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Machu Picchu

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Travel Guide South America Peru Aguas Calientes Machu Picchu

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Introduction

machu picchu

machu picchu

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Machu Picchu is one of the most famous historical sites in South America, let alone Peru, but it remained unknown by the outside world until about 100 years ago. Hiram Bingham, a United States senator and explorer, rediscovered the Incan ruins in 1911 making this famous ruin known all over the world nowadays.

Close to a century later, Machu Picchu is one of the world's most popular destinations, listed since 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More recently, it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Although it can be reached by train, more intrepid travellers prefer to hike there via the Inca Trail, a multi-day hike along ancient Inca roads and there are even cheap alternative ways to get there by minibus and walk along the tracks of the railway (see getting there section).

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History

Experts think that Machu Picchu was originally constructed around 1450 while the Inca Empire was at its height. It was only inhabited for around a century and up until now it remains unclear what its purpose exactly was. Its location near sacred geographical features suggests that it was at least spiritually significant to the Incas.

The Spanish conquistadors, who destroyed many Inca sites, never discovered Machu Picchu, despite its location near Cusco. It was only by chance that Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, as he was brought there by some of the few locals who were aware of the presence of this place. In 1948, he published a book about how he found the ruins, named The Lost City of the Incas.

Since its rediscovery, tourists have flocked to Machu Picchu, which now receives over 400,000 visitors each year. Even though it isn't the biggest or most complete of the Inca sites, its beautiful and convenient location has made it the most popular Inca site in Peru or even South America.

Recently, the influx of visitors has led to concerns about the environmental impact of tourism on the site. In order to limit the negative effects of tourism somewhat, the Peruvian government has limited the number of people allowed to get to the site.

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Opening Hours

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu is open from 7:00am to 5:00pm daily. It's also possible to organise a nocturnal tour between 6:00pm and 1:00am through several agencies in Aguas Calientes.

In case you would like to hike up to Wayna Picchu (from the top of which there is an incredible view towards Machu Picchu itself), you have to get up early. The guard at the beginning of the path will only let you in until 1:00pm. Regardless of the opening time of the guarding hut only 400 visitors are allowed to hike to Wayna Picchu per day.

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Cost

Entry to Machu Picchu costs 122 Soles. You will also need to pay for the bus from Aguas Calientes to the entrance, which is a relatively small fee.

See the article about the Inca Trail for more information about the expenses of hiking to Machu Picchu.

There are two options for the train trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu:

  • Vistadome: one way 214.42 Soles ($71 USD), or return 429.00 Soles ($142 USD)
  • Backpacker: one way 144.96 Soles ($48 USD), or return 290.00 Soles ($96 USD)

Check the Peru Rail website to confirm the exact latest timetable and prices.

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Getting There

By Train

The easiest way to get to Machu Picchu is via the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The train leaves fairly early in the morning and returns to Cusco around 4:00pm, which only allows you a few hours at the site. There are several trains to choose from, so try and stay as long as you can. If you can, it's worth trying to stay at Aguas Calientes overnight.

There is also a second, much cheaper train, which is used by the inhabitants of the villages in the Sacred Valley. Unfortunately, it is not open to tourists.

Inca Trail

The other way to get to Machu Picchu is on foot along the Inca Trail. This is a very popular trek with several different options. There is a one-day trail, a 4-day trail and even a longer one than that.

In an effort to keep the negative impact from tourism to a minimum, the Peruvian government has limited the number of people allowed to hike the Inca Trail on any given day to a maximum of 500. Therefore, if you're planning to visit the ruins during the high season (from June to August), it is a very good idea to book ahead.

Read more about the Inca Trail.

The Non-Gringo Way

If you fancy something a little different, are strapped for cash or simply just want to avoid the commercial routes and the Gringos, then there is another route which is a much cheaper alternative. First of all you will need to take a bus to Santa María which should cost you around 15 soles (March 2009). The bus terminal is basically a street outside of the centre so you´ll need to get a taxi there. This is a long and winding trip with great scenery that should take around 6 hours. When arriving there will be people waiting to take you in a Combi to a Hydroelectric plant for around 10 soles. From the Hydroelectric plant you can walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes (the town next to Machu Picchu). The walk is beautiful if you can do it in the day (2 hours) but you may arrive at night (3 hours) so it's a good idea to bunch with other travellers and take a torch as there are some dodgy bridges to cross over the treacherous river Urubamba.

