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Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu

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Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
Built on top of a steep mountain, it was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors. The visit of the majestic Inca city and its impressive granite buildings, raised in complete harmony with its beautiful surrounding landscape is an unforgettable experience.

Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu

Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
Overview
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Who has not heard of Machu Picchu? For most people who visit Peru and even for those who travel to other places in South America, this visit is mandatory. And that, because Machu Picchu has managed to concentrate in one single place all the ingredients necessary to achieve worldwide fame and attract thousands of visitors each day: from the stunning natural site where the ruins of the city are perched, built on top of a steep mountain surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes, the mystery enveloping these ruins that were never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors, to the perfection of its buildings, and the countless questions about the site that will never find any answers...

Ever since 2007, Machu Picchu has also become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, a well-deserved election.
History of Machu Picchu
PachacutecBefore the foundation of the Inca Empire and its expansion from the Cusco region, the Tawantinsuyu -so named in the 15th Century by the Inca ruler Pachacutec- the Urubamba Valley was occupied by small chiefdoms or curacazgos (a domain under the command of a political and administrative chief known as curaca). After his victory over the Chancas in 1438, Pachacutec conquered the Urubamba Valley. Due to its natural beauty, mild climate, and rich soil (conducive to farming), he used it as the favorite settlement of the new imperial nobility, building lavish cities and beautiful buildings.

The Picchu Ravine, located in the same valley halfway between the Andes and the Amazon jungle, was conquered in 1440. It has two rocky hills, the Machu Picchu (“old peak/mountain", contemporary name) and the Huayna Picchu ("young peak/mountain", contemporary as well), both enclosed by the deep canyon formed by the Urubamba River. The majestic and safe place must have impressed the monarch and, around 1450, he had an urban complex built right there, halfway between the peaks of both mountains, with civil and religious buildings of great luxury.

There are discrepancies as to its function. For some, it was a fortress, while others think it was an area of retreat for the Virgins of the Sun, an advanced outpost of strategic control of the conquered lands, an Inca refuge in case of invasion or a place of rest and sacred worship for the monarch. But nothing indicates a military use. Indeed, the farming area and the source of the water supply system of Machu Picchu were outside the city, therefore Machu Picchu would not have withstood a long siege. The wall was not very high and the "pit" was actually a drain. In addition, archaeologically known Inca settlements with military uses in the region (like Marcaypiri, Salapunko and Huilca Raccay) differ in nature and construction of Machu Picchu. It is true, however, that it served as a refuge for the aristocracy after the Inca conquest of the Cusco region in 1532. Located far from any roads and not being a production center, it received no direct and destructive assaults from the new conquerors.

Machu PicchuMost experts agree that it was a llacta. Llactas were villages where, unlike cities, most inhabitants used to be mobile and would only spend a certain amount of time before being replaced by another group of dwellers. The population of a llacta ranged between 300 and 1000 inhabitants at a time. Machu Picchu was far from any route (and especially from the Capac Ñan or the Royal Inca Trail) but it was not a totally secluded resort. The valleys that converged in the Picchu ravine formed a densely populated region. Due to its significant agricultural production, the Incas built many administrative centers in the area and abundant farming complexes formed by cultivation terraces. Machu Picchu totally depended on these complexes for food, since the fields of the farming sector of the city ended up being insufficient to feed its population.

At the death of Pachacutec in 1471, according to royal Inca customs, Machu Picchu and other personal possessions of the monarch were probably transferred to his panaca (families consisting of all the descendants of a monarch, except for the child that was to succeed him to the throne) to be managed by them. These families were supposed to direct the revenues obtained by these possessions to the cult of the mummy of the deceased monarch. During the reign of the following Inca monarchs (Tupac Yupanqui and Huayna Capac), Machu Picchu gradually lost its importance. The Inca civil war and the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors further accelerated the decline of the llacta, mainly composed by mitmas, farmers from different nations conquered by the Incas and forcibly displaced from their homeland to work for the Empire (as common tactic used by the Incas to weaken and prevent any attempt at revolt of the conquered). Taking advantage of the surrounding chaos and the weakening of the control exercised by management and the Inca army to return to their homelands, in 1536, the rebellious Inca, Manco Inca (Manco Capac II) invited all the nobles of the region to participate in the resistance against the Spanish invasion and it is possible that the Pichu nobles may have left town at that point. After the death of Tupac Amaru I and the suppression of their revolt and the kingdom of Vilcabamba in 1572, Picchu remained within the jurisdiction of different colonial haciendas but had already become a remote location, distant from new trails and new economic centers Peru. And gradually, it fell into oblivion.

