Machu Picchu is a world wonder, but it is not the only thing that Peruvians are proud of. Many tourists fly in and out just to see Machu Picchu, but miss out of the many other sights that make Peru special. In fact, there are so many things to do in and around Machu Picchu that the area itself deserves a vacation on its own. Here are eight recommend things to do around Machu Picchu, which would certainly make your trip in Peru a lot more memorable!
1) Hike up the citadel of Machu Picchu
Of course, the highlight of your trip to Machu Picchu is Machu Picchu itself. Indeed, it is a beautiful place that is worth the two days required to get there and get inside. I recommend that you catch the sunrise and climb up to the citadel of Machu Picchu early in the morning. At this time, you can enjoy the atmosphere of being surrounded by a beautiful set of ruins, without too many tourists destroying your imagination.
If you would like a challenge, on top of hiking up the hill to the citadel of Machu Picchu, you can also make the 28km journey from near Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. This is a scenic trek that takes you through indigenous villages, beautiful ruins coexisting with local life and an amazing nature. I would say that this would be the best way to really experience the full grandeur of Machu Picchu.
2) Explore the Incan capital of Cusco
Cusco is one of the most visited cities in Peru because of its glorious Incan history and its proximity to Machu Picchu. Indeed, Cusco is one of the more beautiful cities in Peru. Walking around the old city is a delight for the eyes: As you walk along the ancient cobblestoned alleys, you will find beautifully preserved Spanish buildings and courtyards. The hilly city also has many vantage points of the monochrome tiled roofs and the large cathedrals that stand in the central plaza. Getting lost in the alleys is a beautiful thing to do in Cusco.
Yet Cusco is not just about the colonial architecture. Venture further into the markets to see the vibrant indigenous lives. The locals markets in Cusco have everything your senses delight in. Rich aromas of the prepared foods, colourful displays of fruits and vegetables and the laughter and excitement of the local shoppers fill the air. Surrounding the city also lie many sets of Incan ruins that can get you started on your journey to discover the Inca civilisation.
3) Wander through the ruins of Pisac
The Pisac ruins are found on the hills of the Cusco valley. Getting up is tough work, but the views of the valley and the farmlands below are absolutely stunning. Moreover, the Incan terraces at Pisac are one of the most majestic-looking ones in the area. Some of the terraces are more than a hundred metres in length, stretching from the foot of the hill to where the ruins are located. I once tried climbing up the terraces from the very first level and it sure took my breath away.
4) Watch the workers carry salt off the salt pans of Maras
The Maras salt pans is spectacular. The terraces of salt stretch almost to the floor of the valley, and the white pools of salt stand in beautiful contrast with the red colour mud walls. Not surprisingly, the Maras salt pans were built during the Inca civilisation and is still in operation today. As you find the perfect spot to take your Instagram shot, you will have a chance to walk along the mud walls and watch the workers in action!
5) Go dizzy with the concentric terraces of Moray
The terraces of Moray are one of a kind. Most Incan terraces are built in rectangular blocks. However, the Incan terraces of Moray are built in concentric circles, resembling somewhat like a trail left behind by a passing group of UFOs. The beautiful thing about the terraces of Moray is that there are various vantage points where you can clearly see the entire structure. Even if you have seen too many Incan terraces, you will not regret seeing the terraces of Moray with your very own eyes.
6) Marvel at the Incan walls of perfectly shaped blocks at Ollantaytambo
Every set of ruins around Machu Picchu has its unique features. At the ruins of Ollantaytambo, one noticeable architecture feature is the perfectly tiled walls. The Incan craftsmen precisely carved out stone blocks to fit into a larger wall. The end result is a beautiful wall with no holes in between blocks, as if the wall was originally in one complete piece. I was amazed at the level of detail in the carving of the stone blocks. Literally there was no gap between any two blocks along the entire length of the wall and the façade of the wall has been perfectly polished. It was indeed a stunning feat to witness, and something that I would say proudly belongs to the Incas.
7) Climb up the Inca granary ruins at Ollantaytambo
Across the valley from the Ollantaytambo ruins is the ruins of an Inca granary. Perched up on the cliffs of a mountain, the granary ruins offer a spectacular view of the entire Ollantaytambo village and the valleys around it. Also, from here you can clearly see the Ollantaytambo ruins and how the ancient city used to look like from afar. Although the trail to the granary ruins is steep and at times slightly dangerous, the views are worth the effort getting there!
8) Watch a traditional Peruvian parade
Peru is a country of celebrations, pride and parade. There are so many different festivals that Peruvians take part in, from religious events to indigenous celebrations. Many of these festivals include a parade of costumes and music. Peruvians will parade around town in their traditional clothes and many of them would also put on a mask. This is especially practiced in indigenous regions, and the area around Machu Picchu is one of them. Watching a parade in Peru is a great way to get closer to their culture, and learn a little more about what Peruvians are proud of.
Machu Picchu is definitely something you should see at least once in your lifetime. However, do not leave out the many other things to do around Machu Picchu. The area is bustling with life and has so much history to offer. There is so much to discover about the Inca civilisation in the area, so do plan these sights into your trip to Machu Picchu!
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