America,  Peru,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Machu Picchu (Peru): one of the 7 new wonders of the world

This article is a travel notebook, for practical advice, consult our guide (updated in July 2018): 10 things to know before visiting Machu Picchu


Of the New Seven Wonders of the World, I visited the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. Today, it is the turn of Machu Picchu

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

The general excitement at the hotel starts at 4:00 am, people start running down the stairs, getting ready, breakfast. Without wanting to wake me up so early, all these noises wake me up anyway. A small check by the window confirms me that it is better, indeed, to get up at 7:30 am. It’s raining hard and there is a lot of fog

In Aguas Calientes, the hotels breakfast starts at 4:30 am and finishes at 8 am. At 7:30 a.m., we go down to have breakfast with our eyes half closed

From my window, I can still see a lot of clouds, but the rain is starting to decrease

Contents of my bag for Machu Picchu

We leave the hotel at 8:45 am. It does not rain at all, there is even a little sun. During the 15 minutes of waiting at the bus station, the employees are busy to check that we have the bus tickets and the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu (we have to have them before getting in the bus because the entrance tickets aren’t sold at the entrance of the ruins)

30 minutes later, we are dropped off at the entrance. There are already a lot of people. We notice the baños (toilets) and a cafeteria outside

We go through the control very quickly. You have to show your passport and your ticket. At each entry, the ticket is stamped. We can enter Machu Picchu maximum 3 times in the same day (upate 2018: it isn’t possible any more now, it is limited to 1 entry/ticket). The multiple entrances allow to go out to have lunch or to go to the toilets

Because it is strictly forbidden to bring food or drinks inside Machu Picchu. In practice, everyone does it and eats discreetly away from the eyes of the guards. Only those who have very big bags leave them at the instructions

I was expecting to climb very fast and a lot, having heard a lot about the famous “entrance to Machu Picchu”. I think there was a misunderstanding (or people were talking about the walk between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu) because we just had to walk straight to come face to face with it

Here we are!

After a few minutes contemplating the landscape, we go up, like everyone else, to the view point where everyone takes the typical selfie with Mount HuyaynaPicchu in the background. It’s a bit too crowded, too many selfie sticks, too many cameras for my taste. We are however very far from the 2500 expected visitors and so much the better!

After a quick visit of the ruins, we realize that there are no signs, no explanation, we NEED a guide! Our attempt to plug us to a group is a failure: the groups are much too big and move with difficulty, most of the groups are Hispanic. We try to find a small English-speaking group, but in vain. We try to pass again by the entrance, where wait several official guides. Unfortunately, as there are a lot of people, it is necessary to follow a certain course, we cannot go back any more. We are obliged to go out to be able to pass again by the entry

Having heard about the possibility of finding a group and sharing the cost of the guide (150 soles or 43€), we express our wish to the guides present. They explain us that it is a difficult mission in low season, but that if we want, we can sit down and wait for a group of 6 people to form

45 minutes later, still nothing. Those who want to have a guide have found one in Aguas Calientes. Most people want to visit without a guide. Finally, we are introduced to a young guide, who agrees to accompany us for 100 soles, 2 hours. We were ready to pay 35 soles/person in a group of six, so if we have a private guide for 100 soles, 2 hours ! Yes yes yes !

Edouard, our guide, speaks very good English and is super motivated. He has a notebook with a lot of photos to illustrate his words, especially the old photos of Machu Picchu or the techniques of stone cutting

Note: Not many pictures were taken during the guided tour (during rush hour: between 11:00 and 12:30). The pictures you see below were taken after the guided tour (2-5pm), when we went back to the site, so you don’t see many people.

Do you see houses with roofs? They have been restored to show us what the houses on the site looked like. The roofs have to be redone every 3-4 years, which was probably the case at the time as well

Then come the explanations on the “puzzle” walls, when they fit perfectly like that, there is a religious connotation. It is either the house of the priest or a temple. In this picture we see the double door, with the puzzle wall, it is the entrance to the priest’s house

There, they are walls of ordinary houses. One will notice, looking at the whole site from above, that the walls aren’t made of stone alone, but of two layers of stone with the earth in the middle

The stones come directly from this mountain, we can see a quarry on the site. The stonecutters take advantage of the natural cracks in the stones to break them. Polishing is done with sand and water. The construction of Machu Picchu lasted more than 100 years. Some parts have never been finished, we can see it in particular on the stones that are supposed to be smooth, but which were not polished to 100%

The stone structures (especially for the roof) are very well preserved in Machu Picchu, contrary to Ollantaytambo or Pisac (visited during the Sacred Valley tour)

This conservation is linked to the fact that the Spaniards never discovered this site (so no massive destruction as with the other ruins), but also linked to the renovation of some parts of the place. Because we can see here, many ruins have not been restored

This is the view that I prefer to Machu Picchu. There is a certain splendor from this angle of view, it looks like a fortified castle. Contrary to the typical picture of Machu Picchu (below) that you have been seeing for years. Don’t you think so?