Machu Picchu discoveryAt the beginning of the 20th Century, very few people knew of the existence of Machu Picchu. In 1901, an American history professor, Hiram Bingham, arrived in the Urubamba region in order to find the last Inca strongholds of the Kingdom of Vilcabamba. Guided by some farmers of the region, he arrived at Machu Picchu on July 24. After getting the technical and financial support of Yale University and the National Geographic Society, he began the scientific study of the site. Machu Picchu started to slowly grow out of oblivion !

In 1911, construction began on the railroad to the village of Machu Picchu, at the foot of Machu Picchu and near the present town of Aguas Calientes, which was concluded in 1928. It was only in 1948, that a paved road to reach the ruins was built. In 1983, Machu Picchu was included on the List of World Heritage Sites by Unesco. On July 7, 2007, it was declared one of the new Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and the most visited in the country.
Site description
Machu Picchu MapThe Machu Picchu citadel consisted of two sectors: a farming and an urban sector. They are separated by a 500 m wall and a dry pit that was probably used as a sewer and a drain for the rainwater drainage system.
Farming Sector
Machu Picchu has a large section devoted to farming and totally separated from the urban sector by a long wall. Called the farming sector, it is located south of the city. As is always the case when cultivating on slopes of significant altitudinal differences, the Incas built elaborate platforms, know as terraces. These structures are formed by a stone wall containing different layers of material (large rocks, smaller stones, gravel, clay and farmland) to facilitate drainage and prevent rainwater to form puddles with the risk of the entire terrace collapsing. There are a little more than 300 of these stair-like farming terraces built in this sector, which is equivalent to having an approximate of six acres of cropland. At the eastern end of the terraces are five buildings that could have served as housing for farmers who cultivated the croplands or could perhaps have been used as colcas or warehouses. At the top of the terraces (on the western side) is a small building with only three walls, known as the Watch Tower or “Puesto del Vigía”. It is built on a strategic spot of the citadel from where there is an excellent view on the entire canyon of the Urubamba River and the city of Machu Picchu itself.

Today, the entry to the city is through the farming sector that appears after walking past the guard houses at the entrance of the site. North of the farming sector is the urban sector.
Urban Sector
The main platform of the urban sector is a large square known as "Plaza Mayor". It really is a physical axis that divides the sector in two: the high sector or Hanan and the low sector or Urin, in keeping with the traditional bipartition of Andean society and hierarchy.
Hanan Zone
The Hanan sector is at the top of the urban area, west of the main square. It houses some of the most important buildings of the city such as the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Residence, the Sacred Plaza, the Main Temple, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Intihuatana.

The most important part of the Temple of the Sun is a semicircular building called the "Tower". Made of finely carved blocks, it was used for ceremonies related to the sun. In the middle of the Tower is a rock, probably sacred. There are two windows on the outer façade aimed towards the winter and summer solstices. On these precise dates, the sunrays fall directly on the sacred rock entering through the windows. Under this great sacred rock is a small cave that was completely covered with fine masonry. It is believed to be a mausoleum or tomb as the remains of a mummy were discovered inside and because at the entrance a stair-like symbol representing the connection between the three worlds was found. The cave may have been seen as an entrance gate to the world below or Urin Pacha.

Of all the buildings meant for housing, the Royal Residence is probably the finest, largest and best distributed of Machu Picchu. It lies between the Sacred Plaza and the Temple of the Sun and communicates with the latter through a large staircase, perpendicular to the main square. It also has direct access to the first of the water sources, proving the importance of this building.

