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THE ULTIMATE BEST MACHU PICCHU TRAVEL GUIDE 2024

Machu Picchu Travel Guide

THE ULTIMATE MACHU PICCHU TRAVEL GUIDE 2024 – BEST MACHU PICCHU TRAVEL GUIDE

Machu Picchu is one of the worlds most dreamed about destinations and one of the Seven Wonders of the World it was officially declared on July 7th 2007 and one of the most important archaeological remains in South America.

Mystery is at the center of Machu Picchu’s appeal, as the city holds many deep secrets about the ancient Inca Empire. Knowledge seekers will find plenty of interesting tidbits to mull over about the city’s archaeological significance and the various scientific and religious practices of the Incas who built the enigmatic city. Below are some interesting facts that you may not know.

  • Machu Picchu means old mountain in Quechua, is a stone city, built by the Incas around XV.
  • It is located between the mountains Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, is surrounded by the Valley of the Urubamba River, and by more mountains of the Cordillera del Vilcanota.
  • Machu Picchu is located 130 kilometers from the city of Cusco and since the explorer Hiram Bingham made it known to the world in 1911, it has received many titles and recognitions
  • 2021: Machu was declared the best destination in the world by the largest community of travelers in the world, TripAdvisor.

Alongside this magic adventure through time, a journey to Machu Picchu offers an opportunity to experience Peruvian culture and their excellent gastronomy (Central Restaurant in Lima has just earned the title of the World’s Best Restaurant 2023).

If you stay a while, you can even make trips to many of the country’s otherhistorical wonders, like the perplexing and enormous images etched into the hillsof the Nazca desert, the origins of which are not entirely understood.

Throw in a few dishes of tangy ceviche, a rainbow striped mountain, a desert oasis thatlooks more like a painting than a real place, and many Peruvian pisco sours to washit all down with. Sample the culture bathe in the beauty of this magical city andyou’ve got a fantastic trip to one of the world’s most naturally beautiful countries.

BEST TIME TO VISIT MACHU PICCHU

Machu Picchu is open all year round. November through April is the official rainy season, but it can rain at any time. And while peak season is May and September,you should always expect crowds. Sundays can be the most crowded, becausethat’s when people who live in the Cusco region are allowed into the site for free, inaddition to the daily visitor’s limit.

Morning, Afternoon, there is no perfect time to visit Machu Picchu. These days, thesite is crowded at all hours and the weather is unpredictable. However, During the rainy season, the mornings are most likely to be foggy.

Depending on your disposition, fog clouds the view or adds an air of mystery to it. Afternoons can beslightly less crowded as day tripper’s return to the train station for their return trip toCusco.

ENTRY MACHU PICCHU TIMES

A limited amount of Machu Picchu tickets are available for entry every hour from 6 amand 2 pm. When purchasing entry tickets for Machu Picchu you must select one ofthe entry times starting at 6 am, 7 am, 8 am, 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, 12 noon, 1 pm, or2 pm.

It’s possible to enter Machu Picchu for up to one hour after the timeindicated on your ticket and not anytime beforehand.

TIME AT MACHU PICCHU

  • A General entry Machu Picchu ticket permits a maximum stay of 4 hours at the site.
  • Entry + Huayna Picchu ticket permits a maximum stay of 6 hours to do the hike andMachu Picchu tour.
  • Entry + Machu Picchu Mountain ticket permits a maximum stay of 7 hours to do thehike and Machu Picchu tour.
  • Re-entry is not allowed unless you have an additional entry ticket.

WHY DOES MACHU PICCHU HAVE CIRCUITS NOW?

A few years ago, visitors to Machu Picchu were allowed to freely explore the site.However, if you visit Machu Picchu today, whether visiting on your own, on a tour, oras part of the Inca Trail hike, you’ll have to walk along one of its 5 establishedcircuits designed by the director of Machu Picchu.

Meanwhile while preparing for your Inca Trail or Machu Picchu experience; you’llhave to make some decisions related to the circuits.

The entry tickets you end uppurchasing will affect which areas of Machu Picchu you will and won’t be able to visitduring your walking tour. You may end up purchasing two or more different MachuPicchu entry tickets, so you can see everything. But we do recommend that youdo this as for many it’s a once in a lifetime experience..

