1- Machu Picchu and its history
The stone city of Machu Picchu is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites on earth. Located in Peru, in the Andes, at an altitude of 2,430 meters above sea level, Machu Picchu is a testament to the power and ingenuity of the Inca people. At its peak, the Inca civilization stretched for about 4000 km along the Pacific coast of South America. Nowadays, from the equator to Chile. This distance is almost the horizontal width of the continental United States. Machu Picchu located in the center of what was once a large empire is one of the few well-preserved remains of the Inca civilization, built in the mid-15th century Machu Picchu is a stunning example of the technical prowess of the Incas. Here the Incas built palaces, temples, terraces and stone infrastructures without the aid of wheels or tools made of steel or iron. A particularly notable aspect of these constructions and the absence of the use of mortar materials often used to work the stones. Nevertheless the stones of Machu Picchu have been cut so precisely that they fit together perfectly. The assassination of Emperor Atahualpa by the Spaniard Pizzaron marked the end of the Inca civilization.
The Spanish colonizers were more interested in gold than in the remarkable architectural work carried out on the site of Machu Picchu. The site was also protected by its geographical situation and its very complicated accessibility. It thus sank into oblivion for more than three centuries until it was rediscovered by the American Hiram Bingham, by chance, on July 24, 1911 while he was looking for the city of Vitco, the last refuge of the Incas.
Located between two fault lines, Machu Picchu often faces earthquakes but thanks to their perfect shapes the stones bounce back. However during earthquakes, they then easily return to their original positions. These engineering feats have kept Machu Picchu in a remarkable state for over 500 years. In 1983, UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site and today visitors from all over the world come to pay tribute to this part of history.
- What to do in Machu Picchu?
You will notice during your visit that Machu Picchu gathers, according to archaeologists, two major areas.
In the south, the so-called agricultural zone, made of terraces dedicated to cultivation. Various species of plants were maintained there and enjoyed a good exposure.
These terraces will make you think of giant stairs: a stone wall constitutes them, as well as the stacking of several materials such as clay and rock; this to facilitate the flow of rainwater which, in too great quantity, could ravage the crops.
This system allowed the inhabitants to feed themselves throughout the year.
Further north is the so-called urban area. A wall, at least 400m long, separates the two zones.
The second zone of Machu Picchu was itself separated into two parts: the top and the bottom. Historically, the urban zone was rather separated into districts: the noble district, the ecclesiastical district, the popular district and of course the sacred district.
It is noted that the construction of the site is the result of the assembly of rather irregular stones, which are held together with earth.
Moreover, you will surely notice that all the buildings of Machu Picchu are wider at the base than at the top.
This is an important element of classical Inca architecture! It allows them a better resistance to earthquakes.
Located in the sacred district dedicated to the Sun God, the Intihuatana is a source of fascination for visitors to Machu Picchu. The name of this monument means “the place where the sun attaches itself” in Quechua.
There are two interpretations about the function of this place: it can be thought of as a sundial, since some of the faces of the stones are oriented according to the cardinal points. Or perhaps it is an imitation that would pay homage to a sacred mountain…
The Temple of the Sun
You will have the opportunity to visit the Temple of the Sun, which is also a popular place for travelers to Machu Picchu.
Inside this temple, you will recognize the only circular building in Machu Picchu: the round tower. A sacred stone block is located inside the Temple.
On the lower level, you will also find the Temple of Mother Earth (Pachamama) … which allowed the Incas to access the highly venerated “infra world” where their ancestors resided. The tangle and the quality of the stones are impressive.
The Royal Palace (Palacio del Inca)
There is a rather characteristic central hall that leads to several patios. The construction is remarkable, it is one of the largest constructions of Machu Picchu.
In Machu Picchu, water had a sacred character, in that its natural benefits were honoured. The fountains that you can see bear witness to this.
At the Temple of the Condor, you will admire the wings of the bird carved into the rock.
2- Buy your ticket for Machu Picchu
There are three tickets to see Machu Picchu: simple, with the Huayna Picchu, or with the mountain.
- The single ticket
- The combined ticket with the Wayna Picchu
- The combined ticket with the Montaña
The single ticket
The basic ticket gives you access to the entire site of Machu Picchu. Since July 1, 2017, you must choose an entry group and have a guide (this mandatory guide measure has been decided but is still not implemented in 2019!). There are 2 groups, of 2500 people each. The first group visits in the morning, between 6 am and 12 noon, the second in the afternoon from 12 noon to 5.30 pm.
