The Beginner’s Guide to Machu Picchu

The Beginner’s Guide to Machu Picchu

Chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is visited by over a million of adventurers each year. If you are considering taking a trip to one of the most famous landmarks of the world, here are some useful facts about Machu Picchu that might help you make the first steps towards conquering this fascinating Peruvian giant.

What is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is a famous Inca citadel nestled on the steep ridges of the Peruvian Andes. It was built some time during the 15th century by the Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, although its construction method and exact purpose remain a mystery. Machu Picchu was abandoned in the wake of Spanish Conquests a century after its completion. Since the conquistadors never found out about it, the site managed to avoid destruction, unlike the rest of the region. Over the following centuries, Machu Picchu remained relatively unknown only to become a subject of interest at the beginning of 20th century, when it underwent major clearing and excavation. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

What are the best times to visit Machu Picchu?

Roughly speaking, there are two seasons in this part of the world: the hotter, wet one that starts in November and lasts approximately five months, and a dry season that begins in early April and ends by late October. The most favorable (but also the busiest) months for visiting Machu Picchu are between May and September, especially for trekkers, as this time of year has the lowest chances of rain. The period between April and May and October and November might be ideal for those who want to escape the crowds and avoid lousy weather. Still, you should keep in mind that climate in the Andes tends to be temperamental regardless of the season, so packing quality waterproof gear should be a no-brainer.

Should I be worried about altitude sickness?

Machu Picchu lies at 2,430 m (7,970 ft) above sea level, while the town of Cusco is slightly higher at 3,399 m (11,152 ft) – this is considered high altitude and can potentially cause altitude sickness. In order to prevent experiencing symptoms such as dizziness and nausea, make sure to gradually acclimatize to high altitudes by taking a couple of days to rest in whichever town serves as your base for exploring Machu Picchu. This is especially important for hikers, since all walking trails involve passes that lie at 4,000 above sea level.

How do I get there?

There are many ways to get to Machu Picchu – you should choose one that matches your personal inclinations and physical ability. Most visitor travel to Machu Picchu by train; several companies operate lines that will take you from Poroy Station near Cusco to Aguas Calientes, a town that lies below the main site. Alternative transport routes involve departing to Aguas Calientes from the nearby town of Ollantaytambo. To get to the citadel from Aguas Calientes, you can either take a bus or go on foot. For more adventurous travelers, Machu Picchu offers a diverse range of trekking options of varied difficulties. The most popular one is the Inca Trail that lasts for four days, during which visitors reach the ruins via the famous Sun Gate (as opposed to arriving from underneath the ruin if you go via Aguas Calientes). However, you should keep in mind that the number of participants in the Inca Trail is limited to 500 a day and the tickets sometimes need to be booked well in advance. There are both more and less demanding alternatives to the Inca Trail, namely the short Inca trek and Choquequirao trek.

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