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How to Get The Most out of Your Machu Picchu Tour
Published: 08/05/2011 by Kaitlin
100 years after its discovery by the explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu is one of the most well-traveled destinations in South America. On a Machu Picchu tour, you can visit the awe-inspiring Inca city, situated on a steep cliff in the cloud forest of central Peru. The Inca Empire, brought down by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, were excellent stone masons, and their remarkable masonry is still visible in the ruins scattered about in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and other parts of the Inca Empire, but nowhere is the stonework and architecture of the Incas as impressive at Machu Picchu. Whether you are taking a few days to explore the spectacular city in the sky, or just a day, here are some insider's tips for how to get the most out of your Machu Picchu tour.
One of the best ways to see Machu Picchu on your Peru tour is to get there as early as possible in the morning. The park opens early in the morning, and visitors often line up before dawn at the shuttle bus stop in Aguas Calientes to wait for the first shuttles. If you get there by 6:00am, you should be able to miss most of the crowds. When you enter the park, oftentimes the top of the cliff will still be shrouded in mist and fog, making the atmosphere seem eerie, quiet, and wonderful. You'll be able to enjoy this abandoned city without the hustle and bustle of other visitors who will constantly pour in throughout the day.
If you want to hike Huaynu Picchu, sometimes spelled Waynu Picchu, then its recommended that you walk briskly to the trailhead at the opposite end of the park. Grab a map at the entrance of the park, and then make a beeline to the trailhead, because its only open for trekkers at certain times. Please note, the hike to Huaynu Picchu is now an additional cost and tickets must be purchased in advance. Hauynu Picchu is the mountain that towers over the ruins of Machu Picchu, and you've probably seen it in the background of those iconic photos of Machu Picchu. The hike takes about 4 hours round trip. Its a fun hike that allows you to traipse around more Inca ruins and steep stone walkways, and at the top, you'll get terrific views of Machu Picchu below. Plus, there's another hike to the Temple of the Sun, just follow the signs for a few miles and you'll arrive at a stone structure built out of a cave.
When you get back to the main park, find a spot to rest and have lunch. There is only one restaurant around, inside the five star hotel called the Sanctuary Lodge, so if you are on a budget, just buy a boxed lunch at a hotel or restaurant in Aguas Calientes, and pick it up in the morning on your way to the shuttle stop. That way, you will have a picnic lunch to enjoy at Machu Picchu. Don't forget to bring insect repellent!
If you want to know where to rest your head before or after your day of touring Machu Picchu (and you should - its too rushed to do it all in one day), look no further than Inkaterra's paradisal lodge in Aguas Calientes. The five star hotel's endless pampering will be well-appreciated after the long hot days of travel. If you're looking for a slightly more affordable option, the other Inkaterra property, El Mapi, is a solid 4-star Machu Picchu hotel.