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Ultimate Guide to Exploring Machu Picchu – Facts, Tours, and History

Ultimate Guide to Exploring Machu Picchu – Facts, Tours, and History

Ready to explore one of the most amazing wonders of the world? Machu Picchu, Peru is one of the most breathtaking historical landmarks in the world.

If you have a passion for historical sites and monuments, Machu Picchu is a place worth visiting. At least, once in your lifetime. You can get there for little to no cost if you use travel hacking methods. We’ve used travel hacking to explore dozens of countries over the past couple of years.

The mysterious Inca ruins of the ancient city perched high in the peaks of the Peruvian Andes, hide the history of the Inca Empire.

The classical Inca-style citadel, built from stone and fit together without mortar has many  beautiful examples of Inca architecture carved in it. This UNESCO World Heritage site attracts thousands of tourists each year, making Machu Picchu one of the most popular tourism destinations and cultural and natural heritage sites in Peru.

Although you will find loads and loads of mesmerizing photos of the site on the internet, nothing encompasses exploring the historical site yourself.

If you want to go trekking or spend a single day amidst the mysterious ruins, don’t worry.

Here’s a guide on how to explore Machu Picchu and everything you need to know about the place.

What is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu can refer to Mountain Machu Picchu, or the lost city of the Incas built as a historic sanctuary for Inca Emperors in a tropical mountain forest. An adventurer’s bucket list experience, Machu Picchu is the site of ancient Incan ruins high atop the Andes mountain in Peru.

It stands above the Sacred Valley on a high mountain ridge in Eastern Cordillera, about 50 miles northwest of Cusco. The Vilcamayo River flows past the ruins.

Once the capital of the Incan Empire in the 15th century, it’s now a mysterious blend of new and old. Although restored several times throughout history, it still holds the original Incan touch with the stone-built structures and walls.

Machu Picchu Mountain

The unique historical and architectural location draws thousands of visitors from around the globe.

If you are lucky enough to be one of them, keep reading to find out what to see at this popular tourist destination.

Machu Picchu History

Being declared as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Machu Picchu is the most famous archaeological site in South America.

Just like the Pyramids in Egypt and the Colosseum in Italy, the historical citadel is a must-see for any travel enthusiast.

The lost city of the Incas, wrapped by mists in the middle of lush green vegetation, remained hidden during the 16th Century Spanish Conquest of the Inca civilization. It was left forgotten until American explorer Hiram Bingham arrived, discovering it again in the 20th Century.

In the same era, UNESCO declared Machu Picchu as a World Heritage Site. In 2007, it was counted among the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Here’s how you can discover the hidden citadel of Machu Picchu.

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How to Get to Machu Picchu

A trek to Machu Picchu is always found on top of a traveler’s bucket list. As the city is nestled high up in the Andes, you can choose your travel plan depending on your preferences.

You can take a Full-Day Tour from Cusco to Machu Picchu on the train. That way, you can enjoy the magnificent heights of the Andes along your way, with a guided tour of the site on reaching.

If you are up to the challenge, you can reach the ruins, which are at an elevation of 7,000 feet, by hiking the Inca Trail along the Urubamba River. Only authorized tour groups are allowed on the Inca Trail, so you will have to join one of these, instead of going solo.

You can book a 4-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu at GetYourGuide for an unforgettable trekking experience along the original Inca pathways.

It is a strenuous hike in these steep mountains, and the altitude adds to the difficulty, but if you can do it, the Inca Trail is an experience of a lifetime and maybe as memorable as Machu Picchu itself.

If you are in for more adventure, a 4-Day Multi-Activity Inca Trail might interest you too.

For those who aren’t willing to make the four-day hike up the mountain, you can reach Machu Picchu by Round-Trip by bus from the Aguas Calientes. The place is less of a culturally calm Peruvian village and more of a way-station, taxiing tourists to the famed ancient ruins.

Some hotels and restaurants cater to the trove of visitors in Aguas Calientes so visitors can take their time at Machu Picchu.

The trains from Cusco and Ollantaytambo regularly arrive in Aguas Calientes, and the buses depart for Machu Picchu on a frequent and routine schedule.

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Exploring Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu has a lot that is worth exploring, from residential areas to agricultural areas and sacred structures.

The entire ancient city is built to perfection, showing excellent craftsmanship in the dry stone structures that are so precise, you can’t fit a coin between the stones.

Green grass mountain and ruins

If you are visiting Peru, we recommend you to spend at least 4 days in Machu Picchu to explore the city down to its history.

One thing about Machu Picchu that might fascinate you is the fact that the site provides more or less no information on the ruins. Hence the ruins remain unfiltered and accessible.

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What to See at the Popular Tourist Destination?

Not sure how to explore Machu Picchu? Here are some Machu Picchu facts that will make your exploration worthwhile.

Temple of the Sun

One of the most sacred sites in the city is the Temple of the Sun, a semi-circular structure around a large boulderstone. It is believed that the Incan people worshipped their Sun God at this place.

During the summer solstice, the sun rays come in from the temple’s window, aligning with the tip of the boulder and a mountain peak nearby.

The temple gives a magnificent view of the Sacred Valley below.

