Known only by local farmers for over 400 years after its abandonment, Machu Picchu (which translates to “Old Peak” in the native Quechua language) was first seen by American eyes in 1911 by the archaeologist Hiram Bingham. An excited Bingham spread the word of his “discovery” and tourists have been eager to see this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site ever since.
Before heading out on your dream trip to hike Machu Picchu, there is a ton of planning to do first, as it’s not exactly a “show up and go-with-the-flow” kind of destination. Here are three things you need to know so you can have an amazing experience.
1- When to Visit
Perhaps the first consideration of your trip is when you should go. The best time to visit Machu Picchu, overall, is between April and October because of the clear blue skies and fewer rain showers.
The biggest crowds arrive from June to August. If you’re not part of a tour, it’s a good idea to wake up early and get to the site well before 10am. Alternatively, since the tour buses typically leave by 2pm, you can sleep in and enjoy most of the late afternoon with fewer crowds.
Here are a few more things to consider when deciding your vacation dates:
- Buy your tickets online well ahead of time!
- It is open 7 days a week, every day of the year including holidays.
- Entrance to the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary ends at 5pm.
- The Inca Trail is closed for maintenance in February.
- January and March can bring floods and landslides.
2- How to Prevent the Bugs From Biting
Since the high mountains of Peru lie in the subtropical zone, you can bet there are plenty of pests. Mosquitos can get bad in some areas, but the midges can be much worse. If you aren’t prepared for the insects that await, you could very well be itching for weeks after your Peruvian adventure. Take the following advice seriously not only while you are at Machu Picchu, but also while you are in the surrounding towns.
- Check your bed for bed bugs.
- Hang mosquito netting over your bed.
- Don’t wear shorts or sandals. Wear long sleeves, long socks, and light colors.
- Use fool-proof mosquito repellent.
- Pack a cortisone anti-itch cream and antihistamine in case of an allergic reaction.
- If bites are severe, visit your doctor once you arrive home.
3- How to Pack Right and Pack Light
What you pack mostly depends on the season you visit (dry winter, rainy summer, or colder seasons) and if you’re hiking the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu or taking the train and bus. In general, though, packing lightweight layers is the best way to go. A rain poncho, sun hat, bandana, sunglasses, headlamp, trekking socks, and hiking boots are solid recommendations no matter how or when you plan to go.
A great way to carry all your stuff during your journey to Peru is in a pack that is part backpack and part duffle bag. The Nomatic travel bag boasts high-quality materials and multiple useful pockets that make organizing a breeze. Its international carry-on size ensures your gear is always ready to go, just like you!