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Visiting Machu Picchu

Updated on March 8, 2013

High in the Peruvian mountains, the ancient city of Machu Picchu is a recognizable sight as one of the best-known abandoned Incan cities in the world.

The site is made up of the stone ruins of 140 separate structures, showing the elaborate nature of the old city. Wandering through the city you can see what is left of fountains, temples, houses, roads, open courtyards, and more. To make the most use of the steep hillsides, much of the city has been terraced to create that recognizable view. The lush green grass against the rough carved stone is striking.

The city is surprisingly not that old, compared to Roman or Asian ruins for example. It dates to around the mid to late 1400s and was abandoned when the Spanish conquered the area. The city wasn't rediscovered until 1911 and much of it has been somewhat restored today. It is now one of the "new" Seven Wonders of the World. The intact nature of the ruins and the remote location make this a unique place to visit, and a place that many people consider a must-see sometime in their lives.

Behind the ruins is the taller peak of Huayna Picchu, which you need an admission ticket now to climb if you want to get a better view of the city. You can also no longer buy tickets to Machu Picchu when you get there. The government is limiting how many people can visit the site each day and you have to arrange your tickets (online) in advance.

How to Get There

The village of Aguas Calientes is at the bast of the mountains, and is the usual point where you head up to the ruins. But there are no roads to Aguas Calientes, so you have to plan your trip to arrive elsewhere first. The typical route is to come to Cusco and get the train into Aguas Calientes from there. Cusco is reachable by highway from other larger cities in Peru such as Ayacucho or even Lima if you don't mind several hours of driving. There is also a small airport there that handles some international flights.

Hiking the Inca Trail

If you want to experience the site more thoroughly, you can take the Inca Trail to get there instead of just riding the bus from Aguas Calientes. The classic route takes about 4 days and it is a difficult and strenuous journey but the scenery and view of Machu Picchu as you complete the trail is simply breath-taking. To get to the head of the trail, you can still come to Cusco and take the train. You just need to get off before you get to Aguas Calientes (at the 82km mark to be specific).

show route and directions
A markermachu picchu -
Machu Picchu, Santuario Historico Machu Picchu, Peru
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B markercuzco peru -
Cuzco, Peru
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    • HawaiiHeart profile image

      HawaiiHeart 6 years ago from Hawaii

      I really hope I get to visit Machu Picchu one day. Such an amazing site.