Visiting Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas and one of the seven wonders of the modern world is the dream of many travelers. This extraordinary construction of more than 500 years old lies in the middle of the jungle and has passed the test of time, because its original design still remains intact.
Since the late 1990s the number of visitors that come to this part of the world has increased considerably, especially to Machu Picchu, which means that some must be booked in advance. Below we present a summary of the most important points to consider.
The ticket to Machu Picchu
The first step for a successful trip to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is to buy the Machu Picchu ticket. The Ministry of Culture is the entity responsible for the care and preservation of this Inca wonder, as well as the sale of the Machu Picchu ticket. Due to the massive influx of visitors, there are some dates when getting tickets available from one day to another is very difficult or very expensive.
The Ministry of Culture has determined the following availability of tickets per day:
- Machu Picchu (citadel): 2500 tickets.
- Machu Picchu y Huayna Picchu mountain: 400 tickets.
- Machu Picchu y Machu Picchu mountain: 800 tickets.
To avoid inconveniences, we recommend buying the Machu Picchu ticket at least one month before the travel date.
It is important to mention that the sale of the Machu Picchu ticket does not include access to the famous Huayna Picchu mountain, this ticket has to be booked much more in advance, as we will explain later.
Train tickets from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
After the purchase of the Machu Picchu ticket, the next step is to acquire the train ticket from the town of Ollantaytambo to the town of Aguas Calientes. There are various types of train services and schedules but in general, if you want to make overnight reservations, especially in high season, prices can vary considerably. It is recommended to buy these tickets with due anticipation.
The railway companies on the Ollantaytambo - Aguas Calientes route are as follows:
- Perú Rail, they have been operating since 1999 and offers the following services:
- Expedition Train, regular train servic, food not included, extra costs are not included.
- Vistadome Train, exclusive service that includes food and non-alcoholic beverages, the trip includes a representation of typical dances on board during the journey.
- El Hiram Bingham Train, VIP service that includes a welcome ceremony, meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (with the exception of some select wines), and a show of dances on board. The cost of the ticket also includes accommodation in Aguas Calientes and the bus up and down to Machu Picchu.
- Inca Rail, They obtained permission to start operations on this route in 2009. they currently provide the following services:
- The Voyager, It includes the trip in a train car with panoramic windows, snacks, hot and cold drinks as well as music on board.
- The 360°, it includes panoramic windows, box lunch, hot and cold drinks, music on board and a entertainment system.
- The First Class, includes panoramic windows, car with a observatory on board, gourmet menu, open bar, live music and the bus up and down to the citadel of Machu Picchu.
- The Private, This service gives you the possibility of renting an entire train car for you and your companions, the car includes an outdoor balcony, gourmet menu, open bar, live music and the bus up and down to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
Getting to Cusco, Terrestrial or Air way:
To visit Machu Picchu you must first arrive to the city of Cusco, either by air or by land. here a brief summary follows.
- There are flights from Lima, the Peruvian capital, to the city of Cusco that depart daily. Travel time is approximately one hour.
The companies that currently provide services are LATAM, Peruvian Airlines, Avianca, Viva Air and Amazonas. The average cost of a ticket ranges between USD 100.00 and USD 150.00 if you want to buy overnight.
- The trip from Lima to Cusco by land has an approximate duration of 20 hours, this can vary if you travel in the rainy season, which in some cases this time is extended to 22 or 24 hours. While it is true the route runs through beautiful valleys and Andean landscapes, the travel time added to the countless amount of curves, ups and downs makes this trip not recommended for everyone.
Book a hotel in Cusco
The city of Cusco has developed an extensive hotel offer, which means that most likely you will have no problem finding an available location. Of course, room have a cost increase of approximately 20% in high season (June - July - August).
Cusco and its innumerable charms
The city of Cusco is characterized by an urban architecture in which the Inca influence blend together, with its stone walls, stairs and other lithic constructions, and on the other the Spanish influence, with its balconies, houses with large entrance gates and double water roofs.
Churches and Temples
The city of Cusco has at least 12 churches in its urban area, many of them have been built over 400 years ago. Among the most representative are:
- The cathedral of Cusco, located in the main square. The cathedral represents the greatness of God over humanity or at least that is what its architects wanted to capture in its design. At 30 meters high, the cathedral is an impressive building built over an ancient Inca palace.
