This ancient Inca city is one of Peru’s most precious treasures. It was built in the mid-fifteenth century and is believed to have been one of the residences of the ninth Inca of Tahuantinsuyo, Pachacutec, although it also contains the remains of a sanctuary. Its name means old mountain, and alludes to the place where it is located, about 2453 meters above sea level, in a rocky premonitory between Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. It is frequent that during the ascent travelers feel altitude sickness.
Currently, this Inca jewel is one of the country’s tourist attractions. Travelers come to Aguas Calientes to start the Inca route that Hiram Bingham, the Yale professor, popularized in the early twentieth century. The historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu is considered one of the seven new wonders of the modern world and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MACHU PICCHU?
We can visit Machu Picchu and Cusco at any time of the year but in the rainy season there are less crowds and the visit can be more enjoyable. Keep in mind that the high season in Machu Picchu is from July to August as it has the best weather for traveling, but they are also the most expensive months.
ALTITUDE SICKNESS IN MACHU PICCHU
Altitude sickness or soroche, as it is popularly known, is the main problem for travelers going to Cuzco for the first time. The effects vary greatly from one person to another, and it does not matter how fit you are. It is recommended that the first day you take it easy, walk softly and slowly. Start the day drinking coca tea and take this drink whenever you can and have on hand some coca candies that are sold in the city.
CURRENCY IN PERU
The Peruvian currency is the Sol. The exchange rate is 1 dollar for 3.22 soles. You can check the current exchange rate at xe.com You can pay in many places with your credit card and they also accept dollars but they will give you the exchange rate of the day which may vary depending on the place.
It is advisable to walk with caution and not neglect our belongings to avoid theft.
Food is cheap and good everywhere. If you are in Cusco be sure to visit the Central Market where you can have breakfast for less than 2 dollars and they are very good. Always check that the restaurant you are going to eat at is clean and crowded. The approximate cost per day to eat in Cusco and surroundings is from USD 10.
HOW TO GET TO MACHU PICCHU?
Once you are in Cuzco you have to go to the citadel of Machu Picchu, to get there you will pass through Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo).
The most used and touristic option to get to Aguas Calientes is the train. There are companies like Peru Rail or Inka Rail that make the trip Cusco – Aguas Calientes in 3 or 4 hours. The round trip price is around USD 150, depending on the type of wagon and how far in advance you buy it.
Another well-known option to get to Machu Picchu is the Inca Trail. In the case of this trail, you arrive directly to the citadel, without passing through Aguas Calientes. Although the return is by train from that town. It is a road where you have to be well prepared physically because it has a duration of four days. The Inca Trail must be booked several months in advance (about 6 months) and its cost is more than USD 450.
I know that there is a cheaper but quite tedious alternative route that I have not yet experienced so I can not detail this information but it consists of going by bus from Cusco to Santa Maria. The trip takes eight hours. From there continue by cab or combi to Santa Teresa for an hour. Then continue to the hydroelectric plant (15 minutes). And finally walk 10 km for almost 3 to 4 hours following the train track to Aguas Calientes.
ENTRANCE TO MACHU PICCHU
Prices vary depending on whether you are Peruvian, from the Andean community, student or foreigner. See all the options here. There are three different types of entrance fees:
- Citadel only
- Citadel + Huayna Picchu
- Citadel + Machu Picchu mountain
There are 2,500 tickets per day for the citadel. They can be purchased upon arrival in Cusco, in Aguas Calientes or online. Please note that the other two options that include the mountains, there are only 400 tickets per day, and they sell out quickly via internet, so buy early.