Machu Picchu is the most famous of the Inca ruins and one of the most visited sites in South America. It’s also one of the most difficult to get to, requiring you to hike up a mountain or take a train ride that takes hours. But if you can manage it, it’s well worth it!
The site was built around 1450 by Inca emperor Pachacuti as his personal retreat from Cusco (the capital city). It was abandoned after his death but later rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The site consists of several buildings including temples and palaces as well as agricultural terraces used for growing crops like corn and potatoes on steep hillsides where no other crops could grow without irrigation systems built into them so they wouldn’t wash away during heavy rains or freeze during cold winters when temperatures drop below freezing point regularly throughout Peru’s mountainous regions.
Getting to Machu Picchu
There are a few different ways to get to Machu Picchu. The most common is by train – jaw-dropping, by the way – which takes about five hours from Cusco and costs about $100 USD per person – the cost depends on the train, time, and day you choose, so try to organize your trip so you don’t get surprised by prices. You can also take a bus – which I personally don’t recommend to save some money. It will take about eight hours and cost less than half of what the train costs ($50-$70).
The best way, in my opinion, is to take the Inca trail in Ollantaytambo. However, if you choose to do that you MUST remember that:
- First, you’ve got to book way in advance. About six months. The Inca Trail is a protected path. It is an original Inca road preserved from the times of the Empire and it is only permitted a small number of people to be walking there daily.
- Second, you MUST be in shape and used to hikes. It’s going to take you around 4 days to get there, camping, no showering among things that I don’t need to mention. For that, you will hire a guide and will hike with a group. They are ready to support you with animals to carry the luggage and people to cook.
- Third, treat nature and history with respect. You will be surrounded by tropical forests and heritage sites. So, don’t be a jerk.
There are many lodging options near Machu Picchu, but you’ll want to make sure you book well in advance and plan your trip during the off-season if possible. In order to avoid crowds and long lines at the entrance gate, it’s best to visit during January through March or October through December (when most people are traveling). Another reminder is that this is not supposed to be a luxury trip. This is a place to connect with energy and nature. The best options are in Aguas Calientes, the village by the foot of the mountain, and Cusco, if you prefer to take only a day trip to Machu Picchu. There are excellent inns and hostels in the area.
Exploring the Ruins
When you arrive at Machu Picchu, you’ll be greeted by a breathtaking view of the ruins and surrounding mountains. This is an experience that will stay with you forever! I was punched by an energy that I still can’t explain. I could just sit and cry for minutes. Hiking around Machu Picchu is just impossible to describe. I must say, until today, it is my favorite place in the world.
You can’t forget that you are in the middle of the amazon rainforest over a mountain. So, please, keep your attention on every step you take. There are wild animals, rocks, and cliffs. You can fall and hurt yourself badly if you don’t pay attention. – also be run over by some llamas, so keep your eyes open!
- What to bring: water and some snacks, such as protein bars and fruits. It’s very easy to be sick there due to the altitude – believe me, I know! So, keep yourself fed and hydrated, because there are huge changes in puking.
- What to wear (and not wear): remember that this is not a trip for fancy clothes. Comfortable hiking clothes and shoes are a must. Depending on the time of the year, some thermal shirts and pants.
In addition to the cultural and historical aspects of Machu Picchu, there are also many festivals and traditions that you can experience. The Inti Raymi festival is a celebration of the Inca sun god, which takes place every June 24th at Sacsayhuaman. During this event, locals gather together in traditional dress and dance around a fire altar while singing hymns dedicated to their gods.
Other events include an annual pilgrimage from Cusco to Machu Picchu on foot every July 21st (the day before Inti Raymi) called Qoyllor Pukyu or “Path of Light” which was created by locals who wanted their children exposed to nature rather than staying indoors playing video games all day long!
Don’t forget the beautiful Cusco Cathedral, where Jesus wears Inca covers showing how the cultures met. – let’s try not to mention the blood history of the Spanish conquering.
Speaking about the Spanish, another must-see is the Qoricancha, the temple of the sun, right in the middle of Cusco. It was one of my favorite places. It is a classic cultural clash and it displays perfectly the superiority of Inca architecture and engineering over the Europeans.
Qoricanca, downtown Cusco Plaza de Armas de Cusco
There are a few places where you can buy souvenirs and traditional items. The first is at the market in Ollantaytambo, where you’ll find everything from alpaca sweaters to jewelry made out of coca leaves. You can also purchase these items at any of the local shops in Cusco or Aguas Calientes as well as some shops near Machu Picchu itself (though they tend to be more expensive).
If you’re looking for something unique that no one else will have, try visiting one of the artisanal workshops near Ollantaytambo or Cusco. And the trip to Valle Sagrado is a must. You will find a city called Pisac, where you will find the best silver you can get.
Just go for it!
In conclusion, Machu Picchu is a place that is worth visiting. It’s not just for history buffs or those who want to see ancient ruins; it’s also for those who want an adventure.
The experience taught me that there are still places in this world where we can go on an adventure without having to worry about electricity or Wi-Fi. It gave me time away from my phone and computer screen so I could focus on what was around me–the mountains, trees, animals, and people who were there with me in Peru.
Don’t forget guys!
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