We can include Machu Picchu as a standalone itinerary or as part of your wider South American travel plan either pre or post the rest of your trip. Our advice would be to allow a minimum of 4 nights, which would to include Cusco too.
Machu Picchu (MP) is a World-famous archaeological site built atop two steep-sided, vertical in parts, mountains almost 2,500mt high in the the middle of the Peruvian jungle 80km northwest of Cuzco. The valley in which MP is located is called “the Sacred Valley”. The principal ruin is on the mountain called Machu Picchu and on an adjacent, much “thinner” mountain called Huayna Picchu. Indeed, in parts there is a vertical drop 450mt down to the valley floor and meandering Urubamba River and no safety fence!
With abundant rain fall the area surrounding this magnificent ruin is often punctuated with misty wisp´s of clouds that create a magical, natural mystic to the place as though it is directly out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
The actual construction, which has been dated back to around 1450, is made from large blocks of heavy rock that has been cut into exact shapes that have been placed together like a perfect “jigsaw” to form strong walls that support terraces which have been cut into the mountain; irrigation channels; residential and buildings of worship. To this day no one has any real idea how the rock was cut so precisely. There is absolutely no doubt that the people who were involved in the development were very advanced with their abilities and thinking, leaving behind an incredibly efficient naturally-sourced irrigation system and even a star-gazing observatory with open windows perfectly aligned with certain planets of the solar system.
It is assumed that the Inca´s built Machu Picchu as well as the other similar settlements such as the one found at Cuzco. When the site was abandoned it was left to nature to camouflage it from any future visitors with the growth of the adjacent jungle hiding everything under a thick blanket of green. This is why the Spanish conquistadores never found it and consequently were not able to destroy it either.
Although there is evidence to suggest that two Germans, Agusto Berns and J.M.von Hassel independently discovered Machu Picchu around the late 1860´s, it has been formally acknowledged that it was not discovered until 1911 when the American explorer Hiram Bingham was introduced to the site by a local villager. When Bingham arrived he found the name Agustin Lizarraga written on one of the rocks with the date 1902. In 1912 Hiram Bingham returned and this time he set about cleaning the place up. In 1981 Peru created an area greater than 325 sq km, within which was Machu Picchu, a natural sanctuary. Then, in 1983, Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
To visit MP you need to book early because these days there is an upper limit on daily visitors. You need to be based in Cuzco, allow a night or more to acclimatise the altitude (3,400mt) and then take the train to Machu Picchu.
Arrival by air to Cuzco from Lima. All excursions to Machu Picchu are by train, helicopter or walking the “Inka Trail”.
- Machu Picchu is on lower altitude than Cusco.
- Machu Picchu has a warmer and more humid climate.
- The can be clouding all year round – especially in the morning.
- As Machu Picchu is closer located to the jungle, rain can fall all year round.
Located on an altitude of about 1000 meters lower than Cusco and relatively close the Amazon Rainforest just over 100 kilometers away, the weather in Machu Picchu as you can imagine is quite unpredictable. Partially influenced by the grills of the Andean Highlands Climate, quickly changing weather, clouds interchanged with sunny moments and strong winds, together with the influences coming from the Amazon Basin, humidity and rain, it is obvious that Machu Picchu can have several seasons in one day. The Machu Picchu weather is dominated by the cloud formation caused by the shock between the highland colder winds and the humidity coming from the tropical jungle area. In general the weather in Machu Picchu knows two seasons; the wet and the dry season. The summer time is when there is more rain in the area. These are the months December through March. In February the INC, the National Cultural Institute, closes down the Inca Trail as well for being too dangerous and to use the time to do maintenance and cleaning operations. The dry season would be from April to November, but especially in the beginning and end you can never exclude some rain in the evening and even during the day. At times, especially in the rainy season this makes for some days when Machu Picchu can hardly be seen from the surrounding Mountaintops.
In the dry season, even though some clouds can be formed, days will mostly be clear and open (especially in the afternoon) giving way for the great views of Machu Picchu as seen on many pictures. Nevertheless the above is an indication; it may as well be that you will encounter other weather patterns than the season you may be traveling in. Being subject to so many influences, it will never be really cold at Machu Picchu but sun, rain and wind can never be discarded completely. Normally the weather in Machu Picchu is clearest in the months June, July and August. Nevertheless no matter the weather you may have, it will always contribute to the magic and beauty of this amazing site.
Summer clothes, but ALSO wet-weather gear to protect from any sudden or prolonged rain fall. Outdoor trekking shoes or boots.
Our selection of hotels includes many of the most popular accomodations in South America. You’ll find the perfect hotel in your budget.
Machu Picchu is, quite simply, one of the most incredible places, not only in South America, but the World. It is a mystic, magical and awe-inspiring ancient dwelling constructed on the top and sides of almost vertical mountains, causing any visitor to stare in pure amazement, and wonder how it was every built.