So you’ve only got a day to explore the ancient city of Machu Picchu but have no idea where to start? No worries! I recently spent two weeks exploring Peru and realised the thought of visiting Machu Picchu might be a little daunting. With this in mind, I’ve decided to pull together a guide for you, including a free download so you can print and take it with you on your travels. It includes a historical overview, details on planning your trip, what to wear, when to go, what to pack, how to get there and what to do when you get to Machu Picchu.

THE HISTORY OF MACHU PICCHU The story of Machu Picchu is quite an incredible one. It is believed the ancient Inca’s built Machu Picchu between 1450 and 1460 for the 9th Emperor Pachacútec who lived from 1438 to 1471. The Spanish invaded Cusco in 1533 and upon hearing about gold and silver to be found in the Sacred Valley, they took over the area in search for these treasures. In 1538 a brave messenger visited the Inca’s at Machu Picchu to tell them new people were destroying everything in the Sacred Valley so the Inca’s decided to abandon Machu Picchu, in fear the Spanish would discover their sacred city, where they either went to fight the Spanish or to escape in another direction.

Sadly the city was never completed nor did the Inca’s return, they were obliterated by the Spanish. In fact, the name Machu Picchu is not the original name of the ancient city. As the Inca’s didn’t write, no one actually knows the true name of this ancient city. So the question remains, would the Inca’s legacy lived on and would they have avoided the Spanish invasion had they not decided to flee Machu Picchu? Sadly we’ll never know. And it wasn’t until American explorer Hiram Bingham visited Peru (a name given to the country by the Spanish) and found Machu Picchu in 1911, that the city was discovered.

PLANNING YOUR TRIP Planning a trip to somewhere as remote as Machu Picchu is essential. The best place to start is to look at a map. Some of you may know, I am part of the Microsoft #WorkWonders influencer team this year so I decided to use my OneNote to plan how I would get to Machu Picchu by using a 3D map. I was able to zoom in on Machu Picchu and the closest city, Cusco to get a birds eye view of the mountainous region. By using this interactive map, it allowed me to get an understanding of how I was to travel from Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, and then back to Cusco. I was also able to write important notes as a reminder when booking my train tickets. And being the history nerd that I am, it also made me realise how unlikely it was for the Spanish to have found Machu Picchu.

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_22

WHEN TO GO All year round. Do be prepared for all kinds of weather. It can rain anytime however the official wet season is from October to April. I went in November and it didn’t rain. In fact it was cool in the morning but hot, very hot during the day. Always expect crowds – whilst peak season is between July and August, Machu Picchu is packed all year round.

WHAT TO WEAR When visiting a place like Machu Picchu, you really need to consider what you are going to wear. This isn’t a place for skirts and high heels – yes, I saw a women teetering around Machu Picchu in heels and felt very uncomfortable for her. You need to invest in some quality hiking gear. The weather can change quite dramatically at Machu Picchu but you also need to consider that there are no trees or cover in the city, which means you need to bring a hat. It was cold the morning I set off to Machu Picchu so I chose to wear a beanie. Additionally, I wore a long sleeved cotton shirt, hiking pants and a water/wind proof jacket from Kathmandu, and basic sneakers. You could wear hiking boots but they aren’t overly necessary for a day trip. If you were on a hiking expedition to Machu Picchu, then yes you would need proper hiking boots from the likes of Kathmandu. If you're unsure about what else you should pack, check the weather before you leave for Machu Picchu. When I travel I use the Bing Weather App religiously on my Surface Pro 3 to make sure I pack the right gear for rain, wind or shine.

WHAT TO TAKE There is snack bar and a bathroom at the entrance of Machu Picchu, but there isn’t anywhere to buy food and drinks, or to use the bathroom at Machu Picchu itself. So pack plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat and camera. You will need your ticket and passport to enter Machu Picchu and it’s essential you get your passport stamped when you leave as a momento of your trip – it’s a huge treat! Be warned, it’s barely signed so ask someone if you can’t find it upon exiting.

HOW TO GET THERE Now this is the fun part. You can hike or catch a train to Machu Picchu. As I had already planned to do the 45km hike to Choquequirao, I decided to do the day trip to Machu Picchu. I caught the Vistadome Train (it has a glass ceiling!) from Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes, then I jumped on the local bus up to the entrance to Machu Picchu. The buses perate every few minutes but do expect a wait. You can walk up the mountain, but if you only have a day to explore you simply don’t have time. It can take over 90 minutes and is very steep. Besides, you want to maximise your time adventuring around Machu Picchu – trust me. The bus itself takes 30 minutes and you can purchase your ticket on arrival. For those looking to head back to Cusco, I highly recommend the Hiram Bingham Train. It’s quite fancy but well worth it. You can buy your tickets to the Vistadome Train and the Hiram Bingham Train here.

WHAT TO DO Explore, adventure and discover. It’s as simple as that! You’ll need at least four hours to truly take in the scenery and vista. And remember to cuddle up to the local lama’s – if they let you. I also recommend climbing as high as you can to get the best view possible. It’s worth the trek. And if you’re famished after a day of exploring, catch the bus or hike back down to Aguas Calientes and enjoy a delicious lunch at Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel. It’s the perfect place to rest your feet after a long day of exploring before on the train again.

Download here for free: Mister Weekender Machu Picchu Guide

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_1 The station in Sacred Valley to catch the Vistadome Train to Aguas Calientes

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_2 Whilst waiting for the train, there are plenty of local market stalls to explore

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_3 The famous Vistadome Train to Aguas Calientes!

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_4 The beautiful view of Peru from the Vistadome Train

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_5 The gorgeous town of Aguas Calientes

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_6 Walking across the train tracks at Aguas Calientes

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_7 First stop at Machu Picchu: climbing as high as possible to take 'the photo'

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_8 Make sure you take a backpack to carry all your belongings, like this one from Kathmandu

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_9 From any angle, Machu Picchu is a photographer's dream

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_12

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_14

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_15

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_16

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_17 Sad to leave Machu Picchu!

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_18 Walking through Aguas Calientes to jump on the Hiram Bingham Train to Cusco

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_19

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_20 The famous Hiram Bingham Train!

Mister Weekender Jaharn Giles Machu Picchu_21 First class service and a three course meal all the way to Cusco on the Hiram Bingham Train!


This post is in collaboration with Microsoft Australia as part of the #WorkWonders influencer's program