Once hidden inside dense vegetation and Andean mountains in Cusco, the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is without a doubt South America’s top destination. Visited by millions of locals and travelers alike every year, it’s mysterious and mystical aura that flows through the ruins are felt nowhere else. The “lost” city of the Incas is a must for anyone traveling to Peru. The jaw-dropping Machu Picchu will leave you thrilled with an unforgettable memory and more curious about the Inca Empire.
Abandoned by the Inca and never found by the Spanish conquerors, the citadel still remains a mystery to many, although many new discoveries have been made through the years. Through radiocarbon evidence, it is assumed that the site was built in the 15th century. Most historians and archaeologists agree that Machu Picchu was built during the reign of the Inca emperor Inca Pachacutec, who ruled from 1438 to 1471.
We still don’t know exactly why Machu Picchu was built but many theories have been proposed. One theory suggests that it was a fortress during times of war. Others believe that it was an administrative center or religious site sacred to the Incas.
But the most widely accepted theory suggests that Machu Picchu consisted of private land held by Inca royalty. Here, higher-class members would relax and rest in Machu Picchu’s warmer and pleasant climate. It was a sort of royal retreat, to get away from Cusco’s harsh winter climate. Spanning over 9 hectares (22.3 acres), it held a population between 1000 – 1200 people. It was occupied for at least three generations of Incas, until being suddenly and mysteriously abandoned.
On July 24, 1911, Machu Picchu was “rediscovered” after Hiram Bingham, an American explorer, was led to the citadel by a local farmer, after hearing rumors of an Inca city hidden in a dense jungle. Although he is the one who brought worldwide attention to Machu Picchu, evidence shows that 9 years prior, a local explorer named Agustin Lizarraga had discovered the site and left his name engraved on a wall of the Three Windowed Temple. This was recorded as part of Hiram Bingham’s findings, but later omitted from his memoirs.
Machu Picchu today stands as one of the 7 Wonders of the World and a Unesco World Heritage Site, receiving 2,500 visitors per day. Travelers fly from all over Peru and the world, setting off on different hikes and tours to arrive at the “Lost City of the Incas”.
Firstly, you would have to reach Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu. There are 2 ways to get there: by plane and by bus. By plane is the best option for those short on time and daily flights are available from most major cities across Peru. By bus tends to be the preferred method by travelers. This way you get to enjoy the unbelievable scenery across different destinations that you’ll be able to visit on your way to Cusco.
We strongly recommend Peru Hop buses, they offer a hop-on, hop-off system which is a perfect way to travel at your own pace, and visit the places that you want, plus the added bonus of helping you slowly acclimatize to higher altitudes.
Once in Cusco, there are several ways to get to Machu Picchu:
The Classic Inca Trail
The most popular way to get to Machu Picchu by far. Hike through the path used by the Incas to reach the Inca citadel, passing by snow-capped mountains, cloud jungle forests and other natural beauties. Only 200 travelers are allowed per day so it’s recommended to book at least 6 to 8 months in advance. Please contact us directly to see if we can facilitate you at shorter notice.
The Salkantay Trek
The best alternative to the Inca Trail. Although harder in difficulty, this hike is one of the most scenic in the world. Reaching an altitude of 4600 meters, you’ll be mesmerized by the changing climates and landscapes throughout your journey. There is no limit on the amount of travelers per day so availability is not a problem, but we still recommend to book at least 2 to 3 months in advance to assure a well planned out journey.
The Inca Jungle Trek
Perfect for those looking for a fun way to get to Machu Picchu. A mixture of hiking, biking, river rafting and even zip-lining, you’ll have an unforgettable experience like no where else.
The quickest and easiest way to get to Machu Picchu. Take the scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes, the entry to the Inca ruins, and discover it all in a short amount of time. 2-day and full day options available.
Also one of the quickest ways. Go on a bus ride through the windy roads (not for the feint of heart) of the Andes mountains until reaching Aguas Calientes. 2-day options available.
You will need your passport to enter the site and to get the Machu Picchu stamp, so don’t forget it!
Layers of clothes
Weather can be unpredictable in Machu Picchu and it's best to be prepared for a rainy day just in case
You will do a lot of walking around the Inca citadel so make sure to wear shoes your comfortable with
Machu Picchu is situated on top of a mountain in the jungle, home to many harsh bugs
Refillable water bottle
Plastic waters are not permitted into the citadel so make sure to bring your reusable bottle
Make sure to charge beforehand, you don't want to be the person who didn't take any pictures of Machu Picchu