The discovery of Machu Picchu

A hike to the mythical city


Rather than taking the easy route: bus or train from Cusco to Aguas Caliente, the departure village to visit the so famous Incas ruins, we went on a trek to the Salkantay to enjoy the approach of Machu Picchu and the mountainous landscapes in the region of Cusco.

We chose the family organization Refugios Salkantay for this hike. We could sleep in mountain huts run by local families. I must say that it was a happy choice because the cries of pain of the people sleeping in tents reasoned in the night … It is not an easy thing to leave a warm sleeping bag by -5 ° C …


This more comfortable approach allowed us to share more with locals. But do not imagine it’s an easy hike. You have to know that even in these mountain huts, at night, the temperatures in the rooms are close to 0 and the water freezes in the pipes (It is better to take a shower in the evening).

This excursion allowed us to discover some of the magnificent panoramas of the region and to climb several times to more than 4000 meters of altitude.

During these days we discovered the Humantay Lake:

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The passage of the Salkantay,

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The Incas ruins of Llactapata are still partially hidden by the vegetation and a panoramic view of the mountains protecting Machu Picchu.

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Finally the Inca city of Machu Picchu.

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The Machu Picchu.

I share my experience because it was a bit complicated for us. There are 3 tickets for the Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu alone (needless to buy months ahead, quotas are almost never fulfilled).

Machu Picchu + Mountain, in the morning only. (It is better to buy the ticket one to 2 weeks in advance)

Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu, in the morning only (it is better to buy it some month in advance).

The Mountain and the Huayna Picchu require a 3-hour hike each, the panorama is worth it but the climb can be a little vertiginous.

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The Inca bridge and the gate of the sun are included in the entrance of Machu Picchu and require 20 min and 1h15 of a walk (go and back) respectively. You can buy the ticket according to your preferences, and your fitness. Take enough water. We took the Machu Picchu + Mountain and stayed at the site from 6 am to 4 pm. We went to the city, the Inca Bridge, the Sun Gate and the mountain … and we were exhausted.


We took the first buses at 5:30 in the morning (there is already a line at 4:00 am) to get there for the opening at about 6 am. This allowed us to enjoy the sunrise over the city.

The thing that most fascinated me, I think, is the immense work of clearing and restoration that must have taken place here.

Despite my efforts, I was unfortunately not able to interview archaeologists in Cusco. But by chance, National Peographic published a few days ago the history of the search and discovery of Machu Picchu. This gives a little idea of this clearing work.


Inca ruins before clearing (Llactapata)


I am giving you the National Geographic link in English here. The discovery of the Inca city was originally published in 1912 in Harper’s Monthly Magazine.



Bingham, H. III (1912). Search for the last Inca capital. Harper’s Monthly Magazine, 125, 695–702.


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