The purpose of the Machu Picchu circuits is to spread out the crowds todifferent areas of the site and at different times of the day so it doesn’t get toocrowded and everyone gets to see what they have paid to come and see.

Not only will you have to enter Machu Picchu at a certain time that you chose when you purchased the entry ticket, but also you won’t be allowed to linger in certain areas with limited space for too long.

So, visitors must take a certain circuit. For example, those arriving on the 4-day IncaTrail trek must take Circuit 3 upon arrival at Machu Picchu or the following day if theyare part of the 2 day or 5-day Inca Trail package. And those who want to climbHuayna Picchu can only do so by getting a Circuit 4 entry ticket.

Unfortunately, each circuit misses certain parts of Machu Picchu. So, if you really want to see the whole site, you’ll have to purchase multiple entry tickets to Machu Picchu, each on a different circuit and time. it will be well worth it and memories to last a lifetime

WHICH MACHU PICCHU CIRCUIT IS THE BEST ONE?

Circuit 2 + Puente Inka is the most complete and best Machu Picchu circuit, Circuit 2on its own gives you access to the largest number of areas at the site, including theclassic Machu Picchu viewpoint from the Guardhouse. So, Circuit 2 is the mostcomplete experience of Machu Picchu, definitely the best of the 5 Machu Picchucircuits.

The option that allows you to add the Inca Bridge trail to Circuit 2 is much better.The Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu is a one of a kind attraction. It is one of thefew remaining Inca built bridges in existence constructed of a few narrow logsperched above a sheer vertical drop; it is believed to have served as a secretentrance to Machu Picchu.

Comparatively few visitors hike the short trail to the Inca Bridge, which is all the more reason to do it. It requires a special entry ticket and is the best Machu Picchu ticket available to see most of Machu Picchu. Circuit 2 isn’tperfect.

It does miss a few things that are only included on Circuits 3, 4, and 5. But overall, it is still better than those circuits, especially for people who visit Machu Picchu in one day because it visits several of the most important and sacred sights at Machu Picchu.

Circuit 2 includes the famous Machu Picchu viewpoint, while the other circuits don’t but if you arrive via the Inca Trail, you’ll get to see the famous viewpoint either on the first day of your Short Inca Trail hike or on the final day of your 4-day Inca Trail trek.

MACHU PICCHU CIRCUIT 1 (Click here to see the map)

Circuit 1 is meant to be an abbreviated version of Circuit 2. It is aimed at visitors who have limited walking ability or want a shorter visit, such as elderly visitors and young children. After entering the site, you’ll proceed to the Guardhouse (10 to 15 minutes uphill), which offers the famous classic Machu Picchu photo.

After that, you’ll see only about half of the upper ruins before taking a shortcut across the middle area to the lower ruins and finally exiting.

Because of this shortcut, you will miss the northern half of the site.

What can I see on Circuit 1?

You will see the following sights with this circuit:

  • The Guardhouse or Classic Machu Picchu Viewpoint
  • The Machu Picchu Main Entrance Gate
  • The Sun Temple Viewpoint
  • Inca Quarry
  • The Water Mirror’s Room

MACHU PICCHU CIRCUIT 2 (Click here to see the map)

Circuit 2 is widely considered the best Machu Picchu circuit. There are two options for purchasing it: Circuit 2 on its own, or Circuit 2 + Inca Bridge.

Circuit 2 begins the same as Circuit 1, including the famous classic viewpoint at the beginning, and proceeding to the upper ruins. But instead of taking a shortcut, you continue along the upper ruins to the Sacred Plaza, then up some stairs to Intihuatana also known as the sundial (to prevent crowds, Intihuatana can only be visited between 7:00 AM -10:00 AM, otherwise you’ll have to skip it!).

The circuit then goes all the way to the Sacred Rock at the northern end of the site before looping back. At the end of Circuit 2, you’ll only be able to visit one of thetwo temples “temple of Condor or the water mirror’s room which are open from 10 AMto 1 PM.

Every Machu Picchu circuit passes by these two areas at the end. So, no matter which Machu Picchu circuit you choose, you’ll only see one of them (temple of the condor or the water mirror’s room) depending on the time.

What can I see on Circuit 2?

