Best time to visit Machu Picchu

Best time to visit Machu Picchu


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

The Inca Trail closes every Feb (the wettest month) for maintenance, but Machu Picchu still opens daily, 6am – 5:30pm. One of the best times to visit Machu Picchu is April and May; the rainy season has passed, the mountains are emerald, and it isn’t as crowded as July-Aug. When local people also love to visit, as they do for the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi), end of June. May-Oct are generally clear and dry, although cool at night. However, the Amazon is only 100km away, so your raingear should never be far away either.

Things to do in Machu Picchu


WHAT TO DO IN MACHU PICCHU, & WHAT NOT TO

Things to do in Machu Picchu...


If seeing Machu Picchu is one of your lifelong dreams, consider doing it in dreamy style, on board one of the trains that take you from Cuzco to the foot of the citadel at Aguas Calientes. The Vistadome and Hiram Bingham are the two posh versions, with panoramic viewing carriages; the latter, named after the US historian who ‘discovered’ Machu Picchu, is the super deluxe. Machu Picchu may not be about chic, but gourmet meals, cocktails and wine en route through the Andes is a mucho peachy way to go.

If you think that climbing the sheer peak of Huayna Picchu that appears in just about every Machu Picchu pic is a challenge, just remember what the Incas achieved at these heights. And gradients. They created temples such as the Temple of the Moon into the mountainside, thought to be a place of sacrifice or a tomb. No sacrifices here, however, with ropes and ropebridges facilitating the climb. Definitely not for anyone prone to vertigo, numbers are limited to 400 per day, climbing in two morning shifts.

Few people know about the tiny museum, Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón, in Aguas Calientes, packed with details on the history and excavation of Machu Picchu. The is little on-site interpretation (apart from your guides, who are highly recommended), so take the half hour walk from Aguas Calientes to the museum, to learn more and enjoy some time away from the crowds too.

Things not to do in Machu Picchu...


If taking on the Inca Trail, don’t turn a blind eye to the people who will be carrying your bags, tents and everything including the kitchen sinks. Porters’ rights have become a huge issue in Peru, and while they are now protected by law, many companies still try to skirt around it. When you travel with a responsible tourism company, you are ensuring fair pay for and treatment of porters. See our Inca Trail guide for more details.
 
Don’t break the rules at Machu Picchu. First and foremost, this is a sacred site, so respectful, common sense behaviour is the way to go. Streaking there is just not cool, for example – and yes, it has been done. No litter, no pinching of stones or plants, no wandering out of bounds, no alcohol, don’t feed the llamas, and respect the guides’ requests at all times.

Don’t overlook poverty. Although the economy is on the up, a third of the country lives in poverty. So, use local guides and porters, and visit the charity restaurant Ruinas 415, while acclimatising in Cuzco, which supports social projects for Yanapay. Shop in the markets, buy products made from sustainable balsa wood, and stay in a homestay.

Machu Picchu travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN MACHU PICCHU

Checking the
group size


Simon Forster is the co-founder of our supplier, The Beyond Tourism Co.:

“Make sure you know if you’re getting a private guide or if you’re part of a bigger group. People sometimes don’t realise they’re part of a bigger group, even if they’ve booked a tailor made tour. It’s not always a big deal as the nature of the trail means you will always end up booking with other people anyway. But it does mean you won’t have a guide to yourself.”

Altitude advice


Kathy Jarvis, from our supplier, Andean Trails:

 “The more acclimatised you are, the more you’ll enjoy it. You can suffer a lot if you try and force your body too high, too soon”.

Enjoying your freedom


Alex Higgins from our leading Machu Picchu supplier, Audley Travel:

“I think Machu Picchu have been threatening to make it obligatory to go around the site with official site guides since the beginning of time! As it stands at the moment groups are still free to do their own thing. It does seem increasingly likely that the change will happen (pressure from UNESCO etc.), but nothing is definite at the moment. We tend to mention to clients it is a possibility in the near future, but currently nothing has changed officially.”

Machu Picchu travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Machu Picchu travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
“Have some Soles in small denominations as change is very hard to find.”Keith Charters

There is a benefit to the locals by following the advice of the vacation company and our guide we tipped directly and ate in restaurants that supported their charitable work. The impact to the environment was minimal, we used our own water bottles, took all litter back and followed the rules in order to protect the historical sites.”Jo Turnbull

“Make sure you are flexible about toilet hygiene. If not, stay off the Inca Trail and ride the train to Machu Picchu instead. Think your sleeping bag is warm enough? Think again!!”Julie Fahrner-Schibli

“Go with a well organised travel agent (which we did). Although organising things yourself would be cheaper it is so much easier to have everything well planned before you get there. The days we had free for our own planning were often half wasted with us organising things! We also spent a lot of money on extras - try and get as much pre organised so you know exactly what you will spend before you get there.”Annie Scott

“Be prepared for imperfection, these trips require you to go with the flow, put up with things when they are not quite right, it is that sort of country, and you need stamina.”David Greaves

“Make sure your camera has a huge memory card...and take a good lipbalm because the altitude makes your lips dry!!” Jo Curry

“We were very well fed throughout and even on the trek didn't need any extras. Just buy the odd snacks you might want when you are there - better for the local economy and less weight to carry yourself!”Jo Herrold


Photo credits: [Temp chart: karlnorling] [Group size: Madeleine Deaton] [Freedom to explore: McKay Savage] [markets: Miguel Vera León] [Huayna Picchu: anoldent]
Written by Catherine Mack
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