Machu Picchu is a historic sanctuary located between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin, making for a spectacular site filled with lush greenery, stark mountain ranges, and incredible Incan ruins. Two hundred structures make up the ancient ceremonial center, spotted with rich biodiversity that has found a harmonious relationship with humans.
Machu Picchu has been a site that has attracted significant tourism, but since the pandemic’s discovery in early 2020, it’s been closed off to visitors. In May of 2021, the Peruvian government announced that Machu Picchu had reopened with limited capacity to the public. Read on to find out how you can navigate Machu Picchu safely without sacrificing your experience!
History of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and is the most significant legacy left by the ancient Inca civilization. It covers over 32,000 hectares of incredible flora, fauna, and intricate human construction. The heart of Machu Picchu, “La Ciudadela,” or “The Citadel,” sits atop a mountain ridge more than 2,400 meters above sea level.
Machu Picchu was abandoned in the 16th century when the Spaniards conquered the Incan Empire, and it sat empty until 1911, when it was rediscovered. Due to Machu Picchu sitting undisturbed for hundreds of years, the isolation allowed for significant vegetation growth and biodiversification. Although the structures themselves have decayed due to time, conservation interventions have maintained the structural integrity and allow modern tourists to enjoy it.
The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is part of Peru’s natural protected areas system, which allows it to be maintained and kept in its natural and original beauty.
Travelling to Peru
If you’re interested in travelling to Peru to see Machu Picchu, you may get to experience a quieter and more authentic trip than in past years. Due to COVID-19, capacity for the ruins has been reduced to 40%, meaning significantly less hustle-and-bustle than previous years.
The Peruvian government has announced that travellers are welcome in Peru so long as they are in good health and have proof. This means that anyone can travel to Peru if they have a negative COVID-19 test or other eligible documents taken within 72 hours of travelling to Lima.
With a negative test, the previously mandatory 14-day quarantine is waived, which means you are free to travel the country and visit your favourite sites. However, it’s always recommended that you respect local guidelines, wear a mask where necessary, and practice social distancing.
Hiking Machu Picchu
Navigating Machu Picchu involves hiking the Inca Trail, a breathtaking walk through stunning foliage and 500-year old archaeological sites. At the end of the trail, you’ll get to ascend the Sun Gate and reach the Machu Picchu site. The classic Inca Trail route is the most commonly travelled and takes 4 days and three nights to reach Machu Picchu.
During the hike, you’ll travel 42 kilometres and reach a maximum altitude of 4,200 metres above sea level.
Before beginning the hike, it’s recommended you spend a few days in Cusco to acclimate to the higher altitude. You can take several walking tours, visit local markets, and sample some outstanding cuisine.
You’ll begin the hike about 2.5 hours away from Cusco at a location called KM 82. It starts relatively flat and offers the option to explore the Wayna Q’ente archaeological site. You’ll camp overnight at the Inca ruins of Llactapata with the chance to watch for Andean Condors flying overhead.
Day 2 continues up the Cusichaca Valley and stops through the small village of Huayllabamba. The trail begins to adopt a steady climb up the narrow valley until you reach a large plain, where you’ll rest at the campsite of Llulluchapampa.
After you wake up on Day 3, you’ll head into the Andean mountains. Keep your eyes out for the incredible scenery as you climb to the ruins of Runkuraqay. You’ll reach your settlement for the evening at Phuyupatamarca and are free to explore the fountains and ancient altar.
On Day 4, you’ll travel downwards and past the Willkanuta River to the ruins of Winay Wayna, where you’ll stop briefly to regain some energy. You’ll press onto the final push of the trip, reaching a set of steep stairs that ascend to the Sun Gate. As you pass through the Sun Gate, you’ll start to see the magnificent Machu Picchu.
After the hike, you’re welcome to head to your hotel in Aguas Calientes for a shower and hot meal. Most hikers choose to explore the citadel the next day after a good night’s rest.
When the hike comes to a close, be sure to explore the busy town of Aguas Calientes. It’s full of shops and restaurants to explore before heading home.
At Immersa Travel, we organize incredible visits to Peru. We recommend, above all, taking the hike to Machu Picchu. It’s genuinely one of the wonders of the world, and if you have the chance to visit it, we highly stress that you take that chance!