The word “magic” barely begins to describe the fantastic mystery awaiting us in these mountains south of the Equator. At almost 8,000 feet above sea level, the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu gets hundreds of visitors every day, and for good reason. It’s the sheer beauty of the location and the time-tested ruins of the Inca citadel, which has brought adventurous people to this place for decades.
What is Machu Picchu?
The Machu Picchu ruins in Southern Peru are the remains of the grand estate built for Pachacuti, the Inca Emperor who ruled this region in the 15th century. A vast number of Incas lived on this estate for more than a century, but later abandoned it during the Spanish Conquest. It was American explorer Hiram Bingham who first discovered these ruins in 1911 and mistook it for the “Lost City of the Incas”, which is actually Vilcabamba – another ancient ruin in Peru.
What to see in Machu Picchu
To truly enjoy the wonders of Machu Picchu, you have to spend at least a whole day at the site. There are more than 20 different tourist attractions to choose from, each one more interesting than the last. For starters, the Temple of the Sun is a giant circular building with a massive granite slab and the famous Inca sun dial. Just above the Temple of the Sun are the Ceremonial Baths, containing 16 connected baths used by the ancient Incas. The Intihuatana or the “Hitching Post of the Sun” is a huge rock pillar on top of a small hill, resembling another sun dial. Other similar attractions include the Temple of Three Windows, the Temple of Condor and the Moon Temple.
The Phuyupatamarka is another well-preserved ceremonial bath, and a great spot for sunsets. The Principal Temple has been damaged a bit since its glory days but still a great sight, while the Sacred Plaza was used as a quarry in the 15th century. The Royal Tomb is hidden under the Temple of the Sun, but there hasn’t been any mummified bodies found here.
The Huayna Picchu, on the other hand, is a mountain range north of the ruins. It takes the average person about an hour to climb this mountain through a narrow and steep road covered with trees. This is one of the favorite attractions of Machu Picchu, especially for adventure-loving tourists.
Visiting Machu Picchu
Thanks to modern transportation, reaching this historical ruin is not as difficult today as it once was. There are three trains to choose from which will take you directly to Machu Picchu, namely: the Peru Rail, the Inca Rail and the Hiram Bingham Belmond Train. All three of these trains are comfortable and safe, and any of them will be a great way to reach Machu Picchu.
If you are feeling adventurous, there is also a 4-day hiking trail that will take you to Machu Picchu through a more scenic route. However, you don’t go on these hikes alone but always with a group.
Although the ruins of Machu Picchu are open all through the year, the best time to visit is undoubtedly through July and August. You must mentally prepare yourself to rub shoulders with lots of tourists these two months. Tourists will be fewer October through April, but these are also the official months when rain can be expected at any time.
Tours to Machu Picchu
A number of agencies throughout Peru offer a variety of tours to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Tours can be arranged in groups from agencies in both the surrounding towns of Ollantaytambo or Cusco, or via the Academia Latinoamericana de Espanol. We offer a variety of tours to different cultural, historical and architectural sites around Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. The tour to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tours offered to our students. We take care of all aspects of the trip so they can just relax and enjoy their adventure.
Machu Picchu: Peruvian culture and Language
The ruins of Machu Picchu are an integral part of understanding Peruvian culture, society, history and language. A day spent among these fascinating relics will give visiting tourists an idea of the grandeur and the affluence of the Inca civilization of Peru in the 15th century. Understanding modern Peruvian society requires a thorough knowledge of its history, especially regarding how hardworking, inventive and creative the early inhabitants of this region were in the past. Only by visiting the Machu Picchu ruins can Peru be truly understood even centuries later.
Want to see more cultural activities?
Check out other cultural activities you can do in Peru.