Climbing the famous mountain that features on postcards behind Machu Picchu is a challenge that the more intrepid will not want to miss out on. If that sounds like you, you will need to buy a special pass for this excursion. Access to the mountain is restricted to just two daily itineraries that admit 200 people each, leaving at 07:00 and 10:00, respectively. The level of difficulty is medium to high, and the walk is not recommended for young children or those lacking in physical fitness. The ascent takes approximately 45 minutes, and the complete excursion lasts around two hours.
Trek to Puerta del Sol
If you have the time and sufficient levels of physical fitness, you can opt to climb to the famous Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun). Should you decide to do so, we recommend starting off by taking the left-hand route up past the citadel, along one of the paths that lead to Puerta del Sol. The views of Machu Picchu from here are spectacular! The walk takes around two and a half hours, and is moderately demanding. As such, it is not recommended for the elderly, small children, or those with vertigo.
Tour of the Inca Citadel
If you decide to tackle any of the above excursions, you will be well-placed to visit the citadel of Machu Picchu on the way back down. In general, we recommend doing it this way round, as the ascent will be a good deal more difficult after the couple of hours it takes to tour the citadel. To find your way around the complex with ease, remember that it has been divided into sectors that are shown on the site map.
The Agricultural Sector
The closest to the point of access, covering a vast expanse running from the lowest to the highest extremes of the citadel. Accounting for a large proportion of the site area, you will pass through this sector at some point during the tour en route to another sector. The area is lined by terraces whose construction drew upon abundant knowledge of agriculture and irrigation; the base is filled with fine sand, followed by stones and, on the surface, farmland. This facilitates drainage of water for planting and prevents collapse of the terraces over time.
The Imperial Sector
Located beyond the agricultural sector in the upper part, to the west of the architectural complex, is the section that was reserved for the nobility and the clergy. Access to this zone is marked by a beautiful gateway fit for a palace. In this area, you will find the main square, the royal palace, the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), and the Intiwatana. Here, it is important to appreciate the high degree of refinement of the main structures, where the stones seem to fit together perfectly.
The Urban Sector
Separated from the Imperial sector by a large central patio is the area known as the urban sector, where the remaining inhabitants of Machu Picchu lived. This zone also hosts the Templo del Condor (Temple of the Condor) and other major structures.
The order in which you tour the complex is entirely down to individual preference, and the pace you seek to go at.
For lovers of bird-watching, the Machu Picchu area hosts around 400 species and is one of the best spots in the world for this activity. If this appeals to you, we recommend booking a trip led by expert guided at your travel agent.
Machu Picchu also hosts a large variety of orchids and bromeliads, which can be seen readily along the entire trajectory up to the citadel and in its outskirts. If you have time, the walk to Mandor is very pleasant, and is site of a water source directly from the Andean icecaps. Of course, as you venture into the rainforest, you will appreciate a little more of the flora and fauna in the area.