Beyond the Clouds: Deciding When to Conquer Machu Picchu’s Heights

As we have been telling you, Machu Picchu is a must-see stop on a trip to Peru, because you cannot miss one of the 7 Wonders of the World, which deserves this title. In this guide to Machu Picchu we will tell you everything you need to know before going up.

Before starting you can see the article on How to get to Machu Picchu so that you can coordinate your trip as best suits you. When we arrive in Aguas Calientes we wait for the bus that takes you to the mountains approx. 20 minutes at the stop and the trip up takes more or less 30 minutes. The line seems eternal, but buses arrive every 10 minutes so there is not much delay.

We went from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. to see the sunset on the first day. We chose to climb Machu Picchu one day without a guide and the second, in the morning, with a guide. For this we start at 5.15am to take the 5.40 bus to see the sunrise. We arrived at Machu Picchu at 6:05. It is not necessary to visit it in two days because one is enough, we had this opportunity and we did not want to waste it.

Everything you need to know about schedules and prices at Machu Picchu

You enter with the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu, with a passport or ID in hand. This costs 64 Soles for adults and 34 for students and minors.

On the official Machu Picchu website you can buy tickets, choosing Machu Picchu llaqta circuit circuit 1, 2, 3, and 4, unless you want to do a mountain like Huayna.

You can’t climb with tripods of any size for cameras, but it doesn’t matter. When you arrive at the entrance there are the bathrooms that cost 2 Soles and a cloakroom also works.

There are all kinds of packages with guides to learn more about the history of Machu Picchu, if you can do it that way, we totally recommend it. We hire a private Machu Picchu guide that cost US$45. A guide group can cost between U$S 10 and 16 per person, you can hire it when purchasing your entire package or directly when you arrive at the ticket office. Beyond the prices we feel that really everything that costs is worth it.

The buses both in the morning and in the afternoon leave very punctual and every 10 minutes. They start going up at 5:30AM and the last one to go up leaves at 3:00 p.m. To get off there is always a bus available. The price per person for a round trip is US$24.. And if, for example, you are only going to take the bus and walk down, that ticket costs US$12 per personand vice versa. The ticket office is open until 9:30 p.m. Even if you are at the top and regret walking down, you can buy the ticket at the top.

There are always a lot of people but it is very calm, no one rushes you or prevents you from filming or taking photos for as long as they want. The same to stop to rest and simply enjoy the landscape, which leaves you speechless. We recommend taking your time doing the tour, because once you go down the circuit you cannot go back and return to the same place.

Always remember to get all your tickets well in advance because they fill up really quickly.

Macchu Picchu – What is the best time to go up?

In its Spanish translation, Machu Picchu means “old mountain.” The beauty and magic that exists in this place truly leaves you speechless. It was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1983. It is part of a cultural and ecological complex known as ‘Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu’.

It is undoubtedly a masterpiece of architecture and engineering in perfect harmony with nature. It is the most important legacy of the Inca civilization to humanity. It is believed that the city was built in 1435 and is known today as Machu Picchu, but no one knows what the Incas would have called it in their time. Since it suffered abandonment for 375 years (from the year 1532) until it was rediscovered by an American in 1911, the explorer Hiram Bingham III.

 

The tour begins on the terraces of the citadel and the stepped sites guide you towards what was the entrance gate of the Inca city to where the homes were located. You can continue along the lower part so that it is less tiring, until you reach the temple area.

What gave rise to this city was the spring under the mountain and what allowed them to settle there were the mountain quarries where, precisely, they were able to build their homes made of mud and stone, and thatched roofs. The temples in the lower part of the route were made of stone that supported each other.

The builders of this city were wearing down the mountain to create the soil where they would put the houses of the people and the houses of the elite. There were approximately 500 homes. and it is believed that at least more than 1000 people lived there, counting that 3 to 5 people lived in each home. The houses were built with a separation between the town (the Uri) and part A, where the elite lived.

Today the recovery of Machu Picchu as it was 500 years ago has stopped. This is because by being declared a World Heritage Site, what they do is maintain and protect it for tourism and for future generations.

As we mentioned, we went up on the first day at the last minute, where we found a perfect time for photos, with not so many people and that also allowed us to enjoy the sunset.

The next day we went up first thing in the morning where we observed that there were much fewer people but running the risk of it being cloudier as it usually is in the early hours of the morning. What gave it the special seasoning was capturing the winter solstice.

If I thought about the photos, I would stick with the last minute schedule, since there are better colors and there is greater security of having a clear sky. If what you are looking for is that there are fewer people, I would go first thing in the morning.

That is why we recommend going up to Machu Picchu twice, once to see it at 2 different times and the other to have a second option in case of bad weather.

Huayna Picchu

In its Spanish translation, Huayna Picchu means “new mountain.” In this guide to Machu Picchu we cannot give you much information since we do not get tickets to see it.

Climbing this incredible mountain that appears on all the postcards behind the Inca Citadel is a challenge, especially for those who like somewhat extreme trekking. Access to this mountain is limited to 2 daily shifts of 200 people at a time and entry for each of them is at 07:00 and 10:00 in the morning respectively. For this reason, we recommend that whenever you want to book excursions you do them well in advance.

The level of difficulty is medium-high, not recommended for people with physical limitations or for small children. Going up takes approximately 45 minutes and the entire excursion takes around 2 hours.

