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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).
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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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.
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:
Check the Peru Rail website to confirm the exact latest timetable and prices.
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.
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.
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 will give you a good sense of achievement and you'll still have spare cash in the wallet.
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.
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.
|Hotel Santuario||Av. Hermanos Ayar s/n||Hotel||-|
|Gringo Bill's Hostal||Avenida el Sol 520 oficina de Gringo Bill´s Machupicchu Pueblo||Guesthouse||-|
|Hotel Hanaqpacha Inn||Prolongacion Imperio de Los Incas Mz 5, Lote 34||Hotel||-|
|Hatuchay Tower Machu Picchu Hotel||Carretera Puente Ruinas Mz 4 Aguas Calientes-Machu Picchu||Hotel||-|
|Hostal de Turistas Chaska||Av. Hermanos Ayar s/n, Urb. Las Orquideas,Machupic||Guesthouse||-|
|Hostal Varayoc||Av. Imperio de los Incas 114, Machupicchu||Guesthouse||77|
|Hotel La Pequeña Casita||Av. Hermanos Ayar Mz,13, Lt. 11,||Hotel||65|
|Hatun Pachamama Inn||Las Orquideas L- 5, Machu Picchu||HOTEL||-|
|Hotel Inti Pata||Av. Imperio de los Incas L- B||HOTEL||-|
|Hotel Wiracocha Inn||Jr. Wiracocha s/n||Hotel||88|
|Hotel Santuario del Inka||Av. Wiracocha s/n||HOTEL||-|
|Pirwa Hostels Machu Picchu||Tupac Inca Yupanqui # 103||Hostel||68|
|Hotel Muyurina||Calle Lloque Yupanqui 107||HOTEL||-|
|Terrazas del Inca||Calle Wiracocha M-18-4 Machu Picchu Pueblo||GUESTHOUSE||81|
|Machu Picchu Green Nature||Urbanizacion Las Orquideas D-8||Hotel||-|
|Supertramp Hostel||Calle Chaskatika, Barrio Las Orquideas Plaza de la Cultura||HOSTEL||82|
|Pirwa Bed and Breakfast Machu Picchu||Winay Wayna M-22||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Apu Ausangate Hostal||Calle Sinchi Roca Nº B-3 Aguas Calientes Machupicchu||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostal Rumillaqta||Willku Wakanki Aguas Calientes||HOTEL||-|
|Inti wiñaywayna hotel - Grupo Inti Machu Picchu||Av. pachacuteq s/n||Hotel||-|
|Killa Inn hotel - Grupo Inti Machu Picchu||Calle Wiñaywayna B3 Barrio las orquídeas||Hotel||-|
|Hatun Inti - Grupo Inti Machu Picchu||Av. Imperio de los Incas s/n||Hotel||-|
|Yellow River||Quellomayo Santa Teresa||Hostel||-|
|Inti Orquideas Hotel - Grupo Inti Machu Picchu||Calle Wiñaywayna B-3||Hotel||-|
|MACHUPICCHU MUNAY TIK'A||Apartment||-|
|Margarita's House||Calle Chaska T'ika C-6||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Sol de Oro||Calle Chaska T'ika C-7||GUESTHOUSE||78|
|Hostal Quilla||Av. Pachacuteq Nro. 705||HOTEL||-|
|Willcamayu||Av. Imperio de Los Incas Nro 115||HOTEL||-|
|Hostal Imperio De Los Inkas||Av. Pachacutec 602||HOTEL||-|
|The Tayta Hotel||Calle Yahuar Huacac 209||HOTEL||-|
|Awki Samana||Plaza Manco Capac Machupicchu Agua Calientes||HOTEL||-|
|Bright Hostel Machu Picchu||Calle Willku 107, Barrio Las Orquidias M33 L-3 Aguas Calientes||HOSTEL||-|
|Hotel Inka Town||Calle Wiñaywayna c - 12,Urb. Las Orquideas||HOTEL||-|
|Ecopackers Machupicchu||Avenida Imperio de los Incas N-136||HOSTEL||-|
Ask Rhmyers a question about Machu Picchu
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 Erwin_mochilero a question about Machu Picchu
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 real-adviser a question about Machu Picchu
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.
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