Welcome to one of the most popular destinations in South America – Machu Picchu! This ancient Incan citadel is located in the Andes Mountains of Peru and is a must-see for any traveler visiting the region. Machu Picchu is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, making it an iconic destination that attracts millions of visitors every year.
But with so many things to do and see, where do you even begin? As a seasoned traveler and Machu Picchu enthusiast, I’m excited to share with you the best things to do in this fascinating destination. From exploring the ruins of this ancient city to hiking the surrounding mountains and indulging in delicious local cuisine, Machu Picchu has something for everyone.
Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, Machu Picchu won’t disappoint. In this blog post, I’ll be highlighting the top activities and attractions that should be at the top of your list when planning your trip to this iconic destination. So, sit back, relax, and let’s explore the best things to do in Machu Picchu, Peru!
1. See the iconic viewpoint
When you visit Machu Picchu, seeing the iconic viewpoint is a must-do activity. The viewpoint is located at the highest point of the site, and it offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the ancient city and surrounding mountains. It is undoubtedly one of the most stunning views in the world.
To get to the iconic viewpoint, you’ll need to hike up to the top of the mountain. The hike is relatively steep and can take up to an hour, but it’s well worth the effort. Along the way, you’ll pass through several different ecosystems, including lush forest, rocky terrain, and even cloud forest.
Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view that will take your breath away. You’ll be able to see the entire ancient city, along with the surrounding mountains and valleys. The viewpoint is also a great place to take photos and capture memories of your trip to Machu Picchu.
It’s important to note that the viewpoint can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourist season. To avoid the crowds, it’s a good idea to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The views are also particularly stunning during sunrise and sunset, so it’s worth considering a visit at these times.
2. Explore the ruins
Exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu is an essential part of any visit to this incredible historical site. The ruins are a testament to the ingenuity and skill of the Inca civilization, and they offer a fascinating glimpse into their way of life.
One of the most impressive ruins in Machu Picchu is the Temple of the Sun, which was used as an astronomical observatory by the Incas. The Temple of the Condor is another fascinating site, featuring a rock formation that resembles a condor in flight. The Sacred Plaza is also worth a visit, as it was the heart of the ancient city and served as a meeting place for important events.
While exploring the ruins, it’s essential to respect the site and follow the rules and regulations set by the authorities. Touching or climbing on the ruins is strictly prohibited, as it can cause damage and erosion to the ancient structures. Additionally, it’s important to stay on the designated paths to avoid causing harm to the surrounding environment.
Visitors can explore the ruins on their own or hire a guide to learn more about the history and significance of each site. Hiring a guide is an excellent way to enhance your experience and gain a deeper understanding of the incredible cultural and historical significance of Machu Picchu.
Overall, exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience, and it’s an opportunity to witness firsthand the incredible feats of engineering and architecture of the Inca civilization.
3. Meet the llamas
One of the most unique and charming aspects of Machu Picchu is the presence of friendly llamas and alpacas wandering around the site. These cute and furry creatures are a beloved part of the Machu Picchu experience, and meeting them is an unforgettable experience.
Llamas and alpacas are native to the Andes and were an important part of the Inca civilization. They were used for transportation, wool, and meat, and were highly respected by the Incas. Today, they roam freely around Machu Picchu and are a popular attraction for visitors.
Meeting the llamas is easy – simply keep your eyes open and your camera ready! They can often be found grazing on the grassy areas around the ruins or lounging in the sun. They are generally quite friendly and used to human interaction, but it’s important to remember that they are still wild animals and should be treated with respect.
If you’re lucky, you may even get to see a baby llama or alpaca, known as a cria. These adorable babies are incredibly cute and can often be seen playing and frolicking around the site.
While meeting the llamas may seem like a small part of your Machu Picchu experience, it’s one that you’ll likely never forget. They add a unique and charming element to the site and serve as a reminder of the rich cultural history of the Inca civilization.
4. Hike Huayna Picchu
Huayna Picchu is the towering peak that overlooks Machu Picchu, and hiking it is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have in the area. The trail is steep and narrow, but the breathtaking views from the top make the hike well worth it.
The hike to Huayna Picchu takes around 2-3 hours, depending on your fitness level and pace. It can be challenging, with steep stairs and narrow passageways, so it’s important to wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water.
