We have all seen the pictures of Machu Picchu, the amazing Inca City, which sits high atop the Andes Mountains.
As Scott and I hiked a section of the Inca Trail, we entered the Machu Picchu complex from above. It was everything we imagined and more.
Machu Picchu, built in the 15th Century, sits at an elevation of 7,970 feet/2,430 meters. It overlooks the Urubamba River far below. The site was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1983 and is the most popular archeological site in South America.
Machu Picchu is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. Each stone used was cut and placed precisely, so it was unnecessary to use mortar. We could not wrap our minds around the complexity of moving so much stone and turning it into a city!
How To Arrive
There are two ways to visit Machu Picchu:
- By train through the Urubamba Valley, and then by bus up the side of the mountain on sharp switchback turns.
- Hike the Inca Trail and arrive through the Sun Gate, which is high above Machu Picchu.
We chose to hike in and were on a multi-day trek, which included the Lares Valley and then one day on the Inca Trail.
When to Visit
July and August are the most popular months for visitors. We were there in May and found the weather warm and the crowds were not at capacity. In February, the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance and restoration. The only way to visit Machu Picchu at that time is by train and then bus.
When we visited in May 2017, Peru’s Ministry of Tourism allowed 2,500 visitors into Machu Picchu each day.
After we hiked in on the Inca Trail, we only took a few pictures before going back down into the valley. Our full tour of the complex would be the next morning with our guide.
We spent the night before in Aguas Caliente, which is at the foot of the mountain. Before the sun was up, we were in line for the buses with at least a thousand other people. It was crazy, but efficient and we didn’t wait more than an hour before a bus took our group up to Machu Picchu. We were on a multi-day trek with 19 others, plus two guides. Our guide led us around Machu Picchu and explained the different areas as we went.
There are 6,000 terraces which surround Machu Picchu. This prevents the city from falling down the mountain. The engineering and forethought amazed us.
The water supply for the city is still flowing to this day. We were able to see it flow through the stone byways.
Llamas grazed on the terraces and were very popular with tourists taking selfies.
[machu picchu llamas]
After our guided tour, we were allowed to return back to Aguas Caliente or spend more time exploring Machu Picchu on our own.
Scott and I wandered the property with some friends from our hiking group. It was nice to take our time, and see everything at our own pace.
New Rules for Entrance
As of July 1, 2017 there are new rules set for entrance to Machu Picchu.
There will be two entrance times:
A.M.- 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
P.M.- 12:00 noon to 5:30 p.m.
You may only enter the property during your ticketed time frame with a guide. Guides must be officially licensed, and the maximum group size per guide will not exceed 16 people.
There are three set routes to walk on the site and you must choose your route at the time of your ticket purchase. Only soft-soled shoes are permitted to protect the delicate, archeological site.
A visit to Machu Picchu is a must if you visit Peru. An option is available for all fitness levels and abilities.
Please do your research before you visit and be sure to hire reputable guides. It is definitely the experience of a lifetime.
To read more about our time in Peru, please click here.