Machu Picchu picture
Michael Lawenko Dela Paz/Getty Images

Key Info

Macchu Pichu Historic Sanctuary

Details

Hiking, Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.6

scorecard

  • 4.0Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

It's hard to believe this iconic "lost city of the Incas" was untouched during the Spanish conquest. The Incas cleverly obscured these 12 acres of temples, aqueducts and gardens from the Spaniards, keeping their sacred city intact for hundreds of years.

It's difficult to know where to start. First things first: Pick up a booklet and a map as signage at the site is minimal. Then, start your journey at the House of the Terrace Caretaker and Funeral Rock, a 20-minute walk from Machu Picchu's entrance.

From there, head to the Temple of the Sun to admire the exquisite Incan masonry and a granite stone that may have served as the Inca's calendar. Continue on to the Temple of Three Windows, where you'll marvel at the views from the building's trapezoidal lookouts. Finally, visit the Temple of the Condor, which, as its name suggests, forms the shape of a condor – the symbol of heaven in the Inca cosmos.

You'll need to buy your ticket in advance, many recommend doing so months ahead of time, as there is a limit of 2,500 people per day allowed at the site. You can obtain a ticket from the Instituto Nacional de Cultura website or the office in Cusco (this is where student and tickets for minors are available). If you’re going with a group, check if your tour operator includes the price of admission in your fee.

There are two ways to reach the great lost city: either by hiking the Inca Trail or snagging a seat on one of the tourist trains. Trains embark from Estación Poroy station (about 8 miles west of downtown Cusco) to Aguas Calientes, a station sitting at the base of the mountain on which Machu Picchu perches. For more information, consult our guide to Getting Around Cusco or take a look at our list of tours and tips for visiting Machu Picchu.

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#1 Plaza de Armas

The history of the Plaza de Armas stretches back all the way to the Inca Empire when it was called Huacaypata or Aucaypata. The massive square (originally twice its current size) was built as a venue for festivals and ceremonies in ancient times.

According to legend, this plaza once marked the exact center of the Inca Empire, earning Cusco the nickname "the navel of the world." After Spanish conquistadors conquered the city in the early 1500s, they erected two churches on the either sides of the square – Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesús and La Catedral – where the former Incan palace once stood.

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