The Sacred Plaza is surrounded by some of the most important buildings of the citadel, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Main Temple or “Templo Mayor”. It was an important place for the celebration of rituals and ceremonies. The Main Temple is a structure made of large stone blocks. Today, some of these blocks are giving way due to a soil problem. This temple was under construction when Machu Picchu was abandoned. The Temple of the Three Windows, as its name implies, has three large trapezoidal windows. The walls were built with large polygonal blocks assembled like a puzzle. Since it couldn’t be concluded, it was found open to one side of the square and in the middle it hosts a stair-like structure representing the three worlds of the Inca cosmogony.

IntihuatanaNorth of the Sacred Square and of both temples is a pyramid-shaped hill, whose flanks were turned into terraces. It has two access stairs, one north and one south. It served as an astronomical observatory and also as an farming and magical-religious calendar. At the top of the hill is the large carved boulder called Intihuatana (Hitching Post of the Sun), which has a strong connection to places considered sacred and with the surrounding mountains.
Urin Zone
The Urin sector is at the bottom of the urban sector, east of the main square. Among the important buildings of this area are the Sacred Rock (or Ceremonial Rock), the Group of Three Doorways and the Group of the Condor.

The Sacred Rock is one of the most remarkable evidence of the close symbolic and religious relationship between the Inca city and its scenic surroundings. It's a flat-faced stone placed on a broad pedestal and said to have the same shape as the mountain behind it. It is a milestone that marks the northernmost corner of the city and also is the starting point of the trail to Huayna Picchu. The Group of Three Doorways is a broad architectural complex dominated by three large rectangular enclosures or kanchas, symmetrically arranged and interconnected. The doorways, which are of identical make, give access to the main square of Machu Picchu. The finish techniques of the masonry work are not as fine as those of the opposite area, which allows assuming that it belonged to a lower social class. The Group of the Condor is a not always regular broad set of buildings which leverages the contours of the rock. It is an impressive sample of Inca masonry integrated into its natural surroundings, created from a rock formation that resembles the wings of a condor in flight. It includes some caves with evidence of ritual use and a large carved stone in the center of a big courtyard in which many believe to see the image of a condor.
The buildings of Machu Picchu
The city of Machu Picchu still retains some of the most impressive buildings of the entire Inca Empire. As in most of its buildings, they managed to assemble huge complex shaped blocks of granite weighing several tons without even leaving enough space to insert a knife blade between them. The effort it took to build these constructions in a society without iron tools (they only knew the much softer bronze) is nonetheless impressive.
Huayna Picchu
Huayna Picchu ("young peak or mountain") owes its world-wide fame for being the cone shaped towering rocky mountain that appears as background in most pictures of the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. However, it also houses important archaeological remains relating to the famous Inca complex. To climb the Huayna Picchu, you starts from the north end of the city of Machu Picchu. Beware of the fact that access of the peak is limited to 400 people per day, 200 at 7.00 am and another 200 at 10.00am. The climb, although seeming tough at start, does not suppose any technical difficulty. However, the path is fairly steep and includes several sections with steps carved into the rock that can be slippery in wet weather. The trek may last from 45 to 90 minutes and will take you through an Inca tunnel. During the climb there is a path turning down to the left, leading to the Temple of the Moon (which is an invented name without archaeological support but has become popular among archaeologists and tour guides). Reaching the temple takes about an hour and a bit more coming back. The Temple of the Moon consists of several caves, some of which are covered with fine masonry blocks that have been carved to fit exactly the irregular contours of large rocky outcrops that make up the ceiling. Although its specific function is unknown, it is quite clear that this is an elite group of buildings considering the effort it took building them. If one follows the first path, you get to the top from where you can get some of the most stunning photos of the city of Machu Picchu.
Site map
Site plan

Plan Machu Picchu





























You can view the plan in its original size by clicking here.
Complete list of tours
To see all the agencies with tours to the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, you can click here.
Location
The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is located 73 km northwest of the city of Cusco.

