• Heather Jasper

A Pedacito Of Machu Picchu, Peru

Since Machu Picchu was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007, people around the world have put this UNESCO World Heritage site on their bucket list. So, what makes it so special and why should you go all the way to South America to see it?

Author at Machu Picchu
Author at Machu Picchu

I have been fortunate enough to have visited Machu Picchu seven times between 2013 and 2022. While the way it is managed has changed quite a bit, the ruins themselves haven’t and that is part of the engineering wonder.


When the Inca chose the location for Machu Picchu and designed the city, it was done with such thorough and careful engineering that it has withstood countless earthquakes. While the modern town of Aguas Calientes, below Machu Picchu, suffers periodic floods and landslides in the rainy season, Machu Picchu is built to withstand the worst torrential downpour possible.

A little vizcacha sunning itself on the rocks
A little vizcacha sunning itself on the rocks

There is so much to love at Machu Picchu. I love the setting, on a narrow ridge surrounded by steep canyon walls, everything covered with dense jungle. I love how it is positioned between the high-altitude mountains and the beginning of the Amazon rainforest. I love the llamas that graze around the site, preventing any need for a lawnmower. I love the vizcacha that suns themselves on the rocks in the afternoon.


The buildings and terraces are fascinating, and I learn something new every time I visit. Archeologists continue to work on the site and with new technology have uncovered some amazing finds, without having to dig.


Since 2011 there has been a controversy between some archeologists who say that they have found a secret crypt under the ruins by using electromagnetic equipment. Repeated applications from teams of archeologists have been rejected by the Peruvian government. Even with this chamber unopened, every year there are more discoveries made. Machu Picchu is the gift that keeps on giving.

Old entrance to Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu
Old entrance to Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu in the background

If you want to visit Machu Picchu, I have some advice for organizing the trip yourself. There are dozens of tour agencies in Cusco who would love to organize everything for you, but if you’d rather plan your own trip, here are some suggestions.


Buy your tickets as soon as you know your dates. In the rainy season, especially January and February, this isn’t so important. However, most of the year there is more demand and if your schedule is tight, you should buy your tickets up to three months in advance.


When you do get on the Peruvian government website for Machu Picchu, you’ll have a lot of options and they’re all in Spanish. Unfortunately, even the English version of the website switches to Spanish. You have to choose the route, date, and time of day. Tickets are limited by time slot. If you buy the earliest tickets for 6:00 am, you can enter between 6:00-7:00.


When choosing the route, you have to choose if you will visit just the main part of the ruins, called llaqta on the website. They don’t bother to translate the Quechua llaqta to either Spanish or English, but it means town. It’s the main terraces and buildings, including the religious area with temples and the residential area.

A temple damaged by archeological excavation
A temple damaged by archeological excavation

For years you have also had the option to pay extra and do an extra hike up Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu. Machu Picchu Mountain is the higher peak up behind the ruins. Hiking up there gives you a fabulous view of the llaqta and most of the best photos of Machu Picchu are taken from that vantage point.


Huayna Picchu is the smaller peak that is in the background of almost every photo of Machu Picchu. It’s not as good for photography but it is covered with ruins, including a cave at the back with a moon temple in it. However, the trail is narrow and has a lot of exposure. I don’t recommend it for people who are afraid of heights or have vertigo.


New in 2021 there is a third extra hike up a hill they’re calling Huchuy Picchu. You don’t have much of a view and there are no ruins. I honestly don’t understand what the appeal could be for tourists.


In my humble opinion, it’s a waste of time and money. If you want to do an extra hike that’s really a hike, go up to Machu Picchu Mountain. If you want to see even more ruins than you would just visiting the llaqta, go for Huayna Picchu.

llaqta, with Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu
llaqta, with Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu

I’ll leave you with a mini-lesson in Quechua. You already know that llaqta means town. Picchu means mountain and it’s spelled with two c because you have to pronounce both of them. The word is pic-chu and it sounds like peek-chu. Machu means old, Huayna means young and huchuy means little. So, do you want to visit just the llaqta or also see the old mountain, the young mountain, or the little mountain?

 

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