You will see the following sights with this circuit:

  • The Guardhouse or Classic Machu Picchu Viewpoint
  • The MachuPicchu Main EntranceGate
  • The Sun Temple Viewpoint or Inca Quarry
  • Sacred Plaza
  • Temple of Three Windows
  • Intihuatana (Sundial)
  • Sacred Rock
  • Temple of Condor or the Water Mirror’s Room

MACHU PICCHU CIRCUIT 3 (Click here to see the map)

Circuit 3 is an abbreviated Circuit that only visits the lower ruins and not the upper ruins of Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, it is mandatory for anyone arriving via the 4-day Inca Trail at Machu Picchu to take Circuit 3 upon arrival, usually led by your IncaTrail tour guide.

While those arriving on the 4 day Inca Trail get to enjoy the classic Machu Picchu viewpoint before they exit Machu Picchu and then re enter to do Circuit 3, those arriving to Machu Picchu by bus would miss the classic viewpoint if they opt for Circuit 3.

You should only choose Circuit 3 if you have mobility issues and aren’t able to walk up to the classic viewpoint (a 10-15-minute uphill walk for those able bodied people).

So, if you are coming to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, you must know that you are going to be walking on an inferior circuit that misses several key places at Machu Picchu. On the plus side, it does include a few cool spots that Circuit 2 doesn’t have.

For this reason, if you really want to see all of Machu Picchu, then it’s recommended to get a second permit for your visit so you won’t miss anything.

Your Circuit 3 entry ticket is included in your Inca Trail package. For the additional Huayna Picchu or Huchuy Picchu mountains (Circuit 4 entry ticket must bepurchased), we can arrange it for you for an extra fee. However, if you want an additional Circuit 2 entry ticket, you’ll need to purchase that on your own.

There is an additional hike that can be done at Machu Picchu and this is a MachuPicchu Mountain hike, which also comes with a Circuit 3 entry ticket. Since those arriving at Machu Picchu on the 4-day Inca Trail have to do the Circuit 3 upon arrival anyways, if you want to also hike up Machu Picchu Mountain on the same day, make sure to inform us at the time of booking your Inca Trail so that we can get the correct ticket for you.

What can I see on Circuit 3? 

On Circuit 3, instead of walking up to the classic viewpoint at the beginning, thetrail cuts straight to the following areas of the site.

  • Inca storehouses
  • Agriculture area
  • Ceremonial Fountains
  • Sun Temple
  • Royal Tomb
  • Priest’s house
  • Inca Palace
  • The Water Mirror’s Room or Temple of the Condor

MACHU PICCHU CIRCUIT 4 (Click here to see the map)

Circuit 4 entry tickets are basically for those planning on hiking either Huayna Picchu or Huchuy Picchu mountain, the taller or shorter mountains at the northern end of Machu Picchu, the ones backing the site in classic Machu Picchu photos.

The main purpose of Circuit 4 is to get you to this hike. You actually get to see a fair bit of Machu Picchu on the way. Circuit 3 actually follows the route of Circuit 4. Circuits 3 and 4 are basically the same thing, if you have tickets for each of these circuits; you’re essentially only buying that extra Circuit 4 ticket just to add on the side hike to Huayna Picchu or Huchuy Picchu.

What can I see on Circuit 4?

You will see the following sights with this circuit:

  • Inca storehouses
  • Agriculture area
  • Ceremonial Fountains
  • Sun Temple
  • Royal Tomb
  • Priest’s House
  • Inca Palace
  • The Water Mirror’s Room or Temple of the Condor

MACHU PICCHU CIRCUIT 5 “APPLIES TO THE 2-DAY INCA TRAIL” (Click here to see the map)

Short Inca Trail hike to Machu PicchuFor those who decide to hike along the 2 day Short Inca Trail, you will journey along a section of the famous Inca Trail and arrive into Machu Picchu on foot via the sun gate on the first day.

What happens is that you will get to see MachuPicchu from the Sun Gate on day one of the hike. This Machu Picchu view is pretty spectacular plus you will have the opportunity to go to the classic Machu Picchu viewpoint to capture those iconic photos on the same day instead of returning here the following day.

On the 2nd day of the Short Inca Trail, you will use the regular entrance to Machu Picchu. Once you enter, you will follow your visit along the so-called Route 5 within the city.

This route is similar to route 3 described above and leads directly to the lower sector via Agricultural Terraces, past the Sun Temple to the Inca palace. From there it continues to the Three Gates and back around to the exit.

