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Machu Picchu tour

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Machu Picchu is one of the 7 New 7 Wonders of the World announced on July 7, 2007. It is the best-known archaeological site on the South America continent. Much has been written about it but the knowledge of Machu Picchu remains sketchy. Even today archaeologists rely heavily on speculation and educated guesswork as to its function.  It is generally believed that it was constructed by the Inca but there is no proof of that. It might have been constructed much earlier. Machu Picchu is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors. Nobody outside of Machu Picchu knew of Machu Picchu's existence until American historian Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911 while being guided around by local indigenous Quechuas. At the time of discovery an indigenous Quechua family was farming at the site.  That is why nowadays some Peruvian guides called the discovery “rediscovery of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham”. Bingham's search was for the lost city of Vilcabamba, the last stronghold of the Incas, and he thought he had found it at Machu Picchu. We now know that the remote ruins at Espiritu Pampa, much deeper in the jungle, are actually the remains of Vilcabamba. In fact nobody knows what the original name of this site is. Professor Hiram Bingham gave it the name when he asked the indigenous Quechua the name of the area.  The indigenous people replied “Machu Picchu” - the old mountain in Quechua


That being said it is generally believed that it was a creation of the Incas sometime between 1400AD and 1500AD. Archaeologists estimate that approximately 1200 people could have lived in the area, though many theorize it was most likely a retreat for Incan rulers, due to its isolation from the rest of Peru.

Where is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu lies in Peru in the South America Continent, 13.164 degrees south of the equator. It is 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco, on the crest of the mountain Machu Picchu, located about 2,450 meters (8,040 ft) above mean sea level, over 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) lower than Cusco, which has an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 ft). As such, it is in the middle of a tropical mountain forest. Machu Picchu covers 32,500 hectares in some of the scenically most attractive mountainous territory of the Peruvian Andes.

How to get there?

There are only two ways to get to Machu Picchu.  Most visitors arrive at Cusco first and from Cusco take either the train or arrange with a trekking company to hike to Machu Picchu:::

1) Most tourist get to Machu Picchu by train from either Cusco or Ollantaytambo. The train starts at Cusco makes a stop at Ollantaytambo and then ends at Agua Caliente.  A bus station for Machu Picchu is just couple of minute’s walk from the train station.  The bus ride to the entrance of Machu Picchu is about 20 minutes and cost US$9 one way in 2012.  Alternatively, there is an Inca trail one can hike up the mountain to the entrance.  I was told the hike takes approximately an hour to hour and a half depending on the hiker.  It takes two and a half hours from Cusco to Ollantaytmbo and then another hour and a half from Ottantaytambo to Agua Caliente for a total of four hours from Cusco to Agua Caliente. There are two kinds of train service for tourist.  The Vistadome has comfortable seat for the four hour journey in a glass enclosed coach with snack and drink services that one can purchase.  In 2012, the cost is about US$66 one way.  The Bringham is expensive with luxurious services.  I think it costs US$300 more for the round trip from Cusco.

2) The other way is hiking the Inca Trail.  This option presents quite a few choices.  You can do a 5 day 4 night, 4 day 3 night, 3 day 2 night or a 2 day 1 night hike.  Please note all the hikes include one day visit to Machu Picchu.  The cost depends on which operator you choose and what kind of service provided, see the Inca Trail section of this web site.  You will arrive Machu Picchu at the Sungate (Intipunku) instead of Agua Caliente. Depending on your arrangement, if you arrive early to see the sun rise then you probably will visit Machu Picchu the same day and go down to Agua Caliente for the night or go back to Cusco by the afternoon train.  If you arrive late in the afternoon as we did then you will go down to Agua Caliente and come back up the next day for the visit. If you do the 2 day 1 night trek then you will have to take the train to the stop before Agua Caliente to start your hike.