Set amongst an amazing mountainous backdrop, Machu Picchu is indeed a sight to behold. Built in around 1450 and abandoned during the Spanish conquest, the estate was hidden from the outside world until its discovery by Hiram Bingham, an American historian in 1911.
Fast forward to 2015 and it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in South America and the most visited attraction in the whole of Peru.
What is amazing about Machu Picchu is that it sits so neatly in amongst its surroundings. It seems so serene, yet surreal, at the same time and certainly needs a few hours of exploration to appreciate.
Machu Picchu is open every day, all year-round, however peak season is generally somewhere between June and September, with July and August being the busiest. Note that the rainy season is from October to April however Machu Picchu is always a popular tourist destination regardless of the weather.
Please note that tickets to Machu Picchu must be booked in advance - they are not sold at the gate. Entry is also limited to 2,000 visitors a day, so once sold out, you have no choice but to wait until another day.
To get to Machu Picchu you have a variety of options.
Train from Ollantaytambo
You can catch a bus, collectivo (a minibus) or taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then one of the trains to Machu Picchu Pueblo (or Aguas Calientes), the town nearest to the site itself. This was our preferred method and we really enjoyed the scenic train ride along the Urubamba River both to and from the ruins. If you know your dates make sure to book a little way in advance as the trains can sell out during the busy season. The train takes approximately 2 hours to get to Machu Picchu Pueblo. Both Peru Rail (www.perurail.com) and Inka Rail (www.inkarail.com) service this line.
Train from Cusco
Peru Rail does offer the option of a train direct from Cusco in three classes: Expedition, Vistadome, Hiram Bingham all at varying prices. You can book online direct at www.perurail.com. This journey will take approximately three and a half hours.
If you choose to hike you have a number of options.
The Inca Trail is the most popular of hikes and takes a few days of your time. It must be booked through a reputative tour agency and the hike is limited to only 800 vistors per day. It often sells out months in advance although if it is sold out, dont panic as there are other hiking options.
This 5 day, 4 night hike is the second most popular trek to Machu Picchu. It connects Mollepata to Machu Picchu and will take you through snowcapped mountains and tropical rain forests. It is not currently limited in numbers like the Inca Trail.
These seem to range from 4-8 days and take you through the ruins of the same name. It is still rated from moderate to difficult in terms of fitness, so be prepared for some strenuous activity whichever trek you opt for.
The Lares trek takes 3-5 days and passes through the hot springs of Lares providing welcome respite. You also pass by many high altitude lakes and mountains ending near the ruins of Ollantaytambo where you will need to board the train for the final stretch.
If it is your intention to climb Huayna Picchu, you will need to book your ticket in advance as there is only a limited number of tickets available each day (400 at the time of publication). The views I am told are worth it but the climb is quite strenuous. If heights are not your strong point, then it is best you leave this one to those who like a bit more of an adreneline rush.
Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes)
The town of Machu Picchu Pueblo is only small however you can choose to visit the thermal springs located on the edge of town or visit the handicraft market. There are also plenty of accommodation and dining options ranging from the excellent to the dire, so read reviews accordingly.
Have you been to Machu Picchu?