Organising your trip to Machu Picchu

A trip to Machu Picchu really is a once in a lifetime experience. Although called the lost city of Peru, Machu Picchu was never really lost as the local population knew of its existence high in the clouds but the world didn’t know about its existence until 1911.
The city was built in the fifteenth century for the Inca gentry but was empty by around 1572. Some say it was through the sacking of the Spanish but others say they escaped the invasion because of their height and residents left voluntarily. It wasn’t until Hiram Bingham was shown the overgrown ruins at the beginning of the 20th century that the world found a new piece of Incan history.

Machu Picchu - The end of the Inca Trail
Machu Picchu – The end of the Inca Trail

Machu Picchu is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are now over a million visitors every year. 70% of those who take the journey to the top are travellers from outside Peru, and for those who travel within their own country, the majority are school trips.
There are large number of steps to climb at Machu Picchu physical fitness is key the gradient is steep and you’ll need to start the ascent early in the day.
When planning your journey and booking nearby hotels in Machu Picchu you need to think about the reason for your visit. It’s a trip which really needs some time dedicated to it rather than a brief visit and it’s important to decide what you really want to get out of it at the end of your holiday; archaeological learning perhaps or the achievement of a physical hike? Spiritual enlightenment or a place to tick off your bucket list?
The City of Cusco - An Archaeologists dream
The City of Cusco – An Archaeologists Dream

Peru only has two seasons; wet and dry. Think carefully about what time you want to visit as whilst it is going to be dry from June to September, there will also be great numbers of people wanting the same experience as you and prices generally for flights to Machu Picchu will be higher. Whilst there won’t be as many travelling there during the rainy season of October to April, you need to think about the fact that if the weather is bad the trails may be closed and there is the small possibility of being stranded in the area through mudslides.
Hotels in Machu Picchu are based at the city of Cuzco which is usually classed as the base camp for the trip. You can easily make reservations at these hotels, prior to your arrival in the city by using the services of some reliable travel agency like TravelSpec. It’s important to spend some time acclimatising for a few days due to the altitude. Limit caffeine and try not to drink any alcohol until you’re more used to the climate. Drink bottled water and the coca tea available in hotels as dehydration can cause altitude sickness. If you have the time to spend in Cuzco, car hire in Machu Picchu will allow you to explore this city in the clouds.
If you’re planning to walk the Inca Trail, you’ll need to buy a permit and you can’t do the trip alone. There are only 500 passes available each day and you need to buy in advance from an accredited guide. Look for one who is a member of the Unidad de Gestion Santuario Historico de Machu Picchu. If you are looking to tackle the trail in peak season, you’ll need to book a permit around five months in advance.  During the wet season you can sometimes buy whilst you’re in Cuzco, but you may need to be flexible in which day you want to do the hike.
If you plan your journey well in advance, ensure you’re fit to make the climb and join a group if you’re not an experienced walker, you’ll have the trip of a lifetime. Machu Picchu is truly stunning and it’s worth being well organised to get the most out of it.