District : Machupicchu
Province : Urubamba
Department : Cusco

Coordinates : -13.16370, -72.54620
Altitude
2490 m
Hours
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To preserve the site of Machu Picchu, the entrance has been limited to 2500 visitors per day. Be careful, during peak travel season (July to October), book your ticket in advance and try to arrive early at the site entrance.
Machu Picchu is open between 6:00am and 5:00pm. The last entry is at 4:00pm.

Beware, there are only two schedules to climb to Huayna Picchu :
A first group of 200 people can enter between 7:00am and 8:00am.
A second group of 200 people can enter between 10:00am and 11:00am.
Admission fees
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Tickets can be purchased directly from the official site : http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe

Payment options :

1) On the Internet, with VISA credit card.

2) Paying Agents :
  a) In the counter at any Banco de la Nación (Monday to Friday, from 8:00am to 5:30pm - Saturday, from 9:00 to 1:00pm)
  b) Asociación de Agencias de Turismo del Cusco (Association of Travel Agencies in Cusco, AATC), Calle Nueva Baja 424, Cusco (Monday to friday, from 9:00am to 4:00pm). Tel: 084-222580.
  c) Dirección Regional de Comercio Exterior y Turismo (Regional Office of Foreign Trade and Tourism, DIRCETUR), Plaza Tupac Amaru Mz. 1 Lt. 2 Wanchaq, Cusco.
  d) INCARAIL, Portal de Panes 105, Plaza de Armas, Cusco.
  e) Bookstore at the Garcilaso Museum, Calle Heladeros s/n, Cusco.
  f) PERURAIL, Avenida Pachacutec s/n, Cusco.
  g) Hotel Monasterio, Calle Palacios 136, Plazoleta Nazarenas, Cusco.

3) You can also pay at the office of the Dirección Regional de Cultura en Cusco (Regional Office of Culture in Cusco):
Avenida de la Cultura 238, Condominio Huáscar, Cusco.
Hours : Monday to Friday, from 8:00am to 4:00pm - Saturday, from 8:00am to 12:00pm (Close on public holidays).

4) Oficina de Recaudación del Centro Cultural de Machupicchu (Machu Picchu Cultural Center), near the Plaza de Armas, Aguas Calientes.
Hours : Monday to Sunday, from 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 pm (Open on public holidays)
Cash only.

5) Most of the travel agencies propose to book the entrance to Machu Picchu.
Admission to Machu Picchu only
Foreign adult : S/. 128.00
Foreign student : S/. 65.00
Foreign child (8-18 years old) : S/. 65.00
Foreign child (0-8 years old) : Free
National and Andean Community adult : S/. 65.00
National and Andean Community student : S/. 35.00
National and Andean Community child (8-18 years old) : S/. 35.00
National and Andean Community child (0-8 years old) : Free
Admission to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu
Foreign adult : S/. 152.00
Foreign student : S/. 76.00
Foreign child (8-18 years old) : S/. 76.00
Foreign child (0-8 years old) : Free
National and Andean Community adult : S/. 91.00
National and Andean Community student : S/. 46.00
National and Andean Community child (8-18 years old) : S/. 46.00
National and Andean Community child (0-8 years old) : Free
Admission to Machu Picchu and the Machu Picchu Mountain
You can also climb the Machu Picchu Mountain (directly on the left after passing the control house), without restriction of time or number of visitors as for Huayna Picchu. The route is also less dangerous (with children for example).

Foreign adult : S/. 152.00
Foreign student : S/. 76.00
Foreign child (8-18 years old) : S/. 76.00
Foreign child (0-8 years old) : Free
National and Andean Community adult : S/. 81.00
National Andean Community student : S/. 41.00
National and Andean Community child (8-18 years old) : S/. 41.00
National and Andean Community child (0-8 years old) : Free
How to get there ?
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How to get to the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu ?

