5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Machu Picchu
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | July 2nd, 2017
Machu Picchu is one of the most special places in the world. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing but it is also rich in history, culture, and a bit of mystery. This stunning 15th-century citadel was built high above Peru's impressive Sacred Valley by the ancient Incan civilization. Many archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Incan emperor Pachacuti. Some historians believe it was used for ceremonial purposes. No matter what the reason is behind its formation, everyone can agree that it is an extraordinary place. Here are five reasons why you should visit Machu Picchu at least once in your lifetime.
We've all seen that classic Machu Picchu photo. Taken high above the Citadel, looking down at the ancient ruins, that view alone inspires millions of people from all around the world to travel to this magical place. And I can assure you, the view is even better in person.
An Epic Journey
If you've traveled to Machu Picchu, you know it's not for the faint of heart. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it!
Depending on where you are flying in from, you'll most likely have a layover in Lima before continuing on to Cusco. Once you arrive in Cusco, you'll take a 2 hour train ride on Peru Rail or Inca Rail to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. (Note: You can also take a taxi.) After arriving to the Sacred Valley, you will get on another 2 hour train to Aguas Calientes (cars/taxis cannot go further than Ollantaytambo). Once you've reached Aguas Calientes, take the bus to the Machu Picchu entrance. The bus ride takes about 20 to 30 minutes, and round-trip costs are $24 USD / adult and $12 USD / child (ages 5 - 11 years). Children under 5 ride for free. Buses run from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu daily from 5:30 to 15:30, and from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes from 6:00 to 18:00. There is no official ticket website for the bus, tickets are best purchased at a Cusco or Aguas Caliente ticket office. Note: Train tickets should be purchased ahead of time online, especially during peak season (May - October).
If you're feeling adventurous, you can also hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, which will take about 90 minutes each way.
If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can hike the Inca Trail from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. The journey takes two to five days, depending on the route of the tour operator. Be sure to book your permit/tour ahead of time with a local tour company. Only 200 tourists are allowed to hike the Inca Trail per day.
No matter which course of action you choose, it will be tiring. You may also face complications with altitude sickness. Be sure to take it slowly, drink plenty of fluids, and rest often. Even though getting to this world wonder isn't easy, I can promise you, once you arrive, you will be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking sights you have ever seen.
Huayna Picchu, also known as Wayna Picchu, is the tall mountain that sits behind the ruins of Machu Picchu. With a permit, 400 people are allowed to hike to the top of Huayna Picchu daily. From the top, you will see a birds-eye view of Machu Picchu. The hike is fairly difficult but definitely doable. The average hiking time is 3 hours round-trip. There are two time slots available for this hike, 7:00 to 8:00 am and 10:00 to 11:00 am, 200 people are allowed in for each time slot. If this is something you would be interested in doing, be sure to reserve your tickets ahead of time. Tickets sell out very quickly, especially during the peak months of June, July, and August. We purchased our tickets from the OFFICIAL WEBSITE and it was hassle-free. Tickets are $62 USD / adults and $38 USD / child. *Note: These ticket prices include entrance to Machu Picchu before and/or after the hike.*
Pisco Sours and Ceviche
A trip to Peru wouldn't be complete without a taste of their most popular cuisine, ceviche! Depending on which area of Peru you visit, the ceviche can vary in ingredients and flavors. In the Andes area of Machu Picchu, the ceviche consists mainly of trout, lemon juice, onions, and local seasonings. The trout is so fresh, and the bursts of unique flavors are truly exquisite. Don't forget to complement the mouth watering ceviche with the national drink of Peru - a Pisco Sour! Made with Pisco liquor, lemon and lime juices, battered egg whites, and bitters, this delicious cocktail should not be missed.
The Sumaq Hotel
Traveling to Machu Picchu can be very challenging -- there are numerous flights and layovers, followed by long train rides, bus rides, and hiking -- it's enough to exhaust even the most experienced travelers. We wanted to stay in a hotel that gave us a lot of relaxation during our stay. The Sumaq Hotel offers plush rooms, large breakfast buffets, cooking classes, a Pisco Sour cocktail hour, and a three-course dinner that will have you never wanting to leave. The best part? All of those things are included in their nightly price. We felt pampered, rested, and ready to take on Machu Picchu during our stay. This 5-star hotel is set in a quiet area of Aguas Calientes along the Vilcanota River, and it's only a 5 minute walk to the train and bus stations. As of 2023, nightly prices at The Sumaq are around $400 to $800 USD depending on which month you visit.
Be sure to buy your train tickets on Inca Rail or Peru Rail ahead of time, especially during the peak season months of June, July, and August. Bus tickets should be purchased in a Cusco or Aguas Calientes ticket office.
If you want to hike Huayna Picchu, be sure to book tickets in advanced on the OFFICIAL WEBSITE. Tickets will sell out! Only 400 people are allowed to hike Huayna Picchu per day.
If you want to hike the Inca Trail, be sure to obtain a permit with a local tour company ahead of time. Only 200 tourists are allowed to hike the Inca Trail per day, and it is not possible to hike without a guide. Some notable tour operators are Peru Treks & Adventure and Alpaca Expeditions.
Ask your doctor about any necessary vaccines before traveling. Also, ask about altitude sickness medicine that you can bring along with you. Altitude sickness will be felt most in Cusco, as it sits at an altitude of over 11,000 feet. Machu Picchu is around 8,000 feet high, and most people can tolerate this altitude well.
Machu Picchu is relatively warm and humid throughout the year. There is, however, a rainy season and a dry season. The best months to visit are the shoulder months of April, May, September, and October. The weather is relatively dry, and the crowds are much smaller. The peak months of June, July, and August are the driest months to visit, however, the crowds are at an all-time high. November through March is considered the rainy season, but the crowds are low. I do know people who have visited in January and had beautiful, dry days. I also know people who visited in July and had a lot of rain. Machu Picchu is located in a tropical mountain forest, so the weather can be unpredictable.