The trail takes you through lush vegetation and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. As you climb higher, you’ll begin to see Machu Picchu from a different perspective, and the sight is truly awe-inspiring.
Once you reach the summit of Huayna Picchu, you’ll be greeted with a panoramic view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. It’s an incredible sight to behold and makes the challenging hike well worth it. Be sure to take your time to soak in the view and snap some photos to commemorate your achievement.
It’s important to note that the hike to Huayna Picchu is popular and requires a separate entrance ticket. The trail is limited to a certain number of visitors per day, so it’s essential to book in advance to secure your spot.
Overall, hiking Huayna Picchu is a challenging and rewarding experience that offers stunning views and a unique perspective of Machu Picchu. It’s an adventure that’s sure to be a highlight of your trip to this incredible part of the world.
5. Hike Machu Picchu Mountain
Machu Picchu Mountain is a towering peak that offers incredible panoramic views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. Hiking to the top is a challenging but unforgettable experience that’s well worth the effort.
The hike to Machu Picchu Mountain takes around 3-4 hours and is a steep ascent up the side of the mountain. The trail is well-maintained but can be challenging, with steep stairs and narrow passageways. It’s important to wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you energized.
As you climb higher, the trail opens up to stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. You’ll also get a unique perspective of Machu Picchu as it comes into view from different angles.
Once you reach the summit of Machu Picchu Mountain, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the entire site and the surrounding mountains. It’s an incredible sight to behold and offers a unique perspective on this historic wonder of the world.
Like Huayna Picchu, hiking Machu Picchu Mountain requires a separate entrance ticket and is limited to a certain number of visitors per day. It’s important to book in advance to secure your spot.
Overall, hiking Machu Picchu Mountain is a challenging but rewarding experience that offers stunning views and a unique perspective of this historic site. It’s an adventure that’s sure to be a highlight of your trip to this incredible part of the world.
6. Hike Huchuy Picchu
Huchuy Picchu, also known as Little Picchu, is a lesser-known peak that offers a unique hiking experience with stunning views of the surrounding area. While not as popular as Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, it’s a great option for those looking for a challenging hike off the beaten path.
The hike to Huchuy Picchu takes around 4-5 hours and starts at the town of Ollantaytambo. The trail takes you through lush vegetation and offers views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The ascent to the top of Huchuy Picchu is steep and challenging, but the views from the summit make it all worthwhile.
Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, as well as a unique perspective of Machu Picchu in the distance. You’ll also be able to see the Sacred Valley and the town of Ollantaytambo from a new angle.
It’s important to note that the trail to Huchuy Picchu is not as well-maintained as the trails to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, and requires a good level of fitness and hiking experience. It’s important to wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you energized.
Overall, hiking Huchuy Picchu is a challenging but rewarding experience that offers stunning views of the surrounding area and a unique perspective of Machu Picchu. It’s a great option for those looking for a more off-the-beaten-path hiking experience in this incredible part of the world.
7. See the Sun Gate
The Sun Gate, also known as Inti Punku in Quechua, is an iconic viewpoint located at the entrance of Machu Picchu. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting the site, offering a stunning view of the citadel and the surrounding mountains.
To reach the Sun Gate, you’ll need to hike the Inca Trail, one of the most popular hiking routes in South America. The hike takes around 4-5 days and is a challenging but rewarding experience, offering stunning views of the Andes Mountains and the Sacred Valley.
Once you reach the Sun Gate, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. The view is particularly stunning in the morning, as the rising sun illuminates the site and the surrounding mountains.
In Inca times, the Sun Gate was believed to be a sacred place where the sun would enter Machu Picchu and illuminate the site. It was also believed to be a place of spiritual significance, where pilgrims would come to offer prayers and make offerings to the gods.
Today, the Sun Gate is a popular spot for visitors to Machu Picchu, offering a unique perspective on this historic site. It’s an incredible sight to behold and is sure to be a highlight of your trip to this incredible part of the world.
Overall, visiting the Sun Gate is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Machu Picchu. It’s a challenging hike, but the reward of the stunning panoramic view of the site and the surrounding mountains makes it well worth the effort.
8. See the Inca bridge
The Inca Bridge is an impressive engineering feat located on the Inca Trail just a short distance from Machu Picchu. It’s a unique site that offers a glimpse into the incredible ingenuity of the Inca civilization.
