Machu Picchu is a well known UNESCO World Heritage Site in Peru, voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. This archaeological site is a must see for anyone visiting Peru. It is a fascinating piece of history for any traveling family to explore.
Originally, history books stated that American Historian Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu. This fact is not true. Local farmers and Peruvian natives always knew of the site, since they lived and worked right next to it. Bingham just brought attention to Machu Picchu to the rest of the world through his book, Lost City of the Incas.
The real history of Machu Picchu started in the year 1450. Modern archaeologists think the city was an estate for Emperor Pachacuti. Some theories state the city was a key hiding spot from Spanish invaders since the Spanish never mentioned the city in documents during the Colonial Period.
Today, the site is a famous tourist destination. Visitors can climb the mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley to see this fantastic site.
While adventurous travelers can try to hike up the Inca Trail as part of a guided tour, most visitors take the train to reach the ruins. The train departs from three locations – Poroy, Ollantaytambo, and Urubamba (which only departs once a day). Travelers can choose from three train companies: PeruRail, Inca Rail, and Machu Picchu Train.
PeruRail offers various classes for different budgets. The Expedition is the most budget option at $77 each way per person. The Vistadome at $90 per person includes complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. The Hiram Bingham is the most expensive option at $475 each way and includes a brunch, dinner, a selection of Peruvian alcoholic drinks, and other fancy additions. All options feature cars with panoramic windows.
The absolute cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu is via the Ollantaytambo train, with tickets as low as $52 one way.For those who do want to hike the Inca Trail, they will have to reserve a guided group tour costing about $450-$650. The hike is a four-day experience.
What You Will See
The layout of the city divides an urban and agricultural sector as well as an upper town and lower town. The upper town was where the temples and royalty resided while the lower town was for common folk and warehouses. There are 200 buildings in this city and also three structures, the Inti Wantana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of Three Windows.
The Inti Wantana is one of the many ritual stones in South America. The stone is positioned and arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. It is seen as a tool to tie up the sun and is believed to have held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky.
Another spiritual section is the Room of Three Windows. This room is considered to be a sacred place that represents the origins of the Inca civilization. Inside the chamber, visitors will see a stone carved with engravings that represent the three levels where the Inca civilization divided the Andean world. These are the levels of the sky spirituality (Hanan-Pacha), the earth surface (Kay-Pacha) and the subsoil or inner life (Ukju-Pacha). In the Room of Three Windows, people have claimed to have felt great spiritual presences as well as clarity.
The Temple of the Sun sits at the highest altitude in the entire city. It was purposely built this way for the temple to be as close to the sun/heaven as possible. In this temple, the most important and meaningful events of the city would happen here such as sacred rituals, religious sacrifices, and astrological events.
Location, Cost, and Hours
Guests cannot buy Machu Picchu tickets at the entrance gate and must book them in advance. Visitors can get advanced tickets from the official government of Peru website. The government limits entrance to the ruin to 2500 people per day. We suggest booking early as visiting days frequently fill up two weeks in advance. Guests have to bring their original passport to show at the entrance.
Tickets to enter the city cost between $50 to $70. There are discounts for children, students with an ISIC card, and Peruvian nationals.Travelers can book packaged tours to Machu Picchu, such as the four-day Inca Trail Hike ($450-650), the half-day Cusco city tour ($10-15) or the Sacred Valley tour ($12-20).
Autism Travel Tips:
- Peru can get hot, especially during the summer. Parents of heat sensitive children should pack water, insect repellent, and a mini-fan.
- Traveling through Machu Picchu involves lots of hiking on unstable slippery ground. Furthermore there’s hunderds of steps to climb! Parents should make sure everyone wears comfortable and closed-toe shoes appropriate for hiking.
- Traveling families should be aware there’s no shade or resting areas in the actual site.
- Peru sees frequent rains. Traveling families should pack a waterproof jacket in case of rain.
- Parents should book trains online in advance as they fill up quickly, especially the evening return train.
Parents need to prepare their kids to the fact the train can get somewhat noisy with a ‘fashion show’ and musicians coming around entertaining the guests.