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How to Plan a Trip to Machu Picchu

Sucheta Pradhan Sep 28, 2019
Machu Picchu is one of the most enchanting locations to visit, and every year, millions of tourists from around the globe plan to make a trip there. Know how to go about planning a trip to this ancient Inca city.

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Quick Tip

Only 2,500 people are allowed to enter Machu Picchu daily, half of which are porters. So, it is advisable to book your trip well in advance, and also keep your travel dates flexible.

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Machu Picchu is the site of an ancient Inca city, located in the South American country of Peru. Situated on an elevated terrain, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been very well marketed by the Peruvian government.
The mountainous location, the archaeological ruins, the unparalleled scenic beauty that surrounds it, and a mystery element that has been associated with the place, all have made it extremely popular amongst domestic and international tourists, who tend to flock there every year in large numbers.
It is one of those few tourist destinations, which offer something or the other for all kinds of visitors. Apart from being a haven of trekkers and hikers, it is also immensely popular amongst history enthusiasts and people who go there to enjoy the sanctity of nature.
Interestingly, Machu Picchu has also been marketed as a pilgrimage site of the Incas, and so it has also come to the forefront as a spiritual destination. Added to this, its elevated location in the Andes of Peru offers some of the most breathtaking and majestic views of the surrounding areas.

Planning a Machu Picchu Vacation

If you intend to visit this place, which has a spellbinding fusion of ancient man-made wonders and scenic beauty, here are a few tips that will help you plan your trip.

When to Go?

➥ The peak time to travel to Machu Picchu is in the months of July and August.

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The site is particularly busy during these two months, because they are considered to be the driest months in the Andean foothills. So, it is relatively easier to go around the ancient city, and also to hike. If you intend to travel during the peak season, it is vital that you book your trip well in advance.

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➥ However, if you wish to avoid large crowds during your trip, you can go during the off-season, i.e., from November to April. This is the rainy season in the Andean foothills, wherein January and February are the wettest months.
➥ However, if you opt for the month of November or April, you will be able to avoid large crowds as well as heavy rains.

Do Thorough Research

➥ First and foremost, decide whether you want to book a group package or go independently.
➥ If you wish to go independently, it is vital that you go through authorized sources, preferably through the government website. This will help you get safe accommodations, and save you from making unnecessary payments.
➥ Several tailor-made tours are also available for independent travelers, wherein travel agents take care of the bookings to your destination, and then let you manage the rest on your own.

➥ On the other hand, going for a group package can also be a good idea, which will not only ensure your safety, but will also assure you company all through your trip.
➥ If you intend to take a group package, compare several of them on various parameters, including costs, accommodation and food facilities, past record, availability of licensed guides, cooks, porters, and so on.

➥ Also, inquire about the tips to be given out, in order to avoid spending much more than your expectations.
➥ If it's a group tour package, your tour operator will do everything, right up to booking return tickets for the group. Just check that the price quoted by the tour operator is all-inclusive.
➥ If you are traveling independently (not tailor-made), you will have to book your own airline tickets as well. So, look for the best prices that suit your budget. Comparing prices on different websites, such as Travelocity, Expedia, etc., is a good idea, as you may land up with some pretty good deals.
➥ At the end, research well regarding the overall budget of the trip. Keep in mind that the bus and train tickets, food, and accommodation in Peru are a little expensive, and many facilities there do not accept credit cards. So, keep enough hard cash with you.

Be Prepared for the Elevation

➥ Machu Picchu is situated on a highly elevated terrain, which means that you might have to face troubles such as altitude sickness during your trip. The good news is that there is a way to avoid this.
➥ All travelers to Machu Picchu have to halt at Cusco, a city that is about 112 km away from the ancient site, and sits at an elevation of about 3,400 m above sea level.
➥ Because Cusco is more elevated than Machu Picchu, the symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headache and/or vomiting, etc., start becoming apparent here itself.

➥ Therefore, it is recommended to arrive in Cusco at least four to five days ahead of your visit to Machu Picchu so that your body can get accustomed to elevation, and its lower oxygen levels.
➥ Machu Picchu sits at a height of 2,430 m above sea level, so when you travel down to your destination from Cusco, conditions seem to get better.

➥ Trekkers should consult their physicians, and get medications prescribed for altitude sickness. Alcohol can intensify the symptoms, so recommended to stay away from it, until your body adjusts to the elevation.

Carry Appropriate Trekking Gear

➥ This is vital, especially if you are planning a trekking trip to Machu Picchu. Make sure that your trekking gear is up-to-date and appropriate.
➥ Your travel company will provide you with a detailed list of items to carry for your trek. Be absolutely sure that you do not miss out on even a single one of them.

➥ If you are going independently, the Internet is the best source to find out what may be needed. If you know people who have been there before, consulting them is also a good option.
➥ Remember that even if you plan your trip during the dry season, Machu Picchu keeps getting sporadic showers during that time as well. So, see to it that your backpack and gear are waterproof.

➥ Moreover, carry good hiking shoes, as the terrain is bound to be slippery. Also, there are no vehicles in the park area, so good walking shoes are a necessity.
➥ Finally, travel as light as possible. You can carry some foodstuff such as chocolates, cheese, dry fruits, or instant noodles (food is not allowed on the archaeological site). However, this is not an absolute necessity as the porter you hire would generally carry all these for you.
Note: It is essential to hire porters even if you are traveling independently, as the region can get a bit confusing. Moreover, owing to the difficulty of the terrain, it becomes essential at times to be free of any load on the shoulders. The porters are experienced people who are used to carrying loads on this terrain.

Few Essential Tips

➥ The climate of the region is very unpredictable, and can get warmer or colder all of a sudden. It would be good to consider layering your clothes so that you can adjust them from time to time.

➥ For waterproofing your clothing, spray it with a silicone spray waterproof sealant, but only after reading all the manufacturer's instructions on the pack.
➥ Because the climate is wet most of the time, cotton is not a good fabric to wear, as it does not dry fast. Opt for fabrics, which can breathe well and dry fast.

➥ Also, make sure that your hiking shoes are waterproof and sturdy enough. Remember to keep an extra pair with you.
➥ Peru is located very close to the equator. So, although it rains every now and then, the Sun can be really powerful. Be sure to carry a sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

➥ Carrying a mosquito repellent also helps, as the region is wet and has a lot of vegetation.
➥ Keep some extra cash in hand. Peru can be expensive, and you will have to tip various people here and there during your trip.
➥ No matter how excited you are about your trip, do not ignore or overlook the safety aspect. Always consider getting a travel insurance that will cover for the contingencies. Carry valid documents of the same during your trip.
So, pack up and get going to the most incredible place on earth―Machu Picchu―where man, God, and nature seem to come together.