Spanish is the official language of Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to Machu Picchu. Most hotel representatives, ticket sales operators, and staff aboard the train to Machu Picchu speak Spanish and English. Machu Picchu tours are conducted in many languages.
The currency of Peru is called the Nuevo Sol. Prices are abbreviated as S/.(# amount). The Sol circulates in small copper-colored 10, 20 and 50 centavos and larger 1, 2 and 5 coins. Bills are produced in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Soles. There is only one ATM in Aguas Calientes and no ATM up at the Machu Picchu citadel. Some restaurants accept US dollars for payment and give you any leftover change in Soles (although the exchange rate might not be the best).
Tipping in Peru is accepted practice and a great way to show your appreciation. Of course, tip at your own discretion.
Tour guides & trekking staff tipping recommendations
- Half Day Tour: 10-30 Soles per person
- Full Day Tour: 20-60 Soles per person
* The tip ranges represent a total amount that varies on the number of people in your tour and can be divided amongst everyone.
Machu Picchu & Quechua Beliefs
The Inca didn’t simply chose the location for Machu Picchu for the breathtaking views. In Inca mythology, natural forms and materials, including Andean peaks, are holy and have a life. Many structures within the site where built to honor their beliefs and the sacred mountain spirits, or apus, that surround the citadel. There is no written documentation from Inca times since they didn’t have a system of writing, but many of the cultural practices of the Inca live on through their descendants, the Quechua people.
The Inca built a pathway from the main citadel at Machu Picchu, up to the summit of Huayna Picchu (or Young Mountain in Quechua) which is believed to have been a place of worship for high priests. Among temples and terraces atop Huayna Picchu, a carved rock formation called the “Throne of the Inca” faces directly south to the apu Salkantay. Apu Salkantay is one of twelve sacred apus, or sacred spirits, who serve as protectors of the Quechua people and their crops and livestock.
The Sacred Rock is a large polished monolith rock resting upon a pedestal just before the checkpoint for the Huayna Picchu hike. An offset triangular shape was carved into the top of Sacred Rock and mirrors the formation of Putucusi Mountain behind it. Although the specific purpose for this site has been lost to time, locals today continue to pay homage to their mountain spirits by leaving coca leaf offerings.
At the Temple of the Condor at Machu Picchu, two large boulders create the bird’s expanded wings and stones laid out on the ground make its head, beak, and collar. The Inca believed that when a person died their soul was carried to eternity on the wings of the condor. Present-day Quechua beliefs continue to honor this animal who connects them and the cosmos.
In present times, Machu Picchu continues to be a spiritual haven for the Quechua people and travelers from all over the world respect its otherworldly essence.