15 Things To Do In Machu Picchu For An Unforgettable Trip
There are a number of reasons why you should visit Machu Picchu. Perched high in the Andes, it's a treasure trove of history. One of the most mesmerising things to do in Machu Picchu is to explore its ancient pathways and hidden corners.
This citadel of the Incas invites adventurers to step back in time and marvel at its architectural genius and mystical allure.
Embark on a journey through time as we explore the 15 top tourist attractions that make Machu Picchu a destination like no other.
1. The Iconic Sun Gate (Inti Punku)
The iconic Sun Gate Machu Picchu, or Inti Punku, is a historic sentinel on the Machu Picchu circuit, serving as a vital guardhouse and an astronomical marvel that perfectly frames the sun during the summer solstice.
This gateway stands as a testament to the Inca's advanced understanding of astronomy and their architectural prowess.
Insider tip: For the clearest skies and the most breathtaking spectacle, plan your visit during the dry season, from May to September. Arriving at dawn ensures the best views. It also offers a tranquil, crowd-free experience of Machu Picchu's timeless beauty.
Huayna Picchu, the 'Young Mountain', stands as a sentinel above Machu Picchu, challenging adventurers to ascend its steep paths for a unique panorama of the ancient city nestled within the Andean landscape.
The climb, though rigorous, rewards with unparalleled views of the citadel and the stunning natural tapestry that surrounds it.
Insider tip: We recommend securing your permit early, as only 400 visitors are allowed daily, to ensure your passage on this sought-after adventure.
An early morning ascent is ideal, allowing you to enjoy the cooler temperatures, quieter paths, and the ethereal morning light that animates the ruins.
The journey up and back, taking roughly one to two hours, is best started at dawn to avoid the afternoon heat and to fully embrace the tranquillity and majesty of Machu Picchu from above.
The Inca Bridge is a testament to the strategic ingenuity of the ancient Incas, a secret passage carved into a cliff face that served as a covert entry for their armies.
The path to the bridge showcases their ability to ingeniously integrate defence mechanisms into the natural landscape, with a simple yet brilliant design that included removable wooden planks to thwart potential invaders.
Insider tip: The walk to the bridge is short but thrilling, requiring a steady nerve to navigate the narrow trail with its sheer drop-offs.
While the original wooden planks are gone, the path remains secure, offering a rush of adrenaline and a profound connection to the tactical acumen of the Inca civilisation.
4. Watchman's Hut: The Guard's Viewpoint
The Watchman's Hut, strategically perched atop Machu Picchu, once served as the eyes of the ancient city, providing Inca guards with a panoramic view essential for protecting their sacred space.
Today, this elevated spot gifts visitors with an exceptional perspective to appreciate the magnitude and splendour of Machu Picchu.
The sweeping vistas from the hut are some of the most spectacular, encompassing the terraced hillsides and architectural feats set against the backdrop of the Andes.
Insider tip: It's an ideal place for reflection on the Inca's architectural genius and for capturing timeless photographs as the sun traces the contours of this majestic landscape.
5. The Funerary Stone: A Mysterious Artefact
The Funerary Stone of Machu Picchu is a mysterious and captivating artefact perched just outside the Watchman's Hut.
Its purpose is the subject of much speculation, with theories ranging from an astronomical tool to a sacrificial altar, owing to its skyward tilt and alignment with celestial bodies.
Despite the debates surrounding its original use, the Funerary Stone's prominence within the ruins is unmistakable, marking it as a site of significance.
When you visit, you'll find this enigmatic stone along the main path. It's a poignant relic inviting contemplation of the Inca's complex and still partly hidden cultural practices.
6. Temple of the Sun: An Astronomical Marvel
The Machu Picchu Temple of the Sun is a remarkable showcase of the Inca's mastery of astronomy and architectural prowess. Its mortarless, finely crafted curved walls break away from the traditional Inca straight lines, reflecting their sophisticated stonework and celestial dedication.
Aligned with the solstices, the temple's design allows for a dramatic play of light during these pivotal times, emphasising the Inca's adoration of the sun and its cycle, crucial to their agriculture and spirituality.
7. Royal Tomb - Palace of the Princess
The Royal Tomb, also known as the Palace of the Princess, is an enigmatic structure at Machu Picchu that continues to intrigue.
Nestled beneath the Temple of the Sun, its exquisite masonry and ceremonial design hint at a space reserved for nobility or significant rituals.
Despite its name, the true purpose of the Royal Tomb remains a mystery, as no definitive burial evidence has been found.
Today's interpretations suggest it may have been a temple or a site for high-status ceremonies, a theory supported by its sophisticated stonework and celestial alignments.
