Machu Picchu Guide
(Peru Highlights - Category: Best Destination & Best Historical Site - Editors Pick)
*** Important: In the last couple of years the government has limited the number of visitors to Machu Picchu to just 2500 people per day. Tickets are no longer on sale at the entrance to Machu Picchu so to avoid disappointment it is essential that visitors purchase their Machu Picchu entrance tickets in advance either in Cusco (still ok during the low season) or much further in advance (during the high seaon June, July & August) either online directly with the government or authorized ticket agent or by booking a package tour. In 2014 there were a couple of weeks in August when the entrance tickets sold out 3 or 4 days in advance so visitors who arrived in Cusco hoping to buy tickets to visit Machu Picchu for the following days were disappointed not to be able to obtain tickets (disappointed is putting it mildly!).
Names and passport numbers are needed in order to buy a ticket and these details are checked at the entrance to Machu Picchu and cannot be changed once the ticket has been issued. Therefore when the tickets have sold out they have really sold out. Companies can't buy up all the tickets with the intention of selling them on since they need real names and passport numbers to buy the tickets. There is no black market for entrance tickets since they cannot be resold or transferred to other people. As more people realise that it is important to buy their entrance tickets in advance more of them will be doing it and the tickets are likely to sell out even further in advance. Luckily now you know, so make sure it's not you who visits Peru but doesn't get to visit Machu Picchu. Details how and when to buy your tickets are included in summary below with links to pages with more detailed information. ***
Introduction to Machu Picchu
"Machu Picchu is a trip to the serenity of the soul, to the eternal fusion with the cosmos; where we feel our fragility. It is one of the greatest marvels of South America. A resting place of butterflies in the epicentre of the great circle of life. One more miracle." - Pablo Neruda, The Heights of Machu Picchu.
Located 120 km northwest of Cusco, the Inca city of Machu Picchu lay hidden from the world in dense jungle covered mountains until 1911. This 'Lost City' is one of the world's archaeological jewels and is one of South America's major travel destinations.
The well preserved ruins of Machu Picchu seem to almost cling to the steep hillside, surrounded by towering green mountains overlooking the Vilcanota River Valley. Even after having seen the classic photos of Machu Picchu in guide books & web sites you still cannot fail but to be impressed by the awe-inspiring location of the ruins.
When you read about its discovery and the unsolved mystery of its purpose and how it came to become 'lost to the world' you will realize why so many people make the pilgrimage to visit this fascinating and spiritual site.
With the right information, getting to Machu Picchu shouldn't be as much a mystery as the place itself. You can either book all the components of the trip independently yourself or you can buy a ready made package tour from one of hundreds of tour operators offering this service. However as Machu Picchu becomes more and more popular it is important to try and make your arrangements as far in advance as you can. During the peak season (June, July & August) there were several weeks in 2015 when the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu sold out more than a week in advance and many visitors who arrived thinking they could buy tickets on the door were turned away and never got to see Machu Picchu. There didn't seem to be so much of a problem in 2016 either because visitor numbers were down or visitors were better prepared. However imagine after spending so much money on your airfares and travelling half way across the world only to be turned away at the door to Machu Picchu because all the tickets had sold out !! Luckily, after reading this, that won't happen to you.
In order to plan your trip to Machu Picchu you have to understand a little bit about the geography of the area. Machu Picchu lay hidden from the world for such a long time because its location is fairly remote and inaccessible. Machu Picchu is located high up on a mountainside covered in dense vegetation overlooking the Vilcanota River. Nowadays a very steep and narrow zigzagging dirt track connects Machu Picchu with the nearest village of Aguas Calientes (Aguas Calientes literally means "Hot Waters" in Spanish and is so named because of the thermals baths that can be found there). Regular buses run the route between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu approximately every 15 minutes between 5am and 6pm. The 6km journey takes about 25 minutes. However the road between Aguas Calientes and the ruins of Machu Picchu is the only one ! there are no other roads connecting Aguas Calientes to rest of Peru but there is a railway running a frequent service between Aguas Calientes and Ollantaytambo (in the Sacred Valley) with some trains continuing to the village of Poroy (just outside Cusco). See Getting to Machu Picchu for detailed information.
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