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Machu Picchu, CUSCO
Location, extension and population | Brief historic outline | Routes to Machu Picchu | Highlights of the Machu Picchu citadel | Visitor warnings | Tourist calendarMachu Picchu con turistas. Cuzco. Fotografía: PromPerú.

The Machu Picchu archeological site is located in the department of Cusco, the province of Urubamba, and the district of Machu Picchu. It stands at 2,350 m.a.s.l. (7,710 ft) in the Eastern slope of the Cordillera del Vilcanota, which is limited by the Apurímac and Urubamba rivers.

Machu Picchu is located in the Ceja de Selva (High Jungle or mountain rim) or subtropical zone. Consequently, the weather is mild, warm and humid, with an annual temperature of 13ºC (55º F) during the day. There are two seasons, clearly defined during the year, the rainy season (from November through March) and the hot season (from April through October), when the temperature rises dramatically.



Panorámica de Machu Picchu. Cuzco. Fotografía: Carlos Sala / PromPerú.BRIEF HISTORIC OUTLINE
Before the American anthropologist Hiram Bingham, many explorers, such as Antonio Raimondi, the Count of Sartiges or Charles Wiener, had tried to discover this historic sanctuary, but their efforts were fruitless. An inscription in the Temple of the Sun proves that only the Santander brothers were able to get to its base on July of 1909.

On July 14, 1911, Hiram Bingham and a group of topographers, biographers, engineers and osteologists from Yale University arrived to the site. Melchor Arteaga, a local, guided them through the region and gave them directions on how to get to what today is considered as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

In 1914, Bingham returned to Machu Picchu. With the economic and logistic support of Yale University and the American Geographical Society, he brought a team of specialists with him, along with his book, The Lost City of the Incas, that was already circulating around the world.

Bingham divided the Machu Picchu buildings in sectors, naming them according to the cardinal points. Even if some names have been kept, after several decades of scientific studies and findings sponsored by the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC) archeology patronage, experts have changed the Bingham division almost completely. They have divided the sanctuary according to the use and functions of its buildings. This new division was based upon excavation findings and comparative studies of these buildings with similar ones from other regions of the Inca empire.

In early times, these territories were not founded but rather occupied. The following classification of the periods of occupation has been designed according to the chronicles, the architectural features and the pottery:

1. Initial (circa 1300)
2. Classical (circa 1400)
3. Imperial (circa 1553)
4. Transitional (between 1533 and 1572)


There are three known ways to get to Machu Picchu. First, the traditional three-hour ride by train. Second, the very demanding four-day walk through Caminos del Inca or Inca Trail for adventure tourists. Third and latest, by getting to the town of Aguas Calientes in helicopter.

Train Route
There are 112 km (70 ml) by train from the city of Cusco to Puente Ruinas or Machu Picchu. The trip starts in San Pedro Station in Cusco. The train passes over the Picchu mountain through the zigzagging trail, until crowning the highest point called El Arco, in the north eastern part of the city.

It then descends and crosses the towns of Pory, Cachimatyo and Izuchaca to the Anta Pampa, a huge livestock breeding region. Roaming through the narrow gorge in Pomatales, the train then slides towards the Sacred Valley of The Incas by Pachar Station. It crosses the Urubamba river through the right margin to get to the Ollantaytambo Station and arrives at Puente Ruinas, the final destiny.

Those who have traveled the Sacred Valley by road and do not want to waste time going back to Cusco, can also take the train to Machu Picchu at the Ollantaytambo station.

There are two train services available. The tourist train and the auto wagons, which leave early in the morning and return to the city of Cusco in the afternoon.

Caminos del Inca Trail
Caminos del Inca or the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is known as the most famous trekking route in South America, because it offers a combination of different factors. The route starts at Km 88 of the railway towards the valley of Convención, in a place called Q'oriwayrachina. There are 39.6 km (25 ml) between this town and Machu Picchu.

The hike starts by crossing over to the Urubamba river through the Kusichaca bridge that, as in the Inca period, has been built with iron cables as a hanging bridge. Almost immediately after crossing a eucalyptus forest, travelers get to the archeological ruins of Q'ente, Pulpituyoc, Kusichaca and Patallaca. Later, also after walking for several hours, they arrive to Wayllabamba, a perfect place to camp.

