There is no doubt that Machu Picchu is one of South America’s leading tourist destinations. No trip to Peru would be complete without visiting this impressive ancient Inca site. With so much information online, we decided to collect and summarize the most important facts about Machu Picchu. Here you can find all the answers to your questions about visiting this spectacular sight.
Machu Picchu is located in the Andes Mountains of Peru, in the Urubamba province, above the Sacred Valley. The citadel is located northwest of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire.
Yes. It is possible to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back all in one day if you leave Cusco early enough. It is even possible to do a one-day Inca Trail starting and ending in Cusco. However, we recommend making sure you are acclimatized to the altitude (by including a few days in the Sacred Valley beforehand).
Most of our travelers finish the guided tour in Machu Picchu in 2-3 hours. There are a few different routes you can take. For a detailed explanation of the different routes in Machu Picchu check out our article on Machu Picchu’s new rules for 2022. Those who would like to see Machu Picchu from a different perspective can also buy tickets to climb to:
Another popular alternative if you like to hike is following the path to Sun Gate or IntiPunku (the last highlight of the Inca Trail). This does not require an extra entrance fee and is a moderate three-to-four-hour hike from Machu Picchu. The trail’s ascent is mostly gradual (only 30 degrees in angle) until the last 20 minutes which is more inclined.
It is necessary to buy your ticket for Machu Picchu before arrival. Especially in the peak months, it may be hard to get availability for your desired time slot, so make sure to choose your ticket well in advance. Discounts for children and students under 25 years of age are also available if visitors submit valid identification before purchase.
Machu Picchu itself is not a difficult hike. You will simply follow one of the routes as you make your way through the citadel. There will be plenty of time for taking pictures and learning about the rich history of the site. If you are feeling up to a challenge, you could also decide to hike Mountain Machu Picchu. The four-to-five-hour hike is steep, but the amazing view is worth it! Another, more popular option is the infamous Wayna Picchu hike. Known for its daring summit and minimal security, this two- to-three-hour hike offers incredible views of the citadel.
It depends. Many travelers believe that by spending the night in Aguas Calientes they will be able to see the citadel with fewer travelers, which is not always the case (especially in the high season from July & August). In fact, official statistics shared by the local authorities and the train companies indicate that the peak hours are before midday. Furthermore, the citadel is often foggy in the early hours of the day. You have better odds of good weather if you visit the citadel in the afternoon.
If you can only travel to Machu Picchu in the rainy season (December – March) and you would like to be on the safe side with clear skies and good pictures, then an overnight is recommended. In addition, travelers hiking the Inca Trail from KM 104 (= doing only the last leg of the Inca Trail in one day) also need an overnight in Aguas Calientes. Their visit to Machu Picchu takes place on the following morning.
For your first visit to Machu Picchu it is highly recommended to have a tour guide accompany you. However, it is not mandatory. It is necessary to follow one of the predetermined routes. It is not possible to turn around once the tour is complete. In case you decide to visit Machu Picchu for a second time, after spending a night in Aguas Calientes, you can walk through one of the Machu Picchu routes by yourself.
You could choose to hike to Machu Picchu if you want a more active experience. Many options are available, including the Salkantay hike and the renowned Inca Trail. There are options available for those who choose a challenging or easier walk, and if you do not want to sleep in a tent, there are even some glamping options with private facilities and delectable food. A 1 to 7-day walk to Machu Picchu is an option, depending on your tastes and available time.
Although Machu Picchu is a year-round destination, there are better months to see this spectacular citadel in all its glory. The best time to visit Machu Picchu is the dry season which is from April to October. From November to March, there is lots of rain and the view from Machu Picchu is often covered by clouds. The sunniest months are June and July, which also means these months are the busiest. Our recommendation would be to visit Machu Picchu in May or September, the weather should be nice and there will be fewer visitors than in peak summer months.
To keep all visitors safe, the local authorities have created a list of rules and protocols for all visits to Machu Picchu while the coronavirus remains a threat. Our team in Cusco have visited Machu Picchu recently and summed up their own experience. Check out our article on the new rules for Machu Picchu in 2022.
Altitude sickness can appear at altitudes of 2,400 – 2,500 m (7,874 ft – 8,000 ft) above sea level or higher. Since Cusco has a much higher altitude than Machu Picchu, we recommend transferring to a hotel in or near the Sacred Valley upon arriving in Cusco. Furthermore, we recommend taking it easy for the first day or so to become acclimated to the altitude. Avoid large meals and alcohol and make sure to stay hydrated. Try some muña or coca tea, local remedies for the altitude. Similarly, Gatorade (or Powerade) is also a great way to battle altitude sickness.
Absolutely. Machu Picchu is safe for adults and kids alike. There are also many sights in the area that are great options for families and kids.
It is estimated that Machu Picchu was built at the height of the Inca Empire around the mid-15th century. It is believed that Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the 9th ruler of the Inca Empire, constructed the citadel. Located in the center of one of the largest empires in the Americas, the purpose of the site during the time of the Inca reign is still a mystery. Some historians believe that Machu Picchu was a military stronghold or a sacred religious site for Inca leaders.
The citadel was abandoned approximately 100 years after its construction after the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire. Luckily, the Spanish never came across Machu Picchu due to its secluded location and therefore did not destroy the citadel. Machu Picchu remained largely abandoned (except for some peasants who occupied the site) for hundreds of years until the explorer Hiram Bingham III found it in 1911. While searching for the Lost City of the Incas, Bingham came across a local farmer who shared the location of Machu Picchu. In 1983 UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a world heritage site. In 2007 the citadel was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.