To visit Machu Picchu by train, you must go through the town of Aguas Calientes, located at less than 3 kilometers northeast of Machu Picchu. From Aguas Calientes, you can go by bus or on foot to the sanctuary.
One-way trip to Aguas Calientes by train
There are several options to get to Aguas Calientes. The first is to take the train directly to Aguas Calientes.
From Cusco
The only company that provides train service from Cusco is PeruRail. It has several schedules between 6:30 am and 9:00 am (the trip takes between 3h15 and 3h30 to Aguas Calientes). The price varies depending on the type of train chosen (The type of train "Expedition" is the cheapest and "Hiram Birgham" the most expensive. The "Vistadrome" is a bit more expensive than the "Expedition" but has completely glass covered wagons, which allows you to appreciate the incredible landscapes of the region during the trip). Be careful, from Cusco you have to take the train in the Poroy Station, located about 8 km northwest of the city center, in the town of the same name. To get to Poroy, you can take a colectivo in the intersection of Calle Pavitos and Calle Belen (about 600 meters south of the Plaza de Armas). They begin their service at 3:00 am and the trip takes about 20 minutes to Poroy. You can also take a taxi from anywhere in the city since Poroy is quite close to the city (about 10 Soles). It's about 15 minutes away from the center.

For more information and to book a train with PeruRail : http://www.perurail.com/en

Be careful, in high season (from May to October but especially on July and August), book your train well in advance.
From Urubamba
The only company that provides the train service from Urubamba is PeruRail. There is only one schedule in the morning at 6:50 am and the duration of the journey to Aguas Calientes Station is about 2h30. There is only one type of train, the "Vistadome", with completely glass covered wagons, which allows you to appreciate the incredible landscapes of the region during the trip.

For more information and to book a train with PeruRail : http://www.perurail.com/en

Be careful, in high season (from May to October but especially on July and August), book your train well in advance.

From Ollantaytambo
Two companies propose the train service between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes. The first one is PeruRail with a dozen of departures daily between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm. It proposes just two types of trains for this section : "Expedition" and "Vistadrome" (The "Vistadrome" is a bit more expensive than the "Expedition" but has completely glass covered wagons, which allows you to appreciate the incredible landscapes of the region during the trip).
The second company is called Inca Rail which proposes five daily departures between 6:30 am and 4:30 pm. It offers three types of services : "Machu Picchu Train" (economy class) and "Inca Train" (executive and first class).

The trip takes about 1h30. This option is by far the privileged by travelers with low budget. You can take a bus (van) that goes from Cusco to Ollantaytambo for about 10 Soles per person. You can take a colectivo in the intersection of Calle Pavitos and Calle Belen (about 600 meters south of the Plaza de Armas). They begin their service at 3:00 am and the trip to Ollantaytambo takes about one hour.

For more information and to book a train with PeruRail : http://www.perurail.com/en
For more information and to book a train with Inca Rail : http://www.incarail.com

Be careful, in high season (from May to October but especially on July and August), book your train well in advance.
Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu
By bus
You can go from the town of Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu site by bus. They start at 5:30 am and the trip takes about 15 minutes. The bus service prices are :
Round trip
Foreign adult : $19.00 US
Foreign child : $10.00 US
Peruvian adult : $13.00 US
Peruvian student : $9.00 US
Peruvian child : $7.00 US
One way
Foreign adult : $10.00 US
Foreign child : $5.00 US
Peruvian adult : $7.00 US
Peruvian student : $5.00 US
Peruvian child : $4.00 US
On foot
The trip to the citadel of Machu Picchu can also be done on foot. It takes about 45 minutes to climb to Machu Picchu and about 30 minutes down to the town of Aguas Calientes. A good option is also to go up by bus to save time and energy to visit the site and eventually to climb to Huayna Picchu, and then walk back to Aguas Calientes.
Cusco - Santa María - Santa Teresa - Machu Picchu route
The most common and easy route to visit Machu Picchu is going by train to Aguas Calientes. However, there is a less traveled and cheaper route (though more difficult), going through the town of Santa Teresa, located a few kilometers northwest of Machu Picchu. First, take a taxi, a bus or a colectivo that makes the route Cusco - Quillabamba (about 185 km away). Get off at the town of Santa Maria. Then take a taxi, a bus or a colectivo to the village of Santa Teresa (about 33 km away). In the village of Santa Teresa, take a last ride, bus or combi to go to the Machu Picchu hydroelectric plant (about 6-7 km away, you can eventually go on foot). From the power plant, you can take a train to Aguas Calientes or walk directly to the entrance of the citadel of Machu Picchu, first following the railroad and then climbing the path to Machu Picchu. Please directly call or write to PeruRail to know the schedules and prices of the train from the hydroelectric plant to Aguas Calientes.

