Machu Picchu

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
9
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
10
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
4
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
1
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
10
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
10
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
62 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
South America
country
Peru
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 80
Time of year visited
May
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
182nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 60% SUMMARY RATING: Great experience

Summary

Mysterious.  Awe-inspiring.  Majestic.  There are almost endless superlatives for Machu Picchu, and rightly so.  The combination of its sheer beauty nestled up in the breathtaking mountains that surround it, its cultural significance in the Inca civilisation and its sheer fame as a Wonder of the World, make Machu Picchu stunning for any first time visitor and, quite frankly, a must visit site for this part of the world.   But, I think it needs to be experienced in the right way to get the most out of it, and in particular to avoid it feeling a bit like many other famous world sites – overcrowded, a tick-box exercise and a bit energy-sapping

I’ve listed below the three main tips to help you get the most out of the experience, along with some more general tips on the area

highlights

#1 Seeing THAT world famous view

#2 Wandering around the gorgeously well preserved grounds and, of course, the customary llama

#3 The view from the Sun Gate early in the morning - ideally on the final day of the 4 day / 3 night Inca Trail, but also just by heading up there on a simple day trip to Machu Picchu

#4 Seeing the various terraced housing that shows how the normal Inca lived here

#5 The stunning surrounding mountains - some of the most impressive mountains I've seen anywhere in the world

#6 The insanely accurate Inca engineering using interconnecting stone

Travel Tips

I think you should do the following to help you get the most out of the visit:

  • #1 tip – get the Inca Context.  Read up a bit on Machu Picchu’s history and the broader Inca context before your visit.  For sure a visit to the site will be impressive even without the history – the fame and setting wow you on their own.  But having the background makes you appreciate the significance and brings the site to life.  I’d recommend Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams – an easy read as the author re-creates the rediscovery of Machu Picchu and gives enough detail that any first time visitor would need.  For the broader context on the Incas and the other pre-Columbus American civilisations, I’d highly recommend 1491 by Charles Mann which will, I think, open your eyes to just how sophisticated these civilisations were before the arrival of the Europeans
  • #2 tip – visit the other Inca sites first.  Make sure you check out the sights in and around Cusco (more details in the entry for Walking around some of the Inca sites near Cusco), the Sacred Valley (Driving through the Sacred Valley) and, ideally if you have a moderate level of fitness, walk the Hiking the 4 day / 3 night Inca Trail before you visit Machu Picchu.  Each on their own are world-class experiences and finishing with the jewel in the crown is a great way to round off a 7-10 day trip
  • #3 tip – be prepared for the crowds (and have your entrance permit arranged in advance).  The number of people allowed to enter per day is 5,940 which, because its a relatively small site, can feel quite crowded at times.  I’d suggest heading up towards the Sun Gate which, because its an hour or so walk, puts off many people in the heat, yet has a series of places you can sit down and soak up Machu Picchu and its surroundings without the intensity of the crowds
  • Other tips:
    • Great views – there are two extra areas you can walk to for great views – Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountain itself.  We didn’t hike these as we’d already seen some amazing views through the Inca Trail / Sun Gate, but they look well worth it if you are only visiting Machu Picchu for the day (will need to book the tickets in advance though as they are limited per day)
    • One day is enough – you only need one day unless you are a massive Inca boffin
    • Weather – seems to either be glorious sunshine or pounding rain, so pack accordingly
    • Time of year – we visited in early May which is the start of high season.  Fantastic weather, but of course busy.  Have heard of some people visiting during rainy season, which greatly reduces the crowds
    • Take the bus – if coming from Aguas Calientes, get the bus up unless you are keen on a super steep hike up which will sap the energy you’ll need for the site
    • You’ll be fine with the altitude – Machu Picchu is a good 1,000m (3,300 feet) lower than Cusco, which is most likely where you will have come from
    • Passport – make sure you bring your passport as you’ll need it at the entrance – plus they stamp your passport which is kinda fun

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone