Perched high upon a ridge, 300 m / 1000 ft above the Urubamba River, is the majestic Inca City of Machu Picchu. Almost as impressive as the ruins themselves is the incredible landscape surrounding them. Standing near the caretaker's hut looking out over Machu Picchu, the jungle covered mountains, and the river far below, it is not hard to imagine why the Incas chose this place to build their city.
Opening hours: 7am-5pm, 6pm-10pm
The Inca Trail, which is part of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, is a one to four day hike which terminates at Machu Picchu. The hike must be done with an agency and reservations should be booked well in advance, particularly in the high season of June to August. Hiking the trail without an agency is prohibited.There are a couple of different starting points for the Inca Trail depending on how many days you want to spend hiking. The traditional four day hike begins at Km 82 of the Cusco - Aguas Calientes rail line. From this point the trail passes more than 30 Inca ruins and traverses through a variety of ecosystems. The most demanding portion of the trail is the second day of the hike, with a climb of 1,200 m / 3,875 ft in elevation gain and two high passes.Some agencies offer a shorter version of the hike which entails either the last two days or just the last day of the hike. These hikes begin at Km 104 of the rail line. From there you must hike up to where the path joins up with the Inca Trail.There are campgrounds at intervals along the trail and one at the base of Machu Pichu where groups set up. Depending on the type of agency you book with and how much you want to spend you can either carry your own backpack or have it transported for you.
Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum
The Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón (Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum) is the archeological site museum for Machu Picchu. The museum opened its doors to the public in late July, 2005.Although this is a relatively small museum compared to others across Peru, the Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum is very well laid out, provides some great information, and is very advanced in terms of presentation. Displays are carefully arranged and very well lit. As visitors enter a room or approach a display, overhead and spotlighting automatically turns on. There is a short video on Machu Picchu which starts up as visitors enter the show room.The museum focuses on the "discovery", excavation, and history of Macchu Picchu. On display are historical photos, including photos of Henry Bingham at Machu Picchu shortly after he came across the ruins, informative write-ups on the construction of Machu Picchu and the life of the Incas, and artifacts found at the site. Outside the museum is a very lush botanical garden running along the river. Some plants are labeled and there are a few short trails. This is a nice shady area to rest on a hot day.The Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum is located at the base of the mountain, below Machu Picchu. It is an easy 25 minute walk from Aguas Calientes down the road leading the Machu Picchu. After crossing a bridge which spans the river there is a sign for Machu Pichu and a sign pointing in the opposite direction which say "Site Museum". Follow this sign down the rough dirt road a short distance to the museum. At the time of writing, transportation options to the museum were limited but this will surely improve in time.
The traditional postcard view over Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu in behind is best achieved from the terracing up near the Caretaker's Hut. To get here take the trail just past the ticket gate which leads up to the left through the trees. The trail ends at a stone wall. If you walk left up hill you will find the Inca Trail where it enters Machu Pichu. Alternatively, take the stairs in the wall which lead to a field and the terracing off to the right, along with magnificent views over Machu Picchu. From this upper level there are stairs in the terracing which will allow you to walk down into the site.The other option is to follow the path from the ticket booth leads straight into the ruins. The first portion, which is the agricultural area, has extensive terracing. From here you will enter into the main section of Machu Picchu. The city is divided into two areas. The area to the left is the Royal and Sacred Areas. The buildings on this side would have been for nobility and ceremonial purposes. To the right is the Secular Area, with a series of smaller buildings. This is where the general population would have lived. These two areas are distinctly divided by a low grassy area in between.Today, llamas wander freely through all areas of Machu Picchu. They can be somewhat intimidating if they decide to pass you on a narrow stairway or walkway but they are used to people and do whatever they want. Unfortunately they are often being followed by swarms of biting flies so they are best avoided.
Huayna Picchu and Temple of the Moon
At the furthest end of the Machu Picchu ruins is a wooden hut with a sign in book for hikers going up to Huayna Picchu and the Temple of the Moon. This steep and strenuous hike takes between one and two hours and must be started before 1:00 pm. The final 20 m / 65 ft of this hike is steep open rock crossed by using a rope and ladder.From the top of Huayna Picchu there are excellent views down over Machu Picchu and the entire area. Terracing runs along one side of the upper portion of the mountain. The temple of the Moon lies beyond the summit down a trail. The temple is actually a natural cave with Inca stonework.Another, lower cave contains more rudimentary stonework, and higher up a doorway and open room lead to another trail which descends from Huayna Picchu. This alternate route is much steeper and involves climbing down a fixed wooden ladder. Visiting the Temple of the Moon will require at least an additional hour.
More Machu Picchu Pictures