The Inca Bridge is a narrow pathway carved into a cliff face that spans a deep and narrow gorge. The path is made of stone and is only about one meter wide, making it a thrilling and somewhat daunting experience for visitors. The bridge itself is made of woven grass and is suspended over the gorge, allowing people to cross over to the other side.
The Inca Bridge was likely used as a strategic defensive point during Inca times, as it would have been difficult for enemies to cross over the narrow pathway. It’s also thought to have been used as a transportation route for goods and people, as the bridge offered a direct route between two mountain valleys.
Today, visitors to the Inca Bridge can walk along the narrow path and cross the bridge if they dare. It’s an exciting and unique experience that offers a glimpse into the incredible engineering and strategic planning of the Inca civilization.
While visiting the Inca Bridge, it’s important to be cautious and follow the instructions of your guide, as the narrow pathway can be slippery and dangerous. It’s also important to be respectful of the site and avoid damaging or disturbing any of the surrounding vegetation or structures.
Overall, visiting the Inca Bridge is a thrilling and unique experience that offers a glimpse into the impressive engineering and strategic planning of the Inca civilization. It’s a must-see for anyone hiking the Inca Trail or visiting Machu Picchu.
9. Explore Machu Picchu Town
Machu Picchu town, also known as Aguas Calientes, is a small and picturesque town located at the base of Machu Picchu. It’s a vibrant and colorful town that offers a range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.
One of the main attractions in Machu Picchu town is the hot springs, which are a popular spot for visitors to relax and unwind after a day of hiking and exploring. The hot springs are located just a short walk from the town center and offer a range of pools and temperatures to choose from.
In addition to the hot springs, Machu Picchu town is home to a range of restaurants, cafes, and shops that offer a taste of local cuisine and handicrafts. Visitors can try traditional Peruvian dishes such as ceviche or lomo saltado, or indulge in a sweet treat like churros or helado (ice cream).
For those interested in local culture and history, the Machu Picchu Museum is a must-visit attraction. The museum features exhibits on the history and culture of the Inca civilization, as well as artifacts and objects from the Machu Picchu site itself.
Another popular activity in Machu Picchu town is taking a stroll through the local market, which offers a range of handicrafts, textiles, and souvenirs. Visitors can shop for unique and handmade items such as alpaca wool hats and scarves, traditional ceramics, and handmade jewelry.
Overall, exploring Machu Picchu town is a great way to round out your visit to this incredible part of the world. Whether you’re interested in relaxing in the hot springs, trying local cuisine, or learning more about local culture and history, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this vibrant and colorful town.
10. Hike the Inca Trail
Hiking the Inca Trail is a bucket-list experience for many visitors to Machu Picchu. The trail is a challenging but rewarding trek through the Andes Mountains that offers stunning views, historic sites, and an immersive cultural experience.
The Inca Trail is a four-day trek that covers approximately 26 miles (42 kilometers) of mountainous terrain, including high passes, narrow ridges, and steep staircases. Along the way, hikers will pass through a variety of landscapes, including lush cloud forests, high-altitude plateaus, and Inca ruins.
One of the highlights of the Inca Trail is the chance to visit historic Inca sites such as Wiñay Wayna, Phuyupatamarca, and Intipata. These ancient ruins offer a glimpse into the history and culture of the Inca civilization and provide an opportunity to learn about the significance of Machu Picchu in Inca mythology and religion.
The Inca Trail also offers hikers the chance to interact with local communities and learn about their traditions and way of life. Many tours include visits to small villages and homestays with local families, where hikers can learn about traditional weaving techniques, taste local cuisine, and experience the warmth and hospitality of the Andean people.
While the Inca Trail is a challenging hike that requires a good level of fitness and acclimatization to the high altitude, it is a truly unforgettable experience that is worth the effort. To ensure a safe and enjoyable trek, it is recommended to book with a reputable tour company and to take the time to properly prepare for the hike by training, acclimatizing to the altitude, and packing appropriate gear and supplies.
In summary, hiking the Inca Trail is a unique and memorable way to experience the Andean mountains and learn about the history and culture of the Inca civilization. With stunning views, historic sites, and opportunities to interact with local communities, this four-day trek is a must-do activity for adventurous travelers visiting Machu Picchu.