The second day is the hardest because it is a 4,200 m.a.s.l. (13,778 ft) climb and then a descent to the Río Pacamayo valley, a place to spend the night.

During the third day, travelers can get to see splendid archeological ruins, such as, Runkuraqay. Also, the beautiful Yanacocha and Phuyupatamarca lakes, which are very close to the Wiñayhuayna Visitors Center, where they can camp.

On the fourth and final day of the adventure, it is best to start walking at eight in the morning to get to Machu Picchu after a three-hour hike by crossing the mountain rim and skirting cliffs.

During the whole trekking tour travelers are spectators of an impressive fauna and flora, that include endangered species, such as, the eyeglass bear, the American panther, the Andes fox; river otters; wildcats, and others.

Travelers should take sleeping bags, backpacks, multiple use knives, soroche (dizziness) pills and antiophidic serum.

Helicopter Route
There is only one company that offers a daily trip at 8:45 in the morning from the Velasco Astete airport in Cusco. After a 25 minute trip, the helicopter arrives to Aguas Calientes. From there, the ride to the citadel by bus takes 30 minutes. In all, it is a 55 minute drive from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The view by air of the city of Cusco and the Sacred Valley is wonderful. However, helicopters are forbidden to get near to the archeological sites.


The Farming Sector includes a sequence of terraces of different types and dimensions, which had a double function: they were used for farming and as containing walls against the erosion produced by the rains.

The Urban Sector houses the main architectural elements of the city as such. This sector reveals the talent, dedication and quality of the pre-Hispanic constructors. They built on granite, a very strong rock, different from the one used in the city of Cusco.

Cementerio Superior. This burial ground was assigned only for noblemen and priests. Sacred niches were located near the tombs to pay tribute to their dead.

Turistas junto al Intihuatana. Machu Picchu. Fotografía: Jorge Sarmiento / PromPerú.The Temple of The Sun. It is a semicircular construction of solid rock. This building holds two trapezoidal windows which, according to the chroniclers, in the past had inlays of gold and precious stones.

The Intiwatana is located on a hill with platforms and terraces. To get there, visitors must climb a flight of 78 steps of finely carved rock. The Intiwatana served to measure time (solstice and equinox) given the light and shadow effects of the place. It was also used as a stone altar.

Central Temple. It is located to the north of the Sacred Plaza and very close to the Temple of the Three Windows.

Las Plazas. These are four squares located on different levels, but they all have the stamp of the rectangular forms used in the Inca Classic style. All four plazas communicate through stairways built at the border of the terraces.

Huayna Picchu is the name given to the peak of the mountain across the valley. The road is very strenuous, crossed by terraces and small temples. From this mountain, the panoramic view of Machu Picchu is superb.

Other interesting sites include, the group of the Sacred Rock, the Windows, the Doors, the Fountains, the Mausoleum.

Thermal waters. At 800 meters east from the town of Aguas Calientes, there are sulfurous thermal waters that emerge from the rocky subsoil at different degrees of temperature.

The puddles and pools arranged in this place have the basic infrastructure for their use as thermal baths. The average temperature of these waters runs between 38°C (104 ° F) and 46°C (115 °F).

The place has dressing rooms, restrooms, and a small snack bar.


Any person that goes into the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu and makes use of the authorized trekking routes has to respect and observe the following rules given by government authorities:

1. Hand all documents and information requested by the authorities.

2. Pay the fee for the right to use the Camino del Inca circuit or any other.

3. Avoid littering and polluting the sanctuary.

4. Make good use of public areas, facilities and equipment. Avoid their deterioration or destruction.

5. Bonfires are not permitted.

6. It is strictly forbidden to extract, depredate or acquire any species of the existing flora in the historic sanctuary.

7. It is strictly forbidden to capture, hunt, depredate or acquire any species of the wild fauna.

8. Visitors must mount their camping in the assigned areas. It is strictly forbidden to camp in the interior of the archeological site or in the restricted areas.

9. Well behavior and respect for the other users is expected from all visitors.

Infractions against any of the regulations mentioned above, will force the intervention of the local police or control personnel to apply the adequate sanctions.