Tourists have been taking Machu Picchu tours since shortly after Hiram Bingham made the “Old Peak” famous in 1911. Bingham was guided to the site by a young Quechan boy. There were people living there at the time, having found it after the Inca’s abandonment.
Machu Picchu is located
2,430 meters above sea level, overlooking the Urubamba river in the
Andes Mountains. It is near the town Aguas Calientes in the department
of Cuzco and built by the Incas around 1460 AD. There are theories, but
nobody knows exactly how the Incas constructed the site. Huge stones
were used that had to be taken to the area over difficult mountainous
The stones fit so perfectly together that in some parts a
knife blade can’t fit between them. Machu Picchu is built to withstand
earthquakes, as the stones move slightly when the ground shakes and then
settle back into their original positions.
The Inca Pachacuti,
founding father of the Inca Empire, probably built the citadel as a
ceremonial center to worship the Sun God and as an observatory for the
solstice sunrise. It also has an agricultural area. These slopes not
only harvested crop, but also helped to defend the site from intruders.
Machu Picchu is so located that any military attack would be very
difficult to execute.
Machu Picchu is the most visited site in Peru, and one of the top tourist destinations in all of South America. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Historic Sanctuary and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is known for its superb architecture, ancient mysticism and breathtaking scenery. The ruins are a must see when visiting Peru.
One Day Machu Picchu Tours
several agencies in the city of Cuzco that offer day tours to Machu
Picchu. Almost all of them follow the same basic structure. In the early
morning you will be picked up at your hotel and taken to the San Pedro
train station. The train carries passengers up into the Andes Mountains
over about three hours to the mountain town Aguas Calientes (Hot
The town offers some great views of the Andes Mountains
that surround it, usually with low-hanging clouds that add to the town’s
mystical feel. There are cobbled streets that run uphill, slightly
challenging one’s physical fitness. Several residents still wear
colorful traditional dress.
After a brief stop in Aguas Calientes
your guide will then take you to a shuttle-bus that works it’s way up
the road to Machu Picchu. The entrance to Machu Picchu overlooks the
site. Your guide will take you through the ruins, explaining the
significance of each section. Most guides speak both English and Spanish
After being briefed on the various sections of Machu
Picchu you will be given the opportunity to explore it on your own. Some
tourists that are up to the challenge will take the steep steps up to a
high peak called Huayna Picchu. This is a demanding ascent, but one
well worth the effort as you’ll have a 360 degree view of the Department
of Cuzco and Machu Picchu below.
After a few hours at Machu
Picchu you will be taken back to Aguas Calientes by shuttle-bus where
you’ll have lunch. You will also be given some free time to browse the
handicraft shops before returning to Cuzco by train, then taken back to
The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu Tours
Trail was built by the Incas to make access to Machu Picchu easier.
Along this route there are unforgettable views of the Andes and the
Urubamba River below, a diversity of wildlife and also several Inca
It is now necessary to book a tour for the Inca Trail with
an official travel agency who provides you with an official guide. There
is a limit of 500 people per day who can hike the trail, so it is best
to get reservations well in advance. Sometimes the Inca Trail is booked
for an entire year.
Your tour agency will pick you up at your
hotel and take you to the train station. You will stop at the 2-Day or
4-Day Inca Trail mark, whichever you have signed up for. Both Inca Trail
treks are basically the same. The 4-Day trek takes more exertion, but
you will also have the opportunity to see more ruins and awesome
Your guide should have almost everything you need with
him like camping equipment, food and sometimes horses or donkeys. The
agency should also give you a list of recommended things to take with
On the last night of the Inca Trail there is a hostel.
Depending on what type of tour you are taking you might stay there for
the night, or camp out again. In the morning the Inca Trail trek ends
with a magnificent view of Machu Picchu below.
You will then have a
full day to explore Machu Picchu with your guide and on your own. In
the afternoon you will be taken to Aguas Calientes for lunch and to
browse the handicraft stores. Afterwards you will return to Cuzco by
train and be taken back to your hotel.
Alternative and Luxury Machu Picchu Tours
are several other tours available besides the two most popular types as
outlined above. One such tour offers a longer stay at Aguas Calientes.
Instead of spending just a couple of hours there, this tour lets you
stay the night to explore more of this unusual mountain town. The next
morning you will be taken to Machu Picchu. In the afternoon you begin
the return to Cuzco.
Luxury tours are also available. The luxury
Hiram Bingham train goes to Aguas Calientes where you can stay at luxury
hotels with gourmet food, spas, views and other amenities along with a
personal tour guide. Your hotel may be in Aguas Calientes or at the
Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge located right next to the ruins.
tours give you the benefit of having your tour guide focus entirely on
you and your party, allowing you to learn more about Incan and Peruvian
Other Machu Picchu tours take tourists by helicopter or
small aircraft on a sight-seeing mission over the Andes Mountains to see
the Urubamba River, ancient structures, and of course, the ancient
citadel for spectacular views from above and an enjoyable ride.
visit to Peru would not be complete without seeing Machu Picchu. When
deciding on what type of tour is ideal for you, take into consideration
your time, budget and what you would most like to do at Machu Picchu.
you are taking a packaged tour to Cuzco, Peru then your visit to the
ruins will already be covered. When going to Cuzco on your own you will
find several agencies that offer a wide variety of Machu Picchu tours.
Most agencies charge roughly the same as others, but it is best to check
When with limited budget and time, then the day tour will
probably be best for you. If you have three to five days, are in
reasonably good shape and have some extra money for your trip then the 2
or 4 day Inca Trail and Machu Picchu tour will be an excellent choice.
luxury tour is perfect for those who like lots of comfort while still
being able to experience Peruvian culture. These tours can get very
expensive, but do offer pleasantries and alternatives that other tours
Machu Picchu tours are highly recommended when you wish to
visit this mysterious citadel. The guides are professional and the
service is excellent, offering you, in this country rich with ancient
history, an experience you will never forget.