To return you'll need to set off in the morning before lunch time to make it in time for the train that arrives at the Hydroelectric plant (around 1:00pm for us but ask the locals). It's quite an experience seeing the train arrive and the chaos that ensues and as so many people pile off the train there are many little stalls selling drinks, chocolates and even meals if you need one. There is normally a bunch of Combis waiting to take people to either Santa María or many more to Cuzco for around 40 soles.

This way you have no guides, it can be a lot of fun as you meet other travellers and travel with locals, at the end it´ll give you a good sense of acheivement and you'll still have spare cash in the wallet.

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Eat and Drink

There are a basic café and a restaurant at the entrance to Machu Picchu, but these are pretty expensive. There are also a few restaurants around the railway station in Aguas Calientes.

You are not supposed to eat at the site itself, but as long as you don't litter and aren't sitting right in front of a guard, you're likely to be left to eat in peace.

Make sure you buy plenty of water from the sellers in Aguas Calientes as it's not possible to buy at the site itself and the restaurants at the top sell water at a vastly inflated price.

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Sleep

There is only one hotel inside Machu Picchu, which is the Machu Picchu Santuary Lodge. It is very expensive, with the cheapest room costing an extraordinary $795 USD per night. The cheaper option is to stay in Aguas Calientes.

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Hotel SantuarioAv. Hermanos Ayar s/nHotel-
Gringo Bill's HostalAvenida el Sol 520 oficina de Gringo Bill´s Machupicchu PuebloGuesthouse-
Hotel Hanaqpacha InnProlongacion Imperio de Los Incas Mz 5, Lote 34Hotel-
Hatuchay Tower Machu Picchu HotelCarretera Puente Ruinas Mz 4 Aguas Calientes-Machu PicchuHotel-
Hostal de Turistas ChaskaAv. Hermanos Ayar s/n, Urb. Las Orquideas,MachupicGuesthouse-
Hostal VarayocAv. Imperio de los Incas 114, MachupicchuGuesthouse79
Hotel La Pequeña CasitaAv. Hermanos Ayar Mz,13, Lt. 11,Hotel70
Hatun Pachamama InnLas Orquideas L- 5, Machu PicchuHOTEL-
Hotel Inti PataAv. Imperio de los Incas L- BHOTEL-
Hotel Wiracocha InnJr. Wiracocha s/nHotel75
Hotel Santuario del InkaAv. Wiracocha s/nHOTEL-
Pirwa Hostels Machu PicchuTupac Inca Yupanqui # 103Hostel80
Hotel MuyurinaCalle Lloque Yupanqui 107HOTEL-
Terrazas del IncaCalle Wiracocha M-18-4 Machu Picchu PuebloGUESTHOUSE83
Machu Picchu Green NatureUrbanizacion Las Orquideas D-8Hotel81
Supertramp HostelCalle Chaskatika, Barrio Las Orquideas Plaza de la CulturaHOSTEL81
Pirwa Bed and Breakfast Machu PicchuWinay Wayna M-22GUESTHOUSE-
Apu Ausangate HostalCalle Sinchi Roca Nº B-3 Aguas Calientes MachupicchuHOSTEL-
Hostal RumillaqtaWillku Wakanki Aguas CalientesHOTEL-
Inti wiñaywayna hotel - Grupo Inti Machu PicchuAv. pachacuteq s/nHotel-
Killa Inn hotel - Grupo Inti Machu PicchuCalle Wiñaywayna B3 Barrio las orquídeasHotel-
Hatun Inti - Grupo Inti Machu PicchuAv. Imperio de los Incas s/nHotel-
Yellow RiverQuellomayo Santa TeresaHostel-
Inti Orquideas Hotel - Grupo Inti Machu PicchuCalle Wiñaywayna B-3Hotel-
MACHUPICCHU MUNAY TIK'AApartment-
Margarita's HouseCalle Chaska T'ika C-6GUESTHOUSE73
Sol de OroCalle Chaska T'ika C-7GUESTHOUSE67
Hostal QuillaAv. Pachacuteq Nro. 705HOTEL-
WillcamayuAv. Imperio de Los Incas Nro 115HOTEL-
Hostal Imperio De Los InkasAv. Pachacutec 602HOTEL-
The Tayta HotelCalle Yahuar Huacac 209HOTEL-
Awki SamanaPlaza Manco Capac Machupicchu Agua CalientesHOTEL-
Bright Hostel Machu PicchuCalle Willku 107, Barrio Las Orquidias M33 L-3 Aguas CalientesHOSTEL-
Hotel Inka TownCalle Wiñaywayna c - 12,Urb. Las OrquideasHOTEL-
Ecopackers MachupicchuAvenida Imperio de los Incas N-136HOSTEL-

