An Inca Citadel in the Cloud Forest of Peru; An Experience You Will Never Forget
A fascinating sight. Part of the mystery of Machu Picchu is due to the lack of precise information about its origin. Why did the Inca's build, occupy and then abandon Machu Picchu?; There have been many theories about Machu Picchu from it being a religious place for virgins due to the number of female bones found here, to an area for astronomical studies due to the astronomical positions of the construction. Your first glimpse of Machu Picchu is sure to be a moment you will never forget.
Machu Picchu can only be reached by train. Most US visitors start by arriving in Lima, Peru and spending one night. The next morning you fly to Cusco in the mountains at an elevation of 9,000 feet. We suggest heading straight down to the beautiful Sacred Valley, the lowest altitude of the trip. This gives you a chance to acclimatize to the altitude. The Sacred Valley is a beautiful spot and well worth spending time here before your trip to Machu Picchu.
You can catch the train to Machu Picchu from the Sacred Valley. There are local trains, we suggest the Vistadome train or the famous expensive Hiram Bingham Train. The Hiram Bingham train is a wonderful experience. Expensive but certainly traveling in style. Click here for details on the Hiram Bingham Train. Once you arrive at the Machu Picchu station you take a bus up the windy mountain road to the Sanctuary Lodge where the entrance gate to the park is located. We suggest spending at least one night in the Machu Picchu region to have more time at this remarkable site. Returning from Machu Picchu usually there is an additional night in Cusco after debarking the train and then a flight back to Lima.
The best hotel in the Sacred Valley is the new Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba. An absolutely beautiful hotel and in a great setting. Two of the best hotels in the Machu Picchu area are the Sanctuary Lodge at the gates of Machu Picchu and also the Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel next to the railroad station. Click here for more information on the hotels: Click here for more information -Sanctuary Lodge | Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba | Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel
How hard is the walk - do I need to be fit?
This is no where near as strenuous as you may originally have thought it would be. When you arrive by the bus at the Sanctuary Lodge you are right at Machu Picchu. Even for those with walking difficulties there is an area at the entrance that you can reach and still have the opportunity to see this amazing site. If you wish to explore the area fully, there are trails and areas that would challenge even the fittest individual. The choice is up to each person. The main gate is up an incline then there is a short walk are some steps and a little walk on a slightly steep area to the main entrance to Machu Picchu. Taking it slow this would take about 5 minutes. Here there is a bench where you can sit and see the entire area. There have even been people in wheelchairs taken to this spot to enjoy the view. There are various trails from long and difficult to medium and easy. The steps in the area are uneven and it does require someone to be careful. You should take the walk slowly to truly appreciate the splendor of your surroundings. It will take about four hours to cover the main areas including the hard trails.
Right after entering the park there is a trail leading upwards on the left - called LONG trail. This takes you to the highest part of the Citadel. After about a five minute climb you reach the first landing area shown below. This is a wonderful spot for an overview of Machu Picchu.; You continue to climb for about another 10 minutes to reach the Guard Tower where many of the famous Machu Picchu pictures have been taken. Picture of the Guard Tower below. If you have the energy I would take this route first and then you go basically down hill from this point. The other high area is the sundial which also has a wonderful but different view. Also pictured below.
The high mountain behind the main construction of Machu Picchu. This is an exceptionally difficult trail and is very steep. Only the fittest of individuals should attempt this climb. It is also quite dangerous in parts. You must sign in before taking this trail and sign out so they know you made it safely down the mountain. Please be aware there are sheer drop-offs from this trail and it is truly a difficult climb.
Do you need more than one day at Machu Picchu?
It is possible to see the majority of the Citadel in a 3 - 4 hour period. This is a rain forest so the advantage of spending more than one day here is the probability of seeing Machu Picchu in clearer weather. It does rain here a lot of the time. If you have just one 3 hour period on a day trip and it is pouring with rain you can find yourself being very disappointed. A one night stay increases your odds of a period of time with clear weather. If you stay at the Sanctuary Lodge you can get into the park early in the morning and also stay later in the evening - although the park does close at 5.00 pm. It is a pm. It is a good 30 minute bus ride up and back if you stay in town. The cost of the bus one way per person is $6.00.
What else is in the town - is there anything else to see in the area?
The town is small and dominated by the railroad station and the market that surrounds the railroad station. The entire area is located in the mountains and the scenery that surrounds this small valley is remarkable. There are additional hikes in the area. Putukusi Mountain, a difficult hike to the top of the mountain and an unusual view of Machu Picchu. The one day Inka trail that leaves at 6:00 am in the morning by train and then a slow walk up the Andes Mountains towards the Inka ruins of Winay Wayna. You then trek the final part of the famous Inka Trail to the Gate of the Sun and an incredible view of Machu Picchu below. These range from 3 to 8 hours in length. Also shorter excursions are available. The Alccamayo Water Falls trek for two hours with an extension for the very fit to the top to view Machu Picchu is available. Short trails for bird watching, orchid viewing and nature trails are offered. These can be booked at the Pueblo Hotel. Of course the ever present market surrounds the train station with offerings of all types of local crafts. Just sitting in one area and watching the people is a full afternoons entertainment.