Machu Picchu tours have more to offer than you may think.
After learning about the history with your guide, you will always have plenty of time to do some exploring on your own. There are a number of other activities, walks and visits that you can do, before or after your Machu Picchu tour, that add extra interest and value to your trip.
If you have time, we always suggest spending one night in Aguas Calientes, so that you are able to re-visit Machu Picchu and do one or two of these other activities the following day. After all, a Machu Picchu tour is one of the main reasons that many people decide to take a Peru tour package, so you will want to make the most of your time.
A walk to the site of the old Inca drawbridge gives you spectacular views down the very steep cliffs protecting Machu Picchu from the East.
This route was an alternate one used to reach the Inca Trail, and there is a gap in the trail that would have had logs placed across it that could be removed quickly, by pulling ropes, to cut invaders off.
This path is not for those who suffer vertigo and please take care on the steep path!
Another vertigo-inducing experience … but if you are not affected by the drops, you are rewarded by amazing reverse views of the main site.
Most of the panoramic photos of Machu Picchu are taken from near to the gatekeepers’ hut, with Huayna Picchu being the large mountain in the background, commanding the site. This is the mountain you can climb to get the opposite effect.
Be aware of regulations regarding entry: tickets are limited to 400 per day, with an allocated entry time of either 7-8am or 10-11am. These tickets must be purchased in advance, and do sell out … so be sure to inform your travel consultant at time of booking, if you wish to do this.
Walk back to the Sun Gate
If you are not one of the people who has hiked the Inca Trail, you can still walk in the footsteps of the Incas and witness the lovely view from the Sun Gate or “Inti Punku”, as the trekkers do.
Walking up to the left, from near the gatekeepers’ hut, you will walk along part of the wide Inca highway that was the route to and from Cusco. This Inca Trail takes you to the Sun Gate, which commands superb views over Machu Picchu and places the site in the context of its surrounding mountains and snow caps.
It is a fairly easy walk, if you take it steady.
Machu Picchu Mountain
To start the ascent, you need to walk a little way back up from the ‘Caretakers Hut’, where the classic Inca Trail enters Machu Picchu, to find the start on the right hand side.
The trail to the top is a steep 600m ascent – at times on steps and at others on a dirt path. The trail alternates between thick foliage and open stretches, with steep sections.
En route to the top, there are several points where you have great views of the Machu Picchu site below. Towards the top there are more steps and signs of Inca construction.
At the summit is an open area with a flag of the Province of Cusco and fantastic views, not just of the site way below, but also the Vilcanota River valley and many of the mountains of the Vilcabamba range, including the magnificent Salkantay.
When booking Machu Picchu tours with us, please remember to mention that you wish to do this climb, as we have to buy tickets in advance.
Temple of the Moon – Not for those with a fear of heights!
This is the most adventurous of Machu Picchu tours and is not for the faint-hearted.
The Temple of the Moon is located at the back of Huayna Picchu Mountain, lower than the site of Machu Picchu. In order to visit the site, you need an entrance ticket for Huayna Picchu Mountain (of which 400 are sold each day and you need to tell us at the time of booking your Peru tour package).
Most people who choose to visit the site climb to the top of Huayna Picchu, before making their way down the rear of the mountain to the Temple, which is located primarily within a cave. It is then a steep climb back up to the main site of Machu Picchu.
Alternatively, you can head straight to the Temple turning off to the left from the main path up Huayna Picchu, part way up. There are steep up and down sections and also a ladder to navigate.
Very few people tend to visit the Temple, so you may have the path and even the site completely to yourself.
Mandor Waterfall – After your Machu Picchu tour
A visit to this lovely area requires a walk along the railway tracks from the town of Aguas Calientes, keeping the river on your left hand side i.e. away from Cusco.
After around an hour walking, you will come to a triangle in the railway tracks where the locomotives turn around. You will then be able to see a small rustic house and a sign for Mandor. At the time of writing entry is 5 soles (2 USD) and this allows you on to the private ex-coffee plantation.
A dirt track takes you up through an orchard, with many types of fruit trees, including banana and coffee bushes, until after 20 minutes or so you reach the 12-meter waterfall. It is a great place to sit and enjoy a picnic.
Putucusi – The “Happy Mountain”
This climb to the rounded mountain to the side of Machu Picchu may or may not be possible at the time you are reading this, as parts of the wooden ladder section were destroyed by flooding in early 2011.
Several members of our office have done the climb. It is challenging – and at times scary – so ideal for thrill seekers. They are rewarded with a wonderful, oblique view of the Inca site from the top.
Again walking in the direction of Mandor, but for only 10 minutes or so you will come across a small sign labelled Putucusi on the right and a small track heading up into the jungle. From here it is one and a half hour to the summit using steep dirt tracks, stone steps and the aforementioned wooden ladders.
Please take care and if it not open, then choose one of the other hikes detailed here: they are all excellent.
Aguas Calientes – Relax at the Hot Springs
Set above the town, at the end of the main pedestrian street, these hot springs, from where Aguas Calientes gets its name, are very popular among tourists and locals alike.
Check out or Aguas Calientes guide for more information.