Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas,” is one of the top most visited travel destinations for people from all around the world. In fact, the Peruvian government must constantly reconsider new ways to structure and facilitate tourism logistics around the site because of the threats of destruction as a result of thousands of visitors arriving every day. To serve all the groups that go to experience the ancient Inca citadel, a wide variety of conveniences and comforts have been developed to cater to travelers of all budgets, tastes, and interests. However, here are 4 things to think about and prepare for on your end to ensure you have the best time possible during your trip to Machu Picchu.
1. Altitude – Machu Picchu is situated 7,970 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level which is no light feature! Altitude sickness takes no mercy on anybody; it can strike the young and the old, the fit and the out of shape. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, upset stomach, difficulty sleeping, and more. In short, it is not a pleasant experience.
How to protect yourself: Most visitors will first arrive at Cusco, 11,200 feet (3,400 meters) above sea level. There, take a day or two to acclimate yourself to the high altitude before pressing onward to Machu Picchu, being careful to refrain from strenuous activity and too much alcohol. Drink plenty of coca tea for both acclimation and hydration, a trick that goes back to the days of the Inca Empire. If it gets very bad, ask your hotel or local facility for extra oxygen or seek further medical care. You may also consider buying medications back home before arriving in Peru.
2. Sun – The Andes mountain range can be a harsh place, so don’t let the lush foliage surrounding the peaks around Machu Picchu catch you off guard. At such high altitudes, it is incredibly easy to get sunburnt, so while the afternoon rays may make for great photography, your skin may not be as thankful at the end of the day. Also be careful, because until it’s too late, you might not even feel the sun’s power.
How to protect yourself: Whether you take 2 or 4 days to reach the archeological site by hiking the Inca Trail or cruise up with a short bus ride, one of the most helpful things you can bring with you is sunscreen. Also, cover up with long sleeves and pants.
3. Mosquitos – A visit to Machu Picchu should be remembered as a trip of a lifetime, not one where you spent all day fending off pesky insects that will give you countless irritating bite marks to plague the rest of your holiday. Mid-afternoon is when the mosquitoes come out to feast, so make sure you apply protective measures before then!
How to protect yourself: Not only can wearing long pants protect you from the sun, it can shield you from the lucky but annoying mosquitoes that call Machu Picchu home. If you insist on wearing cropped items, apply some mosquito or bug spray before setting off to explore the site.
4. Price gouging – While this is no threat to your physical being, it can infuriatingly affect your Peru vacation plans. Higher prices should be expected for everything from food to tours during Machu Picchu’s busy peak season which runs from June to September. However, there are some who take advantage of unsuspecting travelers by charging double or even more of the market price for their products or services. With that said, however, most vendors and tour operators at Machu Picchu are honest, hardworking citizens who are passionate about sharing their national treasure with curious visitors.
How to protect yourself: Whether before or upon arrival, shop around for prices. Find out what a reasonable price is and either bargain reasonably and respectfully, or seek another merchant.