A Few Words on Machu Picchu Tours & Travel
Down in South America, nestled deep amidst the mountains of Peru at 2,430 meters above sea level, lies Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. But lost to whom? The Incas, themselves, always knew where it was. It was just lost to the rest of the world until Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911. Machu Picchu is one of those truly special places that everyone with a sense of wanderlust and connection shouldn’t just read about in a book, but rather visit and experience personally once in their lives. Sitting effortlessly high on a ridge above the Sacred Valley, and protected from invading Spaniards, Machu Picchu survives to this day as the best preserved relic of Inca civilization…though we are still trying to unravel all of it’s mysteries. Most modern archeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed around 1450 as a personal estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti, who lived from 1438 to 1472. However, it was abandoned about a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest. Although all of the locals were well aware of Machu Picchu’s existence, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and it remained a secret to the rest of the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911. He then organized another expedition and returned in 1912 to undertake major clearing and excavation.
Machu Picchu is an actual Incan city, built on a mountaintop and surrounded by temples, water channels and terraces. Symbolizing the most incredible urban creation of the Inca Empire at it’s height, the giant walls, terraces and ramps that comprise Machu Picchu almost seems as if they have been naturally cut into the rock escarpments. Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, but there is nothing natural about how Machu Picchu was constructed - how without the use of technology the huge blocks of stone were seamlessly joined together without any mortar; the fit so precise not even a thin blade can fit between the stones. Such a feat of engineering is mind blowing and to this day scientists can speculate, but no one knows for sure, how all the stones were transported up the mountain and then cut so exactly. According to historians, during its time being used as a royal estate, probably only about 750 people lived at Machu Picchu at a time, with most people being support staff (yanaconas, yana) who lived there permanently. Though the estate belonged to Pachacutec, religious specialists and temporary specialized workers (mayocs) lived there as well, most likely for the ruler's well-being and enjoyment. During the difficult winter months and rainy season, staff likely dropped down to around a hundred servants and a few religious specialists focused only on maintenance.
Machu Picchu’s three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. To this day, many of Machu Picchu’s mysteries remain unresolved, including the exact role it may have played in the Incas’ sophisticated understanding of astronomy and domestication of wild plant species. Additionally, many visitors do not realize that a majority of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981. In 1983, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and then in 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll. When Machu Picchu was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, everyone certainly expected an increase in tourism, but the growth in visitors to the fabled Inca citadel has been staggering (from approximately 800,000 tourists to over 3 million in 2018). As the numbers rose, so did the collective carbon footprint, etc. This is a classic example of overtourism, and the moderate efforts at minimizing negative impacts on the structural and natural environment have had to be substantially reevaluated and increased. These days, more than 5000 people enter the gates of Machu Picchu every single day during the peak tourism months of July and August, with May, June, September and October not trailing far behind. Without the proper guidelines and infrastructure in place, Machu Picchu runs the very real risk of falling victim to its own success. It simply doesn’t have the carrying capacity. Tourists climb structures, take stones, create havoc and damage structure.
It is for this reason that new entrance regulations have been put in place for 2019. According to our friends at Mountain Lodge of Peru:
Visitor tickets will now have a specified entry time every hour from 6am until 2pm that includes a two-hour cushion allowing for some flexibility. However, neither entry before the specified time nor late arrivals that surpass the two-hour window will be honored.
All visits will be limited to four (4) hours if touring the citadel, or six (6) hours if hiking Huayna Picchu and/or Machu Picchu Mountain are included in your plans.
Access to Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain will be staggered differently:
Machu Picchu Mountain: You will need to purchase tickets for entry to Machu Picchu at 6am, 7am, or 8am. For tickets marked 6am or 7am, entrance to the mountain will be granted at 7am, but will only be valid until 8am. Visitors with tickets marked 8am will have access to the mountain at 9am; these will only be valid until 10am.
Huayna Picchu: You will need to purchase tickets for entry to Machu Picchu at 6am, 7am, or 8am. For tickets marked 6am or 7am, entrance to the mountain will be granted at 7am, but will only be valid until 8am. Visitors with tickets marked 8am will have access at 10:30am; these will only be valid until 11:30a. Availability permitting, MLP will purchase tickets for the 8am entry
All visitors are required to visit Machu Picchu with a guide. If you plan to return the following day, a guide is not mandatory; however, you must show your ticket from the previous day.
Working together with an amazing company like Global Basecamps, it’s easy to explore Machu Picchu in a responsible manner on your next South America vacation. Our travel experts will work within your budget to come up with a price you can be comfortable with. Together you will discuss how you wish to arrive to Machu Picchu, whether it be hiking the Inca Trail or one of the alternative treks such as the lares or Salkantay, or more traditionally by train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (formerly known as Aguas Calientes). You will discuss guided tours of Pisac Market and Ollantaytambo Fortress, the Incan ruins that surround the city of Cusco, more adventurous activities such as mountain biking, kayaking, ziplining and whitewater rafting, or even perhaps time spent with local artisans. We can even help arrange your flights into Lima and Cusco and anywhere else in Peru you wish to visit. Come visit Machu Picchu, let it’s mysteries envelop you and it’s energy lift you into an ancient Inca world!