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17 UNMISSABLE THINGS TO DO
AT MACHU PICCHU CITY OF THE INCAS
If you are planning a tour of Machu Picchu City of the Incas, how do you decide what to see and do?
This bucket list contains 17 of the best experiences you can have at Machu Picchu.
HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU FROM AGUAS CALIENTES
You can take a bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, or, you can hike along Camino Peatonal Trail. The hike should take you approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, if you are in good shape.
Machu Picchu is approximatley 5 miles (8 km) from Aguas Calientes. However, the elevation change is 1,279 feet (389 meters). Specifically, Machu Picchu is at the elevation of 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) above the sea level. Aguas Calientes is at the elevation of 6,693 feet (2,040 meters) above the sea level.
It is a strenuous hike, but it is very rewarding! Make sure to check out my detailed post here.
SEE SUNRISE AT MACHU PICCHU
Do not miss sunrise at Machu Picchu! It is a magical experience!
However, in order to see sunrise at Machu Picchu, you need to do some advance planning. First of all, you need to arrive to Aguas Calientes the day before and spend the night. Second, you need to get up practically in the middle of the night and catch a bus to Muchu Picchu. The line for buses going to Machu Picchu starts forming at about 4 am.
Believe me, it is all worth it!
Make sure to check out my post here and find out all the details of how to get to Machu Picchu in time for sunrise.
Also, do not miss my post how to buy bus tickets. It has a lot of pointers that are going to save you a ton of time. Also, if you are spending the night in Aguas Calientes then you will need to check out my post and find out what are the things worth doing in Aguas Calientes.
HIKE TO HUAYNA PICCHU (WAYNAPICCHU)
The number of hikers is limited to 400 per day, so make sure to buy your tickets way in advance. The first group enters between 7 am and 8 am. The second group enters between 10 am and 11 am.
Waynapicchu is 8,923 ft/2,720 m high. It is a steep mountain. If you decide to hike, then keep in mind that it is a strenuous hike and it should be only attempted if you are in good physical condition.
First of all, the hike from the main gate of Machu Picchu to the trailhead Huayna Picchu takes between 15 to 20 minutes. When you reach the trailhead, you will have an option to either take the short trail or the long trail.
The short trail takes about 45 minutes to an hour and is a steep and challenging climb. The long trail takes about 3.5 hours and continues around the base of the mountain to the Great Cavern and The Temple of the Moon before heading up.
If you have fear of heights, then you should skip this hike!
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HIKE TO MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN
The number of hikers to Machu Picchu Mountian is limited to 800 per day. Just like Waynapicchu, the entry to the mountain is timed. The first group is allowed to start hiking between 7 am and 8 am and the second group may enter between 9 am and 10 am. Needless to say, buy your tickets way in advance.
Machu Picchu Mountain is 7,874ft/2,400 m high. It is a moderate to a challenging trail to hike. However, it is an easier hike then Waynapicchu. First of all, the trail is wider, second, it is better marked.
However, if you are afraid of heights, then you should skip this hike! Needless to say, there are some steep sections.
All in all, it takes about 3 hours to complete the hike and you will be rewarded with the most amazing views of Machu Picchu City of the Incas with the iconic Waynapicchu in the background.
VISIT THE AGRICULTURAL AREA OF MACHU PICCHU CITY OF THE INCAS
Just looking at the sheer number of man-made terraces, you can assume that farming was an important part of life at Machu Picchu.
Excavation and soil analyses showed that the terraces were built in layers. The bottom layer consisted of larger stones covered by loose gravel. On top of the gravel was a layer of mixed sand and gravel packed together, with rich topsoil covering all of that.
It was shown that the topsoil was probably moved from the valley floor to the terraces because it was much better than the soil higher up the mountain. This type of construction ensured proper drainage and protected the area from landslides and erosion.
A study of the soil around the terraces showed that what was grown at Machu Picchu was mostly corn and potatoes.
CLIMB TO GUARDHOUSE FOR AWESOME VIEWS
After you examine the agricultural area consider climbing a long staircase to the left. It will take you to the Guardhouse and you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Machu Picchu City of the Incas.
The Guardhouse, also known as the Caretaker’s Hut, was an important building for security and defense. Interestingly, it is a three-sided building, with one of its long sides opening onto the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock.
The three-sided style of Inca architecture is known as the wayrona style.
Above all, enjoy the spectacular views of Machu Picchu City of the Incas!
TAKE A SHORT TREK TO SEE THE INCA BRIDGE
Hands down, take a short hike to Inca Bridge! First of all, you will be rewarded with the most incredible views of the Urubamba River.
Second, it is a moderate hike that gently winds up the hill. However, if you have a fear of heights, then I am recommending that you skip this hike.
