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Live like a local
Tickets allow specific circuits, so try to include the following: The Temple of the Condor houses a natural rock formation, which the Incas fashioned into the shape of a flying condor. The condor’s head was probably used as a sacrificial altar, as a maze of dungeons is situated right behind the temple. The Temple of the Sun has one of the only curved walls in the whole of the Incan Empire, with holes strategically cut for the sun to shine through at the winter and summer solstices. Finally, climb up from the Sacred Rock to Huayna Picchu (Young Peak), which rises above Machu Picchu, for beautiful views of the valley and Urubamba river.Find out more
It may be the most familiar icon of Inca civilisation but Machu Picchu can be explored endlessly. Its polished dry-stone construction, adapted to the mountains with roughly 200 buildings set out over wide terraces around a central square, is simply remarkable. And if that’s not enough, there’s the small Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon (Machu Picchu Site Museum), outside Aguas Calientes at Puente Ruinas (at the base of the footpath to Machu Picchu), which has explanations of the citadel. It is about 30 minutes’ walk out of town but it puts this wonder of the world into context.Find out more
Take the Peru Rail train, or the ultra-luxurious Hiram Bingham, from Poroy (outside Cusco), Ollantaytambo (the Sacred Valley) or Urubamba to the little town of Aguas Calientes. Then either take the bus to Machu Picchu, 9km upwards, or opt for the 90-minute hike up. The seriously fit get off the train at points en route to start a variety of treks of up to several days, depending on how far they wish to walk. You need a permit booked six months in advance, as only 500 trekkers a day are allowed. Other treks range from one to 14 days, with different degrees of hardship.
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With the kids
Aguas Calientes, apart from being the stop-off point for Machu Picchu, is famous for its hot springs. Clamber up by the side of the town’s cascading stream and you will find the municipal pools – good for a warm, post-trek wallow and best in the morning (they open at 5am). If your kids are Paddington Bear fans, visit the Andean Rescue Bear Center, where you will find spectacled Andean bears being rehabilitated. Watching them lumber around their spacious enclosure and cutting up huge watermelons with their long claws is sure to make little ones smile.Find out more
Aguas Calientes is a vertiginous cluster of houses, shops, cafes and restaurants linked by narrow pedestrianised streets, with a bridge across a wide stream cascading down the rocks. It is not exactly a shopping Mecca but for presents, the Mercado de Artesanias is the best, selling ponchos, shawls, crafts and jewellery. And if you have forgotten any crucial hiking gear, there are plenty of outdoors adventure shops since the little town is a kind of base camp, full of porters sizing up mounds of trekking equipment. This is where to stock up on coca tea and sweets – which may come in handy for Machu Picchu.
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Food and drink
You can get a bite to eat at the entrance to Machu Picchu, but there are many restaurants in Aguas Calientes. However they are somewhat overpriced and menus aren’t the most imaginative (captive audience, distant suppliers). A cut above the rest is The Tree House, a cosy restaurant down a tiny alley with delicious food such as pumpkin soup, crispy trout in quinoa flakes with elderberry sauce and alpaca tenderloin. The French-run La Boulangerie de Paris is a welcome stop for delicious croissants, pastries, quiches, cakes and coffee.Find out more