Machu Picchu is for many people the highlight of their trip and you will understand once you've been there. To get there is easy nowadays by train; the more adventurous traveller takes the challenging 4 day Inca trail and there is also a shorter 2 day trek for those with limited time.
1. The Santuary of Machu Picchu (2430mtr / 7,972ft )
Certainly, the most important thing to do at Machu Picchu... is see the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu! These world-famous restored remains of the pre-Columbian Inca Empire consist of 200 structures – mostly residential, but also including important sites like the sun-oriented Intihuatana, the sacred Temple of the Three Windows and the Temple of the Sun. Other principal points of interest include the Gate of the Sun, the Main Temple and the Condor. Throughout the site, keep an eye out for the sophisticated solid walls characteristic of the Inca – intricate stonework with no mortar. Guided tours of Machu Picchu are not required, but are immensely helpful to visitors with limited knowledge of the history and culture of the Inca. Why travel so far and not opt to gain a much deeper understanding of the place? Machu Picchu is thronged by hordes every day, but visits early or late in the day avoid the worst of the crowds. Early risers are also treated to a gorgeous sunrise and then the dawn light bringing the site to life.
2. The ascent of Huayna Picchu (2720mtr)
Huayna Picchu, or Young Peak, is the oft-pictured mountain rising in the background several hundred meters above the Machu Picchu citadel. A stunning outlook over Machu Picchu and the surrounding area, it has become a very popular hiking destination, so much so that access is now fee-based and limited to 400 daily permits – 200 at 7am and 200 at 10am. Physically fit hikers will reach the top of Huayna Picchu in about 45 minutes, but should not underestimate the climb. It is not an easy trek, especially in the rain. The most dangerous parts involve steep steps with via-ferrata-style support cables and railings. There is even a girth-limiting squeeze through a narrow tunnel. Take care at the summit, which can get crowded. If you plan to return the way you came, plan on a bit more than two full hours for the roundtrip. An alternative descent takes in the ruins of the Temple of the Moon, built within a cave, but is both more difficult and more dangerous. That roundtrip is likely to take more than three hours.
Visiting times of Huayna Picchu: Once you enter Machu Picchu you have 2 time options for climbing Huayna Picchu:
• From 7:00am to 8:00 am - first shift
• From 10:00am to 11:00am - second shift
• Both time options have a daily limit of 200 people
Prices of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu combined ticket:
• Adult US$ 67.00
• Student with ISIC card US$43.00
• Youth 8-16yrs US$43.00
• Child 0-7yrs FREE
3. The climb up Machu Picchu Mountain (3,051mtr)
With crowds clamoring for Huayna Picchu, a cheaper, less well-known and more off-the-beaten-track climb leads to Cerro Machu Picchu. This more tranquil and natural alternative trek promises views that some people claim are better than those from Huayna Picchu. For the path to Machu Picchu Mountain, follow the Inca Trail from the Machu Picchu ruins past the Caretakers Hut toward Inti Punku (The Sun Gate). Approximately 150 meters after the hut, watch for a sign to Machu Picchu Mountain. The first hour of the walk passes through a mix of habitats populated by exotic birds and plants. The final 45 minutes is steep and tough, but the reward is utterly breathtaking.
Visiting times (as per Sept 2015):
- From 7:00am to 8:00 am - first shift
- From 09:00am to 10:00am - second shift
Prices of Machupicchu and Machupicchu Mountain combined ticket:
• Adult US$ 62.00
• Student with ISIC card US$40.00
• Youth 8-16yrs US$40.00
• Child 0-7yrs FREE
Note: all prices mentioned are for the combined entrance tickets that include Machu Pucchu
4. The trek up Putukusi Mountain (2,592mtr)
Although not as tall as some of its neighbors, Putukusi (or Happy) Mountain is not for the faint of heart or anyone who suffers from vertigo. For the adventurer, though, the hike to its summit should be a top priority. At the time of writing, this trek is little known, so it offers relief from the crowds; however, it also means you need to know how to take care of yourself. Ladders damaged by floods have now been replaced, but this trail still requires care, caution and good physical condition so you don't slip and fall to your death! (We're not kidding. You should not be overly hasty. Count on the ascent to take more than 90 minutes.) Also required for this adventure are sturdy boots, lots of water, suncream and a hat. The trailhead can be found along the rail track outside of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) when heading toward Machu Picchu citadel. Look to the right for the sign to Putukusi. The path then heads up more than 600 meters, using stone steps and even ladders. Be patient and purposeful when you get to one ladder 60 meters high that pushes into the jungle canopy. There are four more smaller ladders before you're halfway up, but then you're faced with a steep uphill zigzag path to the top.
5. Climb to the Inca Bridge
Some believe that the path of the Inca Bridge was a secret back entrance to Machu Picchu. Like a drawbridge, the bridge itself could even be made impassable across its 20-foot gap in the narrow mountain trail right where it clings to the face of a 1,900-foot cliff. Two long tree trunks could traverse the breach, but when removed, there would be no simple way through.
These days, for security reasons, crossing the bridge itself is forbidden, but you can get very close via a 30-minute flat path from the Caretakers Hut. During the first 15 minutes, you pass through lush cloud-forest vegetation before, at a clearing, the trail narrows to stone track seemingly carved out of the mountain and perched above a sheer vertical drop. Use of the metal and rope hand holds along the way is strongly encouraged, especially when the trail is at its most narrow.
Interested in any of these excursions? Check out our Tour page for tours from 2 to 20 days discovering Peru or contact us to build your own tour.