Why travel to Machu Picchu
Set 8,000 breathtaking feet above sea level and veiled in clouds that rise from the floor of the Urubamba River Valley, the Inca citadel in the sky is one of the most impressive historical sites in the Americas and the cornerstone of many Machu Picchu tour packages.
Spanish conquistadores never reached the “Lost City,” sparing Machu Picchu from the insatiable thirst for gold and plunder that resulted in the destruction of most other Inca sacred places. Machu Picchu is unique for both its dramatic mountaintop setting and its relatively excellent state of preservation.
The Incas began construction of Machu Picchu around AD 1430. The citadel was most likely abandoned as Spanish soldiers began to encroach and wreak devastation on the Inca Empire, centered in Cusco. The original purpose of Machu Picchu remains unclear; theories range from center for agricultural experimentation to a sacred temple for priests dedicated to astronomical observation to royal estate for the Inca elite.
For centuries after the conquest, Machu Picchu, meaning “Old Mountain,” was a secret treasure known only to locals. Everything changed in 1911, when the American explorer Hiram Bingham, guided by a local Quechua-speaking family, “discovered” the site and brought its wonders to international attention.
Today, Machu Picchu is one of the best remaining examples of the ingenuity and audacity of Inca architecture and stonemasonry. The city was sculpted from huge blocks of stone, carved with incredible skill and fitted together without mortar or cement. These stone constructions have resisted both the gentle passage of time and the occasional violence of an earthquake-prone geography.
A Machu Picchu tour package is the best way to experience the history, architecture, and natural beauty of the Inca citadel. Few sights in the world compare to that of swirling mists parting at dawn as the sun rises over craggy mountains to illuminate this mystifying city, which stands as a lasting testament to the power, imagination, and ultimate tragedy of the Inca Empire.
What to do in Machu Picchu
Learn more about the rise and fall of the Inca civilization in the context of this city that engages the imagination and exhilarates the spirit. Machu Picchu tour packages include guided visits to important sites within the citadel, which is comprised of over 150 structures including palaces, temples, dwellings, and storerooms. Take time to get lost in the Machu Picchu’s 75 acres of wonder, explore its special treasures, and climb some of its 10,000 steps.
The city is separated into 3 sectors – agricultural, urban, and religious – each of which merges seamlessly into the mountain’s geologic features. The Intihuatana Stone, one of the top Machu Picchu attractions, marks the solstices and equinoxes and may have acted as an astronomical calendar that dictated agricultural cycles and other ritual events. The Temple of the Sun and the Room of Three Windows are both thought to be devoted to the sun god, Inti.
The central buildings of Machu Picchu showcase the classical Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut and fit together without mortar and with astounding precision. Many wall junctions in the central city are so perfect that not even a blade of grass fits between the stones.
Don’t miss the Funerary Rock Hut, from where you will enjoy the most dramatic views of the whole citadel. From here you can trek back down the zigzagging stairs and enter the Royal Tomb, where it is believed that Inca kings were mummified.
When to visit Machu Picchu
The Inca citadel is a year round destination. But there are two clearly marked seasons (wet and dry) that might factor into the scheduling of your Machu Picchu tour package. Dry season runs from April to October and the rainy season fills the remaining months. Temperatures in Machu Picchu vary by elevation – short sleeves will do for a tour around the main site but you might need a windbreaker if you climb the higher Montaña Machu Picchu.
For views of Machu Picchu unobstructed by rainclouds or mist, the dry season from April to October is the best time to visit the citadel. Morning mists are common throughout the year, but these usually burn off in the course of the day. Rainfall (anything from drizzle to downpour) tends to be intermittent rather than constant. Bring an umbrella or a plastic poncho in the rainy season.
Arrange your Machu Picchu visit for the early morning or late afternoon, when crowds are smaller. Early birds can beat the crowds by spending the night in an Aguas Calientes hotel and visiting the citadel first thing in the morning. The first buses to Machu Picchu start running at 5:30 a.m., arriving in time to enjoy the beautiful sunrise.
Hiking the famous Inca Trail is without a doubt the most adrenaline-inducing way to visit Machu Picchu, but be aware that the trail is closed for maintenance for the entire month of February, which is also the peak of the rainy season. Of course, you can still take the train to Machu Picchu, and those daring enough to face the rain in the pursuit of thrills, can choose from alternative treks such as Lares or Salkantay.
Finally we made it to Macchu Picchu. One word, 'breathtaking'', describes the scene. The clouds that had hovered over us in the early morning gradually parted revealing the beautiful site and the ancient ruins were crystal clear. After arriving at Macchu Picchu we were able to take our time and stroll though the ruins.
Ita Tesla & Dave Tonna (Toronto, Canada) traveled to Machu Picchu in April 2011
Our last full day finally took us to Machu Picchu. Even the train ride to Aguas Calientes was quite enthralling with the river at its highest. Machu Picchu is, to say the least, an amazing place. It leaves one in awe of the magnitude of the Incas and how they managed nature. We should take some lessons from them.
Derek & Yvonne Sandison (Toronto, Canada) traveled to Machu Picchu in February 2011
The two days I spent traveling via the Vista Dome train and hiking the last portion of the Inca Trial to arrive at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu were absolutely magical! Along the trail we arrived at Winaywayna (Forever Young), the last urban center before reaching the Sun Gate and the sacred city of Machu Picchu. This site was simply stunning and made the pending arrival at Inti Punku (Sun Gate) even more exciting.
Michelle Morgan (CA, USA) traveled to Machu Picchu in November 2010
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Top Pick Machu Picchu Hotel
Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel 5*
Kilometer 110 Via Ferrea, Aguas Calientes
The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is a naturalist's haven. Conveniently nestled in the verdant Andean cloud forest, this lovely hotel is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the astonishing flora and fauna of the region. The eco-friendly hotel resembles an Andean village and is comprised of charming white-washed cottages decorated with modern indigenous art as well as authentic pre-Columbian artifacts. With a commitment to indulging the whims of its guests, this luxury hotel expertly combines nature and comfort to create a one-of-a-kind Machu Picchu experience. Try some regional dishes at the excellent restaurant overlooking the Urubamba River.
Restaurant Room Service Internet Laundry Service Parking
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El Mapi Hotel 4*
Av. Pachacutec 109 - Aguas Calientes
Ideally located near Aguas Calientes train station and close to where the buses depart for the short ride to Machu Picchu, the recently renovated El Mapi Hotel is perfect for travelers who want to catch the sunrise over the ruins. The modern and stylish hotel aims to be the best in its category and offers great value services and décor. It also boasts beautifully landscaped gardens and a hot tub where guests can relax at night with a cocktail after a delicious dinner.
Restaurant Room Service Laundry ServiceInternet
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Andina Luxury Hotel 3*
Avenida Imperio de los Incas S/N, Aguas Calientes
Travelers in search of convenience and comfort on a trip to Machu Picchu will be pleased with this excellent hotel. Situated just 200 meters from the train station, this wonderfully appointed Aguas Calientes hotel boasts 31 fully-equipped, tastefully decorated rooms. Each accommodation features wooden furnishings, a large bed covered with comfortable bed linens, and some rooms also provide breathtaking views of the river. Andean art adds the finishing touch to the room. All accommodations come with internet, an LCD screen cable television, and air-conditioning, while the hotel itself serves guests with a restaurant, bar, sauna, and gym.
Restaurant Room Service Internet Laundry Service Gym Parking Spa Swimming Pool
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