Located in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru, Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel and is one of the most familiar icons for the Inca civilization. You will be amazed by what you can do when visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site. This site is very appealing, poised between two forested mountain peaks.
Here are some of the best things to do in Machu Picchu:
Take time to climb up to the Central Plaza, which separates the ceremonial sector of the ruins from the residential and industrial areas. This plaza is surrounded by roofless stone structures offering a lovely view of Huayna Picchu. This area is like a green island surrounded by stone structures. Stay in this area for a bit, and you might be lucky enough to spot some llamas roaming through and grazing on the grass.
Located on the far western side of the Urban Sector there is a naturally elevated section, which is the Sacred Plaza. Follow the path at the top of the stairs that leads to the four-sided Sacred Plaza, which has a viewing platform from the top. From the viewing platform, you will see the snowy Cordillera Vilcabamba and the Urubamba River.
The Sacred Plaza is home to three important structures — The Main Temple, The Three Windowed Temple, and the Priest’s House. Additionally, within the plaza there are three mysterious stones you can see. One is a low-lying flat stone believed to have been used as an altar. Another stone is much smaller and is a quadrangular block also believed to have been an altar. The third stone is shaped like a rhombus with the corners pointing to the four cardinal points.
Machu Picchu Ruins are the biggest draw to the area and have more than 20 ruins still intact today. These ancient Inca buildings were designed to worship their gods and deities and provide insight into their rituals and ways of life. When visiting Machu Picchu, check out the ruins of Choquequirao, Paucarcancha, Sun Gate Inti Punku, Temple of the Sun, Intihuatana, the Royal Tomb, and Temple of the Moon. There are many more ruins you will encounter along the way and discover as you explore the area.
Machu Picchu has many agricultural terraces which hang on mountainsides like a giant staircase. You will love the view as you look upon these terraces from the bottom and then make your way up to the top. In some areas, you can see the aqueducts still transporting water to these terraces. The Machu Picchu Terraces is a must-visit, especially if you want to truly appreciate the engineering magnificence of this ancient site.
Machu Picchu has limited dining options. There are only two restaurants in the immediate area — The Tinkuy Buffet Restaurant is located at the base of Machu Picchu and the Machu Picchu Snack Bar which is located adjacent to the entrance. Many area hotels offer prepared box lunches you can take with you when you explore Machu Picchu and other dining options for guests staying at the hotels. If you want some more dining options, travel about 30 minutes away to nearby Aguas Calientes.
There are several hiking trails in the area that will take you on an adventure through natural landscapes. During your hiking, you may encounter some ancient stones, structures, and rock carvings. The most popular hiking trail is the Huayna Picchu Loop, which takes you up original Inca stone steps to the top of the mountain. This is a strenuous hike, but those who are in shape should be able to handle the climb easily.
The second most popular hiking trail is the Machu Picchu Summit, which takes you on a journey up the mountain through natural landscapes. This hike is another steep one, but at the top you will be able to see the Machu Picchu ruins and Aguas Calientes below. Both hikes are popular and take you through some fascinating areas filled with ancient Inca history.
If you are looking for one of the best views in Machu Picchu, you must stop by and see the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock. This is one of few buildings in the area that have been restored. The building has a thatched roof and is an excellent place to seek shelter if it starts to rain. There is a carved rock in the hut, which might have been used to mummify nobility.
After visiting the Hut of the Caretaker, follow the scenic path just past the top of the terraces. This narrow path will have you climbing to the cliff side and is worth the trek to the Inca Drawbridge. Once you get to the bridge, you will see breathtaking valleys and be able to capture some fantastic photos of Machu Picchu. Your stroll to the drawbridge will surround you with cloud-forest vegetation and a unique view of Machu Picchu. Hiking to the bridge is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Inca Trail is one of the most famous treks globally and takes you through beautiful mountain scenery and subtropical jungle. This is the same route messengers took as they journeyed to and from the citadel. The best thing about this trail is at the end, you will have arrived at the mysterious “Lost City of the Incas.” As you make your way up to Machu Picchu you will pass Inca ruins — Llactapata, Phuyupatmarca, Runkurakay, and Sayacmarca. Hiking the Inca Trail is truly an unforgettable experience you do not want to miss.
If you’re looking for somewhere that is not overrun with tourists, take time to visit the Machu Picchu Orchid Garden. During the rainy season (November to March), the orchids are blooming, and it is the perfect time to visit the garden. This garden is home to 400 orchids and is run by a local family.
Machu Picchu offers many things for you to experience while visiting the area. You can explore the ruins, trek through the rainforest, or relax in a garden. This is truly an adventure that will take you deep into ancient history as you discover what to do in Machu Picchu.
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