The Lost City of Machu Picchu is one of South America’s most famous archaeological treasures. Nestled in the cloud forests of the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is said to have been the Inca rulers’ royal domain or sacred religious site. Today, the mountaintop location, finely crafted stonework, and ancient history make Machu Picchu Peru’s most desirable tourist destination.
Ready for an experience? Before heading to one of the world’s most famous manufactured wonders, here’s what you need to know:
Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel located in the eastern mountains of southern Peru in a 2,430-meter (7,970-foot) mountain range. It is located in the Machu Picchu sanctuary territory of the Urubamba province above the Sacred Valley, 50 miles (80km) northwest of Cusco. The Urubamba River flows in between, crossing the Cordillera to create a tropical mountain climate valley.
You may be wondering how Machu Picchu’s elevation affects your visit. Machu Picchu Park itself is not considered a high-altitude destination. The mountain saddle where most ruins are located is about 2,407 meters above sea level, about 1,005 meters below Cusco, and 480 meters below the Sacred Valley.
The two peaks, Huayna Picchu and Montaña Machu Picchu, reach 2,692 meters (8,835 feet) and 3,081 meters (10,111 feet), respectively. The usual threshold for altitude sickness expression is 2438 meters, or 8000 feet.
Aguas Calientes has a comfortable elevation of approximately 2,042 meters (6,700 feet).
Sun and other thoughts
Machu Picchu is almost unaffected by strong winds. The average wind speed is less than 9.6 km/6 miles annually, and the maximum wind speed rarely exceeds 16 km/10 mph.
Sunscreen is a must. The UV index is moderate at 3 or 4 almost monthly due to cloud cover. However, this cloud will eventually split, allowing the sun to burn faster at these altitudes. Bring a hat, sun-blocking sunglasses, and sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher). Long sleeves and long pants are highly recommended. Insect repellent is essential.
There are only three ways to get to Machu Picchu: the Inca Trail, a train that goes through Ollantaytambo, and an alternative route via the hydroelectric train station “Intiwatana.” Each offers a different experience in terms of travel and prices. Your choice depends on the type of experience you are looking for.
Three steps to get to Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is 9 kilometers up the mountain from Aguas Calientes. There are only two ways to get to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes: by bus or on foot.
Buses operated by Consettur Machupicchu transport passengers between Aguas Calientes and the main gate of the ruins. The route follows a winding and steep road called Carretera Hiram Bingham. Buses depart from the bus stop on Av. Hermanos Ayar in Aguas Calientes from 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. as soon as the bus is full, or every 15 minutes. In general, the bus ride takes 25 minutes. The last bus from the ruins back to town is at 5:30 p.m.
It’s a steep climb along the river and mountain to the entrance to Machu Picchu. You can hike the 7 km (4.5 miles) following the dirt road or take the more vertical route, “The Inca Trail from the Puente Ruinas to Machu Picchu.”
A visit to Machu Picchu is not a visit to a specific place. There are other places to hike for visitors with a bit of a thirst for the extra discovery kilometers.
Trekkers usually take 1 to 1.5 hours to reach the summit. Athletes can reach the top in 45 minutes. Getting off is about the same time, so walking for 3 hours with plenty of time would be good.
It usually takes hikers about two hours to reach the top. The athletic guy climbs to the top in 1 hour and 30 minutes. It takes about 1.5 hours to go down, so it’s good to give yourself 4 hours to enjoy the views.
Most people take 40–60 minutes to reach the Sun Gate, taking breaks and taking pictures just in time.
The Inca Bridge was built of several narrow logs on a steep vertical cliff; the Inca Bridge is said to have served as a secret entrance to Machu Picchu. Most people get to the Inca Bridge in about 20–30 minutes.
It is necessary not to bring any of the following objects to Machu Picchu:
If you want to know where to get a Machu Picchu stamp on your passport, there is a simple answer: the stamping area is at the Machu Picchu exit on the right. “Do it at the end of the Machu Picchu tour.” However, your passport stamp at Machu Picchu is much more than a stamp; it proves the fantastic journey you have just completed in southern Peru.
Whether it is a day trip to Machu Picchu or a multi-day hike in the Salkantay Mountains, the Inca Jungle, or the Choquequirao Trek, an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes is highly recommended if you want to experience Machu Picchu early in the morning.
Due to its proximity to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes has several hotels, restaurants, cafes, and small shops. It is also good to know that food is prohibited at the Machu Picchu archaeological site. Have a good breakfast before heading out.
Your visit to Machu Picchu depends on several factors, such as your level of fitness, your hiking experience, and the orientation of your tour group.
The Machu Picchu day trip is the fastest way to access the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. Arrive at Aguas Calientes by train from San Pedro, Poroy, Urubamba, or Ollantaytambo train stations. Though this trip is long, it’s worth taking in the incredible sights on an epic train journey through the Andes and Amazon cloud forest. The main advantage of a day trip is that it offers vacationers who want to visit the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu or are unprepared for a hike the opportunity to visit the site with a tour guide and learn more about the tourist experience. With this in mind, many include day trips from Cusco, Urubamba, or Ollantaytambo, the “Sacred Valley of the Incas.”
Let’s say you’re short on time, but you still want to see the highlights of Machu Picchu by leisurely exploring various ancient sites with incredible panoramic views. If so, we recommend the 2-day tour to Machu Picchu through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This is a beautiful Andean adventure way to immerse yourself in the local Inca culture and get the proper background before visiting the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu. After a fantastic tour of the Sacred Valley on the first day, you will have plenty of time to rest before catching the train to Aguas Calientes and heading to Machu Picchu on the second day.
The impressive sites and ruins accessible from downtown Cusco amaze visitors with the number of Inca sites. You should consider a multi-day tour to explore more of the region and Cusco’s local culture and traditions. We have 3 to 7-day multi-day tours covering the most impressive sites of the Cusco region to complete your Cusco vacation in Peru.
Of course, take a train through the Sacred Valley or Maras Moray to Machu Picchu Pueblo, then catch a bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Main Gate. The first impression of Machu Picchu is unique from every angle photo of the Inca fortress Machu Picchu.
A tour of Machu Picchu is a great way to bring ancestral ruins to life, learn about their history, and glimpse the incredible ingenuity of the Inca people who built the Inca citadel.