Return trip from Aguas Calientes by train
To Cusco
Only PeruRail offers routes between Aguas Calientes and Cusco. It has 4 schedules between 3:30 pm and 6:00 pm. It takes between 3h30 and 3h45 to reach Poroy.
For more information and to book a train with PeruRail : http://www.perurail.com/en

Be careful, in high season (from May to October but especially on July and August), book your train well in advance.
To Urubamba
Only PeruRail offers routes between Aguas Calientes and Urubamba. It has a single schedule at 3:45 pm. It takes about 3 hours to get to Urubamba.
For more information and to book a train with PeruRail : http://www.perurail.com/en

Be careful, in high season (from May to October but especially on July and August), book your train well in advance.
To Ollantaytambo
PeruRail and Inca Rail propose train route between Aguas Calientes and Ollantaytambo. PeruRail proposes approximately 11 schedules between 7:45 am and 9:30 pm. Inca Rail has 3 departures between 8:30 am and 7:00 pm.

For more information and to book a train with PeruRail : http://www.perurail.com/en
For more information and to book a train with Inca Rail : http://www.incarail.com

Be careful, in high season (from May to October but especially on July and August), book your train well in advance.
Weather
The weather is hot and humid during the day and cool at night. The area has two very distinct seasons. Between November and March, it's quite rainy and between April and October, the ideal season to visit the sanctuary, it's quite dry. In the region, the rains are usually abundant and rapidly alternate with moments of intense sunshine.

Table with minimum and maximum temperatures, and rainfall in Machu Picchu :

LUN E F M A M J J A S O N D
Max 20 20 20 21 21 20 20 21 21 22 22 21
Min 8 8 8 6 4 2 1 3 5 7 7 8
mm 154.2 118.8 113.0 41.1 8.8 18.2 8.4 10.2 13.9 46.6 76.8 113.2

In degrees Fahrenheit :

LUN E F M A M J J A S O N D
Max 68 68 68 70 70 68 68 70 70 72 72 70
Min 46 46 46 43 39 36 34 37 41 45 45 46
mm 154.2 118.8 113.0 41.1 8.8 18.2 8.4 10.2 13.9 46.6 76.8 113.2

Weather in Machu Picchu

Visitors to Machu Picchu
Be careful, to preserve the site of Machu Picchu, admission is limited to a maximum of visitors per day. Thus, during peak months (July to October), make sure to book your ticket in advance and arrive early at the site entrance.

Here is a table of the daily influx to the site of Machu Picchu during the last 2 years :

Visitors to Machu Picchu

Contact
Additional information
Photos allowed : Yes
Wheelchair access : No
Nearby tourist attractions
Inca TrailInca Trail
To be published very soon ...



Ollantaytambo Archaeological ComplexOllantaytambo Archaeological Complex
The Ollantaytambo Inca Archaeological Complex is an important Inca fortified ensemble. Its particularity are its stunning terraced fields. Today, it is also one of the few towns that still has much of the original Inca urban design.
See more

Moray Archaeological SiteMoray Archaeological Site
Inca agricultural complex consisting of four sets of concentric circular terraces, that gives them the form of huge amphitheatres. A perfect illustration of the incredible level of knowledge reached by the Incas on agricultural issues !
See more


To see all the tourist attractions of the department of Cusco, you can click here.
Nearby cities
Nearby cities :
Aguas Calientes : 9 km (by road)
Ollantaytambo : 53 km (44 km by train)
Urubamba : ??? km (??? km by train)
Cusco : 121 km (112 km by train)

Major cities :
Puno : 333 km to Cusco (by road)
Arequipa : 469 km to Cusco (by road)
Lima
: 1071 km to Cusco (by road)
Department
The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is located in the department of Cusco.

Photos

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