The Non-Gringo Way

If you fancy something a little different, are strapped for cash or simply just want to avoid the commercial routes and the Gringos, then there is another route which is a much cheaper alternative. First of all you will need to take a bus to Santa María which should cost you around 15 soles (March 2009). The bus terminal is basically a street outside of the centre so you´ll need to get a taxi there. This is a long and winding trip with great scenery that should take around 6 hours. When arriving there will be people waiting to take you in a ´´Combi´´ to a Hydroelectric plant for around 10 soles. From the Hydroelectric plant you can walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes (the town next to Machu Picchu). The walk is beautiful if you can do it in the day (2 hours) but you may arrive at night (3 hours) so it´s a good idea to bunch with other travellers and take a torch as there are some dodgy bridges to cross over the treacherous river Urubamba.

To return you´ll need to set off in the morning before lunch time to make it in time for the train that arrives at the Hydroelectric plant (around 1:00pm for us but ask the locals). It´s quite an experience seeing the train arrive and the chaos that ensues and as so many people pile off the train there are many little stalls selling drinks, chocolates and even meals if you need one. There is normally a bunch of Combis waiting to take people to either Santa María or many more to Cuzco for around 40 soles.

This way you have no guides, it can be a lot of fun as you meet other travellers and travel with locals, at the end it´ll give you a good sense of acheivement and you´ll still have spare cash in the wallet.

Top

edit

Eat and Drink

There are a basic café and a restaurant at the entrance to Machu Picchu, but these are pretty expensive. There are also a few restaurants around the railway station in Aguas Calientes.

You are not supposed to eat at the site itself, but as long as you don't litter and aren't sitting right in front of a guard, you're likely to be left to eat in peace.

Make sure you buy plenty of water from the sellers in Aguas Calientes as it's not possible to buy at the site itself and the restaurants at the top sell water at a vastly inflated price.

Top

edit

Sleep

There is only one hotel inside Machu Picchu, which is the Machu Picchu Santuary Lodge. It is very expensive, with the cheapest room costing an extraordinary $795 USD per night.

The cheaper option is to stay in Aguas Calientes.