8. The Fountains: A Hydraulic Wonder
Machu Picchu's fountains are a remarkable legacy of Inca hydraulic engineering, showcasing their ability to harmonise functionality with their sacred regard for water.
These 'pacchas' formed a sophisticated system that distributed fresh water throughout the city, reflecting the Incas' advanced water management and civic organisation.
While the fountains served practical daily needs, they also held spiritual significance, likely playing a role in rituals celebrating water's life-sustaining power.
Today, they stand quiet yet impressive, offering a glimpse into the Inca's reverence for natural resources and their adeptness at integrating them into their culture and infrastructure.
9. The Temple of Three Windows: A Sacred Structure
The Temple of Three Windows is a revered site at Machu Picchu, embodying the Inca's worldview with its three trapezoidal windows that offer views over the Sacred Valley Cusco.
These windows symbolise the Inca's three-tiered cosmos: the underworld, the earthly realm, and the heavens.
Expertly constructed with large stone blocks, the temple's windows are oriented to welcome the morning light, possibly serving for solar worship or astronomical purposes.
Insider tip: Try to spot the alignment! Aligned with the sacred Machu Picchu mountains, the temple forms a spiritual axis that connects the earth to the divine.
10. The Principal Temple: A Testament to Inca Craftsmanship
The Principal Temple at Machu Picchu is a monument to the Inca's exceptional stonemasonry, with walls that have withstood the test of time and the region's frequent earthquakes.
Its construction techniques, including the slightly inward-leaning walls and trapezoidal shapes, highlight their advanced understanding of durable architecture.
Insider tip: At the heart of the temple's intrigue is the kite-shaped stone. This feature has puzzled scholars and sparked various theories regarding its purpose, from mirroring sacred mountains to serving astronomical functions. What do you think it is?
11. House of the High Priest: A Residential Mystery
The House of the High Priest at Machu Picchu remains a subject of fascination, its intricate design suggesting it was more than a mere residence.
Its location and construction quality imply it could have been the dwelling of a spiritual leader or a site for important rituals.
Architecturally distinguished, the house features the precision interlocking of stones and a double-jamb doorway, hallmarks of significant Inca buildings.
The presence of niches, possibly for holding sacred items, adds to the belief that this space was central to Machu Picchu's religious activities.
12. House of Ornaments (Sacristy): A Display of Incan Artistry
The House of Ornaments, or Sacristy, at Machu Picchu, showcases the Inca's commitment to beauty and ceremonial significance.
The structure's elaborate niches hint at its use for ceremonial purposes, possibly housing sacred objects or serving as an altar for offerings.
Marked by two large, meticulously carved rocks at its entrance, the Sacristy exemplifies the Incas' exceptional stonework. These rocks serve both as structural supports and as artistic expressions of the sacred, with their polished surfaces and sharp angles.
Insider tip: The Sacristy is a place of contemplation, where the play of light on the intricate niches can evoke a sense of the ceremonial splendour that once defined this space.
13. Intihuatana: The Hitching Post of the Sun
The Intihuatana, or 'Hitching Post of the Sun,' is a significant relic of Inca astronomy and spirituality. This singular stone structure functioned as a solar clock and calendar, intricately aligned with the sun's seasonal movements.
Its design, pointing to the cardinal directions and crafted to cast precise shadows, was essential for determining agricultural cycles. More than a tool, it was a sacred site for rituals connecting the Incas to the divine.
14. Central Plaza: The Heart of Machu Picchu
The Central Plaza at Machu Picchu was the vibrant nucleus of Inca society, hosting various activities from commerce to celebrations.
This green space, bordered by residential and sacred areas, showcased the community's social dynamics and cultural richness.
Now, it offers a peaceful respite for visitors amid the ruins, with local wildlife adding vitality to the historic landscape.
Insider tip: Take a brief break here and enjoy the open spaces before continuing your adventure.
15. The Terraces: Agricultural Innovation
The terraces at Machu Picchu are a striking example of the Inca's advanced agricultural techniques and environmental ingenuity.
Carved into the mountainside, these layered platforms allowed for the cultivation of various crops, each terrace creating its own microclimate.
The underlying engineering, with its efficient drainage system, prevented soil erosion and preserved the terraced fields through the centuries.
Visitors are often left in wonder at the terraces' resilience and the enduring wisdom they represent, a blend of beauty and practicality etched into the landscape.
Insider tip: Capture some fantastic photos for authentic Machu Picchu selfies.
As the sun sets on the storied slopes of Machu Picchu, the remnants of this ancient civilisation offer a silent yet profound invitation to experience Peru tours like no other with us at Skyhook Adventure.