The main attractions of Machu Picchu

From five-star luxury on the Hiram Bingham train from Cuzco to five-star luxury at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge – my suite (with 90 sqm balcony) was 20m from the Entrance Gate to the ruins. And this is the only hotel – the rest of the visitors must stay in the valley.

My view of Machu Picchu

My view of Machu Picchu.

From my bedroom window, I could see the Machu Picchu ruins. I was surrounded by an orchid garden with a great variety of native and exotic plants. The hotel is famous for its massages after a day in the ruins, exploring the Inca Trail and the Sacred Mountains.

There is a wealth of cultural, social, historical and natural attractions to see in Machu Picchu, besides the citadel itself…

Hiking the Machu Picchu mountains

Machu Picchu, which means Old Mountain, is towards the south of the Citadel and is at the left-hand side of the Inca Trail, coming from the lntipunku (Gate of the Sun).

Walking down the Inca Trail, and just before you get into the ruins, you turn left on the path that leads to the Machu Picchu Mountain. A slow climb takes around three hours, but once you reach the top, it’s a spectacular view.

Huayna Picchu, or Young Mountain, is towards the north of the citadel and appears in the background of most of Machu Picchu’s classic pictures. At the summit, there are terraces that were made to avoid erosion. To get to the summit, you take the path on the left flank of the mountain – the way up is basically a long stairway, with some of the steps carved into the mountain rock.

Machu Picchu, my 5th wonder of the world!

Machu Picchu, my 5th wonder of the world!

A slow climb up Huayna Picchu takes about an hour, but the site only allows 400 people a day, so if you want to hike the mountain, it’s wiser to be there early.

Sights to see

The Temple of the Moon is on the lower part of Huayna Picchu, following the same trail that goes to the summit, but halfway up there’s a detour to the left that goes to the Temple. The hike from here only takes about 40 minutes, but rather arrive early because again, only 400 people per day are allowed.

2,600m above sea level, on the south east flank of Machu Picchu mountain, the climb from the citadel to Intipunku takes ± 2 hours for a round trip. The path isn’t difficult and there’s only a slight slope, but the views are great!

A 35 minute hike from Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge will take you to the north west side of the Machu Picchu Mountain, and from there you can observe Puente Inca (Inca Bridge), the San Miguel bridge over the Urubamba river. The bridge is part of the hydro-electric plant, now a lake bed caused by “El Nino” weather phenomenon. It’s a masterpiece of engineering, carved out of the protruding rocks embedded in the mountain side which served as a protection of the sacred citadel.

Happy Mountain

Putucusi is the mountain directly facing Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, and its Quechua name means Happy Mountain. At 2,400m above sea level, it’s sometimes also known as the Orange Half mountain.

This hike takes about 2 ½ hours from the base of the mountain, and a good level of physical fitness is necessary – the trail has some steep sections which can be very difficult. Once at the peak though, you’re rewarded with a special view of Machu Picchu.

The Machu Picchu citadel

The ruins of the Machu Picchu citadel.

Flora and fauna

The Botanical Gardens are located at the back of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge building, where you can find a great variety of native plants and flowers.

The Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu encompasses 32,520 hectares which contain unique flora and fauna. Local flora in the reserve of Machu Picchu includes pisonayes, q’ofias, alisos, puya palm trees, ferns, and an estimated 300 species of orchids from which only 260 species have been identified and classified!

Due to the rugged nature of the land, only 35% of the territory has been studied, and further investigation could reveal many surprises. The lie of the land, the natural surroundings, and the strategic locations of Machu Picchu lend this sanctuary a fusion of beauty, harmony. and balance between the work of ancient Peruvians and the whims of nature.

Thermal baths

The town of Aguas Calientes, as the Spanish name already suggests, has Hot Springs where the water averages 38ºC. Just a 15 minute walk up the Pachacutec Avenue from the town’s main square, these natural underground hot sulphur springs bubble up from the rocky ground at varying temperatures, and are well known for their medicinal properties.

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