TPIDPropertyAddressTypeLatitudeLongitude
11358Hotel SantuarioAv. Hermanos Ayar s/nHotel-13.5321100000000-71.9738460000000
11359Gringo Bill's HostalAvenida el Sol 520 oficina de Gringo Bill´s Machupicchu PuebloGuesthouse-13.1583333000000-72.5313889000000
11360Hotel Hanaqpacha InnProlongacion Imperio de Los Incas Mz 5, Lote 34Hotel-12.9938529000000-72.1087646000000
11361Hatuchay Tower Machu Picchu HotelCarretera Puente Ruinas Mz 4 Aguas Calientes-Machu PicchuHotel-13.1583333000000-72.5313889000000
19283Hostal de Turistas ChaskaAv. Hermanos Ayar s/n, Urb. Las Orquideas,MachupicGuesthouse-13.1557968000000-72.5230693000000
17421Hostal VarayocAv. Imperio de los Incas 114, MachupicchuGuesthouse-13.5321100000000-71.9738460000000
20370Hotel Boutique La CabanaAv. Pachacutec Mz 20, Lt 3Hotel-13.0687767000000-72.4328613000000
22493Hotel La Pequeña CasitaAv. Hermanos Ayar Mz,13, Lt. 11,Hotel-13.1549611000000-72.5240993000000
16207Andean Magic Machupicchu HotelLas Orquideas L- 5, Machu PicchuHotel-13.5321100000000-71.9738460000000
19284Hotel Plaza Andina MachupicchuAv. Pachacuteq Mza.20 Lote 9Hotel-13.1583333000000-72.5313889000000
8243Hotel Royal Inti Inn MachupicchuAv. Pachacuteq N° 8, MachupicchuHotel-13.1555461000000-72.5228118000000
19285Hotel Wiracocha InnJr. Wiracocha s/nHotel-13.1583333000000-72.5313889000000
11363Hotel Inti Punku Machu PicchuM-24 Urb. Las Orquideas,MachupicchuHotel-13.1583333000000-72.5313889000000
19286Pirwa Hostels Machu PicchuTupac Inca Yupanqui # 103Hostel-13.1556819000000-72.5237131000000
26029Hostal MuyurinaAlameda Hermanos Ayar - Mza. 9 Lote 6Hostel-13.1538641000000-72.5230264000000
51219Terrazas del IncaCalle Wiracocha M-18-4 Machu Picchu PuebloGuesthouse
55755Machu Picchu Green NatureUrbanizacion Las Orquideas D-8Hotel-13.1747683676000-72.5430679321000
58222Supertramp HostelCalle Chaskatika, Barrio Las Orquideas Plaza de la CulturaHostel
60856Pirwa Bed and Breakfast Machu PicchuWinay Wayna M-22Hostel
61354Apu Ausangate HostalCalle Sinchi Roca Nº B-3 Aguas Calientes MachupicchuHostel
62533Hostal RumillaqtaWillku Wakanki Aguas CalientesHotel
67798Inti wiñaywayna hotel - Grupo Inti Machu PicchuHotel
67799Killa Inn hotel - Grupo Inti Machu PicchuCalle Wiñaywayna B3 Barrio las orquídeasHotel
67800Hatun Inti - Grupo Inti Machu PicchuAv. Imperio de los Incas s/nHotel-13.1550970000000-72.5251620000000
67801Yellow RiverQuellomayo, Santa Teresa,La Convención, CuscoGuesthouse-13.1626080000000-72.5459860000000
67802Inti Orquideas Hotel - Grupo Inti Machu PicchuHotel
69967MACHUPICCHU MUNAY TIK'AApartment
70203Margarita's HouseCalle Chaska T'ika C-6Guesthouse
70204Sol de OroCalle Chaska T'ika C-7Guesthouse

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -13.158330
  • Longitude: -72.531390

Contributors

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Machu Picchu Travel Helpers

  • Rhmyers

    took the long way assisted by friends in the state department:

    How to avoid altitude sickness, fog in airport.
    When to visit timing is everything to avoid the crowds.

    Cusco and the Sacred Valley, ... River and Rail.

    Ask Rhmyers a question about Machu Picchu
  • Erwin_mochilero

    I went to Machu Picchu last year, first time, I didn't know much about the history of the place, I had a guide but it was a pretty bad experience.
    Back in Cusco, I met with a local, we talked for like a couple of hours about Machu Picchu. I realized how impressive the place is when you actually know all the history and culture.
    I decided to stay in Lima and started working on an app for iPad that would give tourists the full experience: A plethora of accurate information, interactive maps, and a 3d model of Machu Picchu with information about all the hotspots.
    The app is called “Virtual Series – Machu Picchu” and is available on iTunes, I hope it'll help travelers and tourists enjoy this amazing place!
    Tell me what you think! ;)

    Ask Erwin_mochilero a question about Machu Picchu
  • real-adviser

    i m working in tourism business for many years and i organize myself trips to Machu Picchu every day.
    I have plenty information about train services , tour guides , hotels, great places to visit and non tourist destinations too.

    Ask real-adviser a question about Machu Picchu

This is version 38. Last edited at 5:07 on May 21, 13 by sleepBot. 16 articles link to this page.

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