“And then up the ladder of the earth I climbed
through the horrible thicket of the lost jungles
to you, Machu Picchu.
Tall city of stones stacked up in steps,
at last a dwelling where what is earthly
was not hidden under slumbering clothes.
In you, like two parallel lines,
the cradle of lightning and humanity
rocking together in a thorny wind.
Mother of stone, spume of the condors.
Highest reef of the human dawn.
Shovel buried in the first sand.”
Pablo Neruda is not the only one who has been inspired by this unfathomable city. Since its discovery in the early twentieth century by Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu has become one of the most magnetic travel destinations on the planet, gaining recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World. For many who visit, the “Lost City of the Incas” is not only the pinnacle of their Peru Tour, but the single most extraordinary place they will visit in their lifetime.
Hidden for centuries in the rugged Andean jungles outside of Cusco, Machu Picchu’s remote setting is like no other place on earth. Here the mountains meet the Amazon in magnificent fashion, with lush-green vegetation clinging to steep-mountain slopes and snow-capped peaks rising high above in the distance. Even if the Lost City was never built, the natural geography of Huayna Picchu and the surrounding landscapes alone would still rank among the most magnificent places on earth.
In many ways, the city itself is even more incredible than the setting. Perched on a steep mountain in a seemingly impossible location, this amazing city of stone features incredible rockwork and beautiful Inca walls built with remarkable precision, all of which were constructed without the use of mortar. In addition to the mastery of the Inca as stone masons, Intihuatana and other sites within Machu Picchu illustrate the Inca’s profound astronomical knowledge and their intimate connection with the solar calendar. To this day, the purpose of Machu Picchu is subject to much debate. Some historians believe it acted as a retreat for Inca royalty, other theories suggest it was a llacta, a settlement constructed to control the economies of other neighboring regions.
At Paragon Expeditions, we introduce you to this mind-boggling Inca archaeological wonder with those who know it best, ranging from local Machu Picchu guides that live in Aguas Calientes to world-renowned Inca historians and archaeologists. While the ruins alone are enough to take your breath away, we believe these expert insights create a next-level Machu Picchu experience that you simply won’t find elsewhere.
Machu Picchu Practical Information:
Planning a trip to Machu Picchu can be a logistically complicated endeavor. You have train schedules, bus tickets, guides… all sorts of things you need to take into account. Furthermore, hotels, permits, and train reservations can be difficult to secure, especially during the peak travel season between May and October. The good news is that we specialize in Machu Picchu travel and can get you squared away with a life-changing, headache-free trip to this extraordinary Inca citadel.
Weather and Altitude
At 7,972 ft. above sea level, Machu Picchu is at a slightly lower altitude than Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Due to the lower altitude and the influence of the Amazon, temperatures are generally warmer, although mornings and nights can still be brisk.
Both Peru Rail and Inca Rail have strict luggage policies that prohibit travelers from bringing large suitcases. Therefore, for one- to two- night stays in Aguas Calientes, we recommend that travelers only bring a small overnight bag and a backpack for the Machu Picchu tour. We can arrange for your main luggage to be taken directly to your hotel in Cusco or the Sacred Valley and secured in a safe place until you return from Machu Picchu (although this may vary depending on your itinerary).
Sunrise at Machu Picchu
Travelers seeking to watch the sunrise at Machu Picchu need to be aware that the park does not let guests in until 6:00 a.m. Be advised that lines start to form at the bus station in Aguas Calientes as early as 4:00 a.m. for those trying to see the sunrise. Therefore, the only true way to see the sunrise is to stay at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, which is the only hotel located next to the ruins.
Inca Trail Permits
Be aware that there are only 500 permits per day for the Inca Trail, and it is not uncommon for Inca Trail permits to sell out several months in advance. For that reason, if you would like to experience the Short Inca Trail hike, we recommend that you book at least four months in advance.