Country: Peru
Currency: Nuevo Sol (PEN)
Peak Season: December-January, June-August
Shoulder Season: February-May, September-November
Median Temperature: 19.10 C / 66.38 F
Main Languages: Quechua, Spanish
Primary Modes of Transportation: Train, bus, trekking
Recommended Duration of Stay: 4 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $100.00/day
Tourist Passes: n/a
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Macchu Picchu is particularly known to the world as one of surviving beacons of Inca Empire that was never defiled by the conquistadors. Until 1911, the rest of the world has been clueless of the existence of such a place, until Hiram Bingham’s exploration that led to spurts in tourists and the continuing restoration of a civilization smothered in cold. It is believed that during its prime, the site’s temples have been encrusted with gold, leading to the speculation that it was here where most of the Incas saved the best of their craft.

The desolate ruins are situated nearly 8,000 feet above sea level—enough to give the average tourist fits of vertigo. Yet the thing that boggles even the most astute anthropologists is how such a vast civilization had survived happily in the high-altitude Andean mountain ranges given the issues with vegetation, irrigation, and transportation (despite having terraces): many of these questions remain a mystery, but going to these immortalized regions will help posit a deeper understanding of how the Incas flourished in the pre-colonial era.

Only a small chunk of travelers have experienced the breathlessness of being in Macchu Picchu. Luckily, many tour agencies have anticipated the fanfare brought by the media’s romanticizing of the sacred landscape. A train ride from Cusco or Ollantaytambo can get you here. But for those who enjoy the outdoors, the infamous Inca Trail will get you there in about four days. The only thing stopping you from visiting Macchu Picchu is yourself, so go here now and enjoy life’s most puzzling civilizations.

Packing List

  • A sturdy rucksack (not a backpack) for shirts, jackets, pants, undergarments and other essentials; bring mats and portable tents planning to trek on the Inca Trail–distribute extra load evenly to other campers
  • Good walking shoes, a walking cane, compass and brand new pairs of socks for added comfort; a wide-brimmed hat/cap is mandatory for the summer months—don’t bring useless accessories
  • A detailed (but easy-to-understand) map, compass, GPS device and a radio communicator to know the position of fellow trekkers—there is hardly any network coverage in the Inca Trail
  • Essential medication and toiletries, as well as a jug of bottled water for those who get tired easily; ibuprofen is highly advisable for old travelers, plus the added sunscreen, moisturizer and lip balm
  • Plenty of energy bars to keep you going, because the high calorie-content these have is enough to keep the average body revved up for at least three hours; you’ll be burning all of the sugar during the climb

Things to Do

  • Crossing over (with caution) to treacherous Huayna Pichu—the higher mountain residing next Machu Picchu; the peak, though disheveled and small, was actually the sanctuary of Machu Picchu’s high priest
  • Exploring the ruins of the urban sector, which houses the Ceremonial Center, Temple of the Sun, Ceremonial Center and the Intihuatana—first thought of as a sun dial but was actually used for worship
  • Entering the Temple of the Moon, posited by archeologists to be a worship site or sacrificial cave of some sort due to its wall niches; its location in Huayna Picchu instead of Machu Picchu incites interest
  • Observing the agricultural terraces, testimony to the skillfulness of the Incas; the terraces, as many archeologists believe, are ideal for vegetation due to the mountain river irrigation and balanced sunlight
  • Taking a big transfer (1,312 feet to be exact) from mountain to mountain via the Cola de Mono Canopy—touted as South America’s highest zipline; it’s located 15km south of Machu Picchu

DON'T

  • Be ignorant of their history and mores: do not take pictures of them without permission, don’t call them “indios” (it’s a derogatory term by the Spaniards), and don’t flaunt your material possessions
  • Be afraid to negotiate and talk to the people—unlike most people in South America, Peruvians (the Quechua and the Aymara) are practically harmless and don’t care about your money
  • Go full throttle while on the trail or even when in Cuzco—always conserve energy and take occasional stops; remember that lack of oxygen in places of such high altitude will surprise your lungs
  • Take the Inca Trail if you are not physically prepared—it isn’t called the “Trek of Death” for nothing; also, be careful for falling rocks when already in highlands and don’t taint or steal from the ruins
  • Hesitate to have your personal tour guide—they aren’t scheming and they know high terrains very well; the village of Cuzco is full of seasoned guides, and they’ll even help you haggle with taxis and merchants