- Compañia de Jesus Church, also located in the main square, this church impresses both its design and the invaluable amount of history and art that enclose its walls.
- San Cristóbal Church, located on top of a hill, this church was also built over an ancient Inca palace and offers a privileged view of the Plaza de Armas of Cusco.
- San Blas Church, this church is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, that exists in the city of Cusco. It is believed that it was inaugurated in the year of 1544 and is located in the neighborhood of the same name.
Many of the museums that can be found in the city of Cusco were once owned by the most important Spanish authorities who lived at that time or were once Inca palaces. Among the most representative museums are:
- Cabrera House, located in the Nazarene square, it was formerly an Amaru Cata or ‘Houe of knowledge’ Inca, over which this building was built. Currently, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum lies here.
- Garcilazo House, that at some time belonged to the Concha Iberico family and was acquired in 1967 by the Peruvian government, due to the valuable collection of art it kept.
Inca Temples and Palaces
Despite having been partially destroyed by the Spaniards, today you can still see part of the original structure of some Inca palaces. The best known are:
- Qoricancha, Located in the center of Cusco on Sol Avenue, it is an ancient Inca palace dedicated to the cult of the virgins. The Qoricancha, a Quechua word that means ‘gold esplanade or gold field’ was covered with gold before being sacked by the Spanish, according to some historians.
- Tambomachay, it is a lithic complex located 20 minutes by bus from the city of Cusco. This palace was dedicated to the cult of water and in turn served as a natural spa.
- Qenqo, This Inca temple dedicated to the cult of the moon is located in the area of the archaeological park of Sacsayhuaman, and stands out for its peculiar shape, which resembles a maze.
Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire and it is for this reason that the remains of the ancient city are buried and scattered throughout the city.
- Sacsayhuaman, which in Quechua means 'satisfied hawk', is a fortress located on top of a hill next to the city of Cusco. It stands out for the immense stone blocks with which it is built, some of these blocks reach more than 5 meters high.
- Inquilltambo, These recently discovered Inca remains in the Salineras riverbed, south east of Cusco, are composed of mostly agricultural platforms and constructions. These ruins are accessed through the route of the archaeological park of Sacsayhuaman.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located one hour by car from Cusco and has innumerable attractions, both natural and archaeological.
The town of Pisac is located in the Sacred Valley and has a craft fair that is very popular in the area. In the upper part of the town there are Inca terraces that offer an impressive view of the entire valley.
This town was a fortress and observation center in the Inca era, as it is strategically located at the crossroads of three valleys. In its streets you can find Inca walls, aqueducts as well as terraces and cultivation terraces.
The Incas built Moray probably with the intention of experimenting with their crops, because in this construction that resembles a colosseum, important temperature differences have been recorded between one step and another, so it is believed that new seed types were tested and developed here.
Evidence of the experimentation with the seeds in the time of the Incas can be seen in the town of Urubamba, where you can find giant sweet cusqueño corn, unique in the world for the size of its grains and its pleasant flavor.
This town is famous for its fabrics and its textile industry, in its traditional fair there is an innumerable variety of fabrics, wool and factory designs.
The lost city of the Incas: Machu Picchu
The famous Inca city is located 2,400 meters above sea level, that is, almost 1000 meters below the city of Cusco, which is 3,300 m.a.s.l.
Huayna Picchu or Wayna Picchu mountain
This mountain is the one that appears as a background in almost all the photographs of Machu Picchu and is famous for how dangerous it is to climb to the top. The ascent to the top of the mountain takes about an hour and a half, through stone stairs and on the edge of an abyss of four hundred meters to the Urubamba River that is located on its slopes. Because it is considered one of the five best short walks in the world, tickets for the Huayna Picchu mountain must be purchased at least six months in advance.
Machu Picchu mountain
The Machu Picchu mountain is also located next to the Inca citadel but offers a better view of the entire surrounding area. The climb to this mountain is easier than the climb to the Huayna Picchu mountain and takes about two hours.
As you have read, Cusco has these and many other charms to discover, do not waste time and reserve your experience in Cusco right away. We will be waiting for you.