There is a tremendous feeling at visiting this incredible sight known also as “the lost city of the Incas”. The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, 42 kilometers from Ollantaytambo by train is located in a high mountain with terraces falling away to the fast flowing River Urubamba snaking its course far below in the valley which provide a majestic Scene.
To reach Machu Picchu there are two ways. The easy way is by train (from Poroy/Ollantaytambo station) with a bus ride for the final climb from the rail terminus at Aguas Calientes to the ruins. The walk up from Aguas Calientes takes 1 to 2 hours, following the Inca path. Walking down to Aguas Calientes, if staying the night there, takes between 30 minutes and one hour. The ruins are quieter after 15h30 but don't forget that the last bus down from the ruins leaves at 17h30. There’s another way to get to Machu Picchu and is by hiking one of the Inca trails which lasts 4 days.
Tickets for Machu Picchu must be purchased in advance from the Direccion Regional de Cultura or through their website. Note that often their booking system just accepts a Visa card, and many people have had trouble buying it online. For more information about how to buy your ticket for Machu Picchu, we have prepared a special post regarding this subject in our blog.
For centuries Machu Picchu was buried in jungle, until Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in July 1911. It was then explored by an archaeological expedition sent by Yale University. Machu Picchu was a stunning find. The only major Inca site to escape 400 years of looting and destruction, it was remarkably well preserved. And it was no ordinary Inca settlement. It sat in an inaccessible location above the Urubamba Gorge, and contained so many fine buildings that people have puzzled over its meaning ever since. However, recent researches published in 2008 claim that Bingham was not the first to discover Machu Picchu. A local man, Agustin Lizarraga was the one who discovered Machu Picchu in 1902, as it was found written on one stone of Machu Picchu temple.
Aguas Calientes Only 1.5 km back along the railway from Puente Ruinas, this is a popular resting place for recovering from the rigors of the Inca Trail. It is named Aguas Calientes after the hot springs above the town. It is also called the town of Machu Picchu. Most activity is centred around the old railway station, on the plaza, or on Avenida Pachacútec wich leads from the plaza to the thermal baths daily 05h00-20h30.. They consist of a communal pool, which smells a bit sulphurous, 10 minutes' walk from the town by the banks of the river amid rich cloud forest vegetation. You can rent towels and bathing costumes at several places on the road to the baths, or buy them if you prefer. There are basic toilets, changing facilities and showers. Take soap and shampoo and keep an eye on your personal items.
Two companies operate along this route: PerúRail runs to Machu Picchu from Poroy, near Cusco and from Ollantaytambo, Inca Rail runs from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. All trains run to Aguas Calientes (the official name of this station is 'Machu Picchu'). The station for the tourist trains at Aguas Calientes is on the outskirts of town, 200 m from the Pueblo Hotel and 50 m from where buses leave for Machu Picchu ruins. There is a paved road between Aguas Calientes and the start of the road up to the ruins.
There are three classes of PerúRail tourist train. Note that timetables and prices are subject to frequent change. Tickets for all trains may be bought online or at the sales office .
Vistadome train departs from Poroy daily, arriving at Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu). It also returns from Machu Picchu, reaching Poroy station (20 min from Cusco city). This train has big windows and a live show on board.
Expedition train departs Poroy/Ollantaytambo daily, reaching Aguas Calientes in the afternoon. It’s a comfortable train and the less expensive. It includes snacks and drinks.
Hiram Bingham train is a super-luxury train with dining car and bar. It also includes cocktails, dinner and live entertainment on board, arriving in Poroy station with a bus service back to Cusco hotels.
Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world, here it is a description of what you will see. Once you have passed through the ticket gate you follow a path to a small complex of buildings that now acts as the main entrance to the ruins. It is set at the eastern end of the extensive terracing that must have supplied the crops for the city. Above this point, turning back on yourself, is the final stretch of the Inca Trail leading down from Intipunku (Sun Gate). From a promontory here you get the perfect view of the city (the one you've seen on ail the postcards), laid out before you with Huayna Picchu rising above the furthest extremity. Go round the promontory and head south for the Intipata (Inca Bridge). The main path into the ruins comes to a dry moat that cuts right across the site. At the moat you can either climb the long staircase that goes to the upper reaches of the city, or you can enter the city by the baths and Temple of the Sun.
Continue on the path behind the Sacristy to reach the Intihuatana, the 'hitching-post of the sun'. The name comes from the theory that such carved rocks, found at all major Inca sites, were the point to which the sun was symbolically 'tied' at the winter solstice, before being freed to rise again on its annual ascent towards the summer solstice. The steps, angles and planes of this sculpted block appear to indicate a purpose beyond simple decoration, and researchers have sought the trajectory of ach alignment. Whatever the motivation behind this magnificent carving, it is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Machu Picchu.
Climb down from the Intihuatana's mound to the Main Plaza. Beyond its northern end is small plaza with open-sided buildings on two sides and on the third, the Sacred Rock. The outline of this gigantic, flat stone echoes that of the mountains behind it. From here you can proceed to the entrance to the trail to Huayna Picchu.
Next to it is the Temple of the Sun, or Torreón. This singular building has one straight wall from which another wail curvet around and back to meet the straight one, but for the doorway. From above it looks like on incomplete letter P. It is another example of the architecture being at one with its environment the interior is taken up by the partly worked summit of the outcrop onto which the budding is placed. All indications are that this temple was used for astronomical purposes. Underneath the Torreón a cave-like opening has been formed by an oblique gash in the rock
The famous Inca bridge – Intipata – is about 30 minutes along a well-marked trail south of the Royal Sector. The bridge, which is actually a couple of logs, is spectacularly sited, carved into a vertiginous cliff-face. The walk is well worth it for the fine views, but the bridge itself is closed to visitors. Not only is it in a poor state of repair, but the path before it has collapsed.
Visitors are given access for 2 departure times daily, 07h00 and 10h00, latest return time 15h00. If you’re planning to hike the Huayna Picchu, please let us know in advance so we can book it as soon as possible, just 500 places are available!
Synonymous with the ruins themselves is Huayna Picchu, the verdant mountain overlooking the site. There are also ruins on the mountain itself, and steps to the top for a superlative view of the whole magnificent scene, but this is not for those with vertigo. The climb takes up to 90 minutes but the steps are dangerous after bad weather and you shouldn't leave the path. The other trail to Huayna Picchu, down near the Urubamba, is via the Temple of the Moon: two caves, one above the other, with superb Inca niches inside. To reach the Temple of the Moon from the path to Huayna Picchu, take the marked trail to the left; it is in good shape. It descends further than you think it should. After the Temple you may proceed to Huayna Picchu, but this path is overgrown, slippery when wet and has a crooked ladder on an exposed part about 10 minutes before the top. It is safer to return to the main trail to Huayna Picchu, but this adds about 30 minutes to the climb. The round trip takes about 3 hours and a half.