Deservedly one of the most iconic sights in the world, Machu Picchu is a quite incredible place, if not necessarily an amazing experience to visit thanks to it’s understandable popularity.
It is well managed, with clear controlled areas to follow, and refreshingly no tourist facilities (shops, restaurants, or toilets) in the site itself, though there is also no explanation at all around the place, just a few location signs. Frequent buses run the half hour journey up the steep hillside from Aguas Calientes, which is full of tourist infrastructure. Before the entrance is a restaurant and shop, and generally large queues of people either waiting to get into the site, or for buses to return to the town.
The first view of the whole site is both instantly familiar, and deeply impressive with the context of the surrounding landscape, which doesn’t really come across in photos. I was lucky with the weather, though it was hot and tiring to explore, there are a lot of steps!
What most photos don’t show are the hundreds (thousands in peak season, this was a relatively quiet day apparently) of people sharing the site. It is a fairly large place so there are areas of relative calm, but also numerous bottlenecks which makes for a fairly unpleasant experience. It’s popularity is understandable, and I’m aware that I was part of the issue (though I wasn’t carrying a selfie stick at least) but it is a challenge to fully enjoy this incredible place unless you’re willing to start queuing from dawn to catch the first buses up.
The Sun Gate does require some effort to get to, requiring a steady ascent for 1km, but puts Manchu Picchu in context, a small town straddling a saddle between two peaks.
There are plenty of terraces, originally used to grow food for the town, taking advantage of the favourable microclimate, and access to spring water.
The most impressive stonework is found at the Temple of the Sun.
Nearby are these holes were the mummies of important Inca were kept.
The Temple of the Condor featured some of the most unusual Inca stonework I’ve seen.
The Intihuatana is a sun dial type structure, and unfortunately a major site bottleneck, with a long procession of people passing by.
There are stunning views almost everywhere, a few more, and some lama, to finish with.