The combination ticket with the Wayna Picchu
Attention, the number of tickets is limited to 200 per group. There are 2 groups (7 am to 8 am and 10 am to 11 am).
If you have a good physical condition, I advise you to climb the Huayna Picchu (or Wayna Picchu).
And when I say climbing, it’s not a figure of speech : you will really climb at times. The climb is rough, it’s physical, the path is very narrow and uneven… and it’s quite long. However, what a satisfaction to reach the top, and what a view of Machu Picchu ! Because the Huayna Picchu (“young mountain” in Quechua) offers a breathtaking view of the mountains surrounding the Inca city. Behind the Huayna Picchu the most curious can extend their route to the Temple of the Moon, dug into the rock.
The combined ticket with the Montaña
Attention, the number of tickets is limited to 400 per group. There are 2 groups (7 am to 8 am and 9 am to 10 am).
For the less adventurous, you can tackle the Mountain (“Montaña”). As we had to choose between the two, we opted for the Huayna Picchu. The Mountain takes more time, the view, it seems, is splendid. It is often from there that the magazine photos are taken with a llama that sits next to Machu Picchu in the background. That will be for next time !
3- How much does it cost to enter Machu Picchu?
Here are the prices of Machu Picchu from the official website for international travelers (1 dollar equals 3.38 Peruvian sol)
– Adult: 152 soles
– Student: 77 soles
– Child : 70 soles
Machu Picchu + Waynapicchu
– Adult: 200 soles
– Student: 125 soles
– Child : 118 soles
Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain
– Adult: 200 soles
– Student: 125 soles
– Child : 118 soles
– Entry to Machu Picchu is free for children under the age of 8, but you will need to show your passport at the entrance.
– The child fare is valid up to 17 years of age.
– To obtain the student fare (25 and under) it is not possible to buy the ticket online, it must be purchased on site with the student card of the university in hand. The card must be valid until December 31 of the current year.
4- How to get to Machu Picchu?
To go from Lima to Machu Picchu you must first go to Cusco.
There are two ways to get there directly: by bus or by plane.
– Lima to Cusco by bus takes about 10 pm.
– This is the cheapest option (between 100 and 220 soles).
– It is very important to take a serious and recognized company such as Cruz del Sur, Moviltours, Tepsa, Ormeño and Civa.
– The path is quite winding because of the mountains so it is possible to feel nausea.
– The flight from Lima to Cusco takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. There are departures every 30 minutes from the Jorge Chavez airport.
– Several companies offer the route and the prices vary enormously.
5- Take-away items
Going to visit the Inca city means going on a day-long expedition at the end of which you will surely be exhausted, both physically by walking (and walking!) and mentally, to follow up on the emotions aroused by the beauty of the place.
Here are some things to take along so as not to spoil your day by lack of foresight :
– A sweater and a t-shirt (several layers to vary according to the weather and physical efforts)
– A waterproof windbreaker
– Protection from the sun (sun cream, hat…)
– Walking shoes
– A bottle of water
6- Is the guide mandatory ?
According to official regulations since 2017, a guide would be mandatory for the visit of Machu Picchu.
But in practice this measure has still not been applied in 2020 and it is possible to visit Machu Picchu freely.
Will it be mandatory in the future ? Maybe, but for the moment it is possible to enter without a guide.
7- Where to find a guide ?
If you want a guided tour of Machu Picchu, it will be very easy to find a guide at the very entrance of the site. There are several of them, and they offer their service in several languages.
8- How much does a guide cost ?
It depends if it’s a private guide or with a group, and the language. Usually visitors in English or Spanish are at the same price, French (and other language) is a bit more expensive.
For a guided tour of 2h-2h30, you can expect about 140 soles for 2 people, or 40-50 soles per person for a larger group.
To pay less, you can join other travellers!
9- How long do you expect to stay in Machu Picchu ?
In theory, with the new regulations, the ticket allows you to stay 4 hours on site.
But for the moment, this is not applied and it is possible to stay on site until closing at 5.30 pm because there is no control. Of course, this can change at any time.
Normally visitors stay between 4 and 6 am, it all depends on your rhythm and your interest to see everything on the site.