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Stargazing

Another highlight of Machu Picchu is the stargazing site. The shallow stone dishes preserved by the archeologists are believed to be used by Incan astronomers for stargazing and other astronomical observing functions.

Even though you will be on the lookout for opportunities to take pictures that are fresh and different, there are some iconic Machu Picchu photos that you just have to capture.

Even if they do end up looking like everyone else’s photos when you search the hashtag Machu Picchu, they are still worth taking.

Sun Gate

One such picture is on the path to the Sun Gate. Here you will find a rocky outcrop that overlooks the ruins.

It is on this point that visitors like to sit while someone else takes a picture of them from behind as they gaze pensively at the expanse of ruins.

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Terraced Steps

Another popular spot for photographers is the terraced steps near the Watchman’s Hut. These large terraced stairs are overgrown with greenery that contrasts the harshness of the stones.

The entire area has a stunning view of the valley below.

Machu Picchu Ruins

Other Instagram-worthy locations around Machu Picchu include the Temple of the Moon, Intipunku, and the Rock Quarry.

Llamas are always wandering around Machu Picchu. If you are looking for a fun photograph that is sure to get a ton of Instagram views, try taking some quirky pictures of the llamas with the ruins in the background.

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Machu Picchu Tours

Tours of Machu Picchu vary from a few hours guided trip to several days trek and more.

Those who have limited time can book a 2-hour guided tour of Machu Picchu with a small group to explore the ancient culture and the architectural marvels of the Incas.

However, if you want to explore the city to its depths, you can opt for a 2-Day Private Tour of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.

After the hotel pick-up in Cusco, you will get to see some important ancient sites of the Sacred Valley. This is followed by a tour of the majestic Machu Picchu city.

Machu Picchu tour

You can even book your Entrance to the Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu Mountain to see the landscape from a unique perspective.

Machu Picchu is an impressively large site with an equally impressive view of the surrounding mountains. Try taking a panoramic picture using a wide-angle lens on your DSLR camera.

If you don’t want to purchase a wide-angle lens before your trip, consider renting one. You’ll be glad you did.

Although it may be tempting to try to get the most in each shot, you might want to think twice. Some of the more exciting and visually striking pictures of the site come from looking at the small details.

If you focus your camera on the small, often-overlooked, wonders of the ruins, you may come away with a truly unique glimpse at the place.

A Private Day-Tour to Machu Picchu will reveal the beautiful character of the ancient rocks and the amazingly detailed stone architecture. You can enjoy a guided tour of the city and explore the sites that are rarely seen by visitors.

The tour also includes the Expedition Train Round-Trip Tickets to sit back and admire the breath-taking views of the city.

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Photography at Machu Picchu

When you get to Machu Picchu, you would want to start taking the iconic Instagram travel pictures.

However, it can be disappointing. No matter the time of year, you are always going to encounter crowds of tourists at Machu Picchu.

It won’t be easy to frame photos that are free of random strangers in the background. Try planning your visit earlier in the day when there are fewer people around.

But the most important thing is to be patient and don’t rush the photo opportunities.

For example, the first thing you want to do is to get pictures taken at Stone Gate. If you try to take pics at this spot as a tour bus arrives, you will find a line of people all wanting to shoot the same picture.

Girl on top of mountain

Instead, hang back a bit and wait for a time between buses. When most of the tourists finish their initial photos and move ahead, it will be your lucky chance. You may then find a moment or two when you can snap your pics sans people.

Machu Picchu is high in the Andes and, thus, the area is often shrouded in fog in the morning hours. While that may put a halt to some photography plans, you should seize the foggy day.

Try to take pictures that showcase the fog over the ruins. These pictures can be dramatic and mysterious, just like Machu Picchu itself.

The fog typically burns off by mid-morning as the sun climbs higher. So, you will still be able to enjoy the day.

Even though the sun is stronger at mid-day, it is still possible to take pictures with decent colors and contrasts throughout the day.

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Packing for Your Tour

Till now, you’re certainly planning a trip to Machu Picchu. If so, there are a few essential things you would want to take along.

First of all, a durable and lightweight backpack is essential for long trips. Even if you’re not trekking, your journey will include a lot of walking.

Hence, a comfortable pair of footwear, such as hiking boots or joggers are a must.

No matter what time of the year you choose for your trip, pack thick fabric shirts and pants that will resist wear and tear. You might also want to keep long and short sleeve options.

As you will be high up on a mountain, the sun will be shining on your head in the day. Make sure you keep some sort of sun protection gear such as a hat, and sunscreen to avoid sunburns.

A bathing suit and some casual clothing are also great options if you are spending more time in the city. However, being in the open with exposed skin calls for insect and mosquito bites. An insect repellant will keep you safe at all times.

You can always customize your packing list as per your needs.

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Conclusion

The centuries of history have left magnificent architecture and breathtaking sites in the majestic city of Machu Picchu. Once an adobe for the royals, the ancient city is now open for every traveler all year round.

If you are visiting Peru and have got a day or two to spare, book a trip to Machu Picchu. The place offers you a spiritual and memorable experience. Whichever tour you pick to explore the awe-inspiring city, you will fall in love in a matter of hours.

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