Welcome to the land of the Incas! If you’re reading this, chances are you’re considering a trip to Machu Picchu. Congratulations! You’re about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas, is one of the most iconic and breathtaking places in the world. There’s something truly special about uncovering the history of ancient civilizations and experiencing the natural beauty of a region that’s remained relatively unchanged for centuries.
There are many reasons why Machu Picchu is a must-see destination. First and foremost, it’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It’s an archaeological wonder that will leave you breathless, both figuratively and literally (more on that later!). Built in the 15th century, Machu Picchu endures as a testament to incredible human engineering and architectural prowess, especially given the limited resources available at the time. The precision with which each block in this city was placed speaks volumes of the abilities of the Inca people. The level of preservation is quite remarkable, considering the harsh Andean weather conditions that this city has withstood over the years.
Not only is Machu Picchu a symbol of Inca civilization, but it’s also a haven for nature enthusiasts. The surrounding landscape is breathtaking. The towering mountains and lush valleys create an atmosphere of tranquility and awe that is truly unforgettable. Additionally, the region is home to an impressive array of flora and fauna that thrive due to its unique geography and climate.
Visiting Machu Picchu also offers the always-welcome opportunity to immerse yourself in Peruvian culture. Peru is a country rich in history and tradition, and it is deeply ingrained in the culture of its people. From the music and dance to the cuisine and local handicrafts, there’s something for everyone. This trip will put you in touch with the culture and traditions of Peru while you explore one of its most fascinating wonders.
Of course, there’s always the personal challenge associated with the journey. The trek to Machu Picchu is an adventure in itself. With high altitudes, steep inclines, and rugged terrain, a trip to Machu Picchu is a physical test that is worth enduring. You’ll come back with a sense of pride, achievement, and exploration that you won’t find anywhere else.
Planning Your Trip to Machu Picchu – When to Go, How to Get There, Where to Stay
Now that you’re ready to embark on this incredible adventure, let’s talk planning. There are a few key details to consider as you prepare for your trip to Machu Picchu.
Firstly, it’s important to decide when to go. Peru’s weather varies greatly depending on the time of year, and this can affect both the scenery you’ll see and the physical challenge of hiking to Machu Picchu. The dry season from April to October is generally the most popular time to visit. It offers clear skies and mild temperatures, making it ideal for hiking. The wet season from November to March brings heavy rain and more challenging hiking conditions, but it can also offer beautiful greenery and fewer crowds. The choice is yours, but keep in mind that booking well in advance is essential no matter when you go as permits to hike to Machu Picchu are limited.
Once you’ve selected your travel dates, it’s time to consider your options for getting to Machu Picchu. The general path to Machu Picchu involves flying into either Lima, the capital of Peru, or Cusco, the closest city to Machu Picchu. From there, taking a train is the most common way to arrive at Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu. From there, you have the option to either hike to the ruins or take a bus.
If you’re feeling adventurous and up for the challenge, the Inca Trail is the classic route to Machu Picchu. This four-day, three-night hike is sure to test your physical and mental endurance, but the reward of trekking this ancient trail is priceless. Alternatively, there’s also a one-day hike to Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu Mountain, which enable you to look down at the ruins from above. The views from these vantage points are incomparable.
If hiking isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other options for exploring Machu Picchu and its surroundings. The Sacred Valley is full of other ruins and hiking trails that you can explore. Additionally, there’s the option to explore the ruins of Machu Picchu on your own or with a guided tour when you arrive.
Finally, when it comes to where to stay near Machu Picchu, there are options to fit every budget and preference. Aguas Calientes offers many hotels and guesthouses that are perfect for exploring the area, and there are some luxury options if you’re looking for a special experience. For those seeking unique accommodation offerings, there are nearby eco-lodges and even some glamping options that can make your trip a truly memorable one.
Day 1 – Exploring Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Welcome to Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire! Today, we’ll be exploring the city and the surrounding Sacred Valley. Cusco is a vibrant city with a rich cultural history, and there is no shortage of things to do and see.
After a hearty breakfast, we’ll begin our day with a guided walking tour of Cusco’s historic center. The city’s architecture is a mixture of Inca and Spanish influences, with cobblestoned streets and colonial-era buildings lining the streets. The Plaza de Armas, Cusco’s main square, is the perfect place to start. Here, you’ll see the stunning Cusco Cathedral and the Church of the Society of Jesus (known locally as la Compania).
Next, we’ll head to the Qorikancha, a former Inca temple that was repurposed by the Spanish as a monastery after their conquest of Peru. The Qorikancha is an architectural marvel that showcases the incredible skills of the Inca Empire’s stonemasons.
After our tour of Cusco’s main sights, we’ll move on to the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is a region located between Cusco and Machu Picchu and is known for its beautiful landscapes and Inca ruins. Our first stop will be the town of Pisac, which lies at the entrance to the Sacred Valley. Here, we’ll visit the Pisac ruins, where we’ll have a fantastic view of the valley below.
Next, we’ll visit the Pisac market, where you’ll be able to pick up beautiful handicrafts made by local artisans. From there, we’ll continue on to the town of Ollantaytambo, which boasts another set of Inca ruins. Ollantaytambo is a popular stopping point for people on their way to Machu Picchu, as it’s the starting point for the classic Inca Trail hike.
After all of the sightseeing, we’ll have worked up an appetite. Luckily, the Sacred Valley is famous for its cuisine. We’ll stop at a local restaurant to enjoy a traditional Peruvian lunch before heading back to Cusco for the evening.
