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Top Tips for First Time Visit to Machu Picchu

Rob is an avid traveller and a keen photographer who showcases his work on Flickr and sells his images through Adobe Stock and Shutterstock.

When is the Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu in pictures. As the clouds lift

Machu Picchu in pictures. As the clouds lift

When planning a visit to Machu Picchu you need to be aware of the seasonal variations that affect the weather in this part of Peru. The best time to visit Machu Picchu is between April and October when the the weather is warm and dry.

It is possible to visit at other times but there is more chance of inclement weather outside of the summer months. I visited in February and was very lucky with the weather. I had clear blue skies and warm/hot sunshine. However, it is not generally recommended to visit Machu Picchu in February as this is traditionally when the area is hit by heavy rains and storms.

Tourist making their way to get their first glimpse of the view of Machu Picchu

Tourist making their way to get their first glimpse of the view of Machu Picchu

What to Expect at Machu Picchu

It's good to arrive at the entrance to Machu Picchu early at around 6:15am. You can either hike up or take the tourist bus. Even by this time the sun will be making its presence felt and the humidity will have risen to such a level that you will likely already be soaked through with sweat if you opted for the hike up. You will meet up with your guide and then head along the path to gain your first glimpse of this historic city. I'm sure you will be aware of this already but beware that Machu Picchu is an incredibly busy tourist spot. The Authorities have tried to alleviate this somewhat but it's likely that as you enter the site you will see the backs of dozens of people all crammed in between a wall on one side and the side of a building on the other.

You'll know when you're coming up to getting your first glimpse of the city when people in front of you let out a sigh in wonder and briefly pause to grab a quick photo before shuffling on. Just join the melee with your camera at the ready. For me, just as I got to the front and got what should have been a clear view a huge cloud swept up from the valley below and covered everything in its mist! I literally couldn’t see a thing. Not letting this stop me, I waited until the cloud, and lots and lots of people passed by.

After only a couple of minutes, the cloud lifted and I got my first view of Machu Picchu. I was blown away by it and you will be too. It is simply incredible! You'll want to stop and stare at it for longer but you'll be forced to move on. But don't worry you'll have plenty more opportunities during your time there.

Where is Machu Picchu?

Llama at Machu Picchu

Llama at Machu Picchu

Compulsory Guide at Machu Picchu

It's mandatory to have a guide with you on entering the Machu Picchu complex. The guides are all approved by the authorities and are very good and speak a wide array of languages. If you're part of a larger group you may not catch all that your guide says but nevertheless you'll still look around in amazement and wonderment at all the many houses, temples, shrines, observatories and much more. Expect to also see several llamas and Alpacas wondering around the city which I certainly hadn’t expected when I visited.

Machu Picchu Passport Stamp

Machu Picchu Passport Stamp

Michu Picchu Passport Stamp

I'm not sure if this is still a thing but when I visited it was a bit of a novelty to get the official Machu Picchu stamp in my passport. It doesn’t cost anything and it doesn’t officially mean anything but it’s still a pretty cool stamp to have in your passport. However, it does take up a full page in your passport so if you have limited space left and you have future travel plans that require visas you may want to think twice about getting this stamp.

Machu Picchu in February. View from the top of Huayna Picchu

Machu Picchu in February. View from the top of Huayna Picchu

Advice for Hiking up Huayna Picchu

Huayna Picchu is the conical shaped peak that you see in most image of Machu Picchu city. You can hike up this mountain, also known as Wayna Picchu (although pronounced the same way) but you do need to purchase a separate ticket with which you will be allocated a specific time to start your climb.

It's a fairly challenging hike with some rather steep sections and some parts where will literally need to climb with your hands and feet. Whatever time of day you tackle the hike it's going to be warm but I wouldn't recommend doing it during the middle of day in hot weather. Try for early morning or later in the afternoon. You'll probably be driven by adrenaline and excitement as I was so you'll start your hike up Huayna Picchu in high spirits. It takes about as long as it takes to hike up Machu Picchu, if not a bit longer, but the climb up Huayna Picchu is certainly steeper and a bit harder if I’m honest.

The Sacred Valley. View over the surrounding landscape, thick with jungle

The Sacred Valley. View over the surrounding landscape, thick with jungle

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Views from the Top of Huayna Picchu

Once you get to the top of the mountain, you forget about all the hard work it took in hiking up – the views over the city and over the surrounding landscapes are unbelievably spectacular. I recommend taking time to just sit there on the ledge at the top of Huayna Picchu, over-looking Machu Picchu, and think about how fortunate it was that the Spanish never found the site! And it’s easy to see why they never found it when you look around. The jungle covering all sides of all the surrounding mountains is so dense that within a few years of the city being vacated it would surely have been buried within a thick layer of green cover.

After descending Huayna Picchu and you still want to put your bodies through some more pain - but admire some more breath-taking views over Machu Picchu - then why not trek up to the Gate of the Sun. As part of this hike you will set off along a short section of the ‘Classic' Inca Trail. So if you want to tell people back home that you've walked the Inca Trail then you're not completely lying.

It only takes just under an hour to walk to but after all the other treks of the day and maybe treks that you've done over the previous days such as the Inca Jungle Trail this one may feel especially tortuous. Again though, you will be rewarded by the awesome views from the top. And of course you can now also claim to have walked along (if only a small part of it) the classic Inca Trail.

View over Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

View over Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

Machu Picchu Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. In what country is Machu Picchu?
    • Peru
    • Chile
    • Bolivia
  2. Who discovered Machu Picchu?
    • Sir Randolph Hearst
    • Sir Walter Raleigh
    • Harry Bingham III
  3. When was Machu Picchu built?
    • Around 1000 BC
    • Around 1250 AD
    • Around 1450 AD

Answer Key

  1. Peru
  2. Harry Bingham III
  3. Around 1450 AD

More Top Tips for Planning for Trip

It's hard to say goodbye to such a magical place but you'll probably be tired by this point so your body will thank you for taking the bus back down to Aguas Calientes. Many people head straight for the train station to either head back to Cusco or to get off along the way at the small town of Ollantaytambo.

If you're interested in reading more about how to plan your trip to Machu Picchu, including options for picking up a tour from Cusco then please click the link below to read my article on this subject. Happy travels!

  • A Practical Guide to Visiting Machu Picchu as Part o...
    In this article I offer a practical guide to visiting Machu Picchu as part of an organised tour from Cusco. I offer useful information and top tips in arranging the 4-day Inca Jungle Trail tour as part of a trek to the ancient Machu Picchu wonder of

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Robert Clarke

Comments

Robert Clarke (author) from UK on June 09, 2013:

Thanks very much Mike! I had an amazing time and would gladly recommend all of it to anyone. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Much appreciated

Mike Robbers from London on June 09, 2013:

You had quite an experience my friend! That was a very interesting travel log, especially the Inca jungle trail adventure. The photography is also very beautiful. Many thanks ... voted and shared!

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