Nestled high up in the Andes Mountains in Peru, the 15th century ruins of Machu Picchu have mystified and astounded ever since they were unveiled to the outside world roughly a century ago.
Machu Picchu, a remnant of a once flourishing Incan civilization, continues to draw visitors from all over the world to experience the wonder of the famed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The landmark is an absolute must for anyone thinking about a trip to Peru. Although Machu Picchu isn’t as easy to get to as some of the other famous sites around the world, a few quick tips can have you on your way to planning a once-in-a-lifetime getaway sure to be as visually extravagant as it is illuminating. Here’s a guide on how to get started for anyone hoping to make a Machu Picchu trip a reality.
How to get there:
There are a number of ways to get to Machu Picchu. Although, the easiest method for international travellers is to get started by flying into Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima and connecting to Cusco. Once in Cusco, it’s an easy and very scenic train ride over to Aguas Calientes via Inca Rail or the popular PeruRail, which offers basic options as well as a luxurious Hiram Bingham class in honour of the American archaeologist credited with finding Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes also offers an array of different lodging accommodations aimed at every budget. There are fairly inexpensive hotels right in the main town near the bus line and extremely pricey options closer to the main landmarks.
From Aguas Calientes, three or four buses leave for the ruins every hour during the day. This allows visitors to sit back and enjoy the sights without having to worry about transportation to and from Machu Picchu. For the more adventurous type, a four-day/three-night hike from Aguas Calientes can be a breathtaking jaunt to Machu Picchu, although certainly not for the faint of heart.
Why the big deal about Machu Picchu?
When Hiram Bingham made the ascent to Machu Picchu for the first time in 1911, it would have been hard to believe his eyes as he reached the scattered ruins that had been essentially lost since the Spanish Conquest more than five centuries ago.
Today, visitors usually begin their journey at the Sun Gate and spend the day gawking at famous landmarks like the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Condor, Temple of the Three Windows and the rock of Intihuatana. The astounding rock formations would have been sure to absolutely baffle Bingham upon his arrival, showcasing an advanced civilization able to build monuments nearly in the clouds more than two kilometres above sea level.
More than just temples, Machu Picchu also has a series of ceremonial baths and a remarkable royal tomb that has been the subject of much debate, creating a general sense of awe and mystery for visitors.
At this point, Machu Picchu is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but was voted one of the 7 New Wonders of the World alongside other icons like the Colosseum, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.
When to make the trip:
Figuring out when to go to Machu Picchu can be a little bit tricky. The relatively dry months of July and August tend to be extremely popular and can bring about large swarms of visitors.
While some look to make the trip in January or February to avoid the largest crowds of the year, the very rainy weather in the subtropical region can also complicate plans in a hurry. Although at least a dash of rain should be expected no matter when you go, making it to Machu Picchu in April/May or September/early October can help you miss the peak of tourist season without taking on the heaviest rainfall. No matter when you go, it’s important to book tickets to the ruins well ahead of time. The limited amount of tickets is known to run out during the peak of the year.
How much time should you set aside for your trip?
While you will likely need to plan at least two weeks to fully experience Machu Picchu if you’re planning on walking the 43-kilometre Inca Trail, only four or five days total are really required if you’re planning on staying in Aguas Calientes and utilizing the bus system.
However, there’s also more to see than just Machu Picchu. Travellers also tend to spend time in the nearby Sacred Valley, which is an easy day tour from Ollantaytambo or Cusco.
The Ollantaytambo village is also worth seeing and other popular destinations nearby include the ruins of Pisac and Moray, giving you even more ways to experience the combination of ancient and modern Peruvian culture.
Taking a little time on either end of the trip in Peru’s capital, Lima, can also be a great way to recharge after a long flight or catch your breath before returning home. All in all, there is more than enough to see over the span of 7-10 days, with extensive trips of two weeks offering a more relaxing and all-encompassing way to experience the journey to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is a great destination and guaranteed to provide some amazing memories. Now you’ve got some great ideas for your trip to Machu Picchu, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance as soon as you’ve made a booking. Get a quote today or call one of our friendly team on 1300 819 888 to discuss your requirements.