With this Short Inca Trail Machu Picchu entry ticket, you are not tied to a fixed time window and are permitted to enter the city anytime between 06:00AM and 11:00. AM.

What can I see on Circuit 5?

Circuit 5 is virtually identical to Circuits 3 and 4 (but not including the Huayna Picchuor Huchuy Picchu hikes of course).

  • Inca storehouses
  • Agriculture area
  • Ceremonial Fountains
  • Sun Temple
  • Priest’s house
  • Royal Tomb
  • Inca Palace
  • Three Towers

If you are looking for a more comprehensive visit to the city or want to seesomething specific along routes 1 through 4 you will have to purchase an additional entrance ticket to Machu Picchu for that day.

SURROUNDING MOUNTAINS TO CLIMB IN MACHU PICCHU

There are also tickets that allow a visit to the surrounding mountain peaks, but in return only includes a limited visit via route 3 or route 4 through the city. You can find more details here:

HUAYNA PICCHU MOUNTAIN

Machu Picchu view from Huayna Picchu Mountain
Machu Picchu view from Huayna Picchu Mountain

Rising above the city of Machu Picchu in every classic image, Huayna Picchu is the infamous sugar loaf mountain known by many due to its famous steep climb up the “Stairs of Death.” which sits at an elevation of 2,720m.

While the hike is known to be a more challenging hike than its counterpart, Machu Picchu Mountain, it is the more popular choice of the two. So if you are looking for a bit more of an adventure for the dare devils among you then the sugar loaf mountain may be your thing.

Huayna Picchu is very steep, narrow, and in many parts, you are required to use your hands for balance or use cables provided to hold onto. There are many stone steps and some stone ladders to climb up the cliff face along the way.

Much of the hike is exposed to drop offs; if you suffer from vertigo this may not be the hike for you. The summit itself is not flat but is indeed rocky, therefore when the crowd picks up it can be a bit difficult to move around.

  • Difficulty: Due to the complexity and gradient of the trail, the hike is rather challenging.
  • Duration: 45 minutes up and 40 minutes down (two hours round trip)
  • Elevation: The Mountain’s summit sits at 2,720 m (8,920 ft).

MACHU PICCHU MOUNTAIN

View of Machu Picchu city from the top of Machu Picchu MountainWhile known as the not as steep and not as difficult hike, the less frequented Machu  Picchu Mountain offers  arguably  more spectacular views due to the difference in elevation. From the summit you are offered incredible views down to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, as well as the lush, surrounding valleys and Urubamba River.

Machu Picchu Mountain begins as a wider path; however, the trail gets steeper and narrower along the way up.

Compared to Huayna Picchu the ascent is more gradual, but reaches a higher elevation. The path doesn’t involve elements necessary on Huayna Picchu (e.g., ladders, the need to clamber with your hands),but instead is a mostly gradual climb of stone stairs before reaching a stone gateway before the summit. The summit offers a rather extensive area to sit and enjoy the views, and is generally less crowded than Huayna Picchu.

  • Difficulty: This hike is reasonably challenging, although arguably more manageable than Huayna Picchu as the climb is more gradual.
  • Duration: 2 hours up and 1 hour down (3 to 4 hours round trip)
  • Elevation: The Mountain’s summit sits at 3,082m (10,111 ft).

HUCHUY PICCHU MOUNTAIN

Machu Picchu view from Huchuy Picchu mountainThe Huchuy Picchu hike is a nice option for people wanting a short, easy hike in Machu Picchu that gives you great views of the famous Machu Picchu ruins from above. You can relax and take in the sights as you stroll casually.

It’s a new hike option that was just opened in 2021, and it takes you along a 15th century Inca stone staircase to the top of Huchuy Picchu (a name which means ‘little mountain’ in the Quechua language).

The climb to the top of Huchuy Picchu Mountain is short and straight forward.

There are some parts with steep drop-offs, but the path is fairly wide and you alwayshave something to hold onto so it’s not too scary or dangerous.

  • Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
  • Duration: 30 – 45 minutes round trip
  • Elevation: 2,497 meters (8,192 ft)

Rated highly on TripAdvisor and Trustpilot, our reputation echoes through hundreds of elated trekkers. The praise from our travelers propels us to continually refine our offerings, ensuring an exceptional journey for every adventurer.

Ready to embrace the Peru trekking experience? Explore our trek options or get in touch—your adventure of a lifetime awaits!
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