What is Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu: The wonder of the world of Peru

Hardly any other ruin attracts as many people as the Inca city of Machu Picchu in the wild Andean world of Peru. Always surrounded by a certain mysticism, it is not only the architectural achievement of the Inca that impresses, but also the panorama of the Urubamba Valley

Machu Picchu at a glance

Where is Machu Picchu located?
The famous ruins of Machu Picchu are located on the high plateau of the same name in the province of Cusco, in the southeast of the South American country Peru.

How do I get to Machu Picchu?
The starting point for excursions to Machu Picchu is the City of Cusco. It has an international airport and various bus connections. From here there are several options that Place Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu How to get there: hikes lasting several days and a combination of bus and train.

When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
If you strictly follow the weather, you should between April and October travel to Machu Picchu. However, this dry time is considered the main season and tickets can be sold out months in advance. If you can live with a little fog and rain in between, you should go to the Transitional months of March and November travel, then it is noticeably emptier.

One of the most famous tourist attractions in the world lies on a 2400 meter high Andean saddle between wooded mountain peaks: Machu Picchu. The ruined city of the Inca captivates with its size and mysticism. Travelers from all over the world are drawn to the remote Urubamba Valley in southeastern Peru - they all want to explore this unique relic of the proud Andean people. But the never-ending stream of tourists is increasingly becoming a problem for the centuries-old Inca city. Those who want to experience Machu Picchu should be aware of the sensitivity of the place and follow the rules.

The discovery of a wonder of the world: Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is considered to be one of the last places where the Incas worked. Protected by jagged rock walls, at the feet of which the untamed Urubamba river rushes through the dense jungle thicket, the settlement lies on top of one remote high plateau at an altitude of 2,430 meters. Without metal tools, wagons and mortar, the proud Andean people built an area of ​​over 200 houses in the middle of the 15th century, made of stacked, precisely shaped stones. But what did they undertake this effort for? Should a pilgrimage site, a royal summer residence or an administrative center be built here? Everything would be conceivable, nothing definitively testable.

There are no traditional scriptures, because the Inca lived without. Not even the original name of the settlement is known, which is now simply named after the mountain on whose back it is enthroned. By the time Hiram Bingham discovered it for the western world in 1911, it had been lying under gnarled lianas and layers of moss, because even the Spaniards had not found Machu Picchu on their raids through the impassable mountains of Peru. And so left behind the unique opportunity to fathom the great and small secrets of the Inca Empire between intact irrigation systems, houses and temples.

Hiram Bingham inspired the masses

Media effective Hiram Bingham staged his trip to Peru in "National Geographic". On more than 20 pages in 1913 he described in text and pictures what he had done in the depths of the Peruvian jungle, several day's marches from the former Inca capital Cusco away: Machu Picchu - one of the most important discoveries of our time. Almost 60 percent of the entire area is in its original condition to this day. The Inca city has been part of the UNESCO world heritage and since 2007 to the new seven wonders of the world. Machu Picchu is a complex of 216 nested buildings, over 3000 steep stairs, stone escapes and paths. Archaeologists divide the Holy City into four sections: living quarters, workshops, agricultural areas and spiritual places. The large green main square forms the center of Machu Picchu.

On the Inca footsteps through the Andes

Almost the entire east of Peru contains settlements, places of sacrifice and ceremony as well as temples of the Inca. This applies in particular to the province of Cusco with its capital of the same name, which is over 3400 meters above sea level. It formed the center of the Inca Empire and still has well-preserved relics from that time, such as the Callejón de Siete Culebras (Alley of the Seven Serpents) or the foundation walls of the most important sun temple of Cusco Coricancha. This opens up north-west of the city Sacred Valley of the Incas. Here lie with Pisac and Ollantaytambo other important cities of the Inca. In contrast to Machu Picchu, they were discovered and looted by the Spaniards. Nevertheless, they are definitely worth a visit and get travelers in the mood for their day at the wonder of the world.