Day 2 – Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Today is the day that many of us have been waiting for – the start of our hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu! We’ll embark on a four-day, three-night trek along the ancient trail that was once used by the Inca people to move goods and people among different cities.
Our first day on the trail is relatively easy, with only a few gentle uphill sections as we hike through a beautiful cloud forest. The trail is well maintained, and there are plenty of opportunities to rest and admire the stunning Andean landscape. We’ll pass by two Inca ruins, Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna, which will give us an idea of what we can expect to see at Machu Picchu tomorrow.
Our evening campsite will be at Wiñay Wayna, which is beautifully situated in a clearing surrounded by lush vegetation. Here, we’ll have dinner and the chance to connect with our fellow hikers and our guides. Our guides are an excellent source of information about the trail and the region’s history and culture, so be sure to take advantage of their knowledge and ask any questions you have!
As the evening winds down, we’ll take some time to appreciate the staggering beauty of the Andean skies. The stars in this part of Peru are incredible, and you’ll be able to see far more celestial bodies than you would in a more urban setting.
Day 3 – Sunrise at Machu Picchu and Exploring the Ancient Ruins
Today is the day we’ve been eagerly waiting for – the arrival at Machu Picchu! We’ll begin our day early with a pre-dawn start to make it to the Sun Gate in time for sunrise over the ruins. The hike up to the Sun Gate is challenging but well worth it for the views of Inca city and the surrounding mountains that we will witness.
As the sun rises over Machu Picchu, the ruins take on a whole new level of grandeur. Seeing this iconic site in the early morning light is an unforgettable experience that should not be missed. As the mist clears and the sun brightens up the scenery, Machu Picchu comes to life more and more.
After taking in the breathtaking views, we’ll head down to the ruins and begin our exploration. Machu Picchu is massive, and there’s no way to see it all in one day. Our tour guide will take us through the most important sections of the ruins while also providing information about the history and culture of the Inca people who once called this city home.
Machu Picchu is a unique place, and there’s something truly humbling about standing in the midst of the ruins and contemplating the stories of the ancient people who once walked these paths. The perfect blending of man-made architecture and natural surroundings creates a sense of equilibrium that’s hard to explain in words. It’s a powerful experience to see the city that’s been hidden away from the world for centuries.
After our guided tour, we’ll have the chance to explore the city at our leisure, add our personal touch to our experience, and capture the beauty of the ruins with their stunning surroundings in photographs.
As the evening draws nearer, we’ll begin our journey back to Cusco, taking with us cherished memories, photographs, and an experience that is truly priceless.
Day 4 – Optional Activities and Exploring Aguas Calientes
Our final day of the trip is a more relaxed affair as we spend time in the charming town of Aguas Calientes, located at the foothills of Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes is an excellent place to reflect on our adventure and take in the natural beauty of the region. After breakfast, we’ll have the choice to explore some optional activities in the area. One of the most popular is to take a dip in the hot springs that give the town its name. The water is naturally heated due to the presence of geothermal energy and is reputed to have therapeutic properties, relaxing sore muscles after our long trek.
There are also several hiking trails that lead into the surrounding hills, offering fantastic views of the region. The trails vary in difficulty but are all well marked, leaving us a choice depending on our energy levels and interests.
Those interested in learning more about the history and culture may also want to pay a visit to the Manuel Chavez Ballon Site Museum. This museum houses a large collection of artifacts and exhibits about the Inca Empire, which offers a fascinating insight into the history of the region.
For those looking for a more restful way to spend the day, Aguas Calientes offers fantastic opportunities to indulge in Peruvian food, shopping for handicrafts, and simply taking time to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere in the town.
Finally, as the evening draws closer, we’ll make our way via a train back to Cusco, where we’ll spend our last night in Peru reminiscing about our incredible time in Machu Picchu while taking in the city’s vibrant culture and nightlife.
Conclusion – Tips for Making the Most of Your Machu Picchu Trip
Congratulations! You’ve completed your Machu Picchu adventure, and you’re now back home with incredible memories of the amazing things you’ve done and seen. Whether you hiked the Inca Trail or visited the ruins by bus, you’ve experienced something truly extraordinary that will stay with you forever.
As you reflect on the past few days, there are some tips worth mentioning that can help make your trip to Machu Picchu even more enjoyable in case you plan to visit again or recommend it to others:
Prepare Yourself Mentally and Physically – Travelling to Machu Picchu can be challenging, especially for those who are not used to hiking, high altitudes, and varying weather conditions. It is essential to prepare yourself physically through exercise and training before the trip and mentally by understanding how the altitude may affect you and taking preventative measures against it.
Book In Advance – Make sure you book your trip well in advance, especially if you plan to hike the Inca Trail, since permits are limited.
Choose Your Time of Year Wisely – Although Machu Picchu is open year-round, the weather and visitor volume will vary by season. Selecting the right time of the year to go is very important.
Pack Smart – When travelling to Machu Picchu, you should pack smart by bringing appropriate attire, which includes sun protection, raincoats, hiking shoes, warm clothes for chilly nights, and amenities like sun lotion, medicines, and insect repellent.
Leave Time for Rest and Relaxation – The days of trekking to the ruins and exploring them can be tiring. It is vital to keep some time for rest and relaxation, as it can help you avoid exhaustion and injury.
Take a Guided Tour – Joining a guided tour will not only enhance your understanding of the different aspects of the place but also help you feel more engaged in the overall experience.
Immerse Yourself in Peruvian Culture – Peru offers a rich and unique culture, and experiencing it in the context of your trip to Machu Picchu can help make your trip more memorable.