Sun Temple – The most impressive thing about Machu Picchu

What happens in this place is indescribable. You can see as dawn rises at Machu Picchu, on the winter solstice of June 21, how the sun fits perfectly through the entrance door of what was the Temple of the Sun. The same thing happens every December 21 with the Summer Solstice. We still don’t believe that we were lucky enough to witness this phenomenon that occurred at 7.21am. There will be no photos or words that explain what it feels like to be in this place.

The Incas had many astronomical constructions and the temple of the sun is one of them.

Sacred Square

In this place is the Main Temple, where they worshiped their gods, and the Temple of the three windows with a small enclosure that surrounds them. This functioned as a residence and also a store for objects or perhaps food, all related to the ceremonies that were offered in the temples.

It would be something similar to what we consider a church today, since they came to pray and perform different rituals in relation to their beliefs. It is located in what would have been the main square of the city. There are many parts of the construction that have been left in half due to the Spanish invasions.

Intihuatana

The Intihuatana Pyramid is known as the Inca sundial. It is a rock group that was manipulated in a staggered manner to give it the shape of a somewhat square pyramid. When talking about a clock, the first thing we think of is hours, minutes, seconds. But for the Incas it was a clock that marked time according to morning, afternoon or night, and the seasons of the year. At the top you can see the 4 cardinal points. With the 6-month translation and rotation of the sun, shadow is produced on the platform. This is how they distinguished the approximate schedules as we know them today, as well as the months according to the seasons.

In this part, the houses are built in such a way that earthquakes dissipate and do not alter their construction or collapse.

The route of this sector is only open from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. so that the history of how they calculated times with the sun can be appreciated.

Sectors

As you have read so far, we know that the housing sectors were socially divided according to “the uri” which was the people, differentiated from the elite of the time.

The Agricultural Sector is the closest to the entrance and covers all terrain from the lowest to the highest. In this part are located the platforms, the terraces that have steps that worked for the different crops in agriculture, and also water management. To do this, they filled the steps with fine sand and stones, apart from the crop, which facilitated the drainage of water for planting. We continue to see the technological advance that existed at the time for this to work so perfectly.

The Imperial Sector is located in the upper part just after the agricultural sector. It is the urban part reserved for the nobility and priests. This is where the main square, the temple of the sun and the aforementioned Intihuatana are located.

Finally, the Urban Sector, separated from the imperial one by a large patio, is where the workers and the rest of the population of Machu Picchu lived. Differentiated smaller houses built with stone and thatched roofs. It is a very interesting part of the tour to learn how they really lived, here andThe guide will explain each sector respectively as you progress.

hot waters – Machu Picchu Town

Any Machu Picchu guide should also include Aguas Calientes. This town is located at the foot of the mountain where the Incas built the Inca City, just over 100 kilometers from Cusco. It was created at the beginning of the 20th century when the railway was built through the mountains. It is located 2,040 meters above sea level and is also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo due to its proximity to the mountains. Thanks to this, it was only in the 1970s that the town really took off in tourism.

 

You can visit the Putucusi mountain, the thermal baths, the Mándor gardens and more. It is a beautiful town surrounded by rivers and mountains where, apart from staying to visit Machu Picchu, you will be able to rest and enjoy the landscapes.

Center from Aguas Calientes

Spending a night in Aguas Calientes we took some time in the afternoon when we returned from Machu Picchu to walk around and return to the hotel for dinner. You can tour the city’s beautiful artisan market, full of clothing, souvenirs and silver items. It is a little more expensive than Ollantaytambo and Cusco.

 

The most touristy area of ​​Aguas Calientes is Avenida Pachacutec, which goes from the hot springs (in the upper part) to the Plaza de Armas. It is recommended to eat at any of its restaurants. In the Plaza de Armas there is also a lot of movement throughout the day, it is full of bars with terraces and benches on the sidewalks to enjoy the outdoors.

Putucusi Mountain

This visit is recommended for the most adventurous, to take advantage of doing something different. The route up the mountain is one of the most difficult short hikes in Aguas Calientes. It goes along a poorly marked path, and some extreme vertical stairs. The journey takes approximately 2 hours. You need good physical condition to climb this mountain. It is recommended to use trekking shoes and, as we always recommend, stay well hydrated to avoid altitude sickness.

The top of this mountain will allow you to take amazing views of the Inca City of Machu Picchu from a little-known angle.

Mandor Gardens

The Mándor gardens, for nature lovers, are an ecological reserve a few kilometers from Aguas Calientes that can be reached on foot, in approx. 1 hour. The path to the gardens is full of vegetation where orchids, ferns, begonias, mushrooms and more stand out. During the walk it is also possible to hear the singing of various birds, and encounter thousands of butterflies of all types of species. At the end of the path in the gardens are the ‘Mándor Falls’, a waterfall several meters high. It is a beautiful place to spend time walking and breathing fresh air.

The Hot Springs

The hot springs are small thermal baths ideal for relaxing after climbing Machu Picchu. To enter you need to bring your own towel, swimsuit and sandals. If you arrived on the trip without this information, it is good to know that the stores next door sell swimsuits and rent towels.

They are open from 5 AM to 8:30 p.m., they allow entry until 7:30 p.m. The price for foreigners is 20 soles and 10 for nationals. Children under 8 years old enter for free. You can only pay in cash and soles.

At the end of our visit to this town and the ruins of Machu Picchu, we return to Ollantaytambo to return to the City of Cusco to get to know this city a little more. If you want to see our guide to Machu Picchu on video, here we leave it for you.

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