Travelers with an insatiable craving for adventure consider the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu as the trip of a lifetime. The ancient citadel tucked away in the rugged Andes Mountains has landed on every globetrotter’s wish list since its discovery in 1911.
Machu Picchu often serves as the highlight of most trips to Peru. During peak season, thousands make their way to the spectacular destination for a closer look at the magnificent ruins. Despite the influx of tourists, the archaeological site still retains an air of mystery. With the help of continuing restoration efforts, we may soon find more answers to all the questions about Machu Picchu.
Perhaps it’s the intrigue, aside from the mesmerizing view, that lures travelers to the Sacred Valley to discover the secrets of the Incan civilization. Whatever the reason is, going to Machu Picchu is worth all the hype!
When to Go
When you’re planning to go to Machu Picchu, take into account Peru’s climate. Though it’s summer in July to August, rain will almost always fall at any given period, especially in the high altitudes. If you can, avoid the rainy season from October to April because it can get very frustrating to trek in very wet and soggy conditions.
The Inca Trail – The Ultimate Hike
Your visit to Machu Picchu will be even more memorable if you take the Inca Trail, the Holy Grail for trekkers in South America. The Inca Trail is actually just a small section of a long network of trails built by the Incas throughout the continent. On some parts of the trail, you can still find the original stone paths that have withstood the ravages of time.
The path to Machu Picchu through the Inca Trail will not disappoint the intrepid traveler. Come physically prepared for the trek, as you will meet jaw-breaking altitudes of more than 4,000 meters. The journey takes four days covering 43 kilometers against harsh elements like wind, sun and rain. Travelers are rewarded with discoveries of Inca ruins and sweeping views of the Andes along the way.
Once you reach the end point, you would forget the exhaustion from the trek upon seeing the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. Tour providers are aplenty if you want to take the Inca Trail. Local guides will lead the way and help you get settled in the camping sites.
Getting There By Train and Bus
Taking the Inca Trail is not everyone’s cup of tea. Factors like lethargy and high-altitude sickness may discourage visitors who are not used to long and arduous treks. Or if your time in Peru is limited, the 4-day trek along the Inca Trail is definitely not for you.
There are other ways to get to Machu Picchu without trekking. It’s more convenient to take the train from Cusco to the town found at the base of the famous ruins. Agua Calientes is less than four hours away from Cusco by train. Spend the night in this charming town for a good night’s rest. Buses heading to the citadel start shuttling passengers at 5:30am for sunrise viewing in Machu Picchu.
Other Places to Visit Near Machu Picchu
During your visit to Machu Picchu, you can go to nearby attractions and discover more about the rich landscape and the local culture. Here are a few activities to try while in the area.
Travels to Machu Picchu usually begin from Cusco, which actually deserves a separate guide as it has plenty to offer. Though its high altitude can oftentimes make travelers sick, Cusco is well worth a few days of exploration. There are Incan ruins to see, as the city used to be the capital of the empire. Pay a visit to its ancient churches, interesting museums and the main city square that was once flanked by several grand palaces of the Incas.
Easily accessible from Cusco is Sacsayhuaman, the ruins of what was believed to be an Incan fortress. The striking feature of this place is the sight of its massive ramparts that served as protection from invaders attacking the capital. It must have taken immense manpower to move huge blocks of stone without the aid of modern machines!
If you want to see more of how Incas built their cities, head to Ollantaytambo. The quaint village is a fine example of city planning during the Incan times. Narrow streets made from cobblestone and rustic stone buildings add to the historic ambiance of the village.
Pisac presents more sightseeing opportunities for the visitor. It is home to another Incan citadel that figured prominently in the Empire. You can find magnificent stonework and fields rimmed by neat terraces. Do visit the Sunday market in this charming Andean village where you can buy local crafts like ceramics and hand painted beads.
Chinchero is another worthwhile day trip from Cusco with its beautiful panoramas, mud brick houses and the bustling Sunday market. A short walk from the village is Lake Piuri, once a main source of water for Cusco’s residents.
• Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes, or Machu Picchu Pueblo, is the charming town where one can take the bus heading to the Incan ruins. You can explore local markets, stock up on supplies from the convenience stores and recharge with good food in the restaurants. Visit the local museum, Museo De Sitio Manual Chavez Bailon, to find out more about Machu Picchu. After your trek, the town’s hot springs make for a therapeutic treat for your sore muscles.