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But one thing is certain for everybody- Machu Picchu is one of the most incredible engineering and architectural masterpieces of the ancient world. The trip to Machu Picchu starts in Aguas Calientes, a quaint village between the Peruvian Andes, a train ride away from the popular city of Cusco. From Aguas Calientes (“hot waters”) a bus takes travelers through winding roads up to Machu Picchu’s main entrances. You can wander the citadel, and visit the Gate of the Sun, and other places used to perform sacred rituals. This is our tailored guide to traveling Machu Picchu. keep reading and find information about attractions, restaurants, transportation, and more for your next trip.
Machu Picchu is like a big adventure park for history enthusiasts. The citadel is divided into different sectors which tell us about Inca civilization traditions. However, the nearby town Aguas Calientes offers a wide range of activities to enjoy before or after visiting Machu Picchu. Keep reading to learn more about travel Machu Picchu highlights.
It is basically what we know today as the Machu Picchu archeological site. The word llaqta refers to “city” in the native Quechua language of the Peruvian Andes. It was built in 1400 a.C and conceived as the religious, political, and administrative hub of the kingdom, it was the most important legacy of the Inca civilization. Llaqta was also important to connect the Andes with the Amazonas. During the second half of the XVI century, it was almost uninhabited.
When you travel to Machu Picchu, inside the archeological site, one of the visitable areas is the “terraces” used to farm in hilly areas. Though it was a hard-work system, it was also very successful for Inca civilizations. It is pretty impressive to appreciate how terraces spread around the citadel. There are around 7 big terraces you can appreciate in the farming area. A guide can be handy to learn about the Inca’s farming techniques.
Experts say the sun temple is a perfect example of “organic architecture”. It was conceived to perform religious rituals related to the cult of the dead. In this temple, you can appreciate the trapezoidal niches and windows where astronomers observed the sky.
This place was built to stand between the main square of the citadel and the Wayna Picchu, a big mountain facing the archeological site. It was considered a god, so the sacred rock was also used to pay him tribute. Many say there is unique energy you can feel around the sacred rock.
The Condor is an Andean native bird and an endangered species. This temple was built to worship this majestic and huge animal that nests between rocky slopes. Condor temple is located in the right middle of a large ceremonial site. In this place, you can see a sculpture of a condor spreading its wings- They can measure 9 feet wide.
Facing the Machu Picchu citadel rises a big mountain called Huayna Picchu, “young mountain” in the Quechua language. You can hike to the top and many do! It is a 60-minutes hike on a steep slope and the summit is higher than the citadel. The views are amazing and you can also visit the Templo de la Luna (Moon Temple).
This little town has grown as the “camp base” to visit Machu Picchu. However, in Aguas Calientes, the accommodation offer is varied, from luxury to boutique hotels and backpackers inns. The area is famous for its hot springs and its craft market. You can also visit the main square and enjoy the rumbling sound of Aguas Calientes River which flows through the town. There is no public transportation apart from the train connecting Aguas Calientes with Ollantaytambo, another archeological site that can be visited.
Avenida Imperio de los Inca 612, Aguas Calientes. Tel: +51 961 773 008
Local, International, Grill
This colorful dish restaurant is one of the top choices of many travelers. You can enjoy a meal next to the Urubamba river, enjoy pisco sour special recipes and try the famous llama steak. Another highlight of Chullos is the 6-steak burger. Veggie and gluten-free options are available. It is a wheelchair-accessible spot.
Puente Sinchi Roca, Aguas Calientes. Tel: +51 967 492 646
Local, Grill, Fusion
Services and tasty food are what travelers worship for this restaurant. Recommended dishes- Vegetarian soup, juices, and trout ceviche. Perfect if you’re looking for a cozy atmosphere where you can catch your breath after hiking Machu Picchu’s slopes.
Avenida Imperio de los Inca 616, Aguas Calientes. Tel: +51 967 492 646
Local, Latin, Fusion
This restaurant boasts a lovely terrace over the Urubamba river. Its specialties include local ceviche and regular pizza. The ambiance is very nice in this place where you can enjoy live music. Pisco is also a must, and you can find veggie options too.
Avenida Imperio de los Inca 620, Aguas Calientes. Tel: +51 941 260 271
Local, Bar, Pizza
Peruvian food is the highlight of this restaurant. Try the alpaca and fried cuy, and the ceviche. Also, the salads are made from the restaurant’s vegetable garden. It can be a good family option, especially for young kids. Homemade potatoes and chips will take your breath away.
Plaza Maco Capac Nº 104, Aguas Calientes. Tel: +51 958 198 153
Veggie, Local, Fusion
Great view from the square and 5-star quality service. Travelers highlighted the coconut lemonade, the quesadilla of Lomo Saltado, and the cauliflower cream. This is the place to choose in Aguas Calientes if you eat only vegetarian food. Ylla features a great variety of veggie dishes.
Yes. From Lima, you can fly to Cuzco, then take the train to Aguas Calientes. There is no airport in Aguas Calientes.
Hiking boots! And comfortable hiking clothes. A windbreaker can be useful, especially for the rainy season (December-April). You’ll also need a warm jacket when temperatures drop at night.
Usually, to travel Machu Picchu comprises a minimum of 8 days travel package. Destinations like Lima, Cuzco, and Sacred Valley can be easily combined with the Machu Picchu experience.
Out of the rainy season (December-April). So, the best time to visit the citadel is during May and November.
Machu Picchu is a fortress between the mountains in southern Peru, neighboring Bolivian and Brazilian Amazonia.
No. The only way to reach the archeological site is through Aguas Calientes. Once there, you can take a bus or walk to the site. The trail is around 6 miles of windy road.
The only way to reach Aguas Calientes is by train, from Cuzco or Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley.
No, to visit the archeological site an official guide is mandatory.
The general entrance fee including only the visit to the citadel it’s around 60 USD per adult. Expensive entrance fees include, for example, a visit to the Huayna Picchu or the Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum to see ceramics and other pieces found by archeologists in Machu Picchu.
Yes, we worked with the local operator from Perú.
The recommendation is 3 nights and 2 days. One to visit the ruins, and a second to enjoy Aguas Calientes or a second visit to Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu.
One of the major problems of preserving Machu Picchu is poor waste management. Local companies are making big efforts to reduce and recycle single-use plastics.
You can help too! Follow these best practices for responsible traveling:
There is a local project created to recycle used oil from houses, hotels, and restaurants in Machu Picchu. This oil is then turned into biodiesel energy and organic glycerin used to clean the stone floors and sidewalks of Aguas Calientes.
Before this initiative, 2000 liters of oil ended up in the river Urubamba.
Biodiesel is a lesser pollutant fuel- It reduces up to 44% of the carbon footprint, much more than regular fuel. On the other hand, organic glycerin features a lesser chemical structure which makes it biodegradable.
Biocarbon is a natural fertilizer used to reforest Machu Picchu’s surrounding forest. Around eight tons of organic waste can be processed per day.
A couple of years ago, authorities decided to reduce the number of people on site. The archeological site is a fragile environment. Roads and rocks degraded with time and group visits. That’s why group visits are scheduled and have a limited number of visitors per day. This will help preserve Machu Picchu for future generations, as beautiful as we know it!
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