Visiting Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience. The Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary (SMH) is Peru's most visited natural protected area. Declared a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site, the sanctuary protects archaeological complexes, as well as ecosystems with a wide variety of wild flora and fauna, some of which is considered to be endangered.
The SHM is located in Machu Picchu district, Urubamba province, Cusco department. It stretches over an area of 32,592 hectares (80,537 acres), with impressive Inca archaeological complexes, sites and monuments with a high historical and cultural value.
The main attraction is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World: Machu Picchu, which is connected to various archaeological sites through the Q'apaq Ñan network (Inca Trail). There are six routes (four long and two short) currently available for hiking the Inca Trail, one of the most sought-after trekking experiences in South America.
Located between the Andes and where the mountains meet the jungle, the SHM boasts exceptional geographical features, with micro-climates that are a source of great biological diversity. Visitors can see snowy peaks at heights of 6,000 metres (19,685 feet) above sea level along with the wetter and warmer area of the Urubamba River (which divides the sanctuary in two by forming the Torontoy canyon) less than 2,000 metres (6,562 feet) above sea level.
Visiting the Sanctuary is a journey that involves discovering the Inca civilisation across the Andes and the Amazon. Visitors can experience the habitats of various species of wild fauna, including the spectacled bear, Andean fox, viscacha, cock-of-the-rock and Andean condor, among others. Tourists can also see flora, including the remarkable orchids, of which a total of 309 species have been recorded and many more, it is thought, are yet to be discovered.
Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary was declared a Mixed World Heritage Site - natural and cultural - by UNESCO on 9 December 1983.
Activities: Hiking, trekking, flora and fauna observation, bird watching, orchid spotting, butterfly watching, visiting hot springs and archaeological sites.
Climate: Dry and cold in the high Andean region and mild and wet in the jungle region. The temperature fluctuates between 12°C and 24°C (54°F and 75°F) in the Machu Picchu citadel area. The rainy season is from October to March, although fog and scattered showers can occur at any time of the year.
Access by Land: From the town of Machu Picchu to the Machu Picchu citadel. By bus: 25 minutes. Walking: 7 km.
Access by Train:
- From Cusco to Machu Picchu town. Time: 4 hours
- From Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu town. Time: 2 hours
- Entrance tickets can be bought through travel agencies or online, here.
- To hike the Inca Trail, visitors only have to hire an authorised guide or travel agency.
- Tourists must use rubber-soled footwear when visiting the archaeological sites.
- Trekking poles must have a rubber tip.