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Planning a Trip to Mach Picchu

Machu Picchu or “old peak,” in Peru is one of the world’s largest attractions and regularly appears on people’s bucket lists of where to go and with very good reason. This ancient Inca site will take you on a trek into the clouds and back in history.

 

Planning a Trip to Mach Picchu.

Planning a Trip to Mach Picchu.

 

For many people visiting Peru, the highlight of their journey will be a trip to Machu Picchu, which is the best known archeological site on in South America. This stunning site will leave you breathless in more ways than one, high up in the Andes and an awe-inspiring archeological site, these ancient ruins are worth every step up to them.

 

History of Machu Picchu

 

Built at the height of the Inca Empire in 1450 and believed to be an estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti, Machu Picchu is no doubt the most famous and familiar icon of the lost Inca civilisation. It was inhabited for 100 years before being abandoned in 1572. It was abandoned before the Spanish conquistadors arrived and it is a widely held belief that a lot of its inhabitants died of small pox which
had been introduced by travellers into the region. The Spanish invaders never found the city and so it wasn’t plundered unlike other sites in the region.

 

 

Over the many years of its isolation, the jungle grew over the area and it was known to only a few locals. Although history has it that it was reintroduced to the world by the American Hiram Bingham who was in Peru looking for the ancient lost city Vilcabamba, which was the last city to fall to the invading Spanish, many believe that it was discovered in the 18th and 19th Centuries by various individuals but was not broadcast to the world. Bingham was introduced to the site in 1911 by a local farmer and led an expedition to the site in 1912 for a major cleaning excavation. The world found out about the ancient site through Bingham’s best-selling book, ” The Lost City of the Incas.”

 

 

 
The site is the most visited attraction in Peru and one of the most visited sites in South America. Machu Picchu is managed by the government in Peru and in 1981 Peru declared Machu Picchu and the area surrounding it a “Historical Sanctuary.” The in 1983 it was given a UNESCO World Heritage status. Its most recent accolade is to be named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world.

 

Geography

 

Set high up in the Andeas Mountain range in Peru,  Machu Picchu lies above the Urubamba River Valley, located in the Cusco region Urubamba Province above the Sacred Valley and covers an area of 13km2 and a height of 2’430m above sea level. The city sits in between two mountains Machu Picchu and Huyana Picchu.

 

 

The whole area is subject to the mists that rise off from the river, which can affect views from the site, especially early in the morning.

 

 

 
When visiting Machu Picchu it is a good idea to note that the area has a wet and a dry season and that October through to April sees the majority of the annual rainfall. The climbs up to the site can be heavy going as the terrain is steep and care needs to be taken.

 

Site Structure

 

The site was built in the classic Inca style which consisted of polished dry stone walls that were constructed in a way that they required no mortar. Machu Picchu has three primary structures, Intiwatana, Temple of the Sun and Room of the Three Windows. The are several distinct sections to the site, a farming area, a royal area, a residential district and an area that was used as a sacredplace and the whole area is made up of more than 150 different buildings. The city was divided into Upper and Lower levels with the temples lying in the Upper levels and more agricultural and warehouse sectors in the Lower levels. 3,000 steps link the different levels and take you through the site.

 

 

 
When the excavation work first began on the site, it was in poor condition with a lot of the buildings haven fallen into very bad repair.Over the years much work has been carried out at the site and most of the outlying buildings have over time been reconstructed to give visitors more of an idea as to how the original city would have looked. By 1976, 30% of the site had been repaired and the work has continued at the site.

 

 

 
The site had its own water supply that came from springs and enough land to feed and keep more than 4x the number of inhabitants in the city, it was a totally self-sufficient environment. The hillsides that lead up to the main area were terraced for a number of reasons, they provided more farmland, the steeper the slopes, the more of a deterrent it would have been for any invaders and finally to act as
a protection against soil erosion and landslides.

 

 

 

 

Best Times to Visit and How to Get there

 

June through to August are the busiest times of the year to travel to Machu Picchu as most people want to avoid going in the rainy season. It does get exceptionally busy and there can be about 2500 visitors a day to the area. The site is open all year round but most people will tend to go between May to early September and the busiest times of the day tend to be between 10.00-2.00pm.

 

 

 
Because the site is very busy you will really need to plan your journey and book well in advance. The most popular way to gain access to the site is by the Inca trail. This way takes you on a three-day trek which still has sections of Inca stone paths dotted along the way. Due to a lot of erosion in the area though this way is controlled to certain numbers now so as to minimise the damage to the area. Be warned though that this is going to be quite an arduous journey so be prepared. The easiest option is to go on the train with PeruRail.

 

 

 
Getting the train to Machu Picchu is the easiest option and means that you can do the whole trip in a day. A flight into Cusco and then a 3.5 hour train ride out to Machu Picchu from Cusco to Aguas Calientes which is the town at the foot of Machu Picchu. Again remember to book well in advance for your train tickets, turning up on the day will leave you very disappointed, this is a journey that needs to be planned well in advance as train tickets can sell out months in advance. The train journey is an adventure in itself and will take you right along the Umbamba river and through some stunning scenery.

 

What to do When you are there.

 

You will need to have an entrance ticket to get into the site which you can buy in advance, all the details for purchasing tickets can be found on the Machu Picchu website. Once you get to Machu Picchu, make sure that you have plenty of water and also some rain proof clothing. The walk from Aguas Calientes is steep and it will take about 90 minutes to get to the site from here so a good idea is to get the bus up, the first rides start at 5.30am and be prepared to queue.

 

 

 

 

Remember that the early morning will see a lot of mist over the site so for the best views a later trip up is advisable and whatever time you go there will be people with you so going early to avoid the crowds is not always the best option here. You can book guides to take you around the site which is a good plan if you want in-depth knowledge about the area and about the history of the site but if you want to go it alone its fine and a good-guide book will fill you in on all the information that you need.

Take your time at the site and don’t rush through, for many people this is a once in a lifetime experience so enjoy it. You will be able to get snacks when you are at the site as there is a snack bar just outside the entrance.

 

 

Machu Picchu- Final Words

 

A trip to Machu Picchu for many people is a longed for adventure and it won’t disappoint. The place is magical and to think that it was built by hand without machinery is awe inspiring when you realise what they had to do to construct it. The views will leave you breathless and even though it’s busy with many other people around you will find a spot to contemplate this amazing place in a truly amazing land.

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