Best things to do in Machu Picchu
Find out more about those top places in Machu Picchu
Enigmatically shrouded in mist and surrounding by rainforest-clad escarpments, the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu are South America’s premier tourist attraction. Deep in the jungle, Machu Picchu was one of the few Incan cities never discovered – and destroyed – by the Spanish conquistadors. Indeed, the preserved perfectly and enchanting ruins of the once great city were only discovered by 1911 by American archaeologists. The countess stone palaces, temples and storehouses are connected via a system of terraces and staircases carved into the sheer rock face and provide breathtaking views of the distant glacial peaks. While Macchu Picchu is today one of the world’s most iconic destinations, a new entry system instated by the Peruvian authorities has stemmed overcrowding letting visitors enjoy the otherworldly ruins in tranquility.
Known in English as the Sun Gate, Intipunktu offers the picture-perfect image of Machu Picchu, which is seen across the world in television programs, photographs and movies. The Sun Gate is the precipitous end of the world-famous Inca Trail and has panoramic views of the hilltop citadel that are simply breathtaking – you really have to see it to believe it.
The architectural highlight of a tour of Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the Principal Temple. When it was first built the building’s masonry was equal in standard to that found in Europe and the gigantic geometric block walls still stand today. Within the temple complex is the intricately carved Sacristy, which was once used to store precious objects.
At the top of the rugged hill overlooking Machu Picchu is Intihuatana, an Inca astronomical device that was used to predict solstices. While much of the site’s history remains a mystery, its elegant form and ease of use make it a highlight of any tour of the Inca citadel.
Just a short stroll from Machu Picchu itself is the Inca Drawbridge, which was built to control access to the citadel. While no one is allowed onto the precipitous bridge-cum-cliff walk, the views from nearby are simply astonishing with spectacular vistas of the city itself and the jungle-clad peaks.
The Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock is one of the few buildings that have been restored to their original state at Machu Picchu. Complete with thatched roof and colorful interiors, the building is the starting point for many tours of the Inca citadel and is also a useful place to shelter from the tropical rains.
A half-day trip from the crowds of Machu Picchu is the ruined Inca town of Wiñay Wayna, which sits precipitously on the side of a steep hillside overlooking the Urubamba River. For the more adventurous, the site can also be reached by the thrilling Inca Trail hiking route.
Flanking the Sacred Plaza is the Temple of the Three Windows, one of Machu Picchu’s most iconic locations. The massive windows from which the temple gets its name provide jaw-dropping views of the rugged Andean landscape and offer the perfect photo opportunity.