Machu Picchu Through My Lens: A Photo Essay

The Lost City of Machu Picchu needs no introduction. This pre-Columbian Inca site, located high up in the Andes, is for many people the highlight of Peru. You really can’t visit Peru without spending a day exploring this inspiring site.

After looking at pictures of it for years, there is something magic about finally setting foot on Machu Picchu and seeing it with your own eyes. Although it wasn’t the quiet, enchanting experience that we’d heard about from friends’ visits over the years, our time at the site was still incredible. After completing an amazing three-day Salkantay Trek to Aguas Calientes the day before, visiting Machu Picchu was the cherry on the top of the cake.

No introduction to Machu Picchu

The Unesco World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu was at the very top of our travel bucket list and we were not disappointed. Apart from being an amazing cultural experience, it’s also a heaven for photographers. So, here are our best captures of the site for you to enjoy!

Early morning views

Early morning 

As with many other very touristy places, I suggest visiting Macchu Picchu as early as possible. The light will be better for photographs and there are a lot fewer people around.

An empty Machu Picchu

We had tickets for the 6 am opening time. The sun had just risen and the light was good. There were a lot of other people with 6 am tickets but as we all dispersed around the site, it became easier to take photos of the main ruins from above without crowds in them.

Not too many people around

Tip: Being the last person of the day would also work to your advantage if you can’t get early tickets. Some even say that it’s better. Most of the tour groups arrive mid-morning, so avoid that time like the plague!

First pictures from the top terraces 

Heading up to the top terraces first is the best way to get your photos of the whole citadel with no people visible inside the ruins. Most people head up to the terraces for selfies which means the ruins are totally clear, at least for a few minutes. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Selfie from the top terrace

The ruins 

Make sure to spend some time exploring the ruins and its many chambers. They can be great for photography too.

Exploring the ruins
Inside the ruins

The terraces 

The terraces are also picture perfect and you might be lucky to find a few Llamas roaming them. Please don’t chase the Llamas for selfies. We saw one tourist hassling a Llama and getting right up in its face. She was lucky she didn’t get spat on – she certainly deserved to!

The many terraces of Machu Picchu

The Inka Bridge 

If you want to escape the hordes of selfie-takers, head to the Inka Bridge. Most tourists seem to ignore the Inka Bridge but there’s a nice, quiet walk to get there and it’s a great place to escape the crowds. It’s a roughly thirty-minute round trip from the top of the terraces.

The trail to the bridge is built into the cliffs on the western approach to Machu Picchu and winds alongside the sheer mountainside. Be warned that you might find it a little scary if you are afraid of heights.

The Inca Bridge used to be a secret entrance to Machu Picchu.

The Inka Bridge

The hike to Machu Picchu Mountain 

Other than the main citadel, there are now options to hike up Huayna Picchu or up Machu Picchu Mountain. Because we booked too late, all of the Huayna Picchu Mountain tickets were sold out but we managed to get tickets for Machu Picchu Mountain.

The hike up Machu Picchu mountain

With approximately 1600 steep steps to the top, the hike up Machu Picchu Mountain is not an easy one. It’s also not for people who are scared of heights. In places, the path gets very close to the edge of the mountain. But the views over the citadel as you get higher and higher are worth the effort. Of course, when you reach the top, you’ll experience that great feeling of accomplishment.

We’ve made it!
Machu Picchu Mountain
The view from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain

Note: The cost for Machu Picchu Mountain is US$25.00. It’s an extra purchase on top of your Machu Picchu ticket. You will get an allocated time for your hike. In our case, it was from 7 am till 8 am. Make sure to be at the gate before the allocated start time or they won’t let you in.

Getting back down… Scary!!

The crowds

Yes, you need to know that unfortunately, Machu Picchu gets overcrowded. It was so busy at one point that the government had to put regulations in place and a maximum number of 2000 visitors a day.

We were told that beforehand, in peak season, the daily numbers could be as high as 5000. Crazy, right? When we visited at the end of September it was crowded but not unbearably so (unlike say at Angkor Wat). Try and visit outside of peak season (June-October) for a less crowded experience.

The crowd
Time for selfies!

What you need to know before your visit to Machu Picchu 

  • If you are not doing a tour or a hike to Machu Picchu, buy your train tickets and Machu Picchu tickets in advance online to avoid disappointment. This especially applies if you’re visiting during high season (June – October).
  • The tickets are now timed. If you get a 6 am ticket, you are allowed to be inside the site until noon, unless you have an extra ticket for one of the hikes (Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu). However, they are talking about shortening this for next year, so it might change. But four hours is enough time to see the site and photograph it.
  • Bring some layers, the weather changes very fast in the Andes. 
  • Be a responsible traveller; stay on the marked paths, don’t go where you shouldn’t (even for your best Insta selfie!).
  • Selfie sticks and drones are no longer allowed on the site. Somehow we still saw many people using selfie sticks when it is clearly marked as not allowed. Respect the rules people!
  • Hiking poles are not allowed on the site either, so if you want to do Machu Picchu Mountain you’ll have to do without them. Yes, it makes things harder, especially on the way down. But I am sure it’s for a good reason. Again, we did see some people who’d managed to sneak in poles so it’s obviously not very tightly controlled.

Where to buy your Machu Picchu ticket? 

You need to buy your ticket in advance as you can no longer buy them on the day. You can buy tickets online here or through a travel agency. 

How much is the ticket to Machu Picchu? 

For adult foreigners, the cost is US$65 for the day. Tickets cost US$39 for students and children. 

Find your accommodation in Cusco 

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The Salkantay Trek, an Incredible Hike to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Through My Lens: A Photo Essay Machu Picchu Through My Lens: A Photo Essay

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