But this day should be planned, because Machu Picchu is not even visited in between.

Whether hike or train: All roads lead via Aguas Calientes

Even if it is no longer as arduous as it was in the times of the Inca to reach Machu Picchu, the ways to the world heritage site are still time-consuming. There are essentially two options: a multi-day hike or a combined journey consisting of bus and train. The starting point for everyone is the city of Cusco. All treks, like the famous Inca Trail, which follows an exposed part of the ancient Inca road system to Machu Picchu, start at the gates of Cusco. If you don't want to hike, you have to Place Aguas Calientes at the foot of the high plateau achieve differently. Since there is no continuous drivable road from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the only option is a bus transfer to the Ollantaytambo or Poroy train stations. From here trains run to the small settlement below Machu Picchu (journey time: from 1 ½ hours, Inca Rail or Peru Rail). Aguas Calientes is the tourist center of Machu Picchu and has restaurants, hotels and shops. To reach the main entrance of the ruins, there are again two options from Aguas Calientes. A serpentine road winds up the steep mountain flank of Machu Picchu. You may only use the local shuttle buses which need around 30 minutes for a route and run almost every minute (from 5:30 a.m., tickets at VVK in town).

Regardless of whether you are an individual traveler or a tour group: everyone has to queue for the buses in the valley. Especially in the high season between April and October, the waiting time for a seat can be up to three hours. Only option to escape the crowds: hike. The route to the main entrance of Machu Picchu is signposted and can be done in an hour and a half.

The right ticket to the Holy City

Buying tickets for Machu Picchu may not be rocket science, but it is a bit more complex. After all, the Inca City is not a normal museum either. There are three different ticket categories:

  • The The cheapest only offers access to the ruins. At the time of purchase, visitors have to decide on a time at which they want to enter the World Heritage site (earliest entry 6 a.m., latest 2 p.m., from 40 euros).
  • The The second option also allows access to the top of the Machu Picchu mountain (La Montaña). Only 400 tickets are offered daily as well as three possible start times for the two-hour hike (earliest 7 a.m., latest 10 a.m., 52 euros).
  • The The third category includes, in addition to the ruins, access to the Huayna Picchu, the sugar-hat-shaped mountain at the top of the ruined city. Here, too, only 400 tickets are available per day and the start of the hike is linked to three predetermined times (earliest 7 a.m., latest 10:30 a.m., 52 euros). The three-hour circular hike is physically demanding and only suitable for people with a head for heights.

The tickets in the last two categories are very popular. They are also in the low season from November to March Booked out months in advance, while the simple admission tickets to the ruins are more spontaneously available at the official advance booking offices in Cusco and Aguas Calientes as well as online. If you want to be on the safe side, you should buy the tickets for the desired date online. The website of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture is the most direct way to get a ticket. Those who do not speak Spanish would do well to put the organization of the journey and the tickets to Machu Picchu in the hands of a local agency.

Since the streams of visitors of the past decades have left their mark, the Peruvian authorities are trying to better protect their wonder of the world. Again and again with the Length of stay and the coordination of tourists on site experimented. A few years ago, visitors were allowed to find their own way across the site and stay as long as they wanted, today much stricter to. Accordingly, you should inform yourself about any changes before buying and before your actual visit.

This is how Machu Picchu works today

As soon as the ticket has been scanned, the clock is ticking. Each of the 2500 visitors admitted daily has four hoursto explore Machu Picchu - officially the first two hours with a tour guide and the rest of the time on your own. With the stricter regulations introduced in 2019, the Peruvian government is trying to master the tourist crowds and shake off its status as an endangered UNESCO World Heritage Site. For the central areas such as the Intihuatana stone or the sun temple, even tighter time windows are being considered.

As it is in the Inca City itself neither toilets nor resting places there, all human needs should be met before entering the ruins. Because anyone who has left Machu Picchu once is not allowed to enter again in the meantime. In the meantime, around 80 park rangers ensure that every tourist adheres to these rules, who are spread across the area and punish any violation with a firm grip on the whistle.

