Machu Picchu is Peru’s most famous landmark, and visiting it is a memorable experience. The place is a thrilling destination for hikers who can climb the two mountains behind the citadel or just for travelers aiming to wander around the ruins learning more about the Inca culture.
However, visiting Machu Picchu demands planning, and some common mistakes can impact the experience on different levels. Here is what travelers should know before packing to Cusco.
10/10 Underestimating The Altitude
Machu Picchu stands 7,972 feet above sea level, and watching the Inca citadel rising among clouds is a remarkable experience.
However, first-time travelers need to pay more attention to the effect of altitude on the body. Known as soroche in Spanish, altitude sickness can cause headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
When traveling through Peru, it’s recommended to increase the heights slowly when planning the itinerary.
Locals also suggest chewing coca leaves and drinking its tea to mitigate the sickness, and people can also find soroche pills in most drugstores in Cusco.
9/10 Not Being Careful With Food
Peru is the ultimate destination for gastronomy fans. Peruvian cuisine is recognized as one of the most inventive across the globe, so trying their incredible dishes and street food is also part of the experience.
Yet, travelers should be careful with food, as food poisoning can quickly spoil a vacation.
It’s essential to give the body a few days while getting used to the Peruvian herbs and spices. Travel guides also advise choosing cooked dishes instead of raw ones.
When it comes to street foods, visitors should opt for the ones that have locals standing in line.
8/10 Booking A Hotel On A Steep Hill In Cusco
Most travelers stay in Cusco when visiting Machu Picchu. The former capital of the Inca Empire is home to hundreds of hotels suitable for different budgets.
However, before choosing an accommodation, tourists should check the location carefully, as Cusco is full of steep hills.
Many hotels are located on hilltops or can’t be accessed by car, which can become a problem for travelers carrying luggage or after a long day hiking.
It’s always recommended to check the reviews and what former guests say about the location.
People visiting Cusco for the first time would do well to choose something close to the historical center, as most restaurants and tour agencies are in the area.
Hotel Hacienda Cusco
Calle Nueva Alta 643, Cusco City Centre, Cusco, Peru
Restaurant, bar, patios, and a sky room overlooking the city
7/10 Spending A Short Time in Cusco
Machu Picchu is the most visited attraction in Peru, and many people believe Cusco is just a stopover to reach the landmark.
Yet, the historical city has a vibrant lifestyle, featuring excellent restaurants and bars, exciting markets, and charming neighborhoods.
It is also where most tour agencies are based, so there are many activities nearby.
Cusco is also the former capital of the Inca Empire, and it’s crucial to learn more about the Colonial period through its ruins and colonial architecture.
Travelers can easily spend one week enjoying Cusco and its attractions.
6/10 Not Planning The Journey Between Cusco And Aguas Calientes
Cusco is not the final stop to visit Machu Picchu, as tourists still need to travel over 40 miles to reach Aguas Calientes, the closest city to Machu Picchu.
It’s possible to arrive in the city by train or van. The Inca Trail leads travelers directly to Machu Picchu and takes at least three days.
This decision is crucial, as it impacts the travel’s length and budget. The most comfortable way is traveling by train, which takes approximately 3.5 hours from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.
Vans are popular among tourists on a budget, but travelers must still walk two hours to reach Machu Picchu.
5/10 Choosing The Wrong Clothes
Instagram often shows people wearing long dresses or even hills on Machu Picchu.
Although it looks gorgeous in pictures, visitors should remember that they must walk a lot and wearing comfortable clothes is crucial.
The stones can be slippery, especially after the rain, so hiking shoes are the best choice for exploring the area.
The best outfits are leggings, comfortable jeans, a rain jacket, and hiking shoes. A good tip is to wear vibrant colors that contrast with the background.
4/10 Skipping Aguas Calientes
Tourists often overlook Aguas Calientes, as they spend just one night in the town. Most visitors are focused on Machu Picchu and only see a little beyond the famous Inca ruins.
Travelers staying at least two nights in Aguas Calientes can relax in the thermal waters, discover other trails and visit museums.
Ollantaytambo and Urubamba are other towns nearby, perfect for relaxing. It’s also possible to stay in a hanging hotel in the region.
3/10 Forgetting To Visit Other Landmarks And Natural Wonders
Machu Picchu is Peru’s most famous postcard and lives up to the hype. Yet, people visiting the region are often surprised by many landmarks and natural wonders nearby.
Sacsayhuaman ruins: A religious place that dates back to the 15th Century, and it’s located close to the historical center. The walls are built with precisely cut polygonal blocks that were put together like a puzzle.
Salineras de Mara: This impressive natural salt field features over 3,000 shallow pools. Visitors learn details about the complex system Incas created to have salt.
Moray: This location is part of the Sacred Valley and was used as an agricultural lab. The Incas had carved multiple circular terraces, creating different microclimates to cultivate crops.
Sacred Valley tour: The tour stops in crucial areas, such as the Pisac’s ruins and the breathtaking Ollantaytambo.
Rainbow Mountain: The Rainbow mountain is the second most visited attraction in Peru and was named after its multiple colors. The tours demand a whole day, and hiking can be challenging due to the altitude.
Humantay lake: This lake features turquoise waters, one of the region’s most popular hiking.
2/10 Booking Every Tour In Advance
It’s highly recommended to book the tickets to Machu Picchu in advance due to its high demand. Visitors should also schedule train tickets and the Inca Trail beforehand. However, the rule doesn’t apply to most tours.
After arriving in Cusco, tourists will find an array of agencies scattered over the city, especially near Plaza das Armas. It’s possible to check the prices in different shops and negotiate them.
Before closing any deal, it’s important to read reviews online and see what former clients say about the agency.
1/10 Visiting It During The Rainy Season
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is during the dry season, between May and October. During those months, the days are sunny and it’s perfect for travelers planning to go on the Inca Trail.
Tourists flock to Machu Picchu between June and August, so travelers aiming to avoid the crowds should skip those months.
Travelers should avoid visiting the region during the rainy season, between December and March. January is reportedly the wettest month at Machu Picchu, and the Inca Trail often closes in February.