain!
Huchuy Picchu Mountain
The Huchuy Picchu Mountain is located at the northern of Huayna Picchu and has an easier and shorter hiking route. To experience its full magnificence, consider hiking it up and enjoying the amazing panoramas from its summit. Although the hike may be strenuous and requires planning ahead for optimal success, do include Huchuy Picchu in your plans when visiting Machu Picchu!
Sungate in Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu's Sungate (Intipunku) is one of the most important archaeological sites in Machu Picchu. In the Inca empire, the army protected and used it as the principal access to Cusco and had an essential role in the summer solstice every year. Nowadays, it is an entranceway to the citadel that tourists often visit. Situated atop a long flight of stairs, the Sungate provides stunning panoramic views of the Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, and Urubamba River, perfect for capturing stunning photographs at this iconic site.
As you approach Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, you will encounter several staircases leading up to Sungate that may appear challenging. However, when you reach the top, some of Peru's most stunning views await! On a day with good visibility, you can see Machu Picchu below it, surrounded by mountains. Exploring it is an enriching experience, among the top things to do while visiting Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu engineering
Water supply system: Machu Picchu's water supply system is an outstanding example of ancient engineering. Constructed in an area with scarce natural water sources, the builders had to devise creative means of providing sufficient amounts of water for the city's needs.
The Incas constructed canals and aqueducts to bring water from mountain streams into the city, which proved successful at providing enough for all its citizens, even during drought-stricken months.
However, there were problems with this system. Floods or landslides could easily damage canals and aqueducts, while it lacked enough pressure to reach higher levels in the city as its reliance on gravity to move water limited its reach. Despite these challenges, the water supply system worked effectively for decades. When the citadel was left unoccupied, its functionality started deteriorating significantly, and archaeologists are working to restore it to its earlier state.
Terraces of Machu Picchu: Machu Picchu is famed for its agricultural terraces. These incredible structures were constructed to use land for food production and can be seen in all the archaeological sites of the Sacred Valley. The Machu picchu terraces had a unique water-draining system that prevented soil loss through runoff. The terraces are a testament to human ingenuity, built without mortar or cement.
The Inca Bridge: It is an ancient bridge located in one of the very narrow trip sections etched on granite stone, and it is composed of logs and stones so that it may be readily destroyed and, therefore, deny access to adversaries. Machu Picchu offers visitors the Inca Bridge as a unique chance to explore lesser-known corners. It's not far from the leading site and offers breathtaking views of its surroundings. Don't miss it; check it out - an incredible feat of Inca engineering definitely worth seeing!
Guard House in Machu Picchu
Soldiers likely used this building to store weapons, supplies, and living quarters while guarding the site. Today, it is an intriguing tourist destination; people can visit this historic structure and experience how soldiers once lived there.
Temple of the sun in Machu Picchu
Holy site situated at the heart of the city and of great significance to local residents. This monument was constructed as an offering to the Inti, Quechua word that means Sun, the Inca god. People also used it as a pilgrimage spot. Crafted out of granite with a grand staircase leading up to it, there's even space inside that wall where statues or other items might have been displayed! Don't miss visiting this important attraction when in Machu Picchu. It should definitely make time in your travels around!
Palace of the Inca in Machu Picchu
The Inca Palace is one of the most relevant constructions of Machu Picchu, since it t was the home of the Inca Pachacuti and his family. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the site.
Temple of the Condor
The Temple of the Condor at Machu Picchu is an infamous structure. Constructed to pay respect to Viracocha and symbolize Inca civilization might, this building stands in Machu Picchu's main square near other important structures such as the Temples of Sun and Three Windows.
Intihuatana in Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu features an iconic stone structure known as Intihuatana, which means "hitching post of the sun" in Quechua. This important stone structure was widely known and appreciated throughout the Incas, who used this pillar as a sundial astronomic calendar. Today, historians, archaeologists, and visitors from all around the globe remain mystified and intrigued by this old site.
The Intihuatana Stone was created from one single piece of granite that stands five feet tall and weighs two tons. It has an elongated form resembling a pyramid-topped structure. Experts remain uncertain what exactly the Intihuatana stone was used for; however, most agree it served as an astronomical instrument because its rectangular markings could have served to mark astronomical events on it. Perhaps the stone could have also helped determine winter solstice, the moment in time when the sun's path in the sky is at its lowest point and is most directed south.
Best tours to Machu Picchu
Discover two distinct routes to reach Machu Picchu! Opt for the timeless charm of the classic Machu Picchu Tours, spanning 1 or 2 days, where you will savor the traditional allure of train travel while immersing yourself in exploring this majestic site.
On the other hand, for those seeking a more adventurous route, embark on a unique journey! Consider trekking to Machu Picchu for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. You can take three different routes; the mesmerising Inca Trail, the challenging Salkantay Trek, and the interesting Lares Trek.
Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu distance from Cusco:
|By car, 1 hour and 15 minutes, Then by train, almost 2 hours: A total of 3 hours approx
Best time to visit:
|April to October
|Typically ranging from 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F)
What to see?
|Sun Gate, Inca bridge, Huayna Picchu, Huchuy Picchu Intihuatana, Temple of the sun, Temple of the condor, etc.