You will really appreciate how precisely the stone path is laid out. Trails like these are throughout the Andean mountains and they helped Incas navigate through the peaks and troughs.
In addition, just looking at the bridge and the trail, you can imagine how inaccessible Machu Picchu Inca city was.
The trail head is located within the grounds of Machu Picchu close to the view point of the Guardhouse.
CHECK OUT THE MAIN GATE LEADING INTO THE CITY OF THE INCAS
The Main Gate is a popular spot, so you will need to wait to get your chance to take a few pictures.
While you are waiting to have your picture taken, take a closer look at the Main Gate. It is interesting how it was constructed and how majority of the Inca city was built.
A quarry, located near Machu Picchu Inca city, was used to craft the stones. The stones were cut, molded, and then dry polished in such a way that they specifically fit precisely one into the other. Some sections of the structures located at Machu Picchu Inca city are so perfectly constructed that it is almost impossible to get a blade of grass between them.
BE AMAZED BY THE TEMPLE OF THE SUN
Once you get through the Main Gate, look below you. You will see the Temple of the Sun. It is cordoned off from visitors, so it is best viewed from above.
It is he only building in Machu Picchu Inca city with a rounded wall.
Inside the temple is a granite slab, carved from the rock beneath. It could have been used as an altar.
Next, find the trapezoid window. It is called the Solstice Window. It is aligned in such a way that the rising sun of the winter solstice casts its rays along the granite slab.
Moreover, the stones are meticulously carved, polished smooth, and then fitted tightly together with maximum precision while still allowing a small amount of shifting to occur from the expansion and cooling of the stones during weather changes.
STOP BY THE ROYAL TOMB
Walking around and below the Temple of the Sun, will bring you to the Royal Tomb.
The Royal Tomb is a cave with beautifully carved step motifs, full of niches with superb stonework. It is an example of the best stonework in Machu Picchu Inca city. Although, Hiram Bingham found no human remains inside the cave, the quality of work led him to name it a royal tomb.
CHECK OUT THE TEMPLE OF THE THREE WINDOWS
Next, walk to the Temple of the Three Windows. The Temple of the Three Windows (also known as the Room of the Three Windows) is situated on Machu Picchu’s Sacred Plaza.
The main wall of this sturdy rectangular building contains three windows that overlook the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu. The windows are aligned to the sunrise.
VISIT THE PRINCIPAL TEMPLE OF MACHU PICCHU CITY OF THE INCAS
Adjacent to the Temple of the Three Windows is the Principal Temple sometimes referred to as as the Main Temple.
Due to its large size and prominent location on the Sacred Plaza, many archaeologists believe that the Principal Temple was one of the main public temples at Machu Picchu, where large ceremonies would have taken place.
Due to soil movement and sinking, one corner of the temple has been damaged. Its huge stone blocks shifted out of place. Nonetheless, it remains an impressive structure.
BE MYSTIFIED BY INTIHUATANA
Next, continue on along the path. Fairly soon, you will come across Intihuatana.
Intihuatana is perhaps the biggest puzzle at Machu Picchu. It is a giant rock, named “the Intihuatana” by Bingham. It is situated on a raised platform that towers above the plaza.
Its purpose is a mystery, with recent research disproving the idea that it acted as a sundial. It may have been used for astronomical observations of some sort.
BE AWED BY THE TEMPLE OF THE CONDOR
Descend from Intihuatana and cross the Central Plaza toward the entrance. Shortly, you will come across the Temple of the Condor.
The Temple of the Condor shows the artistry and creativity of Incas.
You need to step back a little to see the actual condor. It’s head and beak are carved out of the stone positioned on the ground. Behind it are two rocks that resemble the outstreched wings.
The cave inside the temple was likely used for rituals. The condor’s head may have served as an altar.
EXPLORE THE URBAN SECTOR
To the north is the Urban Sector. It is divided into three areas: the Sacred District, the Popular District and the Royalty District.
The houses are connected by narrow passages with stairs on the sides of the houses.
The Popular District is where the common people or the low class lived. Here, houses are simple and built in groups of up to ten. The narrow streets end in a courtyard or small plaza.
Food storage buildings were also built in this area.
TAKE A STROLL THROUGH THE CENTRAL PLAZA
The Central Plaza is like a green island right in the middle of all the stone buildings that make up Machu Picchu.
My recommendation is to just take a leisurely stroll through the plaza and soak in the views of the city.
TAKE SOME PICTURES WITH LLAMAS
Hands down, take some cool pictures with llamas! What a fun way to finish your day trip to Machu Picchu.
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Finally, to help you with your planning process of your trip to Peru, make sure to check out my post: 1-Week Peru Itinerary (+BONUS: 3-Day Extension Itinerary to Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.