Few sites convey as much hype and expectations as Machu Picchu. The site, one of the new 7 wonders of the world, brings every year hundreds of thousands of tourists curious to explore the most vast testimony of the inca civilization and one of the world best known archeologic site. But is Machu Picchu worth the hype?
The dark side of Machu Picchu…
If you thought of having the site for yourself, forget about it. No surprises, Machu Picchu is the most visited site of Peru. In 2013, there was more than a million of people who entered the ruins. This affluence has put the site “in danger” according to UNESCO which underlines a degradation of the ecosystem and a need for a better management of Machu Picchu to preserve it for future generations.
Quotas and regulations. In response, the peruvian government is enforcing more and more drastic regulations every year -without stopping to milk the tourist cow. “Only” 2500 people are now allowed to enter and you will have to pay almost $50 to do so. Visitors are supposed to follow a predefine path for their visit and are discouraged from wandering around by officers equipped with whistles. There are also talks about not letting visistors enter without a guide. In a few months or years, your Machu Picchu might very well be a 1h guided tour stopping at 5 different spots…
Crowded and over controlled, Machu Picchu is no heaven for the independant traveller. Should you then just skip it?
…but still a visit you will probably never forget
It´s not that the ruins are really beautiful, or even really old (well, for European standards, remainings from XV century is not that old…). But still, it stands impressive and unique. Why?
- the size: Machu Picchu is huge! It´s hard to realize as the classic Machu Picchu postcard only shows a part of the 32,000 hectares that composes the site. The site also includes more than 600 terrasses!
- the remote location: Most people ignore that the site is located in between of the mountains and at 2400m above sea level. The city of Aguas Calientes that tourists use as a base for their visist was inexisting and 8 inca trails running through the jungle and the mountains used to link to this important place.
- the engineering achievement: You can only be impressed facing the size of this sacred place, knowing it was built in less than 80 years in such an hostile environment without wheels or iron tools. On many walls, the stones were cut to fit perfectly together without mortar, in a perfect alignment. Remember to keep an eye on finding these little details duruing your visit.
- the mystic atmosphere: the different buildings follow the orientation of the sun at key periods of the year (solstices, equinoxes…), making Machu Picchu a living astronomic calendar. Enjoying the sunrise over there, for example, is just magic.
- the mystery that remains: Even nowadays, more than a century after the site was international re-discovered, the main goal of the Machu Picchu remains highly discussed: religious, astronomical, educative, political centre? No one really knows. The fact that the site was kept hidden from the gringos for so long also adds its part of the magic.
So yes, Machu Picchu stands the hype and it would be silly to skip it if you visit Peru. Just remember that lots of other sites in the country also deserve your attention, but more on that in a later post.
A few tips to enjoy more your Machu Picchu visit:
- Make it to the sunrise. For that, at 4.00 am you need to start walking from Aguas Calientes or start queueing to make sure you will be in one of the first buses going there.
- Get the services of a guide (or a great guidebook). There are no informative signs at all on the site.
- Climb Machu Picchu mountain. It´s not easy so save your legs and take the bus from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of the site. Start climbing around 8.30 before it gets too warm.
- Go out for a break between 11.00 and 14.00, when the site is the most crowded. Come back at 14.00, the site is almost empty after 15.30.
- Bring only a small backpack (20L) or be ready to pay for storage of bigger items.
- Buy snacks and water in Aguas Calientes, or pay 5 soles for 50cl of water…
Did you visit Machu Picchu? Do you agree with this article? Share your impressions by commenting!