Going Inside Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is an Inca citadel located in southern Peru on a 7,970 foot tall mountain peak. It has often been referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”. It is located 50 miles northwest of the original Inca capital city of Cusco. The Urubamba River flows through the valley below the mountain creating a tropical climate in the region. The site sits on a narrow saddle between two mountain peaks: the taller Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. Historical research in 2022 claimed the site was probably originally called Huayna Picchu by the Inca, as it sits under the smaller peak.

Because the Inca had no written language and no outsiders visited Machu Picchu until the early 20th century, there are no historical records from the site about its true use or who originally occupied it. The names given the buildings, their described uses, and the actual original inhabitants are the best guesses of archaeologists using physical evidence, and artifacts from tombs at the site.

For a downloadable pdf map of the Machu Picchu archeological site click the map below

Current thinking of archaeologists is that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472), but according to new radiocarbon dating, Machu Picchu was actually occupied from 1420 to 1532 AD casting some doubt on the theory.

Machu Picchu is a typical Inca style site, with fitted dry-stone walls and stacked stone terracies. The three main structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed to how they originally appeared.

Researches and Inca historians believe it was used as a royal estate, with about 750 people living there, with most serving as support staff who lived there permanently. Though it is likely that the estate belonged to Inca Pachacutec, religious specialists and specialized workers with their families lived there as well. During the lessor agreeable season, the population was reduced to about one hundred servants and a few religious specialists for maintenance.

Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and in 2007, Machu Picchu was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The terraces on Huayna Picchu

Selecting Your Tour

Visiting Machu Picchu is not as simple as just buying and admission ticket and going in. First the site only allows about 5,000 visitors per day so you will need to pre-book your visit right down to the hours you will get there. In addition there are several paths through the site as well as extended trails and you will need to select a time choice:

Machu Picchu Entry Times

The Machu Picchu entry time slots are set by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, in coordination with the National Service for State-Protected Natural Areas and the Ministry of Culture, to ensure more orderly visits.

Machu Picchu Time Slots:

Slot 1: Entry starting at 6 to 7 a.m.
Slot 2: Entry starting at 7 to 8 a.m.
Slot 3: Entry starting at 8 to 9 a.m.
Slot 4: Entry starting at 9 to 10 a.m.
Slot 5: Entry starting at 10 to 11 a.m.
Slot 6: Entry starting at 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Slot 7: Entry starting at 12 to 1 p.m.
Slot 8: Entry starting at 1 to 2 p.m.
Slot 9: Entry starting at 2 to 3 p.m.

The various visitor route options include:

Route 1: This route will take you through the upper and lower parts of the archaeological site. You will have a chance to view constructions such as the dry moat, the Temple of the Sun Lookout, the granite block field, the reflecting pools, Pisonay Square, and the archaeological reserve. This route takes about two hours.

Route 2: This is like an extended version of the previous route, but with lots more to see. In addition to the sites mentioned in Route 1, you will see the Temple Square, the Sacred Stone, the Twelve Niches, the Eastern Qolcas, the Intiwatana Pyramid (open from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.), and the Temple of the Condor (open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.). You will also be able to take the optional Inca Bridge path.

Click this map to download a pdf copy to print or keep

Route 3 – Machu Picchu and the Mountain is for people who like to hike. On the first leg climb up the mountain of Machu Picchu, which takes about two hours. There, you’ll have a chance to take photos. To take this route, you will actually leave and enter again farther down. The attractions on this route include the Qolcas, the agricultural area, the canal, the dry moat, the Temple of the Sun Complex, the House of the Inka Complex, the water fountains, the reflecting pools, Pisonay Square, and the archaeological reserve.

Route 4 -Machu Picchu to Huayna Picchu. Designed for the most adventurous visitors, this one sells out the fastest. You will take Route 4, which consists of a hike to the top of the mountain of Huayna Picchu. You begin the route in the lower part of the complex, known as the “urban sector.” There, you’ll have a chance to visit the attractions from Route 3, as well as the Eastern Qolcas, the Sacred Stone, the Twelve Niches, and the Temple of the Condor (open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

The New Route: Machu Picchu to Huchuy Picchu. This route starts at the lower part of the site before climbing up to the top of Huchuy Picchu, located next to Huayna Picchu. This is a new route that was just recently opened by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, designed for those who are serious hiker.

Like the Huayna Pichu route, the Huchuy Picchu includes the same route and checkpoints. The trip takes about two and a half hours.

Note that these last two routes do not include the famous location from which the classic photo of the citadel is taken.

For additional information on getting to Machu Picchu click HERE.

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