One thing is sure: the landscapes are beautiful too!

The urban area and the agricultural area are clearly separated by a long staircase

The terraces all look the same now but before, they had 3 functions: agriculture, decoration or prevention against landslide. The llamas, introduced on the site, have the mission to “cut” grass 😀 They are also very interested in my cookies (without chocolate, I never give chocolate to the animals, they can’t stand it)

This beautiful temple will soon collapse, to visit ASAP

Another view on Machu Picchu

Here is a big sacred stone, supposed to give us a lot, a lot of energy. The stones that make up the ruins around Cuzco contain quartz, and quartz is a stone for storing and transmitting energy. Hence this inexplicable energy around Cuzco, the navel of the world according to the Incas

An ancient staircase, carved in stone vs. the wooden staircase today 😀

View of the workshops

It’s raining again and I’m not feeling well at all. We quickly leave the site by thanking the guide, to land at the cafeteria outside. It’s raining hard now. After a good hour of rest, 2 dolipranes (thank you the survival kit) and lunch (at a rather reasonable price, from 20 soles), I feel much better. We wait that the rain calms down a little and passes for the 3rd time the entry to Machu Picchu (it will be our last authorized entry, we should not miss it any more, this one). It is 14h and the rush hour is passed, most of the people are discouraged by the rain and returned to Aguas Calientes. We must be in the 300 now staying there again

We start a long walk towards the “Sun Gate”, the entrance by which the brave people arrive on the Inca Trail (4 days, 3 nights). This road is really dangerous (because slippery) and irregular, we have the courage only to make half of the road, before giving up at the first ruins we see, thinking that anyway there is too much fog to continue. That only reinforces our admiration for those who dare to make this way of the Incas (in spite of the cost and the difficulty)

We now follow the arrow towards Inca Bridge, before being discouraged by the guides, who do not let us enter any more after 16h. It isn’t serious, we go back on our steps, with a panoramic view on the ruins of Machu Picchu. We alternate between photos and rest, walk and snack

To take a picture like this, you need a little patience. The weather changes from one minute to another, the view is sometimes 100% covered by fog, only to be discovered a minute later. It can rain ropes, to not rain at all 5 minutes later

There is almost no one left on the site, there must be a maximum of a hundred of us. On a big site like this, it’s very little. JB and me spend long moments at the various points of view before leaving around 4:45 pm, the hour when the guards start to whistle to hunt the last tourists (whereas the site closes only at 5:30 pm)

At the exit, we stamp our passports, to have a proof of our visit of Machu Picchu today. I stamped on a page with visas so as not to waste a passport page

Since it starts raining again, we decide to buy bus tickets for the return trip, instead of walking (12$/person). After 7h spent in Machu Picchu to go up/down the steps, our knees thank us for this act of generosity


The visit of Machu Picchu was extremely pleasant, but unfortunately we did not have a blow of heart. This has nothing to do with the weather nor with the crowd because we always managed to see clear views and avoid the mass of tourists. Out of the 3 “new wonders of the world” visited so far, only the Taj Mahal exceeded all our expectations. Machu Picchu remains a must-see of our world tour, and we are delighted to have visited it on the first day of the lunar new year

Part 2: Practical Tips

Consult my article: 10 things to know before visiting Machu Picchu


  • Transportation to and from Cuzco, entrance ticket & 2 nights in Aguas Calientes: 214$US per person, 3 days, 2 nights, I talked about it here
  • Food

    • Purchased in advance

      • Snack: 15 soles for two
      • Water: 5 soles for two

    • Bought on the spot, in the cafeteria in front of Machu Picchu (a restaurant also offers a buffet, probably much more expensive)

      • Tea : 7 soles
      • Sandwich : 27 soles
      • Pizza : 20 soles

    • Meals in Aguas Calientes

      • between 6 and 12 soles/person/meal, at the local market (food court on the 1st floor)

  • Private guide: 100 soles for 2 hours

To take with you

  • Sunscreen + hat
  • Breathable & warm clothing (weather changes often)
  • Rain poncho (2-3 soles) and/or umbrella
  • Anti-insect cream (several people complained about insect bites, we did not particularly suffer from it today but you never know, Machu Picchu isn’t very far from the Amazon)
  • Snack & water (to be consumed discreetly inside the ruins, without leaving any waste, or outside the ruins, like everyone else)
  • A few coins to pay for the toilets (1 floor/person)
  • Passport: we need it, all the time!

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