If you're preparing to visit this beautiful Wonder of the World, there are a few things you'll want to know to bring (and just know in general) before you get there.
Before you go:
• Make sure you are going with an official tour guide. Accompaniment of a guide is required for initial entry into the site. There is a 1:20 guide to visitor ratio at the moment, so make sure you have enough guides for your group size. I actually viewed the tour guide requirement as a plus because they got us oriented and shared a lot of historical and cultural knowledge about the site that we wouldn't have had otherwise. Our guide showed us the Inca compass and shared that it had two norths- geographic and magnetic -and both were dead on.
Also, let it be noted that when I went there were a few guides offering their services at the entrance, but it would still be wise for peace of mind (and fullness of wallets) to book a guide in advance.
• You are only allowed one exit and reentry (before a certain time to boot) once you enter, so make certain to refill water bottles and use the restroom before going in. There is also a medical station by the entrance if you have any emergencies.
• You may be able to get a student discount on tickets for entry if you are in high school or in college and under 25 years of age.
• If you plan to hike Huayna Picchu, the smaller mountain, make sure to book that experience when booking your tickets: choose Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu tickets when ordering. Note that only there are only 400 spots per day to hike Huayna Picchu, and they start at different times to keep the paths less crowded. If you don't book this option in time, never fear: you can hike the Sun Gate Trail for free and without any extra note on your ticket. Even if you aren't really into hiking, I highly recommend walking at least 10-15 minutes into it because the famous photo spot (think all the postcard photos) is about there on the trail.
• If you do hike Huayna Picchu, go at the very beginning of your time slot to have less people on the trail and in your photos. You will still meet new friends! I met a group of UC Berkeley grads at the summit.
Pack your bag with the essentials:
• Passport: It gets checked at every point of transit and at the entrance of the site. Also, there is a place to stamp your passport with a Machu Picchu stamp near the exit.
• Backpack or Sturdy Daypack: o hold said water bottle and other items
• Peruvian coins (Soles): Bathroom breaks cost 2 soles each, and bring your own hygiene products if you need them.
• Portable phone charger: just in case your phone dies from taking so many pictures.
• Granola bars or other good snack- try (INKA CORN): Hiking leaves you hungry. There is a restaurant by the bus station, but going there would require to leave the park and would count as one of your exits.
• Camera: It doesn't have to be super expensive or fancy, but if your phone doesn't take the best photos and you have a good camera- this is Machu Picchu -you'll want good pictures.
• Keep all your tickets together (shuttle bus and entry)
• Sunscreen (and actually apply it) and bug spray (just in case)
• Layer your clothing (pack a light jacket)
• Refillable water bottle: hydration is ultra important.
Another way to experience Machu Picchu is to hike the Inca Trail. My new friend from the train ride back took a tour group to hike it that week, and the beautiful views and challenging trail sound like a backpackers' paradise.
Alix from Utah
Check out my blog post Holy Cow I Can Speak Spanish: Machu Picchu Edition to hear more about my awesome new acquaintances from the train ride back to Cusco.