If you want to get by without kick-off, you should register for one of the three signposted routes decide, because changing direction or path is also prohibited.

  • Just Circuit 1 leads through all sections and thus over the entire site including gatehouse and sun gate. One lap lasts around three hours and only appeals to physically fit people.
  • Circuit 2 leaves out the steep passage to the upper cultivated terraces. This route is aimed at Families with young children and the elderly.
  • Circuit 3 is only for people with physical limitations thought.

How to make the perfect trip to Machu Picchu

First of all: you will never have Machu Picchu all to yourself. But there are Opportunities not to have to share the site with several thousand people. And so: The trip takes place in the transition months of March or November, then the weather is stable, but there are fewer tourists than in the main season. Another rule of thumb: Take your time. If you start the long journey to Peru to see the most famous ruin in South America, you shouldn't roam it in the form of a stressful day trip. So spend the day before your visit to Machu Picchu arriving and sleeping in Aguas Calientes.

Because Machu Picchu without an overnight stay on site means: Get up in the middle of the night, travel at least four hours for a two and a half hour guided tour of the ruins, and then drive four hours back to Cusco. Decide what you want to explore before purchasing the tickets and then choose a suitable slot. If you are not bound by one of the entry times to Huayna Picchu or Montaña Machu Picchu, does not begin his visit until noon, then the day tourists are already on their way back and the remaining guests spread out more.

Early risers get a ticket for the first slot and set the alarm clock to 4 o'clock. From the assembly point of the shuttle buses in Aguas Calientes, follow the signs to the main entrance on foot (don't forget your headlamp!). By the time the first bus has reached the plateau, the hikers are already on their way to Machu Picchu and enjoy the legendary dawn (almost) alone for a short time.

Are Huayna Picchu or Montaña Machu Picchu worthwhile?

Machu and Huayna Picchu. The big and the small mountainas they are translated, overlook the scenery like meek giants. Both mountain peaks create what you cannot do in the middle of the ruins - they offer a view of the big picture. While La Montaña describes the summit of the ridge on which the Inca city itself lies, Huayna Picchu is the sugar-shaped mountain that dominates the panorama of the Inca city. Somewhat out of the way, the dimensions and exposed location of the ruin become clear. Accordingly, one of the two excursions is recommended to everyone who feels physically fit enough. The access to La Montaña is much better developed and easier.

If you want to try your hand at Huayna Picchu, should be free from giddiness and feel good even at high altitudes. Because the way up to the blown top follows an unsteady pattern of steps and slippery paths. Occasionally, ropes or handrails provide some surefootedness in steep passages. But a deep look is enough to understand: A wrong step ends here fatally. Since there have already been deaths in the past, some organizers now advise against the hike to the top of the Huayna Picchus. The Inca opened up the mountain, which is difficult to access, with stairs, with additional cultivated terraces and houses that line the roadside. Historians assume that the buildings on the 2720 meter high Sugar Loaf were intended for the most important priests of the Inca. If you make it to the summit of Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu and the entire Urumba Valley are at your feet.

Are there alternatives to Machu Picchu?

Even if leaving Peru without visiting Machu Picchu may be an option for very few, it does exist. The Inca sites that have significantly fewer visitors. One is that Ruined city of Choquequirao. Because of their similarity in structure and architecture, it is called the Machu Picchu's little sister designated. Choquequirao is located on a high plateau at an altitude of around 3000 meters in the Foothills of the Salcantay mountain range, around 180 kilometers west of Cusco and like Machu Picchu remained undiscovered by the Spaniards.

At the moment Choquequirao can only be reached via a three to four day hike through the Andes. But here, too, the quiet could soon be over. The Peruvian government plans to develop the ruined city to relieve the big brother. Until the plans are put into practice, only about a dozen visitors a day enjoy the seclusion of Choquequirao.